Tom Tom Magazine Issue 36: Politics

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D I S P L AY W I N T E R 1 8 / 1 9

Nadya Tolokno


Mindy Abovitz Monk (


Liz Tracy (


Marisa Kurk (


Rebecca DeRosa (


JJ Jones and Kristen Gleeson-Prata (


Lindsey Anderson (

MOOM LUU Designer

TOBI PARKS Gear Reviews




Jasmine Bourgeois (







PRINT WRITERS Jasmine Bourgeois, Geoff Shelton, Ellayo, Angela Sells, JJ Jones, Mare Berger, Cheri Amour, Chloe Saavedra, SassyBlack, Nicholas Zurko, Shaina Joy Machlus

PHOTOGRAPHERS Catalina Kulczar, Rah Walters,

Ariele Max, Forrest Roberts, Brianna Roye, Drew Gurian, Sahsa Sofeev, Nikolai Puc

ILLUSTRATORS Jenny Williams, Liz Pavlovic, Chloe McAlister

TECH WRITERS JJ Jones, Kristen Gleeson-Prata, Lindsay Artkop, Zoë Brecher

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MUSIC & MEDIA REVIEWS Jyvonne Haskin, Chloe


GEAR REVIEWS Tobi Parks, Alejandra Robles, JJ Jones

61 Greenpoint Ave. Suite 114 Brooklyn, NY 11222

Wong, Stephen Otto Perry, Kerrie Byer, Kristine Villanueva, Stephanie Gunther, Rebecca DeRosa


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Rony Abovitz, Lisa Schonberg, Kiran Gandhi, Chloe Saavedra, Itta Abovitz, Rosana Caban


Ima, Rony, Shani, Chris J Monk, Col Col, Falky, Harriet, SUNY Oneanta, Gareth Thomas, Ladies Get Paid, Issue, Joe Hyrkin, General Assembly, The Mag Mob, La Moutique

ON THE COVER: Nadya Tolokno by Sasha Sofeev

THE MISSION Tom Tom Magazine ® is the only magazine in the world dedicated to female and gender non-conforming drummers, beat makers, and producers. We are a quarterly print magazine, website, social media community, IRL community, events, resource center, consultant agency, custom gear shop and more. Tom Tom seeks to raise awareness about female percussionists from all over the world in hopes to inspire women and girls of all ages to drum. We intend to strengthen and build the fragmented community of female musicians globally and provide the music industry and the media with role models to create an equal opportunity landscape for any musician. We cover drummers of all ages, races, styles, skill levels, abilities, sexualities, creeds, class, sizes and notoriety. Tom Tom Magazine is more than just a magazine; it’s a movement.

Photo by Will Barber

Letter From the Editor

Politics can be polarizing. And in the United States today, it may feel like, more than ever, we are a country divided. Opinions that were once unspoken are now expressed proudly. Politics now dominate what feels like every conversation, many turning into riffs that split families along party lines. Since the media has been under attack during this current presidential administration, we decided to dedicate this issue to “Politics.” We knew we wanted to cover not just US politics but the decisions made globally that affect musicians everywhere. We spoke with Tipper Gore about hope for the future, Nadya Tolokno from Pussy Riot about what she learned in a Russian prison, and explored how changing immigration policies affect musicians. Before these trying times, we at Tom Tom understood that the personal was political, something the world is now realizing. To quote Carol Hanisch is an essay published under the title, "The Personal Is Political," in Notes from the Second Year: Women's Liberation in 1970, “One of the first things we discover in these groups is that personal problems are political problems. There are no personal solutions at this time. There is only collective action for a collective solution.”

In drums and staying political,

Mindy Abovitz Monk


Don’t miss out on these albums, books, and organizations bolstering women. Find them online at for added bonuses.












Joy Bryant is a badass 43-year-old writer, former model, and actress.

New York trio Palberta is anything but “silly.”


Why trans-activism and self-love are important to the Heather Mae Trio.

Drummer Rhonda Lowry: “First came feminism and then came my life.”


PEAS A CHANCE 20 GIVE British threesome Peaness offers an amusing name and some astute social commentary.


DINOSAUR DANCE Rockin’ T-Rextasy has a punk ethos with a touch of magic.



WWYD? Up-and-comer WYD speaks about the culture of abuse in the DIY scene.


Producer SunSun discusses her upcoming artist residency and the Toronto scene.



Musician-producer Georgia Anne Muldrow on the ongoing struggle for human rights.



YOU CAN’T PLAY HERE Restrictive immigration and travel policies can limit musicians’ ability to play abroad.

38 POLITICS AND DRUMMING Former Second Lady Tipper Gore continues to bang the drum for a better world.


44 BALACLAVAS + BRIGHT DRESSES Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokno talks politics with Tom Tom.

48 THE OTHER ROCK HERSTORY Music journalist Laina Dawes deep dives into “othering” in rock ’n’ roll.






Internal Input Letters to other editors

by Tom Tom staff In August 2018, the editorial director of Modern Drummer, Adam Budofsky, wrote a Letter from the Editor attacking unnamed music publications. “Some offer top-flight content. Others, unfortunately, have focused on things like gender issues, fashion spreads, or the past music-industry credits of its editor, all at the expense of historical accuracy and journalistic credibility,” Budofsky wrote. Since Tom Tom focuses on “gender issues” and sometimes features fashionable drummers, it’s pretty clear that the editor was referring to our endeavor.

[Above] Here is Neil Peart gracing eight Modern Drummer magazine covers, which is one less than the total number of covers that feature women drummers.

I’m proud to say that we have always worked closely with other drumming magazines. I started this magazine, because I saw a glaring and concerning lack of female presence in drumming publications. For instance, only eight Modern Drummer covers have featured women since 1977. The point of our magazine is to help the music industry and its supporting media notice non-cis male drummers with the goal that they would include us in their marketing


and engineering, and cover us in their magazines. Tom Tom was meant to be a temporary project. Female and nonbinary musicians— whether professional drummers or not— need a voice in the music world, and we are proud to be a platform for underrepresented talents. We have made it one of our focuses to equally cover the unknown, the average, and the famous drummer. We want to inspire and support: not drag others down.


Over the years, we have found so much content and demand that we needed to keep going. The overwhelmingly positive response we’ve gotten and the consistent growth of our company has made us aware that there is indeed a need for Tom Tom. Reading Adam Budofsky’s most recent “An Editor’s Overview” was disappointing, to say

the least. To have another magazine in our industry throw us and other music magazines we respect under the bus to make themselves look better is just plain petty. I don’t see Modern Drummer speaking directly to the unique issues that women, nonbinary, and queer people face when drumming. Tom Tom does exactly that though music journalism while highlighting the intersection of music and politics. We are more than just a magazine, we are an inclusive community. Budofsky’s commentary is focused on exclusivity—something that we’re not about. It’s inefficient and outdated. We can’t make all cisgender men care about our issues, but we can rise up and showcase our issues and find solutions to them together. We have to continue to educate privileged people about the issues that marginalized and underrepresented folks are forced to face every day. I’m proud that Tom Tom is committed to doing that through legitimate journalism.

Focusing on “things like gender issues” is journalism, my friend. Particularly if leaving women and girls out of your media is your thing. Modern Drummer has been specific about which drummers it believes worthy of coverage. In its over 30 years of journalism, it has only had eight covers featuring women drummers, while Neil Peart has graced its cover seven times, Stewart Copeland has five, Terry Bozzio has four, and you get the point. (This data was collected from their past issues link on their site.) Budofsky ends his note with this statement: “None of this is to suggest that Modern Drummer is perfect. We make mistakes, just like all publications.” Could not agree with you more, Adam.

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9 to Know This column highlights important stories, music, and more in the global female and nonbinary music communities. by Geoff Shelton

These three superb autobiographies tell the stories of women as they struggle with societal norms to find peace and happiness in embracing their truths.


1. What Are You Doing Here?, Laina Dawes (check out our interview with Dawes on p. 50)



Our musical preferences can offer a sense of community, a sense of belonging to a tribe. But what do we do when our musical communities exclude us? In Laina Dawes’ paramount book, she reveals a personal and incisive story of the “dual-outsider dilemma,” with which black women who love heavy metal, punk, and hardcore are forced to reckon. Mixing her own autobiographical experience with interviews and survey results from her peers, this book makes the personal political. Dawes elucidates the long ignored history of black women artists and fans in these genres. She builds strong and intimate arguments for why this aggressive music offers a perfect and safe catharsis in a world that suppresses black women’s anger. The book asks us to face the cultural norms and built-in racism inherent in our musical scenes. It also reaches out a hand to other black women facing this predicament to say, “You belong.”

2. Art Sex Music, Cosey Fanni Tutti What makes someone a pioneer? Is it how they were raised? Something they were born with? Or is it just being in the right place at the right time? Performance artist and musician Cosey Fanni Tutti gives us the chance to make up our own minds with this deeply detailed insight into her experiences, thoughts, and philosophies. As one of the



game-changing forces behind the avantgarde musical group Throbbing Gristle, she helped open the boundaries of what was possible in music. Later, as one half of the duo Chris and Cosey (now Carter and Tutti), she helped define the electronic sound now called techno. She explores growing up on the rough streets of post-war Hull, U.K., with a repressive father and supportive mother, her work in performance art, stripping, pornography, and sound experimentation, the break-ups, the scandals, and the successes. Art Sex Music tells the story of a true artist that never let anyone tell her what was possible.

3. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein Before she went on to make a generation laugh with Emmy-winning TV show Portlandia, Carrie Brownstein was one of the three fierce musicians in the band SleaterKinney. In this beautifully honest and eloquent account of her life, Brownstein tells the story of an outgoing and precocious girl and the woman who decided to break-up the band at the height of its success. Brownstein’s book is a wonderful relief from typical rock memoirs and their self-aggrandizing reminiscences. At times almost self-deprecating to a fault, she uses masterful turns of phrase to illuminate the dark places of her experience.

THE PULSE These podcasts feature female hosts who offer us the opportunity to learn more about the science and business of music.


4. Cadence, Indre Viskontas,



Cadence features wonderful stories at the crossroads of music and science through conversations with neuroscientists, musicologists, musicians, composers, and others. They discuss humans’ intrinsic relationship to music. It was created by cognitive neuroscientist and classically trained opera singer Indre Viskontas. She bridges the gap between the artistic and technical in her talks with some of the leading minds devoted to understanding the interactions between music and the brain. With two seasons under its belt and one more on the way, Viskontas gets the scoop on how we perceive rhythm, the relationship between music and memory, and how music can act as medicine. The perfect listen for anyone interested in looking under the lid of the piano (so to speak) to understand why these sounds resonate so deeply within. 5. Female Entrepreneur Musician, Bree Noble,


LISTEN 7. Chamaleo, Never Sol

8. Love Discipline, Debit Mexican-born, Brooklyn-based Debit, offers her second release, Love Discipline. The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm inspired the heavy concept of this slim, five-song EP. Fromm writes about love as a practice, something active, not passive. It is a concept that Debit confidently furthers sonically, inviting us to engage with the harmonies and dissonances

6. Listening to Ladies, Elisabeth Blair, In 2016, New York’s Metropolitan Opera finally premiered its very first performance composed by a woman. In the 2015-16 season, the top 89 orchestras of the US presented only 2 percent of their programs with music composed by women. These facts alone, featured on the Listening to Ladies website, are a very clear reason why this podcast is a must for us all. Through musical excerpts and discussions with female-identified composers from around the world, Elisabeth Blair gives women an opportunity to share their creative ideas, processes, and struggles in the classical, opera, avant-garde, and new music circles. Blair continues to fight against a patriarchal culture, one conversation at a time.

With these albums, we can sink into the mess of our complicated human emotions and move forward together as a stronger collective.

of her thickly layered designs. It is an allencompassing experience that offers few percussive rhythms to grasp or offer a sense of control. We must let go, feel her feelings in all of their complexity, and take the time to process our own. 9. The Drought, Puce Mary You can describe Puce Mary’s The Drought as brutal, stark, honest. This latest release from experimental Danish artist Frederikke Hoffmeier may be one of the most perfect aural expressions of our current political and environmental state. It is a concept album that works as a post-apocalyptic vision of our potential near future and metaphorically as an emotional drought. Continuing in the traditions of industrial, noise, and power electronics, this confrontational palette is countered by her emotionally exposed narrative of acoustically clear spoken-word vocals. With The Drought, Hoffmeier presents the violent machine of our own making and the emotional intelligence to tear it apart.





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Czech songstress Never Sol, aka Sára Vondrášková, gently weaves the earthly and ethereal natures of the human condition into layers of voice and synthetic instrumentation in her release Chameleo. The songs, like the wonderfully surreal collages by Michaela Karásková that accompany the physical album, offer recognizable pieces in a novel construction. Vondrášková writes, produces, sings, and composes this exquisite music and creates a fully conceptualized experience of mortal fervor—a billowing, diaphanous fabric, backlit by the brightest moon.

Could you use a free, deep dive into some DIY business advice to jump-start or further your musical career? Then hit “subscribe” now to this unbelievably helpful podcast created by musician and musical entrepre-

neur Bree Noble. As someone who knows the day-to-day struggles of being a working musician in this business, she wanted to share the lessons she was learning with other women. Noble talks with many different professionals who offer immediately applicable advice—DIY public relations, working the YouTube algorithms, better strategies for your music merch, and more. There are also supplementary workshops, books, and other resources on the site.



Lis Viegas by Jasmine Bourgeois Lis Viegas has been drumming for the last 12 years. She picked up her first set of sticks while recovering from a knee injury as a way to keep busy, and hasn’t looked back since. Originally hailing from Vancouver, Canada, Viegas spent the better part of her teens and adult life in sunny San Diego, California, keeping herself busy as a musician and being a full-time yoga instructor. Last year, Viegas started a nonprofit Karma Yoga Project called Sharda Yoga Center where kids from local orphanages in Tijuana can do yoga and play games and music. Recently, she won a contest held by Beats Antique and was offered

Photo by Leah Lipson

the opportunity to drum with them at Lightning in a Bottle Music Festival. Viegas told Tom Tom how an injury brought her to drumming. Lis Viegas: I tore my ACL, PCL, and meniscus in high school back in 2001 as I was a basketball player. I kept searching for an activity that was easy on my knee and also incorporated the aspects of being on a team, like discipline, training, focus. First, I started flying planes. That incorporated a lot of discipline, however it wasn't fully satisfying my drive. When I moved to San Diego to attend San Diego State University, I met a friend who played drums and he showed me a beat—I was hooked! We

would get together once a week and play. Then a few months later, in 2005, I bought my first kit! I enjoyed how much work it took to teach all my limbs to play a completely different rhythm at the same time and fit into a groove together. It was, and still is, a mind-blowing concept. My body makes beats. What clicked for me was exactly that, finding the limb independence, and once it's on, you feel it. Everything feels right, perfect and aligned and at that point it becomes much more than drumming, it

takes me into a spiritual realm of vibrations, patterns, rhythm, and connection to something higher. That's what kept me going and connected to the drums that sense of being 100 percent present, no matter what, as drumming takes extreme focus and requires a lot of physical stamina, too.

For the rest of this article, visit

Hey Drums by Jasmine Bourgeois

10 Photo by Edwina Stevens TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE

As a nonbinary drummer, Nat Grant is familiar with the lack of femme and nonbinary representation in the drumming world. Partially out of frustration with the lack of representation for non-male drummers in major music outlets and partially out of an interest in teaching their students about more drummers, Grant hatched Hey Drums. It’s a blog featuring interviews with femme and nonbinary drummers from Australia. “Having been told throughout my teens and 20s that women don’t play drums, and knowing so many older non-male drummers who are incredibly established and awesome, I decided to take matters into my own hands,” Grant says. “That’s when I started

doing interviews for the blog and approached the magazine people. They agreed to have me write feature articles about drumming that just happen to be with non-dudes.” Since starting the project in 2016, Grant has interviewed nearly 100 artists, spotlighting and connecting musicians not only from Australia but from the wider community of femme and nonbinary drummers and percussionists around the world. “Wouldn’t it be great if you were talking about the drummer in your band, and the person you were talking to didn’t just assume it was a ‘he’?” they ask. “That’s part of the goal. But in terms of community and visibility, I think it’s surpassed what I hoped or thought it could be.” Check out


Cryptic Street Photo by Matthew Attard

by Jasmine Bourgeois Malta might be one of the world’s smallest countries, but the bands that hail from the tiny island are some of the biggest sounds from anywhere. Cryptic Street is a perfect example. Leona Farrugia, Leanne Zammit, and Janelle Borg make up the band, crafting energetic post-punk tunes. Though small, Malta has a dynamic underground music scene. Self-described as a “DIY” band, members handle all aspects of the group’s direction and rely on maintaining a dedicated fan base at home. They might be from a tiny island, but the four make some big noise that reaches all around the globe. Tom Tom: How would you describe your sound? Cryptic Street: A burst of punk attitude with a dash of psychedelia, inner conflict, and hell-raising fun. How did you meet and start making music?

Malta is one of the smallest countries in the world—what's the music scene like there? Malta is really, really small. It’s got around 500,000 people total, and it’s slam-bam in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea! Surprisingly, the underground scene in Malta is thriving. There’s music being produced

spanning across the musical spectrum, and there are a ton of events all year round. We can safely say that all musicians in the scene know each other—that’s how small it is. It is kind of cool, but at the same time it can get a bit limiting, especially if you want to develop internationally. Being an island doesn’t help either. You literally have to go that extra mile to tour internationally, by plane, or else by the ferry to Sicily!

To read the rest of the interview, visit

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Leona and Janelle met during kindergarten. During secondary school, we attended an all-girls school, and for an English project, we decided to start a band at 13. Initially, it was an excuse to order takeaway pizza, but then we ended up winning an award in Malta for the first single we released during that phase of the band. After winning that award, we thought to ourselves, “Whoa! We can actually do this!” When the other

original members left in 2016, we decided to continue the band nonetheless. Leanne was a high school mate of Janelle’s and joined. We met Michelle online through a friend’s recommendation, and that’s how the current lineup came about! We legit thank the stars for meeting each other, since it is so difficult to find committed individuals who share the same dream!


Rotten Blossom


Photo by Jhune Li

by Jasmine Bourgeois Rotten Blossom is a riot grrrl hardcore band from Honolulu, Hawaii, founded in 2016 by drummer Ruby Rañoa (18) and vocalist Kalena Suhayda (20) out of a mutual love for Bikini Kill and doing it yourself. The current lineup also includes Cherise Honda (20) on bass and Evan Suhayda (22) on guitar. Jason Miller of Hawaiian Express Records described its sound as “if Black Flag started out with a pissed-off teenage girl instead of Keith Morris.” Rotten Blossom told Tom Tom all about the scene in Honolulu.

Ruby: The music scene over here definitely has its pros and cons. I love when I can go into a show and recognize almost everyone there—that’s when it really feels like a family. We also receive an overwhelming amount of support from the entire scene. With all that said, living on an island also means you’re super limited in almost every sense of the word. We are isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, after all.


Evan: Some days, it feels great. You feel a closeness with everyone you play music with. You have everything a music scene needs: your favorite venue, your rehearsal space, your favorite bar, your friends who help put out your music, your producers, your friends’ bands to play shows with. You’re friends with the local punks at the local punk house, so, every so often, you can throw an all-ages house show. And on the

weekends, you can just hang out and chill at the beach with everyone. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can island hop and play on different islands. It’s family. No one’s trying to get ahead of each other, or be the best, like you’re in a competition. It’s all about creating a community that loves to do cool stuff and party your ass off. On the other hand, none of us really have a steady career in music. We all still work our nine-tofive jobs, punch a clock, and barely get by. We don’t get the opportunity to jump in a van, and tour the nation. We don’t get paid very much for performing. There are no label scouts. There are no big festival stages. If someone’s putting out your record, they’re sending it to their distributing guy somewhere to burn and hand-make CDs on their dining room table. Once in awhile, we’ll be

fortunate to bring down local bands from other cities we like via fundraiser shows. But no big band really has it on their agenda to put Hawaii on their tour list. There’s a whole world of music that we can only stay connected with by Instagram and YouTube videos, and that can feel isolating—like our music scene doesn’t matter. But it does. It’s a punk-rock scene in paradise, and it’s a blast to be a part of it.

Check out the rest of the interview on


Erin Brethauer for Pop-Up Magazine


by Jasmine Bourgeois

Joy Bryant

Joy Bryant is a badass drummer, but she’s also a writer, former model, and actress in Parenthood and Good Girls Revolt. The 43-year-old picked up a set of sticks for the first time in the last few years and has since skyrocketed into the drumming spotlight. She performed at one of Pop-Up Magazine’s live events in May, weaving a fascinating mix of drum performances and storytelling. Bryant rocked an outfit inspired by The Muppets’ very own Animal and created a dynamite night.

Age: 43 Hometown: Bronx, New York Outfit Inspo: Animal from The Muppets

Tom Tom: How do you balance all of the different things you do and give energy and time to so many different passions? Joy Bryant: I see them all as slices of the same pie, though some slices are bigger than others at times. They inspire each other. But time management is crucial, so is prioritizing. Without them, it ain’t gonna work. I’d love to know how drumming fits into the range of things you do. How long have you been drumming? How did you get into it?

The beat. It’s all about the beat. And I want to play the beat not just listen to it. Could you tell me what you find compelling about fashion? I find personal style more compelling than fashion alone. Fashion is the “what.” Style is the “how,” and I love seeing how people present themselves to the world, how they mix and match to tell a story about themselves. What’s your favorite outfit? Catsuit. On its own, or under a dress, tee, sweatshirt, sweater. I need more catsuits! Any fashion icons? The Holy Trinity of Style: Tracee Ellis Ross, Milla Jovovich, Kate Moss.

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I’ve always been attracted to the drums but never thought that I could ever learn. So I’d just imagine that I could play. But at some point a few years ago, I put drum lessons on my bucket list. I asked my friend Jahphet Landis (TV on the Radio) for a lesson, and it clicked for me as soon as I sat down and played my first paradiddle. I’m 43-years-old, and I’m proud to say that I can play an instrument I couldn’t play five years ago, an instrument that I love and will play until my time is through.

What draws you to drumming?



A Beautiful Noise Palberta is one of a kind and anything but “silly.”

by Jasmine Bourgeois Illustration by Jenny Williams Lily Konigsberg, Nina Ryser, and Ani Ivry-Block—all in their mid-20s—comprise the eccentric and undoubtedly experimental band Palberta. The group is often compared to anything ranging from noise project to sludgy post punk. Anyone who listens to Palberta’s music can agree on one thing: it's songs are unique. The well-coordinated trio weaves in and out of tonal arrangements, jumping from hums and hymns to heavier sludge. Even when just exploring the range of qualities in fuzzy noise, their rhythms are tight and intentional. Over the last few years of playing, Palberta’s charming peculiarity has carved out a sonic terrain that’s completely its own. Tom Tom: How long have you all been playing together? You all swap instruments a lot, but do any of you feel like you have a particular configuration you like best? Lily: We have been playing together for five years! I personally love the fact that we get to play all three instruments, but my favorite is when I get to play guitar. I guess I just like playing guitar the most. Ani and Nina slay at all instruments, so I guess I don't have a favorite configuration persay.


Nina: Switching instruments feels pretty crucial to Palberta, so it’s hard to choose a favorite configuration, but I think I like playing bass and drums the most. Ani: I like all configurations. You produce so many unique sounds, and a lot of your songs are playful in such interesting, experimental ways. What’s the songwriting process like? Palberta: We write together. Usually one of us starts playing something, and the other two join in. The songs can come out of

nowhere, seemingly. Sometimes they are painstakingly hard to finish and finalize, but other times, it’s a wrap almost instantly. I feel like I hear your music described as “silly” or “playful” a lot. What are your thoughts on these sorts of descriptors? Lily: We are just really close friends that are all very funny and make each other laugh. I don’t think our music is silly though. I don’t really like that word. Nina: I’m down with that kind of sentiment to describe our music, because it’s true that in reality we crack each other up constantly, and I think our music reflects that aspect of our relationship. But I agree with Lily [in] that the word “silly” makes me cringe; it kind of makes me think of “cute,” or “foolish,” which we most certainly are not. Palberta has been around for a while, and you’ve put out a lot of music over the last few years. How has the band evolved over the years? What sorts of sounds and styles have you been playing with?

Palberta: I think we have embraced harmonies (three-part) and pop melodies way more than we used to, and just pop/ rock music in general, but we are still weird as hell. What’s going through your heads while performing? Lily: For me, usually I’m just staring at people in the crowd and looking for reactions, but sometimes I get really into something we are playing and zone out in a really nice way. Nina: I never really make eye contact with people in the crowd. Usually, I stare at Ani and Lily. Sometimes, I get into the zone, and my eyes glaze over, and I rock back and forth a lot. Ani: If the songs are new, playing them correctly. Otherwise, I’m pretty relaxed. Sometimes I get distracted and start worrying about something totally unrelated. The last show we played, I thought my tampon was going to fall out, so that was really on my mind.



Fight Back Brew It’s an immune booster that fights depression and anxiety. by Ellayo Illustrations by Liz Pavlovic Ellayo is the project of Natalia Schwien, a New York City–based vocalist, producer, and herbalist. Photo courtesy of artist All herbs and roots should be dried. They should also be organic and/or wild-crafted from an area free of pesticides or chemical weed killers. If you’re in New York, I would suggest going to Flower Power in the East Village or Radical Herb Shop in Brooklyn.

Spring/Summer Happy Tea: Calming, Leveling, and a Natural Immune Booster 1 tablespoon ashwagandha root 2 teaspoons red clover blossoms 1 tablespoon nettle leaves 1 tablespoon chamomile leaves and flowers 1 teaspoon rose petals and hips

Ashwagandha reduces cortisol levels making it a mild mood balancer helpful for people dealing with anxiety and depression. It also lowers inflammation and can help induce apoptosis to fight cancer. Red clover is a blood purifier that helps balance hormones in women. It is also used in cancer prevention as well as for fighting fevers, lowering cholesterol, and for lung related issues. Stinging nettle is most commonly used in fighting allergies, but it has antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial properties, as well. It helps heal stomach lining, reduces inflammation, and is full of antioxidants, iron, magnesium, calcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. Chamomile fights insomnia and helps reduce anxiety. It is a digestive relaxant with anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Rose is traditionally an emotional and spiritual heart-opening medicine, but it is literally also a heart tonic, because it lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. It is antiviral and balances hormones as well as fights depression. Also, it’s full of Vitamin C!

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Mix the herbs into a heat-safe pitcher, or teapot with a lid, or a mason jar. Let the boiled water cool for a minute, then pour over herbs. Let steep for ten minutes. Use a strainer when pouring into a mug to drink. Feel free to make two to three batches using the same mix. It can also be cooled for a refreshing iced tea.


The Personal is Political This is why trans-activism and self-love are important to musicians the Heather Mae Trio. Introduction by Angela Sells Interview by JJ Jones Photo by Rah Walters Queer supergroup, the Heather Mae Trio, does more than make music. The three use their time on stage to make a statement. The group includes Tom Tom’s tech and gear editor, JJ Jones, a Berklee-trained musician, educator, and drummer. Jones founded, an education company exclusively geared toward female-identifying drummers. Heather Mae is an imaginative lyricist with a powerhouse voice who forged new ground with her last album, I AM ENOUGH. Songs on the release addressed LGBTQ discrimination, gender stereotypes, body image, and mental health issues. Mae is working on an upcoming release, Glimmer. Bassist Joe Stevens is a California-born singer/ songwriter, trans-activist, and multi-instrumentalist. He played with Coyote Grace, which toured with the Indigo Girls, and released his first solo album, Last Man Standing, in 2014. He starred in the documentary Real Boy about a transgender teen finding his identity and voice and co-wrote the musical The Civility of Albert Cashier based on the true story of a transgender civil war soldier. Jones spoke with Mae and Stevens over a conference call about fighting the good fight with music.


Tom Tom: Your politics and your songs are also really personal. But ultimately, your message and creative vision transcend politics. It’s about self-love and self-acceptance and knowing that you’re enough. When I try and describe you, I always say, “It’s like she’s on fire. She’s on a mission.” Heather, why are you on a mission? What was the journey that brought you to this place in your art, your politics and your career? Heather Mae: Well, in terms of a new vision, I lost my ability to sing [because of vocal nodules]. I was so sad and felt like I lost my chance to make an impact on this world or to do something good with this voice

that I’d been given and the love and passion for writing songs. I remember sitting in front of my keyboard putting my hands on the keys, thinking, “If I could just have one more chance to do this music career again, I promise (saying it to whatever deity is out there), I will use my music for good: to help marginalized people. I will be honest about my beliefs, I will stand up for the little guy and girl, I will stand up for beings who need a voice and will be a mental health advocate, which is what the next record is about. So, there really was an actual moment when I made the decision to keep that promise if I got the chance. And I did, and I’ve kept my promise.

It reminds me of when people have a neardeath experience. It was like the death of your voice or the death of you as an artist, so all of the promises that people make [in that context], “I promise I’ll be good if . . .” Was this your version of that with your art to promise to help people and be of service? Mae: Yes. When I first started writing these songs, it’s all based on feel. So, I knew all of the songs would be topical about what I believe in helping the world be a better place and more inclusive, but would also be musically authentic. What you see on stage is my brain: what I envision the song to feel like, from the writing process to the song’s performance. I’ve seen hour-long lines of people who just want to meet you and hug you [after shows]. I imagine that is also feeding you as an artist, creatively and politically. Mae: I think, honestly, it’s less about them meeting me. An amazing musician, Ellis, said once in a performance class that people don’t come to see you, they come to be seen. I really believe that: when I sing my songs, I am just making them realize how very un-alone they are and how comfortable they could be in their own skin, imperfections, and flaws, or in their body type, their political beliefs, their queerness; it is my job to make them feel seen. After the show, people come up to me and often I say very little. It’s mostly others telling me about life experiences and how understood they feel. It’s an honor to me when people come up after a show. That’s the whole point, to make people feel understood. It means I’m doing my job.


My first band, Coyote Grace, came of age in the early days of social media, and, because of that, we were able to tap into a queer and trans audience that I had no idea how we would reach. But word spread, and there was such a need for community and for representation that people came out of the woodworks and started showing up at our shows. I don’t even know how they found out about shows, but it spread through the grapevine and I realized the power of being visible, and it didn’t come to me naturally. I didn’t start out thinking I would be an advocate—I come alive onstage, but I’m a shy person offstage—but the need for representation had to override any fears. No one was going to know I was trans unless I said something, and I felt misrepresented if people were going to see me as a white cis-male, so it became important to me, for people to understand my songwriting, for them to know that I was trans. For trans or questioning people in the audience, they were looking at a trans person. And for nontrans people to know that they were looking at a trans person. That human [connection] of “I saw a trans person. I met a trans person,” breaks down huge walls. I felt at a certain point that it was the least I could do was be out. That was behind my insistence that I would like people to see me as a trans person. If it helps anyone, it’s worth doing.

It’s a reciprocal thing.

Joe Stevens: Trans-activism is important to me because it affected my life so deeply. I came of age right before the internet and before there was any trans-representation in media. There wasn’t even much online at that time and I felt very alone. The first little inklings of community that I found were so incredibly important to me to the point where it gave me a reason to keep going. There were other people out there like me that were dealing with the same stuff and struggling and had to overcome struggle. Without that knowledge, it’s hard to imagine how my healing process would have gone.

It’s so easy to make people an Other, with a capital O, but I think the common theme here with both you and Heather is that the personal is political. Both of you are so passionately political because of your personal experiences—you’ve been there, and you know what helped you and you know what saved you. You want to pass that on. Mae: One hundred percent. I also think that the personal is universal. It’s not easy, but if you can tap into and be brave and share what is most personal to you, you may find that you can actually help so many people. Yes, the personal is universal. Any great art—it’s so personal, and, because of that, everyone can relate to it. Making yourself that vulnerable as an artist and taking the risk to put yourself out there—that’s what people are relating to.

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Mae: I mean, this job is hard. But I had a realization when someone messaged me a little while ago—I haven’t been touring much lately at the end of the year, since I’m about to release another record—but someone wrote to me about listening to [my] song “Hero” and how it made them realize that they needed to reclaim their story after having thoughts of suicide. And this is someone who had been through trauma. Through the song, I wrote about my bipolar disorder, it helped someone else feel like they could go on. That made me realize that my songs are working even when I’m not. So, when the business is difficult and we get more “nos” than we do “yesses,” because my job is to make the world a better place, I can keep going, because I know that my music is doing good.

Joe, the way you present, you could totally pass for a cis-male, yet at every performance you out yourself as trans. You’ve instructed Heather to do the same for you at her shows. Why is that? Why is trans-activism so important to you?

Drummer Rhonda Lowry says, “First came feminism and then came my life.” by Mare Berger Photo by Ariele Max


Rhonda Lowry was a feminist first, and then later became a drummer. Feminism gives the queer musician structure to her work and life, and for that reason she always prioritized community, collaboration, and listening. Lowry is the drummer for Erica Eso, a Brooklyn-based experimental-pop band. She was a dancer for 10 years and is an avid meditator, which informs her awareness and relationship to time and the nature of impermanence. All of these values deeply inform her musicality and creativity. You can hear it in the wide, spacious strokes of her drumming, how she listens and responds with such spontaneity and presence. Her groove evolves and changes—she lets it become what it wants to be. Tom Tom: Tell me a little bit about Erica Eso and your creative role in the band.

You came across it so soon because of college?

Rhonda Lowry: Erica Eso started as an individual songwriting persona for Weston Minissali, and has now evolved into a full, five-piece band. Weston is such a generous band leader, it feels like there’s always an open door for our ideas. From a songwriting standpoint, I feel like I’m good at thinking about song structure and hearing parts of songs in a bigger context, helping the details gel.

No, I’ll give credit to my older sister Leigh on that one! She turned me on to a lot of stuff: books, bands, major feminist thinkers. I took a sociology class in high school, and that was really huge for me. They didn’t explicitly address feminism in the class, but they addressed social inequality, and I kind of took it from there, and ran with it. This combination of influences helped me articulate for myself the reality I was experiencing of being socialized female under patriarchy, and most importantly, helped me realize I wasn’t alone in my anger, frustration, and desire for change. By my senior year, I was definitely outspoken about sexism and committed to applying feminist ideas and concepts to whatever my interests were.

Didn’t a review recently say that you play subversive drum parts? I definitely feel like there’s a rhythmic gridded-ness to some of Weston’s compositions, and I’m really interested in inserting arhythmic moments within a gridded structure, so I think that’s probably what that person was pointing to when they said that. We have a couple of songs that are really soupy, flowy, and arhythmic, where I play around the melody in a really free way, but we also have super structured, more mathy songs with time signature changes, tight choruses and more danceable rhythms. I really like having that diversity within one band’s sound. Maybe that’s the thing I’m most proud of about the band—that we have a really dynamic, eclectic set. I’ve noticed that. There’s a range of feelings and style. And it all feels like something. Didn’t a recent reviewer call it “alien music”? Yeah! Or like, “music from the future.” How does feminism affect your relationship to music?

Right! I just think there’s something to that—encountering feminist thought was the most empowering thing, and I took that with me wherever I went. And any young person can do the same, whatever their chosen field, whatever they end up doing with their lives. Something that I think about all the time is how the world, men, and the patriarchy have designed art and music in such a way that we think we have to be alone to get better. That to excel, we have to be in isolation and work nonstop. It just ends up creating competition and a feeling of disconnection. Yes! My number one priority always is being a good collaborator. I’m not a natural songwriter as an individual, but I think I have a lot to offer through collaboration. I enjoy shaping the songs, writing good beats, and supporting the song in becoming the best it can be. To me, drumming I like versus drumming I don’t like, is when it’s clear the drummer is only thinking about their own performance. They’re not listening to the other players when it’s improvised, or it’s

Yeah, that’s totally patriarchy and capitalism incarnate. Go in a room by yourself, and get really good, and that’s what makes a “genius.” But the person who knows how to take what you just spat out onto a page and shape it into something better—they’re not important. They don’t deserve credit. I think this filters into a bigger conversation about what labor we recognize as legitimate and worthy of celebration. How emotional labor and “women's work” is unseen labor, absolutely essential for a healthy, functional society but is supposed to take place without acknowledgment or compensation. What is the role music plays with current events and politics? I would loop it back to community and coming together—holding space for feeling. For Erica Eso, I think the political underpinning of our music has more to do with tapping into an emotional spaciousness and vulnerability than with any overt “message.” Any real political momentum, I think, has to start with empathy, extending beyond your own experience to connect with others. This is how we recognize patterns of systemic oppression, or attempt to break free from the tunnel vision of privilege, or find the will to organize at all, by recognizing that your pain is my pain, that we’re connected. I would like to think our music can cultivate that. What’s coming up soon? Erica Eso is focused on the next record release in 2019 coming out on NNA tapes. I also DJ. You can check it out every last Friday of the month at Troost (1011 Manhattan Ave., Brooklyn, New York) in Greenpoint.

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I came of age as a feminist before I came of age as a musician. By the time I started playing drums, feminism was something that was so deeply embedded in me that even if I was bumping up against some patriarchal bullshit in the music world, it was so much a part of who I was, how I saw myself, and my values, that I knew I could deal. First came feminism, and then came my life, is how I feel.

And in a way, you’re still doing it, but you’re tearing down the walls with your sticks instead of with books.

just a wank-fest if it’s composed. So, being a good collaborator is important to me. I think there’s something gendered about this that deserves discussion: collaboration versus auteurism, or the American obsession with individualism and exceptionalism.

Indie act Peaness offers an amusing name, pop tunes, and some astute social commentary. by Cheri Amour Photo courtesty of artist “Everyone is saying ‘This is such a great summer,’ but realistically, it’s odd. It’s very odd, and it’s only going to get worse,” says Rachel Williams, drummer for the British indie-pop 20-something trio, Peaness (pronounced Pea-ness). She’s referencing the raging 2018 summer heat in the United Kingdom which broke temperature records, much to the visible distress of sweating commuters and musicians alike. Peaness spent much of the warm morning when we met rehearsing in its “doomsday bunker” in Wrexham, just over the Welsh border from its hometown Chester. Members sat with a cuppa on a bench outside the practice space, bugs threatened to land in their milky brews while the grass around them was scorched by the unforgiving sun. This heat is relevant to our conversation. Peaness isn’t a band that shies away from tackling cultural issues in its songwriting. The group’s witty one-liners and tight harmonies offer up astute social commentary around everything from food waste to the recent seismic shift in British foreign policy. The trio has been performing for three years with its tongue-in-cheek moniker, armed with a shed-load of sing-along choruses and monster melodies. Peaness has performed at festivals like Truck, 2000 Trees, and Sŵn Festival, and completed a string of tour dates with fellow Brits the Cribs and indie’s ironic funsters We Are Scientists.


Peaness’ no-nonsense Northern familiarity and the trio’s comfort with each other make it pretty clear that a decade of friendship is the bedrock of the band. Bass player Jess Branney and guitarist Carleia “Balla” Balbenta recently hit a milestone, having sung together for ten years. “We all met studying music at the University of Chester,” explains third and final member Williams, her Brummie lilt adding an extra melody to the storytelling. “Jess and Balla were in the year above me. We all started writing together just as I was finishing my final year.”

Picking up the kit after a few failed attempts at the violin, Williams confesses the punk-pop pyrotechnics of Green Day and Blink 182 were her guides. “Flamethrowing drum risers. That’ll be the next Peaness show,” she laughs. Jokes aside, it might put an end to her bandmates’ hilarious hashtag campaign, #WheresRach which encourages fans to collect shots where the drummer is comedically obscured from view—a bass neck barricade here, a rogue ride bell there. “It’s because I don’t sing, and the height of my cymbal is just over my face, so there’re always some terrible photos of me with two arms poking out. A drum riser might be a good idea!” she reasons.

In fact, that’s sort of how last year’s single, “Ugly Veg,” came into fruition. The song offers a chorus on consumerism gone mad. It’s timely call-to-arms, since it was released weeks after Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement, which addresses climate change. A night in watching the telly sparked the brunt of the track. River Cottage chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall presented a Channel 4 exposé, War on Waste, in which he dug up some startling truths about food consumption in the UK. Approximately one-third of the food produced there is never eaten because it fails to meet some bizarre set of “customer standards” aesthetically. The band sings over upstroke guitars and rambling bass lines: “Another day we throw away/While others pray for the rain to stay.” Balbenta is matter-of-fact about the sorry situation. “It’s years of the consumer being picky, and then the farmers are conscious about it, because the supermarkets won’t buy it for their customers,” she sighs. “So, half of it gets thrown away.” But it’s not just food waste that irks the outfit. The three have also spoken openly about the sad state of pollution in our oceans and other waterways and even pointed to it in the same track: “I want to see oceans clean/I want to see the world green.”

The group exudes a kind of bright, dream pop, but Peaness’ lyricism is far from hazy. Its debut EP, No Fun, was self-released in “To think that there will be more plastic in 2015 and immediately won fans at BBC the oceans than fish by 2050 . . .,” Branney Introducing, 6 Music, and BBC Radio 1. trails off, defeatedly. Earlier this summer, These young friends are far more propelled a team of conservationists named Parto apply their lyrical smarts to the planet ley released footage of a wave of plastic than puppy love. In its next 7”, “I’m Not Your refuse hitting the Dominican Republic Problem,” the band muses that after dark, coastline. The plastic waste, including the three “don’t sit around, don’t think of bottles and foam takeaway boxes mixed you.” They have “better things to do.” into seaweed, rolls along the top of the waves off Montesinos Beach in the capital city of Santo Domingo. It forced the trio to

reflect on what it can do to affect change, without feeling like some sort of try-hard Captain Planet. “I think we’re just starting to see the impact that we’re having on our world more recently,” Williams admits. “Our generation’s gonna see it all happen. We need to make a change now. It’s not about being a hippy. It’s about trying to preserve the human race.” It’s tricky being an impassioned changemaker though, when you’ve also got to earn a few bucks to survive and have your band’s creative outlay to sustain, too. It’s a far cry from the artist warehouses of Patti Smith’s New York, or the rambling literary rhythm of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. “We’ve definitely taken a step back in our financial careers.” Branney states emphatically. “I just work in a Pret a Manger. It’s basic.” With crippling loan debts and high housing costs, millennial artists are often forced to pursue full-time jobs alongside their creative careers. For Peaness, it’s sometimes a harsh dichotomy. “I’m there making fucking sandwiches at six in the morning thinking, ‘Yesterday, I played a show. Yesterday, there were those people there, and I loved it, and it was great’.”

The band will head into the studio next month to work on its first LP, so it’s full

steam ahead when it comes to writing and polishing off some of the tracks, including in typical Peaness fashion, a cheeky nod to the UK’s impending exit from the European Union, called “Breakfast.” When we spoke, Peaness was planning its highly anticipated debut and tour dates up and down the UK in 2018. But first, the three musicians spent the afternoon songwriting in the bunker, because, after all, that’s where Peaness is more than a little

cocksure. It’s not slacktivism over a brew; this band’s politics are fairly straightforward. The world could use a little more of its sunshine-laden pop to brighten the disaster movie days ahead. And you don’t need a rotating drum-riser to elevate that message to the crowds.

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But this lot are grafters. That’s evident from the group’s merch stalls laden with handmade limited edition knick-knacks from Williams’s mum and their homespun DIY videos borne out of plasticine and Branney’s iPad Movie Maker. The band also had a recent win, bagging open funding through the UK’s leading talent development giants, PRS Foundation. The money goes toward the release of its highly anticipated debut. Williams recalls, “We did the 'Ugly Veg’ video with Playdoh, and it took all day on a fish-finger sandwich. So it will be nice to do a proper video.”

T-Rextasy has a punk ethos with a touch of magic.

by Jasmine Bourgeois Photo by Ulloa Photography Studio

Fun and light on the surface, T-Rextasy’s music is full of complex harmonies and catchy lyrics. It has a punky ethos, but there’s something a little more magical to it. With lyrics like, “You said I’m like a little nugget/soft and sweet and full of lovin’/but you are dead wrong/if I were meat/I’d be filet mignon,” it seems the band doesn’t take themselves too seriously. At the same time, it is anything but silly. While the songs are comical, they are ultimately political and undeniably good. The riffs are creative and genuinely intricate; the vocals, charmingly eccentric; and the coordination between the four, tangible. The drumming of 22-year-old New York native Ébun Zoule Nazon-Power keeps the band rooted and helps those of us listening to stay grounded in each track. She has a cool and effortless style but still beams with energy when she performs. Tom Tom spoke with Nazon-Power about “girl bands” and getting called out for going braless. Tom Tom: How did you get into music and how long have you been drumming? Ébun Zoule Nazon-Power: My journey as a drummer began when I was about 12-years- old and attended Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in Brooklyn. In fact, my very first drum instructor at Willie Mae Rock Camp was (Tom Tom founder and editor) Mindy Abovitz! She was awesome, super helpful, and supportive. I have been in multiple bands ever since that first summer at Willie Mae. I guess I have been drumming for about 10 years.


Are you in any other projects besides T-Rextasy?


T-Rextasy is my main gig at the moment, but I have been in other bands in the past. Last year, I was a drummer/lead singer of a band called Bitch Spit. I think we have a couple videos on YouTube, actually. We have a sick cover of “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child. I do hope to play more music outside of T-Rextasy in the near future. I also plan on embarking on a DJ apprenticeship. I have a feeling I would be very good at it.

You guys have some pretty fun and unconventional sounds. What’s it like writing the drum parts? In general, is writing songs a pretty collaborative project? Yeah, our sound is very unconventional. We like to call ourselves a new wave band, because we don’t really fit in with a lot of the sounds in the New York DIY music scene. Writing drum parts is generally easy for this band, but I think that is because we all work so well together. We are really good at communicating what we want and what our visions are without stepping over each other or putting each other down. We are super collaborative when it comes to songwriting. We each have our own gifts to share: Annie [Fidoten] is an amazing songwriter and bassist, Vera [Kahn] is a music technicality wizard, Lyris [Faron] is an incredible lyricist and zany performer, and I help bring forth harmonies and some melodies for songs while also playing drums. Working together with these women is a pleasure. We create magic.


A lot of your songs seem like they play with femininity and the way it’s performed. I’m curious about your thoughts on the idea of “girl bands,” and how you feel you're perceived, specifically, as a not-cis-dude drummer?

Being in an all female band, that term along with “riot grrrl,” gets thrown around a lot from fans and people who barely know us. We hate being called “riot grrrl,”

I generally receive positive feedback from people. Folks are always super excited to come across female drummers. It is still really rare to come across not-cis-dude drummers, and it’s even rarer to find people of color, not-cis-dude drummers. Someone once told me that I was a unicorn because, 1) it’s really rare to witness drummers who can sing at the same time, and 2) I’m a black femme percussionist.

What’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you on tour or at a gig? This may not be the “coolest” thing but it is pretty funny. So, at the very beginning of tour last summer, we played a show in D.C., and the next day, we went to a restaurant to get some food. As soon as each of us entered the restaurant, a woman who was working there noticed that none of us were wearing bras, and she publicly commented, which alerted the rest of the patrons of the restaurant, and we all just ended up laughing. That day, our mode of transportation was declared the “Boobie Mobile” by one of the people who worked there.

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I have mixed feelings for the term “girl bands.” I think that it is a term that potentially minimizes the musical complexities of bands that don’t have cis men in them. However, I also see the power in claiming the term “girl band,” but at the end of the day, why can’t we just be a “band”?

because our songs are not related to that genre of music. But because people see us as a bunch of girls onstage with guitars and drums, we automatically get placed in that category. We adore “riot grrrl” and all that it offered, but it was also a super problematic movement.

WYD speaks about the culture of abuse in the DIY scene. by Chloe Saavedra Photo by Forrest Roberts

A brand new band from Columbus, Ohio, WYD, self-describes as “queer death pop.” The trio consists of Carly Fratianne on vocals and guitar, Maddy Ciampa on synth and production, and Courtney Hall on drums. For the past year, the group has been active in the Midwestern DIY scene. WYD brings a sound evoking a kind of unfettered emotion that seems lacking in a generation confined to virtual reality. It channels those feelings through chillinducing lyrics paired with folk guitar and avant-garde production. This mix effectively creates a mutated pop song, which hits us in a more real place than many typical pop songs do. Listening to WYD is like an emotional painkiller that works by exposing all our wounds, bringing us to a vulnerable place—one we often reject—and then making us feel like we’re not that alone in feeling something at all. With only three released singles, I can only imagine what sounds will appear on their January 2019 release. WYD took the time to speak with me about being a band in a DIY scene that shares some of the political issues prevalent in the mainstream industry. Tom Tom: When I saw you live in Columbus, Ohio, I felt such a raw and intimate energy from your performance, it seems like the songs must come from such a real and exposed place. How do you guys go about your songwriting process? Carly Fratianne: The songwriting process has been evolving steadily, as we’ve been working on new material, but typically it begins with lyrics and melody, which I write in solitude. Once I’ve got the song, I bring it to the studio where Maddy and I work out the instrumentation and arrangement. I usually write with a guitar, but I like using other sounds in lieu. So, it’s a lot of messing around with different instruments and tones, trying to find the essence of the song as a sonic texture. There’s a lot of experimentation involved, both musically and in the production methods. Once we’re inspired in a direction, we both start hunting around for sounds in the world to add to the piece, recording bits of audio on our phones. When we get to a place where it starts making sense to us, we bring it to Courtney, and she drops hot fire drums on it. Do you let fans in on what you’re going through, or are your lyrics more abstract?

Is it harder to be honest and vulnerable in a song or in real life? I struggle with being vulnerable in person on a daily basis, but for some reason, I’ve never been hesitant to bare myself in song.

We have a song called “WYA” that I wrote in a moment of sheer madness. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so detached from myself as I did then. It was winter, and I was in a deep depression, and I hadn’t really left my bedroom in days, and I was just sinking. I had lost touch with reality in some strange way, and for a little while, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find my way back. It was pretty terrifying. To speak to issues in the limelight of the entertainment industry right now—the culture of abuse—we’ve seen many high profile abusers exposed in the mainstream, but does this culture of abuse exist in the DIY scene as well? Yes, it definitely exists in the DIY scene. Artistry so often goes hand in hand with an attitude of self-importance, which isn't necessarily toxic, but when paired with unchecked misogyny, it can be incredibly harmful.

With the #MeToo movement, we hear mostly about abuse by men against women, what about non-heteronormative forms of abuse? Is the reason we don’t hear about that because it rarely happens or are those stories not gaining media traction? I don’t expect you to have a perfect answer for this, because I think it’s generally unknown, but I’ve wondered this myself and am curious your thoughts on it. I'm sure there are a lot of reasons why those stories are so rarely brought to light. There is a lot of fear around any type of abuse, and when you as a victim don't see representation of your story, it can be pretty crippling. Not knowing what avenues you may have to


Has there been an influx of victims coming forward in the DIY scene as well? Oh, for sure. Fortunately, the lines of communication seem to have opened significantly in our local scene, and there are some super supportive people to reach out to. Listening to and holding one another accountable for their words and actions is really important There is the attempt to build safer spaces within DIY scenes, does that leave room to discuss the abuse that still exists or is there a cognitive dissonant effort to deny it? Abusers are everywhere and they live in fear of being outed. Anytime a victim breaks their silence, there will be individuals who will deny and attempt to invalidate their experience. On the whole, I see it moving in a positive direction, but there is still a lot of work to do.

reach out for support can leave you feeling very othered, making it even more difficult to seek the help you need, and thereby perpetuating the cycle of abuse. It takes a lot of bravery to break silence. What are some ways you think could help diminish all forms of abuse in the industry? Honestly, communication is key. That sounds trite, I'm sure, but forming genuine connections with each other and sharing our stories is the best way to empower one another and create visibility around these issues. Go to shows, throw dinner parties, give consensual hugs, and make crying okay.

If you need support, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline where you will be connected with a trained caller in your area 24-hours a day: 1-800-656-4673.

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I think the feelings are very relatable, however the situations that inspire them are often very personal and abstract. I prefer to leave as much open to interpretation as possible.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve written about and put into a song?


Producer SunSun discusses her new artist retreat and festival space and the Toronto scene. by SassyBlack Photo by Brianna Roye

With nine years of production under her belt, Toronto producer and force of nature Francesca Nocera, aka SunSun, is unstoppable. The 38-year-old co-writes and produces for the group Above Top Secret and is known for her powerful multimedia collective 88 Days of Fortune, which she founded in 2009 with her partner Witch Prophet, aka Ayo Leilani. As if that wasn’t enough, she is also a painter, tattoo artist, and runs her own fashion line, SunSun Pants, which was featured at New York Fashion Week. SunSun shared her beginnings, her place in the Toronto music scene and how she spreads her message of hope with Tom Tom. Tom Tom: How long have you been doing music? SunSun: I started experimenting with music in 2002 when I was living in Brooklyn, my friend Shannon Funchess (Light Asylum) got me into it. When did you decide to start producing? I started experimenting with music when I got my first computer in 2005; before that I was playing bass and piano. I decided to start producing beats when I got my first beat machine, Roland SP-404, in 2009. What do you use to make your beats? I use Reason, TC-Helicon, MIDI keyboard, and SP-404. What is your favorite piece of gear or plug in? My TC-Helicon. Who is your ideal audience for you music? People who love music and to vibe. What message do you want to send in your music? I want to send messages of hope in my music. I do want to uplift and inspire people to create. What do you think about the terms activist and feminist? Do you feel a part of those communities? I feel like my existence is activism and feminism. I guess I feel part of those communities. Why do you say you guess you feel a part of those communities? What’s holding you back? Or what is that community lacking for you to feel more connected?

How do you feel about the scene in Toronto and who are some of your favorite artists? I feel like the Toronto music scene is always popping. Yasmine, Witch Prophet, Tasha the Amazon, LolaBunz, Baadass Bukk, Golde London, Haviah Mighty are some of my fave artists from Toronto. What do you think makes the scene pop? What is it about Toronto? Do you feel supported by this scene?

What are you most excited about right now? I just finished building a house out in the country with my partner; it’s pretty exciting. We are turning it into a artist retreat place and music-festival location. It’s 45 minutes from Toronto, 50 acres of land, and it’s private. We call it Stregavilla. So cool! What made you and your partner decide to do that? When will you be launching the artist retreat?


It’s always something we have dreamed of. I got sick three years ago and felt like I almost died. When I was praying to get better, all I could see was this land. I told myself, if I get better, I want to move out to the county and cultivate this dream. I got better, and I kept my word. We will be open to the public this spring. What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a producer? Find a music program that works for you and just experiment. Watch YouTube videos, and teach yourself. What do you have coming up next?


I am currently working on Above Top Secret’s next album, 1984 Is NOW. Heavily influenced by Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, M.I.A., and Travis Scott. I am also working on Witch Prophet’s next album, DNA Activation. Both albums are exploring different sounds and topics. I am also using a lot more live instruments in the beatmaking process for these albums.

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I feel like a loner most of the time. I don’t really feel part of any community. I often feel like I’m always in my own lane.

I think there are a lot of interesting creative people in Toronto. Everyone really wants to make it, and I think that makes the scene pop. There is a lot of talent here but not that many platforms to stand on, a lot of gatekeepers that choose to block anything that looks queer and isn’t the norm. I don’t normally feel supported by Toronto. The only community that keeps on believing in us is A Tribe Called Red and [my collective] 88 Days of Fortune. They steady book my band Above Top Secret and offer support.

Musician and producer Georgia Anne Muldrow shares about her musical family and the ongoing struggle for human rights.

by SassyBlack Photo by Drew Gurian 28 TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE

Los Angeles musician Georgia Anne Muldrow is a 35-year-old critically acclaimed producer, singer, and songwriter with a rich musical lineage. She launched her career in 2006 with a debut EP, Worthnothings, on Stones Throw Records. A prolific and undeniable talent, she has worked with Erykah Badu, Madlib, Mos Def, and 10 years ago co-founded record label SomeOthaShip Connect with her partner, rapper Dudley Perkins. Her soulful and poetic music celebrates her experience as a black woman and mother with songs like “Great Blacks” and “Mother, Father, God.” She just released an album, Overload, on Flying Lotus’ label, Brainfeeder. Muldrow spoke with Tom Tom about her musical upbringing, raising musical children, collaborating with Overload producers Mike & Keys, and her latest release.


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Tom Tom: How long have you been doing music and how did your parents influence your musical interests? Georgia Anne Muldrow: When your parents are musicians, you’ll know a lil’ something about music, because it is just a part of life. When you see your mom and your parents, you want to be like them, ya know? My mom is a singer/songwriter, and she plays the piano, and I just wanted to be like her. She’s singing her own songs, and there would be people who know her songs. She was her own radio. I thought that was cool, ya know? I think that’s some of the earliest things I can remember. Sitting under the piano. Being in the highchair at the gigs. Sometimes they couldn’t afford no babysitter or nothing like that, so we’d be right there with them. You know, tagging along with my dad to the jazz gig at whatever restaurant and then having to sit there. For me, it was like, might as well dig the music, we’re gonna be bored otherwise. We didn’t have no smart phones during that time. Ya know? If you were lucky, you had a coloring book maybe, activity book or Archie [comic book]. But you know, all that gets old once you start listening to the music. It’s like hey, well I’m going to enjoy this music, too. Music has been my life, my whole life. How do you feel now that you have kids? Do you and your husband (Dudley Perkins) do the same things with your kids? Do you feel like they feel the same way that you did growing up? I feel like being a parent, you get so much music. Children are so musical. My daughter used to sing herself to sleep. Make these big epic songs until she couldn’t think no more and put herself to sleep. I knew it was a way for her to express her feelings, because she has so many feelings that are very deep. And it gave her a chance to express herself. We got along about that, you know? Because I’m that kind of person, too.


’Til this very day, she’s turning 16 this year, girl got a voice of gold, but she don’t wanna sing. She wants to do something else. But music’s in her heart. And my youngest boy, he’d be beatboxing on the breastmilk. He would just love it. Just the way they enjoy music and the way they mimic and try to imitate us. At first you’re clowning, but after a while, as you get older, your voice starts to

reflect where you’re from. The colonial influences are rather like flipped than adhered to, you know what I mean? So it’s like you are doing a whole ’nother thing and putting yourself there and trying to find a language to explain what the melody does to you. When I hear somebody playing jazz on the set, swinging real well, that’s comfort food for my ears. I can’t go too long without hearing that. And that’s because of my people. Your environment is absolutely the first composition that you interact with in your life. You’re a killer producer. How did you decide to work with other producers versus just producing everything on you own? You know, I collaborate daily. I’m doing all types of features with people. That’s the bread and butter of my life. Every now and again, I’ll do a song that Dudley [my husband] really digs. Dudley’s the secret weapon when putting a record together because I have music coming out my ears. I got so much music, it’s a shame. And I’m making more all the time. Dudley helps me make sense of the kind of songs that are gonna sound good on a record. So through collaborating with people and the [songs] that really stuck, Dudley was like, “Man, these should be your songs.” That’s how it happened. I was already collaborating with [Overload producers] Mike & Keys production wise. Hooking them up with vintage sample type sounds, my [Digital Audio Workspace] Reason sessions so they could see how I’m hooking thangs up. And they in return, they would send me like awesome stuff like, “What do you think you could do with that?” And I just treated like an experiment. And it just worked out really well. So it sounds like you’ve been making some unique old school sound packs for Mike & Keys. Yeah, something like that, but more like session files though. It’s about inspiration. Money Mike really reached out like, “Yo, we need some inspiration.” And I just love their spirit, they really are real good people. I love what they saw within the music that we’ve been given. You know? And I wanted to be a part of that in some kind of way. I just thought that was beautiful. It was at a time where we were still scaring people because our “timing” wasn’t right.

Yeah, that “timing” excuse can be a downer. It seems a lot of folks use the fact that it may not be the right “time” to release a project or work with someone due to the nature of your music or the current state of music as justification.

white, pink, and brown noise to the point where you get something that really has a snare on it that’s reacting, you know? I’m a synthesizer nerd, so I just love that. I love making sounds effects, drum sounds. It gives you a unique sound.

Yeah, they weren’t scared to associate with us, and I’m thankful for them and their courage. ’Cause some people, they just, you know, they try to mess up your whole situation. They got something going on. They have their respectability to take care of it.

Well how did you get into sound design? How did you decide to do that? I feel like that is something unique that I don’t get to talk to a lot of producers about.

How did the track “Blam,” from the new album, come together? It’s a great track. I co-produced that with Mike & Keys. They made the track for me. We were doing some real free collaboration kind of thing where didn’t nobody call out nothing or say what we are trying to do. It was not forced at all. Money Mike was on the electric drum kit and J Keys was on the keys and I was on the synthesizer. Uncle Dave was on the guitar and we were just chillin’ and all at the same time a song would come out. It’s just like crazy. I did some singing on there, like multracking over it trying to see if these ideas and make sense of [the beat]. And they flipped something and sent it to me and they made the track for me. And the song just kind of poured out. It’s about how will you engage with oppression when it starts to engage with you. And then at the end, the “before I be a slave,” that’s the voices of our ancestors singing that. I dig that. So do you primarily use the DAW Reason to produce? Yeah, a lot of the time. I use Maschine, too. I use Caustic, I love Caustic. It’s a single cell software. It’s incredible. Any favorite plugins or instrumentation to use when you produce?

MUSIC HAS BEEN MY LIFE, MY WHOLE LIFE. You have always been someone who isn’t afraid to share your thoughts on the political environment we live in, how is the current state of politics affected this record and how you create? For me, nothing’s changed but the weather or the fashion choices of people, you know? I feel like there’s a lot of progress that’s yet to be made. So that’s what makes it easy for me. Striving to get things to the place where they are supposed to be regarding human rights. Of people and children. Black people. We still don’t got no human rights, and it’s not okay. People still getting lynched. People still feeling unwelcome most anywhere, you know? My whole thing is like I don’t know if that’s political, it feels more like economical, because we are the cash cows of the world. King cotton and all of that. I mean that's Queen Elizabeth sitting on a whole bail of cotton. You gotta think about these things.

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I love hyper-sampled drums; it gives me access to play the pattern, until I hear ’em and work with the velocity in different ways. That’s how I get the feeling that there is a drummer there, you know? With hypersampled drums, I get more control over the sound. The other thing I like to do for drum sounds is use straight-up synthesized drum sounds. To make a snare or kick more meaty. Or maybe just make a snare from scratch, and it sounds like a drum set, but it’s really synthesized. I love that, too. Working with

I mean, the deal is to just sit there and have fun with the experiment. I think I’m just old school, because we had a lot of experience with analog stuff, and you gotta just follow your ears until it sounds like something that appeals to you. So it’s like a treasure hunt or a metal detector, and you figure out the tools like, “Oh this will take me here.” So it sets you free a little bit to just move anything, move the knobs. There are so many different keyboards that have all this knowledge, and people don’t use them.

Restrictive, xenophobic policies can limit musicians’ ability to play abroad.

By Nicholas Zurko Illustrations by Liz Pavlovic In order to influence the midterm elections in 2018, President Donald Trump used falsehoods about a caravan of immigrants and refugees headed from Honduras to the United States to stoke American xenophobia. This is something he has done a lot: worked to scare Americans into supporting strengthened immigration policies by lying. Trump and his administration passed a Muslim ban that bars immigration from certain countries, pursued a deportation strategy that separated thousands of parents and children, and seeks to end birthright citizenship for the children of immigrants. Sadly, nationalism is trending with governments around the world. Questionable and destructive policies also affect the international travel options of artists and musicians who wish to escape fraught political climates in their countries.


In the US, much of the reality of 21st Century immigration policies have been shaped in the wake of two terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Legislation in 1994 and 1996 enabled the government to more easily deport individuals residing in the country illegally, a process that reached a peak during former President Barack Obama’s first term as president.

Musicians seeking to play in the US must first secure a petitioner for an employment visa, which often takes the form of the promoter or organization that has booked an artist or band. Typically, artists who wish to perform in the US must apply and qualify for either an O (individual) or P (for a group) visa, meaning they are “aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts.” The process for obtaining an O or P visa takes several

months, thousands of dollars in application fees, copious paperwork, and letters of recommendation that demonstrate the applying musicians have a career that is considered professionally significant and recognized. The US is not alone in making migration challenging. In the UK, anti-immigrant sentiments were one of the primary fears driving the country’s vote to leave the European Union, an act known as Brexit. While that 2016 decision has drawn international attention to the country’s growing populism, the country’s changing policies regarding immigrants is perhaps best embodied by the Windrush scandal that erupted in early 2018. Windrush refers to the ship MV Empire Windrush that docked in London on June 22, 1948, carrying 492 passengers from Jamaica. It was then that Caribbean-born immigrants, known as the Windrush generation, began to shape modern Britain. In 2010, then Home Secretary, now Prime Minister Theresa May, helped institute the

Hostile Environment Policy, making it hard for immigrants to remain in the country. It resulted in the wrongful detention of older Caribbean immigrants, their legal rights suppressed and 63 individuals deported. The Windrush generation, which numbers in the 500,000, is responsible for much cultural enrichment that has been adopted by the British, like steel drum music, calypso, roots reggae, and dub, which continues to inform many of the country’s most exciting innovations in rave and dance music.

An ancient musical form, bubu music is traditionally played using bamboo horns. Nabay helped to modernize this traditional music by synthesizing its rhythms and sounds with digital recording, keyboards, loops, and Casio synthesizers. By the mid‘90s, his songs were directly criticizing the country’s rebels and government members who were responsible for a protracted civil war. Despite his music’s critical nature,

it found favor amongst rebels and Nabay and his 11-piece band were forced by rebel general Sam Brockarie (a.k.a. General Mosquito) to perform for his troops. With the help of a P-3 artist visa, Nabay fled Sierra Leone in 2002. As his bandmate Michael Gallope explains, “He reported that he was married when he applied for his P-3 visa,” the legality of which “was complicated. He had married the mother of his children in a religious ceremony, and Sierra Leone does not always maintain the same level of documentation at the civic level.” Over the nearly fifteen years in which he resided in the US, Boshra explains that “Janka was living in constant and dehumanizing fear of deportation and illegitimacy,” working low-paying jobs at restaurants like a Bronx Crown Fried Chicken where the radio producer Wills Glasspiegel sought him out in 2010 and helped him find a group of musicians to bring his modern bubu music to a greater audience.

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As the Windrush scandal illustrates, immigrant artists are under constant threat from nationalist movements and beliefs that continue to be sown at the highest levels of government. However, where the Windrush scandal and Trump’s malicious policies are representative of recent political efforts to exploit the supposed threat posed by immigrants, the case of the late Sierra Leonean artist Ahmed Janka Nabay is a tragic example of the dehumanizing process many artists must endure when seeking citizenship in countries like the US.

Born in 1964 in the village of Sedu in Eastern Sierra Leone, Nabay demonstrated musical talent from a the age of five, first going onstage as a young child with highlife musician Prince Nico Mbarga. He then moved to the city of Freetown at 16, where he composed songs that reflected his political interest in Pan-Africanism and South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela. Nabay was an instrumental figure in popularizing and modernizing of bubu music, a distinctively Sierra Leonean musical form that originated amongst the Temne people in the northern and western parts of the country.


Nabay, who had since married an American woman, applied for a green card in 2011. According to Gallope, “The active application meant that Janka could not leave the States, which severely limited his ability to support himself artistically and financially.” Despite releasing an album entitled En Yay Sah on the well-known Luaka Bop label in 2012, which brought interest from various European booking agents, promoters, and festivals. Nabay and his band were “advised by Janka’s immigration attorney that the risks of being denied reentry at the border were too great,” meaning the group could only tour the states while holding out for “good news” from the United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS). Gallope notes that “in every way, Janka had his hands tied as a human being. He was stuck fighting for scraps.” As Nabay’s bandmate Boshra AlSaadi observes, “touring in the US is not lucra-


tive, especially when you’re a middle-class band.” In Nabay’s case, she adds, “I can't stress enough how Janka's financial situation affected everything in his life. Everything he wrote, recorded, and released was done under serious financial duress. and he was uninsured, with no bank account or working papers that would enable him to function within our system.”


Although Nabay’s profile increased following the release of his album, resulting in international press, which would have made him a candidate for an artist visa, Gallope notes that since the musician was applying for a green card based in marriage. “The green card all hinged on the marriage. It had to look entirely legitimate on its own terms.” Due to the fact that Nabay had reported he was married on his P-3 visa application, neither of his

marriages were considered valid by the USCIS, and Nabay’s only hope in refiling for the green card application would be to show he was never legally married in Sierra Leone, an expensive process. Nabay returned to Sierra Leone in August 2017 where he was “disheartened that all his years of suffering in America hadn’t gotten him any closer to citizenship,” according to AlSaadi. Nabay seemed to be doing well for a while, but eventually contacted AlSaadi to inform her that he was sick and that he had seen a doctor who had sent him back home without a diagnosis. Five days later he was dead. “The fact that he could barely support himself while working so hard in music weighed heavily on him,” says AlSaadi. During the period that Nabay’s green card application was under review, his profile increased substantially and his music could arguably have been used to become legal. But when he first left Sierra Leone, he was unknown outside of his native country. Nabay’s story illustrates just how much is stacked against immigrant musicians seeking a new home in the United States or Europe, especially those who lack money or a professional resume. Hiring an attorney can help applicants avoid many common pitfalls, but often that service can be as or more expensive than the application itself. Nonprofit groups exist, such as Tamizdat, that act as a musician’s petitioner if they do not have one.

While Trump, May, and other populist leaders continue to fan the flames of intolerance towards immigrants and refugees, advocates and organizations that exist to help immigrants and refugees often struggle with legal precedents that stretch to earlier administrations and orders from past administrations. Immigration has long served as a means to mobilize existing prejudices within increasingly globalized countries. Artists regularly get caught in the political crosshairs, resulting in rejected visas and expensive application processes that require legal guidance. However, as the case of Nabay demonstrates, this can often mean living in a dangerously precarious situation, in which life and death hang in the balance.



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Censorship, The Dead, & Why You Need to Vote Former Second Lady Tipper Gore continues to bang the drum for a better world. by Geoff Shelton Photos by Catalina Kulczar

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On a brisk and sunny October morning at a French cafe in Brooklyn, I sat down to interview charismatic former Second Lady Tipper Gore. The mother of four and grandmother of seven currently resides in Virginia where she focuses on advocacy work and photography. With an energizing spirit and personality as bright as the room, she discussed the way music and politics have gently interwoven throughout her life and why she has hope for the future of America. If you remember the days when Tipper Gore was at the fore of political life, you may think you know a lot about her. Most know of her first as the wife of former Vice President Al Gore—the man elected President of the United States by popular vote but not by the Electoral College in 2000—but the two are now separated. Maybe for you, she’s the face of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). The group pushed the record industry to place “Parental Advisory” stickers on certain musical albums in the 1980s. Perhaps you’re aware of her long-time advocacy work for mental health, the homeless, and the LGBTQ+ community. What you may not know is that through it all, she has maintained a passion for the drums and rock music. And she has used that passion to help make the world a better place.

Born Mary Elizabeth Aitcheson, she grew up in Arlington, Virginia, raised primarily by her mother and grandmother who were both influential and supportive of her musical interests. To this day, Gore still remembers the first time she heard the Beatles. “I heard ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand.’ I was getting ready to go to school and it came on the radio and I just stopped, like, ‘Oh my God! What is this sound?!’” she recalls. Gore and her friends at an all-girls school were so affected by the Fab Four that they decided to form their own band.


“I was enjoying the guitar. My friends would play the guitar and sing, and I’m not the best singer in the world, I’ll be the first to admit that,” she says. “So then I switched to the drums seriously and my friends would play the guitar and bass. We named our band after my mother’s Buick Wildcat. It was there right on the back of the car, so we called ourselves the Wildcats.” They would cover pop songs around town at an area Spring Festival, schools, and even, for some foreshadowing, at political rallies. “You could just go get the sheet music for the guitar players, and I’d get the 45 [record] and just blast it, and drum along to it, and then we put it all together.”


After graduation, all the members of the Wildcats went to different schools and Gore put down the drumsticks for a while to study psychology at Boston University. “In college, I was just interested in classes and protesting the [Vietnam] War,” Gore shares. “We were very upset about the guys being drafted into a war that we thought was ill-conceived.” It was during that era in history when popular music mixed with politics and took on an added cultural weight. “The messages in

the music were very important. I think they helped unite people like myself, who had that view [about the Vietnam War]. You’d play an album at parties with groups of people and talk about some of the lyrics,” she recalls. Perhaps that’s why the music her own children listened to became the focus of her activism later in life. When Gore’s youngest daughters were just eight and six years old, she bought them Prince’s Purple Rain. “I thought, rock ’n’ roll, it’s fine. Then they came to me and said, ‘Mom, listen to this!’” Her daughters played “Darling Nikki” for their mother with lyrics describing Nikki “masturbating to a magazine.” Gore felt it was too mature for them at their young ages, and decided to return the album. “I took it back to the store and said, ‘I didn’t know these lyrics were so explicit.’ And they said, ‘Well you opened this and played it.’ And I said, ‘Well is there any way you could tell me beforehand?’ And they said, ‘No.’ And so that made me angry.” It was an anger that would culminate into a showdown with the entire recording industry, as Gore co-founded the PMRC. They took up the fight started two years earlier by the National Parent Teacher Association, asking the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to implement a ratings system, similar to what is used for films. It would offer consumers information about the content of the music. “I’m for individuals making up their own minds and parenting their children the way they want to, but we need information. We have information on toys, on clothing, and if you’re going to have really explicit, violent lyrics that bring up images in people’s minds, I just think parents should know,” Gore explains. “I was really concerned about the more violent, misogynistic kinds of imagery that

was being marketed at the time.” It was a move that would result in a Senate hearing and the RIAA eventually agreeing to voluntarily place “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content” stickers on albums of their own choosing. The fallout from the media blitz around this issue resulted in the demonization of Gore from many prominent musicians. The former anti-war protester was now perceived as the face of music censorship. Her name was parodied and attacked (often misogynistically) on albums by Eminem, Ice-T, Ministry, KMFDM, Warrant, and others. “It was tough,” she recalls. “Some people still are like, ‘You’re a censor!’ People don’t even know that [the sticker] is voluntary. We’re not changing anything the artist is creating, simply letting people know in the marketplace that it might be explicit for younger children. So, it’s there for those who want to use it.”


For starters, Gore became close friends with a very public opponent of the PMRC, Frank Zappa. The prolific, experimental musician, composer, and filmmaker was one of the most prominent artists rallying against Gore’s cause. Zappa testified at the Senate hearing

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While the media painted her as the enemy of the First Amendment, Gore’s personal friendships with musicians, her reignited joy for drumming, and her desire to use it to fundraise for humanitarian causes has been largely ignored.




against its recommendations and was Gore’s counterpoint on numerous talk shows and news programs. But Gore explained the little known side of this relationship, “Frank and I would go out for drinks together after our shows where we were on opposite sides. He felt very strongly on one side and I was on the other, but we liked each other as people. We all loved music,” she explains. “Then I met Gail [Frank’s wife], and we became close friends. So close, that during the campaign trail, when I would have to go to Los Angeles, [Gail] would say, ‘Stay with me!’ So I knew her kids, too.” This explains why in 1999, Zappa’s daughter Diva Zappa released a single called “When the Ball Drops” that is the only official recording released featuring Gore playing drums. Her daughter Kristin Gore also adds backup vocals to the track. When I asked if she also became friends with John Denver, another opponent of the PMRC, Gore says, “No, I was with more onthe-edge type of people.” Like, the Grateful Dead apparently, specifically Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, with whom she’s had a long-time friendship. “We just liked the Grateful Dead, and I went to a concert, and I got to meet them,” she says. “Maybe they asked to visit us after? So, one day, they came over to my office in the OEOB.” She’s referring to the Old Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., where Tipper served as the Mental Health Policy Advisor to President Bill Clinton. Apparently the word got out. “‘the Grateful Dead are in Tipper’s office! Go Now!’” she recalls. “You couldn’t even move. People were just pouring in. A Secret Service agent, a security guard for the building, somebody across the street, they all came over.” Mickey Hart and Gore kept in touch, and he even gave her a few drum lessons at Number One Observatory Circle, the official Vice President’s house. Tipper had purchased a new kit. “It was a red Pearl set, and it was right in the front foyer. I self-retaught.” So in the late ‘90s, when the Dead (now without Jerry, R.I.P.) played a fundraiser for Al Gore’s presidential campaign in California, Hart asked her if she’d come sit in with them. “And I’m like, ‘Yeah! Why not?!’ So I did. I said, ‘I don’t want to sit at the trap set. I’m in a dress.’ So he got all these congas lined up. So that’s what I did. It was great. I loved it.” She also played all of “Sugar Magnolia” in 2009 with the band at the then Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Since that time, Gore has used her public persona and love for playing to support numerous other causes. She sat in with Melissa Etheridge for the Equality Rocks benefit concert in 2000. “k.d. lang introduced me, I was excited about that,” she says. Gore also played with Willie Nelson for Farm Aid that same year and played in support of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. “It’s really fun when you’re playing with fellow musicians and, you know, you become one. It’s lovely.”

Gore sees hope though for the country that once elected her FLOTUS. She thinks women hold the greatest potential for its future—a belief shared by voters in the midterm elections who elected more than 100 females to Congress. “Young women in particular can, and, I hope and pray will—change the course of this country,” Gore shares. “By, first of all, voting, making sure their friends vote—that’s really our first step toward righting this ship. If you don’t vote, you’re abdicating a right that’s been given to all of us through the blood, sweat, and tears of many people

ACTIVATE YOUR ACTIVISM TO THE N-TH DEGREE, BECAUSE THE TIMES CALL FOR IT. that are no longer with us. And we have to honor that. Be in touch with friends and make sure that they are voting. Go up to strangers and say, ‘Are you going to vote?’ If you can give a ride to someone to the polls, do that. It’s that kind of work that we need done right now across this country. Activate your activism to the N-th degree, because the times call for it. We are in a dangerous situation if we don’t change. “Young women do have a network, and I hope they’ll be using it over the rest of their lives. The midterms have happened and we now have some sense of which way we’re headed, but there are Congressional races and Senate races, and then there’s 2020—a chance to change who is in the Oval Office, which I think we must do. It’s just imperative that we do.”

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This passion for improving our world has continued to be Gore’s focus as she uses her high profile to help various organizations working to maintain mental health–care access, insurance, and treatment. “One of five families will experience a mental health issue, either chronic or acute, in their family life, and we worked hard in the 90s

to have mental health parity in insurance, and I'm very proud of what we were able to do. Then Obama expanded mental health coverage in the Affordable Care Act, and now it looks like the current administration wants to undo all of that,” she laments. “And also they're saying that they're not going to cover mental health treatment and access to mental health, and that's just unacceptable in my view.” Her current work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness is focused on getting middle and high schoolers education on and access to mental health–care through their Ending the Silence program.


bright dresses Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokno talks what she learned in prison, a free press, and Putin v. Trump.

by Shaina Joy Machlus Photos by Sasha Sofeev The balaclavas and bright dresses, the confident smirks while waiting to be sentenced to prison, the refusal to be afraid, to be quieted. This is Pussy Riot. It is a movement, a powerful and political force, and not just in the musical act’s homeland of Russia. It has inspired others to act out against oppressive governments worldwide. Pussy Riot’s founding member, Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova, aka Nadya Tolokno, was an activist prior to starting the band. Even after spending two years in a Russian prison for her outspokenness, she shows no signs of slowing down. Tolokno is also a founding member of the provocative and highly political performance art group Viona. As art and protest, she has had public sex in museums, interrupted trials, stormed the streets. And her actions have been rewarded. In 2014, along with her Pussy Riot bandmate Maria Alyokhina, she was the co-winner of the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought for those who work to uphold human rights.

In conversation with Tom Tom, Tolokno shares what she learned about Russia from her time in prison, reveals similarities between presidents Donald Trump’s and Vladimir Putin’s methodology, and explains the purpose of her new media venture, MediaZona.

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In 2016, Tolokno published her autobiographical book How to Start a Revolution and more recently founded the independent media agency MediaZona, which refuses to be silenced by the repressive Russian government.

Tom Tom: When did you start being interested in politics? Do you have one concrete memory or was it several things? Nadya Tolokno: I'm privileged in a way that I was born into a politically conscious family. I would say it has became mainstream to talk about politics, and it wasn't like that when I was growing up. So I was just lucky, because of my dad and my mom. What drove you to transition into more concrete action and descent? I'm from one of the most polluted places on earth called Norilsk, and it's very cold. It’s in the very north of Russia. It is surrounded by three factories that are producing all sorts of metals. In a matter of 30 minutes, snow became gray, and, in a matter of couple of hours, snow in my hometown would become black. Environmental issues were my first concern, and I tried to write about this topic in the local newspaper. Basically, they told me that because of economical reasons, they cannot publish my text, because everybody in this town, they depend on the factory, including this newspaper. So that was the first issue, the environmental thing. Then obviously, when you're a girl, and you're growing up, and you're reading about history and all those people in history, they are men, and you're asking yourself, why? Because I've seen so many strong role models, and, in a lot of situations, they are women. Starting from these questions, I started to read about feminism and feminist critiques of history. Your first political action was writing, and it was ultimately rejected. How did that affect your next move? At the time, I was arguing a lot with my mom about my future, professionally. I was 13 or 14 years old. I think 14. My mom's point was that I have to obtain a profession that can bring me money. I didn't care about it at the time ,and I wanted to be a journalist. My mom told me that journalism will not bring in money. Additionally, it's not possible really to be a journalist in Russia and tell the truth, and I didn't believe her. So, I was obviously very idealistic. At least sometimes my mom can be right. I decided not to be a journalist but a philosopher and an artist after that day. It gave me the chance to go deeper, and ask the reasons of injustice itself. Then I moved to Moscow. I wanted to study philosophy. In Moscow, the real action started. After half a year of being in Moscow, we started an art actions collective. We made process indictment actions on the streets—all of them were illegal—and we joined in on most of the illegal rallies and marches. By 2007, I was fully into politics. When you first started your art actions collective, did you ever expect to go to prison for your art?


I wasn't blind. I was reading what's going on around me, and I was studying real people who spent some time in prison, because of their political activism. So, it was a logical construct, Russian prison. But you know, as an activist, you never believe you’ll end up in jail. So, I preferred to be blind to a certain extent. I said to myself that I am lucky, and I don't have to go to jail to be able to do activism, and I choose to evoke nonviolent artistic action as a way to protest. I thought that it would lower my chances to end up in prison. And then of course you did find yourself imprisoned for your actions with Pussy Riot. Yes. But it was different times. In 2012, on the day when we were arrested, Putin was elected for the third time, and it was the beginning of a lot of first pressures on political dissent in Russia. We were the first ones, but unfortunately not the only ones. Now, it's just getting

worse. Each year, each month, since that time. We have grave news every day, and right now it’s just a disaster. He’s cracked down on political freedom and freedom of expression. It is terrible now. Do you think it's possible that if the same thing were to happen now, you would have an even harsher sentence? Oh, I didn't know, because some lawyers argue that because of our case actually it became easier for other people to make actions. Right now our government is more cautious with people who are making protest artistic actions, because they saw the incredible amount of support that we got from all over the world. And definitely when our government put us in prison, they didn't expect that we'd be this huge pain in the ass. Pussy Riot’s time in prison had a ripple effect for future political actions. What effect did being in prison have on your personal activism? It helped me to learn more about the Russian bureaucratic system. Because prison works, on many levels, similarly to politics. I also learned about my country deeply. I learned about Russian people, because living in a big city like Moscow, you're quite separated from the other Russia. But in prison, I got to see people from all over my country, and I learned important things about them. First of all, that support of Putin, in our official home states, is fake. It’s not real. Around 60 percent or even more people who I met when I was in prison, they didn't support Putin as president, and only like maybe 15 percent of them actively support Putin. The rest of them just didn’t care. Another thing that I learned about is the incredible level of domestic violence that is happening in Russia, unfortunately. A lot of women, they end up in prison, because they want to save their lives, and they ended up being in prison as murderers. Though it was clearly for selfprotection. But Russian courts don't rule in favor of women. That happens here, as well. Well, everywhere. Finally, I learned about disaster in Russian prisons, because of the situation with prisoners’ rights. When we got out of jail, me and Maria Alyokhina and our friends, we started MediaZona, which is a media outlet, which talks about jails, about court, about police, and the violation of human rights in those spaces. And now, since 2014, we have became pretty popular. More and more people want to learn what's really going on. So my prison time made me start this alternative media resource, because I understood clearly how important it is to get real sources of information. I wanted to ask you about MediaZona. When you were younger, you wanted to be a journalist. It makes sense that after all this, you've circled back around to the importance of a free press. Right now, two dozen people work in MediaZona. Ideologically, we’re different from other news outlets in Russia. People can trust information that appears on MediaZona’s website. In other words, people know that we never publish fake news. Why is this important? Well, how can you make political decisions without knowing the real information? The US has always had a history of repressing journalists and producing fake news. But especially with Donald Trump so aggressively going after media sources, I was wondering if you see parallels between Russia and the US? There are some parallels, but it is really different. You still have have checks and balances, and we don't have any. We are in the hands of blind men, literally. So, saying that they are similar would be really


far from the truth. I do see some similarities in Trump in his attitude to media. Unfortunately, in our country, Putin has made all of Russian media into his propaganda tool. I would say that I think Donald Trump, with his narcissism and with his zero tolerance for critics, that he would do the same thing as Putin. One last thing. In my mind, they both don't really have any clear ideological goals. Putin has changed his views many times. At the beginning of his career as the president, he actually wanted Russia to be ahead of the Western world. But after a while, like, right now, his main point is to confront the “Evil West.” They both create confusing ideology in order to stay in power and steal huge amounts of money, because Putin is one of the richest men in the world. When you think about Trump, what kind of ideology does he have, he says that he wants to make America great again, but he never referred to the time in American history where he wants to go back to. He doesn't really have have any big strategy apart from small protection mechanisms to protect his money and his power.

I'm just trying to understand where I have the most amount of expertise. When I started as an environmental activist, I had this experience of living in one of the most polluted towns on earth. I didn't want to just waste these experiences, and keep it as my own personal drama. I wanted to make it bigger than that. I follow the same

It’s not just about having a story, it is about finding ways to share it. Yes. What's important is passion. If you have experience without passion nothing will happen. Expertise, passion, and, of course, intuition. If you ask me, and I'm an artist, I'm following my own intuitions and just trying to listen to myself carefully. Based on this intuition, do you have hope for the future of the planet, hope for freedom? I want to make sure that the planet will actually still exist. I'm talking about climate change. I'm talking about levels of emission. We need to do something today. In order to make any difference, we need real dialogue between countries. We need to start thinking globally. I’m an alter-globalist. I do think that global cooperation and conversations between countries can be good but the cooperation needs to be centered around global issues like inequality, like climate change. A global people's movement? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. I think it's happening, but it's just the beginning. Everything is in our hands. The issues we are facing cannot be solved on a national level. We need a global connection. But these structures haven’t been created yet; we need to build these structures. But really, what do I know? I’m just an artist. Just make up your own mind. Create your own life.

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It feels like there is a growing international humanitarian crisis. One of the things that I think happens to people in activist communities is you don't know where to start or where to concentrate. There are so many things to be done every single minute of every day. How do you know where to start or where to focus your energy?

logic today. I had experience of being in jail, I didn't want it to be just my own personal story. I suffered, definitely, but I wanted to share my story. People need to share their stories.



We asked music journalist Laina Dawes about othering in rock ’n’ roll.

by Angela Sells Illustrations by Chloe McAlister Remember when all of the drummers were women? According to some sources, for centuries, the drums were viewed as a woman’s instrument. But outside of oral tradition, where is the comprehensive herstory of drumming or of women’s contributions to the realm of music? Specifically, where is the “Bible” showing women’s contributions to rock ’n’ roll?

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I contacted Canadian music journalist Laina Dawes to speak about her book What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal, which explores black women’s stories of participation in punk and metal and their experiences of being “othered” in scenes perceived as so-called “men’s spaces.”



s a background to the topic and my conversation with Dawes, I looked into which pen-and-ink resources were available on this topic. Aside from Angela Smith’s valuable reference book Women Drummers: A History from Rock and Jazz to Blues and Country, nothing seems to have surpassed Layne Redmond’s research in When the Drummers Were Women. It is an incredible study of women percussionists of antiquity and modernity; she covers thousands of years. However, the book retails at $60 used and over $100 new online, which hardly makes the information readily accessible to the public. In her book, Redmond explores the copious images and evidence that suggest drums were first associated with fertility. The beat of the drum mimicked the first beat we hear as humans—the heartbeat—within the womb. “With one stroke of the drum, everything comes into existence,” she notes. Women held the drum—and were keepers of it—as a sacred tool in cultures around the world, often used in religious ceremony. A Google search for female drummers might return priestesses of the Egyptian goddess Hathor, engraved in stone, playing her drum in ancient Egypt, or the ancient Phrygian goddess Cybele with her frame drum in a Second Century bronze statue. Various Greek vases from the Fifth Century B.C. would show Maenads—those revelers of wine and passion—brandishing drums high above their heads. So, why is this not common knowledge? Why are drums considered a cis white man’s instrument? Well, to be sweeping for a moment for the sake of brevity, with the rise of patriarchal power and monotheistic control in the past few centuries, ritual drumming—and especially, women drumming—was considered an act of heresy, an act thought to provoke lude dancing and sexual deviancy. Women in their rhythmic expression were seen as “crazy.” One could be branded a witch. By the time composer Carl Ludwig Junker came around and created and distributed a “decorum for ladies” in 1784, women’s roles as audience rather than participants were clearly defined. He wrote, “The feeling of unsuitability, which comes from the association of ideas between bodily movements and fashion of clothing. [. . .] Ridiculous when we see her [playing] in a fancy hair-do.” That’s just one gem among many that restricted women from playing various instruments due to hair, clothing, or physical movements that might appear obscene. Of course, by the 1700s, women weren’t even supposed to play in the Phrygian mode, due to its “violent” and discordant tone that might incite “orgiastic” appetites.


What else happened that “othered” women and persons of color in drumming? Codes like the following, from South Carolina, were adhered to across the South during slavery: “It is absolutely necessary to the safety of this Province, that all due care be taken to restrain Negroes from using or keeping of drums, which may call together or give sign or notice to one another of their wicked designs and purposes.” For certain individuals, playing the drums elicited such an irrational fear of upsetting the status quo that they were—and continue to be in many parts of the world—suppressed, demonized, and controlled.


Still, why are women today often discouraged from music, and particularly from percussion? On average, only 16 percent of undergraduate and graduate percussion majors are women, better than the percentage of women percussion studies professors (6 percent). Even a smaller percentage than that actually garner widespread attention in the genres of rock ’n’ roll, punk, or metal.Music journalist Kristy Loye wrote in the Houston Press that the latter's violent ag-

gression against women in the scene, “Many bands either openly encourage violence against women or fail to support legitimate female fandom, […] Female metal bands are rarely booked on national tours and practically ignored by the media.” In an account of last year’s 23 major US music festivals, only 11 percent of bands booked had at least one female member. Not surprisingly, an overwhelming number of those bands booked featured all-white members. But remember when women and persons of color invented rock ’n’ roll? Remember back in 1967 when frontwoman Jinx Dawson of Coven— which included a band member named Oz Osbourne and a track titled “Black Sabbath” (yes, before the band Black Sabbath)—threw the horns up onstage in what music historians consider the first instance of that symbol being relayed to a rock audience? Remember when the Peruvian Los Saicos growled with antiestablishment attitude on 1964’s “Demolicion,” or when the all-black band Death pioneered punk in 1973? No? Though bands like Toscos and MilitiA represent non-conforming presences in the scene, and culturally, we do see a shift in representation, media at large has only recently begun to recognize such presences in festivals, on the radio, on TV, or in print. It was just a few months ago in 2018 that rhythm and blues artist Sister Rosetta Tharpe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her revolutionary electric guitar picking style in her 1938 “Rock Me” influenced such giants as Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry. During her tour in the UK with Muddy Waters in 1963, the likes of Eric Clapton and members of the Beatles were in the audience. Similarly, it was Big Mama Thornton’s—a gender-bending black woman—single “Hound Dog” in 1953 that later made Elvis the King of Rock. Sadly, she never saw a penny in royalties from the now infamous recording by Elvis. In a recent New Music article, Carrie Leigh Page and Dana Reason reported the ever-present mantra that’s haunted girls in bands since the 1940s: women playing well equates to women playing “just

like men.” They wonder if such condescension results from a lack of support by media and record labels, lack of representation, or preconceived judgments about the worth of women’s work. One theory behind why women (womxn, womyn) and nonconforming drummers bear the brunt of backlash within harder rock scenes is that they are less “available” onstage. Encased in their own worlds behind a kit, they are not sexually accessible to an audience, seen as trespassing on “male territory” without offering their bodies up for consumption. Of course, the above broad-strokes history is extremely complicated and requires a depth that exceeds this article. But with these issues in mind, let’s turn to Laina Dawes for an insider’s and expert’s opinion on an aspect of othering in hard music, perhaps the genre most associated with cis white men. But, it is also a space that has increased representation by non-white and nonbinary folks—not just as fans, but as performers, journalists, and active participants. And, as we will see, it is also a genre that grew out of specific contributions to music history made by women and people of color. Your book [What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal] introduced me to many female artists I never had the luck of discovering on my own.

To be fair, I have heard from a lot of people why there is that resistance; there is a sense of real fear. In the 1980s, heavy metal scene, there were many white working men who called us [the N-word]. They tried to intimidate and beat us up. So, a lot of people extrapolate and think heavy metal is full of racism. A lot of those stereotypes have been proven to deter people who like [for example] Pantera. They just don’t want to get beaten up, or be involved in a music culture where they are the minority. Maybe it has to do with compartmentalization? It seems that, for me at least as a minority, we’ve frequently had to separate a band, a film, an actor—or what have you—from personal politics in order to continue appreciating the art. Do you think sometimes there’s an acceptance of behind the scenes racism from fans who just want to enjoy the music? It depends on the individual. Personally, I don’t support artists who I know hold certain sentiments in terms of anti-black racism, homophobia, misogyny, anti-immigrant, or anti-semitism. Things that real people in the world have been murdered over, I will not support. . . . But that’s me. I have a very firm stand on that.

One of the things I wanted to do with the book is to introduce other female musicians. Here’s the problem: There are a lot of women of color out there who are really interested in the genre, not just as fans but also as journalists or musicians. They’re really hesitant to follow their passion, because they’re not seeing anyone that looks like them within the scene. They figure, “If there’s nobody out there, then I’m not going to do it. I don’t want to be the only person.” That’s one of the reasons it was really important to find other black women artists [in the scene] out there. And how did your participation in the scene come about? It seems that your love of metal was about peeling back the layers of race and exploring what you liked as an individual. I grew up in a really weird environment, where my parents didn’t care [about the music playing]. As a black person growing up in a predominantly white community, I knew that I would never fit into “white people,” but I also was rejected by black people. I knew from a very early age that I would have to define myself as an individual, and I think that my gravitation to this music was very natural. I liked it, so I listened to it, and that was very simple. Now, you’re seeing a lot of young women and women older than me [Laina was born in 1969] who are into these heavier genres of music. It is a very simple [internal] decision. The complicated part of it is the outside saying: “No, we don’t feel comfortable with you being an individual; you have to be a certain way, in order to make us feel comfortable.” Something stood out in your book for me reclaiming metal as stemming from the structure of the blues. I thought that was really important.

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Well, if you listen to early Black Sabbath, or watch early interviews from members of Black Sabbath, they will say, “We started off as a blues band. We were influenced by African American blues.” A lot of the early bands, even to this day, if you listen to doom or sludge (like Eyehategod), it’s all blues music. You try to tell people that, and they don’t get it; they still see white faces performing the music.


There are also people who say, “Oh, I know there’s this band that hates women or there’s a band that speaks about raping women, but it’s art.” There is a degree of freedom of expression allowed, because it might not affect them personally. It’s a very challenging situation, [. . .] which is why I ask the [following] question in the book as part of my survey: “What would you do if you found out that a band you really like or listen to told you that they are philosophically against what your views are?” Because I dealt with [that] as a listener and as a fan. It’s complicated, for sure. When I was reading your book, so many women you reached out to were hesitant to “talk about racial and sexual politics in fear that their white colleagues would be turned off.” What is your advice for various genders and musicians of color now who are interested in rock, or who want to become a figure in the scene? I would still say it’s important to speak out, but it’s a double-edged sword. I think it’s important to speak, because people have to understand that there are others listening and learning from you, so what you say has power. What you say can make someone think, it can make a difference, it can make a change. On the other hand,

it can also turn people off of you. I know people who are very open in terms of speaking out against issues of racism and sexism within the heavy metal scene, and I also know that that has hindered them from certain opportunities. But I do believe that you only have one life. You have to stay true to your convictions, but it’s not going to be an easy road. I think [certain artists] who didn’t want to speak to me are really in the media spotlight and have been monetarily successful. I can completely understand that. And we have to understand that their experience is real and valid, despite not wanting to “politicize” their presence within their scenes, their representation will still help a lot of people. Now we’re talking about politics and its impact on commercial success. I think that’s true. I’m writing [at the time] my thesis on extreme heavy metal cultures and a lot of the bands and the extreme metal record label industries are underground. It’s like that for a reason, and because of that, people are really passionate. So, when you start nitpicking at that community, the negative response you will get will be ten times harder than a response about another music genre. There are metal and hardcore bands with black musicians out there right now, such as Oceans of Slumber’s Cammie Gilbert, Bleed the Pig’s Foxxie Phillips, Tetararch’s Diamond Rowe, MilitiA, and Witch Mountain’s Kayla Dixon. In order to get these images out there, you have to be seeing videos, or more publicity about black female musicians who are in bands. You’re not really seeing that, but I think it’s coming. These musicians are just rocking out, naturally doing what they want to do as individuals and not part of a prescribed image that black women have to be in order to be in the public eye. Which is also a double bind considering the stereotype of the angry black woman trope, which severs many from the ability to be angry in public. Right, and I think that is one of the issues. People don’t feel comfortable with angry people or angry music. But historically, in heavy metal, it’s always angry people playing angry music, because the music came out of this white, working class, socially and economically disenfranchised community. [. . .] There’s always been a societal allowance for people like Taylor Swift to be mad, because some guy dumps her; there’s never been an allowance for public black anger. It’s hard. One of the reasons why I’m interested in the resistance to black representation within heavier genres of music is based on the false notion of why the music originated in the first place. [Also] it’s supposed to be inclusive, it’s supposed to be about the music. What you look like as a performer is not supposed to matter. Theoretically speaking, there is still more freedom for black women’s self-expression within heavy music, versus any other genre of music within popular culture.


Speaking of “supposed to,” what you wrote about Bessie Smith and the time she challenged the KKK during one of her performances—even when calling them out could have led to personal attack—was amazing. She was truly revolutionary, so it’s then sad to consider that she came to define how black women were “supposed to” look and sound onstage. True. She was challenging the status quo. For Bessie Smith, what made that story interesting to me was what she did offstage. Dur-


ing that particular performance, to tell [the KKK] “Get out of here,” was something that could have put her life in danger, but she didn’t care. If you look at Billie Holiday, her decision to cover the song “Strange Fruit” was a unique decision, because she talked about lynching and racism in an era [1939], in which it was difficult for black women to publicly share their opinion. Nina Simone is a really good example of what happens when you speak out. She was always an outspoken woman, and she suffered the repercussions of being political in America, where people came to say, “We love it when you sing about love, but we don’t love it when you speak about politics, civil rights, and Martin Luther King.” And she paid the price [commercially]. At some point, you have to break out of the prescribed “codes,” and do what you want to do. You have to be perceived as an individual. It’s so easy to say that to you and for me to believe it, but I think we also have to assert it. But there might be a price to pay. True metalheads do not care about the “other,” or your sexual preference, or your religion, or ethnicity. They care about having respect for the music and the culture. They care about having enough bodies to support the music’s evolution; they don’t care about what you look like. Getting back to what music is supposed to do: transcend.

It is very dangerous, because it’s a gate to the insidiousness of how passive racism can really [mess] somebody up. I found that through the interviews [in the book] and the interviews I’ve done since then, it’s not about somebody throwing a beer bottle at your head. It’s the feeling or silent understanding that you do not belong, the passiveaggressive microaggressions that are more damaging than anything else. For me, there’s nothing worse than going to a show and feeling a level of hostility that’s always there, which makes people not want to participate. I think that also as black women, we need something to balance the internalized negativity that is developed through how the outside world perceives us. The women that I interviewed found that heavy music serves that for them. That in itself, regardless of going to a show or finding friends, but just listening to angry music, is the only way a lot of us can justifiably feel anger and let that anger go. That’s the main key. Well, that’s a perfect note to end on. Just one more light question. What is the album that led you to self-proclaim as a metalhead? Judas Priest, Screaming for Vengeance, especially the title track. At 11 years old, it was probably the heaviest, loudest, most aggressive track I’d ever heard. It made my heart race, made goose bumps on my arms. I became a massive Judas Priest fan, and it made me search for heavier, and heavier, and heavier music.

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I believe it can and does, but the problem is that there is real threat of violence to cultural minorities. If we’re passionate about this genre, we have to look at the bad as well as the good, and we have to look at ways to make it better. I’ve had it said to me, “It’s just a few bad apples, so why make a big deal out of it?” For me, it’s the people who sit by the sidelines that through their silence are just as implicit in maintaining exclusionary practices that alienate people from participating. You have to acknowledge that sometimes the music brings out people who are angry for the wrong reasons and that is deterring the development of a culture that is heavily reliant on active participation.

I also think that it’s dangerous to define prejudice through “extreme violence,” or that only “hostile” racism is toxic.

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by Kristen Gleeson-Prata and JJ Jones

Polyrhythms have their roots primarily in music from Africa and India. After being incorporated into Western music traditions like jazz, they’re now used in modern metal and prog rock styles as well. If you’ve ever spent time learning or playing any of these genres, you’ll know the rhythmic complexity can be daunting. While there’s definitely no shortage of complicated polyrhythmic content out there to listen to and play, you may be surprised at how easy-to-understand and approachable polyrhythms actually are, and how many well known and loved pop and rock songs contain polyrhythmic elements.

The word “polyrhythm” essentially defines itself: “poly” (meaning more than one) + “rhythm.” When two or more rhythms are played simultaneously at the same tempo, and when those rhythms don’t have a common divisor other than 1, it’s safe to call the combination of those rhythms a polyrhythm. The beats line up on the 1 of each measure. Polyrhythms are noted as X:Y, in which X and Y represent the two different rhythms, for instance 3:2, 3:4, and 5:4. Polyrhythm of X:Y = X evenly spaced For example, in the polyrhythm of 4:3 (also said as “4 over 3” or “4 against notes played over the span of Y 3”), 4 evenly spaced notes are played simultaneously over the span of 3 evenly spaced notes. Generally, Y is evenly spaced notes. the basic pulse (or in some cases, the time signature) over which the I remember when I first learned the polyrhythms 3:2 and 4:3, my teacher counter rhythm will be played, and X used mnemonic devices to help me remember how they sounded. I still is the counter rhythm. use them today! For 3:2 (or 2:3), I use “white cor-al bells,” and for 4:3 (or 3:4), I use “eat your bright green spin-ach.”

3:2 mnemonics


3 / 4

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cor - al bells


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cup of tea


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George Wash-ing-ton


™™ œ œ™


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4:3 mnemonics 4:3 MNEMONICS Eat 58

œ™ 3 ™ ™ / 4 œ

your bright green spin-ach


œ™ œ

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™™ ™™ œ™ œ

a - tro - cious wea - ther


œ™ œ

œ™ œ


These mnemonic phrases can help you with simpler polyrhythms, but the lowest common multiple method comes in handy as they get more complex. The lowest common multiple (LCM) of two numbers is the lowest number that both of those numbers can fit into evenly. An easy way to find the LCM of two numbers is to multiply those two numbers together. For instance, to find the LCM of 3 and 2, multiply 3 x 2 to get an LCM of 6. To find the LCM of 4 and 3, multiply 4 x 3 to get an LCM of 12. To find the LCM of 5 and 4, multiply 5 x 4 to get an LCM of 20.





Let’s dig into the 5:4 polyrhythm to understand how it all fits together. The lowest common multiple of our two rhythms of 5:4 is 5 x 4, or 20. Now we can think of this polyrhythm as a rhythm that is collectively 20 subdivisions long.




























Try choosing any two numbers (that have no other common divisor than 1) and using the LCM method to figure out how to play that polyrhythm.

Polyrhythms in Popular Music Now that you know what a polyrhythm is and how to create your own, let’s look at some simple ones that exist in songs you already know. “Fool in the Rain” by Led Zeppelin is considered a favorite by drummers everywhere, and not only because of John Bonham’s genius take on the Purdie shuffle. At one point, he transitions from the classic 8th note triplet pattern on the hi-hat to quarter note triplets on the bell of the ride, creating a contrasting feel between sections. Since there are six quarter note triplets per measure, when played over the four main beats of 4/4, a 6 over 4 (equivalent to 3 over 2) polyrhythm is created. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears is another song that incorporates a 3:2 polyrhythm. The central groove is also a shuffle, but what makes it especially cool is the hi-hat pattern against a shaker that’s playing 8th note triplets: The hi-hat accents every other 8th note triplet starting on the second partial, meaning, like in our Led Zeppelin example above, the hi-hat plays quarter note triplets. Again, this makes for six notes per measure being played over a quarter note pulse, creating a 6:4 polyrhythm (simplified to 3:2). Led Zeppelin incorporated a 4 against 3 polymeter (a type of polyrhythm) into their song “Kashmir.” The drums are in 4/4 but the guitar and strings are in 3/4. The superimposition of two different time signatures creates a phasing effect between the two parts: 4 beats against a pulse of 3 beats (if you consider the guitar and strings to be the main pulse), resulting in a 4:3 polymeter. “4ware” by DeadMau5 incorporates the less common 5:4 polyrhythm. Like virtually every EDM song, the groove is a “4 on the floor” backbeat in 4/4. The synth plays a repeated pattern of five 16th notes on top of the groove to create a 5:4 polyrhythm. “Let Me Love You” by Ne-Yo is a great example of the prevalence of the 4:3 polyrhythm in pop/top 40 music. The chorus has a classic quarter note clap throughout, but a synth is playing a constant dotted 8th note rhythm on top. A cycle of four dotted 8th notes over the space of 3 quarter notes (which is then repeated over the bar line) creates a 4:3 polyrhythm. (See Lindsay Artkop’s article on metric modulation in this issue that also involves a dotted 8th note example.)

Musically, intricate and contrasting rhythms catch the ear and make a song or section more interesting. In a technical sense, spending time learning polyrhythms can greatly improve your drumming skills. Whether or not you actually ever use polyrhythms in a song, the precision, coordination and timing it takes to master them in practice can make the beats, grooves, and solos you do play in your songs that much better.


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Why Play Polyrhythms?




By JJ Jones and Kristen Gleeson-Prata

Camille Bigeault is a French drummer who has quickly made a name for herself in the drumming world as an expert on polyrhythms. (And to think her history teacher once laughed at her when she told her she wanted to be a drummer!). With an ever-growing social media following, multiple drum gear endorsements, and a stint on Drumeo, Camille is making big waves these days. Check out her mind-blowing videos online where she plays a different time signature with every limb!

Camille, how did your interest and skills in polyrhythms evolve? It began one day during a practice session. I was playing a nice melodic pattern over my 8”, 10”, and 12” toms in the time signature of 11/16:

I wanted to keep that melody going in my right hand while adding something on top of it in a different time signature just to see how it sounded, so I worked on adding an ostinato in 12/16 in my feet:


The outcome was amazing because the pattern in my right hand was only one 16th note shorter than the pattern in my feet, so the two patterns were continually shifting until they lined up together again at the end of six measures. I found this interesting because the hand pattern sounded very different by itself than it did with the ostinato in the feet, and when they were played together, it sounded a bit like a song. Next, since I still had my left hand free, I worked on several more possibilities. First I played quarter notes (one note every four 16th notes) over only my right-hand pattern, then over the ostinato in my feet, and then over both, and this added another dimension to the rhythmic “song.” Then I tried playing every third 16th note, then every fifth, seventh, and ninth 16th notes. Every combination made the rhythmic song sound different from the last. Your perception of a pattern can totally change when you put it in a binary or tertiary perspective, like playing accents on every third or fourth 16th note. I found the whole process so captivating that I kept working on different patterns and ostinatos that sounded good to include in my playing.




Did you study polyrhythms in school, or were they something you developed on your own? Both, actually! I started learning about polyrhythms with my teacher Jose Fillatreau at the Toulouse conservatory using Gavin Harrison’s method from his book Rhythmic Illusions. The book gives some starting points to begin including odd meters in your playing, for example adding a 7/16 ride or hi-hat pattern on top of a simple groove in 4/4. It introduces your brain to abnormal time signatures and illusions (implied metric modulations) you can play over or during a groove, without ever losing the perception of the “real” time signature. I only started incorporating what I learned from Rhythmic Illusions about three years ago, after I’d had enough time and practice to get comfortable with everything it covers. The book really helped me jump into working on polyrhythms on my own and using them with my own ideas. On one of your Instagram videos you wrote: “It’s not about independence; it's about coordination!” Can you explain that? I meant that, for example, when I play one ostinato with my hands and a different ostinato with my feet, I don’t play them as if they’re separate. On the contrary, your brain and body have to know exactly which strokes of which limbs are going to fall together in time, and which are going to fall in different places. It’s all about precision and placement, and to master it you have to know exactly what is happening with the rhythm and how your different limbs are coordinated. For example, when you play a 2 against 3 polyrhythm, you don’t play 3 with one hand and 2 with the other without thinking about whether their strokes will fall together or apart. One limb of your body depends on the playing of the other, because they are connected and working together. It’s like walking. You’ve internalized it as one motion or pattern, not independent motions of each leg separately. An example would be playing a basic 8th note groove with accents on the quarter notes and not needing to think

about those accents. That’s not independence, because at first you learned how to play a soft hi-hat at the same time as playing a strong kick, and this is based on how the two limbs are connected. Independence is kind of the end result of coordination. Absolutely true independence would be to play two different rhythms that don’t have any connection to each other (or common denominator, like 16ths), but that would be superhuman! To pull off real polyrhythms, you still have to understand where all the strokes are placed and how your limbs are connected or not connected to each other to play them with precision. Why would or should a drummer study polyrhythms? What are the practical applications?

You can find polyrhythms and illusions in a lot of songs, especially in progressive rock/metal or Indian and African music. Just a few of the many bands that incorporate polyrhythms into their music are TesseracT, David Maxim Micic, Icefish, and Genesis.


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Polyrhythms can improve your precision, give you a different perception of time, and make you conscious of spaces in music. They can improve your solos by giving you the ability to incorporate different groupings at the same time over an ostinato, and/or change the time signature or grouping of one or several of the elements. Polyrhythms also help you to start playing “over the bar line”: you can play different melodic parts that don’t necessarily end at the end of the measure or typical number of measures, but instead flow over the bar line into the next.


HOW TO PLAY POLYRHYTHMS Try different patterns in your hands while playing ostinatos with your feet (see notations below). Start with the easiest hand patterns, like constant quarter notes, then 8th notes, then 16th notes. Then move on to more complicated patterns, like playing 16th notes with only the second note of each quarter note accented, or just the third and fourth notes of each beat accented. To get crazy, try to play sextuplets or every third/fifth/seventh 16th note. Try patterns of your own, too! The possibilities are endless.

Feet ostinato in 4/4.

Feet ostinato in 6/8.

In the same way, play around with different patterns in your feet while playing ostinatos with one or both of your hands. (See below left, and also the notations on the previous page in 11/16 and 12/16.) Try different patterns in one hand while playing an ostinato with the other. Switch hands. (See below right.)

Ostinato in 4/4 with both hands.

Hand ostinato in 4/4.

Add a foot ostinato into the exercise from step 3.

TIPS 1. Take it slow! It’s important to understand each placement and to know when and where each stroke falls. Precision before speed.

Simultaneous hand and feet ostinatos: Feet (double bass) are in 10/16, hand is in 6/16.


Play some hi-hat odd groupings (e.g., 5 or 7) over a simple groove. When you’re comfortable, try complicating your groove with some additional snares and/or kicks.

Groupings of 5 on the hi-hat. The hi-hat is in 5/16 and played over a basic kick and snare groove in 4/4. This would take five measures to resolve where both patterns start over on the 1.

2. A metronome isn’t critical, but it can help you understand time signatures and improve your perception of beat spacing. 3. Start simple. At first, work on the easiest examples and use only two limbs simultaneously in order to ease your brain into more complex (and three and four limb) patterns. 4. Record yourself to listen back and critique. 5. Accents and nuances are very important. Choose which accents to play and stick to them. Accents bring polyrhythms alive and make them sound musical. 6. Switch up your sticking, and try every possibility!

Support Your Local Drummer. Cascio Music is dedicated to supporting drummers, no matter where you may be. We do this the best way we know how - by providing the right products at the best possible prices. Shop online at



by Lindsay Artkop and JJ Jones

Metric modulation is defined as “a change in tempo and/or subdivision which is derived from a note value or grouping heard before the change.” Implied metric modulation is a perceived change in tempo, derived from a related note value or subdivision. It creates the illusion of a tempo change, when in reality, you’re just stepping into a new subdivision created within the existing frame of the established time signature.

Let’s look at an example. Below is an implied metric modulation exercise in 4/4 time where we take a basic rock groove with an 8th note pulse and “modulate” it to a subdivision of dotted 8th notes. (Remember that a dotted 8th note is equivalent to three 16th notes, whereas a regular 8th note is equivalent to two 16th notes.) It’s crucial to understand that in this example we are repeating the same pattern, plugged into a different rhythm.


Basic 8th Note Rock Groove

Modulated Dotted 8th Note Groove


Inserting a dotted 8th note pattern into the time frame where we just heard a basic 8th note pattern makes for a sort of “drunken” effect on our ears, as if the groove is be-


ing played slower. Try playing both patterns while counting 16th notes out loud. It might be a challenge and sound strange at first, but with practice the concept will start to become more clear.

Create a polyrhythmic effect using implied metric modulation. Try having the rest of your band continue to play the original pulse, but you play the modulated pattern. The superimposition of the two creates a polyrhythmic feel!



Notice also in our example that because the notes are spread further apart in the dotted 8ths groove than they are in the regular 8ths groove, it takes three measures for the patterns to “resolve” (meet) back together on the 1. If you were to try this specific implied metric modulation in a song with your band and your band kept playing the original basic 8th note groove while you switched to the illusory dotted 8th pattern, it would take three measures before you all came back together again on the 1. Interestingly, implied metric modulation can create a polyrhythmic effect as well, since when we substitute a modulated pulse in place of an original pulse, the impression is of a superimposition of contrasting rhythms—the definition of a polyrhythm. In our example of 8th notes and dotted 8ths, 16ths are the common denominator; 16ths are naturally grouped in 4s and dotted 8ths are grouped in 3s, so the repetition of dotted 8ths creates a 3 over 4 polyrhythm and the feeling of a shifted pulse.


Over 16ths Diagram:

> > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > 4 œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œœœœœœœœœœœœœœœ œ Œ Ó ã4 1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a

1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a

1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a


Implied metric modulation can be applied using any subdivision. The below example modulates our original pattern into a triplet rhythm. Notice how the notes are now much closer 2

together in this example which gives an illusion of the tempo speeding up. Also, it only takes two measures for the two patterns to resolve together on the 1, instead of three like the


dotted 8th notes.

x x œ


x x x œ œ

Dotted 8th Note Implied Metric Modulation Grooves:

x x

x x œ


x x x œ œ

x x


8 5 13 11 13 11

x x xj x j xœœ ã ... xœ. x œx . x ‰ œx ≈ x ã .. œx. ã . œ8th Note Basic Rock Groove 3 3 œ x x œx x x x ã .. œ 3 œ œ3 x x x x x x œ œ œ ã .. œ

Triplet Implied Metric Modulation Groove: Triplet Implied Metric Modulation Groove:

x x œ

x x xj œxxj xxj . xx. x x xjœx xœ. x x. œ œ x‰ œ œx ≈ x œx. œx ‰ œxœ ≈ x œx. œ 3 œ 3 3 3 œ xœ x x x œx x x x œx x x x 3 3 œ œ œ 3 œ3 © Lindsay's x x Lessons x 2016. x AllxRightsxReservedx - Licensed x xfor Personal x Use x Only. x œ œ œ œ œ œ œ

œx œx œx x x x xœ . x œx . œx ‰ œ 3 œx œx3 œx x x x œ œ œ

œx x


xj xœœ ≈ œx x


xj x . ... . x .. 3 œx3 x .. x x œ ..

Modulated Triplet Groove

Try experimenting on your own by plugging a basic 8th note rock pattern into sextuplet or even quintuplet figures. You can additionally alter elements such as the groove or orchestration to create even more of a contrast. (It might help to transcribe your ideas first so you can see the patterns visually and be sure your math and counting are correct.) Implied


metric modulation isn’t just for doing mental gymnastics! It can be used creatively in many tions of a song. It’s an advanced drumming technique to be sure, but worth the effort!

See for implied metric modulation videos and interactive transcription links!

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musical situations, not least of which would be to create contrast between different sec-




SETUP Giulliana Merello FROM: Buenos Aires, Argentina LIVES: Brooklyn, NY AGE: 26 BANDS: TOP Queens, Me Not You, Computer Magic, Naiqui’s Band by Zoë Brecher Photo by Nikolai Puc

Tom Tom: What was your first kit?

Where did you buy your current kit?

Guilliana Merello: My first kit was lent to me by a friend. It was a THUNDER. And the first kit I bought was a Sonor birch. OK, I love Sonor.

I was 17 years old.

Well, that's a funny story. I bought it online from a guy seven years ago, and we met years later, and he is now my boyfriend! He’s also a drummer. I asked him to give me back the money for the kit, because we share the same rehearsal space, but he won’t! Haha! He won!

Why did you start drumming?

Do you have a dream kit or cymbal?

When I was 13, I saw Cindy Blackman playing with Lenny Kravitz, on TV and it made me want to do what she was doing.

I would like to get the latest model of SONOR ( Sonor Vintage series). As far as cymbals, it’s harder to pick because all the brands lately have made very good cymbals (Zildjian, Sabian, Meinl, Bosphorus, Dream cymbals etc.). But I always prefer Zildjian or Sabian.

How old were you when you got it?


How many drum sets have you had? I have had some drums kits but not many. Around five, I think.

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only keep one part of your kit what would you save? First the sticks, because without them, I couldn’t play the snare drum. Are there any unique things about your setup? The way I tune each drum, so that it’s my own unique sound.




Sonor Hilite 90s Steve Smith Signature

A Zildjian vintage New Beat 14"

1 Bass Drum / 20 x 16"

B Zildjian Custom Special Dry Trash 17"

2 Snare / 14 x 6.5"

C Zildjian Constantinople 19"

3 Tom 1 / 10 x 12"

D Zildjian Constantinople 18"

4 Tom 2 / 12 x 12"

E Zildjian Constantinople 22"

5 Floor tom / 14 x 14"

All my hardware is Pearl. I also use a Roland SPD SX and Roland Triggers.

I was using REMO until 3 months ago, but now I’m trying the EVANS Hydraulic Red.

STICKS Vic Firth SD2 Bolero, Vic Firth 5A Barrel, Vic Firth 5A, Vic Firth Tony Royster

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FATIMA And Yet It’s All Love Eglo Records September 2018

STOVE ’s Favorite Friend Exploding in Sound Records October 2018 Born out of a desire to explore and experiment, Stove started as a side solo project from Ovlov’s Steve Hartlett and has evolved into a four-member band representing a range of talent. Stove’s second album, ‘s Favorite Friend, highlights the band’s skill at creating music that navigates between individual musicianship and the band as a singular unit. In addition to Hartlett, drummer/vocalist Jordyn Blakely, guitarist Mike Hammond, and bassist Alex Molini have framed this album as an experience of processing and healing in reaction to personal loss and transition. Stove’s layered approach to music making creates songs that find the oft elusive balance between allowing individual musicians to shine and creating sound as cohesive as it is complex. In “Mosquiter,” Blakely’s driving percussion and Molini’s grounding bass create a foundation for guitars and vocals to deliver a satisfyingly saturated feel, while “Annoying Guy” maintains that foundation but allows for more distortion in its sound. The album’s storytelling mimics this balance—individual members confront their experiences with grief and uncertainty while establishing a relatable narrative for a wider audience. It’s heartfelt and filled with energy. Put it on repeat, you’ll find something new to love with each listen. Listen to this: when you need to sign off social media, put your phone down, and feel good about the world again. —Kerrie Byer


Fatima unleashes And Yet It’s All Love, as a fresh, new take on the alternative hip hop wave that’s been popularized by more mainstream artists like Sza. The world was introduced to Fatima’s explosive sound in 2010 with her EP Mind Travellin’, so she is definitely not new to the game. And Yet It’s All Love is a testament to Fatima’s eclectic style and rich cultural heritage, growing up in Sweden with West African roots in Gambia and Senegal. Her music echoes groove and soul of 90s R&B with a unique blend of electronic and funk. Full harmonies and her velvety voice deliver what’s on her mind, without being overly dramatic. One of her most notable tracks on the album is “Attention Span of a Cookie.” The song perfectly embodies the frustrations of fighting with your significant other with reflective, but comical inner rantings in the lyrics of the hook, “I’m just trying to explain my side, to the attention span of a cookie.” Listen to this: when you want to walk through the city in slowmotion at the expense of pissing everyone off, but you’re too busy feeling yourself (and the music) to care. —Kristine Villanueva

MISS RAYON Eclipse XRAY Records November 2018 When a band takes its name from a Velvet Underground lyric, you expect a certain amount of dissonant squealing guitars, dark, wry vocals, and self-aware minimalism. Miss Rayon's debut album, Eclipse, hits all those notes, and many more. Somewhat of a supergroup composed of Portland musicscene veterans Hannah Blilie, Jenny Logan, and Eric Sabatino, this trio deftly uses harmonies and interlocking vocal lines to fill out their already substantial sound. Tight, often perfectly accented rhythms and pulsing bass lines form a solid backbone over which surfy, reverb-laden licks, atmospheric arpeggios, and chunky chords flourish.


Eclipse as an album is greater than the sum of its parts; the trio crafts an intriguing, textured sonic landscape, and the material manages to surpass the culmination of its influences. It's an engaging listen from start to finish for any fan of the last six decades of underground, post-punk, alternative, or indie rock. Listen to this: while you catch up with old friends on a rainy weekend afternoon. —Stephen Otto Perry


MNR PLSR Gold Self-released October 2018 Gold is the debut EP from Brooklyn-based indie-electronic duo, MNR PLSR. These six tracks of self-described fringe pop, showcase Somer Bingham and Emily E’s awesome talents as songwriters and producers. With reggae-esque electro beats (the two originally bonded over a mutual love for Major Lazer), breathy vocals, and sparse reverb-heavy guitars, songs like the self-titled “Gold” and “Brilliant Creatures” lead the listener on a sun-soaked journey to the dance floor. Trading vocals between tracks, they experiment with pop melodies amid grungy guitars on the breakup anthem “KFC” and “Shake Me Up” (a sure favorite for fans of alternapop heroines Charli XCX and Haim). The album rounds it out on a lighter, softer approach with the aptly titled “Last Light” and the mournful ballad “Just Wanted You.”

MNR PLSR’s diversity of sound serves them well. By showing their range of abilities and approaches to the world of experimental pop, we’re left eager to see what they have next in store. Listen to this: when you feel like practicing body rolls around your living room while daydreaming of the beach. —Stephanie Gunther

JOHN DAVERSA (BIG BAND FEATURING DACA ARTISTS) American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom BFM Jazz September 2018 Upon first listen, Grammy nominee John Daversa’s newest album harkens back to when jazz audiences would sit around the record player, drinking and smoking cigarettes, contemplating the meanings of rhythms and patterns of the hottest track. American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom is not an album to simply have playing in the background. It won’t let you. It requires you to pay attention, not just to the harmonies and melodies, but to the message. This intention in Daversa’s arranging is not lost on this “woke” reviewer. And yet, my inaugural play felt like Florida's 2018 midterm election—dropping buckets of hope by ending a racist Jim Crow era law outlawing the voices of over a million people, and simultaneously electing a new governor who didn’t even try to hide his racist white nationalism during his campaign. So yeah, American Dreamers was a little hit or miss at first. But not due to any of the musicianship. Trust me when I tell you these musicians can play! Rather, the arrangements on some tracks felt overly technical and complex.

The rest of the album’s sound is true big band jazz with a smattering of music styles throughout the album, and within each song. “Immigrant Song” is another multi-hyphenate genred track mashing together rock, jazz, and hip hop by DACA rapper Caliph. Many of the tracks are original arrangements of America’s pop-culture songs about herself, e.g. “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Sousa; “America” from West Side Story; and “America the Beautiful.” The most powerful component of the album happens right before each song. Daversa preludes each song with a DACA musician sharing how they first found out about their non-citizen status as well as their chosen instrument.The featured storytellers really brings the listener into awareness of how quickly one can go from student to “criminal” in the blink of an eye. These musicians also put a face on Dreamers that isn't solely Latinx, recognizing that people from all over the world went to great lengths to arrive on this land with hopes of pursuing this dream. The American Dream—which wouldn’t exist had her “forefathers” not come here doing the exact same thing. Standout Track: “Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos)” Listen to this: As you chew on all the ingredients of beauty and pain that our nation of immigrants and thieves mixed into this “melting pot” from the jazz kitchen. —Jyvonne Haskin

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John Daversa, a masterfully skilled all-around musician, is an educator and Chair of the Music and Jazz Department at the University of Miami. This background may be why the arrangement of the opening piece, a cover of James Brown’s “Living in America,” felt more scholarly than groovy. Conceptually, Daversa puts together a perfect union. Dreamers, recipients of temporary citizenship status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Early Arrivals (DACA) policy, are being criminalized for simply living in America. The arrangement has a choir of Dreamers singing the chorus who vocally disintegrate midway, brilliantly falling out of sync and key, as the piece goes from big band jazz to a Latin groove. But the arrangement seemed too stiff and technical, that while my brain heard the high level of musicianship and the importance of having the sing-

ers personalize the chorus to “I live in America” in multiple languages, this smart concept took until my third listen to allow the unintentional staccato seem more legato.



WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST Directed by Lorna Tucker Finished Films Productions June 2018 “Like a knight”—this is how punk fashion icon Vivienne Westwood claims she saw herself at a young age, ready for action and engagement in the world, saving people from the cogs of the machine. In this spirit, this documentary acknowledges that Westwood’s work with socially conscious fashion and environment-centric activism are a real testament to her desire to make direct change for the better. Westwood’s influences were rooted in a time of extreme metamorphosis of lifestyle and ideologies in 1960s Britain, in particular, concerning the breakdown of the idealistic vision of “the American dream.” Her style was thus born intertwined with a radical new shift in values; clothes became a statement, simultaneously of self-expression and a direct challenge to the old ways of the establishment. As Westwood herself declares, “we invented punk.” The film alternates between autobiographical narrative and insights into Westwood’s modern-day work, and so doesn’t shy away from the hands-on process and executive control that Westwood shares with her partner, Andreas Kronthaler, and the subsequent emotional energy this channels into the clothing. Westwood’s style was always designed to provoke, and for a long time, she remained an outlier in the fashion industry; even today, she refuses to let her company become another faceless conglomerate, and takes pride in the independence this allows her, in spite of the multitude of work it demands. This uniquely unorthodox approach continues to be almost anti-fashion, forever flying in the face of couture tradition and stamping out her message of liberation, hedonism, and activism in her “glamorously outrageous” way. Even though it never was, nor ever will be, Westwood’s intention to expand to worldwide dominance, it is undeniable that she has become a hallmark of British fashion and culture, and this documentary effectively details the designer’s every battle against conservative authority, social norms, and structural inequality alike. —Chloe Wong

WOLRD DOMINATION: THE SUB POP RECORDS STORY by Gillian G. Gaar BMG November 2018 Sub Pop’s motto: “Going out of business since 1988” serves as the backbone of this book on the record label’s tumultuous rise, fall, and rise again of its 30 (30!) year history. Known as being the incubator of the Seattle grunge scene of the late 80s and early 90s, it has seen many iterations. First, as a tongue-in-cheek, scrappy indie label and then as a corporate partner with Warner Music Group after the death of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. Sub Pop, steered by co-founders, Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman, has weathered the birth and decay of grunge, and helped to foment the rock revival of the early 2000s with the Shins, the Postal Service, and Iron & Wine. It was one of the first labels to embrace giving away mp3s thanks to longtime employee Megan Jasper’s prescience of the importance of reaching consumers online.


When Sub Pop was operating at its most optimal level, it was supporting a local scene and building relationships with artists. When it was floundering, it not only had trouble paying employees and keeping the lights on, but as Jon Poneman says, he “championed some records that I think in retrospect were inappropriate for the label.”


But now the business seems to have a stronghold in the shifting sands of the music industry. Sales are steady, and they are putting out reissues of some of their most memorable bands. Publishing and licensing are a major source of revenue as they get spots in commercials and TV shows. They also have a successful imprint, Hardly Art, that cultivates new bands. And as Gillian G. Gaar points out, “giving back to the community is very much a part of Sub Pop’s philosophy.” “We had a rocky adolescence, and now we’re kind of going through a flirtation with maturity,” Jon Poneman says. “We’re always trying to stay inspired in a genuine way, and that will inevitably mean a shifting of perspective for the label. We’re proud of our history and the legacy that we share with the city of Seattle, but we’re always looking forward. That, to me, is always the exciting thing.” —Rebecca DeRosa



AQUEDUCT TREMELO by Tobi Parks When I first got word I’d be reviewing the newest EarthQuaker Devices pedal, I was excited. I have three EarthQuaker pedals on my board already, since they're one of my favorite manufacturers. Not only is every pedal handmade, but the EarthQuaker team is creative, artist-friendly, and truly a one-of-a-kind operation. So, I couldn’t wait to find out what I was getting! Then I found out I was reviewing a vibrato pedal…and my heart sank a little. I love EarthQuaker pedals, so I was expecting something unique, but the Aqueduct is a vibrato pedal. How crazy could it be? Oh, how wrong I was! When I first plugged in the Aqueduct, I knew from the initial sounds that I was not dealing with a “standard” vibrato pedal. EarthQuaker has compiled a diverse range of sounds in only three controls: Rate, Depth, and the Wave Selector. With eight modulation modes, you can go from traditional vibrato to otherworldly sounds with a few minor adjustments. Sine, Triangle, Ramp, and Square modes offer pitch modulation that adds subtle textures; the Envelope settings—Depth, Rate, and Pitch—allows you to modulate those features by how hard you strike the strings; and the Random mode couldn’t be a more apt description. On lower settings there is a “warped record” sound, but increasing the Depth itself also produces insane pitch bends. The simplicity of the pedal allows for quick and easy experimentation for pedal novices to create unique sounds that would fit almost any style. Even though navigation is simple, it won’t disappoint a true pedal geek. Those that spend enough time playing with the Aqueduct can really expand the pedal’s tonal qualities to include chorus, flange, and tactile tremolo bar-like pitch bends.


One of my favorite features is EarthQuaker Devices’ proprietary FlexSwitch function that allows users to press and hold the footswitch for momentary bursts of effected sound. Pretty convenient if you’re looking for cool bursts, blips, and synth-like stabs without sloppy double clicking. The only potential drawback of the Aquaeduct I can see might be its True Bypass technology. Many folks love this technology as the signal bypasses the pedals circuitry in the off position for a true, unal-

tered signal. For some, the buffering provided by pedals without True Bypass helps condition the signal allowing it to flow through longer chains without degradation. This is really based on a player’s taste and preference. I use 10 pedals on my most robust board and didn’t have issues when integrating the Aqueduct. I have already integrated the Aqueduct on a number of different applications on both guitar and bass. Even though I was initially skeptical, the Aqueduct is simply one of the most versatile and easy to use “vibrato” (quotes because it’s so much more than that) pedals on the market. True to form, EarthQuaker Devices has released yet another product that’s exceeded my expectations by offering a pedal that can be used in both traditional and experimental settings with just a few knob twists.



PYRAMIDS FLANGER by Alejandra Robles When I actually started producing and recording my sound with synths and instruments other than drums, I noticed that I typically used the “Flanger” effect. I love the space and disorientation it provides. Drums are my main instrument, so I sometimes get overwhelmed by electronic instruments and the amount of audio information they display. The Pyramids pedal interface is very straightforward, and I really appreciate that. It’s very easy to have complete control because navigation through sounds is pretty seamless. The layout consists of four top knobs which control the: delay, rate, width, and wetness. Below that on the left are built-in presets that you can modify or overwrite and then restore. I also must mention the bypass switch, because it’s not your typical bypass. By hitting it once, it turns on or off. But, if you push and hold, the effect will last until you release it. On the right hand side under the top knobs there is the Mode Rotary switch where you can select from 8 different Flanger Modes: Classic, Through Zero, Barber Pole Up, Barber Pole Down, Trigger Up, Trigger Down, Step and Random. To me, this is the most important part of the pedal so I’m going to walk you through my experience with each mode.

Right under those is the Rate and Tap switch. The middle setting is 1:1 (Normal), the left setting (Slow) means your tap is divided for a slower time, and the right setting (Fast) multiplies it. Finally, perhaps one of my favorite features of the Pyramids pedal is the side-chain flanging. The input/output allows you to trigger the flanger using an external source. Try it with a drum machine and bass —it will take you to a new dimension!

73 I S S UE 36 : P OL I TI C S

Classic gives you an old school, analog sound. Through Zero gives you negative frequencies that would otherwise disappear at the through-zero point. Barber Pole Up gives you a Shepard tone (superposition of sine waves separated by octaves) which creates the auditory illusion of an endless ascending pitch. Barber Pole Down creates that same auditory illusion with a descending pitch (Shepard tones are often used in movies to build tension, suspense or foreboding). Trigger Up allows you to produce a continuous upwards sweep that can be re-triggered by hitting the “tap” switch. Trigger Down is the opposite. Step sweeps up and down in increments while you control the glide between steps. Finally, Random lets you control the glide between steps, but the increments are randomized. If you’re like me and guitar isn’t your main instrument, these last two settings are really fun to play with since it can give a sense of endless guitar or bass strumming, allowing you to get creative on the drums.

Between the Presets and Mode rotary switches are the Feedback and Modify knobs. Modify allows you to control each mode (delay time, decay, sensitivity control, glide, high and low pass filter, etc), and Feedback controls the regeneration of the modulated signal.




DRUM DAMPENERS by JJ Jones Odds are, if you’ve watched any drummers on Instagram or YouTube in the last year you’ve seen a Big Fat Snare Drum (BFSD). Winner of a “Best in Show” award at this year’s NAMM, BFSD’s seem to be everywhere these days. I talked to Kris Mazzarisi at the NAMM show, owner and founder of BFSD (who’s also a Gretsch artist and drummer for the band LMFAO). His booth was packed the entire time, at least in part because there were so many phat grooves coming from show-goers playing the drum set there adorned with BFSDs. BFSD’s are drumhead-sized discs that sit on top of a drum head and act as a dampener, instantly reducing overtones and sustain, as well as lowering the pitch of whatever drum they’re placed on. They create what's been described as a "beefy" vintage ’70’s drum sound. Most drummers use some kind of dampening on their drumheads to remove unwanted high frequencies, whether it’s gels, gaffer tape or muffle rings. Imagine if any of these dampening methods covered the entire head. While the Original BFSD is typically used on a snare (change your tone on the fly without re-tuning or swapping drums), there are now BFSD models of various thicknesses and drum sizes, as well as ones to be used on cymbals. After experimenting with everything I was sent, I settled on the Steve’s Donut model for my snare, floor tom and 13” rack tom (putting one on my 12” tom made it too dead). I like that the hole of the Donut allows for some of the drumhead to remain exposed, meaning while most of the overtones have been removed by the BFSD, there’s still some of the liveliness (and texture if it’s a coated head) of a “naked” drumhead as well.


On my snare, I’ll change out various BFSD models depending on the style and sound I’m going for: The Original for a phat ’70’s sound, a Steve’s Donut for general use in multiple styles, a super-thick Green Monster for a completely dead sound, and a tambourine-jingle laden Snare-Bourine-Donut to add some cool higher-frequencies. For my hi-hat, I like to lay on a Big Fat Octopus in place of a tambourine (and it’s MUCH smaller and lighter). For my floor tom, though… Seriously, y’all, the BFSD Steve's Donut has rocked my world and has given me the floor tom sound OF MY DREAMS! Growling, deep and punchy—perfect for those cool linear fills that incorporate the kick (since it basically makes your floor tom

sound like a second bass drum), with none of the boomy, flappy, toomuch-sustain floor tom overtones of yore. In fact, I never take the Donut off my floor tom, I love it so much, and I actually travel with one to put on any backline kit I might encounter at a show. “But can’t I just cut the hoop off an old drum head and get the same effect, like drummers have been doing for years?”, you ask. Yes and no. That old trick was definitely the original inspiration here, but BFSD’s are much heavier-weighted than most drumheads, they have a rubberized gasket around the edge that helps with balance and stability, there’s a thumbhole for easy removal, and they’re just plain cool looking (there are even models with artwork, like mandalas and a moonscape). Check out the many video reviews and demos of BFSD’s on YouTube, and the audio samples on the BFSD website. Try a $38 Combo Pack containing an Original and a Steve’s Donut and put them on your snare and floor tom. It will transform your drum sound and you may just fall in love with your kit all over again. I did!

coming 2019




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