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L.A. RECORD SASAMI KATZÙ OSO THE EXPLODING HEARTS MICHAEL ROTHER TEENAGE FANCLUB AARON MARCO YOUNG FATHERS HARRIET BROWN AND MORE

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SPRING 2019 ISSUE 134 • FREE


6 BOYO Bennett Kogon

28 TASHI WADA JOE RIHN

10 MAXO TOLLIVER

30 AARON MARCO TOLLIVER

14 TEENAGE FANCLUB DONNA KERN

34 MICHAEL ROTHER CHRISTINA GUBALA

18 FLAUNT EDWARDS sweeney kovar

40 YOUNG FATHERS TOLLIVER

22 NANNA.B Daiana Feuer

42 SASAMI BENNETT KOGON

24 KATZÙ OSO SYDNEY SWEENEY

44 HARRIET BROWN DAIANA FEUER

PHOTO: AARON MARCO by ALEX THE BROWN


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EDITOR — Chris Ziegler chris@larecord.com PUBLISHER — Kristina Benson kristina@larecord.com EXECUTIVE EDITOR — Daiana Feuer daiana@larecord.com COMICS EDITOR — Tom Child tom@larecord.com FILM EDITOR — Rin Kelly rin@larecord.com DESIGNER — Sarah Bennett sarah@larecord.com ONLINE PHOTO EDITOR — Debi Del Grande debi@larecord.com WRITER AT LARGE — Ron Garmon ron@larecord.com ACCOUNTS AND ADVERTISING Kristina Benson — kristina@larecord.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Zach Bilson, Tom Child,Miles Clements, Julia Gibson, Christina Gubala, Zachary Jensen, Donna Kern, Bennett Kogon, Eyad Karkoutly, sweeney kovar, Nathan Martel, Joe Rihn, Ben Salmon, Kegan Pierce Simons, Sydney Sweeney, Tolliver and Simon Weedn CONTRIBUTING DESIGNERS Kristina Benson, Jun Ohnuki CONTACT fortherecord@larecord.com SASAMI COVER Gari Askew

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BOYO Interview by BENNETT KOGON PHOTOGRAPHY by DEBI DEL GRANDE

BOYO is West L.A.’s own Robert Tilden, formerly the mastermind of local garage band Bobby T & the Slackers. Tilden’s latest efforts reveal a newly polished approach to songwriting, elevating what might just have been a particularly thoughtful bedroom project with elements of emerging DIY ‘indie’ rock and moments of psychedelia and melodic pop grooves. 2018 for BOYO saw the release of two entirely unique full-length records and a music video starring Jason Alexander. I caught up with Robert Tilden to talk songwriting, screenwriting, and that time he performed at an old folks’ home. Taking it back to your humble beginnings with your high school band Bobby T and the Slackers—what kind of transformation do you think needed to occur for you to become BOYO? For me, it was the transition from teen to adult. Which meant being a little more discerning about what I consumed in terms of art and music, but also what I made. That was kind of the turning point for me. I can still sit in a basement and make songs, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be rudimentary. I went to art school and everybody there was into music theory and making these weird ornate classical pieces. I wanted to go back to my roots, but I didn’t want to make dumbass garage rock again. I wanted to add a little spice to it. But it still comes from the same place, I guess. Making garage rock at that time was definitely a ‘cool’ thing to do, but I kind of picked up on some anti-conformist vibes on your more recent releases. Does it feel that way for you? It’s weird because I get put in boxes with certain songs. I’ll put something out and people will say, ‘Oh, this is bedroom pop.’ And I don’t really know what that means.

Once I check out the other bands though, then it makes sense. But then tomorrow, I’ll roll out of bed and want to make something that’s like acoustic and sad. The road map that I try to loosely follow is more like that of a Beck or Ween—less confined by genre and being this one thing. Then I’d be really bored making the same exact sound over and over. I remember there were some inner conflicts that affected your songwriting style. When I was making my record from last year Me, Again, I was also playing with the bands Surf Curse and Current Joys— but also BOYO. I was touring a lot and kept having these weird medical spells. I’d have these weird pauses where I’d just like freeze in a conversation, and then it kind of accumulated into seizures. The [doctor’s] hypothesis was that I had sleep deprivation and anxiety. But it’s like … how do you manage that when you’re a touring musician? What am I supposed to do? Quit this all? Finally, after all that, I was given the diagnosis of epilepsy. I was so relieved to just know what the hell was going on. When I look back at the music that I made at that time, it’s just way darker. But now I can make like a disco song. 7


You put out two full-length records last year—is that something you planned? If I didn’t have people from my label being like, ‘Yo, you should really chill out,’ then I’d put out like ten records in a year. R. Stevie Moore style. I record incessantly, so I have like thirty leftover songs from last year. They’re probably not all great, so it’s nice that someone told me to maybe slow down. I probably need to hear that. Even though you’re playing the same set to different groups of people every night on tour, to me it’s playing the same songs and hitting the same marks every time. I want there to be different vibe every time. I was blown away by your music video for ‘Attics.’ I can’t remember the last time I actually enjoyed watching a music video. And it starred … George Constanza?!? Growing up in L.A., I’ve been exposed to a lot of otherworldly crazy people. I know that it’s due to, you know, fucking nepotism and a bunch of other shit. 99 percent of kids in the world wouldn’t be exposed to this, and I’m just lucky in that sense. My dad is a comedy writer and I grew up knowing Jason [Alexander]. He really liked my music and thought the new stuff was cool, and was just like, ‘If you ever need help directing a video or just want help proofing, or whatever ...’ He’s a good dude and thought the music was strong. I told him that if I came up with a cool video concept, he should be in it. So I sat with my friends Nathan and Pat, who are very witty, smart dudes and we came up with a fake boy band and got my friends to be in it. And I pitched it to Jason and he was like, ‘Yeah dude, I’m so down.’ He just came for like a day and we did the shoot. He really got into character and was like, ‘What if we block it like this, or shoot it like this.’ It was kind of cool to sort of let him take the lead on things. Then I had to go play a show and he stayed and shot the rest of the footage we needed. Afterwards he messaged me and was like ‘That was a blast. Let’s do more shit.’ I was hyped. He’s a good dude. He seemed into it. It didn’t feel like he was this random actor that you paid off. I was hesitant at first. I didn’t want people to think I was this fucking asshole calling in favors. I’ve seen some comments where they’re like, ‘How the hell is this possible?’ I just think it’s more funny than anything. The only way I justified doing it is if I actually thought the idea was good. I understand you’re a big movie guy, so this must have come naturally. When I was in high school and middle school, I liked writing scripts. I kind of fell off as I got older because it’s very time consuming. Recently, I’ve been trying to get back into it. It’s fun—it’s a different part of your brain. It’s more narrative and takes a different discipline. You can’t just write a bass part and not plan anything. You really have to plan shit out. I’ve been revisiting a lot of the stuff that inspired me, like Scorsese’s early stuff. I always skip over King of Comedy, because that’s the one everyone skips over, but I’ve been sort of obsessed with that movie recently. Any movie that just like is so tense that it’s almost funny.

You have to laugh because it makes you nervous. That kind of writing. Do you see a link between filmmaking and your songwriting? When it’s time to sequence an album and I have all these little nuggets, the songs that are like little scenes. You don’t want to have an action scene and then right after, another action scene. You want to have dynamic. So when I lay out a record, it feels like writing a movie a little bit. But I don’t think I’m like a Dylan-esque narrative songwriter where I can sit down and write a twenty-verse thing about an ex-wife and it feels like you’re watching a movie. I wish I could, but I don’t have that kind of attention span. So we shouldn’t be expecting a BOYO concept album someday in the future. Nobody needs that. That would be a fucking nightmare. So long and arduous to listen to. What do you have to say to all the haters out there who don’t think the West Side is legit? I would say that they’re probably not wrong ... It’s pretty snooty and is in kind of a culture bubble. But I think there are parts of it that are pretty and interesting. Like Topanga and other little pockets. It’s definitely lost a lot of its charm, though. Everything has developed into like a super-mall Grove-type thing. But I guess the version of that on the East Side is gentrification or that sort of thing. But hey, what do I know? I remember Bobby T played at the North End Pizzeria in West L.A. back in 2014. Was that the most unconventional room you’ve ever played? When I was younger, my friend and I were doing community service work for school, and we realized that we could get hours by playing music at senior citizen homes. We went to this one home that his grandma was in and brought our guitars. I remember it was very disturbing and dark. We were like playing and there were a bunch of old people coming up to us and shouting. We had to just kind of play through it. We were playing like Crosby Stills and Nash covers and there were people with like dementia or something just yelling at us. So that was really fucking weird. By the way, is BOYO an acronym? Actually, no. I just like it stylized in all caps. It’s kind of a nonsense word and if it’s in all caps, it feels more like a nonsense word. I’m like OCD. I love when things are neat and this makes it look really clean. It bugs me when people write it in all lowercase on fliers. It changes the whole vibe of the sound. If it were an acronym though, what would it be? Bring ... Only … Your … oh shit, I don’t know? I actually haven’t thought of it. I’ll let you know if I think of anything. You’ll get the random text at like four in the morning. BOYO’S DANCE ALONE IS OUT NOW ON DANGER COLLECTIVE. VISIT BOYO AT BOYOMUSIC.BANDCAMP. COM. 9


maxo Interview by Tolliver photography by dana washington

Maxo is one of those same-time type people. There’s a duality in his art and general conversation—a bifurcation. He’s at once open and shut off, eager to share but hard to reach. This is, of course, irresistible. It doesn’t hurt that his output thus far has been a sanguine and stupendous outpouring of intimate burners, a quiet storm of rage pushed down and processed. His new single “Time” is a crash course in Maxo, a summation of the desire and distance woven throughout his catalogue. We talked about his upcoming album, food and death. Your first project After Hours is really dreamlike, super lo-fi. Lyrically it’s very straight forward—there are drug references and sex references. Do you think your life has come into sharper focus since putting it out? Maxo: Yeah—with all these I was in a completely different space. I was going through a lot just with my brother and shit, family shit. With Smile … there’s growth in every project, I’m in a different space in every project. With After Hours, I was new to this whole shit. Those were my first songs ever. My shit has grown a lot—it had to grow. It sounds like you’re just living life, basically. Bro, that’s why it’s difficult for me to talk about shit sometimes ‘cause it’s like I don’t even be knowing. You feel me? I just live my and life and I also happen to make music. That’s just how I document it. I think that’s one of the reasons people are drawn to your music. It feels very confessional—very in the moment. I can feel that you’re just there documenting what’s happening in life and not necessarily thinking about recording an album. When you’re recording are you thinking ‘This is gonna be part of a project’ or are you just recording music? I prefer to record in projects. All this shit is visual to me as well. I’ll see how it looks before even hearing how it sounds. That’s why I’m super into artwork—sometimes I’ll have the artwork before the songs. Your videos have such clear aesthetic choices. Very low-key. All of it really ties together nicely, even in a live video I saw recently. Was it just me freestyling? Yeah. Yeah—I know what you’re talking about. Even that performance ties into the mood of your music videos. How would you describe that mood? Who inspires you? 10

I’m inspired just by people I grew up around. Even with the ‘Gold Man’ video or a lot of my videos, it’s nothing that I don’t do. It’s just regular shit. I don’t know if you peeped the ‘Gold Man’ video, but that’s just the park I be at. ‘Cause we shot it on a Super 8, it felt a certain way, but I just be chilling there, smoking there with the homies and shit. The feeling to a lot of my shit is just very human. My music is very transparent. Everything on the table is just me. And that shit could fluctuate. You make music just for you. Yeah, bro. Are you recording to get demons out? The whole reason I started this music was for therapeutic reasons—to actually heal from actual trauma. My goal with this shit is just to keep it that way. I notice you talk about Black death a lot—it seems to be a theme. I feel like as a country a couple years ago we were really pushing on it, but now we’re not even talking about it anymore. Do you worry that the country isn’t focusing on it anymore? Man, I don’t even think about it like that. I just think like my mom has three Black sons and I have a sixteen-year-old brother. I remember when Trayvon Martin died we were looking at the TV and my older brother was crying because a nigga that look like us really got killed with no justice served. And then that’s just the shit that makes it to the TV, you feel me? I feel like as a Black man I have to speak on that. I’m not from the hood myself, but you don’t gotta go far to see a nigga fall victim to the system. Like cousins. That’s just regular. But I also feel like that’s not getting the attention it needs, and the fact that that shit isn’t even new, it’s just on camera … I don’t even know, man. We were getting lynched. I feel obligated to speak on that ‘cause that shit affects me. I’m nervous when the police pull me over. That’s just life.

In ‘Time’ you talk about wanting to help your friends, but at the same time you want to be left alone. How will you go about keeping that solitude as you get more and more popular? I don’t know. I really don’t know. I just know that as I get older I’m just starting to be more aware of who I give my energy to and the intentions of people. I don’t know as shit grows how imma stay tucked off just for my sanity, but I’ll make it happen. On that song, there are people that I want to help out, but there are also people that mentally aren’t even trying to get help. You feel me? But people come around on their own time. That song is really about me taking back my time, and seeing how shit really works. My uncle played in the NFL for fifteen years, and I saw how people were acting around him. Weird shit, bro. And being young and my mom telling me stories about it and shit. I just know everything up to this point has taught me what I need to know to be ready for the next stage. So I can just take that. I know you work closely with Lastnamedavid. Are you hands-on with production? I’m super hands-on with all that shit, just with everything creative. But Lastnamedavid, that’s my mans. He knows my oldest brother who use to rap. I think they were planning on getting up but I dont think they ever got up. And I met him randomly through the other homie who produced ‘After Hours.’ And then we were just like, ‘We should cook.’ I saw him at a show, at a little beat show, and I was like, ‘Bro, we should get up.’ That was before Smile, obviously. From there we made like seven songs—however many were on Smile—and we just put that out. He’s from my same area, so I’ve known him for a minute. He’s from Ladera? Naw ‘cause I don’t even stay in Ladera anymore, I stay over toward the IE, like towards West Covina, La Verne, Claremont

area. He stays in Echo Park now but I met him in Rancho. I met him when I went to college for a year—a J.C. I met him when I was up there. Not at the school but when I was going there. I wrote down five categories, hoping you’d tell me which has better this or that. Between Ladera and the I.E., which has better food? Bro, the city fa sho, just because it’s more cultures meshed. You can go on Pico and get Ethiopian food, you can get Jamaican food, there’s just more options. But out here? I’m on the cusp of the last city of L.A. County. But the closer you get to the Inland Empire … that shit the boonies, bro. It’s weird white people over there. I think I know your answer to the rest. Yeah, you feel me? The city better. Soon as I get my bread right, we back in that bitch. How do you spend your time? Are you a loner? Are you working a lot? I’ve grown to appreciate solitude a lot, but low-key lately that shit’s been unhealthy. I need people. But recently I’ve been outside a lot. I’ve been kickin with niggas I grew up with like my family, my cousins and shit. I’m on FaceTime with my shorty. Real simple. I don’t really do too much, bro. I be chillin for the most part. Just keeping it simple—tryna stay out the way. I was just talking to someone about this. She was saying, ‘We need space to learn to love ourselves, but at the same time you go crazy if you don’t have other people.’ Facts. That’s the truth. But it’s a thin line, bro. Because you could be kicking it with the wrong niggas and your shit could be completely left. I’ve been in that situation, too, where I have to regather my shit. I guess that’s what I’m going through right now. Just reclaiming my energy. MAXO’S “TIME” IS OUT NOW. VISIT MAXO AT SMILEFORMAXO.COM. INTERVIEW


TEENAGE FANCLUB Interview by DONNA KERN illustration by KELLY ABELN While other bands were busy trashing hotel rooms, hiring stylists and indulging their assorted vices, Teenage Fanclub were pouring their Scottish hearts and souls into their music. In 1991, a year of legendary competition from the likes of Nirvana’s Nevermind and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Bandwagonesque scored the top spot on Spin’s best of the year list, and their most recent album Here reached number one on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, about 25 years after Bandwagonesque earned that honor. There’s zero artifice with these guys, but they don’t take themselves too seriously either. This is sweet, melodic rock ‘n’ roll made with love by master craftsmen at the height, not the decline, of their powers. I had the pleasure of chatting with the “nicest man in rock” Norman Blake about the glories of creamy cheese, creamier mature voices, and learning Beach Boys guitar chords from Alex Chilton. Do nice guys finish last? Or do they have the last laugh? Uncut Magazine called you ‘the nicest man in rock.’ Do you have a secret wild rock star side? I doubt you’ve ever destroyed a hotel room, but… Norman Blake: (guitar/vocals) No, I’ve never done that. The reason I’ve never destroyed a hotel room—well, I wouldn’t actually. Here’s the thing: it costs money. It’s going to cost a lot of money to replace that furniture, and I am from Scotland, right? But, no—that’s like a stereotype. But the other reason I would never do that kind of thing: somebody’s going to have to clean that up, and it’s not the person who owns the hotel, you know what I mean? It’s somebody who’s getting paid really shit money. So to me it’s not very rock ‘n’ roll to leave a fellow human being your mess to clean up. To me that’s deeply uncool. That’s why I’ve never done it. And it came as such a stereotype, all of that stuff. Spinal Tap is such a well-observed film, actually. We all got a great laugh out of it, but you know what? It’s all based in truth. You see those things happen all the time when you’re on tour. Maybe not to the same extent or as extreme as portrayed in that movie, but I’ll tell you what—not far off that. Have you ever demanded anything sort of ridiculous on a rider? Maybe when you were on the Nevermind tour? I really can’t think that we have. Don’t get me wrong—we like to go and have a good time. We like to party from time to time, although the most unusual thing in our rider would be: we like to eat Haribo. Do you know the Haribo? I love Haribo, yeah! Yeah, they’re chewy, you know? They’re delicious. We always get those. Here’s the other thing—most bands don’t realize that they pay for the rider. The rider costs the band money. It comes off the settlement at the end, so before the promoter pays you, says, ‘OK, here’s the money,’ and of course the rider costs $350 and the band don’t realize that they’re paying for that. If you want all blue Smarties and M&Ms in a bowl, it means that someone has to buy like 50 boxes of them, go through them all, separate all the blue ones, chuck them in the bowl and then chuck the rest of

them away, which means you’ve had to pay for all of those M&Ms. See what I’m getting at here? It’s just going to end up costing a lot of money. Very practical of you! I don’t think we’d get anything too outrageous. I remember in the past, you used to be able to get cigarettes—not that any of us smoke anymore. But in the past when everyone smoked they would give you cigarettes on the rider. You would never get that now on a rider. Health and Safety would not be having that. You hail from Scotland, where the national animal is the unicorn… I had no idea! [laughs] …And there’s a long tradition of heartbreaking lament songs. Scottish myths and melancholy have nurtured so many legendary musicians. How does your Scottish heritage influence your music? I’m sure it does in some way because of course you grow up with some traditional music around. When I grew up I listened mostly to pop music and you know, punk rock. I liked the Clash, so that’s not particularly traditional, but of course, in the background there is always local music happening anywhere that you live. And of course you’re always to some extent going to be influenced just through osmosis, by hearing it, by being around. And traditional music generally has a reflection of local culture. With Scotland, people will sing about the weather and the hard life that they had and how tough life is and whatever— melancholy and very dark winters. Although conversely, in the summer in Scotland, it’s light until midnight and it’s very beautiful, but yeah, there is this whole other side to the Scottish tradition. That definitely seeps into your music. You can’t help it. Now, I read the Sydney Morning Herald— and they may not be experts on this—but they said, ‘Glasgow has always looked to Los Angeles rather than London.’ Do you think that’s true? Have you found more inspiration in California music? There is something in that … Maybe because it’s so cold people are looking for sunshine, you know? People like to aspire to have something that they don’t. So, for instance,

that is romantic to a Scottish person—the notion of California and like gunning down the highway in an open-top car, and the beach and of course the music of the Beach Boys, whatever, all their songs. There’s a whole sort of spectrum of music from California, but yeah, there probably is something in that that is romantic to me. I do meet people from sunnier climes and even people from California, who have a romantic notion of the Scottish highlands or Scotland because of course it’s different. We all think something that’s opposite to our own environment romantic because it’s not something that we’re used to and it has an appeal for some reason. There’s a lot of sunshine music [that] comes from this kind of dark dreary place. I mean, don’t get me wrong—Glasgow’s not always like that. It’s a very vibrant city and there’s a really great art scene. It was an industrial city up until the latter part of the last century, but now it’s a kind of thriving metropolis. A lot of people come here to shop, and there’s lots of restaurants and bars and lots of museums and art galleries. There’s lots of stuff happening. But there still is a kind of darkness and a melancholy thing that pervades the city. For the last 10 years you’ve been living in Canada, where the national animal is the less majestic beaver and a recent effort to declare a national bird ended in an uproar—it could not be chosen. How is Canada treating you and do you have any thoughts on what bird best represents your adopted country? I would say the goose, it’s the Canada Goose, isn’t it? They’re very vicious birds, actually… Right—I don’t know if it’s a good representative! Yeah, I didn’t realize that until I thought closer. It’s not a very vicious country, is it now? But no, Canada’s really nice. I like it a lot. I’m kind of immersing myself in North American culture. It’s amazing to me now that I’m—because where we live—I’m like about one hour drive from Buffalo and about an hour and a half from Detroit, so we can easily scoot down into the U.S. I do that on a fairly regular basis. Other than being a musician, I go down and travel—I like the United States

a lot. I’ve had a lot of good times there, and there’s such a lot to see, you know? So that’s exciting because of course you think living in Europe, OK, pretty easy to jet off to Spain or France and whatever—and that’s all amazing, too—but at this point in my life it’s nice to discover a new continent, and have a look around! You’re actually heading out on an epic world tour. I heard that you once played some kind of goth festival in Belgium where the crowd turned on you. What happened and why were you playing a goth festival? Oh, yeah—I don’t know! I would say, sometimes these things happen and you turn up at a place that you’re kind of not … there’s been some error by the booking agent or who knows? It was a long, long time ago and I remember we were getting booed by the audience—which is fine. I mean—I think— they’ve paid the money. They can boo if they want! But Brendan—our drummer at the time—saw otherwise. He jumped out from behind the kit and started shouting at them, you know? We didn’t play in Belgium again for three years! [laughs] No, I’m joking. But it was quite funny. These people were heckling and he thought he’d give them some back, which I don’t think they were expecting. So the rest of us just stood in the background watching him berating the audience and then the set ended at that point and we all walked off. But yeah, I guess these things happen, you know? I also played in front of a gang of skinheads once with my friend Duglas in a band called BMX Bandits. These were real horrible guys. I don’t know if you’re aware of BMX Bandits but they’re a pretty soft group in a way—they’re not like a hardcore group or anything like that. But Duglas, the singer, decided that we should stay and play the Dead Kennedys song ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ which we did. We had all these skinheads sieg heil-ing us at the front of the stage, but we felt that we had to do it, and we got away with it. And we weren’t just going to run off the stage at the end of it—we were going to need a plan, you know? I mean, I think we fucked off before they fucked off. Still, you know the Nazi punks did fuck off. We told ‘em. 15


You’ve said one of your favorite parts of touring is visiting record shops because you collect garage 45s. I do, yeah! It’s getting harder to crate dig now because what happens is people find them and then they take them out and put those ones online and don’t have them in the stores. But you can still find little things. I remember the best period for buying vinyl was the point when we were told CDs were much better than vinyl—you know, that was the new format and therefore there was no point in having vinyl anymore. You may as well sell it all. We were touring the U.S. at the time, and of course, I remember coming back with trunks of vinyl, really great things, you know, like loads of soundtrack stuff, the soundtrack from the Girl from U.N.K.L.E., things like that. We bought lots and lots and lots of albums and 7 inches for not a lot of money at all. In fact, I remember we were in Florida—myself and Gerry [Love] from the band were crate digging in Florida and he left to have a cigarette and I was in there crate digging. I came outside and he said, ‘Look at that.’ ‘Oh yeah, there’s a big plume of smoke going into the sky. What’s that?’ ‘It’s the space shuttle. I just watched it take off.’ ‘And you didn’t come in and tell me?!’ Oh, no. It was the only chance I was going to get to see the space shuttle launching, you know? He was just out there looking. ‘Oh, there you go. There’s that thing there.’ By the time I’d gone out, it had gone. I could see the plume of smoke, but there was no discernible space shuttle to be seen. Aw, he should’ve told you! He should’ve come in, you know? But I guess he wanted to finish his cigarette, huh? Over the years, you’re written some powerful odes to love. Has the way you approach love songs changed? You’ve been married for around twenty years, and this might be a bigger question about love and how it grows and changes, but... I try to be more honest in a way. I think when you’re younger you’re a bit … I think when I started writing songs, the Bandwagonesque songs are—for me, they’re kind of different because they were little stories, little narratives. Like, invented. Of course, you’re always learning. What is a song? What’s this song about? What am I going to write the lyric about? At that period, I would generally start with a musical idea and then I would have to think about the lyric and now I have to kind of try to think of those things in tandem. But I think that the easiest thing to write about is your own experiences, right? And that’s what I try to do more and more. There was a period when I kind of wrote … I think it’s the ManMade record or it’s Shadows, one of those. Man-Made, I think, is when my lyrics went a bit more abstract there and I was trying to do something different. But terms of writing songs, I like trying to be honest because I look back at the songs that I’ve written that I think are honest, and I don’t cringe, you know? That all happened, that’s real, that’s how I was feeling. I get some satisfaction from that. It’s almost like you’re kind of documenting your life. But I think my life is pretty much probably very similar to just about everyone’s life. So maybe people can relate to that in a 16

way? Hopefully people can relate to it and maybe say, ‘Oh, that guy’s had that experience and that’s how I feel.’ I just try to be honest. I’m glad that we never wrote anything ... I can’t imagine writing a big bombastic song like Nine Inch Nails or whatever, and here you are like 30 years later trying to sort of be that person. I know! Having to perform that! That would be thoroughly depressing. Your last album Here reached number 1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart about 25 years after Bandwagonesque did the same. Why do you think this album has resonated so much for your fans? Do you know, I have no idea—it’s one of those imponderable questions. All you can ever do as a musician is try and make the best record that you can. You try to be as honest as you can in terms of the writing or whatever, but you never know. Sometimes these things just click and it resonates with people or something like that. I don’t know. For some reason that one did and people picked up on it. I think we’ve been pretty lucky generally through the career of the band. I mean, here’s the thing: I’ve never listened to our own music. It’s the last thing I want to listen to. It’s masochistic to listen to your own music. Yes, great—you get pleasure from listening to other people’s music, but to your own, no, no, no, never do that! But we had to listen back to some of the records because we just did a tour where we were playing five of the albums over three nights—but I think I can say we’ve been fairly consistent. Now that’s maybe partly down to the fact that there have been—up until recently—three songwriters, and maybe we took a bit of time between each record, so we never made an album until we felt that we had enough material to make something that was good. I think if we got to the end—and of course at this point in our career we pay for the recording of our own records—I honestly consider if we got to the end of the recording process and we didn’t think it was good enough or we weren’t happy with it, we wouldn’t release it. We would just take the hit on the money. So maybe it’s a bit of quality control. But I don’t know. I think it’s an imponderable. I’m really not sure. But sometimes I think an album will just resonate with people—it’s that the timing’s right or something like that. I do feel like 2016 was an intense year kind of around the world with the U.S. election and Brexit, There was a lot going on... It’s all ramping up still, isn’t it? Yeah. It’s such a life-affirming, loveaffirming kind of album. Maybe it was something that people really needed in that moment. Perhaps you’re onto something there. I think music is an escape for all of us. I’m a person that, for me, if I’m feeling depressed, I really don’t like to listen to music, but some people if they’re feeling depressed, if they’re feeling down, music can really get them out of a hole. I’m the opposite—I don’t like to listen to music. But I find music very life-affirming, and so I get a lot from listening to music, as does everyone. I see what you’re saying. I think there’s something with it, you know— you’ve got politics and all this madness that’s

going on in the world. I actually fairly recently left social media about a year and a half ago or something. I originally had Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and I got rid of all of it, and removing that quarter from my brain was actually one of the best things I did. It was difficult initially because I was so used to looking at my phone, you know? Don’t get me wrong, I love the global communication now … the aspects of social media, [and] a lot of people from all over the world talking to each other instantaneously. That is amazing. I remember pre-the Internet. I’ve been going to Canada—my wife’s Canadian. I remember going there 26 years ago and I would say, ‘OK, well, I’ll see you guys when I’m back in a month.’ I would maybe call once to Raymond, and say, ‘What’s happening?’ And he would say, ‘Not a lot!’ Now you can email or you can Skype, all that stuff. That’s completely changed the world in that sense, and it’s great. I’m off on a tangent. I’m sorry. I had too much coffee this morning. Oh no, that’s OK! I mean, I agree with you. I don’t have Facebook. I feel like social media can be sort of bad for your mental health. I mean, studies have shown that, right? Yeah. I think some of the witch-hunts that I’ve witnessed on there … and actually, of course—which was proved to be true—the Russian bots influencing your election. That’s all factual, it happened! There’s no question about that. That aspect of it, and the sort of … pack mentality. Those aspects I find really depressing, and so I just had to go off it. I feel better for it because I’m back to doing what I used to do. I get up in the morning with my cup of coffee. I like to do the Guardian crossword. I like to read about what’s going on, and then I like to read books. I feel much better after that. What are you reading right now? I don’t know if you know the English playwright Alan Bennett. Do you know him? He wrote The History Boys, which is one of his famous things. And he’s written The Lady in the Van, a lot of memoirs. He’s an amazing guy. I’ve been reading a lot of his things recently. But right now, someone gave me a book yesterday which I’m almost finished. It’s a fairly funny book: This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor. He’s a British sort of comic now, a guy called Adam Kay. It’s about his years as a junior doctor in the hospital. Someone gave me it yesterday and I’ve almost finished it. But I’m a voracious reader. I’ll read anything. I also recently read a guy called Robert Littell, an American novelist. He’s kind of like the American John le Carré actually. He’s written a couple of amazing books. I mean, I pick these books up in thrift stores! This one’s called Young Philby which is about the British Russian spy Kim Philby and it’s a kind of semi-fictional account of his life. He also wrote a book called—it’s not called The Firm, is it? [it’s called The Company—DK]–about the history of the CIA and the structure of it, as a novel. I’m always looking for something to read. I jump back and forth between novels and you know, like biographies. And my kind of fetish is rock ‘n’ roll biographies because they are generally— generally—rubbish, but entertaining because you know it’s all complete lies.

I love rock bios! I love them. I picked one up in the thrift store yesterday and it’s Aerosmith in own their words. I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s going to be fun, and it’ll be nonsense.’ But I read recently the Pete Townshend one which is pretty interesting. His is good. You get ones that are fairly decent reading. It’s reasonably well-written. And Townshend did write it himself. The fun ones are the Aerosmith ones, but there are ones that are a bit more insightful, you know? I read Miles Davis’ autobiography recently cuz I picked it up for a pound at a thrift shop and that’s amazing. A lot of expletives in it—I didn’t realize. I mean I knew Miles Davis liked to swear, you know, to cuss, but he swore a good bit more than I thought he did, going by this book. That’s a fascinating book, actually and he’s a really interesting guy and really smart, you know, and really brave, but really troubled as well. He goes into absolute detail about everyone, and you know there’s no holds barred. Which is really, really good— he’s very, very honest and you can feel that he’s being totally truthful which is amazing. When I was researching for this interview, I couldn’t believe how the British press in particular would write about your sweaters or your haircuts instead of the music. You’ve spoken to out against what you called fashion bands in past interviews, but I know that you covered ‘Personality Crisis’ by the very glamorous New York Dolls for the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack. What place do you think fashion has in music? I would say the New York Dolls are camp, high camp. And I mean, I love the New York Dolls and I love that. So yeah, I think it does have a place. You think of someone like David Bowie. Fashion was a very large part of his thing and I love David Bowie. I probably wasn’t talking about people like that, but I suppose—that wasn’t what we were about. We were more about getting together making music. But I think maybe this thing about the British press focusing on that is … you’re talking about a time where you had the NME every week and the Melody Maker every week and Sounds every week and they had to fill it with something, you know? Yeah—maybe they ran out of things to talk about! They’d invent a new genre every couple of weeks—grebo and you know, whatever, all these different genres would be invented. And a lot about those would be fashion. You know—of course that is fashion. These new things would be invented every few weeks because they just had to fill it. That maybe changed around the time that the British music magazines or papers got serious, when things like MOJO and Uncut appeared. MOJO’s amazing—still is amazing, actually. They would have large retrospective articles about bands. It’s very informative. They would go into detail and it wasn’t so ephemeral and superficial. ‘What were Pink Floyd wearing in January 1972 or whatever?’ I guess that that the British music press grew up then a little bit, you know? I mean, a lot of the music I love is fashion, too. You think of the Sex Pistols, punk, the Clash … Punk rock was fashion. Street fashion. But I think the whole thing about it was that they knew they were going INTERVIEW


to have to fill it with something every week so it just kept going. If you look back, it was funny. We were just in the studio in Hamburg and they had a lot of old NMEs from the early 90s and late 80s, and they’re full of bands that were on the cover and then disappeared a few weeks later. ‘Oh, you remember them? Wow, where are they now?’ It’s very informative. You had the opportunity to play with some legendary fellow musicians. I wanted to talk to you about Kevin Ayers, who I love. I know you got to play on his final album The Unfairground and you’ve hinted that you might have some stories about that experience. What was that like for you, and was he an inspiration? I’ve got a few. There’s one I probably can’t tell! But no, Kevin was very interesting. His manager got in touch with us actually and myself, Euros Childs and Bill Wells—I don’t know if you know Bill, but Bill’s a great classical musician. We all played on the record. We met Kevin in Glasgow. He came into the studio and we got to meet him and hang out with him for a few days. We were fans as well, and it was a great experience. I mean, I think he was going through a hard time. I think he was boozing a lot. He was definitely a troubled soul, but there was still the spark there. You could see it. He was enjoying being creative again. It was interesting to just see him [having] been through so much And you also of course famously worked with Alex Chilton. I know he was a big influence for you. Alex was great. Someone had sent him a copy of Bandwagonesque. It was definitely influenced by Big Star. We listened to a lot of things when we were making those records but we championed them and I guess at that time they weren’t very well known. People didn’t talk about Big Star. I think it sort of piqued Alex’s interest that we liked them and he came to see us in New Orleans. And for some reason we hit it off—he liked us a lot. We got on really well. We were a bit irreverent, you know, and I think he liked that. He saw a bit of himself in that, and we got on really well and we ended up playing shows with him in Glasgow and hanging out quite a lot. We became good friends. And it’s amazing looking back at that because when we met him … I think he’d just turned 40 at the time. I remember thinking he was a kind of older guy—he was only 15 years older than me but at the time that was a big, big gap. But he was really amazing. We really learned a lot from him because … well, he had great taste in music. He was a great musician. I remember he showed me this chord—I thought, ‘Hey, that’s an amazing chord,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, Carl showed me that.’ He was talking about Carl Wilson from the Beach Boys. Like, ‘Oh, OK—well!’ He had some great stories about touring and hanging out with Dennis Wilson. He told me that he was hanging out with Dennis Wilson at Dennis Wilson’s place when Charles Manson was there with the family. And you know, Alex was so cool. He said one morning Manson came in the room and pointed at Alex and said something like, ‘Hey, you,’ you know, ‘Go and get the milk!’ And Alex just looked at him with a cigarette and said, ‘I don’t think so,’ in that Alex INTERVIEW

Chilton way. I think Manson was like, ‘Uh, OK’ because Alex would not take that—‘I don’t think so!’ Still love that. He was good fun to hang out with, and later he came to Glasgow quite a lot and made quite a lot of friends here. And there was a great love and appreciation of what he did here, you know? There was a definite lack of bullshit around us which he could relate, and I think that’s what he liked about us. We’ve got some recordings that we made with him that we need to mix and release—I think some of it’s online. There are live shows that we did in Glasgow that are available, but there’s also some recordings that we did that we have tapes for that we really need to get mixed and put out there because he’s playing some of our songs and we’re all in the rehearsal space and it’s quite a lot of stuff and so it’s good fun. And it’d be nice to get that out at some point. We’ve just never got around to it, so we should do it. How did Teenage Fanclub avoid the pitfalls that sank so many of your idols and your peers—addiction, depression, burning out—and not only did you not selfdestruct, you’ve been going strong for three decades and you’re still married. How’d you pull it off? And how do you want your band to be remembered? Well, just to be remembered would be a good start, wouldn’t it? Because of course you have to remember that 99.9 percent of the world’s population have never heard of us, and never will. But that gives you some perspective really. I don’t think we ever get carried away with the kind of, ‘Yeah, you know rock ‘n’ roll! You’re gonna be millionaires!’ We never thought that. We had a certain level of success, but not too much, you know? Maybe some people get carried away with the success and then that passes on then to their ego, and they have a certain level of expectation. We never did that. I think we’ve always been happy with realistic expectations that were hopefully the album will chart and some people will buy it and we can get to go on tour. We didn’t really hang about with … there wasn’t really a kind of junkie scene in Glasgow. The junkies in Glasgow are in the housing schemes. I think people didn’t do heroin in Glasgow because it wasn’t being associated with the Velvet Underground [but rather] associated with like really poor working-class people—the places that we came from, you know, and that’s something you escaped from and didn’t go into, you know what I mean? There wasn’t that kind of scene here. And maybe again just down to the individuals. I think Brendan who was in the band had a bit of a thing with addiction, which I think he’s kind of through, but it’s just not our style. Never been our style. Don’t get me wrong. We can have a drink and there’s been many a hangover on the tour. Oh there’s been some really painful ones, too—but we’ve always made it to the next show. We’ve taken enough time away from the band and away from the whole rock ‘n’ roll sort of scene to hopefully remain reasonably grounded. One of the band’s three singer-songwriters— your bass player Gerry Love—left the band. How has that affected the group’s morale and vibe? Is the door open to ever record with him again or are you just kind of playing it by ear?

Sure—I think we’re playing it by ear and never say never. But no, I think what happened was we had some dates coming up and Gerry, he just didn’t want to do them. We spent six months trying to persuade him to do these shows because everyone else wanted to do them and he’s just, ‘Look, I can’t face another trip’ and there was nothing we could do. Then a few more months passed and we thought, ‘Well, maybe Dave could play in the band,’ who plays bass with Belle and Sebastian. You know—Dave’s the new guy. Of course it’s sad in some aspects because it’s the end of an era, but at the same time, we’re looking at the positives. We’ve got lots and lots of songs that we can play. We’ve brought Euros Childs who’s a very good friend of mine. Euros is in the band Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. He’s now in the band playing keyboards and Dave is on bass, so it doesn’t feel like we’ve replaced Gerry because Dave has moved on to bass. And we’ve just been in Hamburg recording. We’re working on new songs. If there was going to be any sort of melancholic moment that would have happened on those last dates that we did, but we got through those. By the time we got to the end of that, people were aware that Gerry was going, so hopefully that helped to soften the blow. And we’re playing on, and why not, you know? Because we still want to play live and I like that we’ve been rehearsing lots of songs. We always try to split up between three of us when we play live. That means there are lots of songs that we just never play live. So myself and Raymond have been looking at things from the back catalog that we rarely play or have never played, and we’re going to play some of those things. It means we have to kind of re-jig the set a little but that’s okay because you know in some ways we’ve kind of been doing the same thing for years. Now we can play more things from the first record, so we’re trying to look at it as an opportunity to do something that’s fresh. And we’ve got new songs, so we’re going to play new songs. We’ve always seen ourselves as being a contemporary band. We didn’t break up in the 90s. We didn’t reform to do reissue shows. Although we did those shows because Sony asked us if we would play the five albums to help promote that and we said, ‘OK, that’s good. They’re putting them out, we can do that,’ and it was fun. But when we got to the end of that, I think we felt, ‘OK, well that’s enough, we’ve done that.’ We’d rather be playing the new songs, and a lot of older ones too, but we like to put new material in the set and look forward. That’s what we’re doing. You have been playing for 30 years. Some people see rock ‘n’ roll as a young person’s game. I saw headlines when I was reading about you—like, ‘Still Life in the Old Dogs Yet’ which … ugh, made me cringe. But you’ve said you find yourself increasingly listening to music by the over-40 set. Can you recommend some older artist that kids today should be listening to? Actually since I’ve been living in Canada, I’ve got a neighbor, a guy who lives fairly near me—a guy called Ron Sexsmith. Ron and me have kind of become friends because he lives quite near me and he’s a lovely guy, but I saw him play a few times recently and he’s just a brilliant, brilliant live artist. His voice has

matured and it’s really beautiful and creamy, and you know, the arrangements of the songs are amazing, the band are brilliant. And that’s someone … that’s just the years of work that he’s put in. You think of musicianship as a craft. If you’re a craftsperson, that you get better at that, right? And eventually the hands give up because you’re too old, ultimately, but we just have this idea that people get better, artisans are better. You always think of old Italian craftsman, carving or whatever. Well, you know, it’s only rock ‘n’ roll that you’re not allowed to do that, yeah? There’s some kind of cut-off point. But I suppose there are tons of artists. I mean, I also went to see Paul McCartney two years ago in Toronto and the show was incredible. He looked great and there he is playing that little bass that he had with the Beatles in Hamburg—you kind of think, ‘wow.’ And he played for like an hour and a half before he even had a sip of water, you know? Look, anybody who’s been around that long is going to be worth seeing because you only probably get to still be playing live if you’ve got something about you. I’ve heard you can also talk for hours about cheese. Have you ever tried casu marzu, the cheese with live maggots in it? Actually I was just mentioning that cheese. I’ve not tried that. Here’s the thing, this is the thing I don’t know—do you eat the maggots? I think that you might…? I don’t know! I’m aware of that cheese. I wonder, do you scoop? Do you work your way around the maggots and scoop out the cheese and then spread that, or just squish the maggots into the toast or whatever? Your cracker? Because I think I would possibly give that a go because I do like the cheese, and I will experiment with cheeses. I like blue cheeses. A lot of people don’t like blue cheese, but I really like blue cheeses. I do too. I like a Stilton. There’s actually a great Glasgow cheese store—a cheesemonger called Mellis and they have amazing cheese. You go in there and they wear like white lab coats and they put white Wellington boots on and hairnets and all that kind of stuff. They have some industrial strength cheeses there, some pretty toxic stuff. Actually some of them, you know, they’re pretty live—since it’s a blue cheese. It’s the cheese that if your friend is having a baby, you don’t give them this cheese. You don’t give that to pregnant women because some of this cheese is pretty—it’s unpasteurized. But there are some amazing cheeses you can get there. That’s a great cheese store. Of course, at holidays I always take my parents there. At the holidays there are massive queues outside the place to get little bits of cheese before coming home for the holidays. So yeah—I do like a bit of cheese. I’m always prepared to experiment. TEENAGE FANCLUB WITH LOVE LANGUAGE ON TUE., FEB. 26, AND WED., FEB. 27, AT THE TERAGRAM BALLROOM, 1234 W. 7TH ST., DOWNTOWN. 8 PM / $26 / ALL AGES. TERAGRAMBALLROOM.COM. TEENAGE FANCLUB’S “EVERYTHING IS FALLING APART” SINGLE IS OUT NOW ON MERGE. 17


flaunt edwards Interview by sweeney kovar illustration by river garza It wasn’t until my late 20s that I began to understand house music and its various incarnations as powerful music, not white-washed Night At The Roxbury drivel. It’s meditative, digging deep into your soul through careful selection and repetition of specific vibes. And it’s celebratory, creating and holding space for a congregation of people to release all their tension during a collective experience. At the risk of sounding sentimental, the right mix at the right time can open your mind. Mysterious masked house DJ and producer Flaunt Edwards has released a string of international 7” records, a sizeable collection of Bandcamp blink-and-miss-them edits, and now—finally—an EP of original house compositions. The Name Is Flaunt was released by Leaving Records late last year, fully establishing its author as an underground force and hopefully beginning a new chapter in his journey. When L.A. RECORD met with Flaunt on a brisk winter afternoon in Los Angeles, I was surprised to see the man in full regalia. During our hour plus conversation, the man in the Mardi Gras mask and Thriller jacket nonchalantly described aspects of his upbringing and how house music turns a dance floor into a spiritual place, and dissected his relationship with his biggest fan (and sometimes biter) J. Rocc. Who are you and where are you from ? My name is Flaunt Edwards. I’m from back east but I live in L.A. now. I’ve moved around from Chicago to New York to Miami to Detroit and now I live in L.A. Music has always been a part of my life. I’ve been making my own music for six or seven years. I started out just making edits. They were disco edits, house edits, new wave edits—I started to give them to different DJs. I got a good response. That motivated me to make original joints. The way I started making edits was through a crew of edit guys. These DJs get the stems— the multi-tracks—and make edits. I was lucky enough to get a few of those stems and multitracks from DJs like Kon from Kon and Amir and Jake One. That’s how I started doing edits and that opened the door for more music. I’m heavily influenced by Ron Hardy and that era of DJing when you could go to a club and play a 10-minute edit and let the whole joint play. I found it so interesting these cats are up there just playing loops and people would be open to it. Kenny Dope is another DJ that has played my edits. I’ve walked into parties and heard him playing my joint. He’s a hiphop dude and at the same time he’ll kick your ass in some house. I don’t think those worlds clash for him too much. I don’t think the house people know he does hip-hop and hiphop heads don’t even pay attention to house. You’re talking about some of these folks known more on the hip-hop side—how did you get into the electronic dance world? More partying—not as far as drugs or anything. Just being more open. I love hiphop and going to hip-hop clubs but now there’s a ceiling there. If I go to a hip-hop club, it’s either going to be some old fogey shit where they’re just playing 90s all night or they’re going to play Migos and all the club shit. There’s no in-between. Coming up there were more in-between spaces where you could hear the hits like the Snoop Doggs and the Jay-Z’s but you’d also hear an Ol’ Dirty

Bastard or something that wasn’t a hit but songs DJs liked and played them in the clubs and made them hits. ‘Scenario’ wasn’t played on the radio. You might catch that on latenight radio but it wasn’t a radio song. In house clubs, as long as the song has that beat and they can move to it, people don’t care what the song is or what it’s saying—they’ll dance to it. I find that more entertaining to DJ and let a song play for seven minutes and have fun— do filters, take out the bass. That’s another thing I’ve learned from the Ron Hardy’s and those guys—the usefulness of the bass and the treble and the highs when DJing. When I’m doing a house set, I can get away with taking the bass out for two or three minutes and the crowd goes crazy when I bring it back. I’d rather DJ somewhere and be able to bring out some emotion and allow people to have fun. I find it much more fun and entertaining to do a dance set. Some may get mad but then at some point people will give up on hearing a Madlib or whatever. Once they cross that barrier, it’s a guaranteed great time even if you don’t like house. I did a set on NTS with MatthewDavid and some dude posted on his blog like, ‘I don’t even like house… but this Flaunt Edwards set is amazing!’ I’ve read about people having out-ofbody experiences—almost spiritual experiences—on the dance floor listening to legendary DJs like Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles and so on. What about this music touches people that way? It just brings out a different vibe. I think the club rap isn’t open to that. By the way—to me, hip-hop is the real creative shit while ‘rap’ is going to be whatever corporate powers are pushing down the radio. A lot of that is going to be negative or angry ‘bitch!’ ‘hoe!’ music, while house is just a groove that opens you up. It’s a weird thing. The right DJ at the right time can definitely change your life. They used to have this night in New York—The Loft—and I used to read stories about DJs

like David Mancuso and people talking about how he was telling stories with records. How is he telling stories with his records? Is he really telling a story or is he back there grooving so hard and the vibe is so hard that it feels like a story? That’s what house is about. House isn’t about, ‘Bitch! We’re gonna fuck you up! Get that drink! Get that smoke!’ There’s no house songs that do that. Actually, there is one song. ‘Beat That Bitch With A Bat’ is an 80s house song but they’re more tongue-in-cheek, playing off the alliteration and the rhythm of the phrase. The only other song that may fall under these parameters is a song about cocaine but it’s a message. It’s a crazy song but it’s some acid house—it grabs you. What were some of your formative experiences with house music? Checking out a guy called Doc Martin, who would play a lot of early techno and rave days. He’s super dope. I met him and he actually remembered me when he shouldn’t give two fucks about a newbie like me at the time. I also started reading. I was reading the books about the classic east coast clubs and I’d read about this vibe and I’d be curious— what vibe are they talking about? I’d go and do my independent research. I like house anyways so I knew a little something but I had never sat and listened to a full mix of a Frankie Knuckles or a Ron Hardy. Then also going out and hearing people live—hearing Moodymann and Kenny Dope live—I’d be inspired. I wanted to run home and make some shit or even just keep listening to that type of shit. Those experiences made me want to make edits and eventually my own original house songs. Back east, it was straight hip-hop days and by the time I got to Detroit I was checking out Juan Atkins DJ and listening to the homie Electrified Mojo on the radio. Then when I spent time in Chicago I peeped out this crew … and to be honest, I wasn’t really understanding what they were doing at the time but later it made sense. They were 19


The Hot Mix 5 and they were on WBMX. They were basically the OGs of house for back then. If it wasn’t Frankie Knuckles, it was them. They’d do crazy blends and three-turntable mixes and it was just nuts! Nowadays you just think of house music as people blending, but they would scratch on an acid house beat and it was like worlds colliding. It was house shit with a hip-hop mindframe. They were doing doubles—these were the early days of edits, mind you—and they’d be doing versions live. I always understood house music as some white shit. I say that because I don’t know how many folks understand the legacy of house music as being Black music. Yeah—I guess I’m trying to bring back a little of that essence. I definitely have to mention a crew out of Chicago called TekLife. That’s a real big influence on me because they have their own fuckin’ genre and they take songs we know and they’ll make a footwork track out of it. I respect that so much because that’s just their own thing. That hasn’t been commercialized yet. I’ll travel somewhere and I’ll ask about footwork and they don’t know what I’m talking about. Now if I say juke, they’ve heard of that—but you can’t go to Chicago and tell them juke and footwork are the same thing. To them, those are two separate things. The differences are subtle but once you learn then you pick up on it. You see why something is considered garage house or acid house or deep house. For instance, deep house is the more emotional house, the life-changing shit. I’m more into acid house. My perfect DJing scene is dark, no lights and everyone dancing. No stage, no riser, no nothing. No getting on the mic: ‘Hey everybody!’ No shouting out what town I’m in. The spot doesn’t even have to be super big. Think of the pictures of the house clubs in the 70s—dudes shirtless, people sweaty, all of the lights blinking—that’s what is going to create a genuine experience. You’re not going to have the same experience when someone’s on stage and they’re trying to show off. It won’t be anything like when it’s a dark, musty place with no stage and no spotlight. In a place like that, it’s more about the audience and the vibe. When you’re on stage, you’re singled out, you’re stared at. You’re in a cage. You have to do something to impress everyone constantly. ‘Watch this!’ ‘Listen to this!’ It’s always that. When you’re not on a stage and people have to accept the music, it’s a whole other thing. It’s ego-less. Yep. The only ego is you hope you don’t fuck up and you hope you play the right tunes. You’re not up there showing off your DJ skills. No one is talking about the routines you did. It’s a whole different vibe. I sound like a hippie. That acid house creativity even comes across in the way you present yourself. You’ve done live DJ gigs but we can’t see you. What—you want to look at a mask all night? It’s not even to call attention to myself. I’m wearing a mask so you just listen to the music. Yeah, I look crazy and all that but I’m boring, too. I’m just going to be playing music. It’s nothing for you to look at but me in a mask and a Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ jacket. There will be an initial shock but after five or ten minutes, people forget about it and they start 20

to groove with me. They stop staring at me and they start dancing with me. Can you tell me about your relationship with J. Rocc? How did you build a bond? I met him in the MySpace days as a fan. I might have sent him an edit or something. It was probably real bad. I think he likes acid house too because he liked it. So I kept pushing and passing him more shit and hopefully he might have the guts to play it one day. He started playing one I sent him and then I sent him a full batch. He also started to be my conduit to others. That’s how a Kenny Dope or someone would have my shit. Nowadays, DJs can trade files so easily. J. Rocc may not even have been the one to give it to Kenny but it’s always that you give something to one person and they’ll give it to two. My tactic I always use is to tell folks, ‘Don’t give it to nobody!’ because then for sure they will give it to somebody. It becomes a prized possession—they feel like that’s the hot shit. It trickles down like that. When you give that caveat, they pass it onto someone they feel is a peer or someone dope. Would you ever be on the same bill? Yeah, at some point. He kinda bites my style now, to be honest, but he’s still the homie. I saw him DJ in Japan and he did an all house set. He did a festival and had these motherfuckers singing a song in English. There’s this song ‘Climb The Wall’: ‘Climb the wall / you make me / climb the wall / I want to / climb the wall.’ There was a moment where he started taking out parts of that and the crowd started singing the part he was taking out. These people don’t even speak English but the vibe is that hard that they’re singing it. He’d have to do an all hip-hop set because I would play the house and disco set. The homie Eric Coleman has tried to get us together a few times. Our schedules are wonky so it’s been hard to coincide. When J.Rocc DJs it’s like roller coaster sets so sometimes you feel bad when there’s not enough roller coaster moments in your set. But fuck that. Let me do a set with no roller coaster moments at all—just a ride. That’s the most fun. This is your first EP released in the states. What made that happen? I did a few edits in Japan. They were 45s. It isn’t like my edits in the sense that they lean more towards the acid house and the TekLife influence I was talking about. I was sitting on the songs for so long that I started giving them out to people. Once again, J.Rocc came through and played them on his radio show. MatthewDavid from Leaving Records heard it and the next thing you know I’m talking to him about releasing the EP. He’s crazy already but I wonder if he thought this was too crazy even for him. The homie Shane Sakanoi was playing it out somewhere and I was there. Hearing someone else play it lit the fire under me again and we finished it up. I am going to do more original music—definitely. This is the first taste and experiment. I’ll tame it down a little bit. This EP is for myself. The next one will be a bit more for the DJs. This one was for me to be crazy. FLAUNT EDWARDS’ THE NAME IS FLAUNT 12” EP IS OUT NOW ON LEAVING RECORDS. VISIT FLAUNT EDWARDS AT FLAUNTEDEDWARDS. BANDCAMP.COM.

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NANNA.B Interview BY DAIANA FEUER photography BY THEO JEMISON

Nanna.B left Denmark for Los Angeles seeking freedom in the land of experimental beats and sunshine. The fruit of that transition is her latest full-length Solen, out now on Jakarta Records. The album revolves around collaborations with producers like Anderson.Paak, Iman Omari, MNDSGN, Shafiq Husayn, Cohenbeats, and Astronote, who crafted dense threadworks of sound around her soulful vocals. The songs tell a story about exploring herself in this new landscape and finally feeling like she found a home for both her sound and her wandering spirit. While her visits to California began a few years before permanently settling in L.A., the whole journey sort of kicked off during an ayahuasca ritual in the Amazon that inspired her to embrace music as the expression of her creative self. What brought you from Denmark to Los Angeles? I moved to L.A. in February of 2017 but I’ve been back and forth since 2013. For years I would just come here for a few months and go back home and work and save up money then come back. I would almost spend four to five months a year in L.A. but I got my visa straight last year and that’s when I moved. Musically where I’m from I felt like it was very limited what I could do when I have the sound that I have. L.A. was calling me. I was interested in the beat scene and I wanted to work with people who were all over here. I only knew Teebs when I first came but then everything unfolded very organically so I kept coming back. What led you to make the kind of music you were making if it was out of place with your environment? When I was little, the school my parents put me in was a very music-focused school— especially West African, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music. The first time I was on stage was singing African chants. And later on we go to play instruments and it was all funk and soul and R&B. So a lot of my musical upbringing was from that school. Of course there were a few people working within that sound realm but it’s not a lot and it definitely doesn’t get played on the radio. So I think it was because I was introduced to that music so early, and that music still inspires me to this day, that I was definitely the misfit on the music scene over there. It’s interesting that in Denmark there’s a school that focuses on African music. There is a lot of small schools in Denmark that focus on creativity but I will say that 22

school is very special. It’s the only one like that in Denmark. I don’t believe in coincidences anymore but earlier in my life I thought it was really random that I ended up in that school learning that music. Why don’t you believe in coincidences? I believe everything happens for a reason. My spiritual journey kind of started when I began coming to Los Angeles. Or that is … it didn’t start here. Of course I’ve had spiritual experiences my entire life. But when I started coming to L.A. it opened me up to the fact that there is divine timing and a reason for everything. I didn’t grow up in a religious household. My parents don’t ever go to church. But you don’t mean ‘religion’ when you speak of spirituality. You’re talking on the cosmic level? Yes. Religion always turned me off. I don’t like systems of authority like that. I don’t like when someone is telling you how you should do a certain type of thing and if you don’t do it you will get punished. I don’t like that whole mentality and I don’t like the patriarchy that most religions are built around. I never really vibrated with that. As a creative person do you have a duty to impart a message or make an existential statement? Yes I do. It’s a way of healing. When I express things through music it’s the way I process life and what happens in my life. It’s on one hand definitely something that I do for me, I also do believe that artists are of service to the world. So whether it’s with your music to raise the frequency or to deliver certain messages, I believe that we have a responsibility for sure to share our point of view.

Now that your album is out and you’ve surely heard it a lot of times, have any new meanings revealed themselves? Have you made sense of the overall message of the album? That’s really how I work. Often times a song will reveal itself to me way after. For instance, the song ‘Magnetars’ just came out of me. I could relate to it at the time but to this day it still grows, which is strange to me but beautiful. The takeaway from the whole album ... It’s been done for a while, I will be honest and say that. But now that it’s out in the world and being received, it ends that cycle in a way and it’s on its own journey now. It’s really for me now about the journey to your self and the courage to pursue your dreams and do what you came here to do. If you have that sense in your heart that there’s something you really have to do, then you should go for it, right? That’s basically what I did with this album. I moved across the world to do the thing that I feel that I’m here to do. Stepping into your womanhood is another big theme on the album for me. What’s that interlude on ‘Find U’ that’s about ‘becoming?’ That part is Maya Deren. She was a movie maker in the 1940s and was one of the first women to do really artistic movies and get an audience for it and make her way in that world. Her aesthetic has inspired me a lot the last few years. There’s this clip where she talks about being a woman and it spoke to me because ‘Find U’ started out as a love song—about looking for love—but then when I wrote the second part of the song I realized it was about myself finding a home and finding a place where I feel comfortable

in my own skin. When I heard that part of her monologue I felt that it just fit. What do you mean by getting comfortable in your own skin? It’s being true to yourself. It doesn’t have to be in the female sense. It’s stepping into your own power. Embracing that part of that is being a woman in this lifetime right now. I spent a lot of my life doubting if I could do this or being insecure about the music and all those things. It’s about acknowledging I’m doing this, no matter what the outcome. I’m doing this because my heart tells me so. Pursuing my heart made me feel more confortable in my own skin. What was it about L.A. that felt right for you? Was it meeting like-minded people? For me that defines home—that people hold space for you and appreciate what makes you unique. What I love about L.A. is that it’s full of people who chose to pursue their dreams, people who moved away from their families and homes to do this shit. When you go to an event, whether it’s a concert or gallery, people are there and they’re just themselves. People dress like themselves. There’s space for people to be special. I feel that back home there was a culture of normalizing each other. ‘Let’s just all follow the rules so nobody feels uncomfortable. Let’s not be too crazy. Let’s not wear too crazy clothes.’ When I came here I felt that there was no ceiling. Which is what I’m saying in one of the songs, ‘Beaches.’ I sing, ‘I can be an architect / Where there once was a roof there’s only sky.’ That was the feeling I got in L.A. I was like, ‘Yo, there’s space for me here.’ CONTINUED PAGE 33 INTERVIEW


KATZÙ OSO Interview by SYDNEY SWEENEY PHOTOGRAPHY BY MAXIMILIAN HO

Paul Hernandez is a lover boy—not an audacious casanova, but a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic who simply falls in love too fast, poeticizing the women who make him stumble headfirst into desire and devotion. When this young Latino musician speaks about love, there’s a bashfulness in his voice, a change of inflection that signals the same authenticity he displays as a producer and songwriter dedicated to shimmering synthpop. As Katzù Oso—a bedroom-based solo project that’s revealed Hernandez as a sublime architect of freakishly catchy love songs—the Montebello native has seen his own artistic aspirations mature into sweet reality in less than two years. From hitting a million streams on Spotify to dropping his debut EP Pastel and playing Tropicalia—the quintessential music festival for L.A.’s most committed indieheads—Hernandez’s 2018 has been as dreamy as his music itself. At sundown in Exposition Park, the 24-year-old artist ponders his early beginnings, defying expectations, and being a proud cheeseball. On the Pastel EP, there’s a few moments where you’re talking about infatuation— like ‘Coqueta’—and remaining infatuated with someone even after they’ve done you dirty, like on ‘Crazy4luvinU.’ What’s that story? It’s about just being with someone for so long and then … how can I say it … them breaking it off with you and then you find out they got with someone else like, two weeks after. And you were with that person for like, five years. It’s like, getting fucked over—well not fucked over, but like … lied to. Like, ‘Wow, this really happened.’ Being in awe. In ‘Crazy4luvinU,’ the situation had just happened, and I had performed it at the Tyler, The Creator show at the Observatory last year, and it hadn’t been written, so I told the guys to just jam out to the instrumental, and I made up the lyrics on the spot at that show. And later I sat down and wrote them. I just had the idea of being in love with someone who’s already out of 24

love with you, and left you for another guy— which makes you think, ‘Wow, I wasted all the time with you.’ It always makes me really sad to hear people say they’ve wasted time after being in a long-term relationship gone awry. Yeah, for real. It happens though. And it made an album! Exactly—and it’s funny because when that girl left, a month later, my music started getting listens and everything started happening. Your following has grown quite a bit this past year. On Spotify alone your monthly listeners jumped from 1,000 to 100,000. [That] was really surreal, like it almost wasn’t happening—like, why my music, you know? My old high school band stayed at like 42 listeners for a period of two or three months, so I always assumed that’s how far local bands get. But I tried to challenge myself by doing something on my own to see if that would pop off, and people started listening and showing

their friends. And was getting featured on Spotify playlists and that helped a lot too. When you were in that band, did you approach the idea of ‘success’ differently than you do with Katzù? We just had a very ‘local show’ mentality. We always packed out house shows in Montebello, so we were like, ‘Well this is it—this is what it is,’ you know? Until I started seeing other artists actually making it and moving up. So I realized it was possible for anyone—I felt like my band got comfortable where we were at, and I was like, ‘I want to make something out of music and this is what I want to do.’ I didn’t want to do what society or my family or my girlfriend at the time wanted me to do, which was go to school. I mean, I went to school. School is awesome and I enjoyed it—stay in school! But it’s just not for me. It’s not something that I see myself doing my whole life. I was majoring in sociology, and I was about to transfer—but I ended up just


getting my AA, and right when I got it was when my music started picking up. And I was like, ‘I guess I can take a break—I don’t have to transfer just yet.’ Even to this day, my family still asks me about school, like ‘What about school?’ And it sucks because you can have so many successes, but they’re still going to ask you about it—but I am able to help my mom more now, and I get to do this with all my friends. I don’t have to hire musicians. We all work together, and it’s exciting. Was the pressure to pursue a certain career even greater because of your identity as a first-generation Mexican-American? There’s only like one person in my family that ‘succeeded’ and everyone looks up to him. He came here, and he went to Cal State L.A. and he got his master’s and everything—so I think competing with someone like that is like … fuck. I have to either make it or I don’t make it, and I’ll just be down here like everyone else in my family. So there’s a lot of pressure, for sure. Are they accepting of the idea of success as a musician—headlining crazy tours or selling out shows? My mom is very open to that idea now. She’ll say, ‘It’s fine that you’re not going to school and you’re doing what you love and it’s showing.’ My grandparents are also very supportive. My dad is still more old school about it, but at the end of the day he still lets me record in the garage. He’s a Santana/ Hendrix kind of guy—he has a Stratocaster at home—and he would always record with his brother in the garage. So I would always be around Åmusic, but I didn’t know anything about it until he started showing me how to play bass and guitar. We would play a lot of oldies, a lot of Beatles—my dad loves them, so we had all these songbooks and every night we’d be jamming to Beatles songs. So I started with bass, then moved on to guitar and then keys. Speaking of old music—I hear you have a crazy vinyl collection. Yeah! I was investing so much money in my vinyl—before I started my Katzù page on Instagram, it was all just vinyl, and I would ask people their favorite songs, but later I had to remove all that. I just love listening to records and drinking wine in my room, as cheesy as it sounds. I think the most obscure thing I have is this seven-inch by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin. It’s called ‘Je T’aime…’ [Moi Non Plus] but it got banned from the U.K. because it has a girl moaning really intensely on it, but it’s so good! Knowing that I have the physical banned copy is exciting. It’s a duet— at one point they’re making love in the song. It’s great—you should check it out. What’s your most-played record? When I’m by myself or when I’m with people? Both! When I’m alone, it’s Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz’s Bossa Nova—it’s like a collaboration, but it’s so good. Every song on that album just gets me, even though it’s in Portuguese. And then with people, it’s probably Substance by New Order. It has all the classics. That one’s hard to find, and I was looking for it everywhere. When I finally came across it, it was in a bin and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ INTERVIEW

I feel like synthesizers dominate your music now. Is that an influence from your youth? I feel like the influence was always there, but I never really dug into it until eighth or ninth grade. I started listening to New Order and a lot of 80s bands, so I think those sounds inspired me to make this kind of music—with like a contemporary twist to it, I guess. And you were inspired by Spanish pop and rock bands, too? Yeah—I noticed that a lot of the 80s bands, like Hombres G and Los Enanitos Verdes would use light synth pads, which kind of made the song a little more … lovely? I don’t know how to explain it, but it was nice to listen to. So I tried to put that together with like, all the crazy synths that New Order was using. I’m curious to know what your favorite New Order song is! Oh man. I love ‘Ceremony,’ but it’s like a Joy Division-New Order kind of song, you know? ‘Temptation’ is such a good song, too. Even though the way Bernard Sumner writes is such a corny way, and everyone is always talking about it, I kind of like it— His lyrics remind me of yours in that way. Yeah—that’s why I relate to New Order. I sing as if I’m talking to someone, and I’ve always done that in my music since I first started writing as a 15-year-old. I try to keep it cheesy, but not cringey. You can never have enough cheese. Why do you gravitate towards making dreamier music? I was listening to a lot of indie pop in high school—the fast pace of that in combination with the synths that 80s musicians used, I wanted to incorporate that into a modern feel. And sometimes I do feel out of place compared to other artists … like I used too many synths in my music, but I don’t know. I’ll listen to other people’s music and I’ll think we’re in the same category but it’s nothing that’s really comparable. A lot of people would be like, ‘You use too many synths!’ I don’t care. I made it in my room and it’s what I thought sounded nice at the time. Sometimes I ask myself if I should just simplify shit, like maybe having just six or eight tracks rather than what I usually have, which is like, 32 to 45. But when it comes down to the mixing, obviously not everything is going in at the same time. But I enjoy doing it how I do it, so I gonna keep it at that. Do you feel like your own music has to meet cultural expectations in terms of masculinity and ‘being a man’? My family was always really accepting of the whole ‘embracing your feelings’ thing—my dad would always play love songs around the house, and that’s what I grew up with. But random people would always tell me stuff about my music being too ‘soft’—and it sucks cuz it kind of brings you down. Like … I enjoy making it and you just shouldn’t listen to it. If I were in high school still, I would take criticism a lot worse and it would have gotten to me. I’d be getting triggered all the time. But now that I’m older, I’m just doing me and you don’t have to like it. But writing love songs comes most naturally to me. I’ve always been a hopeless romantic—that’s just me. I tend to fall in love too quickly and it’s kind of fucked

up, because I write songs for people … and then I’m like, ‘Wow, I really wrote a song for this person…’ And then you’re like, ‘Well, damn—that’s over.’ ‘Well, she fucked me over and now I’m here, and I have to perform these songs that I wrote about this girl.’ But I’m comfortable with my feelings, and I’ll just act like I’m singing about another girl! Do you approach songwriting as a way to help you process your emotions? I feel like in the moment, I put myself in the place where I’m most happy with that person, and I try to write as if I’m there with them in the moment. So yeah, it’s always different. When it comes to writing lyrics, I’ll just have the song on loop and I’ll try to set the vibe— dim the lights. What would you consider the perfect vibe or atmosphere for listening to Pastel? Traveling. With the windows down, along the coast with someone that you care for. What would the record smell like? Roses. What’s up with you and flowers? I don’t know! I’ve always just loved floral patterns and flowers. I remember the first song I ever wrote, I was a freshman in high school and it was called ‘Flower Dress.’ And the line was so cheesy: ‘That flower dress really makes you bloom.’ I’ve just always felt so attracted to them. I know people have told you that your music has impacted them and helped them cope with their own life experiences— what’s one album that you think specifically influenced Pastel in that way? I was listening to Lonerism back to back. It’s one of my all-time favorite albums. I felt like that’s what inspired me to do it myself because Kevin Parker does everything on his own. Back when it first dropped in 2012, I was in my feels throughout the whole thing. What was it like for you to make the transition from being part of a band to doing everything yourself? I was listening to a lot of Neon Indian and Toro y Moi, so I feel like that funky synthpop kind of vibe was what I really wanted to capture. I just love dancing in the crowd when they’re performing music like that. And when we were performing my stuff live, in the beginning we were like, ‘How are we gonna do this?’ Because there’s just so many things going on. But we made it work, so I think that was the most difficult part when it came to execution. There was one time when I performed with a backing track, but I’ve always had the band with me since. In the beginning we left out two synths, but now we have two more, so it’s come together nicely. Even to this day though, it’s funny when I pull up to a show because I have like, four people on synths. And it’s awkward as fuck. How do you feel about producing your own music now? What’s changed since you first started? Back in high school, I thought producing was so hard—I was like, ‘Well, there’s that guy to do it.’ Until I started learning by myself and experimenting with shit, then I realize it’s not as hard as it looks and that anyone can do it. I like having full control over my music because

I hate people telling me, ‘take that out,’ or ‘shorten this.’ I hate getting told what to do, pretty much, but I love working with people who are open to new ideas and trying stuff out rather than being closed off and having a ‘no’ mentality. I always go to my band, and Gil, who plays synth for me—he also mixes and masters my music. I ask him, ‘How about we do this, or this?’ Or I send it to my manager, like, ‘Hey, dude, what should I change?’ I like having feedback. Did you have to kill any of your darlings while finalizing the EP? Yeah—I had a lot of songs that didn’t make it. It was almost going to be an album, but I was like, ‘I’ll stick with the EP and save the others for a future project.’ My favorite is ‘Pastel’ though, even though it was the last one and it just came out of nowhere. I usually make the beat first—I try to create something really catchy that’ll get stuck in your head, and then lyrics come at the end. I try to get the main instrumentation first. But the order of the lyrics will come to me differently every time. For ‘Sophie,’ I thought of the chorus while I was just driving. I had it playing, and for some reason the whole ‘making love in the back seat of your car,’ came into my head, you know? And I was like, ‘Oh shit, this is cool.’ So when I got home I recorded it into Ableton and I showed it to my friend and we mixed and mastered it. I feel like I think of so many verses and choruses in my car, because I spend so much time driving to and from work— just traveling in general. I’ll be playing my instrumentals and thinking about what words to put with them. It sucks because sometimes I’ll think of a cool verse, and I’ll bring out my Notes app on my phone, trying to type while I’m driving, like, ‘Fuck, I’m gonna lose it!’ That’s the worst part. You should put it in your voice recorder! I should. But that’s the thing though—I don’t want to go back and listen to it. I’m like, ‘Fuck no!’ But when I have the song and I play the chords just on guitar, I do play a voiceover and I just freestyle. And later I pick at it, then cut it and fit it together. It’s like a puzzle. Do you stick to your first draft of lyrics or does the final project read differently? I stick to what I say in the moment. Like certain words I’ll usually keep, but then I alter the way I fit it into the instrumentation—because sometimes you can have something written but it’s not going to fit the way you want it to. So you have to take out some words, add some. I usually do that at the end. What’s the most powerful thing you’ve had a fan express to you? It was at a recent show—the Young Love show in San Francisco, I had some girl give me a letter and a sticker of a drawing that she made of me, and she wrote a story on how much she loves ‘Cherry Love.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, she really wrote all of this for me.’ Just knowing that she did that—that she took time out of her day and was thinking about me—it meant a lot. It’s crazy. It warms my heart. KATZÙ OSO’S “KISS U BETTER” SINGLE IS OUT NOW ON COSMICA/ COUNTER CULTURE. VISIT KATZÙ OSO AT KATZUOSO.COM. 27


TASHi WADA Interview by joe rihn illustration by jay torres

Tashi Wada is the son of the renowned composer and Fluxus member Yoshi Wada and a master of minimal and microtonal music in his own right. Now father and son have joined forces with a cast of collaborators that includes Julia Holter and Simone Forti to produce a 10-track release for RVNG’s FRKWYS series. Nue pairs synthesizers with acoustic instruments and human voices to produce abstract aural textures and explore the subtleties of sound. Tashi met with L.A. RECORD to discuss his compositional process, family dynamics in the studio and growing up Fluxus. What’s it like playing music with your father? Are there family dynamics at play when you’re collaborating? Definitely. It’s something that I don’t really know how to communicate exactly. I guess if you can imagine your own parents … maybe that’s impossible, but there’s something very deep and I would say maybe even kind of primal. And something that I will carry forever—these experiences and meeting on that level. It’s always felt pretty natural. I don’t think we would have done it otherwise. Like in any artist relationship it has ups and downs, but the ups are especially meaningful for me. We’ve been playing live and performing together I think like eight years now. We never really got around to recording much, so this new album is a first of sorts in that way. It was something I wanted to do for a long time and the right circumstances made it possible. It’s actually very specific how it happened. Someone asked my dad to recreate an older performance of his— ‘Earth Horns’—and there’s an electronics system that accompanies that piece which no longer existed, so it wasn’t possible to recreate that. I essentially filled in and did the electronics part live. And from there it just grew organically—naturally. One step after another. What was it like growing up with your dad so involved in experimental art and music? 28

I think I didn’t quite realize what it all meant until later because we lived in a community of artists in downtown New York and SoHo. All my dad’s friends and everyone around was an artist to some degree. So it only really sort of emerged later—once I had more context for it. But of course I went to school and there were plenty of people I was around who weren’t artists. So I was aware to some degree. It was an interesting experience, I would say. We traveled a lot and we lived in Berlin when I was a child for a year—my dad had a residency. The other side of it was it was New York and it was the 80s, so it was a pretty gritty city at that point in downtown Manhattan. My memory of it is that it was pretty dirty and rough—the city, the subways and everything. But culturally … even as a child I think I could tell there was a lot going on and there was a lot of energy and diverse groups of people. And my parents created a very warm household, so I always felt safe and everything. Were you always connected with experimental art and music? Or did you ever rebel against it? I played piano as a child, through most of my adolescence—classical piano. I think only later in my teenage years did I understand how all these things connected. It wasn’t immediately apparent to me that these were all inter-related—all these styles of art and music—so I wouldn’t say that I rebelled. As a teenager I went through all

the different phases of being interested in different kinds of music. It was later that a larger picture emerged. I mean … of course I’ve heard stories of the children of other Fluxus artists who become lawyers or bankers. It does make sense to some degree if you grow up with a certain amount of instability, but I guess I didn’t feel the need to go in the opposite direction. Was pop or rock ever important in terms of what you do now? Is that influence there and if so, do you draw on it still? My relationship to it is a little scattered. It’s not something I would say I consciously draw on, but just my general feeling about those things is [the same as] all the music I’ve heard in my life—you know, you absorb it and it influences you in some way. It sends you in a different direction or you follow it. That’s also how I feel the ear works, and memory of music. You draw on these things without even knowing. I was always curious what other people were listening to. I still feel that way to this day. That’s how I find out about music. I’m always more interested to know what other people are listening to. I guess some of my references as a child would be different, but not in an exclusive way. What brought you to L.A.? How does the city affect your creative work? I moved to L.A. originally to go to school at CalArts and to study with composer James Tenney. And I’ve been here since then. L.A. has definitely influenced my work. I’m not

sure if I could say how, but one thing I’ve noticed—and I’ve lived in many different cities—is that there’s a kind of openness to the music scene here. You encounter all kinds of music and all kinds of musicians and it feels very open in that way. It kind of lends to not being stuck in one scene. Which is great to me. Can we talk a little bit about the album title Nue, and the mythology behind it? It’s really my take on the idea of nue, which is this mythological spirit—that’s how I think of it. But what I like about the image is that for one, it’s made up of the parts of different animals and it is both kind of terrifying but also intriguing. That kind of duality is in the music. It’s haunting but also kind of alluring. How do you sort of translate an idea like that into sound? Or do you write a piece of music and then find that imagery in it? I think that was kind of done backwards. As far as the music goes in general, I don’t usually have an idea in advance. It’s usually through trial and error and playing and messing around. And then something emerges out of that. Nue was not a concept before the album. It evolved out of the process of making it. How do these compositions come together? What is the writing process like? What roles do you both play? CONTINUED PAGE 33 INTERVIEW


AARON MARCO Interview bY TOLLIVER photography by alex the brown The cyan killer, he’s called. He gallivants about, shirt optional, posting mysterious slow-motion clips with song snippets underneath. The blue cuts through, ever-present in single artwork and music videos. Aaron Marco the person is blue, too. Down.  After a year of peaks and deep valleys, he’s found himself both wanting and terrified of death. A bombastic singer in a landscape of 3-note-rangelet-the-beat-do-the-work-ass singers, he sucks you into some pretty dark territory despite his soaring vocals.  Marco makes sadness look good—the Lana Del Rey of queer balladeers. We talked about love and wanting to die, but making it fashion. How would you describe your new video? What inspired you? I was working really closely with a friend of mine, Day Hernandez, who directed it and who pretty much owns revival reels. The song itself is about death and this balance of wanting death and longing for it, but then fearing it at the same time, and I wanted the video to represent another duality.  It’s the same thing with masculinity and femininity. In me exists a masculine nature that until this point I despised, and then the feminine nature I called and welcomed so much more. So there’s that balance.  We start with a lot more of the masculine looks in the beginning. As it gets closer to the end it just feels more … you know, Mexican brujeX realness. That’s ultimately what the goal was—to show that masculinity and femininity and do brief little call outs to things that are death-inspired. So [that’s] the crucifix at the end with the roses, the flowers throughout the whole thing. Day really wanted to work with color, so she used a lot of these strong color backups. It was a big collaborative experience between her and I.  Have y’all worked together before? As I was watching it I thought ‘I’ve seen these colors from Aaron before.’ This is actually the first time. We’ve worked together on other projects that were not related to my music. But that’s the beautiful thing Day did.  You know that blue from ‘Ten’—from the cover art? She pulled it in from that. That’s the cool thing—when you have two artists working together, things like that naturally happen.  I wouldn’t have even thought of that, but now you point it out, I’m like, ‘Oh shit, she really did just do that.’  You spoke to the song being macabre—are you still in the same emotional place as when you wrote it?

The song was written around August. My really good friend Tizzi passed away in July, just out of nowhere. Monday she was talking to us and everything was really great, then come Friday she walked in the hospital with a back pain and then collapsed on the hospital floor. So it really took a toll on my group of friends. And when I say friends, these are people who’ve known each other since middle school. We really hung onto each other as a form of survival, so we’ve kind of become our own family. So losing her was a huge impact, and it threw us all for a fucking run. Back when I wrote it, I was at a pretty low point that even I have a pretty hard time coming to terms with, but like … time is so short. At our lowest moments we often welcome death and we want it, like, ‘Just get me the fuck out of here,’ and at the same time there’s also this fear. When I wrote this song I was very much at the lowest point, and it was flirting with the idea and dancing with death. That’s why you have this very musical element. When I was writing it I really just thought of Labyrinth— Jennifer Connelly dancing with David Bowie in ‘As The World Falls Down’ and all that. But as far as if I’m still there musically … yes, I think so. Especially with Tizzi passing away and her being so close to home, it’s something that isn’t gonna go away right away. I’m trying to just explore that musically, and it’s helping me figure out and learn a lot of things about myself that I’d never even known, y’know? I think it’s interesting that you’re still close to your friends from middle school. Is that a well you’re going to draw from in the future? I think so. With the songs I’ve written this year, there’s definitely a lot of reflection on the past and moving towards the future, coming to terms with a lot of those things. The song ‘Maybe This is Love’ is about this straight 31


guy that I fell in love with. It was not the healthiest thing because he was in the closet and I would just see him on the side every once in a while. And so it’s coming to terms with … I guess pushing back on the ideas of love and what I thought was OK to do at that age. When I think about it now it’s like, ‘That really wasn’t the safest thing for me to be doing and looking for.’  ‘Ten’ is another yearning ballad. You were just talking about queer love, and that song is very much about loving yourself, but it felt to me like you were literally singing about yourself. Is that accurate? Yeah, it is. It was about self-reflection and telling myself, ‘How much do I really love myself and do I really treat myself the way I deserve to be treated? The way I talk to myself—would I allow anybody else in the world to talk to me that way?’ I wrote it from the perspective of a mother talking to a child, but it’s very much a ballad to myself, as insane as that sounds. My hope for the song in general is that somebody at a low point in their life will sing that to themselves and be lifted up. Or a mother will sing it to their child, or a lover to a lover. The thing I find most beautiful about ‘Ten’ is it can be about self-reflection, but it also can be for somebody trying to lift a significant other or a friend up. It always sounds like you’re singing in a canyon. Can you explain the mechanics of your voice? Are you trained? Typical singer story: singing in choir, loved to sing, wanted to write music. When I went to college I found myself being veered in the classical direction, mainly just because I’m fucking loud. I could sing really fucking loud without a microphone and you could hear me in the back of the room. Immediately when I

was in school my teacher was like, ‘You should do opera!’ And me being the misguided soul constantly seeking approval, I was like, ‘Yeah, of course! You love me in this? I’ll definitely do it. As long as I’m getting the love.’ I was steered towards doing classical and I was for a good three years … hardcore. I was doing competitions, I wanted to be a classical opera singer, I wanted to sing at the Met, sing at the L.A. Opera. I wanted to do everything. I was trying to study Italian and learn the languages and all that, but by my senior year I’d spent so much time focused on that that I had an awakening like, ‘This isn’t what I wanna do.’ I love R&B—I wanna write those types of songs, I wanna sing for the other people that grew up with the same background as me. I wanna sing the music they’re listening to and the music that inspires me. I unfortunately— while I love the art and I have so much respect for it—didn’t grow up with classical music. It’s unnatural for me to want to pursue that. I feel like in order to become a completely successful classical singer, you have to love it from day one, and I only learned to love it. After college I started stripping away a lot of classical sounds and aspects to it. But there are remnants, and I feel like it makes me that much better of a singer. I get that all the time—it’s such a loud expansive sound. In ‘Ten’ and ‘Reverie’ there are some drug references. Do you have a history with L.A.’s party scene? Is that seductive to you? It’s seductive—it’s all the things. I’m kind of a weird late bloomer. I never really did drugs until the end of college. By that time my friends were all like, ‘Been there, done that!’ But at the beginning of this year, I found that I was drinking a lot more and smoking a lot more weed. I told myself at the beginning

that I really want to focus on music, I really want to get as clean as possible. I do a lot of callbacks to it because it’s in the past. And then also there’s this other realization: ‘You’ve left the drugs behind, the alcohol, and these problems are still here. What the fuck?’  That’s very similar to my journey. Now that I’ve calmed down, I’m still upset! That’s what’s so fascinating to me. Even to this day, I’ll go out and try to be as sober as I can—I don’t drink or anything. But there’s this weird craving and I don’t know why that exists in me. I wasn’t happy when I was drinking and smoking weed, so why am I in the same boat now?  Bouncing off that L.A. party question— what about L.A. inspires you? L.A. is a very curious place. I’ve been living here for about a couple years and I feel like it wasn’t until this year that I’ve really seen the POC queer party scene really bloom. Maybe it was always there and I never found it until this year. The old L.A. party scene when I first moved here … I was really trying to stay away. It was depressing. But now that I go out a lot more and I’m seeing more queer and POC be more fierce and sure of themselves and out there with who they are, it’s all the more inspiring to my work and my music. I really want to tap into that. That’s where songs like ’Ten’ come from. It’s really pushing and trying to add to that momentum I see growing all around us, and trying to lift up as many queer people as possible. Whether through my own music or just telling people through social media or in person, ‘I fuckin’ love you.’ You were talking about queer people being more visible—I read an article recently on Billboard about Troye Sivan and MNEK, two openly queer musicians

with disappointing sales. The article tried to loosely attribute it to them being open about their sexuality. Even in 2019, are you worried about alienating audiences by being gay or using male pronouns? I’m not afraid of it. If an artist isn’t being true to who they are and aren’t being themselves, then what’s the point? If it’s just completely about the sales and making the money in that way, they’re missing the point. The whole point about Troye Sivan and MNEK is they’re queer musicians who are out and serving a minority population, and they’re telling them it’s OK to be who they are.  I would never be afraid, and I would never back away and I would never try to use ‘she’ in my love songs or anything like that because it’s not who I am. If I was trying to just appease other people, I’d be in this for all the wrong reasons. I see Vice and Dazed and Confused and other outlets writing about queer acts all the time. Do you worry that with the growing conservatism we’re seeing, that it’ll soon be out of fashion to write about our community?  So … no. And it’s honestly gonna be a fight. And if you’re asking me about the state of our country, it’s very terrifying to see where everything is going. The only way that we’re going to combat this wave of conservatism is by being who we are whole-heartedly, and also lifting up other minorities that are being mistreated. For a cisgender male like me, it’s fighting transphobia actively and really trying to help the community as a whole. As cheesy as it sounds, we’re stronger together.  VISIT AARON MARCO AARONMARCOMUSIC.COM.

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NANNA.B FROM 22 I wonder if you’d appreciate this freedom if you hadn’t struggled to find your place before. True. That might be. Sometimes we need to struggle to appreciate what we have. To even realize that’s what we needed all along. I believe that struggle or pain or what we go through is guiding us somewhere. Even if it’s challenging, it’s testing you to see if you really want it. If you’re uncomfortable in a place or feel like you can’t be yourself, that feeling forces you to move. On Solen you worked with a bunch of producers, but you also put out an EP, Lapis, that you did yourself a few months before. The constant is your melodies but production-wise it’s way more sparse. Which was done first? Most of the EP songs came after the fulllength was finished. But what I experienced while creating the album was … first of all, I was inspired by the producers I worked with so I wanted to start trying to produce myself. I tried to go in a direction where I could be independent so I can make songs myself or also make songs with other people. I want that level of freedom in my creativity. I dived into making sparse minimal beats. I like that sound as well. I don’t have the skillset to make the type of beats that are on the full-length … yet. My approach to the EP was the same way that I would approach visual art—with experimentation in mind. Let me not follow the same hookverse-hook structure, in that way the EP and LP have that in common. I don’t want to follow the rules necessarily. I wanted to play around and experiment. For a while I was not sure if I wanted to release the EP. I was afraid because it’s so naked and sparse. It’s just me. But I felt that it had strength on its own, which is why I didn’t wait. What was the process of Solen? Did you bring producers demos or vice-versa? How collaborative was it track by track? It was different from song to song. When I first arrived in L.A. I had already wrote to a few producers before I got here. One of those was Shafiq Husayn. He invited me to the studio. He introduced me to the way people work here where you create something on the spot. He plays a beat, you get on the mic, you make up something. For me that was terrifying. I was used to getting a beat sent, having days to sit with it, perfect it, all of those things. So I had to get over a lot anxiety. But once I got into that way of creating I really enjoyed it. Me and Anderson.Paak did ‘Golden’ in one day at his studio. ‘Find U’ was me and Shafiq and Cohenbeats at Shafiq’s studio creating. That was writing and creating the beats and the song at the same time. Other songs, like ‘Magnetars’ and ‘Beaches,’ I had demos and then I had Iman Omari build around it, along with MNDSGN on ‘Beaches.’ Some vocals I did in Copenhagen. The album has a L.A. sound as a whole, but it also has the melancholy of Denmark. ‘Hollow Moon’ to me sounds like winter in Copenhagen. The song ‘Solen’ is in Danish as well. When 33

I was working with Anderson, he was like, ‘Why don’t you have a song in Danish?’ I was like, ‘Damn, that’s a good question.’ So I went on a hike and I wrote that song. I did a bunch of a capellas and he built up around it with his band. I like that it turned into the introduction to the album. The rest is English so it gives people a hint of where I’m coming from. A little bit of native tongue. The album begins with the sun, ‘Solen,’ and ends with the moon of ‘Hollow Moon.’ What do you envision as the landscape between? I see it like the journey of a day. After ‘Solen’ is ‘Suitcase.’ It’s joyful and open. It’s like, ‘Hey, I’m going out into the world with the things from my past and I’m on an adventure.’ That’s where the album takes off from me. ‘Find U’ is also a journey type of song. This album is like a chapter of life to me—taking a leap of faith and moving towards the sun and finding home. The landscape I see for the album is definitely California. It’s desert and beaches and forest. It’s a journey through each landscape, and I reflect that in the videos. But the vibe of the album is sunshine. How does the notion of self—of exploring and inhabiting your self fully—fit in? On the album there is this notion of searching. As humans we often search for things outside of ourselves, and maybe I did that when I moved to California. The people I wanted to work with were here, the weather suits me better, I wanted to be in L.A. but what moving here really did was point the arrow back at myself. Once you’re out of your context—your language, everything you’re used to—you look at yourself in a different light. You see yourself almost in a rebirth. You have to interact with new people, make new friends, find a place to live, and all you really have is yourself. I have had the most immense feelings of loneliness in this city that I ever experienced. There’s been a lot of searching myself as I change my life in general. Some of the songs are love songs. For me, and a lot of people, it’s like, oh, you fall in love and everything is great and then life happens. And then I keep returning to myself. We all got shit to work on. We all have baggage. We all have wounds. It’s a constant journey of self-work, just being alive in general. There was a lot of years I thought I wouldn’t do music—that I would do visual art. I went to art school. But I had an experience in South America where I realized I had to go back to music. I did ayahuasca in the Amazon with a shaman. I’m pretty sure that kick-started something in me. It removed my fears and connected me with my longing. It was a very sacred experience. I was just like, ‘I gotta do music.’ That was what my soul wanted to express itself through. I had a flashback to me and my sister drawing when we were kids, completely free in our imagination. I felt I want to go into creating with that same level of freedom, but it’s gotta be music. I got home from South America and I was like, ‘Fuck this—I gotta do music.’ NANNA.B’S SOLEN IS OUT NOW ON JAKARTA RECORDS. VISIT NANNA.B AT LISTEN.TUNEIN.COM/NANNAB.

TASHi WADA FROM 28 Parts of the album grew out of playing live together, and the rest of the album is compositions that branch out of that or come from other things that I do. The album involves a lot of different people, including a producer, Cole [M.G.N.], who is a friend. I hadn’t worked with a producer in that way before, so it was a new experience for me to approach the studio in a more traditional way and treat the material as sort of malleable and then shape it in the studio. That was something that we discussed early on—this wasn’t really trying to capture live performances per se, but [instead we worked] through the studio, really pushing things and creating a world sonically. How do the beginnings happen? It’s not all the same for each piece or section. One side of it is playing live. Most of the pieces—they’re composed but they have a strong element of improvisation. They’re written in such a way that the performers have room to be themselves and to pull things in their own direction to some degree. That’s something important to me in composing. It’s important to me that the performers, including myself, can embody what they’re doing. I caught part of your set at Zebulon, and it was interesting to me how precise it all seemed with everyone reading sheet music. That space for improvisation is written into the music everyone is playing? Yeah—I write everything that I feel is needed to keep the piece intact and everything else I leave out. One side of that is that while everyone is playing, they’re listening—listening to each other and reacting to each other. Because in live performance that energy is important. Your work has a certain physicality to it—a sensory experience that goes beyond just hearing it. That’s definitely part of the work. I’ve spent a lot of time working with different tuning systems and psycho-acoustics and understanding how sound works at a physiological level. I don’t claim to treat sound in a scientific way, but all that is part of how I approach it. My first reaction to sound—and I think probably [it’s the same for] most people—is you just feel it first. Everything else comes after that. It was interesting making this album to try to translate certain things that had been worked out in a live setting into a fixed form. Is there an ideal setting where you’d imagine the listener hearing Nue? Not really. I know people listen to music whereever, whenever these days. I was happy to make it in such a way that once it’s out there, it’s for use however, and it can be listened to all the way through or in sections. In the past there wasn’t so much range in listening environments. You’d have had a more concrete idea of how it would be experienced. Does that factor into the creative process? You can envision limitless possibilities for the way people will experience your music.

With this album more than anything I’ve done in the past. I think this was partially working with Cole—he does quite a range of music—but [also] to conceive of it in a way that was more malleable and could be pulled apart. The general feeling to me is that the album is a bit disorienting and feels a bit surreal. Something like that I feel can be accessed in different ways. Though of course if you do listen to it all the way though, it has a kind of continuity that exists. That’s important too, but I don’t feel like it has to be experienced that way. Is there a role Fluxus plays on the album and on what you’re working on now? I would say the influence is there in the spirit of exploring. And in an interest in making things that blur categories. Do you feel you belong to any particular musical canon or tradition? I feel pretty nomadic. I don’t really feel the need to adhere to any style or scene, and I think that’s something [about] listeners these days. People seem pretty fluid in how they hear music. That’s nice—holding to one style—but I like the roaming. I’d like to talk about the instruments, especially the less common acoustic instruments—like bagpipes—that appear on the record. What can you do with those that you can’t with synthesis? The mixture of acoustic and electronic instruments—they both bring something the other can’t achieve. With the acoustic instruments like bagpipeS, they are familiar in a certain way and they kind of refer to the past. But they’re also very visceral in a way that draws you in. Then the synths provide flexibility that is difficult to achieve with acoustic instruments. I like how they play off of each other and I think part of how it emerged is just through playing live and getting a blend of these things in the space. That’s hard to achieve otherwise. Is there a similar intent behind your use of the human voice? Yeah—when we were recording the vocalists, who range in age quite a bit, I was interested in having these different qualities of sound. I wasn’t asking them to sing in a way that was unnatural for them. It was interesting and sort of rare to have that age range of artists on stage, both visually and sonically. How did you assemble the singers? Julia [Holter] is my girlfriend. Simone Forti was our neighbor when I was a child. Simone is quite well known. She’s a choreographer and she was involved in Fluxus. And she and I reconnected here. We both ended up here. Laura Steenberge is an old friend I met at CalArts. And Jessika Kenney is a person I know more recently, but she’s an amazing vocalist who recently moved to L.A. Of all the mediums for expression, what about music makes yours? It’s just a kind of primal thing of being drawn to sound. I don’t think I can necessarily explain why. It’s that the possibilities feel kind of endless. TASHI AND YOSHI WADA’S FRKWYS VOL. 14 – NUE IS OUT NOW ON RVNG INTL. INTERVIEW


michael rother Interview by christina gubala illustration by jay torres

When Michael Rother’s name floats through a conversation—be it in reference to his seminal work in Neu! and Harmonia, his early ties to Kraftwerk, or his meditative, layered solo output—it commands a special kind of reverence. While the German multiinstrumentalist’s dynamic legacy is established, the topography of his career path falls and rises across humbling moments and exhilarating surprises. As his music would imply, there is a balance about him. He speaks patiently, citing moments of consistency and the comfort they brought him as the spotlight swung like a pendulum through his life. He spoke to me from the very home within which the first Harmonia records were recorded—a home he has kept for over three decades—while musing about his love of cats, an eternal appreciation for Little Richard, and the surreality of sharing a stage with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, much to the bemusement of their audience. Solo, his recent box set release on Groenland, is a collection of his first four solo records and some unreleased work from the same era, and it is this solo period of his life where we began our conversation. So you’re speaking to me from your home this afternoon? That’s right, yes! And this is the same home that you’ve lived in for the majority if not all of your life? Not all of my life, but since 1973, which is already quite a long time. I moved here to work with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius and start the project Harmonia. I still love the place, and, I don’t know, the magic never stops. So this is a post-Neu! house for you, then? Yes. Actually, the real truth is that I came here to find out whether Roedelius and Moebius would be suited to help Neu! put Neu! on stage. There was this idea of a British label, United Artists, to do a tour with us, and Klaus Dinger and I couldn’t play as a duo. This didn’t make sense, musically. And so I thought of Cluster, and I remembered especially one track which I liked, and that made musical sense to me in relation to my own ambition, and so I took my guitar and came here to jam with them, and then I sort of fell in love with what we could do. And I stopped ... I moved from Dusseldorf and I stopped Neu! for a while. I want to go all the way back to your childhood, to the place where you first started appreciating music, and some of the time that you spent in Pakistan. 34

Okay. Born in Hamburg, Germany, and ... this is a part where I have to speculate because my mother was a trained classical piano player, and we had a piano back then in our home in Hamburg. I read she was interested in Chopin! That was her favorite composer, and she played Chopin, and I guess I would have to lie … I don’t remember being a three year old and listening to her play piano. I really don’t. Maybe if I’m put under hypnosis, maybe I’d suddenly think, ‘Wait a minute!’ But I think it’s fair ... what is it, an educated guess? Is that what you could say? That I was exposed to classical music when I was a tiny person, you know? One, two, three and four. And then this must have entered my system without filters. This is something of course at that age it just sinks into your system, and I would think this Middle European music is something that is the center of my musical world. But of course, then we moved to Munich, and maybe you’ve heard about my brother. He’s ten years older, and he was a teenager when I was six. He was sixteen, he was seventeen, and he had these rock ‘n roll parties at home. And so that was my next music, you know? After Chopin, or maybe Bach or whatever, then it was rock ‘n roll. I mean, even today! If you want to get me excited, you just have to ask me to talk about Little Richard, because I’m a huge, huge fan!

And I suppose when you were five or six that was the beat era. Like, post-Hamburg Beatles era. Sometime in the 60s? No, no. This was like 1957? I was born in 1950, so this love for this rock ‘n roll music hasn’t left me, and there’s this one clip on YouTube if you can find it of Little Richard playing live with a band at the BBC. He performs ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On’, the song which was of course originally by this other guy I don’t like. But the way Little Richard performs this, it’s like breaking all the chains. It’s wild love, freedom, excitement, everything that’s positive. That was rock ‘n roll, and it’s also inside my system I’m sure. And the next step was Pakistan. When I was nine we moved to Karachi and stayed there until I was twelve, nearly thirteen, and of course the culture there ... everything was totally different. Before that we were in a small British town, Winslow, near Manchester. That was very sweet, but I don’t have any musical memories of the time. I have very fond memories of my friends, going out with my friends, playing football, going swimming in some small river, and that was a very nice time. The school was so relaxed and peaceful. Winslow back then was not a village, maybe a bit more than a village, but we had animals running around our class, you know? The atmosphere, it was totally relaxed. And when I was moved to

Pakistan, I was thrown into this very British military traditional kind of school with school uniforms and ‘ATTENTION!’ You know, it was actually one of the big crises I had. The next one was when we moved back to Germany, because I left German schooling for more than four years. But coming to the music, I was fascinated by the sounds I heard there. You know, the bands or the individual musicians, snake charmers or bands coming to the door, to the house, to the gate and playing. I didn’t understand the scales, I didn’t understand the rhythms, but it was some kind of magic because it sounded like an endless stream of melodies and rhythms, and this kind of endlessness I think is something that I ... maybe I already loved it before, but I certainly haven’t lost it. This is something I picked up there, and yeah, through some channels which psychoanalysts could show came into my music many years later. I’ve noticed in listening to other interviews that a lot of focus is placed on your time in Neu!, but this forthcoming project that you’ve got coming out at the end of this month is your solo endeavors collected. So speak to me about your first solo outing, and the very first record that appears in this box set, and how it differed for you as a musician, being independent from Neu! and everything that came with it. INTERVIEW


Okay! Then we go back to the year 1976. It was the end of Harmonia. Roedelius and Moebius did no longer believe in the project. I mean, we were all frustrated, because Harmonia back then was a total disaster. Nobody wanted to hear Harmonia. The sales were terrible, and even our concerts were a struggle. People started talking, and it didn’t work out. And so they gave up. I wasn’t really willing to give up, but because they said, ‘No, Michael, we’re quitting,’ and I was in the situation that I was on my own. I found myself alone. Luckily when I approached Jaki Liebezeit and asked him to play drums for me, he was totally willing and easy, and Conny Plank was also interested. By that time, he had his own studio. Now in the beginning, we always had to go into a rental studio in Hamburg. I think he started in 1974 his own studio near Cologne. He said, ‘Yes, okay, I can give you two weeks of studio time,’ and we made a deal, like, it was ... I didn’t have to put money on the table—it would’ve been difficult—but it was like ... he was willing to take risks. That was something we really appreciated about Conny Plank, not only that he was willing to take musical risks with us, but also the financial risks. And so we made a deal for the license, the share, and then I went to the studio, and Jaki joined me, and we recorded the basic tracks. It’s really difficult to explain the difference, because my intentions were not different, you know? The intentions when I recorded Deluxe, the second Harmonia album, were more or less the same as a year later or one and a half years later. It was not that I suddenly had this idea of creating a new, different music, it was just maybe the absence of the elements of Roedelius and Moebius, which also changed the way the music came out. All of a sudden there’s so much space within which you can move. As I understand it, your earlier recording sessions were rushed because you were limited on rented studio time. With two weeks at the studio with Conny, did you feel like you were able to stretch out a bit more? I still had to work, you know, make progress, but it was a totally different situation compared to the five nights we had, or three nights even—I don’t remember clearly— with Neu!. This was a total pressure. The studio clock was ticking away, and I didn’t feel happy about that. The pressure didn’t encourage me to be more creative. It was just something negative, I think. You had to fight against the pressure. But in two weeks, I mean … one week for the recording, one week for the mixing...this was, of course, already a huge step forward. I have some good memories of the days we recorded Flammende Herzen at his studio. There were some special moments. Jaki Liebezeit picked up my ideas so easily, so amazingly. I played rhythm guitar along to his drumming, and he didn’t hear the melodies that I had in my mind. He only heard what I played on the rhythm guitar, the harmonic change and maybe the drama I tried to create. But Jaki Liebezeit is unfortunately no longer with us. He was such an amazing, gifted, technically amazing drummer, and also gifted with this intuition, which also was the case with Conny Plank. That’s maybe what you need 38

in order to work that way. It’s very different if you come as a drummer and the whole song is already on tape, and you hear this part and then that part and this melody and this break and so on. Then you can maybe develop these elements you want to play as a drummer, but he did that without knowing what was coming on top. And that ... I think this is very special. Wonderful imagination, which I think is crucial to being the kind of drummer that you need in that sort of situation. It sounds like a lot of the ways that you’ve made musical moves have to do with comfort. You’ve been creating in a space that you’re quite familiar with and you kind of trust your own energy through this, and I think that’s really reflected in your music, too. Was this your first time recording as like the sole brain power behind the record? And how was it received once it was released into the wild? Yeah, it was the first time. Actually, maybe I didn’t mention it just earlier—I wasn’t even unhappy. I would have wanted to continue struggling with Harmonia and just taking it through the wall and make the people understand what we’re going for, but because my colleagues gave up hope, I found myself in this situation. And then I just said, ‘Oh, okay. Well then, I should go and do it myself, on my own.’ So this was not something I did before, and it was a bit strange. After the recording was finished, I remember that I was totally fascinated, but this happened with Harmonia, of course. Conny was also very confident. Conny Plank said, ‘Yeah, this would be good. People will like this.’ We went to the major companies back then, and after talking to product managers and then they had their meetings like they always do, and in the end, after a few months, there was no big company interested in releasing Flammende Herzen. In the end they said, ‘Does he have a band? Does he play live?’ No. ‘Does he have a management?’ No. No, no, no. I was just a single guy making music. And maybe also music that they couldn’t see ... that there wasn’t already a music like that which was successful. It was something new. They had to either have a vision for the possibilities of selling the music or not, so I was quite frustrated in the following months when we didn’t have a deal. And I was very happy and fortunate that one guy, he was the owner of Sky Records—I knew him from the time when he was label manager at Brain. He was just starting his new label, and I think he listened to the music with his heart. It was not like the money people in the big companies. But he had this approach to the music which was very emotional, and he said, ‘I like the music, and I’m going to do this.’ He took quite a risk. It was not totally cheap, the production, but he paid the advance. And then okay, I’ll skip the first moment because it was not a success story straight from the beginning— But I think that’s actually important, though! That’s something to reflect upon. It’s something I’m curious about, because I’ve known of you as a musician who’s on a pedestal, someone who’s part of that upper echelon of groundbreaking rock

‘n roll that took place in the 1970s. It’s very important for people like myself and my generation to examine the humbling moments, because I feel like they allow unexpected things to thrive. Okay! Well, I already explained the humbling moments happened in Harmonia all the time. You know, we were just kindly shown the door. ‘Well, thank you. We don’t need you. And don’t call us, we’ll call you.’ That stuff. And so when Sky Records ... they had a distribution company, and the distribution people told the record label how many copies they needed. Back then, in the mid-70s in Germany alone you had several thousand record shops. There were record shops everywhere. Every corner more or less. And so there were maybe two and a half or three thousand record shops, and I heard that this distribution company thought, ‘Oh, we need 150 copies.’ If you imagine 150 copies in two thousand shops, you will get one album in every tenth shop or something like that. Nothing will happen because nobody will find the music. And so that was a real low blow. But luckily there was one German journalist. He was also a radio DJ, and he was actually one of the first who discovered our music. He was a Neu! fan, he was a Harmonia fan, and he was also the one who brought Brian Eno to the Harmonia concert in 1974. Winfried Trenkler. And he had this radio show. Back then ... I think it’s very difficult to imagine for young people; there was a desert around us, a cultural desert. There were no TV shows with music for young people. It was Schlager music and folk music, and also the radio was [pfffft]. There weren’t any journalists playing our music, there was no ... demand for our music. But this guy invited me to come to his show. It was called Radiothek, and it was an ad by WDR. This is one of the big radio stations, and it had coverage of maybe a third or fourth of all of Germany, but also the very densely populated areas around Dusseldorf, Cologne and so on. And so I was in his show, and he played the whole album, we talked, and I think this evening changed the development significantly. It was sort of maybe ... how do you say ... the initial spark which set off something that just got its own momentum and just kept on going. Back then, when you were in that radio show, I don’t know how many hundred thousand people heard the music—or tens of thousands, I don’t want to exaggerate. I don’t really know the numbers. But they were fans. They were people looking for different music. They’re the people that needed to find you, and the people that you needed to find. Okay, but I didn’t know it before. It’s just like, ‘Okay, I’m coming to your show.’ I remember sitting with this guy, Winfried Trenkler, after the show was over. We were sitting in the recording room, and the telephone didn’t stop ringing, you know? People were calling in saying, ‘What did you play there?! What’s the name?! Tell me again!’ I didn’t know what that meant because we had people that were calling, but he knew because he had the experience. And he said, ‘Michael, watch out.’ Suddenly everything was different. Months after the release … it

wasn’t shooting like a rocket to the stars, it was sort of a slow burner, but even at a slow burn it was surprising to get a call from the label every week or two saying, ‘Oh, we had to reprint! The copies are gone! Now it’s ten thousand, now it’s twenty thousand, now it’s thirty thousand…’ It just went on and on. That must have been so thrilling! Was there a specific moment where you knew something had changed? I think it was not one day, but it was a period. And I remember I was working in the house, I was doing some ... what is it like? Not refurbishing, I was even taking away clay from the beams. I was working underneath the ceiling, chopping away, and then the phone rang, and I thought, ‘Wow, another three thousand? That’s more than Harmonia sold!’ You know? Suddenly I thought, ‘Oh, this is different. This is really strange.’ It was wonderful, really. I can’t say anything else. It was such a thrill to—in that moment—to get feedback from the people which Harmonia didn’t get. This leads me to a question about your second solo record. One of the things that struck me was the fairytale of the ‘star dollars.’ So was this your star dollar moment—would you care to expand upon that fairytale about which I read? Yeah. Actually, I’m not that kind of ‘fairytale’ guy. I had a friend, a good friend ... he had an advertising agency, and he was putting ideas into words. And so because I had this music, and it was only music for me, I didn’t have any words for the music. No names—that was rarely the case. Most of the time it was just a piece of music, but I needed a name, and so he listened to the music and came up with suggestions, and I said, ‘Sterntaler, that sounds nice!’ It’s not that I read fairytales or something like that, although I do read ... since the 60s, maybe it’s very nostalgic of me, but Agatha Christie. Do you know that author? Certainly, her mysteries! Yeah! I think she wrote more than a thousand books or something, just [makes drilling noise]. And back then ... I must have been in Karachi already. I had this series of books called The Castle of Adventure, The Island of Adventure, and in the 80s I bought them again in London. Every year or every second year I come back to these. They are quite harmless. It’s like, thrills for children at the age of ... back then, eleven and fourteen. Now it would maybe be for children between eight and ten. But anyway, many of these song names were supplied by my friend Jens. And I said, ‘Yeah, why not Sterntaler? That’s good.’ He was not ... not cynical, but he was also a very smart brain. He wasn’t living in a fantasy world. It was very clear thinking, looking for good names for the music. And maybe … I can’t even say for sure, but my situation really had some resemblance to this girl with the apron, poor girl, and certainly these dollars were falling from the skies because in the year 77 and then of course also in the following years, my whole life changed in the way that I was suddenly economically completely independent. I was able to buy professional recording gear—all the toys that a musician could dream of. INTERVIEW


It’s that moment that I think everyone waits for. I think it’s very insightful of your friend to come up with names that he sees from the outside. We also used to play with hidden meanings or second meanings of words. If you look at the name Katzenmusik, ‘cat music’ … in Germany this term is used for a dissonant, screeching kind of music. I remember getting reactions from fans and hearing, ‘Why does he call his music Katzenmusik? It’s not disharmonic at all!’ They didn’t get the deeper meaning, which of course was the more important meaning—my love for cats was in this title. It feels very fitting, given the music that you create. I feel like cats have a warmth that kind of drives them, you know? No matter what they’re doing, no matter what mood they’re in, there’s so much soul and spirit inside of a cat. I feel like your music has a similar quality, so it’s very fitting. Big compliment, thank you! I’m a fan, that’s all I can say. I’m quite foolish, even. Whenever I see a photo of a cat or a cat comes into the picture, I smile before I know what I’m doing. I had many cats and I loved them dearly, and now I only have cat friends living with friends. Yes, but this is wonderful. My life, you know, I travel around the world all the time. This is not a good home for a cat. And it’s hard being away from them, too. There’s this longing and sense of neglect whenever you have to travel. Yes! I experienced that in the final years, but yeah, now I enjoy being with my cat friends at my friends’ homes. Let’s talk about your third solo release on that note. How did you progress from the release of the second one to the third, and what happened in the intervening period? We can skip the part with David Bowie because it didn’t happen. That was 1977. The David Bowie anti-climax experience. Yeah, I don’t know—something went wrong there on his end. But let’s leave it at that. And then I released Sterntaler, and everything just seemed to come together. There was a big feature film called Flammende Herzen. They asked for the permission to use my name for the film, and it was shown at the biggest festival in Germany in Berlin, and that was more or less in the week or week later when Sterntaler was released, and because Flammende Herzen was still on the rise, Sterntaler came and was also very, very popular. This wave just sort of grew, just became stronger and went on and on. And I was, of course, very happy, and immediately started working on Katzenmusik, which I recorded in ‘79. Back then because of the success of the first two solo albums, Conny Plank offered to give me his mobile recording gear. So we did basic recordings in his studio with Jaki Liebezeit, and then he came to my place and left his 16-track professional gear and a small mixer. I spent four weeks, I think, doing the overdubs, and then we did the final mixing at his studio again. This was already quite a privileged situation for a musician. I enjoyed having all that time available to add all these notes and these colors to the recordings. Emotionally I would think it was all in the same flow. I didn’t really change as a INTERVIEW

person. I would have had to have some kind of serious accident or whatever, but nothing of the sort happened, so I just kept on going. I had all these ideas for music, and so I just let them happen. What a privilege! As this wave was rising, as you felt it cresting, was there ever a point where you felt out of your element? That’s an interesting question. I think I haven’t been asked that question before. I don’t want to give a very quick, easy answer, but I think I accepted it. Because, you know, now we’re talking about years within the span of a few minutes. But back then, there were days, weeks, months and years. And I could learn to be suddenly the most favorite musician in magazines in Germany, voted best musician, best blah blah blah, best album, so ... maybe I was already protected by a skepticism which grew when I was with Harmonia and felt the rejection. Of course I was happy to be loved by the audience then, but I think I never ... left my own position, which meant I need to rely on my own judgment. It’s maybe a small bridge, if you follow the audience because they love you, then suddenly you’re not yourself anymore. I think that didn’t happen to me. I was skeptical. Happy but skeptical. I didn’t trust ... because also I didn’t know what really happened. Why did they love my music in those years, and why didn’t they love Harmonia? It was equally important, and I felt the same for Harmonia. Back then, Neu! was already disappearing. That was a short success story. You know, in the 70s. I learned quite quickly that there’s only one way to survive, and that is to rely on your own judgment. Be critical, be whatever, but judge it yourself. And if people like you, that’s fine. If they don’t, you can still think, ‘Well, maybe they’ll like it in five years,’ or whatever. But if I’m convinced, I can still continue. I think this basic attitude hasn’t changed until now. Now with the advent of the internet, with the release of the Julian Cope book, Krautrock sampler, and also the BBC documentary about Krautrock, these cycles of nostalgia have begun where people are excavating your past. I imagine it must be a bizarre experience for an artist to have everything you did when you were very young brought into the light for everyone to admire. Again, it was not suddenly everybody had their spotlight on me. This was after a decade, maybe, where my music was not in demand. Solo music was ... in the late 80s, early 90s I recorded two albums, and I didn’t find a record company back then, you know? And Neu! was gone, Harmonia was long gone, and so this was a period where I had to survive. It wasn’t easy as an artist, you know? Not give up hope, just keep on working. Being rejected again. I knew that from the 70s. But I want to admit that it wasn’t easy. It was a really tough time, and so in ‘93 I started my own record label to overcome this ... what is it ... blockade? Because the music wasn’t available, and so I started Random Records and found a distribution company, and it was a lot of work and a lot of money—relatively a lot of money—but I never regretted that step, because then there was a new path. I didn’t have to wait for

record company executives to be convinced. I could just work on music and release it. And when Julian Cope released his book in the mid-90s, I think … I remember quite well this was a time when in Germany, nobody wanted to bother with our music. The music didn’t happen, really. It was gone. There was music from America, from Britain, but when Julian Cope’s book came out, I remember the first journalist ... actually, I did an interview with him today, in the morning. Yes! He was Andreas Dewald, and he contacted me and said, ‘Oh, I think I can sell a story to these magazines because of Julian Cope.’ He could convince the editor, ‘Look, these guys from abroad are talking about our musicians, our guys! Why don’t we put a piece about them into the magazine?’ And that slowly changed. That was the mid-90s. It was like crossing a desert, you know? And not getting much water, just struggling and holding on and not giving up, and then suddenly things got a new momentum. You probably know Ciccone Youth—Sonic Youth did that ‘Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening To Neu’... What were they listening to in the background? ‘Negativmusik’ I think? Or … ‘Negativland’? Maybe ‘Negativland’ or maybe ‘Für Immer’? At least a track off one of the Neu! albums, and maybe you’ve heard or not, but Thurston Moore will join us when we play in London! So the circle is sort of ... it’s strange, this spiral. I don’t want to give too much away, but maybe we’ll have some surprises! Actually I’m very grateful for the way things moved, because I think had I been born two decades earlier, there’s a chance I maybe never would have interacted with your music! But it was actually through the Secret Machines—I’m friends with Josh Garza and he introduced me to your discography in probably 2009 or 2010. He was very passionate about your music. It really contributed to my musical development, as a fan, as a music writer, as a DJ—it really kind of changed the direction I was looking at German music in general. Were there any artists since 2009 or so that you’ve gotten to perform with that you never would have expected? Has there been anything that’s surprised you? Anything that’s been really moving to you? It was so great when I met the guys, Secret Machines, back in 2004. They came to Hamburg, and I had dinner with them. They were there for a promo gig, and then at the end I joined them on stage, you know? We played together, and I think the next year when they came back, or maybe later that year we did another gig in Hamburg together. And I stayed with Josh when I was in New York—maybe 2010? He lived in Los Angeles in 2010 cuz he lived two doors down from me. So maybe it happened just before that, just a little earlier, because he was very excited. Okay, well, that was great! And of course the Secret Machines guys, maybe not so long ago, Brandon Curtis sent me an email—you know, his brother, Benjamin Curtis, he was such a talented musician, and it was such a tragic loss when he died. It was unbelievable. He’s in my mind all the time. And earlier

today, or, actually, just the interview before ... I did an interview with a German magazine, and they asked me to select a few albums, and I had the Secret Machines! It’s strange, isn’t it? Something in the air, I suppose. Well, it belongs to those very special memories. Our meetings and the way we played music together, the way they recorded Harmonia’s track ‘Immer Wieder’, ‘Rauf Und Runter’ and the way they sang this, this was so sweet and so ... Josh drumming [makes booming noise] This was very special, of course. Also meeting John Frusciante and Flea and jamming with the Chili Peppers when they were in Hamburg twice in 2003 and 2007. Those were also very special moments. The story was that the Chili Peppers, I think they came to Germany every year, and there was this German journalist who interviewed John, and John kept on raving about our music, and saying wonderful things about me. I hesitate to say, but he put me on the same level as Jimi Hendrix, and ‘This Michael Rother! Michael Rother!’ And this German journalist thought, ‘Okay, next time they come to Germany I will do an interview with these two guys!’ And that’s what happened. So when they came to Hamburg in 2003, before the show we met backstage, and it was great to talk with John because we actually forgot about the interview. The interviewer was ready to interview the two of us, but John had all these questions he had written down. And so we were talking, two musicians just talking, and forgot about the interview, but he was happy anyway. After that they did their concert, and then they started jamming at the end, and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of Mars Volta also joined them onstage, and then John really wanted me to come, and I really hesitated. I thought, ‘I can’t do this!’ Like, eighteen thousand people, but he was so nice as a person … then I took a guitar and I just went onstage, and we were jamming. The jam went on for I think maybe fourteen minutes or so, and I’m sure that many of the fans were confused. Didn’t sound like their Chili Peppers at all. They got taken to school that night! That was very special, and in 2007 they returned to Hamburg, and back then they were exhausted. They had been traveling around the world for one and a half years, and I think even though they had perfect organization, you know—they had their own chef watching over what they ate, and they had a physiotherapist doing massage, and everything was there, but you know … because traveling and playing, my system is a bit different. No massage therapist onboard? But it is very demanding, you know? Even if you try to add more free time. I felt for them, and I remember Anthony Kiedis coming to me before even the concert started, saying, ‘Michael, thank you for joining us!’ He was so happy that he could leave the stage after an hour! MICHAEL ROTHER’S SOLO IS OUT NOW ON GROENLAND. VISIT MICHAEL ROTHER AT MICHAELROTHER.DE. 39


YOUNG FATHERS Interview by TOLLIVER illustration NATHAN MORSE

The wormhole of musical superstardom closes and opens at random. Right-wing lurches, shifts in culture and good taste lift some boats while iceberg-ing others. Young Fathers surf these waves by keeping themselves guessing. Even before they released the careermaking Tape One on L.A.’s Anticon, they were writing songs in a visceral stream-of-consciousness—improvisation concentrated into fury and lust. They aren’t superstars, but they should be. They’ll be doing Drake-like stints at Staples if it’s up to singer Alloysious Massaquoi. He speaks about their pop-leaning, course-altering latest album Cocoa Sugar, L.A.’s oblique influence on their music and the thrill of collaboration. Y’all have put out great album after great album. Obviously there’s a lot of acclaim. From a purely careerist standpoint, what is left to accomplish? How big do y’all want to get? There’s no fear in us wanting to be as big as possible, man. I think we find ourselves in a strange area where we’ve been around for a while but it still feels like we’re at the tipping point. Moreso now with the new record and a bunch of new videos that we’ve done. We’ve opened up a bit more, collaborating with other directors and things like that. So it’s a steady growth and you gradually get to a place where … I just want the masses to come around to our stuff. To be in a line with the Beyonces, the Kanyes. Now even Childish Gambino—he’s managed to do that jump from being the awkward nerdy black guy to… [gestures upward] … just from pure creativity. So you want to be in that realm. I want us to be in that realm where you’re just considered as well. That’s the ultimate goal for me, anyway. I can’t speak for the guys. It’s a slog, though. It’s a long journey. I think it’s just about evolving, keep progressing, try new stuff, making yourself feel uncomfortable—all that kind of stuff. That’s all you can really do, mate. Was that kind of ambition there from Tape One? 40

We’ve never shied away from pop music or having a trajectory—never. I think we just want as many people to hear the music as possible … and it to be somewhere. We still believe in the power of music and it changing things and people’s minds and whatnot. But now it’s about being more strategic and having things in place to allude to that vision. I think that’s the best way of doing it. It’s been a learning curve. Everyone gets our stuff when they see us live. We’re not necessarily prolific online, but when we do our shows folks turn out. It’s a slow and genuine following of people. I think we could improve online. It’s that kind of thing where when you take a photo of us … if you see us live, you essentially want to see that but in a photo and online—because people get it— people understand it. From Tape One it was more about a release, just putting something out. We’d been recording since we were 14. Nothing had come out. So it was just like … you do something in a week, and whatever state it’s in, you put it out. From that we got signed to Anticon, we went to SXSW for the first time and kind of went on from that. We had a domino effect and we progressed and now we’re here. Speaking of Anticon—are y’all still in contact with them? They’re a legendary L.A. label.

Unfortunately not. That was it. We did the deal and that was really it. No potlucks at their house? [laughs] It is what it is. You’ve worked with Danny Boyle, and done some live scoring. Do you have any other big bombastic ideas you’d like to try? Just keep it simple, just start collaborating. Essentially we’ve been collaborating since we were 14. Everyone’s accepted for who they are and championed to excel at whatever they feel. It’s just letting other people in the camp that we want in the camp. It adds more substance, adds more flavor and it takes it somewhere else. Sometimes you might have an idea, but you won’t get off the ground because you don’t have the know-how. A lot of people have the technical ability. It’s being open to that and understanding that there’s limitations—there’s things that you just can’t do from a technical point of view. As long as we have creative input, that’s the collaboration part. Where we can oversee stuff and be part of something—and if we can’t, then trust that the person who takes on the job can nail it and gets the group. It’s hard to find people who get the group or where we’re coming from. You have to find that trust. Trust issues.

I read in a Guardian piece earlier this year that you tried to move toward pop structures for Cocoa Sugar. Is that where you still are musically? It stems from us wanting to do something that makes us feel uncomfortable. I personally enjoyed this whole process from start to finish because I felt that it was something that we needed to do to get to the next point and to add this process into our arsenal. I feel like when you look at the greats—I read up on a lot of this stuff and watch a lot of interviews and whatnot—and the greats are quick at deciding what’s good and what’s not and moving on. And we like to work really fast. I think that process kind of cemented us in going like, ’This works, that’s the melody, have you got any words? OK, those words are the best words.’ And then you work song structure. And that for me felt a lot easier because you never have to write as much. It felt a lot easier. There was starting and stopping [during sessions for earlier albums]. Before … you get into a vibe and everybody would be like going for it. And then you do it for awhile and then we start arranging it in a more organic way. But this whole process was as soon as someone had something good, it was like, CONTINUED PAGE 47 INTERVIEW


SASAMI Interview bY BENNETT KOGON photography by GARI ASKEW In the blink of an eye, songwriter Sasami Ashworth has become L.A.’s newest hometown hero. Formerly the ‘synth queen’ in homegrown indie stars Cherry Glazerr, this classically-trained French horn-playing collaborator with many is now at the forefront of her very own solo endeavor, the appropriately-titled SASAMI. Written and arranged while on tour, Sasami’s heartfelt and infectiously catchy self-titled debut will be released on powerhouse label Domino on March 8th. Just moments before taking off on her European tour, Sasami caught a moment to discuss going solo, recording on the road, and her upcoming children’s album. She performs on Wed., Apr. 3, at the Echo. Was it the French horn that started it all? I would say it was probably being from a Korean family and being forced to play piano as a small child. But I think more than anything, I was really inspired by my dad playing the Beatles growing up … and being forced to sing songs around the piano with him. I’ve always been into rock kind of stuff, rather than studying classical music. The music I’m making now is kind of a mix of those two worlds. But classical music that got you here? I got really curious about playing the French horn in middle school, when I went to the summer camp Idyllwild Arts to play in its orchestra. I grew up in El Segundo and knew there was something bigger than the do-good small town of … you know, sports and beach vibes. So I got really obsessed with classical music. I went to LACHSA, this high school for the arts, to study French horn. And then I studied it when I went to Eastman, which is like the music school in New York. I always thought I was gonna be an orchestral horn player. Two years into studying classical music, I was like, ‘Whoa, actually this is not for me.’ Playing in an orchestra is pretty much doing karaoke of old dead white guys’ music every day. You’re just doing the same shit that everyone’s been playing for hundreds of years. And you need to do it perfectly, otherwise you’re a fuckin’ loser. And then a bunch of rich white people come to see you play. That’s classical music. Honestly, it’s thrilling to be an orchestra—a fucking unreal experience. It’s like the ultimate Dolby surround sound. You’re literally enveloped in the vibrations of like, a hundred instruments. It’s pretty crazy. Also–I think the orchestra prepared me for mixing and producing a lot because when you’re in it, you’re really humbled by the arrangement, where you are in tune with the dynamic and the balance of the piece. Even if you have a really hard part and you practiced it a lot, if it’s not supposed to be the main part, you have to play it quietly. You really are a servant to the full orchestration … If it suits 42

the song, then democratically it’s worth being there. I think that only recently I’ve come into the solo performer character. I’ve always had a very collaborative ‘servant to the greater good’ non-egotistical approach to music. And that probably comes from playing in an orchestra. You’ve played other people’s music and performed with all these different projects over the years—what was it like for you to ‘go solo’? Even like five years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be playing solo. No way! I never had any plans to play music solo. I mean, I just started playing guitar in the last five or ten years. I studied French horn. I didn’t even study singing. I had never even written a song until like, two years ago. ‘Morning Comes’ was the first song that I ever wrote. I wasn’t gunning for a solo career. I just wrote a bunch of songs, and then recorded them. And I was like, ‘Fuck! I’m in a lot of debt. I should sign to a label.’ Well, your songs fuckin’ rip for someone who’s just ‘put it all together.’ I knew the songs were good because I didn’t want to record music until I thought I could make something that was good, you know? I think everyone has a different trajectory to making something they feel good about. Some people need to make a bunch of records, all DIY or whatever, until they’ve gotten where they need to be. For me, I just pretty much just gathered all the skills I needed to make a record over like, a decade, by working on other stuff. And I was like, ‘Okay, I think I’m prepared to make my own songs.’ You seem to be from a musical background—I know your brother [Joojoo Ashworth] plays in Froth. Was forming your own project something the people around you encouraged? I recorded my album at the studio where Froth recorded their last couple of records. I felt really comfortable to record my songs there CONTINUED PAGE 47


harriet brown Interview bY daiana feuer photography by funaki

On Mall Of Fortune, Harriet Brown’s second record for Innovative Leisure, following 2017’s Contact, the one-man-funky r&b-band explores shopping at the mall as a metaphor for existence. While it’s full of songs for grooving on the dance floor and/or between the sheets with a lover, there’s a theme of searching for meaning, self-love, and acceptance that elevates the music and really reflects the crisis of today. In this interview, Aaron Valenzuela digs into the creative process behind his completely self-produced record, paranoia versus confidence, and finding out that everyone else is as lonely and confused as him. 44


What does the mall mean to you? I originally got the name for the album driving around Orange County. There’s a strip mall—I think it’s probably Vietnamese—but it’s called Mall Of Fortune and they have this sick neon sign. It was right after I made Contact and I was like, ‘That’s going to be the name of my next album.’ The ‘mall’ is pretty much the mall of your life. If you think about you life as a mall, you want to take something home with you. You can’t just spend all your time browsing or else you’re never going to take anything home. It’s this idea of going through the mall of your life and having to figure out what it is you’re going to spend your life on. It’s kind of general, kind of vague, and it can be interpreted in lots of ways. You started working on this right after Contact came out? ‘Retail Therapy’ was all I did at first. Then I didn’t get back into the studio until November of 2017. During all the time when I’m not in the studio making the album I’m always recording little ideas that come to my head. Whether it’s based off a lyrical theme that I want to focus on or just some chords or synth sound that caught my ear or just a drum loop, I’m always recording. Once I started working on the album I went through all these ideas I had and tried to flesh them out into songs. From there I just kept filtering stuff out. Less and less things make it to the next stage basically. I did it all at home except for some acoustic guitar I recorded at another studio. What draws you to doing it all yourself? That’s a good question! I think there’s something about feeling like I can do everything on my own time. I never feel rushed but I also have a hard time waiting for people when it comes to Harriet Brown. In the moment when I’m feeling something, I just want to do it as much as possible. I get picky about little things and I just like the freedom I feel working by myself. This project in particular is all about autonomy. For performance it’s easier doing it myself because there’s no organizing and rounding up of course—but I would love to play with an amazing band. I just don’t have the resources. I can’t afford to pay people! Hopefully someday. Since it’s on your own time—with you by yourself, you doing everything—do you think that makes for music that leads to a deeper revelation of who you really are? Definitely. Working on the music by myself, I go into these holes or warps—almost time warps or worm holes—that would probably be less possible if there was someone else in the room. At the same time—and with this album in particular—I could have benefited from going out a little more in terms of my mental health. After the process I realized a lot of people in my generation were feeling some of the same things I was working through. The way social interaction has developed these days, with social media you have almost an overload of contact with people through your phone but maybe actually very little contact with people in real life. During this process—I don’t want it to sound extremely dramatic—but I got into this sort of weird paranoia where even with people that were my friends I was almost examining too much what people’s intentions might be or what 46

people might really mean. I was feeling very lonely and unsure. I was overly paranoid about who was being authentic and who really wanted to see me. Did I really have friends? While there’s so many things I love about working alone … at least in this time in my life, it was something that was not super beneficial to my mental and emotional wellbeing. With that said I think I’m going to keep working by myself—ha!—but the next time around I want to make it a point to be more relaxed, take breaks, go out. Stuff like that would be a bit healthier for me. Everything you mentioned are the symptoms of our time. That is the design of our world right now. What you’re feeling is what so many people are feeling too. Definitely. I realized it wasn’t just because I was working on the album—that’s the thing. After finishing I started trying to go out and see people that I hadn’t seen in a year or two. They were feeling the same thing. They were feeling like, ‘Oh, do I have friends? What are friends? Do these people really care about me?’ But when you actually get out there, you realize that you can trust your gut more than you think you knew you could. If someone makes me feel uncomfortable then maybe I don’t need to see that person. But at the same time there are all these people that are willing to share warmth and love and security with you. It’s easy to forget that they’re probably looking for the same stuff you are. Exactly. During this crisis it seemed that all my friends were feeling the same, and feeling that L.A. is probably one of the hardest cities for that. Just because of the way it’s laid out. It’s so easy to spend so much time at home. All my friends had not been going out. All my friends were alone. Especially artists or musicians. I was having to recover from the negative effects of this initial naivety that I felt when I moved to L.A. four years ago. I was almost too open and let certain things happen that weren’t good for me and let myself get taken advantage of and used and because of that, I was learning that I built a shell around me and went in the opposite direction. So now I’m all about trying to find this balance. I guess the album is about dealing with that. Knowing that you need to find this balance, but also acknowledging that it’s really fucking hard and difficult to do in the moment. So this album continues the conversation you started on Contact about wanting to find a way to communicate and connect, but now you’re dealing with the next step in a process of thinking. I definitely see the linear process. If someone really looks at the content of these albums you can get a picture of where I am as a person, how I’m growing and what I’m dealing with. That’s the lyrical side. Then there’s evolving musically. This time around you produced everything on your own from start to finish? Yes—this was the first time that I fully produced an album myself. On Contact I produced it all myself in demo form and then went to a friend who had more experience in the studio and worked with him on building it out to sound more finished. That was a cool experience but a long process. It was a year

and a half of building it out to the finished version, which was much longer than I had wanted, but I got this free education from it. That was what made me want to do it myself the next time. Thinking about the themes on Mall Of Fortune … there’s paranoia but I also talk about self-love. There’s this battle between self-love and self-care battling all this paranoia and doubt. On the music side, I wanted to acknowledge the idea that if I want to do something, I can do it. When I recorded Contact I had it in my mind that I didn’t know how to produce, really. Even though in my head I knew exactly what I wanted. Even though the demos aren’t that far off from the final product, I had so much doubt in my ability as a producer and studio engineer. And I still had that doubt going into Mall Of Fortune, but I knew I could do it and at least I would try to do as much as I could by myself. And I totally could! And I had a lot of fun. The album in itself was this battle between my confidence and self-doubt. Some of the loops on Mall Of Fortune are so intricate. Let’s pick a song and take apart the creative process. I found ‘Retail Therapy’ pretty compelling. It’s one of my favorites for sure. I have a home studio and I mainly work with electronic hardware. Most of the loops are stuff I’ve built out of sequencers and synths. That song first started with the drums and bass. I was listening to a lot of electronic garage like UKG and German bass and jungle music. This was my first attempt at jamming on something with that vibe and complexity of drums and bass but also minimalism. That’s how I came up with the first beat. And then I was also listening to a lot of chill-out music and downtempo and new age stuff, so that’s where the ambient synths and guitar loop that’s going on most of the whole way came from. And then it all came together. It’s funny because this is actually the first song that I wrote for the album right after I finished Contact. I really went crazy on the drums all across this whole album, and with this one I really wanted a kind of drum solo throughout the whole track. I recorded myself drumming with pencils on the desk really crazy. I took the audio and I changed it into MIDI and sent that out to my electronic drums. It’s pretty live in this way. The whole album is very electronic but it’s all pretty live as well. There are loops but I played bass live on the keys straight through the songs. ‘Retail Therapy’ was the beginning of the aesthetic theme of the album. I was like, ‘Ooh, maybe this album is going to be about this theme of the mall. ‘ How does the persona or concept of ‘Harriet Brown’ nourish your creative expression? How does it function as a space to inhabit? People always ask me who is Harriet Brown and I always say, ‘It’s me.’ It’s the most of myself that I feel that I can be. In a way the moniker—the space—operates for me as a mask or sunglasses. I can put this name on and it makes it easier for me to not worry about what anyone else is thinking. I can one hundred percent do what I feel. I can be Aaron underneath that. It’s interesting how masks can make people feel more free to be themselves.

That’s what it is for me. It is kinda funny, right? Maybe in the future when I’m feeling really mature and confident and not giving a fuck … maybe that will be the time I release music as Aaron Valenzuela. For now it’s easier to have this name I can use as a mask to then do whatever I want and feel free behind the mask. On this album I feel like I did whatever I wanted to do and all I had to do is do it. People are funny. Such a tendency to overcomplicate everything. Definitely. It’s something I’m really trying to figure out in my life right now. Post-album I had to really focus on self-care. I’ve been going to therapy and exercising a lot and trying to see people—trying to be healthy. I’ve always been scared of making the wrong decision. I grew up in church so when it came to decisions you just always had to be asking the holy spirit for the answer. That was always hard for me and those habits definitely bled into my adult life. But currently I’m trying to learn that I know what I want and I’m the only one that can really know and communicate that. No one else is going to be able to figure that out for me. It’s up to me to do what I can do to make it happen. That bleeds from general life into making an album. The album is almost an exercise in being decisive and believing in what you’re doing and doing it. At the end of the day I’m the one who knows if it sounds right or not. It’s tempting to seek other people’s validation—with that said, I love getting opinions from friends and taking it into account—but you can get caught up in looking for other people to tell you what sounds better, this or that. But at the end of the day, you know what makes you feel good about it. You just gotta believe in yourself! That’s what I’m working on. That’s what the album is all about. And it’s fun music. Yes, of course we are talking about these things on a deeper level but the ideas are embedded in songs that make you move or feel sensual. It’s cathartic. I was definitely trying to make danceable tracks. You were asking about the differences in making Contact and Mall Of Fortune—this is also the first time where things felt really focused. I made an album from start to finish in five months. Aside from ‘Retail Therapy,’ I did the writing, production, and recording of everything else in one stretch of write-produce-record-mix. It was the first time for me to do it all this way. Contact was a collection of things I had made over a few years and then tried to put together. So this was a cool experience. The album means a lot to me. I hope people can relate to it and dance to it. Maybe make out to some of it. Have some children to it—definitely. HARRIET BROWN ON MON., FEB. 25, AT THE ECHOPLEX, 1554 GLENDALE BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30 PM / FREE / 21+. SPACELANDPRESENTS. COM. HARRIET BROWN’S MALL OF FORTUNE IS OUT NOW ON INNOVATIVE LEISURE. VISIT HARRIET BROWN AT HARRIETBROWNMUSIC.COM. INTERVIEW


YOUNG FATHERS FROM 40 ‘Cool, that’s it—write something. That’s the melody.’ Just being more structured. I think the other guys didn’t really enjoy that process. But it doesn’t really matter because we created what we created and everybody in the world loved what we’d done. Whether I enjoyed it or blah di blah di blah or vice versa, it doesn’t really matter. I think as long as you get the songs there and you try stuff and try to be a bit more direct and like … sort of ‘pop formula.’ I think it essentially just stripped away a lot of the fluff and got to the essence of the group. We love a lot of melodies and we love to paint pictures in people’s minds and use interesting words. It was always there, but that was the process. It’s funny—my perception is that all of your albums are catchy. When you have something to aim for, it does affect the morale of the group. We were all gravitating that way anyway. I think it’s just applying what we do on to that concept and seeing what happens. I’m confident in the guy’s and I’s abilities. If we went, ‘OK. Let’s approach rock music. Let’s approach that and see what would come out.’ That ended up sounding like White Men Are Black Men, Too, to be honest. Because we sounded like an indie band. We approached the pop formula to see what happens, and this is what happened—Cocoa Sugar. You get to a place where you’re confident in your abilities and you’re confident in what the group can actually make, and that excites us. We don’t have a prewritten plan. There’s no blueprint for what we want to do or where we’re going, y’know? I think that’s what keeps it exciting. It’s just being confident in the group’s ability. I think everybody’s confidence level is different, and everybody gets there in the end. It was a confidence thing—this whole process. I really didn’t want to get into politics, but do you worry that as the world seems to get more conservative that there will be a backlash against forward thinking music? I think the only thing that would happens is pretty much what’s happening now which is like … folk don’t hear about it. The finger isn’t being pointed at these bands or at these people. You have somebody who’s really talented and they only have so many views. You have someone who’s not as talented but they’re really good looking and they fit this thing … whoosh. That’s just the way and everyone knows that’s how it works. So if you’re doing anything political or forwardthinking, you sort of get bracketed into that whole thing of being alternative. Alternative to what? What are you alternative to? That’s what you’re having to battle. You don’t have to make music like this for it to come across, you don’t have to make straight down the line stuff to have substance. It’s a hard place to be. I can’t say exactly, but it’s probably no different. You just won’t get heard. Y’all have played Hollywood Bowl, you’ve played Moroccan Lounge and now you’re playing the Fonda. Do you take a different approach when playing an amphitheater versus playing a club? 47

I don’t think we do, but it does change things. I think we prefer those kind of 8 Mile type venues where folk come right up to the front. There’s no barriers that separate people. I hate that because it feels like there’s a disconnect between you and the audience. You want this whole exchange of language. You do something, they do something. They respond, you respond. You get more energy, they have more energy. Back and forth, y’know? When you have those barriers it feels like it cuts that or stems the flow, and you feel you can’t perform as much because there’s a gap. With smaller venues people are right there and you feel more connected. But big or small—it’s still the same thing. You want to come across. You want to justify yourself, justify the group, justify why you stand out. I see this parallel between L.A. being this city of disparate parts coming together to make something work, and y’all’s music being a melding of genres. Do you take inspiration from this city? I take inspiration from pretty much anything. In the last year everybody’s banging on about self-love and all this kind of stuff. I think that should be a way of life. It’s good that these things are kind of put forward now and it’s cool to look after yourself and your health. In the last year I’ve been spending more time with family, regulating friendships. I think all that seeps in—all that helps. Conversations you have with people, all that filters in somehow. Things that you see, stuff that you read, interactions with people it adds something. We recorded one of the songs in L.A. and Kayus [laughs] … he got high. He was a bit useless that day, but we recorded something. It’s weird like … being in L.A. It made sense a lot of the music comes from America. There’s a lot of sun. And when there’s a lot of sun you want to make music that suits that sort of environment. That was kind of a revelation to me. You think of the places up north and its dark and melancholic and all this kind of stuff. One of the songs we’d done was ‘Soon Come Soon.’ That was a couple years back. That had that sunny feel. Without even saying anything, everybody just felt that vibe. We made something that was a bit more brighter or colorful. I think all these things filter in. But there’s no point where you’re like, ‘I’m getting influence from this, take me to this point.’ It’s not as obvious. So you’re not going to write a song about driving down Sunset? We recorded like thirty songs for Cocoa Sugar, but we couldn’t fit them all. It would just be too long. If you take one song out and put something else it would change the dynamic. There was one song about Hollywood, actually. [singing:] “If I go to Hollywood / Would you call me a stranger?” You don’t have to be in Hollywood to write a song about Hollywood. There’s no definitive point where you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna go there on the 30th of November so I’ll write.’ It just comes. YOUNG FATHERS’ COCOA SUGAR IS OUT NOW ON NINJA TUNE. VISIT YOUNG FATHERS AT YOUNGFATHERSOFFICIAL. BANDCAMP.COM.

SASAMI FROM 42 because I was working with my brother and Tomas [Dolas]. I wasn’t really even making a record—I was just putting songs together that I had written while touring with Cherry Glazerr. I just had all these demos I had made and [my brother] was like, ‘You should actually record them.’ And that gave me a lot of confidence to make the whole album. And he played guitar on the record? He’s been like … my cheat code to guitar playing. I obviously have a ton of musical background, but the French horn is super different from any electric instrument. And he’s such a tone snob, too, so I feel like if I ever use like a ‘basic bitch’ power chord, he’d pretty much belittle me until I had a cooler one. He always bullies me into being better. To be fair, I’ve been telling him he’s a fucking loser his whole life, so it’s cool. That’s what siblings do. Performing and writing your own music is more personal than adding accompaniment to something. Was that a challenge? It’s like if you’re practicing building something out of wood and all of a sudden, you’ve finally gathered all the skills to make a dresser. ‘Oh, I can do this.’ It gives you the confidence to keep doing it because you’ve proven to yourself that you’re able to make something. I always knew that I would make music—I just didn’t realize that it would be in an album or even songwriting format. So now that I’ve made one album, I probably can make another one. Also, I signed a contract so it’s gotta fuckin’ happen. So what’s next? I really want to make a kids album. I hope Domino won’t get upset. Kids are really absorbent. It’s crazy how they memorize every single lyric of a song. I was talking to my friend Becky—she had that band Lavender Diamond—and she has a two-year-old. The two-year-old plays her band’s records like … every single day. She’s like obsessed with them. But Becky was like, ‘I think it’s super weird that my daughter memorized all the lyrics to my songs about my sexual partners … and my heartbreak.’ I think kids should have music with the quality of a good record, but with lyrics that are actually enriching and teach them how to be good people. Kids are really imaginative and fun, and I want to make music for a more fun audience. As an observer, it seems like everything happened really quickly for you. The Domino deal, solo tours, all that. Have you had a moment to catch your breath? No … I was home for like, seventy-two hours and I had four photoshoots. But I don’t really like dead-air time. Before I toured and made music, I was a children’s music teacher. I would teach six or seven forty-five minute classes a day. And that’s like doing six or seven shows a day. Most jobs you have to work so much harder. So it’s such a privilege to make music. To get to do what I feel is like therapy for myself. I have nothing but stoked energy about it all. It’s remarkable to me that you wrote your record while on tour. That sounds impossible.

I’d record basic guitar and vocal parts using voice memos on my phone. And then I would start building the arrangements in GarageBand on my iPad while in the van. All my demos sound so shitty because they are weird MIDI versions of the songs. It’s so bad. Cool bands have like, cool four-track demos. And mine are embarrassing iPad demos that no one will ever hear. I think a lot of people do that, though, especially if you get to the point where you’re touring so much that you’re not partying and you’re sober a lot more. And a lot of touring is so many hours of sitting around. Your newest single ‘Free’ features Devendra Banhart—how did you get him involved? I’ve just been a fan of his singing style. I think it’s funny when dude bands are always like, ‘I need female harmonies on this thing.’ So wanted to flip the script and take a kind of successful male singer and make him sing something really simple. It’s kind of a power trip. I’m just joking … he’s a friend and was just down to come in and sing. I had a lot of friends play on the record. I use the voice a lot like an instrument, so I figured I’d have friends come in and sing on it too. That song seems more vulnerable than the other songs you’ve released so far. Is it about anything in particular? It’s really funny because I feel like on most of my songs, the lyrics are kind of the same— they’re pretty vulnerable and emo. But because they are shoegaze-y fast songs, it’s less obvious. If you did a version of ‘Take Care’ that was the same vibe as ‘Free,’ it would sound just as sappy. I read that your new record is ‘inspired by everyone you fucked and who fucked you last year.’ Mind touching upon that? That was like an Instagram caption that Pitchfork quoted … and then it became the defining description of the record. That’s the generation that we live in. Does social media dictate art, or does art dictate social media? That’s the new quote for the album. Your record comes out on International Women’s Day. Was that intended or is it the greatest coincidence ever? I had like two dates to choose between and once I realized that, I was like, ‘It’s gonna be that one.’ It was just the fortuitous cosmic intermingling of links. I didn’t choose the date. The date chose me. I saw on your website that you’re offering a branded reusable metal straw. What a genius idea. What’s next for SASAMI’s mindful merchandise? SASAMI water filters. Maybe that, or SASAMI-brand salami. Like a line of cured meats. I made a t-shirt that says ‘Sasami Salami’ because I want people to feel confident that they’re saying my name correctly. I used to get teased by being called ‘Sasami Salami.’ But when I’m a cured-meat-industry billionaire, who will be laughing then? SASAMI ON WED., APR. 3, AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30 PM / $12-$15 / 18+. SASAMI’S SELF-TITLED ALBUM IS AVAILABLE ON FRI., MAR. 8, FROM DOMINO. VISIT SASAMI AT SASAMIASHWORTH.COM.. INTERVIEW


50 album REVIEWS Edited by Kristina Benson and Chris Ziegler

62 FILM: THE EXPLODING HEARTS JUSTIN MAURER

54 THE INTERPRETER: GABBY LOKS Curated by KRISTINA BENSON

66 BOOKS: TERRY GRAHAM JUSTIN MAURER

58 MAP Where to Find L.A. RECORD

68 COMICS EDITED by Tom Child

60 LIVE PHOTOS EDITED BY DEBI DEL GRANDE

70 WAYBACK MACHINE RON GARMON BOYGENIUS AT THE WILTERN PHOTO: STEPHANIE PORT


ALBUM REVIEWS

ANDERSON .PAAK Oxnard Aftermath/12 Tone I feel like I’m supposed to like Oxnard more than I actually do and I feel conflicted about it. The album is very polished and very shiny and very happy but somehow still feels a little empty, like your favorite fast food. The obligatory context: Oxnard is the final installment in Anderson .Paak’s beach trilogy that started with Venice and continued with Malibu. Oxnard was mixed by Dr. Dre, who took .Paak under his wing after hearing the NxWorries song “Suede.” For the record, I consider Malibu to be a fantastic album and it’s hard to fight my impulse to compare the two, so I won’t. The variety of styles that appear on Malibu, the way collaborators are woven into the story arc and the warm, intimate production led to downright sublime moments. As the titular character, Anderson gave a threedimensional performance that was celebratory, pained, introspective and debauched. Malibu was a DIYstyle project put together by elbow grease. I remember .Paak recalling how that album was fueled by “struggle tree” and ganas. Oxnard enjoys the full scope of what Dr. Dre’s support means in 2018 (i.e. Jimmy Iovine/Apple/Skynet) and you can hear the difference. The production is immaculate. I had my car volume in the single digits and the kicks on “Anywhere” still knocked. We also continue to have an impressive array of collaborators behind the boards on the mic but while .Paak certainly puts effort

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and feeling into his performance, it’s not as nuanced and complex as before. I’m essentially spelling out that Oxnard just doesn’t gel into something all that captivating. Part of me wonders if the ridiculous pimp persona from NxWorries stuck around a bit too long. Part of me also wonders if Dr. Dre’s touch is more pyrite than Midas. Does it say something about me that I prefer the work of an artist when they’re struggling and feel disconnected from their work after material success? Maybe I’m just salty I didn’t get the album I wanted Anderson .Paak to make. Maybe Oxnard is a jubilant victory lap and I’m not part of the home team. Or maybe sometimes power is found along the path, not at the destination. —sweeney kovar

BRIAN ELLIS Deep Clues Hobocamp In a parallel universe, Brian Ellis is a top-selling artist, crafting radio hits in high-end studios and schmoozing with record execs and celebrities. In our world, he’s an independent with roots in the modern funk scene and an unabashed love for the look and sound of West Coast soft rock. Sonically, much of Deep Clues could have come from another era. Fans of mellow 70s radio rock will appreciate Ellis’ guitar work in particular, from the moody chord changes on “Bulletproof ” to the dueling leads and shuffling rhythm of “Night Drive.” But Ellis is more than a guitarist. In fact he’s the record’s sole credited performer,

composer and producer. Judging from the fluency in funk and jazz fusion he’s demonstrated on previous releases, Ellis seems like an artist who in a different decade might have been burning big label cash to make idiosyncratic pop records. His lyrics conjure up visions of cocaine-fueled excess, but at the same time, there are hints this idealized upscale sliver of the California dream isn’t exactly reality. The record’s central themes—attraction, cruising the highway and sophisticated partying—are part of the push and pull between authentic music of the 70s and Ellis’ reinterpretations. Ellis often deals in reflections—from calling his band Brian Ellis’ Reflection, to 2014’s Reflection LP to 2017 double album Mirror/Mirror. Similarly, there’s a sense here that all the yacht-party imagery could be a 2-D likeness, rather than real life. The way Ellis writes in a particular language of 70s smooth is astoundingly accurate and he has a look to match. But at times he parts the veil with humor, like the gruff “You married? You got kids?” on “Brand New Love,” or “What you see is what you get / I don’t fuck around / I don’t give a fucking shit!” on the otherwise radio-ready “Here I Am.” These are the moments on Deep Clues when it’s 2019 and reality sets in. Gone are the days when major labels bankrolled ambitious—and at times experimental—albums. For Ellis, “major label” probably isn’t a viable mode of musical production. But it can still be an aesthetic choice. —Joe Rihn

BOYO Dance Alone Danger Collective BOYO, the solo project of singersongwriter Robert Tilden, sounds like cool—like the music blasting behind the hip older sibling’s bedroom door in a comingof-age flick, or the soundtrack for weekends of irresponsible spontaneity in real life. With earworm-y chord progressions and deadpan vocals—the core of BOYO’s oeuvre—Tilden’s Dance Alone glides from fast to slow with effortless agility. Luminously optimistic guitar and synth hooks frost over with drowsy depressing revelations. “I don’t wanna break it off, but I can only live in the moment,” warns “Programming,” while the most anthemic verse from “Freaky” closes with a confessional: “I love you, but you’re freaking me out.” Even breezy singles (“Attics” and “Hit or Miss”) purposefully contradict the album’s almost narcotic calm. Really, Tilden’s music sounds like Los Angeles: sun-soaked yet smoggy, dreamy yet dispiriting. As with the city itself, the contrast is charismatic. —Sydney Sweeney

THE BUTTERTONES “Madame Supreme” 7” Innovative Leisure 1978 was a year of shock and terror, rocked by serial killers, widespread nuclear tests and the Jonestown massacre. Some reacted by retreating to more innocent times: ahem, the movie Grease. Others sought chemical solace, popping a

record 2.3 billion Valium pills that year. And the Walker Brothers— Californians who moved to England during the British Invasion and topped the charts with inspired pop music for depressives—looked out at the stormy sea of disco and punk and delved deeper and darker still. Screaming hordes of girls had long ago ceased chasing the Walkers after a lock of their shining hair, and Scott’s now-cult classic solo albums and the band’s softer 70s forays both failed to make an impact. “In those days I had to keep my act clean,” Scott Walker told NME. “Now I can be as dirty as I want to be.” That year the Walker Brothers put out what would be their final album together—Nite Flights, their bleakest and most experimental work. (Only Scott would continue down that shadowy path.) Now the dashing dirty-as-they-want-tobe Buttertones—like their beloved Walker Brothers—whip their fans into a frenzy, inciting near-riots at their concerts with their unlikely amalgam of 50s rock ‘n’ surf ‘n’ Italian library music. “Madame Supreme”, their new single’s A-side, is anxiety at velocity, with doomsday imagery of mushroom clouds and a call to “light all the candles and chant” over syncopated off-beat guitar strumming and maniacal saxophone. Their cover of Nite Flight‘s “Shut Out” runs faster than the original, leans into the whammy bar, replaces the unhinged guitar solo with an unhinged sax solo and scrubs away any lingering disco influences, leaving a polished and reverent—even haunting—ode to their dark overlord Scott. Richard Araiza deploys a commanding Scott-worthy baritone that makes every word (“Something attacked the earth last night…”) hang, gleaming, in the air for you to admire, like Rudolf Nureyev midjump. Forty years after Nite Flights, the world feels even more desperate and dangerous—but a song like “Shut Out” reignites the power of art to be a light in the darkness, even when it feels like the sun isn’t going to shine anymore. —Donna Kern

L.A. RECORD invites all local musicians to send music for review­—anything from unreleased MP3s and demos to finished full albums. Send digital to fortherecord@larecord.com and physical to L.A. RECORD, P.O. Box 21729, Long Beach, CA 90801. If you are in a band and would like to advertise your release in L.A. RECORD, email advertise@larecord.com ALBUM REVIEWS


CHERRY GLAZERR Stuffed & Ready Secretly Canadian Clementine Creevy-led L.A. trio Cherry Glazerr’s new Stuffed & Ready is a dizzying guitar album that hearkens back to the era of SPIN and Buzz Bin videos. This is seems like an album that should have been issued on CD—that shimmering circular thing that used to slip in and out of your Case Logic like one lover rendezvousing with another. Songs like the Pixies-esque “Ohio” erupt with crunchy guitars and an emotive refrain of “just take me away.” Corroded power ballad “Isolation” builds off a descending bass line until it reaches a bombastic conclusion and “That’s Not My Real Life” is driven by a pulsating rhythm guitar that supernovas into the kind of sweaty 6 AM sunrise that comes after the after party. “Wasted Nun” could have easily existed in a previous life as one of Dave Grohl’s b-side contributions to Nirvana, and “Stupid Fish” is a rocking whirling dervish taking equal inspiration from My Bloody Valentine and Pablo Honey-era Radiohead. Kick the tires (in your mind) of your old car that had that blue-lit CD player in the dash and break the speed limit of your youth once again. —Kegan Pierce Simons

CHERUSHII + MARIA MINERVA S/T 100% Silk Cherushii & Maria Minerva’s collaborative album is a bittersweet collection of dancefloor delicacies, each its own wistful vision of an international retro-future. Opener ALBUM REVIEWS

“A Day Without You” is like the best Japanese city pop pared down to its absolute essentials. It’s impossibly catchy, a song framed by quirky samples, swelling synths, and a driving beat that might blare from your convertible after hanging up on a quarrelsome lover. “This Must Be The Place” features more of Minerva’s melancholia, this time set to a mellow, pulsing beat that could be a prized cut at the night’s next after-party. “Boyfriend Shirt” hints at the pair’s clubbier inclinations but “Out By Myself ” drops you right onto the packed dancefloor, light reflecting from the disco ball above and bodies pressed against you from all sides. “Nobody’s Fool” and “Thin Line” both share that same DNA—they’re songs that sound like they could’ve been smashes on the international club circuit circa, say, 1992. This, sadly, is Cherushii & Maria Minerva’s only collaboration—the record was finished only after Cherushii’s (aka Chelsea Faith) tragic passing at the Ghost Ship. But let this be a celebration instead. It’s a record that can get you dancing despite the heartbreak.

in a constant fog / Ignorance to liability / Shamelessness with no humility / The world is going to collapse / You better get rid of that mask.” Ty’s frenetic, angular guitar demands another kind of attention as it ricochets between fierce drum-machine beats evocative of Big Black. It’s proof that Ty and Denée aren’t afraid of pushing their creativity to its limits.

—Miles Clements

sounded like a sassier, sultrier Joey Ramone singing undiscovered Merle Haggard and Rolling Stones songs—in other words, dear reader, it rocked. Dodge’s appealing “mess” felt a little bit classic California country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, with plenty of punk attitude and lots of bait for ladies who like fixer-uppers. You can’t say he didn’t warn them, with that album title and lyrics like: “I’m just crazy and it ain’t that cute… / You need a man, not a hurricane” and “You can drink champagne with fashion models / Give me a whiskey and leave the bottle.” Well, L.A.’s favorite ex-Seattleite outlaw is back with a surprisingly somber new single, “Blue Ain’t What I Feel For You” and it’s only going to win him more screaming female fans because Dodge’s sensitive side is on full and glorious display. We’re talkin’ bring-on-the-stringsand-mellotron sensitive. Even the cover image swaps the Baby, Let Me Be Your Mess cigarettesmoking hunched-over man-ofthe-night with an all-white-clad Dodge standing tall in front of an imposing bronze door. Beyond that door lies epic heartache, apparently, but also: swirling strings, impassioned guitar and keyboards, soft and breathy vocals building to a wail, a frustration with the limits of the English language and an epic recounting of all the heartbreaking things

THE C.I.A. S/T In The Red When is Ty Segall not releasing new music? Here his wife Denée (also of excellent L.A. punk outfit Vial) has banded with him to form the C.I.A., a punk group whose debut album encapsulates what collaborator Tim Presley calls their “survival sound.” And Denée steals the show. Her vocals sizzle with a defiant energy reminiscent of Poly Styrene, and she conjure the powerful spirit of Lydia Lunch with viciously pointed lyrics. On “Fear” she urges the listener into rebellion as she taunts, “Fear is the killer when you’re playing the part / And you pledge your allegiance and you bury your thought.” On “Sedition,” she’s holding a mirror to the state of the world and demanding that each of us take a good, hard look: “Living

—Julia Gibson

that might come close to approximating his bluer-thanblue doldrums—like “a cowboy movie where the hero dies.” The flip-side “See A Lot of Her in You” features yet more lovely, scruffy, all-consuming sadness you can sing along with, if your heart can handle it. (Sample chorus: “Pretty mama, I feel like dying.”) Keith Richards once called rock ‘n’ roll “music for the neck down” and baby, that includes the heart. Yes, even (punk rock) cowboys get the blues, but it doesn’t always sound this sweet. —Donna Kern

DANNY DODGE “Blue Ain’t What I Feel For You” CS Get Loud THE DATES On his 2017 barn burner Baby, Let Ask Again Later Me Be Your Mess, Danny Dodge Burger The first time I heard Teenage Fanclub—who offer obvious inspiration to new power-pop band the Dates—I was playing an overproduced shoegaze-y album that shall remain nameless when my then-boyfriend burst into the room, yelled, “What the hell is this crap?” and put on Bandwagonesque. “Now THIS,” he declared with great fanfare, “… THIS is MUSIC.” Despite the harsh introduction, he had a point. Although the Dates’ main man Garett Goddard may be better known for punkier/garageier endeavors like Personal and the Pizzas and King Tuff, on solo full-length debut Ask Again Later he’s worshipping at that same power pop altar. Like Big Star, Flamin Groovies, Shoes and the Records, his aim is simple and true: he’s here to win you over with unapologetically catchy, strum-y, heart-splattered-onsleeve-y rock goodness. Goddard’s voice is as warm, sandy and laid back as a day with a boombox on the beach, and he harmonizes about Friday nights, summertime, restlessness, heartache and that Angeleno staple anxiety. The “ooh-la-la” and “ooh, tell me” choruses practically demand listener participation, especially on standouts “Star,” “Any Other Nite” and “Nervous.” A record date with the Dates means classic

70s-style sweetness, but a lo-fi sensibility and big buzzy, woozy guitars (occasionally threatening to veer out of tune) keep the proceedings from becoming too precious. When asked about power pop, Steve Albini famously said “this music is for pussies and should be stopped.” Fortunately for those of us with a soft spot for the softer and poppier (but still powerful!) side of rock ‘n’ roll, it was tougher than it looked. —Donna Kern

DELROY EDWARDS & DEAN BLUNT Desert Sessions
 L.A. Club Resource Delroy Edwards and Dean Blunt both defy expectation. Edwards started with raw techno and house in the early 2010s and journeyed toward dark and damaged synthwave, while Blunt has zig-zagged from the experimental electronics of his Hype Williams project (with Inga Copeland) to twisted guitar pop under his own name to the meta-rap of Babyfather. On Desert Sessions, the two artists unite for Edwards’ own L.A. Club Resource label to produce a sound that is as confusing as it is captivating. Recorded in L.A. during early 2017, Desert Sessions has a strong sonic resemblance to Edwards’ recent Rio Grande and Aftershock, conjuring up the same creepy atmosphere and production qualities seemingly ripped from a warped VHS. And like those two releases, Desert Sessions moves frantically through 19 rough and raw synthesizer sketches, rather than developing long-form musical ideas. While Edwards’ presence is front and center, Blunt’s contributions are less obvious. For one, Desert Sessions is entirely instrumental, leaving Blunt’s distinctive voice out of the mix. But there are certain songs that sound how one might imagine Blunt jamming in Edwards’ studio. The plaintive guitar and vocal pads of “Audio Track 08” (the songs are given numbers rather than names) are more foreboding than creepy, in a way that recalls Babyfather’s “BFF,” while the ghostly melodies 51


and odd rhythms of “Audio Track 04” work in a similar style. Beneath the lo-fi murk of Desert Sessions there are moments of beauty— ”Audio Track 06” and “Audio Track 18” for example—but most of the record sees Edwards and Blunt exploring weirder territory. Just listen to track 12’s stumbling drunk drums, or track 13, which sounds like someone taking a keyboard lesson in an a haunted house. Dean Blunt and Delroy Edwards have never been about making things easy on the audience, and Desert Sessions is no exception. But even at its strangest, the record has a mysterious allure. —Joe Rihn

demands such concerted effort—it’s one way to separate the wheat from the chaff. You can like or not like the album—and folks have passionate feelings both ways, ranging from praise to confusion—but that’s almost beside the point. That Some Rap Songs provokes such strong and varied reactions in the first place speaks to the weight of the work. —sweeney kovar

FLAT WORMS Into the Iris EP GOD?

FIDLAR Almost Free Mom + Pop

EARL SWEATSHIRT Some Rap Songs Columbia/ Tan Cressida Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs is a jarring and deeply personal album that reminds us he’s a writer with few peers. The experience is bewildering, vulnerable and wry in both form and function. With truncated phrasing that captures full ideas and non-sequiturs in equal measure amid bold production, Some Rap Songs demands the listener be fully present for the ride. The belly-busting humor and sarcasm that Earl is known for is still here, but it takes a back-seat to reflection. The songs—many self-produced, some made with like-minded collaborators—are like paintings with many coats, at times complementary and at times contrasting. Sweatshirt often uses a Basquiat-esque approach of obscuring select elements, knowing that treating certain ideas as secret can give them a higher value. This is apparent throughout, but perhaps most pronounced in the crescendo of the album, “Playing Possum,” a powerful and bittersweet juxtaposition of the voices and words of our author’s late father and living mother—with no raps. Earl has lived under the weight of scrutiny and merciless expectations since he was a teen. That may be another reason his newest album 52

If you were attending punk shows around Los Angeles eight or so years ago, odds are you found yourself at an unforgettably raucous FIDLAR show or two. With their beachfriendly party-punk style, the band quickly built a strong reputation for sets as volatile and wild as the crowds that would show up to see them. In the years since, however, the band has cleaned themselves up a bit, tiptoed toward a poppier sound, and grown out of the backyards and warehouses into larger established venues both— locally and around the world. FIDLAR’s newest Almost Free sees the quartet continuing to transition toward pop accessibility while still retaining a bit of the grit and the grime from which they emerged. Working with producer Ricky Reed (Twenty One Pilots, Kesha, Lizzo), the new record captures FIDLAR at their most polished and stylistically diverse. Opening track “Get Off My Rock” recalls the fuzzy, alt rock/hip-hop sounds of Check Your Head-era Beastie Boys, while the hammering “Flake” has the stadium-ready glam-rock charm of Gary Glitter’s famous “Rock And Roll.” “By Myself ” and “Called You Twice,” meanwhile, are straight-up modern pop, but in songs like “Alcohol” and “Too Real” flashes of a younger, more decadent FIDLAR still reveal themselves. This might be the band’s strongest stab at mainstream acceptance and success, but it still feels more like FIDLAR is trying to make the pop world come to them, instead of the other way around. —Simon Weedn

When you see the clouds lift from the foothills of Los Angeles after the rain, it’s easy to forget the steady trudge toward dystopia that animates the beautiful city we live in. But as Will Ivy’s serrated guitar lines introduce Flat Worms’ new Into the Iris EP, you’ll be shaken out of your stupor and awakened to your true surroundings. (And they ain’t pretty.) Into the Iris holds a tangible weight—a weight that suggests progress isn’t growth and advancement alone isn’t a singular achievement. Iris is the fever dream that Raskolnikov suffers, the result of all that is solid melting into air. It’s equal parts protest, post-impressionist imagery, even reactionary as it responds to the world around it—it’s a culmination and a dismantling at once. Justin Sullivan’s urgent, machine-precise drumming and Tim Hellman’s linchpin bass—especially when matching the furor of Ivy’s guitar work—feel like a train bearing down on you in a tunnel. Imagine, if you would, the Dead Boys without the blatant nihilism. Into the Iris is an epicenter, radiating the contradictions and ambiguities of living in search of some type of hope. It’s a counter to the upheaval of the day, where possibility teeters at the brink of destruction and disruption is the defining characteristic. —Nathan Martel

For more than three decades, J.Rocc has been an unwavering constant in the West Coast hip hop/turntablist scene. Emerging as a founding member of legendary DJ collective the Beat Junkies, J.Rocc has released two albums and dozens of singles under a variety of names, produced for several groups, and toured as Madlib’s live DJ for many years. Now under his Flaunt Edwards alias, J.Rocc returns to showcase his talents at pulling apart and reconstructing a song the way only an expert DJ. The Name Is Flaunt is only six tracks long, but it covers every tempo and style it should. Opener “No Fun” takes Kraftwerk samples and amplifies them into high energy, fast-paced footwork. “Anymore” finds Flaunt exploring more footwork vibes, but this time across Rose Royce’s classic “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” creating a wonderful electro meets G-funk concoction. “Desilu” blends thumping house beats with Desi Arnaz’s “Babalu,” producing one of the heaviest dance tracks on the record. “The Highway” finds Flaunt moving back to some more Kraftwerk—this time blending their famous “Computer World” with drum ‘n’ bass rhythms to great effect. Finally, the record closes with an interesting slower pair of tracks, “Frisco” and “The Move”—both a little less dizzying than the four that precede them, but they make for a perfect wind-down after the relentless speed and intricacy. All in all: an impressive, nicely balanced release from one of instrumental hip-hop’s true masters. —Simon Weedn

THE FLESH EATERS I Used To Be Pretty Yep Roc

FLAUNT EDWARDS The Name is Flaunt EP Leaving

The Flesh Eaters have always been the soundtrack for the pariah, the staggering radical whose only operations manual is an internal moral code deployed against an uncaring world, and now I Used To Be Pretty finds the Flesh Eaters fighting through nostalgia and still doing everything on their own terms. I Used To Be Prettyreunites the original classic line up last seen in

1981—Chris D., Dave Alvin, John Doe, Bill Bateman, Steve Berlin and DJ Bonebrake—and finds them examining legacy, transition and discovery. Chris D. sounds as insatiable as ever, writing songs that reflect the power and personality of his literary fiction. He even makes the covers (“Cinderella” and “She’s Like Heroin To Me”) seem like originals, with character and experiences solely his own. When you reach the final song “Ghost Cave Lament,” the proceedings take on a McCarthian nature—particularly Blood Meridian—as Chris wrestles with the cravings and hunger that grow from man and his desires. The music here explores similar mindstates: on “Black Temptation,” the guitars seethe and the horns sluicing through the album add another level of psychic gravity. The Flesh Eaters have divined a collision of spirit and mind, making the existential travails of man into riveting art. I Used To Be Pretty is almost a meditative experience—it’s a reconciliation of the spheres, a balancing of the scales, and a release that’s been building up for years. —Nathan Martel

GARRETT Private Life II Glydezone/ Music From Memory When Garrett’s Private Life appeared, its secret couldn’t be stopped from spilling out: soon, it became known that Garrett is in fact the one and only Dâm-Funk. It shouldn’t have been a surprise— Dâm has always explored the idea of duality, especially the concept of the Gemini twin, both an inverse reflection of self and a passenger on the very same life journey. So Private Life II, then, is that second side of Garrett. “Gotta Get Thru It” drops into a quiet, percolating beat, with synths sweeping by like planes through a sunset sky. “Awaiting The Light” is the album’s first-half star, a meditative expanse of synths that radiates outward until it all collapses in on itself. Where Private Life’s tracks tend to have more drive, Private Life II


is a dispatch from beyond, a place less about the destination than it is about the voyage itself. Often that means crests of ambient synths that ebb and flow over several minutes. “Conflicted Lovers” builds and builds just that way, eventually erupting from a rising series of beeps and boops into an emotive extended synth solo that is unmistakably Dâm-Funk. —Miles Clements

GOSPELBEACH Another Winter Alive Alive Naturalsound Part new studio material and part live cuts, GospelbeacH’s third LP is as much a measurement of the path the L.A. group has carved out as it is a survey of contrasting ways forward. With former Beachwood Sparks sheriff Brent Rademaker at the reins, GospelbeacH has celebrated Los Angeles’ historical canyon country sound for three albums. Both Rademaker and Tom Petty are from Florida, and the fellow Floridian’s spirit hangs over the new material on side A, most pointedly on “Change of Heart.” Petty was a highly percussive singer, often using his vocal syllables like a drum roll, and Rademaker astutely takes his cue from “Hard Promises”-era Petty on the song’s hook, “…then you’ve been talking ‘bout a change of heart / but I know that it’s wasted time.” But the most interesting turn in the new material takes place on songs like “Dreamin’” and “Runnin’ Blind (Winter Version)” where a new influence on Rademaker seems to shine: watertight harmonies and lilting vocals that show more reverence for British melodic bands like Teenage Fanclub than anyone who ever lived on Lookout Mountain. Side B consists of live/ mostly acoustic tracks that do a nice job of capturing the pretty Americana songs GospelbeacH have put out into the ether over the last few years, reminding anyone with a trace memory of things come and gone that the ghosts in this town wear flared jeans and flowers in their hair. —Kegan Pierce Simons ALBUM REVIEWS

LEILANI Fantastic Planet Dome of Doom

L.A. WITCH Octubre EP Suicide Squeeze Aptly named Octubre, the latest release from L.A. Witch captures the eerie vibe that comes along with the fall season or—in the case of this EP—falling headlong into darkness. Sade Sanchez, Irita Pai, and Ellie English continue to elevate their sound. Here they’re a step above garage rock with a heavy psychedelic bent, and this time spookier than ever before. These five songs show that L.A. Witch has been experimenting, and it pays off—or kicks off, and I do mean kicks off, with the groovy “Haunting,” a song that immediately demonstrates the EP’s newly distinctive production while retaining the band’s signature sharp edge. The usually straightforward rock trio introduces ominous organ and jolting piano to the mix on “BB’s Momma,” both of which add power and fullness to their sound. “Sleep” is clearly a product of the L.A. Witch we all know and love, and could have easily fit on their debut album. “Heart of Darkness” and “Outro” are both mellow, atmospheric songs that showcase just how masterfully this band can create a mood. Throughout the EP, Sanchez’s voice is drawling and languid, and paints vivid pictures of failed romances and lovers with unresolved drug problems. She also soaks the songs with reverb from on her guitar, while English’s drumming and Pai’s bass remain faithfully steady and filled with attitude. Octubre is a trip’a foreboding fever dream in the southern California desert as the seasons change. And it’s a must-listen. —Julia Gibson

It’s no surprise that more and more people are releasing albums before they’re old enough to legally drink in the United States, thanks to the increasing affordability and accessibility of DIY production tools and electronic instruments, as well as numerous new avenues for selfdistribution. What also comes as no surprise is how much of this music is relatively uninspired SoundCloud rap, with accessibility and ingenuity being two separate things. So when a nineteen-year-old releases an avant-garde pop album as assured and engaging as Lealani‘s Fantastic Planet, it’s worth championing. Sounding a little like Broadcast or maybe CocoRosie exploring a DIY hip-hop percussion palette, Fantastic Planet is a consistently enjoyable listen. It’s all composed by a woman who grew up immersed in the world of music production—her father is a DJ who fostered her love of obscure synthesizer sounds— and describes herself as a solitary only child, which allowed her the space to create a sound somewhat free of the influences of peers. The result is expertly layered tracks with refreshingly idiosyncratic instrumentation, flickering like an neon light beneath stream-ofconscious lyrics delivered at a relaxed cadence. Its fuzzy squiggly synths provide welcome character and personality, and Lealani obviously has an intense familiarity with the L.A. beat scene’s technique and experimental ethos. Fantastic Planet is like a self-portrait in brilliant pixelated flourescents—and in a world where so much music comes only in shades of gray, it stands out. —Tom Child

THE LINDAS 8X9 Burger Described as a super group of nobodies, rhe Lindas cast a spell over the listener. Despite its compactness, their album detonates

a nuclear bomb of charm. 8×9 is less than nine-and-a-half minutes long and in that time you get to know the band as well as anybody you might have known for twenty years. There’s no self-deception, no posturing—just a real “fuck you, know me or get the fuck out of here” attitude. Which, really, is the point: you can’t satisfy everybody so what’s the use even trying? Yas’ vocals display staggering emotional range in less than thirty seconds for each song. The album has layers and layers to it, almost like a play within a play—take, for instance, the first track “Dead Lovers,” coming in at an epic 1:12. It’s the Lindas’ “Bela Lugosi is Dead,” the goth version of a Germs song. On 8X9, the Lindas are playing with language and the parameters of what an album could and should be—it’s like ripping a scab off and letting it heal in order to go through the entire process again, just in order to experience the something/anything. It lets us know we’re alive, or something approaching that feeling, whatever it is. 8×9 is fun for the whole family, if your whole family hates you. —Nathan Martel

the melodies of African music. An elegant ‘80s vibe rises from the maximalist arrangement of “Ghosts in the Garden.” Horns and stringed things flesh out the floaty title track, while piano-centric “Gallery Floor” could pass for a Mountain Goats song—until it blooms into a massive and gorgeous chorus that sounds like a choir of angels. The highest point of Delicate Art is the album’s penultimate track, “Night Was Long,” which brings together McClements’ instrumental prowess, his unique melodic sense and his flair for the dramatic into one irresistible tune. When a song has its own sense of forward momentum and it feels like a surprise awaits around every corner, you know you’ve got something good. On Delicate Art, Walt McClements shows what can happen when the sideman gets a chance to shine. —Ben Salmon

MEG BAIRD AND MARY LATTIMORE Ghost Forests Three Lobed LONESOME LEASH Delicate Art Cruisin’ In-demand sidemen are usually indemand sidemen for a reason. Their particular set of skills add a distinctive element to a well-known act’s sound, or their multi-instrumental aptitude powers a musical versatility that comes in handy on the road. Walt McClements brings both to the table, which is why he’s been busy the past several years touring in Weyes Blood, Hurray for the Riff Raff and Dark Dark Dark. When he’s not playing other folks’ songs, however, McClements makes his own music under the name Lonesome Leash, and Delicate Art is proof he’s more than just a sideman. McClements draws on his vast skill set to assemble ambitious and compelling pop songs that add up to more than the sum of their considerable parts. “Driving” is built on an unwavering beat and a killer repeated accordion riff that evokes

Ghost Forests is the first albumlength collaboration between L.A. harpist Mary Lattimore and guitarist Meg Baird—a generally ethereal piece of work with a keen sense of mood control, piercing its delicate surface beauty with the occasional unexpected sonic flourish to keep the atmosphere dynamic and the mind from drifting off too far. Think one foot in the pasture and one in the train yard. Listening closely is like a mindfulness exercise that’s constantly drawing your focus back to your breath once you realize you’ve been distracted. Composed of six songs—four of which arre long enough to reward a pre-Internet attention span— Ghost Forests is best consumed all at once, with individual tracks meshing and transforming in much the same way as Lattimore and Baird’s accomplished, emotive performances. Atmosphere is vital with music like this and the album is happy to oblige. Hazy opening instrumental “Between Two Worlds” fulfills its very on-the53


THE INTERPRETER

Gabby loks Interview by Kristina Benson Photography by Debi Del Grande

HOPETON LEWIS “COOL COLLIE” (MERRITONE/ISLAND, 1967)

“The copy I have is Island Records but the original copy is Merritone. Some of these are Jamaican labels, some are Jamaican pre-release. When they are pre-release, they’re blank with whatever the person wrote on it. Then there are UK pressings. With UK pressings, it’s interesting because sometimes they mislabel the song. Sometimes they believe that the Jamaican artist would lie to people in the UK and put it under another title so the producer in Jamaica [who had writing credits on the song] wouldn’t find out. They’d rename the song or the artist or both. This has all the right credits. The name of the producer, the person who arranged it. All the info is correct. This one is kind of slow—but the bass is crazy on this!”

MAD LADS “LOSING YOU” (COXSONE, 1968)

Gabby Loks DJs ska, rocksteady, reggae and Jamaican oldies across L.A. and across the country, too. (She’ll even set up gigs in Jamaica when she’s there looking for 45s.) She currently DJs Swing Easy every first Saturday at the Love Song downtown, and she’ll be DJing for the Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra and more on Fri., Mar. 8, at the Regent Theater. Keep up with her on Instagram at @skavoovie69. DENNIS BROWN “THINGS IN LIFE” (MATADOR, 1973)

“This one is an eBay buy. But it came from New York. It’s a clean record and a really nice song. Dennis Brown has such a soothing voice. I had to get this one. It’s a love song, but its talking about life in general. But it’s like a lovey dovey song. Dennis Brown was with Studio One, and then he went to Derrick Harriott. He didn’t stay with the same producer. He jumped aroundEverybody was listening to reggae back then. Everybody had their own sound systems. Everyone had dances—it was a big deal. Nothing was underground. Even now in Jamaica, a lot of people are poor but they almost all have a crazy big sound system. They’re playing their music loud and proud.”

JACKIE OPEL “VALLEY OF GREEN” (TOP DECK, 1965) “I don’t really normally play out any LPs. I feel like the sound is just completely different. The 45 just comes out louder and clearer. When it comes to Jamaican music, there’s so much more bass in 7” records. They were producing the music to play on sound systems and dances out in Jamaica. I’m not sure if they were making them for radio use or anything. I’m not really sure to be honest, it’s just one of those things! This one I had to buy online. It’s hard to come across most of these songs digging at local record stores. So many more people are collecting more reggae. I’ve only been collecting like under ten years. In New York they still have a lot of music. Not a lot of ska. Rocksteady is the hardest thing to find, even reissues. They’re only making a batch of 500 and they sell out right away. When I went to New York I was finding a lot of things—maybe because there’s more of a Caribbean and Jamaican presence, more than in L.A.”

THE PARAGONS “MY NUMBER ONE” (SUPERTONE, 1968)

“This is a song they produced for themselves, and they recorded it at West Indies Records. The people who make up this band are John Holt, Tyrone Evans, and Howard Barrett. I think after this John Holt started doing his own thing. They have a lot of really good songs. This one’s sweet—I like the intro. That’s part of why I picked it. It’s a rocksteady song. The way that I’m picking out the songs, I’m starting from the early days—from ska. Ska would be the beginning of I think ’66 to ’68, ’69, and then you get to rock steady in ’68, ’69. Then at the very end of ’69 comes reggae. Before ska, it was reggae and calypso, and then came ska and reggae and rocksteady. I mostly collect ska and rocksteady and early reggae. I just started touching early ’70, like roots. This is a love song. A lot of rocksteady, it’s love songs. ‘My number one girl, I love her.’” INTERPRETER

“It’s another rocksteady song. It’s like a heartbreak song—it honestly gives me chills. ‘I can’t get over losing you ...’ I might have found this in Jamaica, maybe like three years ago. It’s pretty beat up. I go once a year. Every year that I go back, I meet up with the same people, and make more friends! And I DJ and hang out. The first time I went out there, I contacted people on eBay who live out there and I was able to meet up with a couple of them and then I got more connects. They bring their records and I look through things. It’s actually digging. You’ll dig for maybe three hours and you’ll pick out like five or ten records because they’ll all be like trashed. There’s no real record store to go into and look for records—it’s like a black market where you call people and trust that they bring what you want and take it from there. [The studios] are still in Jamaica, but they’re just empty shells. They’re not making music, and they’re not doing anything. A lot of people are upset because [the Jamaican government] is not preserving anything. They have a lot of dances, the scene is active—they’re just not taking care of the buildings where the music came from.”

ALTON ELLIS “PLAY IT COOL” (JACKPOT, 1972) “Hortense Ellis is singing backup vocals. Winston Wright is playing organ on this one—he’s a really famous organ player for the rocksteady era. I probably play it way too much! But it sounds really good. People who know the music know the lyrics of this one—it’s a good one to play! This was produced by Bunnie Lee. There were a lot of producers and everyone wants to say that they’re the best. A lot of times bands would stay with the same producer [throughout their career] but many times they jumped around. I know one in particular—I think Jackie Mittoo stayed with Coxsone Dodd at Studio one. For the most part they would stay with the same producer. But another artist I’m going to talk about for a little bit — he started with Randy’s in 68 or 69 but then he recreated the same song for Lee Perry. I’m still learning [how to immediately identify the producer] but for like Winston Wright, you can tell because of the organ.”

CREATOR “SUCH IS LIFE” (SEVEN LEAVES, 1973) “The original song is ‘Such Is Life” from 1968 or 1969, and this one is an adaptation. It’s the same lyrics and same singer. I picked this because I wanted to talk about Lee Perry. He used to work with Bob Marley, he used to work with Delroy Wilson ... in the 70s he was creating very experimental music—very different sounds. And eventually, he went a little crazy and burned down the studio. So that’s why I picked this— it’s a reggae disco song. It’s a 12” but it’s still a single. All these artists that we’re talking about right now, nobody really talks about them any more. Everyone is just like strictly into dance hall, into Chronixx—they don’t really talk about Lee Perry anymore. It’s sad that not more people are talking about him because he’s still alive and he’s still playing. It’s crazy to everyone how he made all these amazing things and then went crazy and burned down the studio. He didn’t want to share anything anymore.”

KEITH & KEN “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” (KENTONE, 1964)

“This is a ska song. I believe I got this record in a basement in Brooklyn. It was through a friend that knew someone that was going to sell their collection, so we went to their house and it was a little old lady. Her husband had passed away and she let us go through the whole collection and we were picking things out. I love this song—I haven’t heard many other people play it. It’s an uptempo song that’s telling someone goodbye but it sounds happy.” 55


nose title and establishes the general tone of the album, with Lattimore and Baird easing into things with tentative plucks and strums, while underneath a lonesome distorted electric guitar wails quietly until finally announcing itself with pulsequickening fullness. Baird’s voice is featured on the majority of the tracks but it often exists more as texture than focus. None of this will be something you’ll find yourself humming later—closing track “Fair Annie” comes closest to embodying pastoral English/Celtic folk, which makes sense as it is a traditional Child ballad—but as an engrossing, meditative listening experience, Ghost Forests is well worth your time. Listen during a long bath and you’ll probably experience a lingering inner peace. —Tom Child

band’s elaborately decorated stages in the heat of a performance may wonder how that poor instrument can possibly still play so sweetly for him—but oh, does it sing. Live, they’ve covered everyone from T. Rex to Pink Floyd and even Black Sabbath, but they don’t really sound like their record collections—or their peers. Joy sings the praises of a magic that’s “not the kind that can be caught, taught or memorized.” That’s an apt description of Moon Honey’s mysterious power. —Donna Kern

PAINT S/T Mexican Summer

MOON HONEY Mixed Media On Women self-released Five long years since their debut and a move from the swamps of Louisiana to the tar pits of Los Angeles, dreamy psychedelic glam prog warriors Moon Honey have unleashed their second album, Mixed Media on Woman. It’s every bit as sparkling, seductive, dramatic, experimental and heartbreaking as their adopted city. Singer and fine artist Jess Joy—who once studied mime in Paris, like band idol David Bowie—brings a painter’s sensibility to the proceedings, layering haunting melodies with warbles, purrs and growls through lyrics exploring greed, independence, surrender to the impermanence of all things, and even the meaning of life itself. (Or the seeming lack thereof.) Doubt, loss, depression and isolation all surface and then submerge, sometimes swathed in strings, sometimes punctuated by keys, but Mixed Media never wallows in despair. Indeed, salvation sometimes arrives from on high in the form of Andrew Martin’s divinely cosmic guitar solos. Fans who have witnessed Martin climbing speakers and throwing his Telecaster across the 56

Often the albums that reveal the most are the ones that don’t make it easy. Why look harder if you think there is nothing to see? PAINT is a solo side-project from AllahLas member Pedrum Siadatian that swivels between lucidity and shadowy devilishness and coquettishness. Lead single, “Daily Gazette” is a Velvet Underground-ish escape through a tremolo wormhole, and the Television-inspired guitar noodling of “True Love (Is Hard To Find)” is a hopeful plea to the loved and the loveless. Cut from the same indigo cloth of past psychedelic troubadours like Jefferson Airplane, “Just Passin’ Thru” and “Outro_ Corso” peer through the looking glass with country-lick guitars and hippy-dippy trippin’ twos. But the bubbling “Silver Streaks” might be the best of the bunch: a meandering walk through a forest of falling in love with an older woman, more experienced than he. A promising piece from PAINT. Wipe the windshield with your sleeve when it’s too foggy to see. —Kegan Pierce Simons

RAS_G AND THE AFRIKAN SPACE PROGRAM Dance of the Cosmos Akashik Records When it comes to L.A.’s “beat” scene, few figures are as influential as Ras_G. While contemporaries like Flying Lotus may have wider name recognition, Ras_G has been releasing music since 2005 and helping to grow L.A. beats from a local strain of Dilla-fied boom bap to a progressive musical movement known for punishing subwoofers worldwide. But on Dance of the Cosmos, Ras_G turns away from the beats he’s known for and dives headfirst into the world of house music. In some ways, it’s a big departure—but at the same time, Ras_G applies his signature sound so seamlessly that it reveals an underlying affinity between his previous music and house. Dance of the Cosmos draws from a soulful sample-based form of house that is synonymous with Detroit. From the unstoppable groove and bouncing chords of the title track to the lopsided rhythm of “Harambee 2 the Sun” and the dusty pads of “Push it Along,” Ras_G’s tracks are built with loose, unmechanical elements that would sound at home on a Theo Parrish record. And like many house records from Detroit, Dance of the Cosmos is concerned with the struggle for Black liberation, sampling political spoken word segments from records by X-Clan and Mtume Umoja Ensemble, among others. It’s fitting that Ras_G would turn to the Motor City for inspiration, considering the larger than life influence of J. Dilla on L.A. beats— as well as the Michigan roots of other members of the scene—but the dialogue between Detroit and L.A on Dance of the Cosmos moves in both directions. (Listen to newschool Detroit house producers like Kyle Hall and Jay Daniel and you’ll hear something resembling the overstated swing of L.A. beats sped up to 120 BPM.) But symbolic context aside, Dance of the Cosmos is a powerful offering all its own. Ras_G finds his voice in the details, layering the mix with wonky sound effects, rapped vocal snippets and his official watermark—a voice calling “Oh Ras!” through a soup of dub effects. Certain points do suggest the sensibility of an artist more accustomed to making two-minute beats rather than seven-minute club workouts, like how the opening track begins with a fully-formed

groove that could have unfolded over several minutes—but that kind of immediacy can be irresistibly catchy. More importantly, it demonstrates how creatively fertile the space between genres can be. By fusing aspects of Detroit’s influence on L.A. and vice versa, Ras_G brings an ongoing exchange between the two hubs of electronic music full circle. Even within L.A.’s electronic scene, Dance of the Cosmos serves as a unifying statement by formally acknowledging the crosspollination between techno, hiphop and everything in between. —Joe Rihn

Haunt’s trademark midnight songs will still find solace in Blue Hour’s resolute commitment to its sound and feeling, but they may envy new listeners who make this twilight drive for the first time. —Sydney Sweeney

TIM PRESLEY’S WHITE FENCE I Have to Feed Larry’s Hawk Drag City

RUBY HAUNT Blue Hour self-released Ruby Haunt makes nocturnes for modern night owls—insomniacs, twilight drivers, and nervous souls with restless brains and tired bodies. The indietronica duo (Wyatt Ininns and Viktor Pakpour) has pursued this drowsy, atmospheric sound since establishing itself in Los Angeles three years ago, and though their synthesized music shimmers with a pop phosphorescence clearly distinct from Debussy or Chopin’s classical nocturnes, it conjures moonlit imagery just the same. Innin’s lyrical minimalism and Pakpour’s production—a kind of dreamy new wave that echoes early New Order and mid-2000s M83— makes for a pairing that practically glows. Admittedly, consistency like this sometimes slides into complacency, and despite its place as Innin and Pakpour’s third fulllength, Blue Hour is hardly distinct from prior releases. Aside from opener “Sucker” and closer “It Will Happen the Next Time Around,” it’s a seamless extension of their debut and sophomore albums, Haunt and Sugar. If it was the conclusion of a trilogy, Blue Hour would make a fitting finale. But that’s not the case, and the lack of experimentation is frustrating. Longtime fans hoping for the unexpected may wonder: is the duo simply too comfortable? Good music is still good music, and Innin and Pakpour’s talent for evocative synth ballads is far from fading. Those fond of Ruby

Alas, our beloved experimentalp s yc h e d e l i c - b e d r o o m - p u n k conjurer Tim Presley has decamped to San Francisco, the city from whence he came. If the music he makes up north continues to reach the creative heights of his new offering I Have to Feed Larry’s Hawk, however, all is forgiven. Presley’s intoxicating mix of vulnerability and aloofness advance and retreat across his sonic landscape like San Francisco’s famous fogs, drawing you deeper and deeper into the magic and obscuring your way back home. The chains of addiction (to prescription painkillers, perhaps, given the album cover and Walgreens references?) and associated Sisyphean tasks (forever feeding Larry’s hawk) haunt these songs. The dark pull of the hawk and his appetites call to mind “The Beast,” a stand-in for heroin in the old Only Ones song. But there’s healing at work here, too. You can feel “Harm Reduction (Morning)” working—it fizzes and tingles in your brain and may cause (pleasant) drowsiness. And there’s love, sweet love. But is it the right kind? With his usual charming obliqueness, Presley calls this a “cycle of songs about losing the thing that’s killing you that you love in order to gain the thing that makes you love what you love.” Is “Lorelei” a loved one, or a siren luring him towards his demise? “Let us make it out of here alive, Lorelei,” he pleads. Either way, it’s one of the prettiest songs he’s written. “I Love You” opens with a Johnny Thunders-worthy guitar riff, but piano and synthesizers lend a theatrical, softer 70s flare to many of these songs. “I Can Dream You” feels like it could be ALBUM REVIEWS


a poignant moment from a groovy rock opera about doomed love, bad decisions and money laundering. (Tim, will you write us a rock opera?) The Pit gallery describes Presley’s current solo exhibition of expressionistic drawings as “a place for introspection.” His music nurtures that same kind of inner journey, simultaneously enchanting and unsettling its listener. The wise Willy Wonka once sang, “There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination / Living there, you’ll be free, if you truly wish to be.” Presley may sing, “I’m not as free as I’d like to be,” but his imagination soars here to the heights of Larry’s hawk itself, and he doesn’t need Fizzy Lifting Drinks (or more illicit equivalents) to get there. Total freedom can’t be far behind for Presley, if he truly wishes it to be. And if this is what he sounds like when he’s not free, I can’t wait to hear what he sounds like when he is. —Donna Kern

THE TRACKS Treasured Memories self-released In the late 2000s, a very exciting offshoot of the post-garage/punk scene began to emerge from East L.A. and Boyle Heights. These bands disovered deep connections to the garage, punk, and blues scenes of the 60s, but unlike mainstream bands—such as the Strokes—they did not stop there. Having grown up with two cultures as well as a regional history of music and social activism, the bands drew from rich Latinx and Chicanx roots to create a genre wholly unique to East L.A. One great example of this was a band called De Hombres, fronted by Bobby Sandoval, which had a song about the Sleepy Lagoon murder that sparked the Zoot Suit Riots. It had the energy and power of a kick right to the face, and it spoke about things that mattered. During this same era there was another band I really loved called Gossip Tree who played a deeply romantic and nostalgic kind of music. The band eventually became East Of The River and its front man Venancio Bermudez reformed the band as the Tracks. The Tracks came out with a few singles in 2017, including arguably one of the best songs of the year from the L.A. indie scene: “Go Out Tonight,” which had an amazing video made

with vintage footage of downtown L.A. and its vital Latino history. The song leads in with a low hum from a keyboard that gives way to deliberate and rhythmic singlestring strumming from a guitar. Once Venancio begins to sing, you know this band has something. His voice cuts into you and makes you bleed. This is something I really enjoy about the Tracks—all the songs hit you in a very personal place. While referencing the past, either directly or subtly, these songs gave you a sort of prostalgia for a pain that you have yet to feel but know will one day come. For many years, the Tracks have been a sleeper hit in L.A., culminating with their appearance in the Amazon show series based off the Chris Kraus book I Love Dick, where they performed an amazing cover of Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me,” and later a masterfully atmospheric “You Can’t Judge a Book by Looking at the Cover” that came out in an Apple commercial. Finally in late 2018 we were given the full treatment with the release of their Treasured Memories LP. The album opens up with the single “Go Out Tonight” and another future classic “The Quit Song” but quickly expands into new material that carries the band to a whole other level. One highlight is the deceptively simple “Take You Alone,” with its cyclical effect of slightly changing the verse each time through—it stays familiar

even as it creates a narrative that grows. Another hit is the “Hustle,” with a heavy punk influence that pulls no punches. The album closes with the lightly blues/country influenced “See Them Go.” The twang of the guitar pairs perfectly with Bermudez’s crooning as he laments over having a woman stuck in his head. As with many of the Tracks’ songs, it rises and falls at key moments and leads to an insanely good melodic bridge that reverses course at Bermudez’ revelation that he too was residing in the thoughts of his lover. This album is one you should not miss. It is a great introduction to a scene more people should experience and I am positive this band will only get bigger. —Zachary Jensen

YOUNG CREATURES “Something I Don’t Know” 7” Nomad Eel

Young Creatures spent the better part of the 2010s honing an ethereal and earthy take on indie rock with shows at just about every club in L.A. Their new “Something I Don’t Know / Prisoner of Escape” 7” exists in the same universe as their 2017 The Future is Finally Now LP. Recorded at singer/guitarist/ producer Mike Post’s Moosecat studio and featuring guitarist Andrew Gleason doubling on bass, it sets Post’s existential inquisitions and atmospheric arrangements floating over tightly-coiled grooves and fuzz-laden riffs. “Something” features Post examining “what it means to feel alive” over mid-tempo psychedelia, with counterpoint guitars and Michael Escalante’s laid-back drumming recalling Deerhunter’s lighter works. B-side “Prisoner of Escape” spins up with renewed urgency, with drumsand bass pushing against shimmering tremolo guitars. Here Post admits he was “a cog, distracted all along, without a fate,” but refuses to go any further: “It’s been a while since I had to say that I don’t wanna feel this,” he howls, with major-key bursts of strings heralding his victory over complacency. Young Creatures have arrived at a signature sound and theme, as well as settled into a winning streak. Their 2017 and 2018 releases suggest they’re ready for greater things—let’s hope this is their year. —Zach Bilson


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L.A. RECORD is currently distributed to 300 locations across the greater L.A to San Pedro through Long Beach and Orange County, as well as in Hollyw Highland Park and more. Unfortunately, we do not have the space to list eve but here are some of the key spots where you can get a copy of L.A. RECOR business listed in future issues as a key distribution location, contact us at


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10. GLASS HOUSE RECORD STORE 248 W 2nd St, Pomona 11. HEADLINE RECORDS 7706 Melrose Ave Melrose 12. LEFT OF THE DIAL 320 French St Santa Ana

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A. area, from the Valley to Pomona wood, downtown L.A., Echo Park, ery one of our 300 drop locations, RD! If you would like to have your t fortherecord@larecord.com!

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MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS 69. BEDROCK 1623 Allesandro St. Echo Park 45. CAVEMAN VINTAGE 3231 N. Main Lincoln Park 46. FUTURE MUSIC 5112 York Blvd Highland Park 47. GILMORE MUSIC 1935 E 7th St Long Beach 48. MCCABE’S 3101 Pico Blvd Santa Monica

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LIVE PHOTOS WINTER 2018

ONLINE PHOTO EDITOR DEBI DEL GRANDE

The C.I.A. December 2018 Resident

Marcos Manrique

Death Grips October 2018 Desert Daze

Frankie and the Witch Fingers October 2018 Zebulon

Maximilian Ho

SUUNS December 2018 The Lodge Room

Carlos Garcia

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Marcos Manrique

LIVE PHOTOS


Kathleen Hanna February 2019 The Teragram Ballroom

St. Vincent October 2018 The Palladium

Debi Del Grande

Stephanie Port

Fat Tony December 2018 The Roxy

FIDLAR January 2019 The Teragram Ballroom

Eduardo Luis

Debi Del Grande

Mazzy Star November 2018 Tropicalia Festival

Fucked Up December 2018 The Echoplex

Eduardo Luis

LIVE PHOTOS

Miguel Vasconcellos

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THE EXPLODING HEARTS Interview by JUSTIN MAURER ILLUSTRATION by NATHAN MORSE

The Exploding Hearts were a teenage kick to the gut—a band who unexpectedly clawed their way out of Portland, Oregon, with a debut album Guitar Romantic positively celebrated all the way from Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll to then-prominent Rolling Stone Magazine. In 2003, with Guitar Romantic setting the U.S. and Europe on fire, The Exploding Hearts embarked on their first west coast tour. They were set for world domination, but on an overnight drive back from a triumphant debut in San Francisco on Sunday, July 20, a car accident killed three out of four members of the band. Adam Cox, Matt Fitzgerald, and Jeremy Gage passed away. Only guitarist Terry Six survived. The Portland music community and fans all over the world were shocked. Everyone lamented what The Exploding Hearts could have become. After nearly ten years of musical silence, Terry Six quietly got together with longtime friend and former Exploding Heart confidant “King” Louie Bankston and they decided to record some songs together. This partnership became known as Terry And Louie. After releasing a couple of singles and winning enthusiastic reception at festivals like Gonerfest and the Burger Boogaloo, Terry and Louie decided to record their debut full-length album, with one of the main lyrical themes being heartbreak and loss. This longdistance collaboration is called A Thousand Guitars and took over two years to complete, and will be released by Bachelor in Europe and on their own Tuff Break imprint in the US. Filmmaker Ardavon Fatehi, childhood friend of Terry and the rest of the Exploding Hearts, has begun working on a full-length documentary. This Exploding Hearts documentary film by Ardavon Fatehi will put many rumors to rest and will finally unveil the real story about the band and its members. Terry and Ardavon, where and when did you guys first meet and what are some of your early recollections of each other? Ardy sung in a band called Goons of Destruction, right? Terry Six: I first met Ardavon—we called him Ardy—when I was thirteen. He and I shared a mutual friend. Ardy suggested we break into the recreation room at our friend’s parents’ apartment and shoot pool. I didn’t see him again until my first day of high school. I recognized him immediately and mentioned if he remembered me and what we did at the apartment and he said, ‘I don’t fucking remember you or that—I was probably really high.’ By then, he was calling himself ‘Anarchy Ardy’ and he had a band called the Goons Of Destruction which was a kind of Mummies/ Spider Babies worship done very badly. Ardy actually didn’t sing—that was Isaiah Summers. Ardy played guitar and wrote the music and was the mascot. I was in a few bands before the Exploding Hearts—all terrible. I was even in the Goons Of Destruction for a minute. Ardavon Fatehi: The summer of 1994, my grandma was visiting from Tehran and staying at my uncle’s apartment. I spent a lot of time there but I was a kid and therefore wasn’t particularly interested in hanging out FILM

with an old Persian lady. Often I’d wander off into the apartment complex looking for some trouble. That’s where I met Terry through a kid who lived next door. We broke into a rec room using a spoon I had spent the better part of the afternoon sharpening and played billiards. That was the first time Terry told me his biological father was Clyde ‘The Glide’ Drexler. Many moons later we ended up in high school together and through a mutual love for punk rock and 80s action movies, we became friends pretty quickly. He had remembered me but I had no idea what he was talking about. I was pretty high that whole summer. Then one day he tried to tell me about his ‘real’ dad and that’s when the memories poured back in. I’d like to go on the record here and state that I did NOT call myself ‘Anarchy Ardy.’ That was a ‘punk name’ given to me in junior high because I was really into 19th century pseudo-anarchist Russian literature and would spend my weekends at Zapatista rallies. I always hated the nickname because I didn’t consider myself an anarchist at all. The Goons of Destruction were a stupid garage-punk band that I started with a couple other friends when we were 14. We were all virgins so every song was about sex. Our first show was at a house party. The Spits were

supposed to headline this basement show but they all let us play last because they got a kick out of a bunch of 15-year-olds wearing RayBans and sheer stockings over their heads, covered in fake blood, playing GG Allin & The Jabbers covers. What kind of trouble did teenage Terry and Ardy get into in the suburbs of Portland? AF: We had a general penchant for juvenile delinquency. Lots of drinking. So much drinking that I don’t remember a lot of it. Clearly Terry doesn’t either. We were only a 10-15 minute bus ride to downtown so we actually spent a lot of our nights going to shows. Back then Portland had shows nearly every night and we’d be out in the city about 4-5 nights a week. As soon as we’d get to the venue, the girls in our group would go coerce some older dude to buy us all beer, which generally consisted of 2-3 cases of Pabst. Pig Champion from Poison Idea used to buy us beer all the time, God bless that man. We’d get teenage drunk, watch some shitty punk bands, occasionally a couple of us would get in fights and subsequently get beat up by a pack of skinheads, then half of us would make it to school in the morning. This is probably why our class had a graduation rate of less than 50%.

One thing that I remember about Exploding Hearts was Matt—your bassist—being a weed dealer and how much weed you guys would smoke right before playing shows. I always found it remarkable that you guys could play that stoned after hotboxing Matt’s van outside venues like Meow Meow or The Blackbird. Terry, were you ever too stoned to play? TS: (laughs) Well, we all really liked smoking weed, Adam especially. He’d give you any record in his collection for a decent sized amount. It came to be a joke after a while. Whenever I needed to go record shopping, instead of going to 2nd Avenue Records, I’d just take weed over to Adam’s and raid his collection. I was never too stoned to play. None of us were. The higher we were, the better. The only time we’d regulate that was in the studio. We were all very focused and professional in that department. I distinctly remember a lot of people in Portland talking a lot of shit on Exploding Hearts, basically because of the clothes you would wear. I don’t think a lot of guys in Portland were wearing white jeans and pink bandanas before you guys did. Do you think people look back at those times through a rose-colored lens? 63


TS: Oh definitely! I think when most people look back, they seem to forget that a lot of our supposed diehard fans were some of our biggest haters. It took a lot of effort and a certain moral tenacity to stand apart from the crowd and prove that we weren’t a joke. Eventually towards the end, most of those people and some of the bands from back then got it. But it’s all in the past. I don’t hold grudges and a lot of these folks are now dear friends. It’s just one of those things when you’re young and in the game. Terry, in your mind what was the best show that Exploding Hearts ever played, or a show in particular that stands apart from the others in your memory? TS: There were two. The first show was when the Harvard Lampoon flew us out to play their coveted graduation party. Just for the weirdness alone of the whole thing, that’s what makes this show stand out. Getting wined and dined, put up in nice bed and breakfast spots, being shown Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle porn that they made, Jeremy getting locked in the secret room at the Lampoon Mansion, and watching Ivy League kids lose their shit when we played. I remember walking into the main dining hall, and looking at all the portraits of people they had immortalized on their walls, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Conan O’Brian, the Strokes, and then seeing us up there? It was a very rare moment not too many people get to have. The second show was supporting the Makers on New Year’s Eve 2002 into 2003 at Satyricon. I felt like that performance in particular was when Portland finally got us. The room was filled with people I’d normally associate with hating us, but that night, the entire room bended and everyone who was there was jumping around and dancing the entire set. Michael Maker commented to Adam after we played and jokingly cursed him that they were going to have a hard time following us after that. It was perfect. Do you remember the plot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Porn? And did Michael Maker look like Prince back then? TS: [laughs] It was done in the style of a TV Funhouse cartoon. The plot is that April O’Neil is going live on the news reporting that Krang and The Shredder were once again foiled by the mysterious Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She wraps up her report and then it cuts to Master Splinter on all fours behind the news desk holding a trip wire winking and shushing while looking into the camera. Michelangelo is also hiding around the corner. April O’Neil walks towards Splinter holding the trip wire and whoops! She trips over it while falling right onto Michelangelo’s erect green turtle dick. This immediately follows her giving turtle head. It then moves forward with them in every funny turtle position imaginable. I think there are some hi-fives with Splinter and a possible interspecies tag team. About Mike Maker, Adam was quoted as saying, ‘Michael Maker looks like a mix between Lenny Kravitz and Prince’. Terry, when did you first meet King Louie Bankston and what was his role in Exploding Hearts songwriting? He wrote the song ‘I’m A Pretender’, right? How would you describe Louie’s personality to someone who has never met him? 64

TS: I knew who King Louie was for a few years before actually meeting him. My favorite record in my senior year of high school was The Persuaders LP. I was really excited when I found out that Louie moved to Portland from Louisiana. I thought maybe the Persuaders would reform and play a few shows. Instead he was doing his One Man Band and I caught him playing outside Discourage Records in Portland. I first met him years later when I was already playing in The Exploding Hearts. Adam sat me down after practice and said, ‘Hey, so I was day drinking with King Louie the other day and he’s going to join our band now. He wrote a song for The Royal Pendletons that they didn’t want. It’s called “I’m A Pretender” and it’s great! Don’t worry about it.’ Honestly at that point, I wasn’t sure if I was excited or hesitant, because we were a solid four piece. I couldn’t see any room for another member. We set up a rehearsal at our house. Louie showed up with a corn dog and a hot pickle in one hand and three different drinks in the other. I was anxious to hear this song he’d written, so I cut right to the point—I handed him a guitar and asked him to play it. He put down all of his various beverages, inhaled his corn dog, and then out came ‘I’m A Pretender.’ I got it immediately. I said, ‘You got any more like that?’ He said, ‘Ya like that one? When I played it for Alex Chilton he said, “Louie, you just wrote your first hit song”’ From that point on, we all sat around and started writing songs. I felt like his influence was the key ingredient we were missing that I didn’t even know we needed. How did Louie fit three different drinks into one of his hands? TS: Let me rephrase. The drinks were all cradled in his forearm. He did have a corn dog and a pickle in one hand though. I do remember that. He had his ‘cold drink’— Southerners call a plastic cup filled with crushed ice and soda pop a ‘cold drink— a 40 ounce Pabst, and Pepto Bismol. Did some of you guys work with Louie at Oak’s Park—the amusement park in Portland? There’s references to the ride the ‘Tilt A Whirl’ in one of the Exploding Hearts songs, right? TS: Right! Jeremy worked with Louie at Oak’s Park for a summer. Louie operated the Ferris Wheel and Jeremy operated the Rock ‘n’ Roll. Jeremy would blast ‘Psychotic Reaction’ by the Count Five for a bunch of five-year-olds and yell over the PA, ‘OKAY, KIDDIES! ARE YOU READY TO FREAK RIGHT OUT?!’ I, however, will never ride a Ferris Wheel again after Louie stopped the ride when I reached the top and kept me there for 45 minutes swinging in the wind. We naturally gravitated towards including hints to Oak’s Park in our songs since we were there almost every day. When did you start playing music with Louie and how did it turn into the partnership it is now? You’re living in different states—was it difficult to get together to work on these songs? TS: It started with me revisiting a song I wrote called ‘I’m Looking For A Heart.’ It was the last song I wrote for the Exploding Hearts, and one that Louie told me—before he left to head back home to Louisiana—that he’d help me finish. I decided to hold him to his word,

even though it was ten years after the fact. He flew out to Oakland where I currently live and we recorded the singles ‘(I’m) Looking For A Heart’ and ‘Can Ya Tell Me?’ and I thought that was it. I wasn’t interested in playing shows or anything beyond that point until one day, he calls me and says, ‘N.W. Donk! I booked us for Goner Fest! I got us a backing band and we’re playing Hearts stuff, our stuff, all of it!’ Since then, we’ve been actively writing and playing out. When we were working on the singles, it was really difficult and expensive to get together and too cumbersome to rehearse over the phone. For this album I took a new approach. Chad, Aaron, Louie, and I spent two days doing basic tracking and from then on I just wrote and recorded all the music and as much of the lyric content on my own. When Louie would come back out to the Bay Area, he’d have a clear, mapped out direction of what to do so we could avoid wasting time that we didn’t have. ‘Looking For A Heart’ is a cool riff—I can see how that could be an Exploding Hearts tune! What does ‘N.W. Donk’ mean? TS: Thank you! I guess I didn’t like the idea of letting that riff go. Louie calls me ‘N.W.’, pronounced ‘Enn Dubya’ because I’m from the Northwest and for some reason back in the early days he latched on to calling all of us ‘Donkeys.’ I guess it comes from when Louie referring to himself as a ‘Swamp Donkey’ in passing and we all laughed hysterically. Now everyone is a Donkey. Heartbreak seems like it’s a common theme on the new album. TS: Heartbreak is a very broad, multifaceted subject to explore. Louie just told me that someone recently stole his 12-string Rickenbacker and he’s beyond heartbroken by it. Heartbreak doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to a lover’s quarrel. I could easily write a song about Louie losing his guitar and relate it to every emotion in the book. The amount of material is endless and relatable to anyone on the planet. Everybody has their own unique spin on what they can personally relate to in identifying with a song, even the biggest tough guys. That, I think is why we tend to zero in on heartbreak as a thematic element so heavily in our writing. What was the experience recording A Thousand Guitars like? It took over two years to complete, right? Was Pat Kearns, engineer of the Exploding Hearts album also involved in recording this album? TS: It did! Two years of tracking and six months in post! It was also very important to me early on when conceptualizing this record that it had to be performance based. I wanted to keep as many of those raw, natural artifacts—like cracks in Louie’s voice, flubs on the guitar, et cetera—as I could. I made Louie sing parts over and over and over until it was right, or at least had character. I could have used all of the digital bells and whistles in my arsenal to make it smoother but then we’d just have another boring plastic record that sounds like everything else. I really learned a lot from this experience and it helped when crafting the songs, but I actually did the bulk of the engineering on my own. That’s probably why it took so long. I had help from Josh Garcia

early on for basics and help from Phil Lantz at the end. Pat Kearns mixed and mastered the record with me out in his Solar Cabin in the desert. That’s where the record really came together. What is Pat’s solar cabin in the desert like? How is it different from his previous recording studio setups in Portland? TS: Pat’s Solar Cabin is just that—a modest cabin in the Mojave Desert that runs off solar power. He sets up Pro Tools and his outboard rig and can work around 6-9 full hours at a time. It’s also his living space. In Portland, Pat spent some time at Jackpot! Studios and built PermaPress behind Centaur Guitars which was considerably better than Studio 13, where the Exploding Hearts tracked Guitar Romantic. Honestly, mixing at the cabin was very reminiscent of recording Guitar Romantic. It’s a very tight and restrictive space hovering over him while he works. The major difference is the amazing desert views from his windows. Pat’s also in the middle of constructing a new studio on his property which I just saw. It’s going to be amazing. Any touring plans to promote A Thousand Guitars? TS: We have a few one-off shows in the works. One will be held in Los Angeles for the record release of A Thousand Guitars and one I can’t mention yet. But we are currently working on a major European tour next summer. Franz from Otis Tours and Jens from Wild Wax are teaming up and booking the tour. I’m excited to head overseas—I’ve never been out there yet. My European connection started out with selling Elmar from Bachelor Records copies of the Terry & Louie singles for European distribution. Since then, he came out to a bar I worked in the Mission district of San Francisco and talked to me about him pressing the record over there to cut the cost of shipping, which was one of my biggest problem areas when pressing those records. I underestimated the market out there and couldn’t afford the high shipping rates. I liked him and his label, so I agreed. He also made it a point to meet me face-to-face which I always appreciate. Back to Louie—I recall hearing about Louie being stranded on a roof with his dog and girlfriend during Hurricane Katrina, is that story true? TS: The story is 100% true! What I remember hearing is that when the water came, he took a chainsaw and sawed his way out of a roof where he lived, then Louie, his girlfriend, and her dog swam to another roof to reach safety. They were stranded up there for a few hours and then Louie’s girlfriend’s brother came out with a pirogue and could only get his girlfriend to fit. So she left first and left Louie to wait with the dog still on the roof. While waiting for her brother to return with the boat, a bunch of poisonous Louisiana water snakes called moccasins kept shimming up the gutter trying to get at him and the dog so he swatted them away with an oar for twenty minutes until the brother returned with the pirogue. Then they were taken to the bayou forest and camped out there for four days until help arrived. You’ll have to ask Louie for the rest, but that’s the story I know to be true. FILM


I love that King Louie Hurricane Katrina escape story! And I didn’t know exactly what a ‘pirogue’ is so I l just looked it up. It is also called a piragua or piraga, and is any of various small boats, particularly dugouts and native canoes. The word is French and is derived from Spanish piragua, which comes from the Carib piraua. Hey, you learn something new every day! TS: That story gets more and more wild to me every time I hear it or re-tell it. Speaking of learning new Cajun things—that is what I love most about visiting Louie in New Orleans. He picks you up in his red jeep with the top down and takes you all over and gives you history lessons about the entire area. He can make a hundred-year-old tree sound interesting. And then we’ll go get crawfish and char grilled oysters and go see his folks at the hardware store they run. Terry and Ardy when did you guys first talk about making a documentary on The Exploding Hearts? TS: I was approached by someone who showed immense interest in getting a documentary film format in the works. At that point, I had been getting pitches for books and movies all the time, but I was always reluctant and felt a very slimy nature around it. I trusted and liked this person, so I thought we could work on it, but she was having trouble making contacts in the film world. I said, ‘I know a guy down in L.A.—you should talk to him’. That guy was Ardavon. They ended up corresponding over a few months and naturally the baton was passed over to Ardavon since he was doing most of the work. He has been tirelessly working on this film ever since. Poor bastard. Sorry, Ardy. AF: Terry approached me about five years ago. There was a lot of interest in making a doc about the Exploding Hearts and Terry wasn’t entirely comfortable allowing just anyone to tell that story. At first I was very reluctant. I just didn’t know if this story should be told. I didn’t know if it needed its own documentary. My career was also really starting to take off down here and I didn’t think I’d have the time needed to commit to such an endeavor. So originally, I passed. Not too long afterwards I got in a pretty bad car accident and spent the better part of a year bed ridden and in a wheelchair. It was during that time that the doc had begun under some capacity and Terry again asked me to join. At that point it just made sense. I had the time to get involved and wasn’t really sure if or when I could get back on set. I knew it would take a lot of time and energy to tell it right. I’m not sure what happened with the woman who was originally making the film, I think we just drifted apart and I kept going on with the project. At first it was just me doing everything myself but over time I’ve been fortunate enough to surround myself with a team of professionals who are all highly skilled and just as committed to making this film as I am. I can’t begin to state how excited I am for the direction this is all heading in. Terry, was it difficult talking about the death of your friends and bandmates on camera? FILM

TS: It was probably the most difficult thing I’ve chosen to do in my life. My brain went into auto pilot and my voice did the rest. I recall as I was re-telling the events, that the entire room fell silent. I couldn’t hear the hum from the camera lights, the rattle from the refrigerator, nothing. Just my thoughts pouring out from my mouth. I felt like I was right back in that moment fifteen years ago. It made me miss my friends even more. AF: This question isn’t for me and there’s no reason that this response should be included, but I can just tell you that being there with Terry while we filmed that was also personally one of the most emotionally difficult moments in my life. Terry and I have certainly spoken about the day before. I was at his parents’ house with him a few hours after the accident, but Terry has never really opened up to me about it. And for obvious reasons no one has ever forced him to. We waited a long time to shoot Terry’s interview. I think Terry had the time to prepare for it and really reveal himself. I don’t believe that would have been something that was possible even a few years ago. I’m not a psychologist or anything and I could be totally wrong, but I think this movie being made, and Terry getting back together with Louie and playing those songs again, especially in front of people, has been a real cathartic experience. And when he did his interview he was so candid and vulnerable, it was a side of him I haven’t seen in a long time. Maybe ever. For years Terry has been so strong in all of this because he had to be for all of us. When he spoke about our friends during the interview it was powerful and profound, yet so honest and earnest, I felt myself sinking into the ground. I hid my face behind the camera to block the tears I was wiping away hoping he wouldn’t see. Ardy, why does The Exploding Hearts story need to be told? AF: You know, that’s a question I asked myself a lot at the beginning. It’s something Terry and I spoke of at length before anything even started happening. You have this band that has only grown more and more in popularity, recognition and influence over the years as a new generation has been exposed to their music. I’m not sure if that’s remarkable or if it makes total sense. But either way there’s been nothing new from this band in decades, yet they aren’t forgotten despite the fact that there isn’t much material—music, video, or interviews—out there on them. And what little there is isn’t easily accessible. Yet here they are, still very relevant and still very alive. All of that adds to a certain mystique about the Exploding Hearts. So little is known about them but still so much word of mouth that spreads around, it’s completely folklorish in nature. That’s something that’s not really possible in our society anymore with social media and all the technology and recording capabilities at everyone’s disposal. The late 90s/early 2000s may have been the last time in our modern world where mystique is even possible now that we live in this exhaustingly catalogued digital age. I find all of that very interesting and it is something I explore in the film, but that alone doesn’t justify the telling of this story. The last thing I wanted to do with this movie is list a bunch of facts on

a timeline surrounded by some quirky sound bites and cool graphics as is so often done in music docs. I think that’s such a banal approach to telling the Exploding Hearts’ story. Nor did I want to regurgitate a cuethe-tears VH1 Behind The Music approach designed to cater to fan service. To me that would be such a disservice to these boys and everything they stood for. I think that there’s a strong human element within this story that delves into so many different themes surrounding tragedy and loss and guilt. How people overcome such adversity or if they ever really do? How can a horrific moment in a single day affect us as we grow as people? Can we ever really move on or are we forever tied to that past and the burdens of grieving it brings with it? To me these questions extend beyond just the individual but to a community that was sincerely damaged by what happened July 20, 2003. I wasn’t sure how prevalent this would all be but it’s something I’ve continually encountered in all my interviews and research. I believe exploring themes like these instills a great deal of humanity into this story. One which also follows an arc as we travel though the events that started in a Portland suburb back in the 90s that has somehow lead us to here and now. To me that’s a story worth telling. And that’s a story which will resonate with audiences beyond the band’s general fan base. And that’s why it’s important and needs to be told. What has been your most memorable experience traveling and shooting interviews so far for this doc? AF: This first time I went on the road to shoot interviews was quite a memorable experience. I filled up a car full of gear and spent a month driving up and down the west coast by myself shooting 3 to 5 interviews a day. I set up the lights, the cameras, ran sound and conducted the interviews then afterwards spent time scanning old photos and digitizing videos. It was a lot of work and it was just great to see people I haven’t connected with in years. On top of that it became very clear to me that so many people never really had the chance to process all of their emotions and pain from 15 years ago. We were all so young when it happened that I don’t think we really knew what to do. It’s as if all these feelings were swept aside and buried as we felt forced to grow up and move forward with our lives at the time. Getting people in front of the camera and exploring their pasts, really for the first time, brought all of those suppressed emotions out into the forefront. It did it to me too. I never anticipated this would be such an emotional journey for me, even being on the other side of the camera. But I’ve learned that there was so much I never fully recognized or processed that was still there buried beneath years of other memories. So it was really difficult to discuss this period in people’s lives and not go through our shared pain every single time with each interview, reliving that pain over and over for that month on the road. At times it was hard not to step out from behind the camera and give my friend who’s clearly hurt from my pestering questions a hug. That was real memorable, and it will stick with me. I guess I was naive in assuming this whole

endeavor wouldn’t be painful or have much effect on me. As rewarding as this has all been, it’s been just as equally demanding. I think at the end of every shoot I thought to myself, ‘Fuck you, Terry, for asking me to do this.’ [laughs] Ardy, anything you want to tease about the doc to whet your potential audience’s appetite? AF: I can say that we’re really excited about this project—we’ve been working tirelessly to acquire all sorts of never before seen footage, pics, and more. We hope everyone else is equally excited about it and stays engaged and patient as we finish things up the DIY way. When can we expect to see the Doc in theaters? AF: 2019! We’ve received a lot of great feedback and lots of excitement from fans anticipating this movie. This has been massively energizing. On a project like this, you spend a lot of time working it alone or with a small team and sometimes it’s difficult to gauge whether or not people really give a shit and we quickly learned upon releasing the teaser that there is tons of enthusiasm surrounding the film and I just wanted thank everyone for their support. I’ve been instructed by my producers to ask everyone to please like, follow, and comment on all of our social media accounts: Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and more. For an independently produced film like this, any sort of online engagement really helps raise our profile and helps spread the word and hopefully increases the potential of getting the movie widely distributed. The goal is to make a film that tells the story of The Exploding Hearts and that it does right by these young men whose time ended too soon. Yes, we hope it gets into festivals and a lot of people watch it and most of them like it, but really all of that is secondary. Terry, all over the world I have seen Exploding Hearts t-shirts, buttons, heard songs being DJd and even have seen Exploding Hearts tattoos. What do you think Adam, Matt, and Jeremy would think about the lasting legacy of the music you guys made? Any closing words for fans of Exploding Hearts music? TS: I think they would all be very happy. I’m trying my best each and every day to preserve our legacy with my upmost sincerity and honesty. They deserve to have their hard work come to fruition, and with the documentary film coming out, hopefully it will shine a bigger light on the untold story that fans will really appreciate. Most people who know the Exploding Hearts just know the music, and maybe they know vague second or third hand stories that may or may not be entirely true. This film sets the record straight by not only giving answers to unanswered questions, but it also shows people that we were just kids with big dreams of getting our music out to the world. Ardavon is succeeding in humanizing our story on film. MORE ABOUT THE EXPLODING HEARTS DOCUMENTARY AT THEHEARTSFILM.COM. GET TERRY AND LOUIE’S A THOUSAND GUITARS AND MORE RECORDS AT TUFFBREAK.BANDCAMP.COM. 65


TERRY GRAHAM Interview by JUSTIN MAURER illustration by FELIPE FLORES Terry James Graham left Texas for L.A. in the middle of the 70s and became a crucial participant in the cultural and musical revolution known as punk rock. At first he was an audience member in the burgeoning Hollywood punk scene, but he quickly got drafted as drummer for the incendiary Bags. He dated and lived with Jane Wiedlin of the Go Go’s in the storied Canterbury Apartments in Hollywood, where dozens of other L.A. punks lived hard and partied hard. After the Bags played every club in L.A., released a scorching single and toured the west coast, they broke up, leaving their rhythm section—Terry and Rob Ritter—without a band. They scoured Los Angeles and found a fledgling mess fronted by Jeffery Lee Pierce called the Gun Club. They liked the swamp blues and the weird amateurish open-tuning slide guitar played by Kid Congo Powers, and they found that Jeffery Lee had summoned something special in fusing blues and backwoods country with punk. After witnessing a chaotic but inspired show at the Hong Kong Café in Chinatown, they discovered that Gun Club’s rhythm section—Don Snowden and Brad Dunning—were quitting. Terry and Rob joined, gigged around L.A. and recorded on the Gun Club’s debut Fire Of Love. After the release of Fire Of Love, the band won instant acclaim on the East Coast and in Europe. The Black Train started rolling and many times whiskey and drugs knocked it off the track. Terry found himself in and out of the band multiple times throughout the 80s, touring the world and recording on albums like Miami and Las Vegas Story. He recently published a book about those wild and reckless times: Punk Like Me, Liner Notes for a Revolution that Almost Happened. (Lost Word Press, 2018) I was fortunate enough to witness the book release party at Beyond Baroque in Venice. Along with reading passages of the book, Terry played a set of Gun Club and Cramps songs joined by Colin and Lee of Terminal A and Sharif Dumani of Alice Bag, LA Drugz, Exploding Flowers and Future Shoxxx. I caught up with Terry on a Sunday afternoon with the smoke of the Woolsey Fire covering L.A. in poisonous haze. How fitting. Congratulations on your beautiful new 398-page book full of gorgeous art, illustrations, photos, fliers, and collages. It’s quite the accomplishment. One of the things that impressed me most was your attention to detail. I’ve read quite a few books about 70s punk, and something that sets yours apart is the descriptions of the sounds, smells, and tastes of the 70s. How did you jog your memory? Jog my memory? It was more like a flogging! Fortunately, my drinking was not so bad that I didn’t keep most of my memories intact, although I’m constantly surprised at the stories I hear from others—stories that involved me. Some of these stories have eluded my memory completely. You’ve got an almost photographic memory when it comes to recording sessions with the Gun Club. You also said in the book that you were drinking quite heavily during a lot of this. It’s amazing attention to detail. Do you actually have a fine-tuned memory, or were some of these experiences fictionalized based on what really happened? I actually remember most of it. The rest is a bit fuzzy but still accurate. I was very connected to our progress as a band. I was hoping for the best and prepared for the worst, but always very in tune. Plus, I still know everyone who was in and out of the band very well. I tried hard to be faithful to the truth even if I couldn’t remember exactly what we said or did. I loved Fire of Love but the two-night recording went by so quickly I hardly had a chance to enjoy it. We just did it and went home. Miami was rather unpleasant because Rob was leaving and we were unsure of what to do about that. And Jeff wanted to stay in New York but we couldn’t really do that at the time. I didn’t like the small studio and the 66

fact that Jeff’s head was outgrowing his body. There was agitation all around. ‘Las Vegas Story’ was actually enjoyable. Jeff Eyrich was patient and worked well with us. Kid [Congo Powers] and Patricia [Morrison] made it a lot of fun, too. Plus we were back in L.A. Before getting into a professional—or unprofessional—relationship with Jeffery Lee Pierce, did you have any concerns about his social tendencies? The kind of thing you would later loathe being on an endless— and perhaps endlessly unfulfilling—road trip with him?
 Nope. Jeff was just a kid from the suburbs with a bottomless interest in all things rootsrock. He was one of the misfit toys, but altogether pleasant and very friendly. I’m not sure exactly when or why he began to morph into his personal mythology. I call it ‘the lead singer disease.’ In the book you poke fun at Jeffery Lee Pierce’s weight quite a few times. You seem to have thought of dozens of different ways to call him fat. Was his weight a point of contention with the band, or was his personality so hard to deal with that it just bled over into his physical characteristics— like his bleached-blonde hair, his style of dress, or his weight? I was a smartass and often quite immature. Actually, Jeff was hardly overweight. He was just a stocky guy with a bad attitude. My frustration with him found expression in such things. I wanted so much for the band to work out but Jeff seemed hell-bent on destroying everything he created. His attitude was, at times, truly abysmal and he could be quite insulting. It was tit for tat, I suppose.
 The bits about Jeff torturing the audience— and band—with his pawn shop trumpet playing really cracked me up.

I rather liked the trumpet, but it was yet another one of Jeff’s props that he used to purposely annoy the audience and us. [And] I rather enjoyed his bad attitude on-stage. But the trumpet was the last straw. We loved his songs but hated his trumpet. He brought a machete onstage for a few shows, too. I’m surprised he didn’t cut his own head off. What was the worst show you ever played with Gun Club? Did you ever feel like you were in physical danger? In Houston we played a cowboy bar when they were still real cowboys. They threw halffull beer cans at us and we threw them back. It was total chaos. They pulled the plug and we ended the show after a few songs. There were no fights—not sure why! Some dumbass brought a pistol backstage at a show in Atlanta but he was drunk and I don’t even think it even had a trigger. But it was real. The bad shows were often among my favorites. No one showed up in Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, but that was a great show. Well … the waitress seemed to like it, anyway. Once we got booed off the stage by fifteen thousand people at the Long Beach Arena when we opened for Billy Idol. Jeff called the audience a bunch of jock cocksuckers and the booing became a massive dark force. [laughs] I loved it.
 Billy Idol offered you a spot playing drums in his band, right?
 Yes, he asked me to join backstage after a show in New York. He was a bit of a hasbeen already, so I didn’t think there was much potential. I liked the guy—he was very friendly—but I didn’t want to live in New York. It was just before he recorded ‘White Wedding.’ Oh well. There went my condo on the beach. You have very fond memories of Kid Congo and playing with the Cramps. Why were

the Cramps one of the best bands? Were Tex & the Horseheads your favorite Gun Club ‘little brother’ band?
 Yeah, all of us were of the same family. We were grave robbers of blues, rockabilly and country. I only wish we’d all toured the world together on the same bill. Not sure why that didn’t happen. I loved playing with the Cramps. Ivy was fantastic, super friendly and very smart. She was the brains of that band. Tex [Texacala Jones] was almost in Gun Club. I regret now that I made so much effort to keep her out so that Patricia could come in. It would have been fun. It seems to me that your overall goal with Gun Club—besides making timeless records and playing great consistently— was to be able to make a living off of the band. As a touring musician for years myself, I can understand the frustration with playing sold-out shows in every city in the western world and then not having a dime to show for it. I did a little math. The current poverty rate in 2018 in the US is $12,140 per year. For a band of 4 people to earn a poverty line wage, a current band would have to earn $48,560 profit AFTER expenses. That seems like an impossible goal for most bands. Touring is a necessary evil, but it’s also a very expensive evil. I don’t think most musicians are doing this math when they sign on for bands who do U.S. tours and European tours. This will either piss you off or make you laugh but I calculated Gun Club’s Spotify Royalties. The current Spotify streaming royalty rate is $0.006 per stream. Here’s the top 5. ‘She’s Like Heroin to Me’ has 2,087,874 streams on Spotify which would earn $12,527.24. In a perfect world this would be split between the 4 members of the band who BOOKS


COMICS

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DAVE VAN PATTEN 68

EMILY TSENG @emily.tseng

JOHN TOTTENHAM COMICS


played on the recording—assuming the record label broke even from the album and there was no money owed—so each band member would be due $3,131.81 for the streaming plays of that song. ‘Sex Beat’ has almost 2 million streams, ‘Mother of Earth’ over 2 million streams. Were you cut off from royalties when you quit the band in the 80s? Who is receiving royalties from the represses and all of the streaming digital plays? I’m assuming Jeffery Lee Pierce’s family owns the rights? Great math! Sadly, Jeff took all the royalties from everything we ever did. I never saw a dime. I was naive and dumb! We did make a fair amount from live shows but not enough to make a ‘living.’ As of two months ago, however, Ward and I own 25% each of Fire of Love. It took a while but some justice was done on paper, at least.
 Glad to hear that. In the book are tales of bands broken up, damaged relationships, money lost, failed relationships and marriages, infidelity, and more. Do you have any regrets? Do you wish you could change anything?
 Change anything? Yeah, how about everything! Only thing I really wish I had done was continue playing after Gun Club. I moved to Chicago and my drums stayed in Europe. That I regret. I’m doing it all again now and only for the fun of playing, but I think I missed out on a lot of pure enjoyment with other musicians—my misfit toys. We’re a strange breed and often our own worst enemies, but, in the end, worth all the trouble. Did you read that, Jeff?
 After music you became a screenwriter. What are some of the projects you worked on that you are most proud of? I’m working on a World War II movie script about the guys who flew over the Hump in the Himalayas. It was among the most dangerous flying of the war. Amazing stories. I worked a lot with Allison Anders on various TV pilots and a movie about Wanda Jackson that never got made. Too bad—it’s a fun script. I have a few other TV projects in development. I’m looking for someone to take the script Allison and I wrote called Canterbury Tales—based on my book—and make something of that. I developed it at IFC but that didn’t quite work out. Sure, it would be fun to see that on Netflix. Or wherever. I also have a chapter in John Doe’s new book that will be out in the spring. What do you think of the documentaries Ghost On The Highway or Hardtimes Killin’ Floor Blues?
 I like Ghost On The Highway although my attitude has tempered quite a bit. I only wish the doc had our music. Kurt Voss did a great job with that film. I haven’t seen Hardtimes… Why didn’t it have Gun Club music?
 They couldn’t get the rights from Jeff’s family for a price that Kurt could afford. It came down to money—as usual.
 Do you think it’s harder now for an independent underground musician to live off of playing music, or was it equally hard in the 70s? Do you think technology, instant access to music, and streaming services like Spotify or Pandora hurt or help? BOOKS

Instant access helps in many ways but it hurts almost as much. I do wish the music business was still intact, flaws and all. If you could break through, you got the backing and support to fuel a career. Of course, it was much easier said than done. But today, access for everyone has created a sea of voices in which everyone cancels everyone else out. Who is good? Who is bad? Record execs don’t determine that anymore. We do. But how do we know without wading through new and scarier channels like Apple or Pandora who now control our access? We’ve traded one monster for another. We still don’t control it—‘they’ do. Only now, we do all the work and get paid less for our efforts. Fortunately, great music is still being made. The pictures and flyers in this book—were they all from your personal collection? I never intended to do any of the interior design myself. I have a lot of very talented friends who offered, but because I was paying for the book myself, their fees were a bit too pricey. So I learned InDesign and Photoshop from scratch. It took about two years to put together. My intention was to create something visually different that would act as backdrops or placeholders the photos and graphics that I had. I wanted to stuff as many into the book as possible. I have grey hair because of it. Were the original L.A. punk bands in 1977 convinced that they would get a major record deal? How did people feel when the Dickies and The Go-Go’s got record deals?
 We were incredibly naive about record deals. It wasn’t going to happen for us. New York and London bands got enormous attention but the music business in L.A. was mired in a very old fashioned way of thinking. They didn’t like us or really know how to approach us. We thought they would jump at the chance to take something new and fresh into the recording studio. Alas, not so much. I was quite jealous when the Go-Go’s were signed but was secretly proud of them. They really did it on their own and deserved all of their success. They were very determined. I was the drummer for the Go-Go’s for about an hour or so during a rehearsal. Sadly, I didn’t have the gender identity needed to stay in the band.
 What is the best musical document of that time? Yes L.A.? Tooth and Nail? The Dangerhouse singles? I think all the Dangerhouse singles were really well done. I only wish they’d had more money to record more albums and more bands. I loved the Weirdos. They were an incredible band whose sound flirted with chaos and order at every turn. Their recorded output documented only a little of the absolute power of their live performances.

 The Elks Lodge Hall police brutality incident in your book is intense. It’s hard to imagine punk was a threat to LAPD at the time. Did the media report on this? There was no media mention whatsoever except for a mention on KCBS radio. I forget the station. I seem to remember a brief mention on local TV news but nothing else. We weren’t a threat but the LAPD determined that we ‘might’ be a threat so they stepped in hard to fend us off. We were suddenly on their radar after being ignored for a couple years.

It seemed like original L.A. punk in Hollywood was a pretty eclectic mix of gays, straights, and bisexuals. There was also inclusion of women, Asians, Latinos, and Black people not only in the audience but also onstage as members of many of the bands. Did the Hollywood punk scene manage to transcend some of the prejudices glaringly apparent in other parts of 1970s society? I never gave it a thought. No one else did, either, at least not in the earliest incarnation in Hollywood. Being surrounded by so many diverse people was natural for us. We were a rock scene full of misfit toys. It could not have been otherwise. Like I said in the book, women powered the scene. Their energy and bravery and dedication was what made it happen at all. It was obvious. I’ve never heard anyone say anything to the contrary. Sex, drugs and group sex seem like they were just a part of life at the time. No one in your book seemed to be much concerned about hard drugs like heroin and PCP. No one seems to blink at public displays of group sex. I know this was pre-AIDS but were people not worried about STDs? Were people more open-minded about sexual experimentation than they are now? We wallowed in our differences as well as embracing the rock ‘n’ roll myth of drugs and sex as a right. It was part of the dark side of being outsiders, I suppose. People weren’t all that worried. I don’t think we were experimenting as much as we were just trying to get laid as much as possible. 70s culture at large certainly played a part. Be who you want to be, express that however you want, and hope the price you pay isn’t too dear. Have either Jane Wiedlin from the GoGos or Alice from the Bags read your book? You have some quite descriptive and … lurid sexual encounters with them in the book. Uh, yes. Not sure about Jane. I believe Alice has read it and I don’t think she approves. I feel bad about that. My intention, of course, was never to embarrass anyone, but to describe what crazy kids in Hollywood are prone to doing when a cultural revolution is taking place on their doorstep. I didn’t want to ignore those experiences. I was dumb and stupid on many occasions, but my respect for Jane and Alice was absolute. It still is. Alice, to me, was the face and energy of the entire punk scene in L.A. She embodied the whole thing for me. She really was and is quite amazing. How much rent were you paying at your various pads in the 70s? Did they run credit checks or background checks then? How was it possible for a broke punk to rent? Checks? [laughs] No, nothing of the sort. It was all the honor system. I guess we all know how that has gone. I think the rent at the Canterbury was $225 or $250 a month for a one bedroom. That was for the place I shared with Jane Wiedlin. The Canterbury was a flophouse of sorts so they would take just about anybody. The bit about driving to Texas and San Francisco to see the Sex Pistols was one of my favorite parts. It wasn’t just the circus-like atmosphere of the shows, but the enthusiasm. The impromptu journey with the girls from the Plunger Pit—

your roommates, and the queens of the Hollywood Punk scene—was amazing. Are you in touch with any of these women now? Have any of them read your book? I don’t know if they’ve read it. Possibly Hellin. I’ve recently talked to her and Mary. Trixie is in New York State and is an Instagram pal. I haven’t spoken to Trudie in a few years. They were amazing people. I’m fortunate to have known them. That whole experience with them and my brother Gary driving out and the craziness at the show was so much better than the actual Sex Pistols. What advice would you give to a kid just starting up a band, hoping to tour like their favorite bands did? Take all the tools at your disposal and work the hell out of them. Think hard about your music and above all make it personal. Make it melodic. Give it real meaning. Make sure you have fun doing it. Life is too short to do otherwise. And don’t worry about your lead singer. They’re supposed to be crazy. Go easy on the bottle and no needles, ever. The music is what matters, nothing else. As far as the ‘revolution that almost happened’, I see bands influenced by the Gun Club around the world. One that particularly stands out is a current band called Roselit Bone from Portland. I’ve heard Gun Club songs in bars in L.A., Portland, New York, Madrid, London and Berlin 30 years AFTER the band broke up! Do you think the revolution was just a slow burn? Oh, it was definitely a revolution. It just didn’t happen in my time. I played my small part to make it happen—to make DIY a global reality—but the benefits spread slowly year after year, to generation after generation. I’m always amazed and happy when someone tells me how much they like or appreciate Gun Club. That is the belated payment for my efforts. It’s humbling. I just played a show with Sharif Dumani and Colin and Lee of Terminal A, a couple of young guys who are fans of Gun Club, and their enthusiasm and love of all music is truly inspiring to me. The revolution continues with people like them. How did you form a group with Sharif Dumani and Colin and Lee from Terminal A? Do you plan to do any more shows? Love those guys. Very talented. They’ve expressed interest in more shows so I’m all for it. Check your local listings. Also, I’d really like to put an original band together. I’m writing a lot of songs of what I call industrial/gothic blues. That’s my next step. Do you miss Jeffery Lee? If not as a band mate, do you miss things like his business card that said ‘Show Business’ on it? I miss Jeff all the time. If he was still around I’d probably be playing with him in some band somewhere. I’m angry that he basically offed himself. He really deserved to live another day and write another hundred songs. Any parting words to fans? Thank you all for being so incredibly smart, profoundly insightful and cuddly and warm. You’re the best. TERRY GRAHAM’S PUNK LIKE ME IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM LOSTWORDPRESS.COM.
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Lefty Frizzell An Article From Life: The Complete Recordings Bear Family Lefty Frizzell was one of the early popularizers of what we now know as the redneck end of country music and as important to the foundations of the genre as James Brown was to soul. He wrote and performed songs that seemed to come from some some cheerful internal universe where acceptance canceled out pain and remorse. Personally as eloquent and exuberant as some redneck Gully Jimson, he eschewed poetic lyrics and saved the expressionism for his voice. As a singer he had a certain way of phrasing and elongating syllables that was pure U.S. hillbilly but fully embraced the near-universal basics of what it is to be human, just as Johnny Cash would much later. His life, as recounted by brother David Frizzell—himself a Top Ten hellrouser with “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma” and “I’m Gonna Hire a Wino to Decorate Our Home”—was a shambling ad-hoc affair driven by twin desires to make music and enough money to either buy his way into the next good time or out of the next self-engineered catastrophe. There was a long string of massive hits like “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time,” “I Love You a Thousand Ways” and “Always Late with Your Kisses,” all of which topped Country Music charts. Like many born into hard times, Lefty never shook the habit of them. For those of you who don’t Go Deep, a word about Bear Family Records product: heavy. This longlived German company neither mucks nor pisses about. When the compilation end of the business reissues an artist, they relentlessly shove in everything. In this glorious case, that means all singles A & Bs and every track on every LP, EP, and 78. The liner notes and commentary are typically finicky, lengthy and comprehensive. The sheer bulk of this set is imposing, consisting as it does of twenty CDs and a 264-page hardbound book, brother David’s biography I Love You a Thousand Ways: The Lefty Frizzell Story. The first nine discs recap Lefty’s quarter-century recording career, the next three consist of demos and the remainder the audiobook read by David. Plunging in, I found I recognized about 20% of the music already, either as originals or though covers too many to count, all of them for me evocative of the Blue Ridge hills where I spent much of my boyhood. Forget Number One hits—joints like “Shine, Shave, Shower (It’s Saturday),” “Cigarettes and Coffee Blues,” “I’m An Old, Old Man (Tryin’ to Live While I Can)” and “Love Looks Good On You” are part of Southern folklore, with lyrics I’ve heard quoted (and mangled) in conversation in dozens of contexts. He also covered other people’s songs, with his version (with Johnny Bond) of “Sick, Sober and Sorry” standing as definitive for a long time and putting another well-used phrase into Southern English. Lesser known tracks shine as well—“Then I’ll Come Back to You” is deliberately old-timey and as funny as one of Dan Hicks’ parodies. “Mama” is a brilliant hangover song, a redneck version of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” complete with the floor flying up to hit Lefty in the face. “Nobody Knows But Me” is another comic song about falling from the righteous path, this time all the way to Hell. By the late 50s, the influence of Elvis Presley became apparent and continued to develop. “You’re Humbuggin’ Me” and “So What! Let It Rain” and “What You Gonna Do Leroy?” are just the sort of oldtime honkytonk smasheroo Nick Tosches celebrated in Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll, while “That’s All I Can Remember” is a bone-chilling murder 70

ballad Nick Cave wisely avoided covering. “Heaven’s Plan” sounds suspiciously like something a rock ‘n’ roll TV wonderboy like Ricky Nelson might’ve done. “James River” is one of several cool passes at a Johnny Horton style ballad. “There’s No Food in the House” is as bleak as it sounds and refers to conditions many today think gone from America by the “New Frontier” of the 60s. On top of all that subject matter, Lefty explores what seems like every last variety of new, fresh, tumescent, contented, troubled, dying, dead, rotten, and forgotten love that twelve notes and redneck English can encompass. Titles “Don’t Stay Away (Till’ Love Grows Cold),” “Your Tomorrow’s Will Never Come,” and “The Marriage Bit” run a brutal emotional gamut. By the mid-60s, his music was becoming smoother and production more elaborate. Listen to “The Old Gang’s Gone” for a worthy pass at sentimental Jim Reeves balladry or “Hobo’s Pride” for Byrds-style country comfort. “When the Rooster Leaves the Yard” includes Pet Sounds of the kind Brian Wilson wouldn’t have resisted either. “Blind Street Singer” is a beauty of a character sketch. Sensitive and cheery and mournful all at once, it’s his “Eleanor Rigby.” “Three Cheers for the Good Guys” is a working class anthem that pointedly reaches across race and religious lines. In the long rear-view mirror of History, Lefty deserves serious props for never having recorded the kind of right-bent asshole political ballad as disfigured the discographies of Merle Haggard and Charlie Daniels. He never got a straw full of ego wedged up his nose in the manner of Waylon Jennings, or ever strayed from his blue-collar origins. Frizzell never lectured on any need for somebody else to die in Vietnam, or staged some bogus career second act reinventing himself as “outlaw country” or founded any movement, so he never dated himself or wore out his welcome with the notoriously fickle country music audience. Indeed, Lefty’s response to the Sexual Revolution was to record more cheating songs. Smart man. This is not to say this gigantic set doesn’t reveal an arc—it’s a graceful one you can hear narrated by brother David on Discs 13-20. For sheer novelty, I decided to listen to the audio instead of reading and I’m glad I did, as the narration lends a remarkable personal context of all these songs. William Orville Frizzell comes to us as the dreamy and energetic son of a hardhanded, hard-drinking oil worker and a funny and doting mom. David spins yarns in the Southern manner, bringing in family anecdotes, family curses, feats of lawbreaking valor, stillborn siblings, and a nasty story of Daddy being tortured in jail and escaping from a chain gang. Like my own fam down South, the Frizzells sold the occasional jug of moonshine liquor during the Great Depression. Young “Sonny” could yodel like Jimmie Rodgers and was given to sticking his head in the family Victrola. Daddy turned into a bad-tempered souse and the obvious source of a lot of the fervor in all that honkytonk music the boys made. The family was large and close-knit by adversity and young Sonny inherited a propensity for brawling which was where “Lefty” came from. He was soon singing with Mama

passing the hat and her bubbly personality and total commitment to her sons were large family assets. These were the World War II years, Hollywood was at its peak and Lefty loved the movie cowboy look popularized by Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. That stuck, but the desire to sing Roy Acuff songs forever didn’t, so he started writing his own. Jilted romance made him want to get famous—to be someone. Lefty was soon touring and had his own daily radio show. He also pleaded guilty in 1947 to statutory rape of an underage fan and got six months. He wrote Alice love songs and despairing letters from inside the walls. One was “I Love You a Thousand Ways.” Once out, he soon had to knock Daddy flat on his ass and somehow get out of the cycle of dead-end jobs. “Lefty” became a persona he invented to escape being the “Sonny” of such a troubled family. His music was praised by Hank Williams and Lefty wound up playing his own songs to a producer. “If You’ve Got the Money” was improvised from half an existing idea when the big boys wanted an uptempo number. Music Row was all over him in no time and a crooked partner wound up with half his publishing rights and a huge cut of his booking. Lefty had, as David keeps repeating, no business sense at all. Someone else wound up recording “You’ve Got the Money” and Lefty got nothing but starvation and discovering what were then being called “race records” while waiting for his own record to come out. Then came a fast rise to the top, with songs in jukeboxes all over America and DJs mangling his last name coast-to-coast. Columbia made bank bank on him and scammers took most of his earnings, but he wound up on the Grand Ole Opry in late 1950 and endured every other travail people who only wanted to write and sing their songs do. Womanizing and whisky-drinking became his shtick and he drank onstage. He forever bemoaned his lack of education. He had to fight the usual music industry pressure to use up artists and throw them away. He and Alice also had the kind of arguments over trivia that escalated into pulling guns. By the mid-50s, Lefty was on the Walk of Fame, right next to the spot now occupied by Michael Jackson. As pressure to get hits mounted, Lefty turned to other writers, resulting in the eerie “Long Black Veil” he made immortal with distinctive phrasing and total emotional commitment. David’s words and memories reveal a man learning somewhat dazedly about the soul power of art while staring into the grim realities of sales numbers and bookings. Moving back to Nashville in the early 60s to write, he had to pretty much start over. The self-penned “Saginaw, Michigan” revived his career but by the late 60s, he was still having to beat money out of guys. Alice turned to religion, but he remained a sinner. He saw evil shit while touring Vietnam that haunted him for years and briefly came under fire, comparing the experience to touring with Hank Williams. Lefty broke with Columbia and signed with ABC in the early 1970s, but the label wanted albums and not singles. Despite slowly drinking himself to death, he was haltingly making his way toward a recording comeback at about the same time as the “outlaw country” movement he founded by example. As far as he was concerned, one Lefty Frizzell per Planet Earth was quite enough. When he died in 1975, not many were surprised but a lot of people grieved. At 47, he could have lived much longer and would’ve produced marvelous music up to whatever longdeferred end he should have reached. I remember being in my tiny southwest Virginia town at the time and the flash of sorrow from the adults was almost as great as the one Elvis Presley would leave a couple of years later. Here he is back again, welcoming us to more hard times. WAYBACK


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L.A. RECORD 134 - SPRING 2019  

SASAMI + KATZÙ OSO + TEENAGE FANCLUB + MICHAEL ROTHER + HARRIET BROWN + AARON MARCO + YOUNG FATHERS + EXPLODING HEARTS + TERRY GRAHAM + ALBU...

L.A. RECORD 134 - SPRING 2019  

SASAMI + KATZÙ OSO + TEENAGE FANCLUB + MICHAEL ROTHER + HARRIET BROWN + AARON MARCO + YOUNG FATHERS + EXPLODING HEARTS + TERRY GRAHAM + ALBU...

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