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RHYS LANGSTON FATAL JAMZ PERE UBU • PYLON HOPE SANDOVAL AND THE WARM INVENTIONS

WINTER 2016 ISSUE 126 • FREE

KOOL KEITH WEYES BLOOD TERRY MALTS AND MORE


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WEYES BLOOD Ben Salmon

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TERRY MALTS Chris Kissel

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KOOL KEITH The Koreatown Oddity

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THE SUMMER HITS David Donahue

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RHYS LANGSTON Senay Kenfe

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PERE UBU David Cotner

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FATAL JAMZ Chris Ziegler

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HOPE SANDOVAL AND THE WARM INVENTIONS Kristina Benson

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PYLON Ron Garmon FATAL JAMZ by ALEX THE BROWN


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WEYES BLOOD Interview by Ben Salmon Illustration by Elza Burkart Natalie Mering cut her musical teeth in the turn-of-the-century noise scene, playing bass in Jackie-O Motherfucker and collaborating with Ariel Pink, among others. But it’s her solo work under the name Weyes Blood where Mering’s sonic identity has come into sharp focus. On her breakthrough 2014 album The Innocents, Mering delivered gorgeous melodies with her arresting alto, then draped them across folk songs imbued with noise and electronic elements. More than anything, The Innocents hinted at greatness. On her new album Front Row Seat to Earth, Mering delivers on that promise, presenting a near-perfect set of searching, reverberant psych-folk-pop that feels both timeless and forward-thinking at the same time. Born in L.A. but having lived elsewhere for many years, Mering moved back to make her new album, and L.A. RECORD caught up with her on Election Day, just before everything went to hell. The title of your album, Front Row Seat to Earth, feels strangely resonant at this weird and scary time in the world. Can you tell me about it? I think that we are kind of watching the globalized community unfold in front of us on the internet, safely protected and pacified constantly. Even though these things are happening in front of us, it feels like there’s a separation or protection from them, and I feel that a lot in a first-world country like America, where you’re kind of safeguarded by the opiate of consumerism. A lot of people are feeling helpless, like they can’t do anything, and they’re becoming desensitized to these events. I can remember when school shootings used to make me cry. And now because they’ve happened more frequently, I don’t cry about them anymore. And it’s not like we should cry, because humans are very elastic and we adapt to everything that happens. But it’s a meaningful point in history when we become desensitized to these things that used to make my heart beat so fast it would beat in my throat and I felt like I had to go run out in the streets and do something about it. The idea that humans are elastic and adaptable within the context of school shootings indicates to me that you may have a sort of broader perspective on the world than many people do. Do you feel like that’s true? I actually do. I feel like I was born with it because I always felt an extra amount of empathy, more than most people around me. And in order to deal with that empathy -- because it’s emotionally overwhelming -you kind of have to take a lot of big-picture glances all the time to kind of keep your feelings in check. Do you see that quality in either or both of your parents? My parents are born-again Christians. They were born again in the ‘70s. And on my mom’s side of the family, there’s some mental illness, and I think mental illness and genius and perception are all related in this weird way where you’re given an extra amount of, like, some kind of mental capacity that doesn’t fit into a society. So I think that definitely runs in my family. When you started becoming interested in rock music, what did you parents think? They were really secular before they were born again, and they had some stuff left INTERVIEW

over from that time. My dad’s favorite band was XTC, and they’re a weird band. My mom loved Joni Mitchell. There was always secular music around. I remember being obsessed with Nirvana, and I remember my dad being fascinated by them, as a musician and as someone who was always looking for the next wave. So I listened to a lot of Nirvana and some weirder bands like Ween and Combustible Edison. There was a lot of darkness in the underbelly of that music. But your parents didn’t try to shield you from it? Anything with a parental advisory sticker had to be hidden, of course, and we couldn’t openly watch MTV because as soon as something weird would happen, my mom would change it. When Kurt Cobain died, she let me watch all that stuff. But I think that culturally, they still wanted to feel relevant and they didn’t want to be part of the stereotypical Christian thing, so they were a little more lenient. But as an early teen when I was really starting to listen to weirder, more experimental stuff, that was when my mom was like, ‘This is going to mess you up! It’s bad! Don’t feed your spirit this music!’ And it did mess me up! What led you to experimental music at such a young age? When I was a little girl, I really looked up to one of my brothers who was 11 years older than me. And I would see the way he and his friends dressed and interacted, and I’d say, ‘I can’t wait to become a teenager!’ And then I got older and that was when like Hanson and the Spice Girls came out, and I was like, ‘Something’s not right. This shit is not good.’ And then once Backstreet Boys, N*Sync and Britney Spears were around, I was just, like, holy shit, I totally got cheated out of my grunge-teenhood. So here I am feeling like culture has gone to shit, and I started digging further back and listening to classic rock and discovering the record store in my town and then finding the college radio station and hearing this unearthly music that was really interesting and strange. It was very much an organic process. You’ve lived in several different cities as an adult. Why? We moved quite a bit when I was a kid, and I think that instilled in me a restlessness to where I am kind of constantly trying to see where I fit in. So I gave the East Coast a big honest try and finally realized that it’s really

not where I’m from. Coming back to L.A. has been like a homecoming. My grandparents on both sides are from California. It’s a cliche, but is there a part of you that moved back to L.A. to try to get back to your roots? Totally. I always found the East Coast really traumatic. I always felt like I just didn’t really jive or fit in. I always felt like I was peripherally relating to all my friends there. A lot of my friends there are like old money, Ivy League intellectual types, and my parents are the opposite of that. No books in the house except the Bible. The West Coast’s culture and spirit is very entrepreneurial and weird and kind of trendy. How did your relocation time with the making of Front Row Seat to Earth? Is it an L.A. record? I think it’s an L.A. record. A lot of it was written on the East Coast but it was all recorded and finished and polished as soon as I moved to L.A. I basically moved here to make it. Do you think it has any kind of L.A. vibe in the music? I think people want to read that into it! There’s a weird trend right now to kind of be like, ‘oh this is very ‘70s’ or ‘this is very West Coast,’ but what does that even mean? Every genre of music exists on the West Coast. If I was a little bit more like the Grateful Dead versus the Velvet Underground I could see it, but I’m kind of neither. I feel like what L.A. did influence was a sense of coming home and thinking about wonderful records that have been made here. And my father was a musician in L.A. so I got to connect with some of his friends, and that was inspiring. My dad played on the Doobie Brothers’ Minute By Minute record and played a lot of L.A. clubs in the early ‘80s and late ‘70s, so I feel like that affected me and just made me more comfortable with what I was doing, as opposed to making a record on the East Coast and feeling like ‘how is this ever going to make me able to afford New York?’ Lyrically, Front Row Seat to Earth feels very somber to me. Do you think that’s a fair assessment? Like I said, I gave the East Coast an honest try and it just really didn’t make sense for me, so a lot of the songs on the record are about feeling out of place and struggling to maintain myself and my friendships there. When I got to L.A. it almost immediately made sense and

I felt support, especially from my people that are from here. But then there’s also just being young and feeling out of place. I don’t want to chalk it up completely to place. You’ve lived here for nearly a year. Do you feel happier personally?
 I do. I do. New York was cool but my friends in L.A., it’s just so deep. I can’t explain it. I feel really blessed to have entered a sphere of people that i really relate to. On all your records, you pair a sort of magical, cosmic sound with fairly straightforward, relatable lyrics. Is that something you make a point to do or does it just come out that way? I think that’s a happy accident. I do love juxtaposition, and I try to bring opposites that normally wouldn’t go together together all the time because I think that’s the most exciting thing, especially sonically, trying to bring a little harshness into something more beautiful, like adding strange modern electronics over folk. I like the juxtaposition. And I think having conversational, meaningful lyrics, it’s kind of like the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. I love abstract lyrics and I love poetry but the most meaningful thing about poetry to me is when it hits home, when you read it and you’re like, ‘oh, I feel that’ versus ‘ooooh, strange.’ In 2014, you told Interview magazine that your second record The Innocents felt like ‘the momma porridge’—not the perfect temperature, but not extremely hot. Does Front Row Seat to Earth feel closer to the “just right” porridge? I think it’s pretty close. There’s maybe a couple things that I think could be embellished upon. I think this record is maybe a little straighter than my ideal record. But yeah, I think it’s very close, and it’s a very good combination of the first two, for sure. It is the porridge that Goldilocks chose. Whether or not she’s going to eat that for the rest of her life remains to be seen. WEYES BLOOD WITH TASSEOMANCY ON THURS., DEC. 15, AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30 PM / $8-$10 / 18+. THEECHO.COM. FRONT ROW SEAT TO EARTH OUT NOW ON MEXICAN SUMMER. VISIT WEYES BLOOD AT WEYESBLOOD. BANDCAMP.COM 9


KOOL KEITH Interview by The Koreatown Oddity a.k.a. Dominique Purdy Illustration by Angie Samblotte

Kool Keith is the Greatest Rapper Of All Time. From Ultramagnetic MCs’ first album Critical Beatdown in 1988 all the way up to his latest album Feature Magnetic this fall, Keith has had a huge impact and influence on the culture of hip-hop and on music and style in general. When I was 14, I first heard the song “Apt 223” in a store called Workmen’s on Melrose down the street from my high school. It was a song off of his Dr.Dooom’s First Come First Served album. I said, “Yooooooooo who is this?” My boy Jeremy Swift who worked at the shop was like, “Oh, this is Kool Keith.” Been enjoyin’ his musical creativity ever since. So jump on your favorite search engine, do your research and play some of his shit as you read this. I used to walk down Melrose and see you just like, walking—like a lot, randomly walking in different directions. We wondered, like, ‘Yo, he lives around here?’ Then somebody told us that you had two apartments, and one just had clothes and shoes in it. Yeah, yeah—when I lived in L.A. I was just always on Melrose. Or Hollywood Blvd or something. And the Beverly Center. And Melrose is like the headquarters. The center of Hollywood, the hub. You go down and meet everybody on a Sunday or a Saturday. That was like the energy hub of Hollywood. I’ve walked through there lately, and I’m like, ‘This ain’t the same, man.’ Even when I first came to L.A. with Ced and Tim with Ultra, Melrose was packed. Everybody would be at Johnny Rockets standing pullin’ girls, like— —yeah, Jamba Juice. Yeah, that was like the Girl Pickup Juice. You remember J&J Beepers on the corner? All that shit was a pickup. It was like the Strip, but the Strip still has so much electricity to it. You could run into everybody somewhere. A few hours out of the course of the day you gonna see a rapper come through there, you gonna see a famous person, you gonna see an actor—a ballplayer gonna come through there. You gonna exchange your number with somebody on Melrose. If you don’t go through Melrose, you probably wouldn’t get a lot of information. It’s like an information center. Hollywood Blvd. was like, cool, but it was just a tourist thing where people went to take pictures. Melrose was more the people that live in L.A.—everybody that live in L.A. When you was in L.A., which albums did you record? I recorded Sex Style in L.A. That was the big album in L.A. when I was signed to Capitol, remember, with L-O 7 Self and Malik, and they had the Range Rovers, and Channel Live was signed to Capitol. It was just a big time for Capitol, and they signed Sex Style, which they never put out. I had a half a million dollars to sign with Capitol cuz they gave a living 10

expense and everything. What happened was Capitol never put out Sex Style—they sat it on the shelf for a while, so basically I was livin’ in L.A. through Sex Style album, but it wasn’t even out yet. But I had got the budget for it and the money and all that. So Sex Style was already done before you came to L.A., and Dr. Dooom… No, Sex Style wasn’t done—cuz I used to live in Beverly Hills, first working on Sex Style with Kurt, so we stayed behind the Beverly Center for a long time. Then when I moved, you used to see me on Melrose—me and Kurt still together for a minute but we broke up; we moved separately, that’s all. He went to Santa Monica and I stayed in Hollywood, and I stayed with Sunset. I liked that Sunset kind of grounded feeling. Something about Hollywood had a little dirt to it. Hollywood had that little dirty feel like, you know—the 7-11 and the Rock ‘n Roll Denny’s and all that. I stayed up there right by Rock ‘n Roll Denny’s, where the pimps be. All these girls used to be on the corner at night. It was more like an electric feel, or a movie feel—all the girls working up there on the corner, and you see a bunch of pimps from Oakland, but it was cool. Yeah, it was a lot of pimping and prostitution going on up there. Oh yeah, Sunset was the whole strip, man. That was Saturday night, Friday night. Sometimes even Sunday night. Just, Friday night, man, you’d be like, ‘Sunset is lit up with six girls on each corner.’ Sunset and Martel where I used to live up there by the Rock ‘n Roll Denny’s, you know, Guitar Center. That’s where I stayed, right in the quiet block there. Which was cool. It was like, bat cave block, and then you’d walk up to the corner and see all this action. So Sex Style was supposed to come first, but then Octagon and Dooom came before it. Sex Style never came out, we just put it out independently. We shopped the album— Capitol just gave me the album back. Damn! So they just paid you and they gave it back to you?

Yup. Yup. They paid me and gave it back to me, which was good. Did you do all the beats on the new one? I did, except one or two—maybe ‘Tired’ and the ‘Mac Mall’ one, which was different; I like to allow another person to balance out something with another kind of sound, but I did most of the beats. The one with MF Doom I did. I mean, like you said, it’s pretty cool. But I always wanted to change the sound of the music for a minute and rap, especially—cause it was getting monotonous with the sound, like everybody in the music business had the same sound. You always been humorous. Like, effortlessly. I never wanted to be. You know, some rappers kinda bring you down emotional, like some rappers wanna rap more about ‘Life is hard, my dog just passed away, my cat fell off the roof’—they write in a depressing way. Me, I like rapping about like … you know, colorful. I like to put in anything. I’ll write about a yellow Bugatti, you know? I’ll just put it in there. It sounds like a good story. You’ll put you and a character in something. You might write about me and the Channel 5 News anchorwoman—Kathy whoever. Me and her riding up the street, cruising up Melrose in the yellow Bugatti, getting ready to go to Beverly Center. I try to paint a picture just so people can be like, ‘This is a vivid color paragraph.’ It’s better than, ‘I pull my glock out, I come through the gangsta’s dude.’ I don’t need to do all that, or I don’t need to talk sad like, ‘My cat just passed away and life is hard,’ cuz I already saw that in my life. ‘Life is hard, you know, mom’s ain’t got no food, welfare’s coming back, life is hard, life is hard, we gotta come together, I ain’t got no shoes.’ I mean, how many people wanna hear that, though? If it’s fantasy or fun, people wanna hear ‘I’m sitting in the Aliyah jet with computer digitals and flying over the Empire State Building and passing cars, it’s a miracle, I’m drinking two bottles of Moet, I’m in the Cessna 79S…’ People wanna hear like you doing the X-Men. Like you doing a movie.

Yeah—I forget which joint this is but you say, ‘My mom used to dress me and my brother Kevin like twins.’ Yeah. [laughs] Everybody had that, right? What? Like some twin outfits? Like everybody had that experience when they was little. You was little and you get the same hat? Yo, that’s a good concept album—you as a twin of yourself dressed the same, and you both is two Keiths on one record. That’s why like, the album cover—you know, I put my son on the album and people was kinda mad about it in general. People was thinking, like, ‘Why you put him to look at that girl at that size?’ But check this out: I was at the Jets game the other day, and the little kids were sitting on the first row watching the Jets. But they had the cheerleaders on the field, twenty of them, but the kids was looking at them jumping up and down, they dresses coming up, so I was like … they was just looking like they was little kids, two-year-old kids, and I’m like, I put the concept up. What you see now is a lotta the rappers is like the character of him. They all got the pants on, and like little stuff with they hat backwards and like —they like a toy character. It’s like his image is like a rapper, so he really believes it. He got a hat flipped up, the attire, his whole life, he got big pants—they ain’t skinny, they baggy at the bottom, you know? The image is like … I made him look like the image of the character of them: ‘We still young and this is rap. Girls jock us, our hats are backwards.’ I put him in the same thing—I just made him a replica of the whole visual. What are you listening to right now? I just listen to the stuff that I did and I listen to a lot of the stuff that I recorded and never played in a long time that I be like, ‘Wow, I made this?’ Cause what happens is when you make futuristic funk stuff, it never deteriorates. You could make a funk record maybe two years from now and play that shit two years ahead, and you’d be like, ‘Wow, this shit sounds new!’ Those records is like wine. They get better. You put it out and people think you INTERVIEW


“Even some of my friends be like, ‘I got a meetin popcorn and some Sprite!’ Those meetings have a will say, ‘You was right! They offered us some Coke made that shit yesterday, cuz it’s so ahead of time and funky, and the instruments that you using... cause when you making those kinda records, you’re using the keyboards that the average person ain’t touching. What kind of keyboards? No, I’m saying—even if you using the same keyboard like a person that make records for a normal artist, you not using the same keys. The person making the records for regular top ten artists, you not using the same keys. You using a lot of outer patch keys away from the top forty artists. You not using the same keys as Usher and them. Beyonce’s only using the ‘industry’s keys’. The industry has a certain amount of sounds allotted out to Bruno Mars and all of them, and they all using the same sound of all the commercial artists. You know a lot about the music industry— that’s what’s dope about hearing you rap. You mention some shit about a contract or a specific term that we don’t know about in the music industry. So you learn stuff from the raps, too. That’s the key thing. That’s what I think about, too. Like, what can people get out of these raps? Like a lot of the guys now got no information. Exactly—nothin’. Everything’s, ‘My boy on my block and talking bout my block I’m throwing up that block,’ and they rapping, ‘I’m pulling out that Hennessy and…’ After the verse is over, you’re like, ‘They didn’t even say nothing.’ Like, ‘Well, he ain’t say nothing about a contract, he ain’t say nothing about this that you might’ve forgotten about,’ like ‘I was sitting with Tami Davis, I learned a lot and I went on Jerry Seinfeld.’ Like, they ain’t saying nothing. When it’s detailed it’s like — when you’re talking about, ‘I put lingerie on Marie Osmond, watch me ring the prophets in,’ that’s so specific. Now I’m thinking about her when she was at her hottest time looking fly. Yeah, and like you said, then it gets me into the rappers, too. I listen to the stuff that they say later on I catch it. Like Craig G said, ‘I’ll have you so browned with rage,’ you know, he says, ‘You ain’t something, you ain’t something, you ain’t coming quick, I have you so blind with rage you probably running this shit.’ You know what I’m saying? You hear them later— what they’re saying. What happened with me was I charged a lot of them rappers up—like, I wasn’t battling them, but they got charged 12

up, like even Ras Kass. Like I got a kick out of writing first to let them hear it so they would be like, ‘Let me write something’ back to this motherfucker.’ Was there somebody you didn’t get for the album that you wanted? No, I had a couple people that didn’t get on. I sent a lot of stuff out. A lot of people did some things, but I guess they was kinda late getting it back to me. I guess not everybody knew how to respond. Everybody that I had on it responded back properly, and in the course of time I sent a lot of things out to people in the music industry, but all of a sudden they didn’t get it in the mail, or ... you know how people play they didn’t get it in the mail. I sent a lot of tracks out to different people, but they play like they didn’t get it, or they probably didn’t want to get on it or something. Like you said, a lot of the beats are funky. A lot of folks and artists sometimes been rapping over unfunky stuff so much in they life that they don’t really know how to get on it. When you accustomed to getting on basic hip-hop, when somebody bring you brand new hip-hop, atomic hiphop, they don’t want to get on it. Yeah, that’s crazy. People don’t have an ear for beats. People ain’t used to getting on real funky beats. A lot of artists is used to a certain standard sound of hip-hop, just maybe the drums or the scratches. I always thought of beats to be like, ‘This is so funky, I could ride around with a Black chick in the car.’ You know— you can imagine Halle Barry sitting on the passenger side of a dope Benz, and you could play ‘World Wide Lamper’ and it still sound good. It don’t have to be a love song. At least for me and people I fuck with, you’re up there with Prince and David Bowie, you know what I mean? Just from the style. But another thing that makes it is that you hit all the points. Like, you got hooks—I went to one show where you did straight hooks back to back to back, and— Right. I can write quickly. I wrote ‘Tired’ so quickly, like in two seconds. Some rappers need three, four days to write just probably that verse on ‘Tired.’ The ‘Kid Cudi blah blah blah,’ I wrote that in like, one minute. It’s so easy and smooth—it sounds like I went in the studio and put my headphones on and just said my verse, right? And Ed O.G come in next. I mean, that verse seemed more like, ‘I ain’t bring no papers and a pen with me but let’s put the headphones on and do it right now.’ It seemed like it was whipped up, but in a good way.

I wanna say you inspired probably a big wave of things that happened, like with hooks, too—the Lil B’s and all these artists, because they started doing those hooks where they just like have somebody’s name be the hook. And you always had weird hooks like that. You know, if somebody else mentions an artist’s name, it gets more sensitive. Like, people say a name and they might say, ‘Oh, he’s bugging out again. He’s bugging out on somebody.’ He might mention somebody’s name on a track and they don’t know how to take it: ‘Is he dissing me, is he saying something good about me, or ... is he trying to be funny?’ They might be saying ‘Is this good? Is this bad?’ They don’t know how to take it, but they don’t say nothin’ about it. They’re like, ‘He’s been around so long that he can say it—he can mention your name.’ You know, there are artists that can’t say a name on a track. You can say anything! It’s the way you’re saying it, too! It made me think of Matthew where you say, ‘Sign my autographs for Jagged Edge and Drew Hill on 125th Street’—that’s a visual. You’re saying, ‘I’m on another level—you like Jagged Edge and Drew Hill? They like me. They’d get an autograph from me right now.’ I say a lot of stuff, but you said detailed stuff—I got a lot of detailed stuff. Like you said, a lot of rappers is too serious with … whatever field you’re doing it in. Some rappers is too serious with the political talk, some rappers is too serious with the gangster, some rappers is too serious with the life is hard. You know what I’m saying? Just the lyrical content is too serious, like it’s ... like, they don’t add color and mix it with it, you know? It’s just too serious. ‘The foundation of Dr. King went this way and Donald Trump came in and since the coalition came in it was just hard and living the life and sustaining and my mom grew up with the pain and—’ That stuff just sound like botched complexity. It’s botched but it’s energy losing. Your ears ain’t cranked up for so much of the pain. It’s like even with poets—people think the best poets can tell the saddest things, like, ‘I went in the house and life just dropped down in my lap, my dog turned around and he didn’t eat no food, he went back, and life was so ... I looked through the window and seen my mother crying, tears pouring down her eyes, and I saw her life went grey and the sky dropped down and …’ People feel that poetry like it’s

so good, but me, I’m the opposite—I be like, ‘Man, that shit is dead.’ And every poet that they say is good tells them kinda stories, but they feel like it’s good—like, This is going to make me feel sad, it’s good.’ That’s why I don’t go to a lot of poet things. They all got like sad verses. Exactly! Just because it’s a poem we don’t have to be that, but people accept it because it’s called poetry. Yeah—like a poet is supposed to tell the worst side of the story. ‘I came into the room, the record company’s raping me like a woman, took my soul, bleeding down, bleeding so I can’t even grab the pole and hold, life is to be untold when the man jerked me and he beat me down, verses to the kinetics of the devil, the devil took the soul from my heart, he beat me down more, he raped and I cried, the more I cried my mother started to die …’ You know, they just write, like … okay, you saying the record company beat you so bad, raped you, but you’re putting it in such a painful form— You could tell the same story, but with some color. They think the best poet is the one who tells the saddest story. But like you said, I never told sad stories—even on the Sadat X track, I remember … you know, I listened to it, I said I like to do political records and stuff, but I kept my verse colorful. Like … I just said I couldn’t do it. I had to mix some high class shit in it. The first line made me laugh out loud. Where you’re like, ‘The haters gonna hate, but ain’t seen them at the cookout or the pit fight.’ [laughs] Yeah, I said, ‘Burger King, Lord of the Rings, give them onion rings.’ I said a couple of words in there. ‘Now, you could play chauffeur and drive off.’ ‘Haters gonna hate with a paper plate,’ and I said, ‘I refuse to duck my head down and take showers.’ [laughs] You know— like they want to make it so I go home and take a shower, put your head down, team loss. People trying to run away with millions of dollars. Millionaire people can hold a lot of money forever and think it’s good. They think the money makes them feel—you know what’s funny? What I was thinking in ‘Life’? I was thinking in general … I look at TI, right? You look at TI, right? He’s a family person. We as Black people, like, we got a limit on rap. You might have guides … they have a limit on when rappers should quit, but you don’t see no other sport or rock bands be like, ‘KISS should quit, Gene Simmons should quit, and INTERVIEW


ng,’ I tell them, ‘Good luck, you gonna get some always been about popcorn and Sprite. And people e, Sprite, and blew smoke up our ass.’” Radiohead should go home.’ But Blacks got that on rap. I was talking to my man on the phone this morning and I was telling him like, ‘You got football players out here that play with NFL teams. They all got studios. When they leave, they got studios. You got basketball players that got studios. You got boxers that got studios. You got baseball players that got studios. Floyd Mayweather probably got a studio.’ Like … people at some point in their life still like to record. Recording is leisure. When is there the time to say you don’t have to record? B.B. King was recording. People got a ending on recording for black people. Like you sort of go home and cut grass and cook. You know, you get with a girlfriend who’s kinda domesticated: ‘You don’t need to go into the studio with headphones on, that’s too young for you, and you need to quit—go cut grass.’ That’s Black people’s mentality. I noticed you never really shit on the youth. You know pioneers and old school cats, they always be shitting on the new things that’s out. That’s why I never did that. I talked about that, too—I’m not hating on the young kids. Make a kid maybe raise a vocal up and that’s it. And you give them the deal. Don’t tell them, ‘No, I don’t feel it, go home, raise it up.’ People told you those things, that don’t mean you gotta do it to him. That’s what you went through. You sort of get in the door and make it better for him. Right, right. But you got a lot of people in them positions now, like you said, that’s big and signing and being in the A&R positions—rappers that turned executives, and you know, presidents— they doing that same shit to other artists. I guess they don’t like a lot of the kids’ content, you know? Or what type of production they have, or… You help them fix it. ‘It’s good, let’s fix it and do it.’ You don’t disgruntle them and you don’t let them be disgruntled and you don’t take his confidence away. Like, ‘I don’t feel that right now’ cuz it ain’t what you used to do or something—that’s what he’s doing. Right—I didn’t grow up on hip-hop the same way, you know? Like you said, that kills me when they come like, ‘Okay, it was hard for you to get a deal and struggle and go into a record company and fucking go through hell, and then you wanna give somebody the hell you went through?’ So we do get off on that. That’s not the point. You sort of open doors for people and say, ‘I’m gonna make it easier for you to INTERVIEW

walk in as long as you bringing the right stuff.’ Like Hammer told me one time a true story— he said, ‘You’d be surprised at who’s stopping you from getting over in the music business. It be the people right around you, like all the people that came up around you, all the people that was in them positions, and all the people that was never in them positions that ended up getting positions. It’s gonna be the same people stopping you from moving. You should have the same respect for a person. You should have the same respect: ‘OK, me and you came up in the same era—fucking what you got? Let’s roll, come sign to my label, I got you, come on over here.’ And he said those people ain’t doing that. They doing the same shit as the shit they went through. Like … you being a asshole: ‘Man, I don’t really wanna hear what you got now, and I know you been in the industry, I know you know, but maybe another time we talk about it or something.’ That’s what’s going’ on. Like, man. Did you hear the new De La album? On the new De La album, Roc Marciano has a verse where he mentions you: ‘You’re not unique, you’re no Kool Keith.’ Oh, Roc Marciano’s on that album? How was the beat on the album? Nice? It was like chill— a real chill beat. Oh yeah, cuz I didn’t hear the De La Soul album. Like you said, people always say phrases to me or something. That’s a shout-out! I was like, ‘Oh!’ when I heard it—Roc’s shoutin’ out Kool Keith! Right. I chatted on the phone with him one time, and it was funny, I gave him a lot of information. I have a lot of conversations about somebody in the industry—you might tell them, you know, Chaka Khan told a girl they can’t sing or something. People love to hear them kinda stories. I might get with somebody that enlighten me—you might chill in the room with like, Roger Troutman or something. He could tell you something, or you could get with George Clinton and he could be like, ‘Yo, I was here one day, man, I was in the studio with such and such, and they didn’t know what the fuck they was doing.’ I’m just saying sometimes you could meet a artist that may have been in the business a little more than you or have more experience, and you tell them a little music industry stories and they love that. I love that, too! A lot of cats can’t give you that information, like, ‘When I was in the studio one time with such and such she was singing, and to the world she looked good, but she was

fucking up and they had to use a lot of effect machines on her.’ It has to be something that artist told you, like, ‘We just gonna say nothing about it, but you know, they couldn’t sing for shit back then. We fixed them up, but to the world, people think they the best singer, you know?’ I feel like that’s a skill Roc mighta got, too, from that convo. He’s mentioning all these detailed, colorful things, like the car he’s in, and then like I say, ‘You’re not unique, you’re no Kool Keith.’ And he’s mentioning names, like, ‘I’m chilling with a girl who looks like Meagan Good,’ or some kinda random line. Oh yeah yeah yeah yeah—like he put the color in it. Like you say, ‘I’m sitting in the beige Bugatti with the brown interior, Louis Vuitton.’ I remember me and Kay Slay had a good conversation, and he asked me, ‘Keith, how many cars you got?’ I says, ‘Slay, I got everything. In the raps I got every fucking car out there.’ He’s a cool person, and I had him dying. ‘Kay, I got a Bugatti, I got the Phantom, I got the motherfucking ‘ari’s, the Corvette—in the lyrics I got all that shit. In the lyrics I got it all. Hummers, I got the fucking H2 ... anything and everything in the lyrics.’ [laughs] People gotta feel you have everything. You can have one car or something, but you don’t have to be like, ‘Well, I’m not gon’ rap about a Bugatti, I’m not gonna rap about the Maybach.’ That’s just—you painting pictures! Man, paint pictures out here, paint pictures. I feel like you made it cool to talk about sexual things that was weird to some people, like on ‘Girl Grab’ you’re like— cuz it’s funny and a visual—you said, ‘Yo, you catching hay fever, you been sucking balls upside down with white sneakers.’ [laughs] And see, like me, I can tell chicks, like … I write this sexual shit, I don’t care. Like a rapper don’t wanna say nothin’ like, ‘I’ll let your chick sit on my face,’ like, they aura is, ‘I’m supposed to have this bitch suck on my dick.’ But I might say ‘I’ll let your chick sit on my face.’ But it’s still fly, cuz you like, ‘The chick is fly, I make a bad bitch sit on my face,’ but it still sound good both ways, cuz bitches say you freaky, and it can go all kinds of ways. Right—like they don’t wanna tell you the stuff that’s normal. And when you saying like, ‘A vagina worked outta shape, I can’t see much, I got your dime dropping low shitting a hockey puck.’ [laughs] That’s a visual of what you’re doing. But some chicks, they don’t have they shit

all pretty. Some chicks got the hamburger looking pussy, and I don’t like the hamburger look too much, though. You know what I’m saying? It’s like, you being honest, though. I think a lot of rappers hide so much in their emotions, but they can’t express it, either. Like you said—I think a lot of dudes can’t really express stuff. Tim Dog — did you hear about when he faked his death or whatever? That’s what I heard, but I was with Tim, and people said Tim really passed cuz he had sugar or something —but I kind of believed it because he’d have made a call by now. He was in Atlanta, Georgia, when all this stuff happened, but … you know, he woulda really called by then. He woulda made a call. You saying he is really dead? Yeah—I know he woulda called. He wouldn’t have hid it that much. I know him. Tim woulda called by now. I think what it is … he got sick and like you said, went through some complications and he was staying in Atlanta eating well. He had a thing when he was conning the women and stuff like that. He didn’t rob anybody physically with a gun. Tim was like a great business talker, and he can get a person and invest in things with them— very good with investing—and he did some truthful things with the things he would do with his music. He did some honest things, and I guess he said he needed money to press up records—which was honest—and I think people feel it was a bribe. It’s not a bribe. He did this stuff. I guess he probably didn’t give the ending money to the person. I mean, you look at the videos, you look at the song he did, ‘Iconic,’ he got all that stuff: ‘I’m gonna get the Phantom tomorrow and this and that and we gonna shoot a video.’ And he got all that stuff. Tim was always surprising, like sometimes you’d doubt, ‘Oh, you ain’t doing nothing.’ You know, when I was in Atlanta, he was a recreational person. You know, he was a rapper—you know what’s a funny story? What’s the girl that game under TI—that was his artist one time. Iggy Azalea. That was Tim Dog’s artist?! Iggy Azalea was Tim Dog’s artist. I’ve seen Iggy Azalea in Tim’s house saying ‘I wanna be a rapper!’ Like she had a accent, she definitely had an Australian accent, and Tim used to keep his artists—he had Ill Flow, he had a lot of good artists. Rappers, he had singers, he had another cat that was a dope singer. Tim had a lot of artists under him. He always had like a boot camp, and he treated his artists like a boot camp. I call Tim the Black Hitler. 13


I would come down there and Tim would have his artists, and he’d make his artists do strict things and have strict rules with some of his artists. There was another artist there, Ill Flow. He was cool. Ill Flow would hang with us sometimes. Sometimes Tim had strict curfews and stuff, like ‘Everybody go to bed, make your records, you ain’t coming with us to the mall,’ and I used to feel like, ‘Tim, why you so hard on all the artists?’ ‘Yo Keith, this is my artists—don’t say nothin’ to my artists.’ I just felt like they feel like they talking to the captain, and he’s the Hitler, so I’m like … Black Hitler. Iggy Azalea would tell me, ‘I wanna rap, but Tim is so hard on me. He thinks I’m garbage and I wanna rap.’ He would tell her, ‘Go back and sit down. Go do something.’ I don’t think he had no idea she would blow up. She didn’t have the flow or nothing, she was just a little girl. I always told her, ‘You know, keep up what you’re doing, keep the faith,’ and she said, ‘Thank you, thank you truly, Keith.’ We had little battles in the house—we’d do little battles with anybody who was more on her level. She had more of a baby style, like, ‘I’m coming to the top’—she was still in her pre-stages, like, ‘mat’ ‘cat’ and ‘hat’ verses. She’s a nice person, but she ended up going out there in Atlanta and hangin out, and went over to the Grand Hustle organization and I guess they put her on. They wrote for her and stuff and fixed her image up and marketed her to a point. You never know, and there you have it—you got Iggy Azalea. Nobody knows that—that’s crazy! People will trip off of that. Yeah, isn’t that something? Who are some of your favorite comedians,? Have you been watching comedy these days? Because all the verses are like— you’re just a comedian to spit. I know back in the Ultramag days you guys used to be bagging, and you probably made a lot of people cry off of weird stuff you’d say about them. Well, I was in high school, and I was a snapper. I was like the top snapper. I used to get off of school and go to different projects and snap. People would have you meet the top snappers, like you’d meet the top snapper across town—it was almost set up like the fight with the freestyle battles, you know what I’m saying? But you would go bag on somebody. It was me and this guy named Steve Martin who was like a top snapper in the world. We was the top snappers. We’d go snap on somebody in Manhattan—they had Doug E Fresh’s friend, King Superior, and he was good, and Flavor Flav was a snapper too—we used to have ‘your mother’ jokes, like, ‘Your mother don’t got arms, she only got one arm here and a body part missing there.’ We had a lot of rude kind of jokes, but they were funny when you’d hear them the way people would tell them, cuz they’d say different scenarios to them: ‘Your mom ain’t got fingers but she wanna play piano,’ you know, stuff like that. Sometimes you do it visually in the street and show how you doing it. That was the funny part. You did the visuals to it. So Ced and them knew for years I’d go all around New York to the top—I had a chance to run to the top snappers. Like they’d be like, ‘You need to go against Harry Harry or whatever from the 14

Bronx River, he got jokes,’ and we’d be like, ‘Let’s meet up. Bring him over here; we can go over his way, whatever, bring him over.’ And we did that a lot. That’s how we used to be in high school— we’d call it bagging. We used to bag a lot, and when we’d hear the music, it was like that—like when you’ll say one fucking guys sneakers on there look like hot dog buns or something like that. Like if a nigga really came over you, you gonna look at him for a while so you can study. Like, OK, this nigga’s fucked up: ‘First of all…’ you might point it out, like, ‘First of all, let’s talk about those fucked up shoes!’ and your niggas would be on the fucking floor. It’s like you really had to have everything together—you made sure your sneakers were new cuz like you say, you gotta block out stuff that they can see or something. They constantly looking for something like— you’d be like, ‘Nigga, right now your shoes is TALKIN’!’ You know? People would be on the floor, like … you really see the nigga’s sneaker open in the front, you know what I’m saying? If you come in to bag on somebody, you gotta make sure you put on brand new shit. These niggas will come any kind of way because back then you had good niggas, but they didn’t have money to buy clothes, but you can hit them more with the shit they had on. But that was a thing, too. They go by what you had on, you better not be wearing some fucked up pants. Like anything that looked wild, the nigga’s looking at you as soon as you come. ‘Okay, I’m gonna look at this nigga really good. Alright, it could be a turtleneck or something.’ Or, you know, like lint or something. You got a sweater with lint on it. He gonna really use that shit later. I remember somebody like trying to say something about my shoes or my shirt or something and it was like a homie that had one ear that was obviously smaller than the other, and I just went straight to that ear and everybody just died. It’s over. Yeah, if you got a fucked up eyebrow or something, they’ll catch something. They’ll catch something like you said: ‘Hold up. This nigga talking to me with a eyebrow that’s halfway fucked up,’ and them niggas will see it and it’s fucked up, and that shit just have niggas on the floor. Some wild shit—like a nigga can look at your hand like, ‘First of all, nigga, you cannot talk to me with hands that dry,’ and then they look at the niggas hands and they be dry like that, and I tell you, everybody be on the floor. ‘They say this nigga’s hands was white! They so dry this nigga’s hands is white! They don’t even match his body!’ And you look at the nigga’s face and then his hands and they be ashy white. And them niggas be like, ‘Come on, firstly you can’t talk to me with ashy hands like that.’ And then some niggas would say somethin’ so corny that it’s funny. Like, you know, you’ll have a guy say something corny— Yeah, we laughing at him because he said that—like, why’d you even say that? Like this shit is so corny that it’s funny. ‘Nigga, look at how you cut your hair ... look at the back…’ Then you get on the nigga’s barber. The shit was deep, though. Like I had Steve Martin, he was the nigga that looked at your clothes. You wear fucked up sneakers, anything that can help—like high waters, pants that’s

real high, you fucked up. The niggas are gonna get you. And they illustrated, too— they walked up to you and pull your pants up and say, ‘Look at how high these shits is!’ And they reach down and display to the crowd, ‘First of all, these shits is very high right now.’ [laughs] You know—it’s unexpected, though, and that’s what makes it funny, because you like, ‘OK, this nigga is gonna attack on me right now that I can’t see.’ So you gotta make sure your clothes … like if you wear a snorkel and it got dog fur on it, they be like, ‘You got a real nice coat, I love your coat and all that shit,’ and they might set it up slow. ‘You got a very nice coat on, you got a very beautiful coat on, but what’s all this dog fur shit on it?’ [laughs] King Superior was good like that. He used to roll with Doug E Fresh. He’d look at something like, ‘You got that big ass coat but you got tiny little buttons on it.’ [laughs] They would get detailed. They look at detail stuff. Just detail. They don’t know that commercial comedic—that shit is only at a certain point for corporate America. When you watching something, and you’re like ‘I want to look at some funny shit,’ what do you watch?
 When I look at funny shit—I was watching the other day, this guy, he had like a skeleton twerking. He had a skeleton twerking and it was wild. He had him rubbing his butt on the floor. I just seen something wild. I just look for bugged out shit, shit that make you laugh— You ever thought about making a movie? I want to do the movie. I need to hook up with a good director, I want to do a dope, different kind of movie. I want to do two movies: my movie, and I want to do a movie with Boogie Down Productions. Would you want to play yourself? I could but it might be different—I give people the story but it would be real true. A lot of stuff a lot of kids that could probably relate to. That might make a difference—if you did play you. Like Richard Pryor with JoJo Dancer. I’d probably do in and out parts. Me and then falling back to that person as a kid, and different things, and me and stuff. And a metaphor for me back to that. We gotta make that happen! You got a Tyler Perry connect? For a movie— I’d think Tyler Perry could relate it better. He did a lot of touching movies. Remember when he did Temptation and other stuff? I want to have a touchy stuff too. The hard times and the real shit. I don’t want people to ever think it was peaches and cream. I want to show people wild shit like you actually coming home from the studio, and seeing a homicide when you get to your block. Shit like that. You see yellow tape and a body with a sheet over it when you get home to your area. I want to show like real shit and have people see like ‘fuck that rap shit and this shit.’ That would be dope too! People will really trip off that. Yeah—like they see what was going on away from the music. Like people don’t see it just like, ‘Oh, you guys just became Boogie Down productions.’ You see real stuff. You see the hard times, shit like, ‘Wow, them niggas didn’t really get on like that easy.’

What kind of advice would you give yourself before you put out Critical Beat Down? Like you could tell your past self ‘Yo, you should do this.’ I wouldn’t hang out as much. I probably would be more conserved, more businesswise. When I hung with Scott [La Rock], he was more business-wise. He would go to parties with a briefcase in his hand. Before I was in the movie, I couldn’t see it from the outside. The way you talk about the industry itself, you know: ‘this kid, what do he know about a funky beat, telling me to rap over it? … Why you all—the A & R sitting over there looking at me like you know about it.’ Even some of my friends be like, ‘I got a meeting,’ I tell them, ‘Good luck, you gonna get some popcorn and some Sprite!’ Those meetings have always been about popcorn and Sprite. And people will say, ‘You was right! They offered us some Coke, Sprite, and blew smoke up our ass.’ An A & R meeting today is really—I mean they don’t got companies like that anymore, a lot of them, but a lot of those meetings is like you ended up going in there not even talking about your own album. You go in there and he’s talking about his stuff he got coming out on his label, and he turned your shit off, and next it’s like, ‘Wanna Coke? Wanna Sprite? Wanna popcorn?’ Like they popcorn-ed out your meeting. The system— that stuff seemed like it was made to popcorn you out. ‘I’m gonna waste your time. I don’t know how you got down here, I don’t know if you paid for parking, you mighta spent money on gas, you mighta come across a bridge and spent $15, you mighta drove from ten miles away, mighta drove from way upstate New York.’ They don’t know. They just got you in a meeting, offer you apple juice, popcorn. And people was like—to give you a soda is something big! I guess they got a refrigerator full of shit to shine you off in a nice way. ‘Man, we gotta get rid of all these sodas.’ Yup. It seemed like it was pre-set up for the next group coming in, and the next group’s gonna come in, they got a case full of soda and popcorn, bunch of big boxes of microwave popcorn, just to be nice. ‘Oh I went and sat in Columbia Records, I got some popcorn.’ Even though I signed a lot of deals, I had the most record deals—I’m looking out for the average kid. His manager go in there, and you get popcorn. And that’s the same way with animation things, films, you go in there presenting a movie—that’s why you got to go in there with the right person, the person you really want to speak to. But you go in there, like for movies, pitching a TV show, they got popcorn and everybody got a soda to offer you. And I’m thinking, ‘Is that the corporate fuck-off everyone has?’ I know it’s being hospitable, but I’d rather you—you don’t have to give me nothing to tell me you ain’t trying to work with me, basically. I can go outside and buy me some Twinkies and a pizza and a coke myself. You ain’t gotta turn me around in a nice way. It’s like you setting somebody up. ‘Let’s pop some popcorn and drink a Sprite and—hey, I got another meeting in ten minutes, it was nice knowing you guys and you got a Sprite and a Coke!’ It’s like a smooth turnaround. That stuff took me out the most. INTERVIEW


I can feel going along with you in the journey, in albums, when you like, ‘I wanna talk to my fans, the people who don’t know what I been going through.’ You like set them up and then you tell us all these things cuz people don’t know the other side of the game. They just know the image of the rapper. And all the stuff he’s doing that you do like, but not how it got that far. They don’t know—they know, ‘I got the album.’ They don’t know what you gotta do to get the album mixed, and get it out, and get the artwork correct, and this dude didn’t like how you did this, and you gotta get this thing back. They wasn’t there. They just think all that shit came completed. They wasn’t there through that hard time: ‘I gotta go mix it over, I gotta change the vocals, I’m waiting for somebody to mail the vocals, I ain’t got it yet.’ They just got the album in one complete piece. People take that for granted too. So that’s a big thing too. And in general, a lot of stuff that I did in the past, I didn’t feel no regret. I put a lot of material out there in the universe. It’s funny, I got this album out, and I gotta maintain this concept of the 14 songs. I feel like making something else! Something new again. Like you said, something two hours ago is old or something. It looks like that, but you can’t take it like that. I feel so over-creative and overwhelmed. My creativity sometimes gets frozen, and I feel like — just because you make an album, you gotta promote the songs, and you gotta go to radio stations, and you gotta play something of all the songs of the album. But you really want to play other brand new stuff. Your mind gets so overwhelmed. So it’s a hard challenge for the artist. You’re ready to play a brand-new exclusive! But people don’t know that—they don’t know that you feel like doing another fourteen songs. I’m ready to do another fourteen of some other shit right now. But you gotta hold yourself cuz you gotta retail that out to people. You are on some other shit by the time that album comes out. The people are on that, but you’re like, ‘Well I didn’t finish—I already drunk two bottles of the Moet, and now I’m drinking some Don Julio shit now over here, I’m good. There’s a graveyard of these other bottles.’ That’s how it is in music right now, and that’s the pain of how you gotta restrict yourself. If I didn’t have a little bit of control, I’d probably put out more shit on top of this and you’d be like, ‘Wow, what album is that?’ But like you say— you gotta respect your own projects at some point too. You don’t want to bombard it, but sometimes your mind plays tricks on you and you be like, ‘I need to make fourteen—put out something I got, pick out fourteen tracks I got revved up to go on something else.’ It’s hard. Your anxiety kicks in again: ‘I gotta work these records, I gotta work these records’ and you’re so overwhelmed with rap naturally. Like some of these artists, they come out with records and they content with them all the way to the end. I go out and listen to Sirius XM and hear how other people are doing they stuff, but I don’t hear nothing too different. I’m pretty much right on time, right in there. Some shit is too future. Like ‘Super Hero’ is one of the most distinctive production records I’ve made. It was like kind of industrial rebel, like INTERVIEW

rap and EDM and all kinds of shit combined. And space and air pressure, it sounded like people landing—you could imagine them big ass Marvel comics guys, they come down with the space shoes—when you see like Silver Surfer landing, they put the little sound effects. It seemed like a realm of that. I got a lot of songs—I got a lot of different shit. Different from everything I made in the past and in the future. That has its own element away from the whole album. That record was me and him, like a soundtrack for a big movie, the X-men— It’s big, that’s why! So that song, for me, it didn’t sound like no rap record. It sounded like a Marvel Comics record. It don’t sound like a record you roll a blunt—it sounds space aggressive, like aggressively space and future. It’s hard, and like a futuristic funk record, but it’s real metallic. It’s big. You could see motherfucking Gambit throwing fire at someone. What were you doing when you made that beat? I put an element through it. I put it like me and him are floating. That shit sound like we floating in there. The background seems like me and him are battling. Like we landed on two planets throwing meteorites at each other. That’s what it sounds like, like me and him are throwing meteorites back and forth at each other. I’m floating around, he’s landing, he throw something, I catch it, I blast back off. And people fighting—on buildings, on trucks, throwing a car at you —it sounds like that. You got the air pressure all through it, you hear that air all through it. It sound like air craft flying around. So I set that element up like that. How often do you make beats?
 Every other week. I make a lot of beats, and then I keep them, and then I listen to them, and then I come back. Some beats grow like an embryo. Some beats seem like they ready to come out. Some beats come out futuristic, and some beats, I keep like ‘I’m never gonna put this out.’ Sometimes you enjoy the fact of having some beats of your own to listen to, and then you put raps on them, like, ‘Wow, this just sound crazy!’ The industry could never imagine how funky— even in the south, you hear stuff that Future and them be doing, all kinds of funk, you hear trap stuff that sounds funky—you got people that make funky stuff in general. It’s funny how artists are. I think a lot of artists got all kinds of tracks but some producers only got sweet tracks. And them some got sweet tracks mixed with a few dark ones, and then a couple light ones, and then some people got all rugged shit all the way through. I think I’m like that—all rugged shit all the way through. I gotta lot of hard shit. Like when I did like ‘Fine Girl from High School,’ but it still had a mean bassline. It still had an element of you talking to a girl, but it still had ‘bum bum bum!’ You could still hear the Frankenstein in it, but it’s sexy. Like something Jodeci could sing on. Like you know how when you still used to see a public announcement come out, they came out with slow jams, the niggas having sex with the floor and all that. It still has the element of eroticness to it, but it’s like hard erotic. And I think that’s what people forgot how to make—hard erotic shit.

It made me think about on Black Elvis, ‘The Master of the Game.’ With those drums—they’re all hard, but it’s got that smooth top on it, and when you come in it, the flow is like— If it’s light, it’s gonna be light, but a nice light. But like you said when you hear ‘bum bum bum,’ it’s still gotta creep to it. If it was Jason walking around in the dark, it’s like a creepy story but a girl could hear it riding around—you could ride around in a Cadillac or something and turn the corner—‘bum, bum bum bum!’ It’s still sensuous. I like the songs where you sing the hooks— it reminds me of the Four Tops, or the Delfonics. Some artists would never meet that element of funk in their life. Like if you did a track with Beyonce or something, you would never meet that element. Like if my daughter was a singer, I’d probably put that background behind her. The stuff I did in the past was all custom made, and people never got to experience that because they rapped to beats that were made for everybody. Like 90% of the people in the industry got beats that were shopped to everybody. Like Mariah Carey turned it down, Bruno Mars turned it down, you know—they rapping on them kind of beats. Second-hand beats. Beats that was shopped to the world: Rihanna took it, she liked it, or Adele heard it and she ain’t want it, and Shakira heard it and Jennifer Lopez, and Justin Bieber heard it and he liked it. They’re rapping to a strain of beats—like they all smoking one strain of weed that’s passed around. They doing everything one way. So they don’t get a chance to zone in on somebody making custom beats and something exclusive, like ‘Wow, he made this shit for me. He’s coming in the studio making this one especially for me.’ Their beats are hanging out on the shelf: ‘Fetty Wap didn’t want that one, and Tiga heard it but he didn’t want it.’ A lot of them singers, they just getting the element of what’s out already on the market. So the beats are already commercially shopped. And passed around by uncustomized producer. Even Pharrell is probably not as exclusive no more. They lost that exclusive privacy beat-making thing, so it’s not coming from nowhere. See back in the day, those artists didn’t — remember, Ohio Players never gave the Whispers beats. Right—it was like ‘this is our shit.’ Like everybody had their own sound. Kool and the Gang ain’t do beats for Earth Wind and Fire—what kind of shit is that? That beat shit only started with rap—that’s why we came from the last of the artists making beats for themself. The industry destroyed that when they did it to Kool and the Gang. Remember ‘Celebrate good times come on!’ That’s when I knew Kool and the Gang was over. Those were big records for them but they watered the Kool and the Gang’s tradition down. You know, ‘Jungle boogie—jungle boogie!’ All the funk stuff. They took Kool and the Gang and watered them down. That’s what they did in the music industry. That’s why a lot of girls could never be funky—like Mary J. Blige —

—they got Mary J Blige doing fast food commercials now! —like Mary J Blige and all of them, they ain’t never got a chance to be on something really funky. Like a funk person made it. They never got regular producers and stuff. They probably never experienced getting on something that is so different. It’s like almost once you get watered down, you feel like you can’t even go into that type of music. Like you said, they never would ever make it to the funk shit. They’ll never make it to a level—even the girls that are good, like Ashanti and them coming up—they sing good but they won’t never ever really get a chance to work with somebody that was funky or something. They won’t get a chance to ever work with Slave, even though a lotta of the members of that group passed. I guess back in that funk time, they was on drugs and stuff. I wanted to meet them, and like you said, they won’t never meet a lot of those dudes—they never meet someone who is funky. They might see Bootsy and stuff, but they don’t let Bootsy play a bassline. All the girls sing on the same type of tracks. I knew Tracy Chapman wasn’t funky, but I never knew the industry would water down a lot of Black women. You see artists being any type of thing that’s entertainment, you see the people who get stuck—what’s the thing that’s keeping you to naturally flow to something different? I just naturally feel youthful. It’s like this guy, this man, he’s like 63 years old. I see him downtown. This guy can tell you who the latest rapper is. Not even a commercial rapper—he could tell you like, ‘Yo, Showbiz and AG working on something! ’‘Buckshot, they from Brooklyn!’ He’s up there in age but you never know a person that had that knowledge like that. He knows a rapper. He knows underground, overground, commercial, he knows all Vanilla Ice to Pitbull to Rick Ross. His whole demographic across the board! I took somebody to meet him and they bugged the fuck out. If you see him on the street, you’d be like, ‘This man don’t know nothing about no fucking rap,’ but he’d have the most deepest conversations. I can’t believe for the age though! He don’t got a high tech phone, and all these niggas got high tech phones—people showing off with the iPhone, and this nigga got a flip phone. How he getting knowledge like this? But you got motherfuckers who got the best notifications and work for the city, and chicks in the hospital working dope ass—in delivery rooms, and they got the best phones, walking around with scrubs, and that bitch don’t know the latest shit out. Bitch probably don’t know that Queen Latifah is an actor or something. She probably think Queen Latifah still made ‘U N I T Y.’ I’m saying, to me, it’s handicap too. Some people are old! I don’t wanna get where I don’t know nothing no more. That’s fucked up. KOOL KEITH’S FEATURE MAGNETIC IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM MELLO MUSIC GROUP. FACEBOOK.COM/ OFFICIALKOOLKEITH. 15


RHYS LANGSTON Interview by Senay Kenfe Photography by Theo Jemison

Since the time of P-Funk when a funky cosmology showcasing the intergalactic adventures of Starchild and Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk sprouted out of the crazed psyche of New Jersey’s George Clinton, a reverence for self-mythologizing has been a common thread within the Black experience. While ancient, the idea of self invention and looking towards space in order to redefine the boundaries and limitations of the present world is forever rooted in the attempt to decipher the mysteries of why things are the way that they are. Mix that in with the intersection between dead languages and past cultures and you soon see how and why a funny folklorish character like Rhys Langston comes to fruition here in L.A. Hailing from the far away lands of Langstonia, the multi-disciplinary artist Rhys Langston has captured the attention of Earthlings with his new release Full Frontal Incumbent, an Incongruous Mixtape—a genre-defying attempt at revealing the the human mind. We sat down with the foreigner in his Mothership off Slauson and chatted about the limitations of language, purist standards and life on Earth, as well as his love ballad to a coat rack. Form over content—let’s talk about that. Form over content. Form, like, parallel to content, too. I don’t know—prepositions, orientations ... I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the music that I hear and the associations that we have with certain sounds and—in relation to my own stuff—about things sounding a certain way and then feeling beholden to it. Speaking about certain things because there’s a certain cadence or melodic structure or a production influence. I don’t really know which dead old white dude said something about this in a thesis, but … There’s been several. Yeah—about how the content does not have to be dictated by the form. I think lately … where my music has been taking it is thinking about the soul’s implications. That’s what I always think about first: Where is this piece of art entering the world? Where is it coming from? Who could it touch? What could it touch on and who could it be speaking for? It’s really been crucial for me lately to think about with everything I do [and] the way I’m talking about something not to preclude a certain sound in doing that. I think there’s that dichotomy of spiritual lyrical rappers and

then obviously the ‘dadada dadada dadada dadada DAH!’ And I think there’s a middle ground—not a middle ground, per se, but a fusion that I think is starting to be explored. I’ve really been interested in trying to insert myself in that conversation and speak into existence certain things. I think a lot, especially in Black art, is grappling with … you know, one of the most insidious things about postcolonialism—being post-reconstruction, post-civil rights, Black Lives Matter era—is that things are still so unclear. But the most insidious thing is that a lot of the history that has passed—that has done to people of color and subaltern peoples—has been to limit the imagination, and to draw a border around where things are in the mind. Boundaries. Yeah. And in my own way, if I’m being audacious enough to think I could be breaking ground … You can! [Laughs] I want to be able to show in my own way that certain things can sound a certain way and talk about something else and really just speak it into existence, literally, with rap and stuff. 17


I think a generation ago they would have called it nonsensical. [laughs] How do you feel about it? Because we’re talking about words. Words mean a lot to you. In terms of me as a consumer, participating in your art, the audience … what I can draw from or what I can tell from listening to your music, especially with the Full Frontal Incumbent—it’s a tongue-twister! I can’t say it five times—but in terms of Full Frontal Incumbent, there’s an emphasis on words. Where does that come from? Or rather I should say: why in 2016 is that important to you? To draw a line from what I just said, I think constant content … News streams and all these words and images coming onto us, subliminal marketing—that’s a tactic used by the companies that we buy everything from. I think to discount the impact of words in music—to try and negate that—is just impossible. Also personally, I just find words fascinating. And language, it’s my most natural medium, probably. Especially with English— English is such an arbitrary, exquisite corpse of a language. There’s so many ways you can make a verb an adjective, even if it’s not in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. You can change and reconfigure things, or you know, maybe you can’t technically, but especially with a form like rap, I see it as a sandbox. I don’t know how else to qualify it. I used to be into a lot of different styles of writing; I used to try and enjamb words, like ‘igneous rockstars,’ and now I’m more into words on a more punny level. Like in ‘MSRP (the Untimely Ballad Of A Coatrack).’ Oh yeah. ‘Waltzing insider trades. Left right serf ball,’ which is the first line. It’s not an enjambment like that, which has a new word from that configuration, you know, like ‘igneous rockstars.’ It’s more like ‘insider trades’, you know, suggesting the movement of feet, ‘waltzing insider trades’, moving back and forth between this language of commerce and the commerce of relationships and emotions. That’s perfect. We’re talking about the idea of the multi-disciplinary artist, which you’d consider yourself to be? You’re describing movement within words, literally and metaphorically. It’s kind of like the people who can, like, describe colors and sounds… Oh, synesthesia. That’s interesting. For me writing is a lot of catch and release, in the sense that I’ll get on a chain of words, and they’ll just come, and I’ll write them almost on a level of subconsciousness—just write them and not really think about what they mean, but know that there’s a connection going between them. What’s the editing process like? The editing process? Well… Is there an editing process? Yeah, yeah. I generally write everything out on paper, and then… Why do that? [laughs] I don’t know, I like writing. It’s a good feeling to me. I do that as well. Again, you’re talking about the literal part of it—literally talking about the feeling of writing, but also the feeling of learning.

The feeling of just having some stuff pass through your hand. So the editing process is writing. I would’ve even brought one of my books of notes and stuff, but you know … there’ll be sections of kind of collaged pieces, and that’s especially the case when I write something maybe in free verse that’s maybe more literary. It’s like patchwork, and things have little tangents—lines connecting words that should be inserted here. Then when I type it up, that’s the first level of editing. Especially when it comes to music, if it’s sung or spoken or has a rap cadence to it, then I go in and I see if I can obliterate … if certain prepositions are non-essential in certain things. Actually, it’s funny—I had a phase when I first started out really writing music where I wouldn’t use the word ‘I.’ I just didn’t like it. I was like, ‘I wanna be the guy who talks about “I” without saying “I”.’ And that gradually laid the foundations getting to the essential words, especially when you’re doing something that people can follow musically—they don’t have to follow the exact meaning. They can just ... well, waltz! [laughs] Waltz between the essential words, and if you wanna stick in an ‘in’ or ‘about’ or a definite article, using those strategically, then, and not being like, ‘I have to say “I am the...”’ You can say like ‘am’ something. De La had a song like that—‘I Am I Be.’ Oh yeah, yeah, yeah! I was just thinking of that the other day. It’s like the destruction of self, or the idea of destruction of self. It’s definitely interesting. There’s that cliche that’s not really that cliché: as an artist I am my toughest critic. I think generally pretty much everyone who makes art is that. And I think that’s a very literal way of trying to identify yourself in some way. I don’t know if it’s some type of trying to absolve yourself from being identified in some way. It’s good that you said that in terms of identity because even within this project, you create a lot of characters. Yeah! I’m glad you caught that. You shape out a universe, which I’d say parallels like Parliament-Funkadelic, how they created this entire mythology. Yeah, Chocolate Davis and Langstónia. So we have Langstónia as the land, and I am the vassal to the estate of the Lord Chocolate Davis, and, you know, my regular consorts and kind of advisory board involves Tercero Washington—kind of like the smooth executive operator, you know—Muckraker Jones, who’s the Operator of Rakes—he digs a little deeper)—Calculus Johnson is the Minister of Abstraction ... I think those three. And Resident Hairbrain, Prophecy of Mad Scribe. We know he gets a little more hairbrained. If you look at me, literally, things get that way, too. I think it’s just important to do that, and obviously Rhys Langston is kind of the projector—the megaphone. I think it’s important to do that. For one thing, I’ve always been into fantasy and high fantasy and RPGs and stuff—no shame at all in saying that. Shout-out to Warcraft. Yeah, shout-out to Warcraft. I got a tattoo of fucking Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind right here—it’s kind of crazy. Oh wow! You weren’t kidding! INTERVIEW


Dealing in concrete symbols and concrete words in such a dense and abstract way is a level of like ... it’s a way to place everything. Or not place it, per se, but a way to encase it in a world. I think a lot of it feels like I’m just somehow taking shit out and I don’t even understand where it’s coming from, even though I may have read an article with a word that sounded really cool to me and I insert that … the way that it’s inserted, you know, it can be a little hokey or whatever. It seems sometimes otherworldly how it comes out. Almost in a sense of channeling. Yeah—it’s like, ‘Can I get three bars today?’ But I would definitely say that’s the relevance of all that. I’ve always just done voices, and I think in terms of synesthesia, when I produce things—especially when there’s a certain drum sound—it sounds different. I can kind of see some type of image in my head of that versus another. It’s really strange. I always reach for impressionism, and I think that’s easiest in a form that utilizes words [and] putting on characters. How do you feel about being an independent artist? You can say it within the space of we’re here in LA, but also just in general— how do you feel about the maneuvering that you have to do in the sense of getting something like this to happen? Shout-out to L.A. RECORD for just taking a chance on a local kid! Umm... for real, though, I think there’s a level of ... I wouldn’t say resignation in a grandiose sense, but having to resign yourself to being okay with a level of uncertainty. I think it’s hard nowadays more than others, because ... well, I don’t really know, but I’d make the case that it’s harder now than any other time because to gain traction. Or not traction, but to really feel like your efforts are somehow substantiated in some material linking back to you because of the constant flow of content. I think that independent artists—for me, the main thing has been not being focused on the numbers game, and [instead] really taking moments and being like, ‘That’s progress—I met with this person or that person recognized me at a show and I didn’t even know they would remember me.’ I think I look at it differently, too. I’m not going to play the obnoxious humble person, but I do feel extremely grateful that people are catching onto what I’m doing, and they’re championing it. Some people more than other, because there’s obviously varying degrees within that. Some people have told me, ‘I’ve never heard words put together like that.’ I’m obviously like, ‘Well, you need to check out this guy’s catalogue, and this and this and this …’ but I think taking those moments is what’s crucial, and in L.A., fortunately there are moments that I’ve been able to take opportunities to meet people, I think, and not get confused that it’s still an inperson thing. This shit is still very fixated on moments of interaction with people. You were talking being an entryway into other artists that you tell people they need to check out. You’re just starting out, and already, you’re like … I don’t want to say, ‘I got this from this,’ but ‘I was inspired by this—how do you not know about this?’ And someone coming up to you us their entry into that. I guess what I’m asking is: do you feel responsible to an audience INTERVIEW

now? Like, ‘Oh, shit—people are actually listening to this.’ It’s always been something very aloof for me. I’ve always just been like, ‘I’m going to do what the hell I’m going to do’ because I’m a very detrimentally self-aware person in a lot of ways. I get embarrassed very easily by things that people don’t realize. If I’m doing something, I feel there’s a level of intentionality. If I’m sharing it, I’m going to be embarrassed for myself if people don’t like it—well, that’s the best I really could do. But the question that I thought you were asking is interesting, too. I do feel like I’m a continuation of a long line while reaching into a contemporary kind of pocket, just grabbing some change out from there. We don’t have to go into names, but when I hear the music, it reminds me of blank and blank while being at the same time contemporary, which to me has always been an issue with ... I don’t know, I don’t like to label. We can say right now, with any ‘underground’ music, is that there is such an obsession with repeating or such an obsession with style over a substance. A lot of shit gets lost because people are so worried about the form of things rather than the content. Tou were talking about a lineage with your music, but in a sense, it’s new and it’s fresh.

songs to have substance. It’s just the fact of the matter. You know? If I could make a hundred songs in a year and have the same level of lyrical integrity, I’d be the greatest artist of all time. Anybody would! You know what I’m saying? Anybody would, yeah! [laughs] Not to cut you off, but I think that’s an amazing point that you make. People put so much emphasis—people as in audience or music snobs or whatever they want to call themselves—they put so much emphasis on ‘substance’, and then they ridicule you for not giving them what they want. That comes from consumerism—instant gratification. Just because you click on something and you instantly get to go where you wanted to go doesn’t necessarily mean that in art it’s supposed to be the same way. So on one hand, you ridicule someone giving you something consistently on the rate of what you were asking for, which is someone like a Young Thug, and then you get mad at people like a Frank Ocean taking three or four years to make a record. It’s like, ‘Well, you said you want substance.’ Just because you’re a consumer doesn’t mean you should be allowed to dictate how long that takes to get to you. This isn’t Amazon: ‘Where’s my package! You said three days!’

for like ten more months or whatever … I’m not sure it’s fifteen months, it might be more. [laughs] Then at the beginning of this year I started to just attack mixing it: you know, ‘Mixed Media’! [laughs] That just came to me—nothing planned there! I’d tried mixing vocals before—you know, if I put this much time into thinking about my words, I would want them to be presented in the best way possible. And then songs formed around it. I wanted to release it in February of this year, but I didn’t, because I was also working on another record, and I was starting to be a little more conscious and intelligent and tactical about my promotion: ‘I think this could be a little more thought out and a little more ... exploited in a better way.’ I feel like it was a very unique song, and I think I have a pretty good internal trust level, and for some reason there’s something about it. I’m not saying it’s the best track that I’ve made, but there’s something about it ...when you find these moments and make these records as records in time … I mean, there’s that record of inception when you make it, and then when you release it, it has this other life. I’ve just been thinking a lot about that, especially in terms of socially relevant lyrics and dropping something. iI I were to write something today about the Dakota Pipeline, it’s probably not going to come out until

“I’ve always been into fantasy and high fantasy and RPGs and stuff— no shame at all in saying that.” Yeah—I’d like to be fresh. I think ‘fresh’ is one of those original words that came out of this culture. I’d like to say it’s literally fresh, and it’s ‘fresh,’ you know? Actually, when I saw Saul Williams perform, that was a word that really stuck out to me: he just kept saying ‘fresh,’ and I was like, ‘It still sounds fresh coming from you even though that word is not in the internet lexicon.’ I’m definitely interested in those limits. I think a lot of ‘underground’ rap—especially alternative, more experimental rap, not necessarily on the part of the artist, but on the part of the audience and the critics and everyone—tries to be put up against mainstream rap, and I would like to continue in trying to act as a direct line. There’s interplay going on here, a very serious interplay. That’s smart—that’s why we were talking about the spectrum of mumble rap versus— —spiritual and lyrical? I think there’s a hierarchy of language about it, too. I think people like to feel a little self-righteous when they use big words and they maybe name drop some people that are maybe of the academy and stuff like that. Maybe someone like Young Thug, I think he’s very innovative. I don’t know if I’d say ‘genius’, because I don’t really call anyone a genius; that’s a word that I like to be very careful, especially on the record, saying. But that dude makes too many

[laughs] Or in those shirts that have the words scrolling across them. A rapper wore one of those with reviews or tweets about them just going across. I mean, I think the fan to artist interaction is so real time now. For good or for worse? As a matter of fact, I would say probably for the worse. Not dramatically so. I honestly think there’s an impetus to put out a little too much music. There’s not going to be any lost tapes anymore I think for a lot of these people. [laughs] You told me that you held onto Mixed Media for fifteen months before you figured out where to place it. Can you talk about that record? And also why you took time? That record—it was really crazy. I had these eight bars written, and I had this sample in my head that I wanted to flip for the beat. I tried to do that, but came out with a totally different composition. It was one of those rare moments where there was another fragment that came to my mind when that thing came, and then I free-styled this little arrangement over it, which is even stranger, because I hadn’t approached singing—I’d always wanted to, and I think subconsciously, for me, that was really important. I held onto that for three months, that demo of me doing it into a demo microphone. Then I went to the studio, and I was recording other things, and then I laid that down, left that unmixed

like—unless I get a crazy feature on it, and it’d be super nice for me to get some traction by putting it out right away—I might drop something that’s in the news right now, but it wouldn’t come out until June of next year. I think for certain songs that are more abstract, it’s easier to do that and not get caught up. But I have been thinking a lot about certain songs that reference certain things in moments in time, and what it does for someone to hear that later. I re-released with a new master this project Iambs In Blue at the beginning of this year, but I recorded it in 2014, and I actually wrote it partially in 2013, and the first chorus is ‘Went to a repentance convention, got the shirt the hat the mug a Donald Trump tramp stamp.’ That to be prescient now is crazy—I didn’t expect that. A lot of other art that’s less like … I mean, not interpretable, because it is very interpretable, but an art form that can be kind of quoted directly ... it could be less of a question. I’m painting stuff, and I could hold onto those and never show anyone, and they’d be relevant fifty years from now or something. If we’re not under water. [laughs] RHYS LANGSTON’S FULL FRONTAL INCUMBENT, AN INCONGRUOUS MIXTAPE IS OUT NOW ON BLACK MARKET POETRY. VISIT RHYS LANGSTON AT RHYSLANGSTON. BANDCAMP.COM. 19


FATAL JAMZ Interview by Chris Ziegler Photography by Alex the Brown

Fatal Jamz is the passion(ate) project of Marion Belle, the blacklipsticked child of not just Bowie and Iggy, but Axl and Nikki Sixx and Debbie Harry and Jobriath and Tupac and Andre 3000 and … well, you know the type. Icons, immortals, invincibles—they changed his life, and now Fatal Jamz wants to change yours. His recent album Coverboy (Lolipop) is the first triumphant movement of a glitter-noir rock ‘n’ roll trilogy, a beyond-ambitious effort inspired by everyone famous, infamous or un-famous that ever stalked the sidewalks of the Sunset Strip. (Plus he’s got unbelievably sophisticated 70s/80s neon-and-chrome production and truly stratospheric guitar work.) In a time when the lights sometime seem like they’re going out one by one, he still wants to be a star—or at least keep the flame burning. He speaks now on his way to Art Basel, where he performed with Lydia Lunch and Weasel Walter. Marion Belle: I’m in an airport in Houston right now. There are cardiac arrest machines everywhere and chapels. I passed three chapels.  If the cardiac machine doesn’t work, the chapel will. You can’t lose.  It’s like a mall where you could die or get married! Where did you come from and how did you end up in L.A.? You moved here, right? I was born in Nashville because my father was studying there after [my parents] had returned from the Peace Corps. I grew up in a small town outside of Philadelphia near the Pennsylvania countryside. I went to a private school where my mother taught English literature and mythology. I played sports and read a lot. My father played the piano every night and I sang with him. We sang songs like ‘Earth Angel’ and ‘In The Still Of The Night’ … the Everly Brothers stuff. I was always surrounded by nature. It was a quiet internal time. I was always within and without because I was a teacher’s kid surrounded by the rich girls who I wanted to impress and connect with. That town and that time of my life is indelible in a way, and that within-without situation I think is the germ of all my writing.  INTERVIEW

What kind of person do you feel like you were as a child? Or a kid starting high school? Or an adult who entered ‘the real world’? What caused the changes between these versions of yourself? As a very young child I was into nature and observing things. I kinda knew every yard and alley in my neighborhood—who lived in every house and what their trees smelled like and what their parents did. I’d take long walks by myself and push this wheelbarrow around and fill it with different plants and branches and snails and stuff and bring it home to look at. Even when kids started to bully me … like this older blonde skater kid took a hatred to me because he had gotten caught smoking cigarettes in our alley and breaking our basketball hoop. He bullied me and said I probably didn’t even know what a blowjob was. I said it was when you blew on it and he laughed and beat me. Even that kind of stuff I was just fascinated by … like at a distance. Like … ‘Who is this kid and why is he so messed up? What kind of music does he listen to?’ When I got into middle school, I had a very insecure high anxiety period because I had really extreme Russian features. I was definitely always getting called a freak and 21


“It’s just a way of being, and not taking anything ugly and I was on Ritalin. Just going to the mall I felt like I was in a distorted looking glass where everyone was pointing and whispering and laughing at me. This seems now like what we all go through at that age, but it was intense for me and it changed me. I became kind of a bully myself—and an off-the-wall jokester. Sometimes I could be very mean. I also started journaling and writing a lot during this time—this was 8 and 9 grade. When I got my driver’s license, I felt so free because I could take the car and drive away out by myself through these wild beautiful country roads—past these crumbling DuPont estates, through this old Native American land, through the woods and fields. That’s when I started to listen to music very very intensely: Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, Marvin Gaye. When I started high school, I started to hang out with the older kids and smoke and drink in the woods. There was this guy who had already graduated. He had a radio station at Hamilton College in Pennsylvania. I would go to his house and he’d give me tapes and playlists and albums he’d burned. He was like the Lester Bangs character in Almost Famous— kind of overweight, sweaty, brilliant and giving. He also always wanted to hear about who I was dating and my sex life, which was kinda weird. But his enthusiasm about bands and the culture of bands blew me away and changed everything for me. When I left for college he gave me a biography of Sam Cooke and a CD of his album Night Beat. That music got me through freshmen year and taught me a lot about how I wanted to sing. I guess I entered the ‘real world’ when I came to Los Angeles. It was the classic ‘he’s leaving home’ [situation]: my mom was crying in the kitchen, I was driving in a packed car across the country. I stopped in Chicago, picked up my best friend Jason and we drove the rest of the way. He was the first person I had ever known who I could make music with, and he was also the most beautiful wild soul I had ever known. He was half Haitian and half Irish and just brilliant. He was like Hamlet to me. We got an east Hollywood apartment, a bass guitar and a drum machine, and signed up at a temp agency for work. That period immediately woke me to the fact that if I wanted to make music as a lifestyle, I was going to have to work so fucking hard. I was going to have to learn everything. How to play guitar, how to sing, how to record myself, how to write, how to rent a lockout and pay my bills. I knew for sure I had something to say. Growing up I always thought musicians were absolute gods. Their looks, their confidence, their voices—it was so powerful to me. It was like they were from Valhalla. Everything in youth was tied to different songs. I saw the way my babysitter’s—these gorgeous 18- or 19-year-old girls—were in love with the singer of like Jane’s Addiction. The guitar ballads—the deep cuts—they’d play them th

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over and over again. I just always wanted to make music that meant that much to people like them—to turn them on. What does that actually mean to you? ‘Turn someone on’ — it could mean giving someone acid, it could mean sex, it could mean teaching them about something. So what’s a person who is turned off, and what does it mean to turn them on? I want to give someone who’s maybe even like 13 years like the inspiration of a poetic life—that’s in a nutshell the currency that I’m peddling.  Like that happened to you, and you want to pass it on? I want to pass it on. It’s like a fire. It’s just a way of being, and not taking anything for granted and just living fucking fully alive. That’s what it was for me when I saw a guy on TV in white cut-off spandex holding a microphone in front of 80,000 people and singing a song. If you got up in class and read the lyrics of ‘Patience’ to your high school class you’d get laughed at. But here’s this guys singing ‘Patience’ in spandex and it says everything about a way to live, and girls and guys get it. But also yes—sexually turning people on. Turning people on where they want to fuck you, and they just want to fuck you in a kind of romantic way.  A lovely fuck.  The lovely fuck! I’ll tell you this. I’ve been trying to find this artifact that I remember seeing on the back of like a Motley Crue record—you’d look at the back of the liner notes, and it would say like ‘fan club,’ and at the bottom it would say ‘Send pics! You know the kind we like!’ I swear to God, that’s on one of their records and I’d love to see that again.  You should do that, and see what people think it is that you like.  Probably it’s so different now! Your song ‘Lead Singer’ is a pretty sexual song, but also it’s interesting. In it you sing ‘I’ll lick your pussy clean.’ What’s the difference between that and someone saying or singing about ‘suck my dick’? It’s coming from a different place. As opposed to just crassness. I think it’s the polar opposite.  So to speak?  So to speak—exactly! I love the idea and I believe in the idea: music can basically change your life like a thunderbolt in two ways. You’re in the crowd or you ended up at this show. And it’s kind of a whatever night, you don’t even know why you came out, and you start to hear these rumblings, and then some creature appears on the stage and just takes your breath away! And whatever happens over the next twenty minutes or so is stronger than any other drug, and everything is changed for you. And the other way that happens is when you’re driving or you’re in some mall and you hear a song. That’s happened to me in my life, where I’ve been at a record store

and I hear this voice and I have to find out who that person is. I think that moment is so thrilling and it’s so sexual at the same time. ‘I’ll lick your pussy clean and vanish in the ocean wind.’ That feeling. And it’s like Lestat the vampire: it comes and sucks your blood and disappears. And turns you into one too.  Exactly.  Are you the most sexually philosophical person in any given record store? It used to be that the record store was so sacred. We used to go in and they’d have the used CDs and the headphones and stuff, and you’d buy like CD singles or you might come home with a box set. I’d go to the record store and get Astral Weeks and listen to that for like six months. And those singers and those bands, they’re definitely like teachers. Teachers in like spirit. I’ll say one more thing: one thing I’m really fascinated with is the castrati singers. And I remember reading that Thomas Edison—one of his first recordings, one of the first records ever, was of a castrati because he had some fascination and wanted to go record this one guy. And I went to the library at my college, and I heard that guy sing. It was like a really old recording. Like 100 years old—a voice between masculine and feminine. Like an adolescent’s voice that never grew up. Kind of like Michael Jackson tried to sing. And I hear that when I hear Vince Neil.  Vince Neil would probably be so bummed that you compared him to a castrati from 1908.  He would be so bummed. And you know who else would be bummed—but it’s the biggest compliment—is Michael Monroe from Hanoi Rocks.  When did you actually start to make music and think about yourself as a musician? I used to write rhymes and rap a lot. My friends would always make me spit rhymes at parties and say ‘You got to hear this kid!’ and they were always pumping me up. My high school friends were incredible for that. I know I jumped from being a fan to actually making my own music and performing because I was tired of being at parties and standing on a wall and saying in my head, ‘I got something sacred, I got something special to say and nobody knows it.’ I wanted to prove it to myself and be about it. I had recorded some rap songs in little sessions here and there. I had a radio show in Boston and I’d use the studio late at night to record myself over instrumentals. That was the extent of my experience. I had never performed or been in a group. I don’t think I had barely held a guitar. I learned how to play and how to write by watching every musician around me and by listening to records. In the beginning I worked almost exclusively on my singing and on my production. I did take some vocal lessons in the early L.A. days—peeps I found on Craigslist. In the Valley. I remember

everything about them. One girl had pink hair and she taught me a lot—how to scream and not lose your voice. She was so sexy she would wear spandex to the lessons! Eventually my roommate took me to Guitar Center and helped me get an acoustic and then he’d give me lessons. Our rap group almost got signed to Warner Brothers and we had developed a live show using an MPC 2000XL, a Fender Rhodes and an electric guitar. That group was like an emo rap group. We liked Mobb Deep. We were kind of like sensitive thugs. Sensitive shook ones? I found sensitivity in lines like ‘I’m only 19 but my mind is old’—that is deep! There’s a beauty beyond the sum of its parts right there. But I was like ‘I’m not a black dude. I’m just from where I am.’ I hit a patch where I had to come to terms with it. By the time we had Warner Brothers interested, I was ready to put on lipstick and get farther out there. Like Ian Brown from Stones Roses, I saw him play at House of Blues, his solo thing. The way he performed—he was like a little hooligan. Like ‘I’ll fucking kill you!’ kinda guy. ‘I’m gonna sing ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ and these sensitive ballads, but don’t fuck with me! I’m hard!’ That had an influence on me. You can be saying the most emotional naked beautiful thing, but at the same time, he’s putting that out. That’s it for me. It’s fear and love mixed together—coming and going. The audience is a huge part for me. I want bigger and bigger audiences, obviously, because I’d love to have it be just like … empowering. At the end of the day, you wanna be serving a community at some point. When you write songs, do you find the music or the lyrics come more easily? Which aspects of songwriting do you feel you’ve learned to do best so far, and which do you struggle with? I drive a lot. Drive all over the fucking city. I drove for years and wrote songs in my head then found the chords by trial and error on the guitar. Never knew the names. The melody and the words come together … maybe one line or one lyric wrapped in the melody. I can hear the way I want the chord to sound, the syncopation, and the way the drum beat should be … and maybe the entire lead part. The secret and the mystery is wrapped in the melody, and I work to build a production around that seed that stays true to this initial emotion. Since I come from a rap background in a sense, the beat is crucial—the swing. I can write around a drum loop that has the swing that I learned from the MPC. Gangster. I also love writing with my friends—especially guitar players or artists I have a kinship with. That might be the highest high for me. Where does the most important part of a song happen? The inspiration? Writing? Performing? Recording? At what point do you get to the heart of things and why? INTERVIEW


for granted and just living fucking fully alive.” The heart of things is telling a true story through the song and knowing I’m going to be able to deliver it—like a fireball—on stage or singing with my guitar. That I’m going to be able to get something true across with this song, even if no one else understands the lyrics or the context or who what it’s about technically. When I know I’ve said it right and that the music itself is true, then I feel ecstasy.  Is music something that takes you to far away places or helps you come back home—literally or figuratively?  It makes me feel alive and sacred. A great song is very very mysterious and new. It alters the course of your life, and helps you search farther in the quest to know yourself and to seize your destiny. It says something you knew was there, but you never had the proof.  I feel like you have this subconscious theme of like … this initiation into transcendence. You hear a song and it takes you to a different place with different rules, or you play a song for someone and it takes them to a different place with different rules. Everything that affected you, and everything that you’re trying to do to other people, is like pull them out of where they are, and put them somewhere that you feel is … better.  Yes! That’s exactly how I feel about it. That’s intense! You’re like a psychic travel agent: let me take you on an identity vacation.  Yeah! Climb aboard this rocket! You put a lot into your performances—has there been an audience yet that like … surpassed you? Not only responded to what you were putting out, but came back even stronger?  I feel like as a performer that I’ve been ahead of the audiences for a long time. Even in L.A., everyone’s always telling me, ‘You got to go to the U.K.’ But now I feel like the residency— the last two nights were packed to the gills. You see the work and the focus pay off. We came into the green room at the Echo on Monday and this fan had bought us a bottle of Dom Perignon and twelve pale pink roses!  Attention to detail! I look at it the same way as a time when you had Nirvana and you had Tupac. Two huge stars at the same time. Now we have so many rap stars and they’re the ones wearing the red fur and the leather. Like Andre 3000. They’re the glam rockers. I look at it like—we’re contemporary. I think there’s no holds barred. Whatever you gotta do to perform. Every generation has this war to keep this thing alive. I’m just trying to play the part that’s natural to me. Who do you think has had more influence on where you are in your life now—teachers, bosses or cops? Teachers! My mom is a teacher and she showed me what poetry was, what literature was, and what myths were. Her best friends were the INTERVIEW

teachers in the English department of my school and they were extraordinary people. My non-fiction teacher Mrs. Crawford put a quote on the board from Anne Dillard that said, ‘Write everyday like you are going to die tomorrow.’ That was my motto from then on. I think if you are lucky enough to have great teachers when you are very young, you learn how to look for them and spot them the rest of your life. That has always been true for me. I’ve always chosen instinctively to hang out with the ones who challenge me the most and who make me question everything I believe and often it’s fucking hell. It keeps me on the edge. So is Coverboy aspirational? Like … is it about a life you live? Or a life you want to live? It’s so direct in a way. It’s very very honest. It’s like a true story, I would call it. The songs tell the story of my life in L.A. over a ten year period. So you know, when you’re talking about ‘groupies know your name’ and all that stuff and ‘you just want more, you try to be pure but you just want more,’ that’s just the lifestyle of doing what we do and just being in it—and the demons of it. But the songs are aspirational in a sense of like, … they’re aspiring to propel the band out of complete oblivion. So they’re aspirational tools for you to personally achieve what you aspire to, through these songs about things you aspire to. You could base a self-help philosophy on this. Is rock ’n’ roll self help for you? I think for me it’s like a theater. You get to write your own novel and then play the lead part and you get to cast it and every night you get to bring it to life and there’s danger involved—that’s what I like. That’s the difference from going to see a play. You go to see a band, and the people who are involved in that band … look at Jobriath. These casualties … people die from this stuff every day. They die from unrequited lust and they die from unrequited passion.  Hence the name Fatal Jamz?  Exactly.  There are a lot of archetypes or characters in play on this album—the gigolo, the lead singer, the cover boy. What do they all have in common? If they aren’t all literally you, how are you able to relate to all them?  They’re all like parts of me. And roles that exist within the life that I’ve lived. The gigolo is like a character out of a novel or an old sailor kind of guy, someone who like feels like a prostitute. And you feel like a prostitute often as a performer, I think—you’re down to the core of yourself and that’s what you’re selling. And you’re naked. It starts with that kind of feeling, and then it becomes a song as like a three-dimensional version of that feeling. You’re making a movie of that feeling—the most larger than life kind of representation of that feeling. Once I can

blow it up to that big screen, it’s big enough for me to inhabit. One thing that’s a part of the record: it’s like a ‘lead singer’ trilogy. That idea saved my life, in a sense—now I have a reason to make three records. And that idea is harnessing my whole focus for the next couple years, and it’s salvation for me to have that focus. And I take that from the Bowie Berlin trilogy. I spent so much time being fascinated with that trilogy, and realizing like—what about an L.A. trilogy? That’s my town and I know it. What I’m trying to say is … some of these archetypes, I’m trying desperately to do my part to keep them alive. The lead singer archetype is a romantic figure that I think is much maligned. It’s currently not fashionable to necessarily say you’re a lead singer or think about it like that or be a lead singer, but it’s secretly this archetype that dates to time infinitive, like hundreds and hundreds of years ago—maybe the first one was a fucking vampire, like Lestat or something, and they’re feeding off the energy of the crowd to stay vibrant or on the edge? But then it also relates to Iggy Pop or someone like that. This is this archetype and it’s a nasty little person, a nasty little, powerful demon who’s going to come onto the stage. Don’t think that this is dormant—don’t think that just because rappers rule the world right now and indie rockers are everywhere that this creature doesn’t exist and isn’t still out there waiting to take over again. Why do you think this is dormant? You might talk about a soft middle class in the country, but there’s a soft center of music that’s missing I think, for everyone. Part of it is the lack of that kind of personality in the mainstream, or in the picture at all. I think my thought about why it’s dormant is that it’s a committed, convicted lifestyle.  Hard to work a day job if you’re Iggy Pop.  It’s hard to work a day job, it’s hard to survive and keep that poetic mentality alive, and because you get looks everywhere you go, even in like—even in rock ’n’ roll quote unquote communities. ‘Who the fuck does that person think they are?’ Just like you don’t see a lot of like Matt Dillon type personalities in the movies anymore. But who wouldn’t want to be an Axl Rose? Or a Debbie Harry? I think it’s like a brush fire waiting to spread again. I think the industry has lost the capability of spotting star power in a certain kind of music. We used to have managers and labels and you know … Danny Fields and people like that. The labels used to have guys who looked for freaks like Iggy Pop and they found them. They gave those people a chance and they became people who should have won Nobel prizes. It’s just another thing that’s a little dead in our society. But it could change over night with a couple things happening.  What’s something you feel lucky to have had your whole life? Or what’s something you’ve never had yet? Do you still want it?

I’ve never had a major record deal—they’ve always fallen apart or dropped off and no one has ever maybe known what to do with me. I always felt like a unicorn. I’ve never toured Europe or played big festivals so I want all that. I want a massive audience. I want massive money to make videos with my team of stars—I want to support other artists badly. But I have always had support, attention and believers from day one—insane support that has sustained me and allowed me to be the baddest motherfucker I wanna be outside the box of any system and to follow through on my wildest visions. I’ve recorded live albums in some of the best studios in the world, played with some of the greatest players of my generation, and gotten to work hand in hand with my favorite artist alive—my wife Abigail. I’ve learned a way of life, and one of the byproducts is a lot of songs about the thugs and angels I’ve known. Songs are like tattoos—the best ones stay tattooed on your heart. The last image on the record is the ‘tattered rose.’ Why? That’s almost medieval—the crypt of a tragic romantic suicide. I think that’s my favorite song. It’s the closest to the bone for me. It’s a ballad of the lead singer or the performer and like the other person in that person’s life. There’s a tragic weight to trying to be with someone like me. There’s a lot of pain. And the idea of that archetype disappearing. That song is about that person living that archetypal life—that kind of creature. The tattered rose is— —the tattered Axl Rose? Exactly! I picture some dude coming out of like Mahoney’s Tattoo Parlor on the Sunset Strip. He’s got the tattered rose on him. That’s that guy. It could be Peter Perrett of the only ones who you see as a 70-year-old phantom walking down Hollywood Blvd. It’s this haunting figure. My favorite line on the whole record and the one I’m most proud of is just simple: ‘Nothing would ever be the same / once you touch the flame.’ There was a moment for me and probably every singer that I ever fell hard for who crossed that line—and you cannot go back. That’s fucking scary and it’s scary for me and there’s a lot of people you can no longer relate to, and that’s sad. You’re out there on your high wire. I know it echoes off at the end. I always knew that was how I wanted to end—that was clear to me. I’ll leave you with this: L.A. is filled with drug addicts and starfuckers. What’s not to love? FATAL JAMZ PERFORMS WITH GENE LOVES JEZEBEL ON SUN., JAN. 29, AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8 PM / $15$18 / 18+. THEECHO.COM. FATAL JAMZ’ COVERBOY IS OUT NOW ON LOLIPOP RECORDS. VISIT FATAL JAMZ AT ALWAYSFATALJAMZ.COM.   23


PYLON Interview by Ron Garmon Illustration by Abraham Jay Torres

Only one of the glories of Pylon is hearing how much like this current moment they were sounding back during Reagan’s first term. As for the rest of their 24-karat virtues, any even partial catalog would beggar both newsprint and patience, as well as necessity, as most are inferred below and the rest decisively demonstrated on the recent Pylon Live, a two-LP document of the band’s two farewell performances at Atlanta’s Mad Hatter Club in December, 1983 out on Henry Owing’s excellent Chunklet imprint. Coming after a two-album career and easy conquest of still-emerging college radio with a singularly intense jangle-punk dancemania, Pylon’s climactic conclusion now takes its place as an essential part of the band’s legacy. Other incarnations followed, with the most recent phase being the Pylon Reenactment Society, an all-star juggernaut headed by original singer Vanessa Briscoe-Hay set to level the Echo this December 11. Here the honeyvoiced and thoughtful frontwoman pays respectful tribute to her past and calls in a few friends to add a riff or two. What was it about one of William Faulkner’s lesser-known novels inspired the band name? Vanessa Briscoe-Hay (vocals): That’s just basically a legend that grew. William Faulkner did have a novel called Pylon but the members of Pylon were all art students at the University of Georgia and we wanted something that was a symbol as well as a name. At first we were just going to have a symbol—like diagonal— but we liked the way it looked. We were into minimalism. It doesn’t have anything to do with William Faulkner other than we’re both from the South. Set the background of 1979 Athens for the toddlers among us… VBH: I can only speak to what I know and saw personally. Athens, GA was a sleepy Southern college town, but there were things going on. Our art department at UGA was home to some artists and professors who had influences beyond our little patch of ground. In the town itself were people who had traveled and listened to what was happening around the world. We had a wonderful local record store called Chapter 3 Records who brought the latest discs to our attention. There were amazing house parties where these were played and people danced. Thrift store clothes, keg beer, sprinklers and heat combined to create something new, fun and fresh. There was a band here around 1977 or so called the B-52’s. They were very important and nobody had seen anyone really like them before and they got their start here. They took off like a rocket and we ended up slipping into the void that was left when they departed here. Pylon began as an art project by Randy Bewley and Michael Lachowski in late 1978. I was auditioned as the singer in February 1979. We played several party shows and we didn’t know what people thought of us but about the third time we played, the B-52’s saw and told us we have got to go to New York. They helped us get booked into a club in New York, so off we went and opened for the Gang of Four, who were our heroes. We actually played New York before we played Atlanta. We had more in common with that scene and what was going on in Boston, Minneapolis, England, and Germany than what was going on in local scene at the time. 24

The idea was you guys wanted to create a band that would go to New York, get reviewed in New York Rocker, then disband! VBH: That was the initial idea—we were an art project and not professional musicians so we had no goal other than that. The first time played New York we got written up in Interview and it was a little ways down the road before we were written up in New York Rocker but by then we were having too much fun. We finally disbanded in 1983, because it got to be too much like a job. That was what was behind that. You missed your original aspiration to become a footnote to rock history! VBH: Right—well, certainly better to be a footnote than not anything. We certainly had a great time. You got a record deal just months after forming. How did that happen? VBH: [Producer] Danny Beard approached us and asked us to do a single, which did well, so he asked us to do an album so we went to Atlanta and recorded Gyrate. I guess it was a week total recording before it was done. I forget how many tracks we recorded and we didn’t even use all of them. People seem to enjoy that record even now. It’s amazing to me that it’s so fondly remembered. It’s been reissued multiple times since 1980. How much attention did Gyrate get upon first release? VBH: It got a lot of attention, actually. It was kinda at the beginning of the college-rock era and almost every station was playing it. CMJ was very new at that time and we charted on that. Not such a commercial success, but to us it was a success because the music was being heard and we traveled and played it. People came and saw us and danced. It was a word of mouth and DIY scene. Extraordinary times. Spectacular for a first crack out of the box. VBH: To us, yes. Success for us maybe had different parameters. I don’t even know what TV show we could’ve been on at the time but we received attention, we got to travel, we opened for some of our favorite bands and fanzines wrote about us. That was success for us. What were some of the bands of that era you guys doted on?

VBH: American bands like Mission of Burma. We opened for Talking Heads and the B-52’s. When they both had their first U.S. tour, they toured together but they came to Atlanta and split up so we opened for them both nights. We also played with PiL when they played Atlanta which was amazing. Outside of America, the Gang of Four was the band we had the closest relationship with. We toured quite a lot with them on the East coast and the Midwest and Canada. There were lots of interesting things going on then and interesting American bands. That whole period of time—from 78 to 83, which was kinda our era—is one of the more interesting eras in American music, though it wasn’t commercial per se. Pre-MTV and before the major labels began to sign a lot of these bands. They didn’t know what to do with them or what category to put them in. What was touring and playing like then?
 VBH: Not unlike now. There was a network of clubs and a local promoter would call you up. Then as now, a lot of local people would come and support you just because you were coming to their town. In our time, we didn’t call it post-punk or new wave. They were coming to hear new music, which was what we called what we did. Fanzines would write about you and it was very word-ofmouth. This was way before blogs. It was interesting. Chomp! was produced by the great Mitch Easter over a fairly lengthy stretch during excessive touring with the likes of Gang of Four and U2. It later became quite influential. How long did recording it ultimately take? VBH: Before we worked with Mitch, we started in Atlanta with those who worked with us on our previous record. Brice Baxter was the recording engineer and mixer, but we just wanted to try something different. So we talked it over with Chris Stamey and went to a very tiny studio of Mitch Easter’s and I think it was the last time they used that board of theirs as the knobs we wearing out. Tell us about circumstances surrounding the newly released live record. VBH: We had decided to break up after doing some touring after the release of Chomp! It was beginning to look like more work than

we were interested in. We were approached by a group of local investors who wanted to have a TV show called Athens Shows and shoot us as the pilot for it. Knowing that, we looked for a local venue that had the capacity and room to do this. The Mad Hatter was really just a large boxy room. It was advertised as our last show and the investors brought in cameras including one on a track and a recording truck. Curtis Crowe, our drummer, built a simple backdrop. Everyone came and danced and a lot of our friends got up and danced on stage with us for the encores. Listening to the recording during final mixing, we were struck by what a solid show it was and also by the feeling … why the hell did we break up? Ha! But I’d like Henry to answer this one, too. Henry Owings (Chunklet): What happened was Pylon had announced they were doing their final show, and at the same time there were two enterprising gentlemen in Athens that wanted to start an Austin City Limitstype show that would showcase the finest talent in Athens at the time. They set up camera and recording equipment for this night—Love Tractor and Pylon would perform and they wound up with two pilots for the price of one. They shopped the show around to no takers and the tapes lay ignored for the better part of thirty years before I found them. It’s a crazy story— there is an Indiana Jones element to the search and I just never gave up. If Pylon has a band ethic, what is it? VBH: Oh my goodness. Minimalism. No one member is more important than another. We tried to show this by how we presented ourselves to our audience, our graphics and also by how the music was mixed. We all wrote our own parts, except lyrics were either written by Michael Lachowski, Michael and me or by me. The songs came easily or took months. The sum was greater than its parts. I guess the whole premise behind Pylon is that we made our own decisions in the way we approached music and business and everything. It came from a core sense. It was a huge experience and it had to be fun. Playing live was our favorite thing to do and that’s why this record is important. Henry basically saved the tapes from obscurity. This is an object on vinyl: two discs with beautiful INTERVIEW


artwork by Michael Lachowski, our bass player. In keeping with our ethos I hate to say artifacts, but that’s what it is. Hugely enjoyable listen but that five-song encore is a thing of beauty! Not too many live documents of that kind of music. VBH: Why, thank you so much! Everybody was dancing. Very sweaty! There’s not a lot a lot of crowd noise on this recording and a lot of it we had to cut so we could have all the songs. We could only find one band photo of that night—a shot my husband took. Everyone else was too busy dancing to take pictures! HO: I’d like to add that we had video footage of that night. In the encore you’re talking about, there’s barely room for the band onstage because the amount of people onstage dancing. It’s like ‘Oh, there’s Peter Buck!’ ‘There’s the guy from Love Tractor!’ It was very open sort of ‘Everybody come on up and have a good time!’ All I’d heard was what’s on the record and then I saw the video and thought the show must’ve been absolutely nuts! You can tell from the way the musicians are playing that the audience is going mad! Enormous crowd energy. VBH: It’s a two-way street and it goes back and forth. Pitchfork calls the live record your ‘proper tombstone,’ but is that all it is? VBH: It is what it is supposed to be. It is a recording of a significant show for us and recorded as well as it could have been under those circumstances. It is a artifact of a live performance which is what we did best and enjoyed most. It is amazing that it survived and that there was interest to release it by Henry Owings. Pylon ended, time passed, people remembered the Athens scene and bands that soldiered on remembered you to the press. Your records were reissued in the late 1990s to hammerstunned astonishment from critics like Robert Christgau and much general rejoicing. At what point did Pylon begin to seem like an idea whose time had never gone away? VBH: It happened twice more and now for a fourth time with the Pylon Reenactment Society. The second time we called it Pylon II. I guess we reemerge from the earth every once on a while like … I don’t know, some form of insect or whatever. With Pylon II, we reemerged because we got a lot of attention from ‘Athens Georgia Inside Out.’ The B-52’s and R.E.M. were very encouraging and said, ‘I think they’re ready for you now.’ We came out for a while, had management. We toured. I think we could’ve continued but [guitarist] Randy [Bewley] didn’t want to do it anymore. Later on in 2005, Randy called and said ‘Hey I miss you guys. Let’s get together for fun.’ So we did some shows between 2005 and 2008 and he passed away in early 2009. We both worked on getting the tapes organized and remastered for the DFA reissues of our first two records. It lay dormant again until 2015. Joseph E. Smith was working on the committee on something called called ‘Art Rock Athens’ an organization formed locally to remember the art and rock scene of 1975 to 1985 in Athens. So I get a band together and we performed a few songs. People just

went nuts for our fifteen minutes and the next year they said Fred Schneider is coming and would I appear again? I said sure and the Pylon Reenactment Society did a half hour. Also Dressy Bessy said come and play with us and other event shows. We’ve been doing shows sporadically and getting very good feedback. Then sometime earlier this summer, I became friends on Facebook with Shelina Louise of Panthar and she’s a huge fan of Pylon and she’s like ‘Look, you’ve got to come to Los Angeles. All the bands love you out here and you’ve got to play with them.’ So we talked to Michael Stock of Part Time Punk—we’ll be there in December. I have another member of the band here Joe Rowe, and he can tell you a little more about performing with us. We talked about needing a drummer and Curtis [Crowe] said ‘You need to get that guy right there.’ Joe Rowe (drums): This is Joe! It’s been fantastic taking Curtis’s spot on the drums. Vanessa’s truly one of my favorite rock ‘n’ roll singers ever. Expect a royal welcome in Los Angeles. What did you think of R.E.M.’s pass at ‘Crazy’? JR: I loved their version of that song and I can’t remember if I heard R.E.M.’s or Pylon’s version first. I was in New Jersey at the time and didn’t get things at the same time up here as down there. VBH: I think it’s just incredible they did it. They introduced Pylon to the rest of the world. They were very awesome about sharing their spotlight with others and recognize their influences. I saw one of them recently—my mind’s blanking on who—and he said ‘Well, we meant it.’ Aw you, guys! Thanks! JR: I moved down here to Athens in 1987 from New Jersey. I remember one of the first things I did was buy two cassette tapes—a Fall record and Pylon’s Gyrate. I fell in love with it and wore that thing out, so it’s a total trip to play with Vanessa and with Michael and Curtis. Michael and Curtis will get up and play song or two or three with us when they’re able and that’s really cool. VBH: Michael and Curtis have been really supportive of us. I’ve had several people come up to us in the Northeast and locally after shows say that they never dreamed they’d see us live. Vanessa, at what point did you feel like a pioneering woman rock vocalist? VBH: Oh, well … [laughs] I mean, it could’ve happened all at once or over a period of time. VBH: I don’t feel like a pioneer but I don’t feel like a typical vocalist either. After a really good night, I’m standing there thinking I’m the luckiest person in the world. I don’t know how pioneering that is but I definitely enjoy doing what I do. Come by when we’re in L.A! Say ‘Hey!’ PYLON [AKA PYLON REENACTMENT SOCIETY] WITH SEX STAINS, PANTHAR AND THE TISSUES ON SUN., DEC. 11, AT THE ECHOPLEX, 1154 GLENDALE BLVD., ECHO PARK. 9 PM / $15-$18 / 18+. THEECHO.COM. PYLON’S LIVE IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM CHUNKLET. VISIT PYLON AT WEAREPYLON.COM. 27


TERRY MALTS Interview by Chris Kissel Illustration by Jared Pittack

Terry Malts’ new record sounds something like a rebirth. The band has always had an affinity for pop hooks, but Lost at the Party foregrounds that sensibility, and polishes it, while paring down the fuzz layered over much of their previous work. Now, with songs like “Gentle Eyes” and “Come Back,” the band looks toward a broader continuum that spans from the Beatles to Nick Lowe. It’s a turn toward uncomplicated guitar pop at its most refined, and in these strange, uncertain days, it’s a sound that can feel reassuring in its directness, drawing a straight line between sorrow and joy while encompassing both. We talked with Terry Malts guitarist and songwriter Corey Cunningham about the evolution of his band—which includes members in both L.A. and San Francisco—as well as his passion for discovering music and the ideas pop music can communicate in foreboding times. You’ve written a lot of songs over the years. I’m curious if your approach to the simple act of writing a pop melody has changed at all. Corey Cunningham (guitar/vocals): I don’t think that it changed from our first band together—the Cosmos—to Magic Bullets and into Terry Malts. I think it’s the one thing that’s stayed consistent with us. Also I was thinking about this recently … there’s something about pop music that I like so much as a canvas because when you do put your personal life into it and you talk about being imperfect or experiencing pain, it just blends so well with it. I love that bittersweetness. Do you know what I mean? Yes. I think that’s part of why this record has resonated in these post-election days. There can be something that’s both hopeful and sorrowful in a perfect major key melody. I feel like we’re always chasing that. It’s a really weird, uncertain time right now in this country. And I don’t think everybody needs to find a way to use their music to talk about the political situation. But I’m curious … when the stakes suddenly feel very high like they do now, what role does pop music, or your music more specifically, have, if any? INTERVIEW

I actually have thought about this a lot over the years, even before this God-awful year happened. I don’t think musicians have any responsibility whatsoever to make a political statement. I think if they do once in awhile, that is good. But too much of that is not for me. It’s such a fine line where you can appear to be righteous and grandstanding, and particularly for pop music in my mind, it doesn’t age well. But a little of it can go a long way. I think of someone like the Smiths, where they weren’t always political but when they were it was good and it still translates today. I like that aspect of it. But kind of like you’re saying about listening to our album and it having a comforting effect—a love song can get you through tough times like this, and can say something about the times in an abstract way you might not think about, either. On Lost at the Party, Terry Malts make a pretty decisive switch from this crashing, lo-fi punk sound to a sound that really serves to emphasize the poppiness of the songs. Why? Maybe we’re a little different from our contemporaries on this, because I see a lot of bands that stick with a sound and love the consistency and will be a Burger Records band forever. But to me it’s horrifying living in that box, and not being able to try new

things and refine your artistic voice. We knew that we could do something bigger and poppier because the three of us played together in a band called Magic Bullets, and in that band we always recorded in studios, and we had a songwriter’s approach to that, too. A lot of people compared us to the Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen, and I knew we could reconcile that past with Terry Malts. There was a certain overlap we could highlight by doing the record the way we did. [Lost at the Party] is obviously very produced, and focuses on the songwriting aspect of what we can do. I think we could always go back to being a loud noisy band, but it’s just sort of the cycle of being an artist, trying to do different stuff and find yourself in the music. A little bit of it has to do with just being mired in this world for at least two years, two and a half years, of not having an album out and playing the same local shows and punk festivals. It starts to feel a little bit like cabin fever. That sort of repetition of being in the same spaces … I think it made us a little antsy, and that might have made us want to pursue something different. Also, I found out that playing slower songs is just as fun as playing the faster songs. [laughs.] It sounds like you spent more time writing, too.

Yeah, absolutely. We kind of had an approach in place [before] which was a looser version of what we do now. Phil would come to the table with an idea and we’d rough it up in the practice space, or I’d have an idea, and we’d shape it into something. Once in awhile, we’d spontaneously have a lightning in a bottle moment, like with ‘I Do’ [off the band’s 2012 debut Killing Time] which felt like it came out of nowhere. With this album, we prolonged that process a little, where we’d say, ‘Hey, we have a good riff here, a good arrangement, let’s demo it, put lyrics on it, see if it works.’ Sometimes it would work and sometimes we had to break it apart and redo it again. The song that comes to mind is ‘Come Back,’ which probably had four or five different iterations before the final one. It’s kind of exciting to me to do it that way, to really focus in on the songs. Did you feel differently about the final product? Compared to the band’s previous records? I wouldn’t say that I felt and more or less confident or happy with it than any other stuff we’ve done. But I’ll say that the response has been from a broader type of audience, a broader demographic, than the other music was. We had a split audience between people who either really loved punk or really loved 29


indie pop. At our shows, you’d have a guy with a Discharge patch standing next to a dude in a cardigan, or a lady in a cardigan. And so with this—I feel like all sorts of people are coming to our shows now. I think more people respond to it, as opposed to it being a niche genre thing. Were you intentionally trying to reach more people? I think it was purely a byproduct of it. I would hesitate to say that we wanted to make an album that would make us bigger, but we did want to make an album that sounded bigger. Was there a moment you felt represented a breakthrough for you? That took you to a place you hadn’t been, or that represented a new phase for the band? There are a few moments like that that come to mind. One of my favorite songs on the album is ‘Waiting For The Bomb,’ which is completely different than anything we would have put on our other albums. I feel a really strong sense of satisfaction on how that came out. It’s so simple. It’s one that Phil had almost written completely, and he played me a really simple demo, and instantly I heard in my head the twelve-string guitar and the reverb on the vocals and the sample at the end kind of fading in. I really liked being able to add a song like that to the Terry Malts sound. There are other songs like that, too. ‘When The Nighttime Comes’ was a song that sounded like the Wipers when we started working with it, but then I added the little riff that’s in the verses, the main riff, and it turned into a Chills-y slower kind of poppy song. I like songs that show the potential of what we can do. You’ve had different bands and side projects in the past. Even Terry Malts started out as a side project. It’s like you were channeling all your different impulses into different projects, and now you’re channeling these expansive impulses into this band. Yes, exactly. One of the things that kind of—I don’t want to say ‘bummed me out’ about the other two albums, because I think they’re fantastic records, but they didn’t reflect all the other music that we like, all the other records that we buy. We are hardcore collectors and love listening to music. It’s a really intense part of our lives, buying and collecting records, as you’d think [it is with] most bands, but I don’t think that’s always the case. I think are sometimes just bands who are good at making music but that don’t listen to much besides what’s contemporary. But yeah, we wanted that to shine through. I was just listening to the mix you made recently for dublab. It’s such a good mix. There was so much music on it I hadn’t heard. But I did feel like I could hear a lot of those sounds in your new record. 30

I’m glad you mentioned that. There was a song I played by a band called Weeping Messerschmitts, called ‘Nothing Yet,’ and it was an integral part of the inspiration for [the Terry Malts song] ‘Gentle Eyes.’ It’s really the offspring of that song. I know you used to run a reissue label called Body Double, Ltd. Are you still doing that? We mothballed it recently. It was me and a former member of Magic Bullets named Matt Kallman, who is in Wild Nothing and Real Estate now. We had to mothball it because Captured Tracks restructured their whole business, and became Omnian Music Group, and labels started getting merged … and anyway there wasn’t room for us and budget for us to keep putting out stuff. Which is a bummer, because I had two totally awesome reissues waiting to come out that are just going to sit on the shelf forever. Is it something you want to keep doing? Yeah. [Terry Malts] started a tape label called Parked in Hell, and the first two things we did were Magic Bullets and Cosmos reissues. I’m going to do a solo project tape on there, but I’m also going to reissue an L.A. band called the Tartans, some of their stuff and just other bands like that. I feel like it’s easy with tape to just ask somebody to put it out, since it’s only 100 or so bucks to put it out. How does running a label relate back to your main objectives as a musician? I have this horrible habit of starting labels [laughs], and they just kind of come and go. We did it before—we had a label called Honest Abe, which reissued old punk bands, and we tried to put out new bands on vinyl, too, and it ended up being a money pit, as it always is for any label. But it’s something I love doing and I keep coming back to. It’s never affected any of my other projects, but there are great side effects from doing it and being in a band. For instance, I did a [record by] this German guy named Tom Diabo, on Body Double. He passed away in the 80s. It’s an incredible record. It took me years to find anyone in Germany who had the rights to his music, or knew him. I found his ex-girlfriend who was with him until he died, and she gave us a lot of stuff that helped flesh out the reissue. And when we toured Europe a few months ago, I got to meet her in person. And I hate to sound so corny but it was a really beautiful, lifeaffirming moment to meet this women who was so happy the old love of her life had been remembered and given another lease on people’s ears. It was a cool, awesome crossover of doing the reissue stuff and being in a band that gets to tour. Running a reissue label is its own kind of beast. But did your experiences on the

other side of the ‘music industry’ inform how you’ve put out your own music? Not necessarily. But especially with Body Double, it was really enlightening to see everything that an indie label has to go through now to get something into mass distribution—dealing with record plants and all the stuff that people are facing now. That definitely gave me new appreciation for someone like Mike [Schulman], at Slumberland, who is doing it all on his own with no help. Just knowing that the process is for bands getting their music out there is so crazy and absurd. And that extends to the bigger scope of things where now bands have to market themselves, too. Even if you were just on a big indie in the 90s, there would have been 4 or 5 people to handle that for you. It’s not a good time to be in a band, really. [Laughs.] You really have to love it. You guys live in two different cities separated by 600 miles or so. That seems like it would be really tough, but you guys seem to dig it. It works really well because of a few factors. Not many people would be able to do it, because we don’t ever practice. We hate practicing anyway. We hate sound checks, too. We hate a lot of the formalities that come with being a live rock band, or whatever. But we’ve played for so long, particularly Phil and me—and you hear people talk about this—but we’ve developed a kind of mind reading. If we’re jamming or playing a cover, we know when to change and how a song should be tempo-wise. It’s very intuitive for us, we’ve been playing together for so long. Also I’m used to being on long bus rides at this point. I’m on Megabus once or twice a month at least. It’s been pretty crazy. I can tell you where any gas station is on the 5. How has moving to L.A. influenced your music, if at all? I don’t think L.A. in particular influenced the style we ended up drifting toward, but I think it shaped the process of making the album. We weren’t particularly inspired by L.A. singularly, but the place itself ended up affecting the way we wrote, because Phil moved down for about nine months, and we lived near each other, and we came back and forth to each other’s houses and worked on music that way. Which we didn’t do in San Francisco—in San Francisco, we’d get together  with Nathan [Sweatt, drummer] and work on it as a three piece and it was a little more haphazard. This [process of ] just working together, me and him in the city, kind of refined our approach and changed it. I read an interview with you where you said you felt L.A. lacks a cohesive scene. Do you still feel that way?

Just because of the sheer size of the city, and the way everything is laid out, it would be impossible to have the same kind of scene we had in San Francisco. In San Francisco, there were maybe two or three venues, because it’s a small city, so you’re locked into just a few places to play. The population [within the city] is smaller. Because the rents are so outrageous, bandmates have to live together. It’s a different vibe compared to L.A., where I think it’s a bit more individualistic—which is one of the reasons I moved here, because you can dip into your scene and see your friends and then you can go back to anonymity. Whereas San Francisco starts to feel like a high school after eight or nine years. How did you end up here? The real reason I came down here, and the primary reason, was because I met my girlfriend—now fiancée—and I was tired of going back and forth between L.A. every weekend. But also I was ready at that time in my life for a change. I had been in the Bay Area for 13 years, and it certainly was and is the closest thing to a hometown I’ve ever had. Neil Young actually said recently that he moved away from the Bay Area to L.A. because he didn’t want to be tied down to living the same way forever. I think that was the mentality I was thinking of, too. What else do you have going on right now? My solo album under the name Business of Dreams coming out in January. So people in L.A. will get to see me play live solo when that comes out [laughs]. I’ll be focusing on that a lot, as well as touring with Terry Malts, and hopefully we’ll have another album out next year, if everything goes OK. So you’re working on Terry Malts music now? We just started the very initial writing stages. And we have a lot of things laying around, and I think we have plenty to work with. It just comes down to finding the time to get together and do it. It took three years last time. [laughs.] Hopefully we can streamline it. Do you think you’ll follow the sound of the last album, or are you going to make another left turn? I think we’re going to follow the sonic template of the last album. We’re going to keep working with this open-playbook mentality and see if we can do a couple more records like that. I can’t predict what our mood will be in a few years, but maybe we’ll go back to being a really gnarly, feedback laden band. [laughs.] Back to basics. TERRY MALTS’ LOST AT THE PARTY OUT NOW ON SLUMBERLAND RECORDS. VISIT TERRY MALTS AT TERRYMALTS.BANDCAMP.COM. INTERVIEW


THE SUMMER HITS Interview by David Donahue Illustration by Matt Adams

[Ed. Note: OC surfer visionary Rex Thompson—a.k.a. Tartarex, of course—was the heart and soul of the Summer Hits, singing and playing bass with future Beachwood Sparks/Further/The Tyde members as the 90s peaked—lysergically and otherwise—in a band that was basically the Velvet Underground for the Allah Las-et al of today. You know the story: not many heard the Velvet Underground, but everyone who did … started a band. He lived a life and a half and kept the true spirit of psychedelia alive til his passing in September 2016. L.A. RECORD is proud to present this historic interview.] What follows is an interview with Rex, conducted on a sunny autumn afternoon after a long hot California summer. We were forced outside as Rex was staying with an old mate and his family—naturally, some conversation would not be child friendly and some libations would be consumed. After a walking tour past areas of his misspent youth, we found a clearing in an open field with a few natural distractions, not limited to uni chicks in hot pants flinging frisbees and a slightly faulty cassette recorder. Enjoy. The name The Summer Hits—was this a working title or recording project you already had before meeting Josh and Darren? Rex Thompson: We called ourselves the Summer Hits cuz I wrote a lame thud lame called ‘Summer Hits’ which wasn’t particularly good—plus we seemed to always record on melting days passing a pipe around and incessantly saying, ‘Hit, hit, wanna hit?’ It’s perfect—the name flowed with the music. A definite classic. Well, thanks David—shoot! Wavey Davey dug it, huh? Yeah, I was living on the beach, riding waves—it was my life for many years. Summers meant everything, diggin’ the sand and bonking chicks. Dug body surfing myself ... board surfing is what what too many hondos did from the point north. Yeah, living on the Island I’d just get out of bed, barefoot and shorts, and ferry over... No fins? Surely. Kept ‘em at a mate’s place at 6th, and if 6th wasn’t firing, Balboa pier, or M street INTERVIEW

or Cylinders cuz she sometimes had more meat to ride than you could shake a stick at. Yeah, just a beach cat in the sand by day and ingesting lotsa LSD by night, mostly. Always night time? Ever daytime? Ever during the surf? During the day, too! Yeah, I loved riding at night. I could ride at night if the moon was there. I remember once, man—where was I? It was towards the point anyway and it was big! It was really macking, these behemoths came from New Zealand or something. It was just steaming! It was just so huge all the time. You had to make it. ‘OK, I have to suffocate here for awhile. OK, pass. Pass. Pass—ah, go!’ But you’re gonna get drilled, you know what I mean? You have to make it. I started thinking of a spiderman technique: “OK, I’ve gotta stick—I really have to stick even.’ Cuz they’re like these cascading monoliths … they’re macking fifteen feet and they’re fat! There’s so much steam behind them, right? The moon was out so you could see what was happening. These mountainous things are coming and

you can almost feel it. You don’t go out there to go swimming, man. If you wanna swim, go to the YMCA. I remember I lost ... I like Duck Feet. A lot of cats, they liked Vipers—Fred Simpson was a very sweet man. I think he’s still alive—dunno? They liked that weight at the back so they could really dig in but I liked the light guys. Duck Feet worked for me but anyway they were just ripped from my feet! In the middle of the night? Both fins? Yeah, both. I was feeling around and I’m like, ‘Well, I’m not gonna lose these.’ Those babies are sweet, you know. I hung out in there—in that soup forever—just getting drilled. And sure enough, I found one. Put it on in the dark. I’m feeling around everywhere. It must have taken me an hour! I found the next one and I kept riding. One occasion in February, man. It was cold— like 9AM, I was out there at the Point or it may have been 10th street. These big bulging masses of water … it was gnarly! I was thinking, ‘I’m out here alone and my friends won’t see me die.’ But you just

do it anyway cuz it’s so flippin’ fun. You’re not doing it so your friends can say, ‘Oh wow! Oh wow!’ It’s nice when you make it and your friends say, ‘Oh man—that was beautiful.’ This kid I knew from the island, this little grommet—little surfer toe head, days later he said ‘Man, that was beautiful, man! That was really, really fucking ballsy. I saw you—I was there on the promenade. You were the only one there and it was so big and beautiful.’ The Summer Hits—it’s a beach trip but [drummer] Josh [Schwartz] was an inland dude. Just beautifully cool and he was all about the canyons, you know. There were some canyons behind his pad that we explored. He was like a flippin’ mountain goat that would take you to some waterfalls back there. So anyway—the name was just about smoking hashish and grass all the time, passing the pipe around. How did you first meet up with the guys from Further? I met [guitarist] Darren [Rademaker] at a nightclub—he was wearing a Gumball T-shirt. Who I thought were mediocre. 35


Although Don Fleming had his hand in many pies and was a masterful dude at the knobs, but I thought Gumball were mediocre. In retrospect they were killer. At the time I had their records and I dug it, just a little. Anyway maybe I was envious he had a Gumball T-shirt? I think I approached him and said ‘Gumball huh? A bit so-so, mate.’ Josh was aloof and none too quick to make a new friend, I remember that. Nor was I at the time. After awhile we warmed up to each other, I think—just smoking a joint together. We both realized that, ‘Um, yeah—you’re a cool one’ so the connection was quick on that particular occasion. We met in passing some half a dozen times. You know I’m never one to make an overture of how are you and shake a hand. So both of us being standoffish we didn’t connect initially. We had the same interests—he figured I was alright and I knew he was alright. We started spending a lot of time together, getting stoned in the Space Shed. Me crashing out there, him getting me donuts in the morning. He was a subdued powerful cat and he could exude that without saying anything. One of the most quietest dudes ever. What better American bands were you digging at the time that would inspire such an elitist comment against Gumball? Well, you have to go back further ... not the group. Being immersed in neo 60s vibes and neo 60s cool. You get shot out of punk rock as a pre-pubescent, so the early 80s was all about 60s cool. Being a 60s punk rocker, not some hardcore dickhead slamming away. I thought there was no style to it—still feel that way. These were the ugly-sounding groups who were just copying Pebbles’ sounds, really. So I loved that and I loved what was going on locally in Southern California. We had the Rain Parade, the Things, the Eyes of Mind ... a lot of the first punks in southern California during the late 70s, who were all about the Dils and the Plugz. They embraced power pop because so much of that was coming out of the UK in way of the Jolt, the Chords, the Circles and Squire. So you know they wanted to try something new. I preferred power pop because it wasn’t as ugly but it had balls. I loved the Germs and The Plugz for it’s severity and angst— but that was like 5th grade. I’m all about the 7th grade, man. The 7th grade is about Squire, it’s about the Chords, it had punch but was really mellifluous. Sweet dreams about chicks. What about re-appropriating the Walker Brothers back cover art for yours? Did any of the music appeal or just the image? I never cared for the Walker Brothers though they looked amazing. Gary was a hero of mine. Scott of course had this huge success as a solo artist and the other cat put out somethings. The only cat who really smoked was Gary in my view. He was called the ugly one … he wasn’t ugly but maybe compared to those two beautiful adonises, maybe he was. His music wasn’t ugly. He was into experimental beat and acid-inflected pop music. He was really into skying, panning and trippier grooves. 36

I always thought the Walker Brothers were really square and still do. Lush pop ballads not for me, in that sort of Leonard Cohen thing that Scott Walker enjoyed. Not for me. I snort cocaine, drop a lot of acid. I’m not a very sophisticated dude ... so lush pop ballads are not my trip, right. Pop music is my thing—the more experimental and the trippier the better. You’re not gonna turn on to the Walker Brothers if that’s your bag. I mean, come on. ‘Magazine Women’ that’s nuts. ‘Market Tavern,’ some of it’s mediocre. You know what turned me on to ‘Magazine Women’? It was a comp. Sandoz Lime covered it, circa 88 or 89. That really took me places—they were from New York or something, maybe Pennsylvania, and had really good taste. They covered ‘Help Me Mommy’s Gone’ by the Game and a tune by the Attack. And this was pretty far out stuff. It was almost impossible to get your hands on these originals at the time. I believe I found a reissue of Gary Walker and the Rain at Midnite Records in New York City. They would send stuff C.O.D.—I had that arrangement with them. They loved me cuz I was always quick to offer my bread. I happened to be in New York to party my brains out and the rest for a few weeks actually. Was this the time you were partying with [Unrest’s] Bridget Cross? She was killer! No, I used to visit her in D.C. Think I needed a little adventure so I went to New York City with this cat Mike Fellows. He was in a group called Rites of Spring. I didn’t know anything about his music but we were quick friends. He had a brother—not biological but in spirit—who lived in Greenwich Village that was out of town. So Mike said, ‘Hey man, let’s split D.C.—let’s get up there!’ It was snowing and one of the worst winters ever, apparently. We somehow made it in a Honda Civic with bald tires, skidding, sliding our way to New York City. He was the consummate driver—really such driving prowess. He should have been a professional race car driver. What was you impression of New York in the early-mid 90’s? How did it compare to the West Coast back then? That’s about the right time. I went to vegetarian restaurants and enjoyed vegetarian cuisine. Then I’d go to some nightclub. There were like all these hip-hop chicks and they’d go ‘Oh, you’re so cute! Oh, I just love your hair, you’re like The Monkees.’ I’d score one, I’d get laid. I’d walk to NYU and there’s some babe there saying, ‘Oh wow, it’s the Monkees.’ ‘You ever heard “Porpoise Song?” Oh no? I’ll sing it to you later if you like.’ So we’d go back to her dorm room or whatever ... I was just slutting around. I didn’t see any 60s freaks or anything like that. I’m strutting around in my flipping low slung hip-huggers with my Cuban-heeled boots, a fur-lined cropped suede coat with this huge belt buckle screaming city mod chic circa 67-68 in the early 90s. People would stare at me thinking, ‘Wow, who is he? Is he retarded? The 60s are over, man—who is that? What’s that thing? What’s he doing?

Hold it—it’s not Halloween, it’s February.’ I was just there to groove around. So not much musical inspiration on the East Coast. Were there any Southern California scenes that turned you on in your youth? There was obviously the Paisley Underground happening at the time. Well around 87-88 there was nothing to pick up in the neighborhood in terms of neo-60s cool. There was some Mod-ies scootering around. Wearing flipping turtlenecks and parkas on a 85 degree day. I was pretty young but I remember the end of some mod club in Costa Mesa. There was one called the Bullet, which I liked. That later morphed into the Cavern, that was cool. Then was a place called the Batcave in Long Beach later on. I liked the Jets, the Question, the Patterns and the Turnstiles down in San Diego—they had their own little club. The Zoo Club. Did you identify with any of these scenes in particular or was there a place where you considered yourself a regular? I didn’t have a scene, man. I was desperately trying to break from this idea of cool or whatever. I had my beach life and digging beach chicks as you do. Taking LSD in my bedroom alone—by the fistful. Sticking my head in very loud speakers ... I couldn’t quite extricate myself from music, as much as I tried. I was playing tennis again and just being a beach bum. I didn’t even actually give it much thought apart from, ‘Beach life is what I know. This is my world.’ I’d get away from music because … you know, it’s just a head job. But man … I loved it. I love that head job. It was beautiful. I couldn’t stay away from it for anymore than a month at a time. When I dropped a lot of acid I was always drawn to the stylus, setting it just so. I got kicked out many a pads. For ‘head in speakers’ too loud? Yeah! ‘Get headphones!’ I’d have chicks over say, ‘I wanna sleep now.’ Ha ha! ‘Well, then you have to split or learn to sleep with this music bludgeoning your brains.’ That was my rule! [laughing] Too true ... I really blew it many times! ‘You were great and that was really fun but you’re sticking your head in the speakers and the music is driving me nuts!’ ‘Well, you gotta go then—learn to sleep with the music or split!’ So I liked The Close Lobsters ... Scottish group, good pop music. Dinosaur, of course ... this was ‘87 or so. I loved the second Lemonheads record Creator. It’s their only one I ever really enjoyed. Where did you discover this music? Poobah’s in Pasadena, Rhino in Claremont when it was cool. I’d mail order
from BOMP! Suzy was sweet. We had an arrangement as well—I didn’t have to pay her for like a week. It’s kinda like, ‘I’m a little excited this week ... I’ll take twelve albums and a couple of singles, $300 later.’ She was so sweet to me. I’d say, ‘So Suzy—the next time I call may I sing “Psychedelic Suzy” to you by the Seeing Eye Gods?’ She’d say, ‘Oh, no—please don’t do that, Rex. Please do not.’ I’d say, ‘You must have been something, they wrote this song’ ... I don’t know if you remember this group.

Yeah, that was a side project. It was a paisley printed picture disc... That’s right—a picture disc. They do a cover of ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ by the Status Quo, is that right? So the track ‘Psychedelic Suzy’ was about Suzy. Suzy, by the way, was not a psychedelic chick. She may have been in the 60s. By the time I met her she’d always say, ‘I’ve out grown all that stuff. You really shouldn’t do that to yourself. You’ll never come back one of these days.’ She was always trying to dissuade me from enjoying my acid trips. ‘Oh Rex, you’re crazy, I tell you. You really shouldn’t do it any more, it will leave you to ruin.’ Getting back to the music of the Summer Hits and the weekends recording the initial 45s—what was that process actually like? What would happen was … there was some cat in France or Tokyo and he’s got enough money to put out the release. I didn’t even have a phone at the time. Darren would ask if I had some material and say, ‘Hey, man, we should meet this Saturday to do this thing’ cuz there’s this cat in England or somewhere who wants a single. ‘Oh, yeah, man. Sure, I got material.’ Not at all! Ha! But heck—it’s Tuesday or Wednesday, or whatever. So what I’d do … I’d come up with a bassline I’d dug. The vocal would come easy enough. I’d jot down some lyrics. Then we’d meet at ... by the way I christened it the Space Shed cuz we were always spaced! We were so fucking stoned it was ridiculous, you know. It wasn’t even a garage—it was a shed. The place was so stinking hot, sweaty and tiny. We’re all snuggly in there on a 95 degree day. So I started calling it the Space Shed cuz you know once you’re in there a couple hours, man … you’re flipping spaced out! So I’d chill out with my riff and my vocal. The other two would just come up with their own parts. Which I can’t ever remember not liking too much. I mean … shoot, I don’t play drums or can’t play guitar worth a damn. By the third pass they’d have their own parts down. I thought, ‘Yeah, that sounds sweet.’ And by the fourth pass Josh would press record. They are basically just live. Live and first take. Vocals as well? No—it was so loud in there and we had a shitty four-track or eight-track whatever it was. You couldn’t hear the vocal when we played live. I couldn’t sing without playing so I would sing. You could never hear the vocal cuz we’d crank it up like you wouldn’t believe—deafening. So I would hear the backing track and then do the vocal even still playing but unplugged—ha ha! Is that silly? Hey man—whatever works. Yeah! There wasn’t a lot of layering or over production. It was a live job. So those guys would never lay down an extra track or so? No, they were both too interested in seeing their chicks afterwards. I wanted to split too—I had some beer to drink, some acid to take and maybe a chick to find. We were just too damn lazy to do a whole lot of work. I remember recording three cuts INTERVIEW


in the space of an hour and a half. There was not much fuss. It was always a wrap that evening. When we left it was done. What’s funny … I didn’t even have an amp at home. I would get in my little beach pad, sit in my little bathroom and close the door cuz there’s a little echo. I’d play my ‘76 Thunderbird Gibson unplugged and sing lightly so I could hear my basslines. My neighbors were complaining nonstop so I got rid of my flipping amp and left it at the Space Shed. So by the time I would plug in my TurboRatt fuzz pedal and go … yeah! That’s the way it should sound but I’d still sing lightly cuz that’s what I was used to. Anyway, I flipping hated Pearl Juice and flipping NirFuck ... Nirvana, whatever. I mean … it just wasn’t for me. The over macho vocal—I hated it. Which was all the rage at the time so it was an antidote to that. A reaction to that. I sang light. Were there other contemporary sounds inspiring you at the time? Honestly my little foray into contemporary music didn’t last long—there was Loop. I can’t think of many others. Ha—so there was never another inspiration out there for your own music? I think my aim was just to make music I liked. Naturally the sum of our influences or our history or our living empirical existence—what we touch, what we feel. The Summer Hits were nothing new at all. It was just something that came out of me quite innately and naturally. That’s what came out. It wasn’t ‘let’s not sound like this group or sound like that group.’ The other two can offer another take on it but that’s where I was coming from. I liked Flying Saucer Attack. Let’s not forget Denim. Loved Denim! Oh, it blew my mind. I remember going to Ten Ton in Long Beach and the sleeve just really appealed to me. The dude was like, ‘Hey, man—I’ve got it on cassette tape you can dub.’ Which was great cuz I remember getting into my wheels driving up PCH hearing that and being sent to heaven. So utterly blissed out—it was a masterpiece. No one in my circle seemed to notice besides maybe Darren, Pete Taylor and you. I never turned onto like Ride, the Stone Roses or even MBV, really. I was just a 60s freak. I turned onto that later—much later. That’s funny—years after the Summer Hits you turned onto MBV? Yeah—now I think it’s much more than that, but at the time I didn’t take much notice. I do remember us listening to Ecstasy and Wine at the time. It’s ironic now that the Summer Hits are lazily summed up as The Beach Boys meets MBV. I thought that stuff was quaint. The Beach Boys, I liked ‘Surfer Girl’ and ‘Wendy’ when I was a child. When I was 5, 6 or 7, I loved the Sunrays, Jan and Dean, the Tradewinds. ‘Wendy’ is a track that I could see having a influence on the Summer Hits. ‘Wendy,’ man. I love that tune. But The Beach Boys … I didn’t listen to them after 8 years old. INTERVIEW

Let’s talk about the Summer Hits songs specifically. We can start where the record begins with ‘Stoney Creation.’ Brian Wilson had ‘Wendy’ and you give us Kellie. Kellie was … well, she still is a work of art. She’s still as lovely as a dandelion in spring. We were pals and we got stoned a lot. She was icy—we were not intimate but I didn’t mind. She was a 60s freak like me and wore the most extraordinary paisley mini dresses and go-go boots and she’d dance her brains out all evening. Had great taste in sounds, you know. We were digging Turquoise, the Smoke, Fleur de Lys, lot of experimental beat and psychedelia. So we could really relate. All the tunes were about my personal experiences with people I’d known. A day in the woods or a day on the beach, this chick, that chick, going to Big Sur … what am I singing about? Maths? Behavioral sciences? Spanish films? Yeah, ‘Spanish Films.’ That was a chick I was seeing—she was Spanish and really into films. Spanish. Films. All the songs were just about my world at the time. ‘Spanish Films’ to me is a particularly stellar track. A stand-out on the record. Nobody really pays attention to that one ... it’s my favorite. If I had to pick one and I don’t have very many. Most of the material doesn’t work for me but that one has a special place in my heart. I love it. ‘Sometimes it’s so hard with a man always in the way.’ She was always kinda griping about this ex-boyfriend or that ex-boyfriend holding her down. Some oppressive force in her life. Some dude, usually. Some cat that didn’t appreciate her the way she should have been, so naturally I had to write that. They are all just personal observations about my friends and the world in which I was immersed. At the time I recall you didn’t care much for there only being a CD issue of Beaches and Canyons. I remember you saying if people wanna hear this stuff they should go out and get the singles. Yeah, I was really opposed to the idea. I didn’t like it. Actually we are getting some these on vinyl for the first time. ‘Spanish Films’ and ‘Beaches and Canyons’ both were on a CD-compilation only release. ‘ Stoney Creation’ as well. That was the last tune we actually ever really did. There were a couple of things recorded in 97, some throwaway electronic bleeps and blobs that we did in a pinch. ‘Stoney’ was the last thing we did in that vein. The first tune we ever did was ‘Thin.’ Again, it was about some chick I was seeing that was boring me to tears. You know—‘Gosh, you’re really easy on the eyes but you’ve gotta split, man.’ There’s nothing behind those eyes, you know. Hey man, you want profundity, read a book. The lyrics are not gonna change your life or anything. I’m a simple dude with simple pleasures. THE SUMMER HITS’ BEACHES AND CANYONS IS AVAILABLE FROM MEDICAL RECORDS ON LP AND BURGER RECORDS ON CS.


PERE UBU Interview by David Cotner Illustration by Joe McGarry

Pere Ubu—the noisy, contrary and confounding band founded in Cleveland in 1975—return to Los Angeles on an eight-date West Coast tour titled Coed Jail! 1975—1982, offering up the songs they played over three evenings at the Whisky A Go Go in 1979 and during the 1980 Urgh! A Music War summit at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. It’s the first time they’ve played those songs since then, this time in anticipation of the Pere Ubu box sets reissue by Fire Records, Architecture of Language, 1979-1982 and Elitism for the People, 1975-1978. For this incarnation Pere Ubu is singer David Thomas, drummer Steven Mehlman, bassist Michele Temple, synth/theremin wielder Robert Wheeler and journeyman Ohio guitarist Gary Siperko. Thomas spoke recently, refreshingly and vehemently from London. Did you care about the election? David Thomas (vocals): Yeah, I care. Do you want to talk about it? I don’t see why. Anybody asking any musician or celebrity or whatever about politics is an idiot—not that you’re an idiot, but I don’t want to talk about it. I think talking to musicians…musicians are scum. They’re cowards. They’re going to say whatever you want them to say—it’s the same with actors and all the other idiots. So, no—I’m not going to contribute to that nonsense. Alfred Jarry now—or Alfred Jarry now more than ever? I’ve never thought about it. Jarry has a certain relevance for all time, as long as there’s going to be crooks out there, and idiots, and stupid people. Now more than ever? No, I think it’s pretty much standard relevancy for the last 100-or-something years. What was the appeal, originally? Well, Jarry is basically writing for adolescents anyway—and so as an adolescent, I was actually attracted to someone who was writing for adolescents. I saw the relevance of what he was talking about as a kid, and I decided on the character (of Père Ubu) for really fairly simple reasons. It was a good name for the band because it looked good, sounded good … had three syllables, which was the most important thing. It sounded like it meant something, it had a relevance, and that relevance wasn’t pinned-down. I thought a band name should be evocative of something that couldn’t be pinned-down. I understood that what we were doing had a certain amount of shock value in terms of the marketplace as it was then—so I’m sure that contributed to it, to a certain degree. Mainly, it had three syllables—Rol-lingStones. Bob-Dy-lan. That it had something that couldn’t be pinned-down would mean nothing to most Americans. The cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller tended to have three things grouped together in any given Nancy comic strip to make it funnier. INTERVIEW

As long as you have three things in a piece of music, then you have a song. It tends to be a number that works out for a lot of musical things. Most people see surrealism as a semiserious discipline. The whole point of surrealism was the humor. Clearly, surrealism is a tool that you should know about. Most Surrealists weren’t very good surrealists. They were distracted by the shock value of the instruments rather than its more serious usefulness. Surrealism is as basic as Skinnerism; it’s pretty much the same sort of thing. The Skinnerian behaviorialist notion that is behind the UFO phenomenon—if you confront a human being with an incongruous event, we are programmed to believe the next thing that happens in a series. It’s also fundamental to the Pere Ubu aesthetic. It’s the Pavlovian thing: human beings will make sense out of anything that you put in front of them—which is part of the Pere Ubu method where we throw in everything. There’s the ‘intrusive other,’ there’s all sorts of narrative lines going on, sometimes contradicting each other, sometimes working at cross-purposes, sometimes of no relevance to each other—all jammed in within three minutes. The bell rings, the dog salivates—but human beings make sense out of what they see. Pere Ubu make use of that. We’re Skinnerian. We have simple stories that reflect human experience, and depend on the human mechanism of making sense. That interpretation by the audience—is that validation? No! The audience has got nothing to do with it. The audience is utterly irrelevant to a performance. They can be brain-dead zombies for all I care, and for all the band cares. We don’t do things for the audience. The audience is lucky to be able to stand there and observe us creating; to observe us making sense out of nonsense. Sense out of nothingness, more specifically. So, no—the audience is not free to interpret. The audience doesn’t get to interpret. That’s the Skinnerian principle. They get what we’re saying—

they’re not interpreting what we’re saying. They’re just getting it. But because music obviously that does not depend on words, it has nothing to do with words, or logic, or much to do with analysis, particularly. Music operates below the level of consciousness. Music operates with the hieroglyphic nature of consciousness itself. It bypasses words and thought, which also … never mind, that’s a whole other discussion. But, no! Don’t give a damn what the audience thinks. They’re not free to interpret. They’re free to stand there. They pay, and observe. People don’t like to hear that the audience is irrelevant—but we’re not out there tickling the ears of the audience. We’re not artists. We’re not anything. We’re just dumb musicians, and we do what dumb musicians do—which is create something out of nothing and to struggle with the process. The one thing an audience wants is that they want to feel that whatever they’re seeing, the experience is unique to them— that evening and that moment in time. We provide that. Two: that they like to be scared by the realization that everything they’re seeing could fall apart at any moment. It could become a total disaster—or it could achieve crystal moments of clarity that they don’t experience anywhere else. We provide that, and that’s basically it. It’s called life. That’s only two things. I thought you had to have three. What’s the third thing? I’m not paid to answer for number three. Number three is … you’re getting into the Masonic realms of these things. If you’re creating something out of nothing, isn’t that a little more evolved that being just ‘dumb musicians’? Musicians are scum. But they’re scum that create something out of nothing—and that’s not nothing. [pauses] Those are not contradictory thoughts. Are you happier the way you’re treated over in Europe than you are over here? I don’t think about that sort of stuff. That and $2 gets me a cup of coffee. I do what I do—and I do what I do whether people

like it or they don’t like it. The audience is irrelevant. There’s this notion about culture (but) culture is created in secret by loner individuals. There is no such thing about culture unless you want to really define it in that culture is basically religion. I’m a loner. Everything that’s happened in the history of mankind that’s progressive has been created by loners. The cure for cancer will be discovered by some ridiculed loner in a basement somewhere. Everything happens in secret with individuals. Society is an illusion. Culture is an illusion. Can you remember a moment when you first starting out that you realized that you were on to something? Was there a pivotal moment, artistically? No. Pretty much from the beginning, I knew that we were on to something. That was the nature of the scene at the time. That was the nature of the people I was working with. As I said, loners do these things—and sometimes, one loner recognizers another. Birds of a feather. I think there were a lot of birds of a particular feather in Cleveland at that time, and we found each other. There were plenty of rock musicians in the mainstream who were doing whatever they do—and then there were a bunch of loners, geeks and people who didn’t fit. Those sorts of people tend to find each other. Those sort of organizations tend to be very volatile— because they’re a bunch of loners, and they’re going to do what they do. Period. I’ve done what I’ve done—period—for forty years. I do exactly what I want to do—and to hell with the consequences. PERE UBU WITH OBNOX ON FRI., DEC. 9, AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30 PM / $19.50-$24.50 / 18+. PERE UBU’S ARCHITECTURE OF LANGUAGE, 1979-1982 AND ELITISM FOR THE PEOPLE, 1975-1978 ARE AVAILABLE NOW FROM FIRE RECORDS. THEECHO.COM. VISIT PERE UBU AT UBUPROJEX.COM 39


HOPE SANDOVAL

& THE WARM INVENTIONS Interview by Kristina Benson Illustration by Bijou Karman

Until the Hunter is Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions’ second album; the first was released back in 2009, which, in this age of relentless demand for content, seems like a lifetime ago. But this is typical for Hope (of Mazzy Star, of course) and Colm (O’Ciosoig, of My Bloody Valentine, of course) who do things when they want, how they want and the way they want. The result, naturally, is music that sounds like it comes from a better and even truer place, where the artificial pressures of the outside world dissolve into the mist and all that’s left is a long sweet dream. Colm and Hope joined us by phone­—she in California, he in Ireland—to talk cats, castles and the karate lessons that helped change the course of modern music. Hope, do you have any hobbies besides making music? Do you collect anything? Records? Instruments? Hope Sandoval: Well, obviously I buy instruments—but no. I wish I could have a cat collection. That’s my fantasy. I’d be the crazy lady on the block with all the cats. I only allow myself one cat but I fantasize about having loads. It’s really disciplined to only have one cat. HS: I know! And I can barely handle the one cat. I didn’t tell you, Colm, but he didn’t come home until three in the morning. I couldn’t sleep all night and finally I heard his little door and I went to open the little door and he walks in and he’s limping. He is ok. He’s sleeping now and I’m just debating whether I should take him to the vet. He’s one of those cats who is just a fighter. He thinks he’s in charge of the whole neighborhood so he’s constantly getting into fights and this will be, like, the fifth time I’ve taken him to the vet and at this point they’ll probably call child services on me. It’s just strange. He’s a fighter. If you did have a collection, you would be at the vet nearly every other day. HS: Can you imagine the expense of having ten cats? You guys recorded in a place called the Martello Towers. I looked that up on a map and it looks like there are three of them. What are they and why did you record there? INTERVIEW

Colm O’Ciosoig: Well, there’s lots of them. There are more than three. There are about 23 in existence that are still there and are actually habitable. They’re not called ‘The’ Martello Towers. There is a type of tower that is called a Martello tower. They were built by the English in, like, 1803 to defend against Napoleon invading Ireland, which never happened. Actually they were originally designed by the French. We have a little portable recording set-up and we always try to find somewhere different to record in. You know—we’ve recorded in cabins and stuff in California. So we were in Ireland and we were trying to find somewhere we could record and play music. If you want to play music you want to be able to have some kind of soundproofing and not be bugging your neighbors, so we found these towers—we found one and stumbled across a second one later that were available to the public as a holiday rental. It was perfect because they’re isolated, they have eight-foot-thick walls and they have a really nice stone chamber on the inside. The acoustics were great. Really good for live tracking and for the kind of music that we do ourselves. You play into the room. If you were a really loud, noisy band, it might not work as well. It works to a certain volume. When you play into the room, it reacts nicely. Did it remind you more of a crypt, a church or a museum?

HS: Neither. It was what it was. A tower over the ocean. CO: There were no religious connotations attached to it. It didn’t seem like there were any real ghosts there. HS: I spent the night in a couple of them alone and I wouldn’t recommend it. You know—it’s a tower. It’s got eight-footthick walls. Nobody’s going to hear you if something happens. But they are beautiful. They’re really inspiring. I just wouldn’t recommend staying alone. Colm has stayed, I guess, many times alone. CO: Yeah, I quite enjoyed it. The last time you played LA, you played Hollywood Forever. Were there any graves that you visited when you went to play? CO: Douglas Fairbanks. It just seemed like a big kind of gothic tomb. Johnny Ramone, as well. The statue. That was kind of wild. Hope, they just tore down the 6th St. bridge, which I’m sure you know, because it was apparently unsafe. Is there something from your childhood that’s gone now that you wish was still here? HS: No, not really. I had a horrible childhood in L.A., so take it all. Just remove it all. I’ve spent most of my time in East L.A. and still when I go to L.A. that’s where I go—so East L.A., even though I know a lot of people are moving out and a lot of other people are moving in—basically it stays the same.

What about you, Colm? Do you still live in Ireland? Do you divide your time between there and California? CO: I move back and forth. I was living in Berkeley for seventeen years and I recently kind of moved back here for awhile. I don’t see myself moving back to Dublin permanently. I have a cabin north of San Francisco and I definitely want to go back there. You have Kurt Vile on this album and you had Bert Jansch on another. It seems like you’re really attracted to these very distinctive guitar players so … what are the chances of putting Billy Childish on a song? Could he be a Warm Invention? HS: I don’t know who that is. Who is it? CO: Do you know Thee Milkshakes? It was a garage band way back in the ‘80s. I did a drunken interview with him. My band was leaving Ireland to go to Europe and we had no press so we decided to invent our own press and we invented a fanzine so we could have an interview in it but you have to make a fanzine seem valid. Thee Milkshakes were playing so I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll interview Billy Childish and then we’ll have a valid interview in there and it will make the fanzine seem like a valid fanzine.’ I didn’t have a tape recorder and I got a little drunk and I was there having this drunken conversation with him afterwards and scribbling down stuff. When I read it the next day I couldn’t make heads or tails of what I’d scribbled. 41


Did you have to make it all up? CO: No, we gave up the whole idea. We just thought well, ‘OK, we won’t have any press.’ It sounds like you put a lot of effort into faking it so that’s good. CO: Yeah, we tried. And failed. What song on this record was the most satisfying to finish? CO: That’s an interesting question. That’s giving our secrets away. Mostly it’s been pretty easy but there was one that we did a couple takes on and eventually got it right. I can say that we worked a bit more on ‘Let Me Get There’ than most of the others. One of the songs was actually written and recorded in one take. Only one version exists. HS: It was actually two. CO: Yeah, those two songs. They’re the only recordings of those songs. Well … actually there are a lot of them where there is only one recording, if you think about it. Most of the record is the only takes that exist. HS: Oh, so it went from ‘one’ to now most of the record? CO: Thinking about it, yeah. We don’t have multiple takes of all the other songs. HS: We don’t like to do that because we do that in our other bands and after awhile you have to go through all those takes. ‘Let Me Get There,’ we did do a few times. We rehearsed it and then another day we actually did the final recording. So the way you do things is … you do what you want, when you want and how you want. That goes against everything the internet stands for—do you have to actively resist that pressure to constantly churn out music? Stand against the idea you’re supposed to be producing content all the time? CO: I think people leave us alone. We’ll go for awhile and then it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re back again.’ That’s why we decided to put our own label together. So no one could pressure us besides ourselves. We like to impose some sort of deadline so things don’t fall through the cracks—it’s good to get the whole machinery up and running and get things happening. But yeah—it gets stressful when you put deadlines in place and you have to approve the artwork and the test pressings and that kind of stuff. If there’s a problem then suddenly things get pushed back and you lose your release date. The extra pressure of having your own label means you have to deal with questions you’ve never had to deal with before. Hope, you were on Capitol and Colm, you were on Creation. Who helped you the most when you were on those labels? 42

CO: There were no personal relationships as such, you know? We were so busy recording and doing music that we didn’t really develop personal relationships with the labels. Well, I didn’t anyway. Capitol called Mazzy Star the ‘quintessential artist development band.’ They said that Mazzy Star were real artists who should be supported and allowed to evolve, which nowadays is kind of rare. HS: I can’t really remember anybody at Capitol, it’s sad to say. We didn’t really get to know anybody there. I think in general even now we’re pretty isolated. We just basically keep to ourselves and play our music. When we were on Capitol, we focused on our music and had that kind of arrangement with them. They knew that they weren’t really allowed into our world—that business side of things. I can’t really think of anybody although I have to say that when we would play shows and some of them would come out, they were all really nice people. Who do you wish had made one more album and why? CO: Possibly Karen Dalton. That would have been good to have some more material. Martha Stewart included Mazzy Star on a list of albums she’d like to play at a dinner party. Are there any world famous criminals besides Martha Stewart who you know have enjoyed your music? CO: There’s got to be but they haven’t told us. What if you had your own dinner party? CO: We love Bert Jansch. He was a friend of ours as well and he’s got loads of music that’s really great. John Fahey. John Fahey wrote a song for Hope. Would either of you ever write a song specifically for someone? CO: I think Hope writes songs for people. She doesn’t really make it obvious but you’ve written a lot of songs for people. HS: They’re definitely all inspired by someone. How much music do you actually listen to in your daily lives? I know an artist who doesn’t listen to any music at all while she’s recording because she doesn’t want to be influenced by it but I know other artists who listen all the time so they can get new ideas. CO: We don’t listen to artists for new ideas. We casually listen to stuff every now and again, to our favorites on and off. We don’t bombard ourselves with music all the time but we don’t ignore it either. We get into our own music when we’re recording. We drive around and listen to recordings of what

we’ve been doing. We won’t be comparing it to other things. We’ll just be in our world of our music. HS: We listen to Erykah Badu maybe … but we know we’re never going to sound like that even though that would be amazing. Irmin Schmidt from Can said that TV programs are obsessed with the political opinions of pop stars, but he said they didn’t like doing interviews because anything they thought was important was in the music already. Do you feel that that’s true for you? CO: I think so. That’s a very good way of describing what music is. We are kind of inspired by Can as well. It seems weird to have to explain your music. It seems contradictory to what the music is itself. It’s like if you see a painting and somebody has to explain what the painting is … It’s better to experience it. We don’t like to dissemble the music too much in words. What were the first shows that you ever saw where you knew that you were seeing something different and special? CO: For me as a 13 year old punk rocker in Dublin, I was going to punk rock shows. All-ages shows I used to go to and you had to pay 50p to get in. HS: I’ve been to a lot of really good shows but the music that I was into in the 80s were bands like the Rain Parade and the Salvation Army and X, people like that. It’s still old fashioned rock ’n’ roll. We went to see Connan Mockasin recently and that was pretty out there and inspiring. Yeah, it was amazing—really, really good. Colm hung out with him after the show. I don’t know where I ended up but it was a really good show. I don’t really go out that often. CO: I go out sometimes but not loads. Things appear and you go, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ We’re not really chasing scenes down. HS: We also saw Kurt. CO: Yeah, we have to cherry pick our shows. What do you miss most about the past? What do you love most about the future? CO: Well, the past … the innocence and the energy that you have for looking at everything. Well, that’s grim. CO: And the future? What do I look forward to? Making really good music. I feel like we’ve only just started making music and I think there’s some better stuff that’s going to come out at some point. There’s more inspiration and I feel like the journey’s just started. HS: I don’t really miss the past. The future? Yeah, I mean—what’s next? Who will I work

with next? I’m so lucky to work with all these amazing musicians and what’s next? What do you think about lucid dreaming? Can you control your dreams? CO: I’ve never experienced lucid dreaming before. I tend just to sleep. HS: I definitely think people can control their dreams. Can you? HS: To a certain extent. And then you start controlling it and then you wake up. What is the best bar you ever spent an evening in? HS: Which one have we not spent an evening in? All the bars are fabulous as long as they’re serving drinks and playing good music. We used to hang out a lot at this place called the Owl Tree in San Francisco. It’s still there but it’s not the same. CO: It used to be really cool. They had loads of taxidermied owls in it and it was really dark. HS: And it had velvet wall paper in the hall upstairs on your way to the bathroom. It was a really cool bar. We used to hang out there a lot in the ‘90s. CO: There was a speakeasy we went to in San Francisco that was really cool. The bar was in an elevator. It went up and down. The bar was IN the elevator? HS: Yeah! CO: It was a warehouse space but the bar was in the service elevator and it would come up and then it would disappear. So Colm—did you really do karate as a kid? Or did you and Kevin Shields make that up as an origin story? CO: Yeah, I did. Kevin was doing karate and I got into doing karate after I met him. I met Kevin through a kid who was doing karate with Kevin and I was in an art class with him. He’s the guy who brought us together and we all ended up doing karate together. Do you still do karate? CO: No, I don’t. Kevin still does but I don’t. Karate is one of those things that I already wish I knew how to do. The thought of learning it now isn’t that appealing. I feel like I’d be in a class with a bunch of fiveyear-olds. CO: Yeah—a creaky old person trying to do some moves. HOPE SANDOVAL AND THE WARM INVENTIONS’ UNTIL THE HUNTER IS OUT NOW ON TENDRIL TALES. VISIT HOPE SANDOVAL AND THE WARM INVENTIONS AT HOPESANDOVAL. COM. INTERVIEW


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ALBUM REVIEWS

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WHERE TO GET L.A.RECORD

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THE INTERPRETER: DIRTIE BLONDE Kristina Benson

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FILM: EAST SIDE STORY PROJECT Ruben Molina

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WAYBACK MACHINE Ron Garmon

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COMICS Curated by Tom Child

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LIVE PHOTOS Edited by Debi Del Grande

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BOOKS: RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP Chris Ziegler

DIRTIE BLONDE by STEFANO GALLI


ALBUM REVIEWS COMMON DANDIES Adventures In Dandyland self-released

ABLEBODY

Adult Contemporaries Lolipop Ablebody’s debut album has one foot in the past and another in the here and now. Twin brothers Christoph and Anton Hochheim revel in past decades, entwining nostalgic melodies from the 60s to 80s, but lead singer Christoph adds another dimension with an otherworldly voice that haunts the listener alongside textural instrumentation. The fusion of eerie vocals and gorgeous overlapped soundscapes, with hints of another time, defines Ablebody as significant artists in today’s indie world. Songs like “Gaucho” and “After Hours” are anthems that thrive with energy, proving the experimental genre can be both sublime and powerful. Tracks that exist as perfectly executed pop songs are “The Sun, a Small Star” and “Send Me a Letter”. The song and full-length LP soar with individuality. “Powder Blue” holds all these elements. This is Ablebody at their best. Residues from the brothers’ past projects (The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Depreciation Guild) persevere in dream-pop-styled lyrics and ethereal melodies. Adult Contemporaries is a phantom that belongs in the past and present; it will dwell within you in a way you’ve always wanted an album to. —Dana Marquez

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Adventures in Dandyland is a ninesong collection of proto punk sounding jams deploying a Melvinsmeets-Ween take on a West Coast sound, and dabbling occasionally in clubby sounding electronica and near Dead Kennedys raging and angry punk. Based around jazz chords and simple but classic beats, this band moves quickly from song to song and leaves little between one vibe and the next. With strong playing and convincing vocals, the simplest way to describe this band is to say that they play real music about real things. With vocals cuts mixed in, the band has a distinct sound and identity. Comedic and light-hearted but heavy on complex and skilled playing, this is a fun and concise listen for fans searching for something a little different. —Daniel Sweetland

CRX

New Skin Columbia New Skin is an exceedingly appropriate debut title for Nick Valensi’s first side project, CRX. If you don’t know, Nick Valensi’s other band is a little East Coast outfit called the Strokes. The last of the members to branch off with their own venture, lead guitarist Valensi perhaps strikes the best balance between giving Strokes fans something familiar, while avoiding making an album of songs that sound like Casablancas rejects. Lead track “Ways To Fake It” eases fans in with the most Strokes-like sound of the album, before dropping you off at “Broken

Bones,” which has the two-ton heft of a Royal Blood song. “Anything” swings back toward melodic powerpop and proves Valensi can write a hell of a hook, before the heavy continues with the sinister riffs of “Give It Up” and “Unnatural,” and the mosh-pit chug of “On Edge” and “Monkey Machine.” The unifying element between these disparate pieces is always Valensi’s playing. His tone is instantly recognizable, a part of the rock canon. His self-described “bread and butter” of interlocking guitar arrangements and his penchant for pedals manifest themselves on every track. The band, made up of Valensi’s West Coast buddies (he’s lived in L.A. for 10 years) are exemplary, and every song sounds huge, thanks to Josh Homme’s deft producing hand. Lyrically, Valensi seems preoccupied with authenticity. “Ways To Fake It,” “Unnatural,” and “Walls,” where he laments, “I don’t know what to make of it/When everyone is faking it,” all explore the idea of a mask, and of not being one’s true self. Maybe it’s just Valensi being self-conscious about trying a new band on for size, as well as a new role as songwriter and frontman. Whatever the intent, CRX’s New Skin fits just fine. —Madison Desler

DEVENDRA BANHART

rose petal and, were the aural turned olfactory, just as fragrant. —Christina Gubala

An Ape In Pink Marble Nonesuch Devendra Banhart’s well-documented flair for the dramatic has always been culturally playful–his Venezuelan upbringing, brief Parisian expatriation, and Americana sympathies are a mere sampling of the musical winds that have blown through his back catalog. Yet while An Ape In Pink Marble carries his typical cultural inclusivity, there is a subtlety, a restraint to his delivery that provides soothing gravity even while he’s spitting his silliest lyrics. “Fancy Man” is sung with tonguein-cheek proper primness that give way to the gentle mid-tempo AOR disco groove “Fig In Leather,” which pours into a smooth samba dedicated to a Taiwanese woman in green. Devendra is comfortable and charming in each of these settings, a thin white duke one minute and a romantic troubadour the next. References to zeitgeisty ephemera– DUI’s, staying caught up on TV series via inanely named apps–are embedded like lyrical Easter eggs in the context of timeless melodies. The particularly lovely “Saturday Night” and “Mourner’s Dance” swell and throb as his voice tiptoes through gardens of Asian strings, muted synths, and heavily-filtered drum machines low in the mix. He’s peaceful from the onset, with edgeless guitars, effect-less bass, and his voice seldom rising above the level of intimate conversation and swaddled in nothing but a dash of reverb here and there and a double-track or two for emphasis. It’s romantic as a

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DIAMOND HANDS

self-titled You Are the Cosmos Judging by the colorful, vintage collage on the cover of their debut LP, one would think the music of Diamond Hands might also lean nostalgic; a sunshine trip down pop-psych memory lane, with all its groovy, technicolor sounds. For once, judging a book (well, in this case, album) by its cover would actually be the way to go. Songs like “Not The Same” and the tambourine-powered “Just Enough” are dripping in ‘60s vibes, from the airy harmonies and jangly guitars, to the lyrical wink of “Baby, you can drive my car.” “Maybe Tomorrow” is a British Invasion knockoff that sounds like one of the more sugary offerings from The Knack, but by the time you get to “Siren Song” and “Not Quite Sure,” the candy-coated tunes might start to give you a gut ache. Luckily, Diamond Hands sprinkle the album with some nice surprises. “See You Again” flashes forward to the ‘70s with its muscular, Cheap Trick-like riff, and “Waste My Time” sounds like something actually made in the last five years. “Nothing Left To Lose” is a nice little psych-blues road song that sounds like it could have been on the Shelters’ debut LP, and “Alone With You” goes for the “cosmic American music” country tinge of Gram Parsons-era Byrds. Overall, Diamond Hands is a saccharine nostalgia trip, a goody for anyone with an insatiable sweet-tooth, and a yearning for the tunes of yesteryear. —Madison Desler ALBUM REVIEWS


DIE GROUP Joe Namath EP Sex Tape

Wasting no time in the wake of their unceremonial disappearance, ex-White Murder axe-man Reuben Kaiban jumps behind the drums to propel his debut as vocalist for this new punk trio. Butterflied by Eric Big Arm (Way To Go Genius, Sausage Party) on guitar and Nick Faciane (Images) on bass. The sound is barbaric yet buoyant, tight-squeezing itself between Killed By Death: The Oi! Years and some what-the-fuck thing you may have seen as you nodded off late night to Peter Iver’s 1980’s time capsule New Wave Theater. Eric’s guitar is so proficiently caveman, so dripping with a certain righteous resentment, that its only fitting Reuben and Nick play their section pretty straight to give the chops an anchor. Reuben barks orders in classic faux-fascistic splendor, also giving this otherwise runaway train some syncopation in the serious Screamers/Spits sense. —Gabriel Megira

drug dependency, Blakeslee released Ophelia Slowly, his first record under his own name. The album represented a shift in musical tone for Blakeslee, incorporating drum machines and minimal shredding. It was a lovely, plainspoken, and at times heartbreaking observation of loss and recovery. Promises, his new EP on Thrill Jockey, has been released under the Entrance moniker, a name he has mentioned has deep meaning to him. Why he chose to resurrect the Entrance name is for Blakeslee to know, but Promises is closer in spirit and tone to Ophelia Slowly than his original releases as Entrance or his work with the Entrance Band. The four songs are beautiful and lyrically direct, about the importance of self-reflection and honesty, humility in the face of forces outside one’s control, and the possibility of redemption. Throughout all of his incarnations, Blakeslee has been a consistent seeker. With his recent releases, it feels as though he has come to some inner peace and understanding and, like many artists who may be a step or two closer to enlightenment than most, he is moved to share it with the rest of us. —Tom Child

FRONTIER CLUB “Pointers” / “Respond To Heat” 7” self-released

ENTRANCE Promises EP Thrill Jockey

Thirteen years ago Guy Blakeslee released The Kingdom of Heaven Must Be Taken by Storm, his debut album under the name Entrance, an impressive collection of acoustic folk-blues that brought to mind Skip James and Tyrannosaurus Rex and highlighted Blakeslee’s haunting vocals and intense, emotional guitar work. 2006’s Prayer of Death, his first album with what was to become the Entrance Band, represented a move toward more face-melting psychedelic guitar shredding, but in 2014, after a recovery from ALBUM REVIEWS

This debut two-song slab also features Reuben Kaiban (White Murder, Die Group) fronting 3/4ths of the sorely missed Gestapo Khazi— who were the best punk band to ever come out of Long Beach, and I will stand on Hot Rod Todd’s coffee table in my gay Italian boots and tell him that. This is an immediate must have, if not for the highly collectable matchbook packaging with a match included (fucking brilliant!) then for the two-perfectly crafted paranoid punk tunes that manage to sound as vintage as they do futuristic. Kaiban goes for a slightly more decisive Grisham-esque confident delivery on this one, through the tight, catchy, and darker tones coloring these interwoven arrangements—proving that there should be zero shame in

top-notch musicianship when communicating messages from the underworld. Fans of Shattered Faith, the Sound, and The Avengers take note! ­—Gabriel Megira

GIRL TEARS

Woke Against the Tide Sinderlyn Two years ago, Girl Tears released their debut album, Tension, initially a small run of tapes put out by Echo Park’s Lolipop. The album fired off twelve songs in nine minutes and contrasted starkly with much of Lolipop’s stable of neo-psychedelic and garage rock revival releases, but that contrast seemed to make their music particularly noteworthy. In a live setting, they became all the more striking. While many of their peers could be musically indulgent and excessive, Girl Tears was always powerful, explosive, and cutting. Sophomore album Woke Against The Tide finds the band leaner, rawer, and sharper than ever, with production that truly supports their sound. While Tension could sound a bit too fuzzy and washy at times, the new record cuts through the air like a javelin and each song lands on the listener like a kick in the gut. With borderline buzzsaw guitars, a bass tone that roars in like a motorcycle every so often, and a kick and snare combo that might as well be left and right hooks, Girl Tears bring it just as hard as any punk band in Southern California on this record. Yet, the band’s sound continues to have just enough variance and diversity to it that it almost seems to stretch beyond punk into something that’s challenging to define but nonetheless interesting to listen to. —Simon Weedn

GOON

Dusk of Punk self-released Dusk of Punk, the debut EP from Goon (a.k.a. Los Angeles musician & visual artist Kenny Becker), might be 2016’s most versatile release that could still be called “punk.” Opening track “Dizzy” sets the scene with comfort-food power chords and earworm-y riffing, then drops you off after a brisk two minutes. But just when you think you’ve figured out Goon’s game, “Green Peppers” offers up acoustic guitars, queasy synths, and drum machines over four-anda-half minutes of lo-fi pop. Becker says the track was inspired by Taylor Swift, and he doesn’t sell himself short on other inspirations–Dusk of Punk’s vampire/goblin/angel poster child is a direct descendent of Radiohead’s “killer bear”,” and he’s named-checked Pixies and Boards of Canada as sonic touchstones. (The latter is evident on album closer “Scab,” a gorgeous, drumless dirge replete with noise and garbled radio.) Though these might seem like random selections from a college kid’s Spotify playlist, it’s a great illustration of how easy it is in this day and age to mix and match disparate influences and come out with something unique. Dusk of Punk does that perfectly – its individual pieces are familiar, but as a whole, it’s a unique and addictive piece of work that might just hit your sweet spot. —Zach Bilson

INSECTS VS. ROBOTS Theyllkillyaa Hen House

A Venice quintet that used to play the Smell and now romps at the Fillmore, IvR are folk-horror folkies wielding an unusual array of instruments, including violins, harp, harmonium, banjo, and sitar. The title track opener starts off like the kind of hypermeolodic Anglo-pop joint they’ve been rolling up since 10cc and XTC but veers into a startling guitar-psych freakout at about the

four minute mark before dissolving in a babble. “Infection (Time Grows Thin)” is a Bill Burroughs diseased flesh fantasy set to music vaguely reminiscent of Enoch Light and the Light Brigade and “Become a Crow” is blues rock set at the precise midway point between Elton John and Captain Beefheart. The flamenco-flavored “Matilda’s Galavant” is a long pull on the billabong and “Fukushima” starts off like Garland Jeffreys at his world-weariest before lurching off into Magma slag, sirens and crooning of a three hundred year half-life. Such go-goGodzilla mellows out by album’s end, with “Ole Lujoke” playing us in a blizzard of giddy strings and High Llamas-style tick-tock psychedelia. A radio edit of “They’ll Kill Ya” first smokes, then blazes. Not so much “experimental,” as a mashup of a half-dozen tried-and-true tropes. Blazing and prog-o-licious stuff. —Ron Garmon

ITASCA

Open to Chance Paradise of Bachelors If you long for the days when CSNY and Jackson Browne roved the hills of Laurel Canyon, Itasca—a.k.a. Kayla Cohen—is the modern-day singer-songwriter for you. Imagery of dancing under moonlight, windswept mountaintops, and picking berries intermingles with Cohen’s shimmering finger-picking and halcyon voice on “Buddy,” while “No Consequence” is so “Ladies of the Canyon” you can practically smell the eucalyptus. There’s nothing lifealtering here, just a solid album of elegant, atmospheric songs that show Cohen has mastered the art of song-craft. In fact, a melancholy sameness pervades the album. This sameness is kept from monotony by Cohen’s balm-like vocals, which evoke medicinal smells of lavender and sage, while subtle embellishments from track to track will charm the active listener. There’s the lovely piano on “Carousel,” which sounds like Cohen must have lived next door to Joni Mitchell on Lookout Mountain Avenue and copped a couple of her tricks. Or the Cosmic American Music that seeps into the gently rambling “G.B.” “Daylight 45


THE INTERPRETER

DIRTIE BLONDE Curated by Kristina Benson Photography by Stefano Galli

EASY GOING S/T LP (BANANA, 1978) “This is actually by Claudio Simonetti—people may recognize him from the band Goblin. I went and saw them when they did a thing at Cinefam[ily where he played all of the Dario Argento soundtrack. I brought him an Easy Going record to sign and he was shocked— he said, ‘I didn’t think people even knew I made this music.’ It was pretty amazing. A lot of people don’t realize that he also did a little cheesier Italian disco than the typical Goblin soundtracks.”

pino daniele “Yes i know my way” 12” (blanco y negro, 1985)

DJ Dirtie Blonde grew up on Chicago radio, which introduced her to house and techno when she was just a kid. Now based in L.A., she’s expanded her selections to scenes across the globe, mixing in not just Italo disco but French Canadian, Greek and Zambian music to her expansive sets. She speaks now about some of her favorite records, which you can hear her spin at her monthly residency at the Semi-Tropic in Echo Park. Visit her at facebook. com/dirtieblonde. LIL LOUIS “FRENCH KISS” 12” (EPIC, 1989) “This is kind of one of the tracks that got me into house and DJing, and I think a lot of people can say the same thing. I have a thing for the radio version—it’s the clean version they’d play on the radio during day. At night they’d play the version with the moaning. The instrumental version has a part where there’s a long, sexual moaning. So during certain hours of the day they couldn’t play that version. I always liked the radio version vocal version, and not a lot of people play it.”

FRANKIE KNUCKLES “YOUR LOVE” 12” (TRAX, 1987) “Some say that this is the first house music record—this is from Chicago, with Jamie Principle on the vocals. It’s one of my favorites and one of the best house tracks ever—just a really sultry sexy house music song about needing love. And it’s a little slower than a lot of the modern house music. The reason why people think this was the first house music record is because this one was played on cassette or on reel by DJs in clubs before it was actually pressed and released.”

TRILOGY “NOT LOVE” 12” (IL DISCOTTO, 1982) “Before there was house music, a lot of the Chicago DJs played Italo in their sets. There was a store in Chicago called Imports that brought in a lot of that Italian disco, and a lot of it was very influential to house music. When I was very young I started listening to WBMX, which is the radio station where a lot of these DJs played, and it would broadcast all throughout the Chicago area in the 80s. So I started listening to that radio station at a young age, and this is one of the key Italian disco songs that I could point to as being a big influence.”

some bizarre “don’t be afraid” 12” (IL DISCOTTO, 1983)

renee reaching for the sky lp (aloi, 1982) “This one—the whole album is amazing. Great female vocals. Someone had made an edit of one of the songs, and I loved it so much I tried to figure out who it was, and I was able to eventually find the original artist. There was a label out here called Black Disco. They did an edit of ‘Change Your Style.’ But a lot of time when people do edits they change the name of the song to disguise it. It took me a lot of time to figure out the original but once I did, I realized that this person had a lot of great songs.”

zig zag s/t Lp (pacha, 197X) “This is Canadian French disco from Quebec. This is another great one. It’s just a good way to show the diversity that’s out there as far as disco is concerned. I think people think of disco and there are one or two songs that they’re familiar with, and don’t realize the diversity that’s out there. I’m not that familiar with the French Canadian disco scene, but Montreal has always been a very happening place. They have great record stores, and you can usually tell by the record stores how good the scene is.”

life “cat’s eyes” 7” (philips, 1973) “They say the first disco song is ‘Fly Robin Fly’—supposedly that song has been cited as the first disco song. But a lot of groovy things came out in the early 70s, and this is a good example. Some of the earlier disco is based on soul, some of it can go psych or even cosmic—there’s even some German prog that’s a little like disco. This one I came across locally. For a long time I was just buying 12” and albums, but then a few years ago I started digging through 45s.”

witch movin’ on LP (invisible cities, 2014)

“Once I started DJing and collecting, it led me to explore the genre. So I came across this song. When I first found out about Italo I wanted to explore the whole genre and find out what else is out there. I’ve been researching Italo for the last 15 years so it’s just me cataloging my own preferences, I guess. This is just one of my favorites that sticks with me. ‘Wow, I really like this song! What else is out there?’ and I came across this gem. It’s something I’ve been playing and loving for a long time.”

“The whole album is just amazing! This group is from Zambia. This was recently reissued but if you try to find the original, the original album goes for like $6,000. I don’t even know how they found it or knew about it, but it’s such an amazing album. I don’t know what genre it is, nor do I care. I think it’s a little more rock disco but it’s just amazing and I’m really glad this was re-issued and unearthed.”

MONIKA secret in the dark LP

daniel wang “silver trophis” 12” (environ, 2000)

(other music, 2015)

“This is one of the first records that I bought when I first started DJing. The song I love on here is ‘All Flowers Must Fade.’ Again, this is disco house, very beautiful. I love this song so much … I found this guy’s email I started emailing him and telling him how much I loved his music.”

“I try to look for new music as well as old, and this is a good example of a great new album. I first heard it on KCRW and had to track it down. It has a great 70s disco rock vibe but it’s a little more modern. The whole album is great.” INTERPRETER

“This guy was pretty popular in Italy. I had no idea he existed until I was record shopping one day in Barcelona. Whenever you’re digging through a record store you never know if something’s good—if there’s a hidden treasure in there. Sometimes you just have to pull things that look interesting and listen to them. And that’s how I found this one. It caught my eye because the label is Blanco Y Negro and there’s another group that did a song that’s really amazing on the same label. It was one of those record stores where it’s not a private listening station; you have to ask the person behind the counter to play it in the store. I ended up chatting with the person at the store for awhile and she ended up giving me a deal. And that’s what these old DJs in the 80s would do—they’d go to Europe and look for records to play so they could distinguish themselves. You couldn’t just download something. I still like to follow that method because you come across things that you wouldn’t otherwise.”

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Under My Wing” adds an enchanting hint of strings and flute, accentuating the dreamlike sound of Cohen’s voice. This is an album of quiet beauty, completely unobtrusive and perfect for creating a mood. It’s foolproof driving music—take a trip at dusk to the Laurel Canyon Country Store with this playing and I promise you’ll be transported—and the most intimate album you’re likely to hear without trawling through your dusty record collection. —Madison Desler

JOYCE MANOR Cody Epitaph

JOSEF LEIMBERG

Astral Progressions Alpha Pup

JASON SIMON Familiar Haunts Cardinal Fuzz

What happens when Black Sabbath riffs get traded in for Dock Boggs banjo tunes? The answer is Familiar Haunts. Jason Simon, vox and guitarist for Dead Meadow, stretches out his musical legs over eight tracks of Americana on acid. The swampy heat of “The People Dance, The People Sing” conjures up images of the gothic South or moody Appalachia, as Simon sings “It’s alright, mama, it’s alright,” over its slinky groove. “Hills of Mexico” and “Pretty Polly” are traditional American tunes that Simon turns on their red, white, and blue ears with distortion and atmospheric production, making the first sound like a standoff at some sun-baked hacienda, while the second would have been perfect for the grimy Dixie world of True Detective. You know, the good season. The anchor is “Wheels Will Spin,” an 11-minute behemoth soaked in reverb and backwoods attitude. Heavy and jammy, Simon’s inner Dead Meadow comes out to play as the song builds to an earth-shaking climax, then floats back down to earth; the euphoric high and the woozy comedown. The eye-rubbing sleepiness and dusty organ of “Without Reason Or Right” offers up an interesting moment, as does the closer, “I Found The Thread,” which breaks with the rootsy spirit of the rest of the album. It’s tapeloop trippy, with sounds so ooeygooey, you want to crawl inside as Simon’s melatonin voice calls to you from another dimension. —Madison Desler 48

Josef Leimberg, occasionally known as LoveDragon, has been making waves behind the scenes in the music industry for quite some time. He has written, produced, or played music for Snoop Dogg, Erykah Badu, Funkadelic, Freestyle Fellowship, Dr. Dre, Murs, Busdriver, and Kendrick Lamar. His debut solo takes reference from the likes of Yusef Latif, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis with his fusion-style jazz. The album is very spacey and transcendental: elements of Eastern music blend with soaring horn solos, chimes, bells, 70’s guitar, and chants to reference the old but play with the new. Kamasi Washington wails out on the saxophone on a few tracks, and Bilal, Georgia Ann Muldrow, Kurupt, Terrace Martin, and Miguel Atwood Ferguson also contribute, to name a few.This is definitely a more spiritual/worldinfluenced jazz, but do not let that deter you from giving it a listen. Many elements of hip-hop and the more contemporary electronic beat scene fronted by Flying Lotus lay claim to the songs as well. The track “Between Us 2” plays more like an experimental hip-hop song with a live band than a jazz track, but it is the album’s versatility that makes it most enjoyable. Near the end of the album there is a great reimagining of Miles Davis’ “Lonely Fire” that features soaring horn solos and a more upbeat drum rhythm than the original. This is another great jazz album in a series of new work coming out of L.A. right now. —Zachary Jensen

South Bay four-piece Joyce Manor have been steadily gaining momentum since ’09, which makes them certified old heads in today’s pop-punk-indie-whatever scene. Cody, their fourth full-length and second for the ever-relevant Epitaph Records, is their biggest sonic leap to date, eschewing basementready sing-alongs for layered instrumentation and more nuanced songwriting. Fun.’s Nate Ruess even pops up on the swaggering “Angel in the Snow,” as good of an indicator as any that they’ve come a long way from their Asian Man Records days. But make no mistake, the band’s outlook is still distinctly punk – their songs may stretch out a little more, but nothing on Cody feels self-indulgent or predictable. Take album highlight “Last You Heard Of Me”, which starts with a full-band fakeout, drops back to singer/guitarist Barry Johnson alone, then builds back up over three minutes to a chorus of gorgeous vocal harmonies. Or “Do You Really Want To Not Get Better?”, a quick acoustic(!) duet with L.A. folkie Phoebe Bridgers, which takes a stylistic shift most bands would milk for all it’s worth and turns it into a to-the-point lamentation on a friend’s addiction. Joyce Manor aren’t “selling out” or even “growing up” – they’re doing what all great bands do, pushing the boundaries of what it means to be themselves. —Zach Bilson

LA SERA Queens EP Polyvinyl

Sometimes EPs can be difficult to put into context. Should they be treated as short albums? Or are they just brief compilations of standalone tracks? In the case of La Sera’s newest digital-only EP, Queens, the answer is that it’s a mix of both. In fact, one could consider Queens to be an addendum to the band’s most recent

full-length album, Music For Listening To Music To, which was released in March of this year. Regardless of exact context, the new EP captures a band that seems to have really identified a sound they’re enamored with and are continuing to refine and sharpen. In total, Queens spans just five tracks: two re-recorded cuts from Music For Listening To Music To, two new songs, and a studio take of a current staple of the band’s live set, Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” The five tunes find La Sera still rollicking in the cleaner, almost jangly tones they embraced on their last album while mixing a bit of the lushness, textures, and blistering guitar work that defined the band’s third album, Hour of the Dawn. The blend pays off in a big way, giving all of the songs even more character, depth, and color. —Simon Weedn

MAST

Love and War Alpha Pup Gorgeous and perfectly executed, dark and brooding, heavy yet sailing, Mast has disrupted typical ideas of composition. With crazy guitars and elegant keys, strong bass and furious drums, this album fits the times perfectly—it’s a heavy dose of hard truth. The album is set like a play, with characters and landscape coming to life as Tim Conley excels at every sonic idea he puts his hand to. With friends and compatriots of jazz and electronica providing support, the artist and his pals weave a massive collection of songs built around a complex story of finding, losing, and learning. Life goes where it wants to, as does this album. —Daniel Sweetland

MATT COSTA

Orange Sunshine OST Varese Sarabande

When an artist gets too comfortable they leap over borders into altogether new lands. At least a true, innovative artist does, and Matt Costa is no rookie with pushing his own limitations. Orange Sunshine is the indie singer-songwriter’s first movie score. The 17-track soundtrack moves into a mystical landscape and justly so. Costa’s songs narrate Orange Sunshine, a documentary about “a church formed in the early ’60s by a group of surfers/hippies in Orange County who wanted to change the world with psychedelic drugs.” The folk-ish musician effortlessly transforms from his successful niche, where singles like his 2008 pop hit “Mr. Pitiful” originate, into a sound that morphs to psychedelic rock. He has shifted gears to create something entirely new. Groovy electronic effects and nontraditional pop instruments like the trumpet and harmonica, alongside the omnipresent influence of Indian music, persist throughout the film score. “Sit With Timothy” and “Soul Full of Orange,” especially, are Matt’s best examples of his chameleon skin. The latter song is full of zealous upbeat instruments, the guitar is twangy, and a dynamic tambourine start sparks. But the inner indie rocker of Matt Costa lightly reemerges in “Call My Name,” the album’s first single. Fans of his will be amazed to see how their favorite musician can soar above genres but still sweep in with a gorgeous, vinyl-sounding love song. “I’ll always come to you” represents Costa’s ability to continuously make his way into the heart of any scene he chooses. —Dana Marquez

MATT KIVEL

Fires On The Plain Driftless Recordings There are musicians, or artists in any medium for that matter, whose sheer talent is awe-inspiring. No matter what they do, it always results in something impactful – be it for its beauty or ability to capture a

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feeling so perfectly. Matt Kivel has always been that kind of musician for me. His music has the ability to shift from heavy, emotional, gripping moments to light and upbeat jams that can put you in the best of moods. His music can meld and shift, yet it is always consistent and cohesive as well as prolifically created. Earlier this year Kivel released the LP Janus, which marked a shift from lo-fi to a cleaner and fuller sound. Without giving himself a moment to breathe, Kivel was working on follow-up album Fires on the Plain which is arguably his most ambitious and masterful album to date. Coming in at 26 tracks, the album takes the best elements of everything that he has been creating over the course of his musical career (not just from his solo project but from Princeton and Mystery Claws, as well as Sleeping Bags) and produces a sound that is perhaps the kind of music that Kivel has been working towards all along. Elements of Americana, classic rock, indie rock, smooth and bebop-style jazz, and experimental noise blend together in different ways to make something exploratory and beautiful. He is especially brilliant at starting songs off with a low gentleness that breaks away into a crashing crescendo of sound and circles back. Tracks such “The Water” play with slow and melodic brush drumming and winding guitar melodies that pair beautifully with the highs that Kivel’s voice hits, producing a gutwrenching and touching downbeat song that I challenge anyone to not be affected by. All of the elements are so subtle that you could miss them if you aren’t paying close attention – such as the saxophone that comes in during the chorus or the banjo that leads the tail end of the song. It is just one example of the attention to detail that has gone into this album. Other great songs are “Forgiveness,” which initially plays like a dark western fitting of Leonard Cohen or the True Detective soundtrack but branches off into a direction all its own. The song is dark and brooding in all the right ways, weaving a story that grabs your attention as it heads down its path. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy comes in at the end of the song to grace the listeners with a moving duet. Another great duet on the album is when Robin Pecknold from Fleet Foxes vocally spars with Kivel on the heavier track “Permanence.” This album is not one to listen to casually. Elements unveil and unfold with frequent listens. The more you listen to it the more it will reward you with its ingenuity and hidden secrets. —Zachary Jensen

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MNDSGN Bodywash Stone’s Throw

The most recent musical offering from Ringgo Ancheta aka Mndsgn, is a palimpsest of R&B, soul jazz, and boogie genre aesthetics tastefully swirled together with a futuristic flourish to invoke the aural illusion of a voyage through the self. Cogitation and mental function are central themes of Bodywash—Ancheta’s whispery narrative vocals encourage the listener to use the mind ‘twentyfourseven,” to focus on otherworldly perspectives, to regularly practice resetting and recalibrating, and to acknowledge the worthwhile risk it takes to trust someone, especially the self. While there’s a kind of subtle sexual energy à la the S.O.S. Band live from a cosmic disco dream blimp, the essential message behind Bodywash is one of self-reflection. Muted jazz trumpets, a soulful cello, the celestial tones of the Wurlitzer and the Rhodes, and dreamy pastel vocal loops embellish the path that Ancheta’s vocals walk us through with explanatory patience. His vocals are featured much more prominently than prevoiously, making the instrumental cuts feel more like interludes between scenes, instilling a constant momentum that flows and bobs to the wistful “I Guess It’s All Over,” the final and arguably most reflective track on the album. Bodywash deals with neither peaks nor valleys–instead, a glistening purple river through the land of music. —Christina Gubala

Night Control, the brainchild of Christopher Curtis Smith, is an exercise in melding an individual situated in a solitary internal landscape with the surrounding reality.. On Mind Control, Night Control’s third proper album, the chaos of the internal wrestles with the chaos external. The album is a slope and climb, a grip and release, a series of moments indicating clarity and others of a murky fog. The work itself poses a challenge and a catharsis; simultaneous relief and dissonance. The yearning for connection residing just beneath a haze of confusion and disconnect. The entire album is a straining of buried vocals, of instrumental chaos, coalescing into a replication of the human condition when situated in a stark, vast and uncompromising environment. Mind Control is essentially a meditation on the individual searching for connection in an unforgiving climate, a work which bonds the human spirit through art to the world around them. It works to empower when the emotions are at times inarticulate. The layered construction of each piece on the album serves to elaborate the difficult process and ultimate need to connect through the chaos. Mind Control is a journey into what it means to be human, to reach out not knowing whether that connection will be made. The risk of knowing each subsequent layer can be peeled back to expose the humanity in art, where heart and intellect collide, yet laying bare the uncertain notion of what to do next. —Nathan Martel

NOPES

Never Heard Of It Magnetic Eye

NIGHT CONTROL Mind Control self-released

Nopes has captured the sound of what can probably be termed a kind of Bay Area post tech boom blues, filtered through the hazy dissonance of stripped down post garage punk. Hailing from the other city by the Bay, Nopes are grappling with the notion of individuals looking to reassert their humanity when their beings are encroached upon. Each track (save “Duran Duran,” which is an instrumental) features vocals

buried in the mix, where the listener can envision the undercurrent wrestlings of displacement. Nopes distill the contradictions of creating in an environment that once fermented great creative energy but no longer value or support these endeavors. Indeed, Never Heard Of It might be a manifesto of sorts regarding the frustration of living in, but no loner recognizing surroundings. Indeed, the anger and confusion reign on this LP, but with the aforementioned grace that asserts a type of romantic underpinning. While Eagret Hansen’s guitar lines provide a palette of distilled dislocation, there are shimmering glimpses of hope found therein. Alex Petralia’s wailing ostensibly is a clarion call referencing the non-fulfillment of promise when that’s the very line you’ve been fed your entire life. Never Heard Of It is all this and more. And plus, Ditches, the last song on the album is essentially what a Neil Young song would sound like if he ever recorded a garage punk tune. —Nathan Martel

ters in the flesh. He compares Auset, the female Kemetic goddess of wisdom, healing and love to Mary and Lilith, Christian female figures that serve as conduits to masculine identities in different ways. Ras allows his carefully harvested sampling of Christian popular music to channel older concepts of spiritual transcendence, culminating in the tape’s final and most arresting track “Heart and Feather (Maat)”. The track is a simple field recording that freezes the listener in their tracks and cuts deeply and immediately to the essential message of Ras’s gospel: “If you love these Black babies, tell them the truth.” —Christina Gubala

ROSES

Camera Trouble Group Tightener

RAS G

Gospel of the Godspell Street Corner Music Ras G’s most recent cassette release from Street Corner Records is a complex commentary on religious appropriation and the legacy of Egyptian spirituality, routed through Ras’s symbolic samples of American gospel records. After a three-week expedition through the gospel overstock at Poo-Bah Records, the result is as academic as it is aurally pleasing. Song titles oscillate between reverence of ancient Egyptian religious figures like Ausar, Auset, and Maat to the Christian figures derived from their respective legacies. Meditative minor-key vocal samples ruminate on the praise of Jesus and the richness of spiritual emotions while his signature dancehall airhorns, crackles, and atomic space-base sounds chirp from his Space Program 303. He quietly indicts Christianity with its own language — “Ephesians 6.5” is both the title of the album’s fourth cut and the Bible excerpt that advises slaves to stay obedient to their mas-

Roses have been a fan favorite in L.A. for quite some time. Part of that is due to the band’s pedigree as many of the members have had successful runs in other groups— Juan Velasquez was in Abe Vigoda, who essentially dominated the downtown L.A. venue The Smell for many years. After releasing two EPs in 2015 and a single entitled “Quite Time” in 2015, the trio is finally gracing listeners with a full album. For those not familiar, Roses plays music that is a blend between retro new wave and more modern elements of dreamgaze. Some songs like the album opener “Dream lover” have a more slightly lighter and poppy feel to is with the echoing synth beats, harmonic guitar rifts, and very 80’s influenced drum machine. The vocals give the track a very rhythmic feel to the song as well. The track “Julian March” starts off with a heavy reference to “I Ran” by Flock of Seagulls before quickly breaking into a dance-y melodic gem of a song that shows off the bands abilities. The instrumental chorus on the song is playfully infectious. As the song goes on it builds and shifts and builds on itself until it slowly winds down and slips away. The closing track on the album is the aforementioned single from 2015. The album as a whole is a great reflection of the band and 49


their sound. Definitely worth multiple plays on the record player. —Zachary Jensen

SADGIRL Vol. Three self-released

Vol. Three marks the turning point of the three part Los Angeles group, SadGirl. The trio of cousins’ self-released album is one that marks a departure from their signature blend of lo-fi, surf-punk rock, with hints of oldies similar to 1950’s rock and roll. The EP opens with “Little Queenie” that turns SadGirl’s past attitude-- defined by callous punk lyrics — into softer sentiments similar to Roy Orbinson. It opens in jukebox feeling with singer Misha Lindes’ lyrics: “Close your eyes Little Queenie” and continues in an amorous style as Lindes refers to his queenie as Suzy Q. The subsequent track “Love Storm” keeps a mellow ambiance with heavy guitar chords and a slow ticking beat. The penultimate “Turn Around” stands as the group’s longest track at just past four minutes. It moves one step back into SadGirl’s pessimistic love stories, telling the story of a relationship no longer working but still sought to keep. You can almost see an old school greaser slicking back his hair with tears held back in picture-perfect melodrama. The final track “New Fences (Head to the Mountains)” further defines Vol. Three as an authentic oldie with pops and crackles of a record spinning. Let SadGirl lead you as they start their own journey, to a new sound, to a new phase of their musical career. —Dana Marquez

SEX STAINS

Self-titled Don Giovanni Records It isn’t easy to capture the carnival show energy of a band like Sex Stains. In a live setting, the band is a rollicking punk dance party revolving around Allison Wolfe and Mecca Vazie Andrews. Thick guitar riffs spring back and forth; Wolfe and Andrews throw themselves into the audience with abandon. Both know how to take an audience to that place: Wolfe is a punk veteran whose bona fides include a more stint as frontwoman of riot grrrl icons Bratmobile, giving the band a kind of legend-status gravitas. Andrews leads the MOVEMENT movement dance company, and she provides a brilliant, over-the-top counterpoint to Wolfe, adding an elastic, almost surreal physicality to the mix. The band’s self-titled debut does right by this experience by presenting a filled-in vision of the live show. Their sound comes into clearer focus — a play on the stultified rhythms of late-‘70s post punk bands like Wire and the Buzzcocks, mixed with the off the rails politicized rock of Wolfe’s Olympia years. The songs often take everyday gripes as their fodder. On “Sex in the Subway,” Wolfe looks some shit talker straight in the eye. “I remember what you did to me,” she sneers, even if they don’t. On “Oh No (Say What?),” Andrews unpacks an incident between her and two men at an elevator door, her voice elevating the conversational to the theatrical. There are a few surprises, too, like the two-tone ska rave-up of “Cutie Pie.” Sex Stains is an album that uses familiar musical touchstones and the drama of the everyday to construct its own reality, a punk dance party with purpose. —Chris Kissel

THE SQUIDS O Shrek Yes Lolipop

Oh Shrek Yes is a rollicking and vibe-filled homerun of a record produced by Wyatt Blair, the Lolipop master himself. Vocal harmo50

nies and growling guitar are paired with some great tremolo-twinged lead work and some big bass and drums. In an era of noise and anger its a treat to hear an album so craftily put together and well-arranged. “Noods” is a strong and catchy sounding punky beachy sounding song with a hard down beat and some good ooohhs just to make the mood. Other sections of the album get slower and more moody but all together the record is a great summary of what this band is and what this band could be: great songs, great players and a great time. O Shrek Yes seems like a joke at first but with songs like “Skip It,” , you are hit hard with the fact that this band is out to write some strong melodies and catchy, chaotic beats. A great new take on a a sound that will never die. ­—Daniel Sweetland

propulsive rocker draped in buzz and decorated with descending “ahah-ahhh” vocals, while “And Suddenly” makes efficient use of some perfect R.E.M.-style jangle. There are still dead-eyed punk chuggers here — “Won’t Come to Find You” and “Come Back,” for example — but those have become this band’s exception rather than its rule. That’s a good thing. Terry Malts has always been an amazing pop-rock band just waiting for the right moment to shed a layer of lo-fi aesthetic. Lost At The Party is that moment, and the results are glorious. —Ben Salmon

THE TYDE

clouds building on a deep blue day, never fully giving in to gloom. That sense comes together most sweetly on “The Curse in Reverse.” A dejected verse (“I had to finish the song/ Guess the ending didn’t turn out so sweet for me”) is lifted somewhat by Rademaker’s best melody, which he sings in counterpoint with Suede’s Bernard Butler. The song is proof that even after ten years — and whatever heartbreak he’s endured in the mean time — Rademaker continues to shine as a songwriter, and his songs still evoke the stoned glory of a day on the surf, even when it’s a little stormy. —Chris Kissel

Darren 4 Spiritual Pajamas

WARPAINT

ask Darren Rademaker, the longhaired surfer dude who has made a three-decade career, most notably as the core member of the Tyde, out of distilling sunny days at the beach into songs. The first two songs on Darren 4 — the fourth Tyde album, and the first in ten years — are fine reminders of Rademaker’s skill at translating jangly British pop a la the Byrds into something that feels natively Southern California. On “Nice to Know You,” Rademaker shuts his eyes and smiles through a break-up. “Ode to Islands” rides Allman-esque guitar harmonies to a place “where the fiesta never ends.” If there’s a seeping melancholy at the edges, he puts it out of mind. “It’s OK,” he sings, underlining the sentiment with a buoyant synth chord. But the melancholy does finally seep in. The guitars get heavier, singed at the edges, more Neil Young than Roger McGuinn. Apart from the rocking “Rainbow Boogie,” the clouds don’t really lift again. Rademaker goes on singing wistfully about separation; the guitars speak are even more somber. Rademaker, Ben Knight, and Colby Buddelmeyer are joined this time by Ryan Adams/Chris Robinson guitarist Neal Casal, and together the four weave a muted tapestry, breaking out occasionally into restrained, weepy solos. The album teeters right on the edge of darkness, like purple

Warpaint’s third album, Heads Up, paints a darker, more abstract picture for the Los Angeles indie rockers, taking their spidery grooves and dousing them in grayscale ambience. The quartet, whose ranks have formerly included actress Shannyn Sossamon and RHCP guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, are using the studio as an instrument here, cutting and pasting bits of live instruments and field recordings for a disorienting, claustrophobic effect. Where tracks like “New Song” and “So Good” serve as an update of Warpaint’s safer, more accessible moments, “By Your Side” and “Don’t Wanna” pit their lush harmonies against EDM-influenced beats and rumbling synths. Drummer Stella Mozgawa composed much of the programmed drumming while recovering from a foot injury, but its contrast against her live playing gives the record much of its character. Bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg has garnered outside attention with her solo album Right On!, but she remains vital in the band, laying down creeping basslines that would make Joy Division’s Peter Hook shiver. Warpaint have always been good, but Heads Up has enough character to push them to the next stage. —Zack Bilson

Heads Up Even paradise has rainy days. Just Rough Trade Records

TERRY MALTS Lost At The Party Slumberland

Over the past four years, the three guys in Terry Malts have been slowly but surely dredging the fuzz and scuzz from their seemingly bottomless pool of perfect pop-rock nuggets. The band’s debut, 2012’s Killing Time, and its 2013 followup, Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere, were bracing blasts of self-recorded punk-meets-New Wave, like the long-lost lovechild of DEVO and the Ramones. For 2014’s Insides EP, the band worked with a producer (Bay Area sonic shaman Monte Vallier) for the first time and signaled a move toward more melody and less muck. Which brings us to Lost At The Party, out Oct. 14 on Slumberland Records. It’s Terry Malts’ first album recorded in a studio, and it’s another step into the sunshine for a band whose members are split between San Francisco and L.A. More of the old cavernous punk grime has been scrubbed, replaced with the chiming rollercoaster hook of “Gentle Eyes,” the barbed guitars of “Your Turn” and the clean-cut feel of “It’s Not Me,” which sounds like the Pixies doing doo wop. “Seen Everything” is an

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The Turtles

All the Singles (Manifesto) Boutique L.A. indie White Whale imprint caught Howard Kaylan, Mark Volma, and their band the Crossfires in early 1965 just as their type of surf rock was going under in favor of druggier, poppier tastes. Volman and Kaylan were highly versatile fellows with a vaudeville act’s sense of their audience, all the more impressive once you account for all the time spent in the studio crafting these AM radio doubloons. The band cites “You Baby” as the true beginning of their hugely influential jangle-pop sound, extended by others but perfected by few. An unissued mid-1966 cover of Goffin and King’s “So Goes Love” is as catchy as any early Association single and the barrelhouse pop update of Vera Lynn’s World War II classic “We’ll Meet Again” prefigures the Kinks’ cankered nostalgia of Arthur by over two years. Rejected by several other bands, “Happy Together” knocked “Penny Lane” off the number one singles spot in early 1967. “You Know What I Mean” is a flat-out sunshine pop masterpiece and”She’s My Girl” a durable example of the acidtinged hippie music blaring out of half the radios in 1967 America. Second disc highlights show the newly top-tier act plunging gleefully into the psychedelic era. “Elenore,” a frank parody of “Happy Together” got to No. 6; “You Told Me” topped the charts in 1968 and Ray Davies produced their album Turtle Soup, which spun off excellent platters like the glorious “Somewhere Friday Night,” as lovely a song as released by anyone in 1969. After several expensively failed attempts to cultivate a roster, White Whale wrecked things entirely, insisting the band record the execrable “Who Would Think That I Would Marry Margaret?” and the Turtles were over before it was released. Kaylan and Volman began making albums as Flo & Eddie, contributing to projects by Bolan, Zappa and others before landing a sweet TV gig as the musicians behind Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears. White Whale’s catalog went up for auction in 1975 and the duo bought and still own these songs. Revel in them, kidz.

Big Star

Complete Third (Omnivore) Held at the storied Ardent Studios in the final closeout months of parent

company Stax Records’ existence, sessions for Big Star’s third LP were chaotic, for label and band itself were rapidly disintegrating. Mainman Alex Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens— the only remaining members of the lineup that created #1 Record three years earlier—put together a pickup crew of session men, chamber musicians, the Steve Cropper quarter-interest in Booker T. & the M.G’s, and Chilton’s then-girlfriend Lesa Aldridge. Big Star as such had ceased to exist after the disastrous tour in support of 1974’s Radio City, and liners make it plain that Third is a series of melodic snapshots of mid-70s Memphis’ rock scene, now almost as buried by history as East Germany. More, it documents ex-Box Top Chilton’s post-tour depression highlighted by conspicuous drug use and a golden love affair with Lesa. The onetime teen idol’s rapport with Stephens was as strong as ever and the sessions yielded strangely gorgeous hybrid fruit but hardcore fans of Big Star are often shocked at the radical departure from bubblegum raveups and traditional rock instrumentation of the first two LPs, as if the Raspberries mutated into a Frankenstein version of Scott Walker. Months passed and Ardent halted proceedings, assembled a truncated tracklist, then pressed and sent out advance copies to general indifference. Bootlegs, then cult fame, then legit release followed much later. What’s collected here are the demos, rough mixes by producer Jim Dickinson and engineer John Fry, variant vocal passes, including Alex’s duets with Lesa and her lead on “Femme Fatale” and finally all 20 finished songs, the track order of the first 14 taken from the initial pressing. The miracle documented here is how the late Chilton—by most accounts obsessive, undisicplined and whacked out of his gourd—is in full command of the situation until the record was finally pried from his hands. If two or three tracks are famously bleak, that’s the way Chilton wanted it, not evidence his ears had lost their cunning. The rough mix of “Dream Lover” shames Phil Spector’s wall-of-sound entombment of Dion and an alternate of their version of the Kinks’ “Till the End of the Day” is better than what made the (entirely theoretical) cut, as is Fry’s bonechilling mix of “Kanga Roo.” Indeed, much of what Fry turned in defies genre classification save as a kind of pre-postrock. Radically ahead of its time, the final product wasn’t anyone’s idea of glam rock or Beatle-y pop and must’ve seemed raw madness in 1975, a year when rock psychosis went for little. The idea that this massive three-hour libretto-free rock opera puts some kind of finish to a never-completed album is naive. Gangs of musicians will be playing every note of this set a century from now as a kind of endurance test. Without doubt, the reissue of the year.


LIVE PHOTOS FALL 2017

ONLINE PHOTO EDITOR DEBI DEL GRANDE

The Hellcat Saints November 2016 El Rey Theatre

Death Valley Girls October 2016 Desert Daze

ALEXIS BONIN

Rudy De Anda September 2016 Music Tastes Good

SHEVA KAFAI

Kamasi Washington November 2016 Camp Flog Gnaw

DEBI DEL GRANDE

The Melvins September 2016 Music Tastes Good

DEBI DEL GRANDE

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MAXIMILIAN HO

LIVE PHOTOS


Pete Yorn October 2016 El Rey Theatre

Weezer November 2016 The El Rey

SHEVA KAFAI

Diane Coffee August 2016 The Getty Center SHEVA KAFAI

L.A. Witch August 2016 El Rey Theatre

MAXIMILIAN HO

Bad Religion November 2016 Hollywood Palladium

MAXIMILIAN HO

Kim and the Created September 2016 The Hi Hat

ALEXIS BONIN

LIVE PHOTOS

DEBI DEL GRANDE

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★ NEW THIS ISSUE!


EAST SIDE STORY PROJECT Interview by Ruben Molina Illustration by Felipe Flores The East Side Story series is cultural canon in the form of twelve compilations that defined a certain kind of lowrider oldies music. But they’re also as mysterious as they are beloved. They might still be on turntables and record store walls-of-honor up and down the west coast, but no one really knew who put them out or who those people were in those iconic covers photos. Until recently, that is: Melissa Dueñas and Gloria Morán’s East Side Story Project is revealing the humanity and the history behind the records for an online documentary series chronicling not just the creator but the stories of the people who appeared on the covers, too. L.A. RECORD is honored to present this conversation between Dueñas and Ruben Molina, previously profiled in these pages for his work with the Southern Soul Spinners. The East Side Story Project is an upcoming documentary on a series of LPs, cassettes, and even 8-tracks that came out in the mid 70s in a compilation of songs—about 144 songs—and you’re doing a documentary on that series of recordings. I just wanted to know … first of all, how old are you? Melissa Dueñas: Twenty-nine. How long have you been working on this project?
Almost a year and a half now. Why? How did you find it and what made you say there’s a story here? There’s a lot of reasons. Like anyone who kind of grew up being Chicano, you always grew up listening to oldies. That’s just something that’s in your environment. 
 Your DNA? It’s in your DNA. I mean—some people ask me, ‘When is the first time you’d ever seen one of these albums?’ And I can’t even remember. It’s just something that’s part of the visual culture. It’s just there. And like I said, the music—it’s part of what you hear, especially with my parents and the church I grew up going to, a church called Victory Outreach. That’s the church my mom went to and so that’s all Chicanos—all saved cholos. Even at my church, oldies was around. And I remember my brother having East Side Story tapes. My brother—he was a big music head. I’d always go into his room when he was gone and I’d steal his tapes and listen to them and I just thought he was cool. He had classic stuff—Mary Wells— nothing crazy deep but it was good music, and I liked it from an early age. I would listen to the radio and the oldies show, and I’d make my little cassettes—my little mix tapes—and I would play them for my dad. And when he’d shake his head and be like ‘That’s a good tape!’ I’d be like ‘Yeah! If my dad said it’s a good tape, it’s a good tape!’ So oldies were a part of my foundation as far as music. And also early on—I realized this music is attached to a lot of pain as well. It’s beautiful music but it’s connected to a lot of memories for people on so many levels. My dad was a rough kind of guy, always in and out of prison, and my mom on the other hand … she got out of that life and she went to church. So my dad was cool with me listening to the music but my mom … when I’d be playing oldies in my room, she’d be like, ‘Turn that off, I don’t want to hear that.’ I’d ask why and she’d be like ‘Because there’s too many bad memories and I don’t want to hear that stuff.’ My mom associated that kind of music with her kind of rough lifestyle and she didn’t want to hear it. I realized this early on—the power of music to transport people, take 56

them back. Music carries a lot of memories on so many different levels. As I grew up, I got away from the soul a little bit because I wanted to disassociate myself from my family and my brother and my dad. I loved them— and there’s a lot of positive things when you’re growing up in the hood—but there’s a lot of negative stuff. The gangs, the violence, the drugs … I started becoming really angry about that with my family. I started playing drums in punk bands for a while. But then when I started collecting records, I wanted to start collecting soul. I started trying to look for oldies and I started my own DJ night in San Diego doing that: just classic lowrider oldies. Then I moved to San Francisco and I got deeper into collecting. I love San Diego—that’s where I’m from—but I didn’t get deep into collecting until I moved to the Bay Area and I went to some nights there, and they were playing basically like sweet soul, but rare stuff. I was like, ‘Whoa, these sound like songs that I should know and love, but I’ve never heard them before.’ Up there I got more into the rare stuff. I went to UC Berkeley, and I went back to San Diego a few years ago and I made a lot of connections up there. One the connections I made up there was with this DJ Brown Amy. And she was helping to host an art show called the Q Sides—they took the East Side Stories albums, and they basically redid the covers, but LGBTQ. And this—I don’t know if you remember hearing or seeing this—but this stirred up a lot of social media drama. I never heard of that. They didn’t go to the exact places, they didn’t use the exact cars … but the aesthetic layout is like East Side Stories, the albums. And the purpose of that was because the women who curated it—as a Chicana lesbian, she feels outcast from her own culture. She loves oldies but she felt like she could never be fully involved in the culture because of machismo, because of homophobia within the community. She basically took this symbol of the albums—of the East Side Story albums, which are widely recognizable amongst the community—and she re-imagined them and kind of inserted her story into what she felt she was always marginalized from. It was honestly that art show that got me thinking about East Side Story albums as a symbol. This is not just a series of album compilations. You see those green and red borders and the low-rider, and you know it’s East Side Story. They’re immediately recognizable and they have become this symbol of the

culture because of the aesthetic layout. And because of the songs on the albums. There’s pretty much every classic song in those compilations. I remember part of that social media drama, somebody was claiming that, ‘Oh, well the original people were probably just models anyways.’ I started thinking of the stories of the actual people. Where did they come from? What are their stories? I just couldn’t believe that they would be models: ‘But that’s crazy. They are real people. Those people on the covers have stories. They’re probably people from the neighborhood.’ I started thinking … what neighborhood? It’s just ‘East Side Stories.’ East Side of what? I had such a hard time finding just the basic facts—you try to Google something on East Side Stories and there’s not even like the year they came out with the albums. So I started asking people in the record community. Like you for example—older heads that I felt would maybe have answers, or at least point me in the right direction. I was like, ‘This is crazy! You can’t even find the basic facts!’ Who was the first person you actually talked to? From the photos of the twelve LPs? The first person that I came across was actually a brother of the person. His name is Carlos Estrada. He had passed away. His niece put a comment, ‘That’s my tío Carlos, call my tío Eddie and he can tell you about him.’ He told me some really heartwarming stories about his brother, and he also had a battle with MS. Then his brother passed away and I immediately realized that there’s a lot to this, and this might be emotional stuff I’m asking people. These aren’t going to be all happy ending stories. But that’s also—just hearing from his brother, he describes his brother as the definition of cholo: every day his brother would get creased up like it was the last day he was alive. Clean-pressed everything. Crisp, shined shoes. He had said his brother always loved oldies, so he would go to the swap meet looking for oldies. That’s where his family worked. One of the guys that sold records told him that they’re putting a compilation together asked if he wanted to be on the cover. He said of course. He told his family and his family didn’t believe him, and he went to the photo shoot and his family still didn’t believe him. Then when the record came out, they were like ‘Oh!’ At the same time, that’s something maybe you would expect from looking at the guy on the cover: OK, he loves oldies, but then … you know, you don’t think this guy later had MS. This is not something you’d automatically assume. It’s the

little details—these aren’t just the stereotypical stories. Everyone has their own variation of this kind of Chicano experience. How many of the people were you ever able to talk to? The ones that are still alive? Six. Were you able to find the young kid in Volume 2? How old is he now? I think late thirties, early forties. He looks young. His dad is on Volume 4. They run an upholstery shop down in Montebello. Upholstery or muffler shop? Because he’s in front of a muffler shop. His brother owned a muffler shop next door. And the upholstery shop on Volume 6 is his shop. With the girls in the truck. That’s his shop in Montebello but he’s on Volume 4. What was the reaction when you called? I know from personally doing interviews … when you’re talking about something so far in their past, they’re almost in shock. They were shocked for sure. But they also were like, ‘Yeah, who did put the albums together?’ They didn’t know. They never knew much about the other album covers. They didn’t know who was behind it all. A lot of them always wondered who put it together, and they were encouraging as well. ‘Yeah, find out—I want to know! I never knew this whole time!’ Most of them I think definitely looked on it with some pride. They’re proud to be on the cover. It’s a special thing to them. You know around that period … this was probably a little take on the guys that put this original series together. It was probably taking a little something from Q-Vo and Lowrider magazine. And realizing that this lowrider community—they’re not shy. They want to be in things. When Lowrider came out, they’d go around to your neighborhood and take pictures of all the cars. It was a big thing. And the magazines themselves, people get them, they take them home, they stack them up after they read them. But this … if you bought the eight track tapes, you’re carrying their picture everywhere. I think even up unto this day in the bootleg CD community, you see pictures of their friends and people they know on the cover. I think that doing that was a really big nod to the community, even though the creator wasn’t Chicano. But to me, I appreciate … even though it was primarily a business venture for him, he still let the people represent for themselves on the cover. You look at the albums and you know who it’s for. No question about it. I think that’s so significant. FILM


People at the time are putting themselves out to really represent, ‘This is our culture, this is what we’re about.’ I think those albums— that’s why they stick out from the rest of the Art Laboe or Huggie Boy compilations. They have those covers. Actually in my life, that’s the three kind of iconic series: Art Laboe’s Oldies But Goodies, the original ones. And then Huggie Boy’s—he had a four-LP series. And then it jumps all the way to Lost Soul. Lost Soul takes you to a completely different place: the rare and the unknown. These other ones, you’re basically buying things that were minor hits—they’re known in the community. And then Lost Soul brings you things no one had ever heard of. And that’s the beauty about it. So I know you were having a little trouble finding the actual producer. When you found him, what was his reaction? I imagine that the original series kind of skirted the law a bit, and that’s why the songs have changed throughout the years. The first interview I did with him was on Dublab with Mike Noriega. He invited me to go up there and co-host with him. He seemed a little nervous but I think that Mike had warmed him up a bit and so he seemed kind of excited to talk about it. It’s been so far removed from where he is now in his life that he was kind of surprised: ‘Wow, people still care about this?’ His daughter, a couple years ago, showed him pictures of these albums he created. And he had no idea that it had maintained popularity. So there’s that initial shock—but he shared and expressed that he is proud as well. He had mentioned that these aren’t compilations that he just thought of on the fly—he did take a lot of time in curating them and picking out the songs. It was a lot of care involved in how he marketed them. To see that they have had this longevity, he’s proud that all the energy put into doing them was worth it—that this community still appreciates them. And he’s excited for me, and he’s been nothing but supportive of what I’m doing. So the original East Side Story LPs, they came out … I read in 1987 but that’s not true. Mr. B the curator says—I forget if he said 78 or 79. When I put them on the market in like ’78, I remember when they came out and I was so into the 45s that I never bought one of these LPs cause I was like ‘I have the 45s.’ I remember them being out and at that time … I don’t even think La Mirada swap meet was up and going the way it is now. So it was more like post the Rosemead Swap Meet? He said Starlite. So at some point, he’s disconnected from the series? He sold it? He still owns it but I think Norwalk Records is leasing it from him. I have to get clarification on the correct legal term. He didn’t completely sell it to them, but they do have the right to be using it under the name and under the same cover. But he even said he’s not too happy about the changes they made musically. Especially like I said—he did take a lot of time in thinking about which songs came on the album. So 58

you put all this time into it just to have the name be used and then have someone else just change all the songs. But they do have permission. The original series was a pretty good mix. But then in 84, they made it almost like a series of pop songs—they dropped them in between. It’s like they took the doowop stuff out and replaced it with radio play stuff. Maybe took a page out of Art Laboe’s thinking, maybe to get a wider audience? But to me it took like the flavor out of the compilation. What’s interesting about the compilation … he had been selling records at the swap meet for awhile, and he realized certain songs were popular amongst a certain community. Go figure. He kept track of what the most popular songs were and he took these songs that were the most requested and he put them on the compilation. So it’s interesting to me that actually, it’s the people—the community directly, that put these compilations— —they’re really involved without knowing. Exactly! Without knowing. They went and asked for it. What trips me out wondering is what the compilation would have been in a swap meet in like East Bay in Oakland, or in San Jo, or even down here in San Diego. Because everyone has their own flavor of oldies. I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s crazy that these are directly requested from the immediate community.’ These are the people that informed these compilation. So there have been other creative takes on it. Number one is the one that I was involved with a few years back with Art Don’t Sleep. They did a concert called East Side Story in L.A. and they took songs from that series and had a full orchestra, and Mayer Hawthorne sang. Different modern day singers took one or two songs from the series and sang it at this concert and it was really cool. The crowd was all white, and some Mexican college kids and they were just amazed with it. Did you go to that? I heard about it but didn’t go to it. It was a weird crowd? Yeah—they were just loving it! It was so well done with a live orchestra—to hear these songs performed in that way, it was really cool. Do you see anything like that come out of your project? I always had this idea—you talk to the East Side Sound guys, most of them are up in years and they’re not really performing too much. I always thought it would be so cool to get a bunch of young musicians—I’m talking in their early 20s or younger, the ages that the artists originally were when they came out—to redo them. Because then it just opens up a whole new audience. I thought of doing something like that, and even having people record it. That’s a big thing that I’m concerned about for the documentary is getting the rights to the music. That’s a big expense but there’s no way I can have a documentary about East Side Story and not have any of the songs! So having and thinking of creative ways to incorporate the music still … that’s been tossed around. Getting young groups to cover the songs in a tasteful way but also it kind of bridges the generations … it gets everyone excited. So I definitely thought about doing that. A few

months ago I did an art show where I had everyone do art related to or inspired by the East Side Story compilations, whether it was a song on there that inspired them or the album cover itself. People loved it. And it was the first art show I’ve ever thrown, and I was pretty happy—getting these kind of events where people come together, appreciate art and music as a community. What is your degree in?
 American Studies. It’s funny because even though this is not my career—this is more of a passion project—it’s pretty much exactly what I went to school for. My whole college career, you take some kind of cultural artifact, and you dissect it. You turn it on its head and look at it from different angles—what are the stories behind these objects? What has this project done to your life? It’s made it even crazier! It’s made me a stronger person—I would say that for sure. I remember one time I was nervous to call somebody, and I think I texted you about it. You were like, ‘Do you want to be a historian or not? You gotta call them! You gotta be brave—just call them. What’s the worst thing that can happen? They’re going to hang up on you? They can’t hurt you!’ If you want it, you just gotta go all in. You’re almost like juggling—because at the same time you’re trying to create, you also have to promote, and put all these pieces in place. Sometimes it’s like, ‘All I wanna do is sit down and put it together,’ but you can’t because you’re kind of out there and you have to stay out there, moving in these circles. I guess at some point you have to kind of get back into your bubble to be able to put this thing together. Sometimes different aspects of this take priority. Initially, I was just trying to find out information. And early on, friends had thrown out to me, ‘You should film this.’ I was like ‘I can’t even find the creator! How am I gonna film this?’ Once I started getting more of the puzzle pieces, it gave me more confidence in telling the story. I was like, man—and I expressed this to you before— what do you do when you got all these holes in your story? Like I can’t do this because there’s too many holes? I was thinking that a lot initially because it was so difficult to find some of the people. But now that I’ve made a lot of connections—I still haven’t found everybody, the search continues—but now that initial push has been finished, that’s what gave me the confidence to take it to the next level. Because of that, different things took priority. Such as finances. You want everything bigger—well, you gotta have money. And you either gotta have backers, a grant, or do something like I did—a KickStarter. So now with the Kickstarter money, I can at least film a little bit, so I can get some hopefully support from some kind of institutions. Grants. A lot of times when you apply for grants, they want to see that you filmed already. They don’t want to hear your idea. So now that the KickStarter is done, my priority is putting a team together and developing the story some more and getting back into the research, get back into more of the field work. I wish I had a bunch of people doing it all—but at least I’m learning how to do everything.

Are you going to be able to get any of the artists that were on it? I would imagine that most of the artists don’t even know that they were put on these albums. I haven’t thought about reaching out to a lot of the artists. I’m not sure—their reaction to this would be more negative, I’m assuming, because they didn’t get any money. Although the record company gave them the license to use them on the producer of this series. So it’s more on their own record company. I would think that there’s some groups … I’m assuming groups that are removed from the West Coast probably have never seen the album. These albums probably did circulate. I think someone told me once that they found some on the East Coast. But I’m just wondering how many of these artists from different areas even know about them. The amount of money for the original twelve albums—it’s over a thousand dollars for the set. And people are complaining to me that I’m jacking up the prices by doing this—like probably increasing their value. That’s the same reaction I got when I did the book Chicano Soul: ‘What are you doing?’ from the guys actually digging for this stuff, and all of a sudden I had this book, and you know what this is going to do to the prices of the things they’re looking for. But that’s just the market. And with certain things, I just feel like that’s just how it’s going to go, because records, as the years go on, they’re becoming more and more rare. To find them in good condition—they’re things that people loved, and got played to death. Especially East Side Stories—finding them in good condition is becoming harder and harder. If people want it, it’s like supply and demand. I hate the way that works sometimes. Just seeing the cost of records—like 45s—I haven’t even been collecting for decades since I’m not that old, but in the span of my soul collecting career I’ve seen the prices change lot. I remember I used see that record and it was like $20, $30, and now it’s $100? How did that happen? It’s kind of upsetting to me because it becomes this elitist thing, in a monetary way. And if it’s about the music, why should it be about your pocket book? I want younger people to be turned on to collecting records. But if they think that all the records are expensive and rare, that’s not very welcoming. We have collectors that are thirteen years old or fourteen years old—they don’t get enough allowance for that! But there’s still new songs that I’m turned onto by friends that are cheap, and I think we have to remember—hey, there’s a lot of good records out there that aren’t expensive, so don’t get caught up in trying to find the most expensive record! There are great expensive records, don’t get me wrong, but there’s still a lot of music that’s cheap. Good music is good music, regardless of price. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE EAST SIDE STORY PROJECT, VISIT EASTSIDESTORYPROJECT.COM OR @EASTSIDESTORYPROJECT ON INSTAGRAM. FILM


DAVE VAN PATTEN

OHARA HALE

COMICS

Curated by Tom Child

COMICS

59 JOHN TOTTENHAM

BRIAN BROOKS

SPENCER HICKS

SONIA HAYDEN

LILA ASH @SECRET_HOTGIRL


RIOT O N SUNSET ST RIP: Rock AND Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood Interview by Chris Ziegler Illustration by Felipe Flores Fifty years ago last month, the music scene on the Sunset Strip—home to the Byrds, Love, the Doors, Buffalo Springfield and an endless number of freaked-out L.A. garage bands—was snuffed out when L.A. police and L.A. politicians cranked up their curfew enforcement and sparked what the Standells sang about as the ‘riot on Sunset Strip.’ What happened then, according to author Domenic Priore’s impressively researched history Riot On Sunset Strip: county supervisor Eugene Debs made a push to tank property values and force through a freeway and financial district, but he pushed too hard, and a thousand-person sit-in outside the beloved all-ages venue Pandora’s Box turned from a demonstration to a disturbance. This was the beginning of the end for the classic 60s Sunset Strip scene, as independent clubs closed and musicians (and maybe more importantly promoters) left for an enthusiastically welcoming San Francisco, cutting L.A.’s true psychedelic potential short. According to Priore, East L.A. was already a mini-Liverpool, and until the end of 1967, this was the hippest and most happening city on the planet—but then it was cut short. This book makes the case that if the city of L.A. hadn’t cracked down on the Sunset Strip scene, the psychedelic mainstreaming that happened in San Francisco would have happened here—and probably been more powerful. When and why did you decide that’s what really happened? Domenic Priore: I’d been thinking along those lines because some of that was really evident. There were pictures in a book Ellen Sander did in the early 70s called Trips, and I think David Crosby was originally a partial writer who isn’t credited, or a lot of his original ideas but then she made her own book. But if you look at these Jim Marshall pictures of people dancing to the Byrds at Ciro’s in 1965 … what the girls are wearing is clearly proto-hippie. I think I made a real clean specific draw on how the Byrds did ‘Eight Miles High’—recorded it at RCA Music Center of the World in December of 1965, the first version, and it came out as a single in early 1966. And you really can’t point to any like psychedelic 45s before that. You just can’t. And then the Beatles … the Beatles first got dosed with acid in England by George’s dentist, and they said, ‘Ah, man, we didn’t like the way he did that but we liked the stuff—so we’ll wait til we get out to California and take it with our friends the Byrds.’ Which happened in August of 1965. The Grateful Dead, according to Gene Sculatti who was one of my sources—he did the first article ever on the San Francisco music scene in 1966— he says to me that Grateful Dead guys hadn’t even taken LSD until December of 65. So the Byrds are already recording ‘Eight Miles High’ in that manner when the Grateful Dead are still fuddling around and trying to transfer from folk. This precedes all that. The Grateful Dead come here in 1966 and start throwing all these acid tests—they actually move to Los Angeles. So when you say Los Angeles had the ability to become the first place for a psychedelic movement, in truth, it did—but history is told by the winners. So when Jan Wenner starts Rolling Stone and Monterey Pop and all that … it’s like how [San Francisco critic] Ralph Gleeson would sit there and write really bad things about the Fugs from New York and the Mothers from L.A. and really bad things about the Velvet Underground … BOOKS

but you know damn well that if those bands had been in San Francisco, he’d have been celebrating them like they were the greatest thing on Earth! San Francisco and Wenner especially didn’t really have the journalistic responsibility in terms of music history as they have presented themselves with. That was the frustrating thing when I was doing the book—I was living in San Francisco and the younger people in the 90s when I was writing the first draft, they understood that! But the older people were extremely condescending. They just didn’t wanna hear it. I was originally at Chronicle in San Francisco and I got pushed to the gills on some of these things. The day when the Beatles and the Byrds took acid—I told that story and it’s kind of a commonly known story, but they asked me, ‘Well, what day was it? What time was it?’ And I actually found out—within an hour—the time and day that they did it cuz guess what? That kind of Beatles research is out there! They must’ve dropped the acid sometime between 11 AM and 12:30 PM. Acid brunch? Acid brunch—and you can find out the day in any Beatle history. It happened to be the same day the Beatles were brought to a Hollywood party with the at-the-time old Hollywood guys. Jack Benny, Edward G. Robinson, Groucho Marx—the idea of this party was Hollywood was going to accept the Beatles. Jack Benny is on this ABC newsreel like, ‘Well, you know, they did very good business at the Mets’ ballpark, and they’ve made two good movies and they have so many fans and so many people love them, and they have some very good songs … so I guess they’re OK.’ Why do people hate L.A.? Even people in L.A. will sometimes hate L.A. In California history—1849—San Francisco becomes the grande dame of the west coast and in 1906 they have that earthquake. So right at the time San Francisco has its earthquake is also the time when Los Angeles is starting to develop in a large manner. I’d trace it all the way back to the fact that while San Francisco is rebuilding, L.A. became the emergent city on the west coast. That caused resentment from the get-go. It goes back generations.

How did you decide the ‘66 Sunset Strip was something important in the first place? The thing that fascinated me first was how could so many good groups come from such a short time span in place? That’s unprecedented. If you look at 52nd St. in New York, that’s a 1938-1952 phenom. New Orleans, forget it— that’s twenty-something years of development of jazz. London and Liverpool are also major things in that same decade. You gotta admit, a lot of really great stuff came out of London at once! But a place like London could never be as diverse as Los Angeles. You don’t really have a lot of black population in England like you do here in America. And then of course in L.A., we had our own little Liverpool right in East Los Angeles. They had all these little tiny clubs everywhere. The big union hall, the little union hall, the Montebello Ballroom, the Paramount Ballroom—so many of ‘em! The kids would drive from place to place and do like three gigs a night, with their parents often driving ‘em around! We had more diversity here. And not just diversity as far as ethnicity—just the different kinds of even Anglo groups. The Mothers are so different than the Byrds. And there’s the Doors on another level. And then all these garage punk bands that fuel the Nuggets box set. There’s a much rider range even just in the Anglo music of Los Angeles because so many different people come from maybe the beach or come from the San Fernando Valley or the city. You get different flavors. Even Orange County was a wonderful place during the 60s! Just the fact that guys from Tim Buckley and Jackson Browne really broke out of Orange County. It wasn’t just garage bands. It was these major folk guys! You say cross-pollination, cooperation and community are the things that made the L.A. scene great. Why? And how? I interviewed John Sebastian about that very thing. He was in New York City and he came out here and was so integrated into the L.A. scene that by the time Crosby Stills and Nash got together, they did their first big rehearsals at his house. He was extremely involved with New York—where he’s from—and the way he put it was that New York musicians were a little more competitive, a little more in their

own corner. The Young Rascals over here, Velvet Underground over there, the Spoonful here … maybe just cuz of old-fashioned competitiveness that comes from previous generations? Out here, things like … grass being the main thing and just the whole idea of sitting and passing a joint to one another, that was also key to the music. A defining metaphor. That’s the same spirit the music was done. You look at an album like Love’s Forever Changes and you hear Tijuana Brass-type horns and arrangements. It seems incongruent mentally, but not when you’re listening to the music— then it sounds perfect. And the reason why is because these guys didn’t have that sense of competition. One other analogy you can make is with sports. If you’re on the East Coast, you don’t have surfing. Jersey shore surfing? There is some—but it’s a minority thing. Here, surfing was much more a part of the largesse. Surfing was such a thing here, and the people who were involved were more a bohemian style. The guys who were surfers in their teenage years when they also were involved with crossing with sort of bands— some people played music, went surfing, but even just a little later I remember all the guys on my varsity football team when I was a freshman—older 60s guys—they were basically surfers who were also good at other sports. They were smoking pot—it wasn’t that jock mentality here so much, as far as the guys go. That led to a lot more good feelings between people. One theme of this book is integration— racial, cultural, different forms of art all mixing together. It was really the county supervisor Ernest Debs who was most vociferous in his efforts. He was a major county official—similar personality to Robert Moses in New York where his idea in the 1950s was, ‘Oh, the glamour nightclubs of the Sunset Strip— the Mocambo, Ciro’s—those places are all closing. And jazz artists with black skin are playing at them. Therefore, like houses … if a Black person moves into your neighborhood, then the property value goes down.’ So the property value goes down on the Sunset Strip 61


of the 40s, according to Ernest Debs, and he sees this as an opportunity to develop bank buildings— His plan was to allow Black musicians and people to participate and exist in this area, which he felt would depress property values … which would pave the way for him to push through this financial district and freeway plan? Absolutely. That’s exactly what happened. But he couldn’t have expected the Beatles to come out and teenagers grabbing guitars more than ever and filling these nightclubs full of Dylan-influenced Beatle-esque bands. That was unprecedented in 1965 and that was what was happening. At first, clubs were given license to open and the basic running of the city allowed for it. But as we saw crowds come up there, it didn’t look like this would ever go away—there was more action on the Sunset Strip in the 60s then there’d ever been. So this plan backfires. You gotta consider 1957 to 1963 … that’s more of the jazz and folk era before rock. The Whisky-A-Go-Go opens in January of 1964, the same time the Beatles are breaking. The timing is impeccable. What follows by 1965 is the Byrds. Which is the first Dylan-fueled pop music. And that’s happening at Ciro’s during its very last months of existence, and then it became It’s Boss—a pop-art themed club. It’s not often mentioned that the Trip especially was a place where the Temptations were playing. And the local rhythm and blues artists like Billy Preston would open, or the Rising Songs with Taj Majal and Ry Cooder. The R&B artists I talk about in the earlier chapters were also playing up on the Strip opening for the more national R&B artists coming and playing. What has to happen to make a moment like the Sunset Strip in 66? Somebody truly inspired comes along— someone or some thing truly unique and inspired. Then there’s maybe another person who catches on to that. Then they’re also doing their own thing, but grafting on to the energy of it. All of a sudden everyone’s going down to see the inspired person. They can’t play every night, so they go see the other person. You could say this about Elephant 6 or any of those things—sometimes it just starts with one really important person. Then more people come. And when those people are also creative … it’s domino theory. The Whisky-A-Go-Go overrates itself because it was ultimately the Byrds at Ciro’s who started this whole thing. The Byrds and Bob Dylan joining them for the first gig at Ciro’s—that was a real set-up. Miles Davis helped the Byrds get signed to Columbia cuz of some backroom stuff. Miles went to Columbia and said, ‘You should turn on to this group.’ This whole thing with Dylan breaking at Newport … that came well after he’d worked with the Byrds here in L.A. and then when he joined the Byrds for the encore at Ciro’s opening night—they played ‘Spanish Harlem Incident’ and ‘All I Really Wanna Do.’ The Whisky had good energy in 64, but it took the Byrds and Dylan at Ciro’s to echo throughout both coasts’ underground. I put a picture of them playing together on the back cover of the book—that photograph of Dylan with the Byrds at Ciro’s resonated all over the country. 62

That’s when people started saying L.A.’s the place. Greenwich Village was kinda spent by then. Then before you know it, the Doors doing their first demos at the same studio the Byrds had recorded at—World Pacific—and the Byrds are singing on one of the tracks before anyone really knows who the Byrds and the Doors are, and the Doors start getting gigs, Frank Zappa starts getting booked … The riots themselves reminded me of Occupy. People showed up just to be there, and then the police overreacted. The book even says it started just as a ‘funeral for a bar,’ but was converted to a political protest because of the way the city handled it. Yeah—it was a sit-in. But Stephen Stills said that, and I think Stephen missed the mark a little bit. Yeah, it was a funeral for a bar, except I don’t even think they served booze! It was an all-ages club. But it was in a sense about preservation, basically. They were trying to save Pandora’s Box and the clubs in general, but they were also protesting police brutality over the previous months. It wasn’t just saving the night club. They were getting harassed cuz they had Beatle-length hair. Which was absurd. Johnny Legend told me he was riding shotgun in a car with his mom with his hair down to his shoulders—pretty long for 66— and a cop pulls him over and says, ‘MALE OR FEMALE PASSENGER!?’ Why did the city of L.A. react so badly to live music? This music is developing, but they kept it illegal or barely legal for so long. In the book, live rock ‘n’ roll shows have to start outside of the city—in El Monte, Long Beach and more. It’s mentioned in the book that all the dancehalls in the old days were out by the beach—Venice was its own city then, Santa Monica was its own city. They had their own piers, their own ballrooms and that’s where people went to dance. The real hoochiecoochie was there. They had all these laws basically about exploiting kids. It’s hard to understand but I think people were super protective of their children in those days, and a teenager didn’t have any sense of being something other than a child in those days. But kids liked to dance. So there was this repression that goes all the way back to that period in the city of Los Angeles proper. That’s not to say that good music didn’t happen in the city, but most of the best music in the happened in the Black neighborhood. The white authorities looked the other way when it came to the Black neighborhood. Kids in here are asking why they’re old enough to be drafted but they can’t go see bands play and dance. Yeah—when you look at the city’s records about them trying to close clubs … the parents of those kids in the 60s were saying, ‘Our kids don’t have places to go!’ The city would come back like, ‘But here’s the high school chess club! We have thirty dances a year at local high schools.’ Thirty dances a year at a local high school … the Doors aren’t necessarily gonna be playing there. The Byrds. The kids went to the Strip cuz they were getting live music action that wasn’t available that much in their neighborhoods. Good bands I’m sure played those dances—actually quite a few of the Doors and those bands did play some high school dances!—but a bill at

the Trip had the Byrds as headliners and the Butterfield Blues Band would open for them … for a month. So if you wanna go dancing, you have a whole month to catch that. Maybe you go more than once to dance to the Byrds and the Butterfield. That high level creative band was not something that the city fathers even acknowledged—there being a difference between a pick-up band at a high school and bands that were signed creating Bob Dylan type music. One of the root causes here seems to be the city condescending to the kids: ‘They can’t have any sense of taste, this isn’t important, they’re just kids throwing fits.’ That is true. And that is why the Monterey Pop Festival set itself up for a more mature presentation. I also see a tremendous difference with music post-Monterey, where everyone starts taking themselves too seriously cuz of that ethos. You suggest that these bands themselves embodied a kind of political protest just by existing—why? The kids were being treated in a condescending manner by the adults. All the way back to the 1950s. Let’s get straight about one thing that most people don’t recognize about rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s: a lot of younger people might think and even people who grew up in the 60s may think that in the 1950s, music was inconsequential. I interviewed Little Richard about this, and he said, ‘Look—most of the places we played, there was a rope in the middle of the arena. The rope kept the white kids on the one side and the black kids on the other.’ And every arena he went to, if it was allowable in that place—depending on the police protection and how crazy and conservative it was—there would be a situation where the kids would jump over that rope. From the get-go! Young teenage girls having their music heroes be young Black guys already is extremely scary to the racist culture of the parents in that period. So they already have this crazy discourse between themselves and their parents concerning the music they like being associated with ‘the Negro,’ so to speak. It was a radical thing for kids to jump those ropes and get through and dance with people of the opposite race. I talked to musicians—I worked for this African-American history teacher and in the 50s, he was a musician. He backed a lot of people. He was telling me at the Million Dollar Theatre one time, Buddy Holly and the Crickets were playing there and after the show, they were are all looking at each other and picking up their instruments like, ‘OK, you do this … we do this … what do we do together?’ And that’s downtown L.A.—Buddy Holly and the Crickets jamming with this R&B group that my friend was in. That in itself is a great act of radicalism in an early phase of rock ‘n’ roll that is overlooked by most of the hippie era people and it’s overlooked by most people afterward—cuz again we have Jan Wenner and Rolling Stone books writing history in the image of San Francisco, and not in the reality of how it really happened. The most important part about music in L.A. in the middle 60s before Monterey Pop: it is the place where social consciousness becomes embedded into the popular song. And then we start seeing a larger popular culture imprint when that then

becomes part of the New Hollywood cinema thing—or even the older guys involved with the Ferus Gallery art scene on La Cienega, and coming to do all these protests against the Vietnam War, first on La Cienega and at the L.A. County Museum of Art and then finally creating the Artist’s Tower of Protest between March and May of 1966. This is really one of the first large efforts against the Vietnam War—that’s pretty early for that, you know. I think a group called the Answers had a song called ‘Cry For Freedom’ in 1965 that actually addresses the Vietnam war, and it’s a garage punk song—this is the beginnings of that. And there are very definitive moments that are totally overlooked in pop and rock music histories that came out of Wenner Media. There’s a parallel with the Sunset Strip in 66 and L.A. punk in 77—people want something new, original, from their own generation. And the city hates it. It repeated itself on a smaller scale. I was part of that 70s thing. The first punk rock bands in L.A. were the Berlin Brats and the Quick, and then in 77 all of a sudden there was a slew of ‘em that just came out. X, the Eyes, the Germs would be in there. What I saw with my own two eyes is a situation where there was an established order in the music business, and punk and new wave really upset that cart so much that in San Francisco, Bill Graham had so much power that he was the Ernest Debs of the 70s—he told the police ‘go down to the Mabuhay Gardens and bust those punk rockers!’ The same thing happened in Los Angeles. I remember the first time the played the Ramones on KLOS at 3 in the afternoon when the Sire album came out in 1976—they got tons of phone calls from people saying, ‘Don’t ever play that again.’ So this is the story of an establishment reacting against new music in 66, and you personally saw that happen again in 77— who do you think ultimately wins these battles? Debs’ developments were never built, and people all over the world know this music. But the scene was cut short. The important thing to recognize is eras come and go. I often blame Wenner Media for everything! I was actually considered for a job with Wenner after I wrote the book—they offered me a job editing that Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock N Roll. I know a little bit about what they’re looking for. If you read the history, they treat every single band as a continuum—not recognizing there is a beginning, a peak and an end. There’s this hallucination of the continuum—a continuum from the past. No. There’s a beginning, a peak and an end to all these creative eras. You’ve probably seen a few come and go yourself. There’s been a lot of different good old days! A lot of times people, things and creative movements pass by the wayside, and it’s really important to acknowledge that and not falsely think this is one big huge continuum. Then everything is this bland metronome … there’s this thing, ‘it’s all good’? No, it’s not ‘all good’! You have to recognize that sure, people make a living with music, but some things rise above others. That’s not a bad thing! DOMENIC PRIORE’S RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM JAWBONE. BOOKS


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L.A. RECORD 126 - WINTER 2016/2017  

RHYS LANGSTON - FATAL JAMZ - PERE UBU - PYLON - HOPE SANDOVAL and the WARM INVENTIONS - KOOL KEITH - WEYES BLOOD - TERRY MALTS - THE SUMMER...

L.A. RECORD 126 - WINTER 2016/2017  

RHYS LANGSTON - FATAL JAMZ - PERE UBU - PYLON - HOPE SANDOVAL and the WARM INVENTIONS - KOOL KEITH - WEYES BLOOD - TERRY MALTS - THE SUMMER...

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