D I S P L AY W I N T E R 2 0 1 7/ 1 8
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CONTRIBUTORS FOUNDER | PUBLISHER
Mindy Seegal Abovitz (email@example.com)
Liz Tracy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Marisa Kurk (email@example.com)
Rebecca DeRosa (firstname.lastname@example.org)
JJ Jones (email@example.com)
Pippa Kelmenson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHLOE SAAVEDRA Writer
JASMINE BOURGEOIS Writer
LIZ PAVLOVIC Illustrator
PETRA ERIKSSON Illustrator
PRINT WRITERS Shaina Joy Machlus, Jasmine
Bourgeois, Abby Black, Shelly Simon, Alex Maiolo, Debbie Attias, Pippa Kelmenson, Geoff Shelton, SassyBlack, Mackenzie Peck, Chloe Saavedra, Mariel Berger, Alex Maiolo, Liz Tracy,
PHOTOGRAPHERS Ian Young, Shelly Simon, Xavier Li, Walter Wlodarczyk, Bobby Cochran, Nedda Afsari, Javier Ortega, Eva Carasol, CJ Harvey, Christine Mitchell,
ILLUSTRATORS Liz Pavlovic, Petra Eriksson, Rachal Duggan
TECH WRITERS Kristen Gleeson-Prata, Kassandra Kocoshis, Morgan Doctor, JJ Jones, Zoë Brecher
MUSIC & MEDIA REVIEWS Chantal Wright, Arlene Telly Vivar, Jessica Perez, Carolina Enriquez Swan
GEAR REVIEWS Anthony Brisson, Lisa Schonberg COPY EDITOR Bernadette Malavarca WEB WEB MANAGER Lindsey Anderson
TOM TOM SHOP MANAGER
Susan Taylor (email@example.com)
Revival Agency, Jen Carlson
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ON THE COVER: Thunderpussy by Christine Mitchell
MARKETING & PARTNERSHIPS
Shelly Simon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rony Abovitz, Lisa Schonberg, Kiran Gandhi, Chloe Saavedra, Sean Desiree, Shaina Joy Machlus, Lindsey Anderson, Rosana Cabán
Ima, Rony, Shani, Chris J Monk, Col Col, La Moutique, all the old school Tom Tom folks, Moog Music's Team, The Mag Mob, Issuu, the Lisbon drummers, the Strand, Pia, Nick Gordon and the Beat NYC, and Harriet.
CORRECTIONS FROM ISSUE 31
Lisa Henderson wrote the Grace Savage feature, we are terribly sorry we miscredited
THE MISSION Tom Tom Magazine ® is the only magazine in the world dedicated to female and gender non-conforming drummers. We are a quarterly print magazine, website, social media community, IRL community, events, drum academy, 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 Mitch Boyer
Letter From the Editor
When you see, hear, or read about “women and sex” in the media, it’s usually exploitative and focused on our bodies for someone else’s pleasure. You don’t see accurate, unbiased, non-fetishised accounts of sex and love. In fact, you rarely see or read narratives of females as the authors of their own sexual journeys. More often, we are the subject of someone else’s account. We at Tom Tom decided to address that with this issue themed “Sex and Love” and tell our stories. Some people might ask: “What does drumming have to do with sex?” And for us it’s a no-brainer. Tom Tom has been and will continue to be a resource and media company that represents the female experience. We will continue talking about real life in an unfiltered way and discussing all things relating to our lives as musicians candidly. Musicians, like everyone else, have love and sex lives. For female musicians, there are specific conversations that haven’t been held enough. In these pages, we begin that dialogue and share those threads. To quote a good friend and a sick drummer Kiran Gandhi, “If we don’t reclaim the narrative of our own experiences, somebody else will write that narrative for us.” This is us, claiming our own narrative. Enjoy.
Love, sex, and drums,
Mindy Seegal Abovitz Monk Founder + Publisher
***WARNING: SOME ADULT CONTENT INSIDE***
THE BEAT + THE PULSE
Everything from Emojibator eggplant-shaped vibrators to emotional, self-loving tips from Debbie Attias
A SEXY YES
This Consent Zine will change lives
LISTEN WHILE YOU WALK
Sonic artist and environmental designer Mileece explains how to do a meditative sound walk
Trans artist Sarah Hennies discusses the perception of her gender identity when playing live
SassyBlack interviews Ebonie Smith about engineering and playing
VERY HAPPY ENDINGS
Wax Idols talks about the life of a dom
Drummer Ruby Dunphy explains her journey with the band
COUPLES WHO PLAY TOGETHER. . . STAY TOGETHER?
Couples who make music together talk about the downs, but mostly the ups, of this intimate and creative setup
MANNEQUIN PUSSY POWER
The band with the sexy name discusses what the word “pussy” means to it
Mannequin Pussy by Ian Young
Internal Input A candid conversation amongst the staff about this issue's theme A month or so ago, we posted our first sponsorship ad related to sex and love (the theme of this issue). The post—which included the photo seen here, accompanied by text describing the product, and a link to Dame's site—began a dialogue with our readers and fans that we were not expecting. We received some pushback and responses like, “What does this have to do with drumming?” and “I supported Tom Tom for drumming—not politics, and certainly not sex education. Disappointed.” As a result, we began an internal dialogue among our staff members about how to address the needs of some of our audience while staying true to ourselves and the message we are putting out into the world. Below are excerpts from that internal discussion. We hope you gain some insight into why we have chosen this theme, and some of our newest sponsors through this conversation. Please reach out to us with any and all of your thoughts on this matter and all others! We welcome the dialogue. I really appreciate everyone’s comments. I really don't think we did anything wrong, but I think putting the post into a better context would be appropriate. I say edit the post (and make a note that it's edited) to give it context within the upcoming issue. And then make a second post where we explain and apologize to anyone who might have been offended. We have not welcomed misogyny or oppression and have stayed true to our feminist stance in this post and we need to reaffirm our values publicly in our explanation. I wish that drum magazine readers would give as much beef to other drum mags for their decades of misogynistic sexualizing and pigeonholing women. —Lisa
For sure agree with a lot of the things that have been voiced. I solicited a good friend's advice who has social media experience, and she feels the following (essentially most things that have already been stated):
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We shouldn't take it down. The language should be edited; folks don't need to know how the product is used, more so how the company is aligned with what we stand for, and why Tom Tom digs them. Ex: can touch on how Tom Tom's work touches on confronting fears and stigmas and Dame does that as well with their sex positive work. Super appreciated Liz's take on the kid argument, also really appreciate Shaina's bit on how early young folks are exposed
to sexual content. I know when I used to do youth work, I was shook about how 13-year -olds were very openly talking about sex with their peers and their personal relationship to it. I also think there needs to be a reminder of our mission to our readers; from my understanding, the intent of living under the mantra 'Drums. Music. Feminism.' was so we'd have the space to talk about things that not only affect us as drummers but also as women. In short, hard yes to reformulating the language on the post, relating it to our mission, and maybe talking a bit about what people can expect for the sex/love issue?
We do have to remember we are reaching the eyeballs of humans of all ages, with different life paths and what not. If anything, here's a strong sentence to connect why we support this product and what it has to do with TT. "At Tom Tom we support innovative badass women both in and out of the music sphere —that's why we chose to work with DAME products and other companies who continue to create conversation and solutions to empower women, drummers, and musicians worldwide." Thank you all for your awesome advice, wise words, and general great attitude. x
I will say that I'm super thankful to be working with such great people who are being super thoughtful about this!
First of all, thank you for including us on this and always considering everyone's voices. I wish we were in a place where sex positivity for women was more accepted and not thought of as inappropriate and needing to be censored. I see some of the concerns and agree with all you guys that making a really considerate statement/ response would be the best move. But also it's just a given that the more we challenge the norm of media that is catered to the male gaze, the more backlash we will get.
Shelly Simon here. I think it's a good move, what we did. Although the language next time can be a bit more discreet, it's to be argued that this post wasn't meant for "kids," because kids shouldn't be on Facebook. But it happens, of course. I agree with the past remarks of our Brain Trust in stating why we chose to work with DAME, how taking charge of our pleasure is political and empowering. If we want to continue to create and participate in conversations that are potentially controversial, then this is what has to happen. We shouldn't edit the post but instead back it up, as we are going to have to back up the Sex Issue (with awesomeness).
Love you all! Really excited about this next issue! —Chloe
Bands We Like
MALLRAT MALLRAT is a Brooklyn-based queercore band that’s raw and real. It’s everything good and exciting about the queer DIY scene, a bunch of queer kids translating their experiences into honest and cathartic music. The band members, Melo Davis, Em Boltz, and Ro Samarth, call themselves “gay angels making songs about living in a racialized, gendered, traumatized body” on Bandcamp. But there’s something more profound going on. The band is not just making music; it’s giving genuine insight into the way queer bodies navigate the world. Self-described as “intricate transcendent emo,” their songs fluctuate somewhere between sad, introspective ballads and heavier experimental tunes. Listening to MALLRAT feels familiar. Reflecting on the loneliness of queer youth-dom and the playfulness of making music with friends, it’s the type of music that makes you feel less alone.
Samantha Perez, Hannah Valente, Eva Treadway, and Sinclair Riley are the She’s. Dreamy beach-pop undertones ebb throughout the band’s music, but there’s something blunt about the way it is crafted. Though fun and bubbly, the songs feel urgent. The San Francisco–based foursome formed as teenagers. They four didn’t want to be labeled a “girl band," so they comically titled their latest LP, all female rock and roll quartet. This type of tongue-in-cheek humor—and subtle act of reclamation—is felt throughout the She’s music. The crew embraces vulnerability and shows a level of artistry that comes from years of crafting a unique style and energy together.
OH MY GOODNESS
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Oh My Goodness’s band name is like their music—unique, quirky, experimental but not exactly avant-garde. The duo, Therese Workman and Tyler Wood, describes themselves as “excite-bike” and “worry-core.” It combines electro-funk vibes with stories of discomfort and pain, creating an unsettling but oddly charming experience. The music is fresh, orchestrating harmonies between existential lyrics and poppy tunes that hit the center of your spine and linger in the wells of your ears. Newer than New Wave, Oh My Goodness marries emotive, anxiety-fueled thoughts with electronic beats, transcending boundaries with music that’s refreshingly creative.
Birdbath is fun and energetic. Made-up of Kate Siefker, Will Bowman, and Ben Craig, the trio blends free jazz with garagey fuzz. Part of the band’s charm is their exuberance, merging well-crafted riffs with fast beats that bring a lot of energy, without taking itself too seriously. The band stopped playing together in 2016 after Bowman pursued school, but their jams still permeate the interwebs. Siefker currently plays with the indie band the Dove and the Wolf, also worth checking out.
BIRDBATH Photos By (top to bottom): courtesy of band, Jeff Hao, Shervin Lainez, courtesy of artist
Recipes From the Road Brought to you by drummer Abby Black of Date Stuff
Date Bars Make these before you hit the road and you'll have a snack that lasts you the whole time!
DIRECTIONS: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1 cup pitted Medjool dates
2. Roast oats and almonds for 15 minutes.
1 1/12 cup rolled oats
3. Slowly heat peanut butter and agave in saucepan until smooth while simultaneously blending dates in food processor. Time management is key.
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds 1/4 cup peanut butter 1/4 cup agave 1/4 cup vegan chocolate nibs any desired amount of dried fruit (cranberries, coconut flakes, mangoes, raisins)
4. Combine roasted oats, almonds, peanut butter-agave sauce, dates, chocolate, and dried fruit in a large bowl and mix the crap out of it. It kinda sucks and is messy. 5. Finally, tightly pack down flat all those ingredients you smashed together, and in an 8 x 8–inch dish—or whatever you can find—cover, and freeze for one hour. 6. Cut those babies into bars, individually wrap (or put in a box, who cares?), and eat whenever the heck you feel like it. Yummy!
9 I S S UE 32: S EX + LOVE
Illustrations by Liz Pavlovic
Free Players Drum & Bugle Corps is the world’s first drum and bugle corps exclusively for differently abled folks. The corps was started in 2010 at the Family Residences and Essential Enterprises’ FREE Theatre Arts Day Program in Old Bethpage, New York, to highlight differently abled musicians with talent, a knack for athleticism, and rhythm. The corps has featured a number of talented people since its inception— including Jennifer Pace.
I'm in the Band 10 TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE
I’m in the Band is a monthly podcast streaming on Tidal, hosted/produced by Allison Wolfe and produced/engineered by Jonathan Shifflett. Bratmobile and riot grrrl cofounder Allison Wolfe converses with prominent punk and indie artists. Each episode explores an artist’s journey through personal history, coming to consciousness, musical awakenings, and cultural activism. Most of the musicians they speak with are female-identified, and the title of the show is a tongue-in-cheek reference to how a lot of us female musicians are perceived to be not in the band. Get into it.
Pace joined the Corps in 2011 on snare and became captain of the drumline two short years later. She doesn’t just rock snare, either. Before joining the FREE Drum Corps, she danced with ACDS—a New York–based nonprofit that provides a wide array of educational and social enrichment programs for people with Down syndrome and their families—and outside of drumming, she also plays and teaches guitar. She's had some impressive drum performances including the WGI Percussion World Championships, DCI Eastern Classic, USBands Open National Championships, Walt Disney World, and marched in New York City's Columbus Day Parade. Jennifer’s preparing for a big year in 2018. She’ll be drumming at the DCI World Championships, DrumLine Battle, and SoundSport.
Veggie Vibrators The originators of the eggplant vibrator, Emojibator, discuss empowerment through sex toys.
by Shelly Simon Photos courtesy of Emojibator Emojibator was founded in 2016 by a duo of dreamers, Joe Vela and Kristen Fretz, who were set on changing the way women masturbate. The company launched its Eggplant Emojibator in 2016 as a fun way to promote health and humor with sex toys for women. Now, their line consists of vibrators, pasties, lubricants, condoms, and greeting cards.
“A lot of women don’t consider self-pleasure, because it’s luxurious, or sexy, and it’s not approachable to a variety of women in the world,” says Fretz. So their products address the accessibility of sex toys for females of all sizes and shapes. “Growing up there was very little discussion about sex,” she recalls. “No one talked about it. In college, when finally exposed to the sexual education sphere, I found the sex toy industry to be an expensive, hardly approachable atmosphere for people like myself to enter.”
Vela says, “We thought: How can we reach the most people and create this conversation that goes past the bedroom and into dinnertime, being able to have a dinnertable conversation about sex positivity and pleasure along with empowerment and options.” Companies like Emojibator facilitate those discussions by focusing on the key element of empowerment, which can get lost between the sheets.
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“We want to affect people in a positive way by literally creating a product that can focus on making people happy,” Vela says. The two have the same vision for the company, though they stem from different backgrounds. Fretz was employed in politics on Capitol Hill, while her business partner, Vela, was a musician with the band Tweed. He had modest savings and wanted to start a project he could manage from the road. “I wanted to tour and to take Tweed more seriously. It’s a difficult balance between making money and making music. We all know which is the more important one.”
A lucky conversation between the two turned up a business that worked for both. “We threw a bunch of ideas out there, until this emoji idea, especially the eggplant, came into fruition,” Vela says. He also yearned for an opportunity to empower women beyond social media campaigns and clever videos—although those tactics have proved to be successful with Emojibator’s video series endorsing the tagline “Close the climax gap.”
a F vor r u
It’s not all about booty! We have hearts and minds, you know. We want to be loved, too! So, some of the Sex and Love issue contributors shared their favorite love tunes with us—some
songs they wrote and others maybe they wish they’d written!
“One of my favorite love songs is the song ‘Everything About It Is a Love Song’ by Paul Simon from his album Surprise. It’s one of my favorite albums of all times. I love the poetry of it, the subtlety of the beautiful Brian Eno sonic landscape, and amazing drumming by Steve Gadd. Yes, I’ve written a few love songs myself, some of them are ballads, which you’ll never, ever hear.” —Sagit Shir, Hank and Cupcakes
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“For The Victory Garden, which we recorded at the Suma recording studio with the recently deceased Cleveland legend Paul Hamann (the Black Keys, Wild Cherry), lead singer and guitarist Andrew Kuhar was playing around with funeral and eulogy imagery for ‘Danse Macabre.’ In the New Orleans– esque death parade images he conjured up, I managed to sneak in a line that I originally wrote to Megan on our wedding day: ‘I’d only ever look for you, even if I had a million eyes.’ We’re also huge fans of the National. Their song ‘Slow Show’ has always been a favorite, especially Matt Berninger’s final lines: ‘You know I dreamed about you / for 29 years before I saw you. / You know I dreamed about you / I missed you for, for 29 years.’” —Nick Kuhar, the Commonwealth
“Off the top of our heads, the Cramps, ‘Like a Bad Girl Should’ or Paul McCartney and Wings, ‘Let Me Roll It.’ Our love song is called ‘Spare Change.’ I mean nothing sexier than jealousy and desperation!” —Merica Lee, the Naked Heroes
“My favorite love song is ‘Wild Is the Wind’ by Nina Simone. To me, it captures the essence of romantic love in a way no other song has before or after it. Particularly the lyrics, ‘You're spring to me / All things to me / Don't you know you're life itself?' “I've not yet been able to write a song from the pure perspective of someone happily in love, but I have written plenty of songs about love, falling out of love and/or sex. I think the closest I've come to writing a joyous, in the moment love/lust song is ‘Severely Yours’ off of our last album, American Tragic.” —Hether Fortune, Wax Idols
“‘Shut up Kiss Me’ by Angel Olsen, ‘Once More to See You’ by Mitski, ‘Any Party’ by Feist, ‘Always’ by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, ‘Nothing Can Come Between Us’ by Sade, ‘Crush’ by Solange, ‘Garden (Say It Like Dat)’ by SZA, ‘The Louvre’ by Lorde, ‘Countdown’ by Beyoncé, ‘Be Without You’ by Mary J. Blige, ‘Into You’ by Ariana Grande, ‘Chanel’ by Frank Ocean.” —Lindsey Anderson, Tom Tom web editor
“I’m probably not as embarrassed as I should be to say that the deepest connection I’ve ever shared with another living being was with my old dog Tupper. Tupper, a Basset Hound, was adopted from a rescue group with a mysterious past, but it seemed clear to me that someone had abused him. He couldn’t ride in a car without puking from fear for over a year; he would begin to shake uncontrollably around animal shelters and kennels; and once he bonded with me, he began terrorizing everyone that came into my house. It took him almost two years before he finally stopped barking at my bandmates, who were in the house more than anyone else. We (the Weird Weeds) wrote a song about him called, ‘Tupper,’ a shameless, nerdy profession of my platonic love for him. I also used the dog as a proxy for airing all the ways in which I identified with his hard life and how he’d been treated, the weird things it caused him to do, and how this so deeply bonded us together. When he died a sweet, crotchety old man— relatively peacefully from old age—I was mid-divorce, and it was less than a month before I needed to find a new place to live. I was panicking, because no place I could afford would take my dog, too. He did me that final favor, expiring when he did. A class act right up to the very end. “The best love song I’ve ever heard is ‘L.I.E.’ by the Shivers. Keith Zarriello’s old bandmate said, ‘“L.I.E.” is my favorite song ever. Not just my favorite Shivers song, my favorite song EVER.’ I agree.” —Sarah Hennies, the Weird Weeds
ad o R a ke o u t S t o r y M
“On the first night of tour, I played a house show and really hit it off with a girl. We ended up sneaking into the owner’s garage and hooking up. After my bandmates and I loaded the van, I went to say bye, and she literally had no idea who I was! I had had a few beers, but I didn’t think I was too drunk to remember her face. It was so bizarre, and I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t even know what to think. Turns out, she had an identical twin sister who was also at the show. It’s a funny story regardless, but the fact that it was the first day is what still gets me.”
“We don't have a favorite, but ‘our song’ is Lou Rawls’ ‘You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine.’ Holly Hunt is an instrumental band, but I'd argue that all our songs are love songs.” —Beatriz Monteavaro, Holly Hunt
“Kris Delmhorst, ‘Hummingbird.’ I actually have written a love song, but it's a love song to breakfast! I had just joined a band comprised of three incredible songwriters. We were about to have song brainstorming session, and I was super intimidated. So, my way out of feeling pressured was to write a kids' song! I wrote it because breakfast is my absolute favorite meal of the day, and I love all breakfast foods. But it's also kind of an ode to my dad, since I have so many wonderful memories of him making waffles for us on Sunday mornings. “The chorus is: Pancakes, waffles, sausages and bacon / I can't wait ’til my dad will be makin' / Eggs, cereal, jam and toast / I can help that what I love most is / breakfast
“I recorded it with my kids’ band, Django Jones, on our record D is for Django, which won a Parents' Choice Gold Award and was on CDBaby.com's Top Ten sellers list for four months!” —JJ Jones, Tom Tom tech editor
—Zoë Brecher of Kalbells, Hushpuppy, Total Slacker, and others
"’Voyage to Atlantis' by the Isley Brother. This record has a great feel and makes me think of happiness. I have never written a love ballad." —Ebonie Smith, musician “‘I’ll Be Seeing You,’ Billie Holiday. My parents’ love song. Now whenever I hear it, I can’t not think of them. ‘Will I Come,’ King Krule: For some reason I had sex with my then-boyfriend in college exclusively to this song, still can’t figure out why. ‘Texas Reznikoff,’ Mitski. How I felt about said-then-boyfriend in college, specifically the lines ‘You keep your socks on in bed / Keep our hearth warm.’ ‘Ooh La,’ Vundabar. Current boyfriend and my mutual favorite song, especially when he sings the high parts.” —Pippa Kelmenson, Tom Tom office manager
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“And the bridge is: I love my dad / And I'm so glad / He loves me so much / He'll make me a bunch of / Pancakes, waffles, etc., etc. !!
What Is Love?
Healer Debbie Attias shows us how to shift into the vibration of love.
by Debbie Attias Debbie Attias is a Brooklyn-based healer, artist, and musician. She was formerly one half of electroclash act Avenue D. She currently hosts healing retreats and spiritual fitness Dancorcism classes. Find out more at funhealseverything.com. What is love? (Baby, don't hurt me.) But seriously, what is love? Is it a battlefield? A drug? A shield to hide behind?
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Remember romance? Giving flowers and writing poems now just feels like a brand of freaky role play. It seems weird to think about how we’ve evolved from love letters and mix tapes to swiping and ghosting. Are we more “realistic” and grounded now? I’m an old-school romantic (I’ll do anything for sweet nothings!), but crazy chemistry and out-of-control hormones have gotten me into trouble more than once, and there’s nothing worse than realizing that you’ve accidentally given someone tons of power over the way you feel. One minute you’re tap-dancing across a rainbow and the next you’re soaked in tears, clawing at the window, listening to 'Purple Rain' on repeat. But out of avoidance of pain, many of us have cut ourselves off from true pleasure. According to a Rolling Stone article, “Inside the Awkward World of Millennial Dating,” millennials (people born between 1983– 2000) are having a lot less sex and getting married a lot later than generations prior. While this can seem empowering—implying that young people have more control over their love lives—they’re also taking less chances in the realm of love. There’s a lot less fumbling, sure, but there’s also less intimacy. No wonder the world seems to be going crazy. But romance doesn’t have to be limited to just one person. You can have a romantic relationship with the whole wide world by consciously shifting your vibration. In every moment, we can choose to live in a state of love, when there's someone special there, but also when there's not. Talking, walking,
and moving through the world with love is a commitment that takes a daily effort and practice.
do whatever you want to do? And love it. Fuck it. We waste so much energy wishing things were different. What if you just decided that you are going to be who you are and walk around loving every single thing, including who you are?
Everything around you right now has the power to turn you on. If you can just refocus your attention from one object of affection (or obsession) to the entirety of existence, Let’s try it out. Sit up tall. Notice your you can shift into a state of constant cos- breath. What does it feel like to breathe? mic bliss. The breeze makes you fly. You’re Can you find pleasure in your breath? Take hot for the sun. The rain gets you wet. You a few minutes to breathe until you can lose your inhibitions and find a deep Everything around you right now has freedom from a place beyond your the power to turn you on. If you can tiny ego. As you walk through the world just refocus your attention from one as the element of love, energetic object of affection (or obsession) to heart emojis shoot out of you in every the entirety of existence, you can shift direction. This is the place where you reinto a state of constant cosmic bliss. member that there is no separation between you and anything or anybody else, and you vibrate with the love of sense your breath giving you pleasure. Now existence. In this state, you’re not chasing listen. Tune in to sounds around you. What anything or anyone. You become a mag- do you hear? Imagine that the universe is net, and the world comes to you. creating an orchestra of sound just for you right now. Listen to it. Enjoy it. Look around Deep inside of you, there is an energy that you. Pay special attention to all the colis vibrating in ecstasy. It’s pumping through ors, textures—details of everything around your veins and tingling up and down your you—as if you were seeing them for the first spine. You don’t always feel it, or even know time. Fall in love with the beauty of your surthat it’s there, because there are so many roundings. Notice how your body feels. Feel layers you have to get through to reach any sensations on your skin, and take a few it. Your thoughts, your emotions, and your moments to notice what feels good right physical body distract you. Then there’s now. Now bring your attention inward. Ask your conditioning, your beliefs, your past your heart this question: What is love? Feel experiences, what you “should” have and the answer without words. do and be. Who cares? What if you just
VISIT US AT
BO OT H #4 22 0
Player-Grade Vintage: 1970s Ludwig Blue Oyster Kit
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I S S UE 32: S EX + LOVE
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A Sexy Yes! An introduction to writer Shaina Joy Machlus’s and illustrator Petra Eriksson’s Spanish consent zine, The Sexiest Word Is . . . Yes!.
by Shaina Joy Machlus Illustrations by Petra Eriksson
Your eyes are about to feast on a preview of a very special project: The Sexiest Word Is . . . Yes!. It’s a 24-page zine in Spanish that covers the basics of sexual consent. This booklet is way bigger than a few pretty pages. We’re absolutely thrilled to tell you why. Tom Tom regular, journalist Shaina Machlus, came up with the idea after noticing almost zero information available in Spanish on sexual consent. So, although what you are about to read is in English, the zine will actually be published in Spanish and is the first of its kind. Petra Eriksson, whose illustrations have graced the likes of The New Yorker, Refinery29, Wired, and Vice, also designed and illustrated the zine.
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The best part is, although limited edition prints of the zine will be available for purchase, a PDF of the zine will be placed online to download for free. The big idea is to make this vital information readily available and accessible on a massive scale. For this reason, the zine was also formatted for A4 paper, which means it could not be simpler to print, and with illustrations purposely created to shine with even the most normal of printers or copiers, it will never be anything but beautiful. That means educators, health workers, parents, children, caretakers, and inquiring minds have free and unlimited access and an easy way to distribute information and start a conversation about ending rape culture. With illustrations featuring queer people, nonbinary people, trans people, people with disabilities, monogamy and polygamy, and even including a Harry Potter nod, the zine is radically inclusive. It will be published in Jan. 2018 by Ricarda Press, a humble and heartfelt new project of Shaina Machlus. Ricarda Press seeks to do small publishings of trans and cis women and nonbinary artists in an effort to amplify voices and topics that are too often ignored. Here is an excerpt from The Sexiest Word Is . . . Yes!.
Picture this: You and someone else are listening to a Phil Collins record, and you comment that you like the song “Sussudio.” In the middle of the night, the person comes bouncing into your space blasting “Sussudio.” When you ask them what the hell they are doing, their response is something along the lines of “but earlier today you said you liked the song, so I figured you would like the song any time, all the time.” Now replace “Sussudio” with sex. The situation looks quite a bit different. Not forcing a person to do something, like listening to Phil Collins, is simply part of our learned social skills needed to exist in society. So why not enact the same courtesy when it comes to sex? The good news is, there is a way of clearly establishing whether all parties involved in a sexual act are freely and gladly participating. It is called “sexual consent.”
What is consent? Sexual consent is defined as the agreement to participate in a sexual act. Consent is a way to establish if all parties involved are doing so in a happy, healthy, conscious manner, because, of course, the opposite of happy, healthy, conscious sex is never acceptable and more seriously, many times dangerous.
Why do we need consent?
Helpful Ways to Take a Pause
Nonconsensual sex is unfortunately a part of our everyday culture—in Spain and Catalunya, about 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives, and on a larger scale, 1 in 3 European women. However, the only literature on consent is on the age people are able to legally give sexual consent (as of July 2015, in Spain it’s 16). In order to combat nonconsensual sex and rape culture, we must expand and create a precise guide to the culture of consent.
Need a moment to breath and think?
Combat Rape Culture with the Culture of Consent “Approximately 4/5 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim. 82% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger. 47% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance. 25% are an intimate,” according to anti-sexual violence organization Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). These statistics demonstrate there is a need to establish lines of what constitutes a healthy and unhealthy relationship. Because so many rapes and sexual assaults happen between people who already have some type of relationship, it is possible that through education about consent, we can make sure these relationships never cross into violent territory. Ending rape and sexual assault means addressing the most likely perpetrators. It is not about educating trans and cis women, femmes, and all people, on how not to get raped, but educating all people on how not to rape and/or abuse. The rape culture, which blames and shames victims of sexual abuse, must end. It does not matter what clothes you wear, how many people you have sex with, what your gender or sexuality is, if you are a sex worker, into BDSM, whatever—you have the right to be safe and sexy in every aspect of your life, including your sexual experiences. Knowing how to ask permission and communicate how we want our bodies to interact with each other is the cornerstone on which to build a stronger movement towards fundamental sexual rights.
How to Receive Consent Don’t fret. Consent is both simple and sexy to obtain. •It is the responsibility of the person seeking, or initiating sex, or any sexual act, like kissing, touching, etc., to get consent. The person on the receiving end can never be blamed or held responsible for the other’s actions. • Be sure the person in question is capable of giving consent—if they are on drugs, drunk, sleeping or not conscious, they are not considered able to give consent. •Ask questions like, “Does this feel good?”; “Do you like this?”; “Can I touch you here?”; “Is this okay?”; and if the answer is no, silence, neutral, or anything besides a clear “yes,” then you should stop immediately. •Any type of pressuring someone into saying “yes” removes the validity of the answer. Power dynamics play an important role here; someone who holds greater societal or physical power because of their age, physical ability, job role, gender, class, etc. must make sure this is not influencing the given consent. •Every time a new sexual activity or type of sexual activity begins, make sure to get consent. •Pay attention to your partner’s physical and verbal expressions during sex. If they seem in pain, unhappy, silent, unresponsive, or upset at any moment, ask if they are okay and wait to receive a firm “yes” to continue.
“This feels good. Can we pause for a moment to make sure we are one the same page?” “Let’s keep going; I’m really turned on!” “You know, if you can’t take a minute to breathe and check in, then I am going to go home.” “Hey, I wanted to pause for a second to say I really like making out with you, but I don’t want to go any further right now.” “That’s cool. I’m having fun making out. If you change your mind, tell me, and maybe we can do other things.” “I want to talk to you about something. Sometimes when we are in the middle of fooling around, it’s hard for me to tell you what I like and what I don’t like. Sometimes I feel shy or embarrassed to show you the things that make me feel good, and I really want both of us to feel good.” “One moment—I need a glass of water.” “I don’t want to do this thing anymore. I don’t like it, and it doesn’t make me feel good.” “Why didn’t you tell me before?” “Because I didn’t want you to feel bad, and it feels like everyone else does it and likes it.” “Don’t worry. If you don’t like it, we won’t do it.” “So, if I change my mind, I’ll tell you but for now, please don’t ask me to do this again.” “Before we start, I want to talk to you about how to make sure both of us have orgasms. A lot of times when you finish, you think we are both done, but I haven’t had an orgasm.”
How to Give Consent In the culture of consent, “yes” always means yes and “no” always means no. You always have the right to say “no,” “stop,” “wait,” “pause,” “slow down,” etc., and be heard. Your body is your own, and you are the only one who gets to decide what to do with it.
•Silence, no response, “maybe,” indecision, or “no” are not consent. •A “yes” can be changed to a “no” at any time, and the person is in no way obligated to continue. • When involved in sex with more than two people, it is necessary for every single person involved to give clear verbal consent.
Visit consentzine.com to download the zine, get more information, and visit the online store (stickers and posters—oh my!). Comments? Questions? Collaborations? Support? Send them to consentzine@ gmail.com. Follow @consentzine on Instagram!
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• Giving consent is done by saying a clear “yes.”
T h e B e st
by Math Magazine’s founder and editor-in-chief, MacKenzie Peck
Ever wonder, worry, or stumble when taking care of your sexual well-being during tour? Here’s a collection of great sex toys to help you get what you need no matter where your music takes you!
When You Really Love Music Here’s a toy that helps you literally make love to the music. This wireless music vibrator pulses to the tunes you control. 1. OhMiBod Freestyle: W, $130 lovelifetoys.com
Versatile and Discrete Need something that doesn’t look like a sex toy, is quiet, and has multiple uses? Here’s the toy for you! 2. Jimmy Jane, FORM 2, $149.00 jimmyjane.com
When Only Your Partner Will Do They might not be able to go on tour with you, but their genitalia can! Sort of . . .
3. Clone-A-Willy Kit and Clone-A-Pussy, $49.95 and $34.95 cloneawilly.com
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Rear Gear Pretty self-explanatory. 4. Njoy, Pure Plugs, $65.00 / $75.00 / $85.00 shop.njoytoys.com 5. Hush Bluetooth Butt Plug, $99.00 lovense.com
Long-Distance Lovin’ There are a lot of great app and toy combinations for long distance hookups. Try these options for a steamy way to connect wherever you and your partner might be. 6. OhMiBod, Bluemotion NEX | 2, $129.00 lovelifetoys.com 7. Max and Nora Set, $190.00 lovense.com 8. WeVibe Sync, $199 we-vibe.com
For the Optimized Hookup Finding those one-night stands a little lacking? Bring along this vibrating cock ring, and get what you need to get off! 9. Je Joue, Mio, $109 jejoue.com
When You Need a Toy That Doesn’t Look Like a Toy Try these elegant object d’art and tiny toys to travel with undetected. 10. Chakrubs, Rose Bud, 65.00 and The Original Heart, $150.00 chakrubs.com 11. Crave, Vesper Vibrator Necklace, $69.00 lovecrave.com
For the Giver Looking to pack when you pack? Here’s a great dildo that penetrates all ways. Note, this style of toy is best for those with some experience. 12. Sharevibe, Fun Factory, €99.90 (can convert) funfactory.com 13. Joque Harness, $126.00 unboundbox.com 14. Tantus, Silk Dildo, $30.00 unboundbox.com
Nice Add-Ons Pack these—lube, a lipstick-sized vibrator, and some Goodwipes—for more fun and easier cleanup, and take your pleasure packing to the next level! 15. SLiquid, Essentials Lube Cube, $14.00 sliquid.com 16. Anker PowerCore+ Mini, $13.99 anker.com 17. Goodwipes, $9.35 goodwipes.com
Israeli born artist Naama Tsabar takes on the world of rock and roll with her fine art.
by Pippa Kelmenson Photos courtesy of the artist and Dvir Gallery
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Naama Tsabar is an Israeli-born, New York-based artist who works with sound to create sensually driven installations, performances, and sculptures. Her works evoke questions about bravado and power in the charged culture and physical spaces of rock and roll. Informed by her experiences in a punk band, Tsabar confronts themes of intimacy, performativity, sexuality, and excess. She examines and subverts the implicit gender roles and associations with virility inherent in musical and social environments. In her Transition series, Tsabar inverts amplifiers and speakers by installing their interior modules as exterior
components onto cotton and linen canvases. While visually composed, each canvas is also fully functional with a set sound, volume level, and power source. In this way, the artist magnifies objects and materials that hold a distinct functional purpose, inserting them into an aesthetically minimalist, immersive experience. Tsabarâ€™s work blurs the boundaries between medium and genre at the intersection of music, art, and performance. Her most recent work is up in the Museum of Arts and Designâ€™s Sonic Arcade: Shaping Space with Sound exhibition.
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Listen While You Walk
by Geoff Shelton
Sonic artist and environmental designer Mileece shares instructions on taking a meditative sound walk.
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Mileece is a multidisciplinary sonic artist, environment designer, and renewable energy ambassador. She has devoted herself to creating projects that, she says, “facilitate connections between people and plants for the sake of people understanding that plants are 100 percent equivalent to life on earth as we know it.” One of the many different ways she does this is through connecting small electrodes to plants that conduct the bioelectric emissions they emit. She uses her self-authored software to process this data and translate it into musical soundscapes that are pleasing to both humans and plants. That’s just for starters! Mileece shared with Tom Tom a sound walk exercise so that we can better understand our acoustic ecology.
Sound Walk Instructions:
Some basic attributes of sound:
First some vocabulary. As denoted by R. Murray Schafer from the World Acoustic Ecology Forum, elements to distinguish and recognize the environment include:
The higher the frequency of sound, the more directional the sound is and more prone to refraction and reflection. The lower the frequency, the more it is able to bend around objects and penetrate through them.
keynote sounds: sounds which form a backdrop or constant in the sonic environment. For example, the wind, water, birds, or now, commonly, traffic. They exist mostly without our conscious awareness of them. sound signals: sounds that indicate an occurrence, or specifically demand attention, such as sirens, alerts, or other sounds that we are typically consciously aware of. sound marks: a sound unique to an area. Sounds can be determined as belonging to one of the following categories: geo-phonic: produced by nonbiological natural sources bio-phonic: produced by biological natural sources anthro-phonic: made sources
acoustic ecology: the relationship between living organisms and their environment, as mediated through sound.
Now let’s get to it. Go for a walk and begin listening. While listening, it may be helpful to close your eyes occasionally. It takes a minute to “tune in,” like when you look up at the stars and initially only see a couple but then begin to see more. Take a moment to turn your attention towards sound as its own rightful “element.” How do the sounds you hear make you feel? Do those feelings change as we change the context of our appreciation of the sound? How do sounds interfere with one another (between a keynote and a sound signal, for example)? What are the ratios of geo-, anthro-, and bio-phonic sounds? Try notating the sounds as you walk, so a “sound map” can be created. This map will indicate the recognizable characteristics of a place exclusively by way of its sonic elements.
Photos by Tiger Tiger (above) and Logan White (below)
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Complex Simplicity Composer and percussionist Sarah Hennies doesn’t think you should assume things are simple. by Chloe Saavedra of Chaos Chaos Photo by Walter Wlodarczyk
Sarah Hennies is a minimalist composer who focuses on transforming simple instruments into ambiguous composing tools when they interact with a physical space. The New York–based, trans female and queer composer and percussionist has been playing music for as long as she can remember. She grew up in the indie-punk scene in Louisville, Kentucky, and started gravitating toward weird music at age 15. She is also classically trained, having attended a performing arts high school, and she eventually got her master’s from University of California, San Diego.
Hennies has her own label, Weighter Recordings, and is a member of improvisational group Meridian, and of the Queer Percussion Research Group. In November 2017, at New York’s Issue Project Room, with a cast of transgender women, she premiered Contralto—a large scale installation with strings and percussion. We took a virtual journey through Skype to speak about the connections between accepting the complexity of gender identity and the perceptions that come with playing live.
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Tom Tom: Your music is so much about physical space and how the room interacts with where you are positioned as a listener and all the intangible variables that cannot be contained in a digital recording. How do you reconcile turning that presence into an online entity? Sarah Hennies: I’ve steered my recordings away from a “you have to be there” acoustic phenomenon, because it was so problematic to record something and capture the full effect of the music. I just want to reach more people than I can from only
playing shows. Documenting your work is really important, but it’s no substitute for hearing live music. So many musicians now have the opposite feeling. They wonder how to translate their electronic music to real life. Recordings are always a different experience from live music. In some cases, the recording can be better, depending on what you’re trying to do. If you play a roll on a cymbal with soft mallets in a live performance, the audience sees that that is a cymbal. They see an object they recognize and have existing assumptions about. With a recording, you have the ability to remove those associations. It can be more imaginative that way. For example, when you put a mic very close to a cymbal, you can hear a really low fundamental that you can’t hear without the use of a microphone. The sound is totally transformed through the recording or amplification process.
My class saw your woodblock piece at the Bard College performance. Do you have an extent to how you apply manipulations to your recordings? Morton Feldman famously said, “I don’t push the sounds around,” which is how I approach making decisions while making a piece. I try to let the sounds dictate how I will use them. The act of making a field recording is already corrupting the experience of what you’re recording, because it automatically implies there is a person there recording this, and they are making a decision about what you are going to hear. [In an essay I wrote], I’m writing about my waterfall piece. I talk about the decision to insert vibraphone sounds into the field recording of a waterfall, because I felt that I was using the vibraphone to say “I am here.” The decision to use vibraphone was this acknowledgement that I am present in this recording, and without it, listeners might get the false impression that the waterfall recording is pristine and untouched by a human, that it’s just rushing water. But
Yeah, the way that I arrived at the things I’m doing now was by asking the question about sounds, “What is this really?” Because, yeah, it’s cool, a woodblock does this thing that you don’t think it’s gonna do, but why is this compelling to me? I came to the conclusion that the reason I was making this music for so long was because it was completely upending the identity of this instrument; it’s like what you said that if people hear a woman, or someone they perceive to be a woman, they immediately have all of these ideas, whether they’re aware of them or not. When most people see a person they cannot identify as male or female, it just “breaks” them. Julia Serano has written a lot about why trans women are disproportionately discriminated against and how people constantly categorize each other as either male or female. She goes on in depth about how damaging that is if you’re someone who does not fall into either category in a neat way. That to me is the real-life gender version of this kind of music: This thing that you’re making all of these assumptions about is actually way more complicated than what you’re willing to accept.
I was making this music and then realized it was reflective of who I was after the fact. It’s just a tool to learn, basically.
that’s never true, because I’ve had to make all these choices about how I’m recording the waterfall—where the microphone is placed, how long I will record it, what time of day, what the weather is like, and so on.
My class was shocked by the overtones and weird unexpected sounds we were hearing around the space at the woodblock performance. If you would have prefaced that piece with what you just said about gender and identity, we would have thought very differently about it. So many people talk about gender identity politics with their art and music, and sometimes it seems like it precedes the creation, which can detract from the depth of content. I think that’ s true. I think part of it is kind of coy on my end, like, “I’m not gonna give you any hints about this, because, I didn’t have any help.” I had to do this myself and learn these things that were extremely complicated and difficult. It feels more representative of the experience that generates the response, “What the fuck is going on?”— which to me is a great place to be. I almost don’t even care what the music sounds like. I can like almost everything, if it puts me in a place of not understanding what’s happening.
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[The] solo woodblock piece, [it] is a more direct presentation of challenging your assumptions about something versus what you actually hear or experience. The piece proves your expectation wrong about what a woodblock is and sounds like. There’s no right or wrong way to react to sound, but I’m trying to make an experience with sound that is ambiguous in terms of what it is giving you.
What do you think about the “doing” of listening and the assumptions a listener brings to the table while watching someone live? An audience member sees a woman playing this percussion instrument and has ideas about what that will sound like based on their preconceived notions as well as what they’re actually hearing/ seeing. The listener cannot escape the “doing” of listening unless the instrument player’s identity as well as the instruments cannot be seen, like in a recording. When you hear a female voice, you can’t get out of that box. But at the same time, we do certain things to combat this, which in effect makes it even more about gender. It’s a problematic cycle. Do you think about this conundrum?
You shouldn’t assume that simple things are simple. Not that I think of what I’m doing as trying to teach people lessons at all, but I feel like using art to create situations that are analogous to real life issues is what art is for. I was making this music and then realized it was reflective of who I was after the fact. It’s just a tool to learn basically.
EBONIE AMPLIFIED Engineer, producer, activist, and musician Ebonie Smith talks DAWs and PURPLE SQUARES.
by SassyBlack Photos by Xavier Li
Ebonie Smith is a multifaceted person. She is an engineer and producer at Atlantic Records and also the founder of Gender Amplified, a nonprofit organization celebrating women engineers and producers. She is a scholar, mentor, and student of the music industry. I had the opportunity to speak with her recently about her experiences and influences and how they helped get her to where she is in her career and life today.
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Tom Tom: How did you first get into music? Was there a moment, or a sound, that made it clear that you wanted to do this? Ebonie Smith: I literally came out of the womb—I know it sounds crazy to hear a person say—but I came out of the womb naturally knowing how to do a lot of things pertaining to music, like playing the piano; I kinda naturally knew how to do percussion; naturally knew how to dance. I always had a little bit of a latent desire to do music, but it really wasn’t until college that I started to really tinker with actually taking some of that natural talent and turning it into skill. I started taking courses at the Columbia computer music center in college and found my way to music production probably when I was 18 or so. That exploration culminated with me finding music production and just latching onto it like a moth to a flame, and it’s been a marriage ever since. Do you have a favorite DAW? What about it do you find enticing? These days I toggle seamlessly between Logic and Pro Tools. [With] Pro Tools, I’m just very quick, in terms of editing and mixing. I have been using it for about five years for work. It’s just so easy, but I love Logic, in terms of all of its functionality for composers and songwriters. It’s fun to use. It’s kind of like tetris but for music, you know. You just have all these building blocks, and you can put one on top of the other. I can write charts in Logic, which is incredible, the notation functionality in there. Also Logic is just very easy for arranging, dropping and dragging loops, arranging loops. It also comes with great software instruments. I mean I love Ultra Beat. I [also] love FruityLoops, but there is no Mac version. But [the] Ultra Beats sequencer, actually, funny enough, has a step sequencer in it that functions exactly like Fruity Loops. So I use that a lot especially for programming trapsounding beats and things like that.
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Also the sampler, the ESX24, is so crazy. A lot of people use Logic, because of how easy it is to compose and sound design, and if I’m really feeling in the mood, I’ll bounce out stems and mix them in Pro Tools, because it’s just so easy to mix in. Routing is just so easy. Routing is easy in Logic, too, but in terms of mixing and editing, Pro Tools is just the ultimate tape machine. If somebody put a gun to my head and said pick a DAW, I’d be like “Logic Tools.” I can’t really pick one; I need them both.
You are preparing to release your first EP, PURPLE SQUARES. How are you feeling about it, and what type of response are you looking for from listeners? I needed to make an EP, or just some sort of body of work, that I felt like was exemplary of the type of music that made me feel good and I felt like was a representation of me and my personality. I work with so many artists, and I’m constantly bombarded with different sounds as a producer and as an engineer [at Atlantic Records]. I needed a way to flush all of that out of my system and do music that I felt was representative of me. PURPLE SQUARES is just that. Now I have to take this project I made for me, and I have to position it in the marketplace, because I worked really hard on it. So I want people to hear it and appreciate it. You don’t want it to just fall flat. I put together some songs that people can connect to. It will be a really good first introduction to my sound. [People have] heard things I’ve engineered [and] produced for other people but people don’t really know just how far my skill set goes. I want to introduce the depth of my artistry to people, and hopefully, they’ll let me know what they like and what they want to hear. I’d like to start really creating with that in mind moving forward. You have been working at Atlantic Records as an engineer for some time now. How did you get that position, and how does it impact your creative expression? It was online, dude! Audiojobs.com. I was at a job that I was not trying to be at anymore, and I wanted to be a full-time music producer. I saw this job online, and I was like I have to have an interview. I applied online, and I didn’t hear anything. I had a [music industry directory] that had been given to me as a gift by a young lady I had produced a song for. There was a section for labels, and Atlantic Records was there. All the top executives were listed. There were 50 executives, no email addresses, though, just names and phone numbers. I started trying to cold call these numbers [and] I wasn’t getting anywhere with that. So I was like, “What else can I do?”
The previous year, I had a meeting at Warner Music Group, which is the parent company of Atlantic Records. I had met with an executive of Sire [Records] about some of my songs, and I still had his email address. I looked at the formula for the Warner Music Group emails, and I said, “Maybe since Atlantic Records is a subsidiary of Warner Music Group, maybe if I plug in these names the same way, I’ll get to these executives. So I did. I only heard back from one, and that one executive wrote me back one line that said “I’ve passed on your application to the hiring manager. Good luck.” A week later, I got an email from that hiring manager; he’s my current boss. The executive that emailed me back, Paul Sinclaire, is probably one of the greatest mentors I’ve ever had and is a tremendous supporter of me whenever I have any questions about anything, or if I need anything. He’s always there. He took a chance on me a long time ago when I took a chance on myself.
We first met through your organization Gender Amplified. How was this magical project birthed? What does it mean to you and what do you hope to accomplish? Gender Amplified means everything to me. [It’s] basically a nonprofit organization that I founded to support women who are looking to grow as music producers and engineers. We hold workshops and live events to [help] network young women in the business by helping them find mentors and guiding them to label heads and to other artists that can hopefully help them expand their craft. Gender Amplified started off as a senior thesis project. I was coming back from [Cameroon], and all I wanted to do was make music. It was the most depressing thing to come back to the United States and have to write a paper. So I was like, “Either I’m gonna make this paper interesting and work for me from a musical and production perspective, or I’m gonna drop out of school. I decided to write it about women music producers and to go out and start finding them. I titled the paper “Gender Amplified: Women in Technological Innovation and Hip Hop.” I was trying to find other women producers, and I really couldn’t find any of ’em. There were a few incredible organizations out there for DJs, and it was through those organizations that I started finding producers. I started interviewing them and thinking to myself, All these women should know each other.
Either I’m gonna make this paper interesting and work for me from a musical and production perspective, or I’m gonna drop out of school. I decided to write it about start finding them.
What does 2018 hold for Ebonie Smith? Anything else you would like to share or promote? A lot of positive things. Good health, growth, and God’s grace. Gender Amplified, PURPLE SQUARES. The EP is coming out. Still no definite date, but it’s coming out. Follow your dreams at all costs. Whatever your passion is, don’t be apologetic about it. Just go for it.
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women music producers and to go out and
I decided to put a conference together, and in 2007, my senior year, we did a conference at Columbia University that was attended by Trisha Rose (a seminal hip hop scholar who wrote the groundbreaking book Black Noise) and by DJ Spinderella (Salt-N-Pepa). People from all over the city came to be a part of this event. I think that was the moment I knew I had something that could bring people together.
Wax Idols dishes on the dominatrix life, the fetishizing of female drummers, and erotic zines.
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by Chloe Saavedra of Chaos Chaos
Oakland-area foursome Wax Idols’ latest release, American Tragic, emits a continuous aggression with a strong drum backbone, overlaid with lush, thick vocals and dreamy guitars. There is this familiar, hopeful sadness in the songs that makes you want to dance all alone in your bedroom. Charismatic frontwoman and dominatrix Hether Fortune and drummer Rachel Travers took a break from working on Wax Idols’ fourth LP, Happy Ending—set for a spring 2018 release—to speak with Tom Tom. They explored the struggles of showing strength, transforming fetishes into power, and the impact of zines.
Tom Tom: It sometimes can feel kind of impossible to be viewed as a drummer, alone, without preconceived notions and sexualization of your body while drumming. How do you reconcile this emotionally? Travers: It’s incredibly difficult. My entire career, I get people telling me that I’m great for a girl, and I’m like, OK, first of all, I don’t like the phrasing of that, for one because I’m way past adolescence and also because people can’t just see me as a drummer. They have to pigeonhole me, and because I’m petite, people tend to fetishize me. I try to ignore it to not let it get to me. It’ll sound pedantic when I correct people, but I want to just tell people, ‘Don't think of me as a girl drummer. Think of me as a drummer, trying to reach one dude at a time.’ [laughs] It has become more and more popular to be a female drummer. How do you deal with drum opportunities that have come your way that you know are partly or solely because you’re female? Photo by Bobby Cochran
Fortune: Yeah, even though it sucks to exploit yourself in certain ways, the hope is that the more people who see women, or nonbinary people, or just nonmen, doing all these things that men are more visible doing, eventually people will get used to it, and it’ll be just as commonplace as men doing it.
Fortune: I struggle with it a lot. When I was younger, I really gave no fucks. I was always aggressively confronting men and sexism and all kinds of things really intensely, and I didn’t care what anyone thought about it. But as I’ve gotten older, seeing how the music industry works, I’ve gotten a little bit dated about that. Even though I’ve seen a lot of changes in the music industry in the last few years, which is great—things are becoming more inclusive for everyone, not just for women—I know for a fact that there are some opportunities that I have not been given because of being outspoken and aggressive as a person. So I struggle with that a lot, wondering if it’s worth it, or if it ever really makes a difference. But at the end of the day, I feel like I know myself and what I’ve had to go through to get to a point where I have a band and can perform where anyone gives a shit—and it took a lot: a lot of survival and overcoming abuse, mental illness, and poverty. I’ve been through a lot of shit and a lot of it has to do with my gender, even from the time I was a little girl. I know that I deserve a certain amount of respect for what I’ve overcome and been able to accomplish. It’s a struggle, but I try to just remember the truth about myself and just keep moving forward and stay tough, because there are a lot of other women and young girls out there that need to see people like us doing what we’re doing. Even if it doesn’t seem like it’s that
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Travers: I feel really horrible, but sometimes you gotta get paid. I was an extra for this GMC commercial, and they were looking for female rock drummers [laughs]. I was like, "I’m gonna just get paid right now." So from a moral standpoint, it didn’t feel great, but I’m glad that it’s becoming more socially acceptable to be a woman drummer.
I was thinking about how, like, women started punk rock, and this idea that we are more punk than any man could be because we have to survive in this world and work twice as hard to be recognized and taken seriously. Realizing this sometimes can lead to a liberating response of just giving no fucks whatsoever. How do you deal with this love/hate relationship?
Photo by Nedda Afsari
Being a dominatrix is essentially erotic theater. My confidence grew a lot more as a performer. I was like, ‘OK, if I can impactful right now, it does make a difference. Girls have told me how much it means to them that I just exist and that is more important to me than any of the other things. I’ve read a bit in interviews where you’re talking about your upbringing and history of abuse. You must have to be so fucking strong. Fortune: I definitely don’t always succeed at being strong. I mean Rachel knows that, my band knows that. I think there’s this perception of me being this, like, ice queen, but I’m actually really sensitive. I’m just a big old fuckin’ softie sad person. Travers: Well, you’re faking it till you make it. [laughs]
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Fortune: Yeah, I try to project strength. I need that as a shield to survive and hopefully inspire other people. But it’s tricky—the public likes to see you as this one thing, and that’s all you are, especially if you’re in a band getting any molecule of attention. People decide you’re just this one thing, and it becomes hard to express the complexities of who you are. Heather, what is your zine Orgazm Addict about? Fortune: Um, sex! There were short stories from other writers, my friend Alexis Penny, who’s an amazing drag performer, novelist, and queer multimedia performance art-
wear some crazy fuckin’ fetish outfit in front of some creep for a sum of money, then surely I can go onstage.’
ist, wrote a really amazing piece in it, and I wrote some things about my early work as a dominatrix. And then I had a section called “Masturbation Material,” and it was all collaged images of Nick Cave. Growing up going to punk shows, finding this escape from traumatic things at home—does that parallel with your interest in becoming a dominatrix? Fortune: Uh, no. I mean when I was a teenager, I was asexual. I had not a drop of sexuality in my body. I was a full-blown tomboy and had zero gender expression whatsoever. I didn’t wear makeup, didn’t wear body flattering outfits, and didn’t know how to do my hair. I was gross. My intention was to repel men, and it worked. Then as I got older, I started having sex, and I was like, “Oh, I have this body, and I guess that’s OK,” and then I started blooming in that way. The dominatrix thing happened super randomly. I was as always trying to find ways
to make money, and some friends of mine were like “You should be a dominatrix,” and I was like, “Maybe I should,” because I’d been interested aesthetically in fetish and was finding as I was developing that I had some fetishes of my own! That had a lot more to do with my sexual identity being figured out in my twenties than it did with discovering punk rock. I mean sure the aesthetics of the early British punk rock movement reality influenced me, which is heavily indebted to fetishizing items and imagery, but once I started doing it, that sort of crossed over, because being a dominatrix is essentially erotic theater. It really bolstered my performance chops. My confidence grew a lot more as a performer, I was like, “OK, if I can wear some crazy fuckin’ fetish outfit in front of some creep for a sum of money, then surely I can go onstage.” [laughs]
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Photo by Christine Mitchell
by Shelly Simon
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Thunderpussy’s drummer Ruby Dunphy on the band’s “power to provoke, empower, and enrage people.”
Thunderpussy’s drummer, Ruby Dunphy, is living her childhood fantasy. She was still in elementary school when, she says, “I knew I was going to play in a band forever.” Ruby Dunphy got her start hitting the skins at age 10 in the South Side of Chicago, where she was born and raised. Her first band during those formative preteen years was a duo called Black Karma. Dunphy was always going to play percussion. “I liked being loud . . . I still do,” she admits.
She was heavily influenced by her musical education. She studied classical and jazz percussion for four years at Chicago High School for the Arts. She also attended Merit School of Music on weekends. There wasn’t really an “off” day for young Dunphy. People were always asking her the age-old question: Will you play drums in my band? For someone who really just wanted to be making music, it was always hard to say no. “I was in like five bands, playing in torn down, gnarly growth-ridden houses about three times a week, getting into fights with dudes twice my size, and playing at twice their volume. I got into trouble pretty much constantly, but it was so worth it,” she recalls. Her choice of studies reflect her accomplishments. Dunphy is the only female studying jazz instrumentalist drumming at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, set to graduate next spring.
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“I had just moved to Seattle [in 2014] for jazz drumming school. I had told myself I wasn’t going to join any bands,” says Dunphy of her intentions at school. “Sure enough, within my first week of living there, this girl I barely knew—now my good friend—grabbed my arm, walked me down the street to a coffee shop that Molly (Sides, Thunderpussy’s lead singer) was working at, and said, ‘Molly, this is your new drummer.’ I was like ‘whatever’ at the situation at the time and told Molly I wasn’t looking for a band. Thank God Molly stalked me. I was such a cocky little drum snob.” Thunderpussy includes vocalist Molly Sides, bassist Leah Julius, and guitarist Whitney Petty. The path to Thunderpussy’s world domination has been a steady, strong rise. The band formed in 2013, and for some time, the two founders of the band, Sides and Petty, put in hard, heartfelt efforts as a duo. Two years and two more musicians later, they have put in countless hours rebranding “cock rock” to incorporate more females.
It has been a brave new world for this northwest beast of a four piece. You can sell the band with its title alone! Though having no relation to the great Tom Petty, guitarist Petty looks to the late artist as a model musician for this defiant and determined group. The fundamental foundation of self-preservation and professional, political persistence is exactly the fuel for their fire. “Within a year, I learned a lot about Thunderpussy. I learned the power that these women held, the power to provoke, empower, and enrage people—all by just existing and playing music. If people got it, they really got it, and if they didn’t, they were mad. It was right up my alley. I knew that I needed to be a part of it,” says Dunphy. When talking about “being a female in the music industry,” Dunphy referenced a Carrie Brownstein quote. Brownstein was asked this mind-numbing, eye-rolling, unoriginal question: “What’s it like being a woman in music?” and retaliated with the most raw, realistic response: “Being asked questions like that.” At South by Southwest in 2017, between a string of interviews that reflected Brownstein’s sentiment, one stood out. Pearl Jam’s guitarist Mike McCready had a podcast that interviewed Team Pussy and focused on the most important element for a band: their music. He focused on their chord changes, their guitars and gear, and Molly’s too-good, makeyou-look-twice dance moves. In fact, after seeing them perform at Sasquatch! Music Festival in 2016, he worked to get their music (the single “Velvet Noose”) recorded and released on his HockeyTalkter Records. A few weeks after that festival, Thunderpussy cruised over to Oregon to record with producer Sylvia Massy and engineer Josh Evans. Dunphy wishes to share this story of the more challenging days of touring. “When I was 19, sub-drumming for Thunderpussy, barely knew Leah, Whitney, and Molly, we all flew for the first time all together to play a show in Sun Valley, Idaho. Going through security,
Photo courtesy of the artist
I think the words work well to almost cancel each other out, rendering the name more nonsensical and open to interpretation than anything else.
In November 2017, the group signed a multi-record deal with Stardog/Republic Records. Recently, the band headed to New York City to sign this deal and to play a Fuck Cancer fundraiser show for their dear friend, hairstylist and owner of Pickthorn Salon in Bushwick, Chelsey Pickthorn. They headed out on a legit tour bus filled with a media team consisting of photographers, videographers, and sound engineers, most of whom are their long-term collaborators and fellow women. Thunderpussy is passionate about raising up others with their performances, especially those who are kicking ass pursuing their own passions.
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already late as hell for our flight, all of our instrument cases got pulled aside and checked. They were calling our names through the intercom, and Molly and I raced to the plane while Leah and Whitney were still getting searched. I was laughing so hard at Molly running in ridiculous, dangerous boots. We got on the plane without Leah and Whitney and found out later that they wouldn’t let them on the plane: a) because they closed the gates, and b) because Whitney lost her boarding pass and ID. So, naturally, Molly literally held up the plane, standing in the doorway telling the flight attendants and pilot that we weren’t leaving without these two women. This is when I found out the power of Molly Jean Sides. So, somehow they got on the plane, and I was absolutely in awe. I was like, Damn, that’s my front woman.”
COUPLES WHO PLAY TOGETHER . . . STAY TOGETHER? Photo by Javier Ortega
Sure, people say that being in a band is like being in a romantic relationship, but it’s not exactly the same thing. A partner in life and a partner in music offer two different dynamics. For Tom Tom’s Sex and Love issue, we spoke with couples who make music together and asked them for advice on staying together, about the unique challenges and perks of their setups, and what makes their creative process different than cleaning the bathroom. Below are wise words from Hank and Cupcakes, Crushed Out, the Naked Heroes, Pocket of Lollipops, Holly Hunt, Slingshot Dakota, the Commonwealth, and Date Stuff.
hank and cupcakes by Mariel Berger Hank and Cupcakes is the Tel Aviv–bred, Atlanta-based electrifying wife-and-husband duo Sagit Shir and Ariel Scherbacovsky. They’ve been together half of their lives. They barely remember what life was like before they met. But 18 years later, the two create a musical experience that audiences never forget. They are committed to each other and to the band, so audiences get to witness the outcome of such a powerful, long-lasting connection. It turns out that their secret to staying together is also the secret to their amazing sound. They say it comes from not giving up, risking being vulnerable, overcoming and expressing fear, and growing together.
Sagit: The whole point of playing a show is to create intimacy and openness, and the way to do that is to do it yourself. The only way to break down the borders and open up everything in a room is to do that yourself. It’s an amazing experience to be emotionally exposed, because you’re so vulnerable, and you only get love back, in showing the love.
Ariel: Yes. Being exposed as a couple onstage is also a dangerous thing, because it’s intimate. People look at you. You’re in a place where people are observing you. You’re making your real life the show. It’s not scripted, and it’s not theater. It’s really us. If people don’t like it, they don’t like us, and how dare they! [laughs] But, it’s essentially every time you get onstage, exposure is the danger and also what makes a performance great. I do something dangerous. I put myself in deep water, so I know that I can’t go back to security. I know there’s no way not to make it. What other ways do you expose yourself and take risks? Ariel: I get onstage in a leotard! It doesn’t matter if you’re in a good mood or a bad mood, if you’re wearing a leotard, you have to overcome whatever’s happening in your life. Sagit: [laughs] Yeah, Ariel is overcoming shyness by wearing a leotard. Music for us is a place to challenge ourselves and push our limits. We constantly push ourselves to new territories. Everything that we do is an expression of overcoming fear, and growing. I used to be very self-conscious about playing a groove during sound check, because I feel like I’m more of a singer than a drummer. Usually drummers show off. I always felt like I was doing something stupid, but, as artists, we should feel constantly insecure. That happens if you’re challenging yourself. But if you keep doing something long enough, and you don’t give up on it, you’ll move past the insecurity. Does tension ever emerge after a performance, about the way you perform? Do you ever feel disconnected from each other while you perform? Sagit: It doesn’t happen a lot, if at all. If it does, the show brings us back together. Tension is usually a good thing. If something happens before a show, if you funnel that energy into the music, it’s very
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Tom Tom: I loved watching the music video for “Sweet Potion,” because you two are just looking at each other the whole time. It’s beautiful to watch, to witness your intimacy and chemistry. The way Ariel, you look at Sagit, it’s so mesmerizing, it’s almost like you’re alone in a room together at times, and then other times you’re there giving everyone in the audience a taste and moment of your love. Do you always perform with so much eye contact?
You ever feel like it’s too revealing? To expose your relationship to masses?
I really do feel that music can make that impact; it makes people unite in life and come together as one.
Photo by Javier Ortega
healing. It’s like going for a run if you’re angry. Or if I’m having some trouble with myself, and I feel alone with myself, then I’ll just focus on my performance and do the moves. Usually when you fake it, you make it. Once you start looking, the connection usually happens. Ariel: Yeah, it’s not like you can shut down and just not be part of it. Especially with a duo. Do you ever have tension in between the songs or onstage? I’m in a duo with my sister, and part of the performance is us actually fighting with each other. For real. The audience loves it. Ariel: Oh, my gosh, I could never be in a band with my sibling! [laughs] That’s even harder. We can fight as a joke onstage, but it’s too dangerous to have a real argument onstage, [laughs]. It might kill us. During rehearsals, if we get in a fight about music, it’s usually about something larger. What are some of the things you fight about? Ariel: Sometimes we have musical arguments about sound balance. Sagit said I was too loud and drowning out the vocals. I felt like it wasn’t the real issue. We changed the key, raised the vocals, but, eventually the solution was completely different. Sagit: It got very tense very quickly and became very personal. I blame him for everything that might be my issue. When we experience tension, it’s usually involves a bigger thing. Ariel: [laughs] Yeah, basically if Sagit doesn’t want to do a drum fill, we go back to her childhood: Is this related to your mother?
Do you sometimes feel like you put everything into the music, everything into the performance? Is there energy left for each other afterwards? After a show, are you just depleted, or are you energized?
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Sagit: Sometimes there are shows where I feel like I do give too much. There’s a balance. When you’re trying too hard and you push, sometimes I just feel empty after a show. It’s just a personal feeling. There’s something about creating energy and then putting it out strongly, but sometimes you don’t have it, and you’re pushing it. Other times after a show, there’s so much adrenaline there’s so much good energy, it’s like taking drugs.
Do you ever play music with anyone else? Let’s call it musical polyamory. Ariel: [laughs] It’s hard to imagine having another person. Basically every band member is in an intense relationship with their bandmates, and they don’t even have sex! With great bands, you have three or four people that achieve a certain closeness, which is hard to find. It’s easier as a couple, because we already have that. But sometimes having a third person there can help mediate tension, right? Whenever my sister and I play with a bassist, we behave much better towards each other. Sagit: In our last album, we had a producer, Van Goose. He was buffering all the stupid little tensions. Ariel: Yeah, with two people, it’s like a mirror, and something can easily escalate. Van Goose would just diffuse it immediately. There’s also 80 percent of the things that we wouldn’t even dare say if someone else is there. Sagit: We act civilized. [laughs] Ariel: It’s a very important difference, the dynamics between a couple and if you add a third person. We did well because he was producing us. So, it was like you hired a couple’s therapist or a musical couple’s therapist? Ariel: [laughs] Yes, and that only works with someone you deeply trust as with a therapist. Van Goose and we were such good friends to begin with. Do you have a favorite story that illustrates what it's like to play with your partner? Sagit: Last year, we played 71 shows during the last four months of my pregnancy. It was a tremendous effort and a path to the unknown, and there’s no one else in the world I would have trusted to do something like this with other than my partner who took care of me the way only a lover can. This year we toured for four months with our baby daughter, which took insanity and lack of sleep to a whole new level. That’s what it’s like playing with your partner: you make babies and take them along for the ride.
crushed out by Alex Maiolo Crushed Out’s live show is so dynamic, it makes you want to be in a band yourself. It proves it’s not only possible to rock out with your spouse, it might even be preferable. Drummer Moselle Spiller and guitarist Frankie Sunswept were neighbors living in Brooklyn in 2007. Two years later, they were playing shows as a duo. Now, a decade after meeting, marrying, and nonstop touring, they have taken their glammy brand of surf rock to over 800 stages. They spoke with us about the happiness playing together brings them. Tom Tom: What is your favorite thing about being a couple in a band? Moselle: I get to travel the world with my best friend on a wild and crazy rock ’n’ roll adventure. We cowrite, produce, and everything is 50/50 all the way, everyday. We never worry about time off because Crushed Out is our job, and we are the only two employees. Frankie: We have great communication and chemistry together. Being in a duo with your partner is unique. It feels like we are colliding or dancing in step. We balance each other out very well. I love how positive, fun, endlessly creative, and devoted Moselle is. What are a few of the challenges? Moselle: I’d love to have more people in the band, but that would mean overhauling our minimalist lifestyle. No kids, no rent, no cable bill. We are nomads always scheming up the next adventure. So the challenge is how to expand and bring people onto the team without losing the freedom being a pair brings. Also, from a partying perspective, we do have to take turns for who gets wilder at the shows, because somebody’s gotta drive the van!
Do you think it augments your relationship? Moselle: Absolutely. The show-biz roller coaster produces intensely dark times and the best times. To be musically productive, get an album done, edit a video, or get through a long drive, you have to be professional and treat each other like teammates. Frankie: Living the DIY rock band life is definitely a challenge, but we always remember to listen, love, and respect one another above everything. They say you should take a road trip together before you get married. We’d done six tours before we got married. How do you rely on each others’ strengths? Moselle: I’m a Jill of All Trades, so I do a lot of the tour posters, album covers, videos, and costumes. Frank has golden ears and perfect pitch. He can teach you any song after a few listens. He grew up in his dad’s recording studios in early ’80s Los Angeles, and we use some of his dad’s vintage gear, along with computers, in our studio in New Hampshire. Frank’s the primary songwriter, but I’ve been learning guitar, and I wrote two new songs off our upcoming fifth album, Stay Wild Gator Child, due out March 2018 on Romans Records. Frankie: Moselle has helped me to be more spontaneous. Our music is born organically from jamming and hitting record, so at the end of the day we have something to listen to. Since we communicate so well, we just edit as we go. Moselle helps me with concepts for vocals and vibes a lot. We are always vibing on our next move together. As the cliché goes, a band actually is a lot like a marriage.
Do you feel like you have an advantage because there are just two of you? Moselle: Yes, it makes life so simple. You don’t have to wrangle a group of people together for band practice. It’s easy to have conversations about artistic direction and make important decisions on the fly. Our touring rig is relatively compact, and it’s just more affordable to travel as two people. Frankie: It’s given us more time and freedom to develop, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges that may have broken up a traditional band. Since we are a solid couple, we always came out much stronger. What’s your favorite thing about seeing the world in this manner with the person you love? Frankie: We are so lucky to get to travel together. If we have a day off, we can go camping, play acoustic guitars by a fire, or go swimming. It’s also wonderful that one of us doesn’t come home from a tour with all of these great stories to share with the person who was at home working. We experience it together!
Photo courtesy of the band
the naked heroes by Jasmine Bourgeois
Photo courtesy of the band
Fashionable, funky, and packed with soul, the Naked Heroes are Merica Lee and George Jackson. Hailing from Brooklyn, the pair blurs the lines between synthy dream pop and retro rock. The couple produces catchy tunes that pack a punch. But, luckily, you can tell that they don’t take themselves too seriously. We spoke to Merica about her relationship with George. Tom Tom: Advice on how to stay together? Merica: Be excellent to each other. Is it more fulfilling to be in a band with your partner? Merica: Absolutely. Has being in the band threatened your relationship? Merica: No way. It's been really good for us to have this thing together. We joke that it’s our rock ’n’ roll baby. Tell us your story. It all started with Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” I was sitting at the bar Hi-Fi in the East Village, that video came on the TV over the bar, and my friends started to complain about this era of Rod Stewart. What do you mean? This era is perfect! “Infatuation”? “Young Turks”? The random guy next to me piped up to agree with me, and the rest is herstory. After 10-plus years, we’ve gotten really good at collaborating. George and I are lucky because we have similar tastes and really respect each other. There are also only two of us, so we can do things like bring our best friends with us on tour to Spain to be our “guitar and drum techs,” which we absolutely did, and it was the effin’ time of our lives.
pocket of lollipops by Jasmine Bourgeois
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Part band, part immersive sound project, Miami’s Pocket of Lollipops is an exceptional musical experience. Made up of Maitejosune Urrechaga and Tony Kapel, the duo explores a wide landscape of noise and noise-making techniques. This band delivers not only original and well-crafted music but a wonderful encounter with the bizarre that transcends artistic boundaries. We spoke with Maitejosune about playing with her husband. Tom Tom: Pluses? Maitejosune Urrechaga: Jamming in our underpants, hotel nights on tour are fun and sexy, practicing at any time because the person is right there next to you.
I suppose some things that happen when you’re on tour with a band could be funny with your buds, like having to take a dump in a weird place with no toilet paper, but when you’re with your husband, it’s just an emergency. Or the time we were in a photo shoot, and I was in an S&M catsuit with really, really long curly fake nails, and George had to unzip the suit and hold it open so I could pee—but he probably liked it. We’ve started to do literally everything ourselves, from recording in our bedroom to filming videos on our iPhone. I didn’t even get out of bed to record the vocals for our last single. George just set up the mic next to the bed. We’ve gotten really good at organizing our time and space wisely so we can fit it all in. Do tensions affect band practice? Of course! I have thrown many a drumstick at George Michael Jackson. I’ve also made him talk about my mom for an hour in our pay-by-the-hour rehearsal space.
Minuses? Urrechaga: Haven’t found one yet. Has being in the band threatened your relationship? Urrechaga: Not at all. It’s made it better. We started dating march of my senior year in high school. Tony left school and was sorta living at a friend’s house. I would skip school and go watch him play drums. He would jam to the radio. Mainly Doors and Hendrix type stuff. One of our first dates was a Chuck Berry concert. Music was always around the both of us, either by going to shows together, or collaborating with bands in our scene. We were friends before we started dating, so we had a good idea of what we were getting into. There has never really been a reason to storm out of the house, or take things to a level where we feel defeated. We support all of the other person’s crazy ideas. We have both had the vision of being together at some point for the rest of our lives, so arguing over some nonsense is quickly outweighed. So it really comes down to: Don’t be a dick. Work it out. The problem wasn’t there before, so it’s best not to amplify something that does need to be amplified.
We don’t always do the typical household chores, because we have the opportunity to write music in our home studio. We usually communicate in song. One of us will be talking and the other is playing an instrument, and vice versa. Tony has a thing for clean floors. He dry mops three times a day, mops twice a week if he can. He handles most of the cooking, so he’s pretty good about keeping it together, not so good about throwing away stuff in the fridge. Because we are so supportive of each other, more things get done. I said, “I’m gonna write a ballet,” and all of a sudden, a piano shows up at the house. We have also had the opportunity to switch instruments lately, so I’m looking forward to sharing that with the audience. I feel like we are limitless. Sometimes our threads are wired together, and it works somehow. We only have tension during practice when trying to learn a new song, as far as making sure we’re on our marks and parts are accurate. You know, the “what the shit” look your bandmate gives you.
Photo by Tauni Western
Photo courtesy of band
date stuff by Jasmine Bourgeois
Karla and I met on Tinder two and a half years ago. The first thing we connected on was our love for Dippin’ Dots and music. We both had pictures of ourselves playing our respective instruments, so it wasn’t hard to find something to talk about. The second time we hung out was because I invited her to watch me play drums in a basement with my previous band. The third time we hung out, we were writing jingles together in her basement trying to figure out how to collaborate.
The plus? You get to hangout and do your absolute favorite thing together, and it’s so much fun. The minus? You don’t get to watch them play their absolute favorite thing with an outside perspective. Tensions definitely affect band practice, and it’s incredibly easy to let that negative air fill the creative space. I’m easily affected by my environment. There will be times we have to force ourselves to get through practice, because we have a show the next day, but we just got into an argument. Sometimes we get completely set up and ready to play, but we just end up not playing because it feels so bad. I know it sounds silly. Sometimes it is better not to force it, because we don’t want to bring that bad energy into something we love and have fun doing. We usually make up after skipping a practice and will have the best practice ever the next day. It’s fulfilling to be in a band with your partner, sure, but, I wouldn’t say more fulfilling. Maybe in a different way. It’s the most high and low I’ve felt playing in a band, but it feels amazing and comfortable and rewarding watching each other grow as musicians. It also makes tour a breeze. I think it’s a unique yet scary dynamic to have with someone you love and trust, being able to let your guard down and show each other that vulnerable part of your mind that creates. Usually people don’t see that part of your brain; they just hopefully appreciate the outcome but will never know what it took you to get there. I think every new song we write is better and more personally challenging than the last. I think that ties back into how to stay together. Being able to mentally and physically challenge each other, staying sharp and motivating the other to keep moving forward and getting better.
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Chicago’s Date Stuff is the brain and love child of Abby Black and Karla Bernasconi, formerly of Lala Lala. The two bonded over their mutual love of music and started playing together shortly after meeting. With Black on drums and Bernasconi on guitar and vocals, the two make sounds that are playful and poppy, complex and synchronized. Abby told us about her relationship with Karla.
My advice on staying together: Don’t move too quickly. Don’t get completely “lost in the sauce” that is your partner. They’re there with you for a reason, so don’t let those reasons fade away. Fucking listen and have something to say! Even if it’s stupid, just make sure it’s honest. Do small things for each other. Like make the freaking bed before you go, leave a cute note hidden in the page of the book she’s reading, bring her a hot lunch to work, because you’re thinking about how she’s vegan and can’t eat any of the food they serve there. Small things that show you have each other’s back.
Photo Walter Wlodarczyk
holly hunt by Liz Tracy When Miami duo drummer Beatriz Monteavaro and guitarist Gavin Perry perform, things get too cool for school. The diminutive Beatriz’s infectious smile spreads widely as she plays, while the towering Gavin’s brow furrows as his feet handle the pedals. Their sludgy sound is heavy and loud as Satan's cackles, but it actually lulls the crowd into a trance, turning the room into a peaceful space. The drummer opened up about their unique dynamic that exisits both onstage and in their everyday lives.
We met in art school, Tyler School of Art, in Philadelphia. We had classes together, Intro to Drawing, Painting on Paper, Painting Seminar, some printmaking classes, and later, Senior Studio. We hung out outside of school quite a bit and were always listening to music. We jammed together a few times and played one party, maybe two songs. It didn’t sound anything like Holly Hunt. It was fun, but it didn’t exactly work, and it would be some time before we tried playing together again. I think the number one secret to staying together is that both people have to cherish each other and the relationship. There will inevitably be conflict, some people may bail because of pride, or fear, or a realization that the work to move forward is not worth it. If both people can put aside fear and pride, and if the relationship is good and loving, you can stay together. But the successes, the agreements, the disagreements, everything is more intense. In some ways, the creative process is just like cleaning the house. You both have to be onboard to do it, not get distracted, take on different tasks, and admire your work at the end. It’s different, though, because cleaning the house always ends in the house being cleaner, while attempting to write a song might result in no song and a disagreement. Being a two-piece band, we have no tie-breaking vote. I believe it is more fulfilling to be in a band with my partner. It is for me. I think there is more trust involved. Sometimes in bands, there can be a mutiny, or alliances, or secret meetings. Unless you are the one and only founder, you can be removed. Sometimes even the founder can be removed. There can be creative takeovers in bands, too. Being in a band with my partner, I do not believe any of this can happen.
the commonwealth by Jasmine Bourgeois
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Initially formed in 2009 by Nick and Andrew Kuhar and Patrick Burke, Cleveland band the Commonwealth has grown to include musicians Jacob Chandler, Megan Cox, Brian Rudery, and Megan Poletti Kuhar. Since 2009, they’ve produced four albums and dozens of songs that sound orchestral and indie rock. Nick and Megan connected through percussion but quickly fell for each other. They got engaged only five months after meeting. Since, the two have continued to make music together, and the Commonwealth’s sound has grown with them. We spoke to Nick and Megan about their experiences dating while in a band together. Tom Tom: What’s your backstory? Nick: In the summer of 2014, I went on a short trip to Boston with my friend and bandmate Patrick. While there, we lucked out and convinced the team at Zildjian Headquarters to give us a tour of their factory. Some of the prototypes and exclusive designs there just blew the top of my head off. It made me wonder, “What else don’t I know about?”
After the tour ended, I immediately contacted a colleague back in Cleveland and asked her if she knew of anyone who might be able to expose me to percussion instruments that someone like me—a player who focused almost exclusively on the trap kit—wouldn’t even know existed. She gave me one name: Megan. Megan: When I was studying percussion in college, I focused mostly on Afro-Cuban and West African percussion. My teacher Josh Ryan, as well as another percussionist I’ve worked with and admire, Valerie Naranjo, really influenced my love of non-Western music. So you could say I was one of a small handful of percussionists in the Cleveland “indie rock” music scene who worked outside of the realm of the drum kit. Nick contacted me and said he was referred to me to meet up and talk about adding extra percussion to some of his band’s demos. To be honest, I thought the whole thing was a setup. I was recently single and dealing with the complications of that, so I was a little hesitant to meet. But as soon as I met Nick, I knew he was the one. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. We both did not expect that this meeting would turn into a relationship, but it did. It was fate!
What ways do you keep the relationship exciting? Megan: We have so many creative projects going on that the relationship has no room to be boring. Besides percussion, we are both audio engineers and videographers, so we have a side business, heypoletti! recordings, that allows us to keep on creating outside of the Commonwealth. We’re basically trying to create a life where we can eventually just hang out and make stuff in our house. What is your creative process together? What’s it like working together? The good and the bad?
Nick: Being married has given us a better sense of each other’s communication styles as well as what inspires us and what our limits are. Sometimes just a word or look during a long practice can help us know where the other is at, creatively or emotionally. The music challenges us to make creative decisions together for the Commonwealth, so playing together has always been an extension of our relationship rather than a threat to it. Just like we have to
slingshot dakota by Jasmine Bourgeois Initially a three-piece, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, band Slingshot Dakota is now made up of husbandand-wife duo Carly Comando and Tom Patterson. This tiny band has a big presence, making music that straddles punk and pop and brings a whole lot of zest. After experimenting playing as a duo, they realized how much they prefered it that way. With only the two of them, harmonizing their energies is crucial, and the chemistry between the two is palpable in all of their melodies. Carly shared the story of their marriage.
We were driving through Nevada. Tom and I decided to stop and gamble a few bucks at a casino. I got out of the van and in the restroom decided I looked “pretty dang good” after a day of driving. I told Tom this and said, “We should get married.” I was completely
brainstorm and compromise to pick out paint colors, or manage money, or decide how to landscape our yard, we get to explore with one another and find common ground in the music. Megan: I can’t think of any minuses to being married to my bandmate. Literally my dream in life, ever since I was in fifth grade, is to be in a family band playing auxiliary percussion and singing backup vocals, and I’m doing that right now alongside my awesome husband. He inspires me to be a better percussionist, human, friend. We’re living the dream!
shocked when he said, “OK!” We never did things the traditional way. We’re a goddamn two-piece band comprised of keyboards and drums, after all. We started Googling marriage chapels in Reno. The first place was full of such bad vibes, we thought this might be the worst decision ever. We decided we’d try one more place, and if it felt right, we would get married. We went to Chapel of the Bells, and were greeted with a ton of Dutch hex signs, which is as Pennsylvania as you can get in Nevada. In addition to wedding decor, there were signs that hung such as, “A home isn’t a home without a cat.” We called Title Fight and told them the address. We were immediately driven to the courthouse to get our marriage license. By the time we got back to Chapel of the Bells, our friends were there. They bought our bouquet as “something new,” and Tom and I changed in the bathroom. We were nervously sweating and laughing as we changed into our finest clean wrinkly clothes we had with us on tour—which happened to be beautiful all-black attire—and walked down that little aisle to the rest of our lives.
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Our whole band story after 2006 is wrapped up in our love. Slingshot Dakota has existed for over 10 years, and it had a completely different lineup originally, but we realized how much we had in common and learned a lot about each other on our first two-piece tour. Fast forward through drunk hookups and a few months of me not wanting to jeopardize our band for a relationship, we started officially dating. In 2013, we were tour support for our favorite band, Title Fight. At that time, we were engaged and trying to plan our wedding. We were ghosted by our caterer and became really frustrated with a wedding that was becoming more of what our parents wanted and less of what felt like “ours.”
Photo by Hilary Bovay Photography
Photo courtesy of band
Megan: As of right now, a lot of the percussion parts from old songs by the Commonwealth were written by Nick, so I have to learn those parts and don’t have too much room for my own spin on things. Kind of the opposite of how things work at home, because Nick never tells me what to do, obviously! But as we write more material, we are really working together on composing, and that correlates more with our home life. It’s a lot more of a team effort, splitting up household duties and writing parts together.
POWER Neither plastic nor weak, Mannequin Pussy is reclaiming a word with music.
by Shaina Joy Machlus
Want to add more energy to a room packed with 700 people, shoulder to shoulder, on a sweaty August Sunday in Barcelona? Throw Mannequin Pussy on stage, of course. The 2017 Primavera Sound crowd was there to catch familiar acts, but a curious name intrigued many as well. Mannequin Pussy was also given the thumbs-up by critics at Pitchfork and NPR, so many waited patiently for the performanceâ€”though the uninitiated could not have imagined the power of Mannequin Pussy.
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Offering something like a sweat-lodge experience, the group pumped a clashing, thrashing rock, garage rock, noise rock, and pop punk sound that thumped directly to the heart. Their sound is nostalgically characteristic of shows at the First Unitarian Church in my hometown, Philadelphia (from where the band also hails). There were the curdling screams paired with pauses and sometimes sugary, romantic, almost twee vocals; songs that end as fast as they begin; and a lightning bolt of noise energy that left you not knowing what just hit you but wanting more.
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Photo by Eva Carasol
The band’s current four-piece formation was a matter of trial and error, but this shifting led to something truly magical. Drummer Kaleen Reading holds back nothing, filling the space with cymbals and just the right amount of percussion to move songs along with unmistakable force. Marisa Dabice throws every atom of herself into every moment, singing and playing guitar, hypnotizing all. Thanasi Paul’s heavy guitar and Bear Regisford’s even heavier pulsing bass hang a cloud of sound over every song. Listening to Mannequin Pussy’s addictive album, Romantic, is the next best thing to seeing them play live. An album with songs that are so different from one to the next, it’s hard to understand how they somehow make total sense as a unit, yet they do. Tom Tom sat down with the group at the festival to talk pussy.
Tom Tom: Let’s start with the basics. How did Mannequin Pussy form? Marisa Dabice: Thanasi and I have known each other since we were five years old. We started playing music together about six years ago but didn’t really take it very seriously. It was just kind of like a cathartic outlet. Thanasi Paul: Yeah, just kind of like messing around, and then when we started realizing that people were connecting with our songs, we’re like, “Oh, maybe we should expand a little bit more.” And then we were like very fortunate to meet Kaleen who brought an immense power to the music that hadn’t been there before. And then, about a year after that, we met Bear and made its final form. Now we’ve been final-form Mannequin Pussy for like two years. Dabice: Yeah, and we all live in Philly. Bear books an annual 420 show, a marijuana holiday party show, and he asked us to play his show, and that was the show where we met him. But that was before we had a bass player, so it was just the three of us. And then we met him and shortly after that I think I made a Facebook post like, “Does anyone want to play bass with us?” And he was the very first person to respond. So it just magically came together! With this help of a little marijuana too. Dabice: Yeah, we have a great familial bond and are super protective of each other. We’re very family-like. Bear Regisford: I mean, I spend more time with you three guys than my actual family. I know everyone talks about your name, but your name has an such an impact on people. They’re like, “What? The word ‘pussy’ is in the name?”
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Dabice: We were talking about this earlier, actually. We’ve seen a really big cultural shift in people’s attitudes towards the word itself in like the last couple of years. We started making music under the moniker of Mannequin Pussy; it was like five years ago, but we just grabbed the name. We were like, “OK, if we ever like really become a band, we’re going to take this name, and we’ll see what happens.” And, back then, I feel like you went, “Oh, you guys, like the music, what’s the name of the group?” I’m like, “Oh, Mannequin Pussy?” And, they’re like, “You guys might want to change that.” I feel like I had a lot of people who said that: “You might want to change your name.” And now we’ve had people we’ve talked to who are like, “Oh, wow, it’s good to know there’s still good bands, so . . .
I mean, everyone asks about it! Regisford: That’s what drew me to the name. Do you think your band name is sexual? Dabice: There was never an intention for it to be, but I’ve definitely learned just how little control we have over how others will interpret it. The two words apart from each other hold such different meanings. One so sterile, plastic, devoid of a realness and the other used mostly as an insult, to insinuate weakness or submissiveness, as well to infer sexualilty. When they come together, though, they take on a meaning all their own. I think the words work well to almost cancel each other out, rendering the name more nonsensical and open to interpretation than anything else. Has having an overtly sexual name affected your musical experience in any way? Kaleen Reading: As far as playing shows, it feels exactly the same as playing shows as a band with a name that can’t be perceived to have a sexual meaning. It does get complicated when I teach drum lessons, and a younger student asks what my band is called. I either just give a vague answer, or use a band inside-joke name—Mannequin Puppy. They’ll find out when they’re older, or if their parents want to tell them. Dabice: It’s hard to tell. Sometimes I wonder—if we were given more of an opportunity in the beginning to perform and somewhat fail publicly because most people felt we had a “good” band name, if we had been named something that elicited almost no response at all, would people have given us the same chance to grow into the name? Maybe that’s a stretch. A name can be a good place for a musical project to start, but it’s the music that ultimately defines an experience. So, I want to ask you guys a potentially poetic question. What does the word pussy mean to all of you? Dabice: I mean, I definitely have felt you don’t want it to like really feel like a gender thing at all. It’s like very up for interpretation. But, especially being a woman, you have this word that has been used to insult you and others for like my entire life. I’ve seen people use this word to put other people down. And so kind of taking this word across gender lines. Taking this word as a reclamation of it and turning it into a powerful thing, I felt, was important. And maybe in the beginning, it didn’t feel that way. I felt like it came to be defined in that way over time. Paul: Yeah, I think at first, we were just like, “It’s a funny name,” and now it has taken on more meaning. Regisford: That’s definitely a word that—growing up as a guy in the northeast—people used in a negative context all the time. In my experience, at least, it was other dudes calling other dudes “pussies” in a way that never really made sense to me. But not saying I’m not guilty in the pejorative way, ever. But, now especially, since I started in the band, especially since playing music with more females, I don’t associate it with what I did when I was a kid anymore. The power of music! To use music to redefine a word is really cool. Dabice: You want people to be able to redefine. There’s a very long history of marginalized groups taking back words that have been used to define them, and I think that this has been another area for people to do that. And I hope successfully.
Photo by Eva Carasol
I think the words work well to almost cancel each other out, rendering the name more nonsensical and open to interpretation than anything else. So, for you, “pussy” is power? Dabice: Absolutely. Reading: I don’t think “pussy” has one definition. I feel like the band name to me is interesting, because it’s really how someone interprets it. If they’re like, “Oh, that’s so offensive,” it’s like, “Well, which way are you thinking about it?” It’s not supposed to be offensive, so maybe it’s time to reevaluate the word and how you feel about it. Has it ever felt complicated to perform under the name “Pussy”? When and how? Reading: I haven’t personally found it to be complicated. The people booking or attending our shows already know the name, so it’s a space where people aren’t making it weird.
Do you feel your music is connected to your sexuality in any way? Dabice: I would say as a musician, no, but as a lyricist, yes. My sexuality plays a part in my experiences, and my experiences continue to evolve and change. And I think the same is true for my sexuality. I understand it more and more as I get older. I understand its fluidity and how important it is for individuals to define these concepts for themselves, that there is no freedom in an outsider telling you what kind of person you are supposed to be.
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Dabice: It seems more complicated for other people than for us. People tend to have a very strong reaction to the word. I hate to throw men under the bus, but I would say 99 percent of the criticisms I’ve seen of our band name have all come from men. It’s a word that still seems to make the unevolved very uncomfortable. When we first started playing shows, we would sometimes play with other bands who would self-censor when thanking us for playing the show with them. “Thanks to Mannequin P-Word,” was a phrase we heard a lot in those days. It made people so uncomfortable to say out loud.
Luckily though, a lot has changed culturally over the past five years. We’ve seen the public's familiarity and comfort grow not just with us but with the word itself. It’s been interesting to have been a “pussy” band for five years and watched the societal norms and expectations change as we’ve grown. Shortly after we became a band, members of Pussy Riot were arrested in Russia, and the group became internationally recognized. A few years later, thanks to female comedians arguing with the network, Comedy Central took it off its censor list. Then last year, it appeared again, uncensored when all of America heard the tapes of [Donald] Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. It’s important for me to perform in this space with this name, because I want the power to define the word for myself—not for it to be used as a tool to shame me for my sexuality or femaleness.
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Reading: They don’t inform each other, but there is definitely unintentional crossover. My mind sometimes wanders when playing drums, and my own sexuality is definitely something I think about enough to be any one of the hundreds of topics that could randomly cross my mind while drumming. To be honest, though, I think about drums more than anything else. So in the same way, it’s more likely that I would be thinking deeply about my own sexuality and then get totally distracted by something like: Can I play a paradiddlediddle between my left hand and the kick drum in a groove? Do you feel your music is connected to your gender in any way? Dabice: I feel more that I’m constantly being reminded of my gender, that I’m a “woman in music” more than I actually think of it myself. While I’m grateful to feel powerful and comfortable in the body I have, gender itself has always been somewhat meaningless to me. I’ve always felt the between-ness, that I carry both masculine and feminine energies inside of me. And while I often feel very female and love my femaleness, I don’t feel it connected to my music. Gender just isn’t that interesting to me. It feels so performative, but it’s a performance that takes place more on the streets than on a stage. When we’re performing together, I feel an energy escaping from inside me, and that energy has no gender. Reading: It may be connected at times subconsciously just because being female is part of who I am, and playing music is an extension of yourself. I feel drumming definitely encompasses both masculine and feminine energies, and I think that allows it to be more of a genderless thing connected to a wordless truest self. What, if anything, do you hope your music communicates? Reading: When writing drum parts, or even performing drum parts filling in for an artist, I always try to step back and make sure what I’m playing is serving the song. If you take yourself out of the mindset of just an individual drummer and consider what you are playing more in the role of an egoless producer trying to produce the final form of the song to be in its best way possible, it opens up for more honesty with your playing choices. Every fill, kick drum placement, transition, etc., on our record Romantic was carefully considered by the time we recorded the album. Mannequin Pussy tours a lot, so we are left with more time to practice new songs live than in a rehearsal room. This is a great way to finalize song parts, since you play the song one night, are given the opportunity to think about what worked or what you might want to try differently, and by the end of the tour, you usually have a good idea of what you want to play. It’s a blend of analysis and letting things develop naturally. So, if there is anything I hope for, it’s that the song itself was communicated in the best way possible. Dabice: A cathartic hopefulness.
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Photo by CJ Harvey
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DRUMMERS AND PERCUSSIONISTS:
by Kristen Gleeson-Prata (drummer) and Kassandra Kocoshis (percussionist) The musical connection between a drummer and a percussionist is a relationship in every sense of the word. Successful relationships require mutual admiration, respect, support, and freedom to grow. Both people must work together without competition and avoid stepping on each other’s toes. While these requirements may be true for any two musicians in a band or project, they are especially true for a drummer, and percussionist because both play essentially the same role: rhythm-maker and timekeeper. This then begs the question of a band or artist (especially when there are possible personnel, equipment, stage, or travel restrictions): Why have both? In a nutshell, because it’s better in every way! It’s much more fun for those involved, and more enjoyable for those listening. “I’d play with a percussionist in every band and every show if I could”, Kristen says. “I love playing with percussionists because they add layers and colors that deepen and excite the rhythmic landscape in a way I can’t do alone. I enjoy the fact that they open things up for me to create more space and simplicity, while also giving me room to fool around and switch things up. Groove comes from subdivision, and with two rhythm-makers the groove can be twice as deep.”
Kristen and Kassandra first met ten years ago in Chicago. Both have since moved and reconnected in Los Angeles. They enjoy playing together in Kassandra’s band Beat Mosaic as well as other projects around town.
Kassandra says, “There is no better feeling than playing with an amazing drummer. I love the exchange of musical ideas back and forth, and the reacting to each other’s sense of groove. It adds so much to a tune, and the energy of the interaction between the two players can be palpable to the whole band as well as the listeners. When I’m by myself, I have to hold down the groove on my own. But when I have a drummer I’m free to play with more rhythmic ideas and phrasing.”
ROLES Since drummers and percussionists usually play without the other, mind-sets must change when both are sharing the same rhythm-making and timekeeping role in a project. Whereas either playing alone would assume 100 percent of the rhythmic responsibility, that ratio must shift when playing together. Both must adjust to create a symbiotic partnership, and this is where it can get tricky. Because of the nature and volume of the drumset, it might be natural to assume the drummer runs the show and the percussionist fills in the gaps. There are situations where that is indeed the way to go, but it would be wrong (and boring!) to assume this is always the best way. “Let the Groove Get In” by Justin Timberlake is a perfect example of a song in which the drumset part takes a back seat to the extremely integral percussion part:
Let The Groove Get In (Justin Timberlake)
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DrumSET Set DRUM
° 4 ™ ™ / 4 ™‰
4 / 4 ™™ ¿
œ ‰ R ¿ ¿ ¿
4 / 4 ™™ O
¿ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ ¿ œ œ œ œ œ
4 ¢ / 4 ™™ ¿
¿ ¿ ¿
¿ ¿ ¿
¿ ¿ ≈ ¿ ¿ ¿ ≈ ¿
For situations and/or songs that do call for the drummer to play a bigger role, Kassandra has the perfect approach for percussionists: “I was once told by the great Munyungo Jackson (Stevie Wonder’s percussionist), that the percussionist is like the fifth and sixth (sometimes even seventh and eighth) limbs of the drummer. They add things in the groove that the drummer can’t. We can support and add strength to the foundation of the groove, or we can add in different ways that accentuate other parts of the beat.” For example, if a drummer is playing a super strong backbeat, the percussionist can either reinforce this backbeat by playing a similar pattern, or they can play a totally different pattern that still complements. (The use of congas or bongos are perfect for use in both of these instances.) For example, in George Michael’s “Freedom!” the percussionist reinforces the drumset groove by playing an almost identical part that includes the backbeat on 2 and 4:
Freedom! (George Michael)
DRUM DrumSET Set
o ¿ ° 4 ™ / 4 ™œ
o ¿ œ
4 ¢ / 4 ™™ œ
¿ ≈ ≈
The x in the conga notation denotes a slap versus an open tone.
Little Child Runnin' Wild (Curtis Mayﬁeld) On the other hand, in Curtis Mayfield’s “Little Child Runnin’ Wild” percussionist Master Henry Gibson plays a rhythm that is different from, yet complementary to, the drummer’s part. This contributes so much to the overall feel of the tune that without those drums, the overall groove wouldn’t be nearly as rich:
DRUM DrumSET Set
° 4¿ ¿ /4œ
¿œ ¿ ¿ œ
¿ ¿ œ
¿œ ¿ Œœ œ ÆJ
≈ ≈ 4 ¢/ 4 œ ¿ œ œ œ ¿ ¿ ¿ œ œ œ ¿ œ ¿ œ œ œ ¿ ¿ ¿ œ œ œ ¿ R L R L R L
R L R L R L
R L R L R L
R L R L R L
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For great examples of drummers and percussionists working together to help define the sound and style of a band, listen to any Santana or War songs from the 1970s, or the jazz/ funk collective Snarky Puppy.
IDEAS FOR ADDING PERCUSSION “Toys” is a bit of a pejorative term for all of the little instruments a percussionist would have either on a table, or mounted on brackets, racks, or pedals. A well-placed shaker, tambourine, or bell can really make or break a tune, and percussionists can have a lot of fun playing with rhythmic and phrasing ideas using these instruments. The possibilities are limitless, and there are no rules, as long as you aren’t distracting from the main groove, or the melody—just listen to what the drumset is doing, and find complementary ideas. Try adding a tambourine in key places to emphasize a chorus, or bridge, or use a shaker playing 16th notes to help drive a song. Bells are fun to add as a response to a musical idea, or even just as straight quarter notes (like the famous cowbell skit with Will Ferrell). The percussionist’s job with these instruments is to add additional timbres (often, more high-end frequencies), and help denote the different sections of a tune, or the dynamic build of a tune. Even tastefully placed wind chimes can add a lot! For a few examples of great toy usage, check out pretty much any Earth, Wind, & Fire song. Another example is Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day,” in which percussionist Ralph McDonald plays shaker tastefully throughout the song but then helps set the chorus apart by adding tambourine. Never underestimate the power of a tambourine! Here are a just a few of the many Tip: The possibilities are limitless thousands of songs that use tambourine in a chorus to raise and there are no rules as long as the energy: Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Someyou aren’t distracting from the main body,” Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” Maroon 5’s “This Love,” Ray groove or the melody—just listen to LaMontagne’s “You Are The Best Thing,” U2’s “With or Withwhat the drumset is doing and find out You,” and even George Michael’s “Freedom!,” mentioned complementary ideas. earlier, has a tambourine playing on 16ths throughout the entire song.
SOLOS "Different drummers prefer different accompaniment while taking solos,” Kristen says. “Some drummers want to be the only person playing at all, so they can completely do their own thing. I prefer to have some backup, so I don’t have to keep time and solo simultaneously. (I’m keeping time the rest of the show—this is my chance to break away!) It’s nice when the percussionist starts with a somewhat constant rhythm on the quieter side and then grows with me to support my solo. It’s especially fun when the percussionist occasionally throws in some rhythmic stabs or licks to kind of egg me on or even promote some back-and-forth play. When it comes to supporting a percussionist’s solo, I’ve found that this can also go either way. Some percussionists like to have the complete spotlight, but most love some support. I usually don’t cut out completely but continue to groove very simply and quietly. I make sure to keep an eye and an ear on the percussionist to read whether they are liking what I’m doing or not. It’s usually very easy to tell.”
“When I am taking my solo,” Kassandra says, “I love having a drummer support me a bit. A simple yet driving idea, or some sort of kick drum phrase every few measures, is super helpful. Nothing beats trading solos with a drummer though. It’s so much fun! I would call it quite the musical romance! When supporting any instrumental solos, the percussionist has to be really careful not to get in the way of the other players, and especially the drummer. Simple is usually better, but also keeping some sort of driving idea going is often good, too, whether it’s on congas, shaker, or tambourine. All that said, sometimes for a drummer’s solo, you can just drop out completely. It is totally a personal preference.”
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There is a sweet spot, as we both like to call it, where both drummers and percussionists can live in a musical setting. The groove is strong and collectively created, but there’s room for expansion on both sides. Both sets of ears are open and attentively listening for an opportunity to support, simplify, or subdivide, as well as make room for, or even join in on, a rhythmic lick. The sweet spot is where collective support creates confidence and brings out each player’s best musicality and creativity. It’s where expression meets respect and teamwork, and if that means playing fewer notes, or simpler parts, we are both happy to do so. Playing selfishly might be fun for a moment, but the joy that comes from a group of people collectively making good music is unparalleled.
by Morgan Doctor and JJ Jones
As drummers, there’s nothing more satisfying than having people dancing and shakin’ their thang when we play a beat. So, what makes a drum beat “sexy”? Some people think 1970s Motown, R & B and soul music defined sexy grooves. In songs like James Brown’s 1970 hit “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” with the great Jabo Starks on drums, it’s the ghost notes and the swing feel that falls somewhere between straight time and a shuffle, that make this beat sexy, as well as hard to play. There’s swagger to it. The ghost notes keep the groove going forward, even though it’s on the slower side as far as dance songs go, and the slight swing feel makes it easy to move to.
GET UP (I Up FEEL LIKELike BEING A)a)SEX Get (I Feel Being SexMACHINE Machine
James Brown (Jabo Starks)
In their chart-topping sex-positive song from 1991, “Let’s Talk About Sex,” female hip-hop pioneers Salt-N-Pepa sing about censorship, the dangers of unprotected sex, and even directly address AIDS in some alternative (and controversial) versions of the song and video. This breakbeat style groove is likely a combination of a looped drum sample with an occasional four-on-the-floor bass beat and a classic ’80s drum-machine tambourine sound on the 16ths. Keep the four-on-the-floor going to emphasize the dance feel, or for more of a breakbeat sound, swing it even more, take out some of the kicks and turn the snare hits on the 16ths into ghost notes. (And for a true limb-independence challenge, try shaking a tambourine with your right hand and playing the snare and hi-hat parts all with your left!)
LET'S TALK ABOUT SEX Let's Talk About Sex
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(For links to playable—and changeable—versions of these transcriptions on the free browser-based transcription tool, Groove Scribe, see tomtommag.com!)
SETUP by Zoë Brecher Photo courtesy of artist
Kate Siefker AGE: 24 FROM: Bloomington, IN
Tom Tom: What was your first kit? A beginners Ludwig rock kit (I don't remember the model). It had a natural wood finish, and I've been a fan of the vibe ever since. How old were you when you got it?
13 years old. Why did you start drumming?
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I was always tapping on random shit like furniture, school desks, my knees, etc. as a kid. At eight, I told my parents I wanted to play drums, and my mother actually said “of course you do,” so she started me with guitar lessons so I could prove to her that I was serious about musicality. I had my first kit lesson at 12 from (now newly minted Seattle Symphony timpanist) Matt Decker (major
congrats!), who really showed me the way. Ideas like “the pocket,” groove and feel, were of primary importance in those early lessons—perhaps even more so than dexterity, which would follow in time with due diligence and practice.
Are there any unique things about your setup?
Local vendor in Bloomington, Indiana.
Perhaps? Hard to tell. The setup changes depending on what people need and how lazy I am that day. One thing that could be perceived by some as strange is that I never put a crash next to my rack tom; it's always next to my floor tom. I started doing that about four years ago while touring with L&M, because I needed to put a sample pad next to the rack. The crash feels pretty good over there next to the ride, to be honest.
Do you have a dream kit or cymbal?
What band(s) are you in?
God, I want a Rogers, or a CC.
Buttstuff, Follies, Birdbath (formerly), and I also played in Lily and Madeleine, Diane Coffee, the Dove and the Wolf.
How many drum sets have you had? Four—a Ludwig, a Mapex, a 1950s WFL, and a Gretsch. Where did you buy your current kit?
If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only keep one part of your kit, what would you save? This is so tough. I want to say snare, because it's so versatile and essential to music making, but honestly I'd probably keep the kick drum, because I love dat bass.
Classic Gretsch Catalina Club, but with a rack from a refurbished Ludwig of my youth
TRX CLS line (such beauts live and record great)
A kick—18" B snare—14" C rack tom (Ludwig)—13" D floor tom—14"
HEADS Been digging the Aquarian Deep Vintage II and Modern Vintage lately
2 storm hats 15" 3 crash 18" 4 ride 20"
HARDWARE A plethora of this and that acquired over years of necessity and grind
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Vic Firth Peter Erskine forever and always <3
1 hats 14"
MOON PALACE Moon Palace Plume Records November 2017
BJÖRK Utopia One Little Indian Records November 2017 The ninth major studio album from Björk, Utopia continues the musical experimentation we have come to expect from the Icelandic songstress. This follow-up to her acclaimed 2015 album, Vulnicura, moves on from the string-based composition of her previous release, which dealt with loss after a breakup. Björk has stated that Utopia deals with love, but “in a more transcendent way” and “a spiritual way.” Many tracks were written and produced in collaboration with Venezuelan producer Arca, who assisted on Vulnicura as well. On top of bubbling harp, sampled birds, synths, and woodwinds are the layers of Björk’s distinctive voice, still compelling after all these years. Of course, voice is definitely the main feature of the album, not that it hasn’t usually been what draws the ear on any Björk release. The standout use of instrumentation on this album is flute, most especially on the title track, “Courtship,” and on “Paradisa” and “Saint.” An Icelandic group of flute players feature, as well as windy sounding digital synths, and they blend together with the vocals hypnotically. The songs take on a meditative and meandering quality; Björk has stated she came up with the melodies for the flute arrangements, while wandering outside in Iceland. Percussive beats are light and add to the lovely layered effect but only come to the forefront on certain songs such as “Courtship” and “Sue Me.” The first two singles give a good hint of what to expect from the rest of the album. “Blissing Me” is delicate yet firmly rooted, and “The Gate” is expansive and exploratory. Both have music videos that help explicate the album's focus on love, both personal and cosmic, respectively. Utopia is a worthy addition to the recent Björk catalog, sure to please fans who have enjoyed her last few albums but continuing to move forward.
Listen to this: while bundled up well, hiking alone through the winter landscape of your choice.
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Moon Palace, a queer Seattlebased band, pairs breathy vocals with perfectly balanced soft percussion in their self-titled debut album. Moon Palace delivers a nuanced ’90s style that is both proudly grungey and beautiful. Not an easy balance to attain, but Moon Palace has done their Seattle roots proud in tracks such as “Shapeshifter” and “Slow Down.” The album’s overall tone is light and airy, but there is a haunting and undeniable undertone of angst and yearning with eerie hints of Portishead and Julee Cruise. The juxtaposition translates well. Favorite track: “Desert of Devotion.” Listen to this: when you’re wearing flannel and taking polaroids, or find yourself in downward facing dog. —Jessica Perez
THE SHE’S “all female rock and roll quartet” Empty Cellar Records November 2017 Stripped-down garage punk with relaxed beach vibes is what “all female rock and roll quartet” is all about. The She’s sophomore album was self-produced with counsel and encouragement from tUne-Yards’ Merrill Garbus. Through their storytelling, they captured heartbreak, disappointment, frustration, and acceptance. “Death Dreams” sets a blunt tone with Sami Perez singing “hate how you treat the air like you’ll find your breath in it somewhere,” giving you a sense of empowerment to speak your mind as well. Heartbreak seems to be a recurrent theme throughout, especially in “Sorry,” with the final minute of the track being a distorted conversation and with only discernible words being, “it’s over.” One interesting note—everyone involved in the record production and artwork creation are women. The album was engineered by Grace Coleman at Different Fur Studios and was mastered by Piper Payne. Listen to this: while you’re aimlessly driving and enjoying the warm breeze with your on-andoff-again lover. —Arlene Telly Vivar
MUSIC MIRROR FEARS Eaten Self-released October 2017 Kate Warner is the mind behind the synth, dark wave project Mirror Fears, which she originally formed in Colorado. While always drawing from the darker side, the mixture of vocals and beats in this album create the perfect back drop for sultry dance nights.
NUCLEAR FAMILY FANTASY Nuclear Family Fantasy Self-released July 2017 This Brooklyn band serves up cymbals and social justice on their self-titled debut album. Clean, deep female vocals accompany this heavy rock album, and their sound falls somewhere between Melissa Etheridge and Bush. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is merely a breakup album. Singer-/songwriter Mossy Ross, front woman for Nuclear Family Fantasy, watched people close to her battle addiction and mental illness, and this album is a reflection of that. The impact of these experiences shines through in songs such as “Anger Hangs On Her” and “Left Me Lonely Again.” In addition to being musically bad ass, the band is also doing some bad ass social work. Their music video for “Everybody Loves You When You’re Drunk” features Fran Marion, a woman fighting to get $15 an hour for fast-food workers, and for the right to unionize. The band is donating 15 percent of album sale profits to MusiCares, a nonprofit that helps musicians in need, and they’re sending out all their CDs in completely recyclable packaging. Whether you crave strong guitar rifts or meaningful lyrics, you’ll find something to jibe with on this album. Listen to this: when you need a push to cut ties with something toxic, or before you walk across the bar to toss a drink in your ex’s face. —Jessica Perez
The song “Retch” can be heard on repeat in the underground scene. “Rest” is a change of pace, as it mixes an electro clash and rap vibe that modernizes this version of dark synth in the style of electro-queen Peaches—but definitely more gothic. And with goth and synth returning into the scene stronger than ever, there is no better time for Mirror Fears’s Eaten to emerge on bat wings. Listen to this: in a vampire underground dance festival. —Carolina Enriquez Swan
BEIßPONY Beasts and Loners Ragrec Records November 2017 Beasts and Loners, the second album from Oxford and Munich-based beißpony, is a hard record to pin down. There is country-tinged warbly guitar, horns interspersed throughout, and some spoken word and poem-based songs, all mixed together. They lead off with the very catchy “Lord of the Wings,” about a pickup artist, but the album then veers off, with guest musicians everywhere, on everything from tuba to sitar, used to great effect. “Shadow Companion” has Indian flavors that appear elsewhere on the record, and is based on a poem, as is “Up in Arms.” beißpony also excel at managing to put a whole story in one short song, like “Never Seen a Movie That Doesn’t Star Bruce Willis.” Overall, this album is layered and more complicated than only one listen might betray.
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Listen to this: while burning incense and drinking tea alone.
THE RAINCOATS (33 1/3) by Jenn Pelly Bloombury Academic Publishing October 2017 The Raincoats began in the London punk scene in the late seventies but rode a second wave of popularity during the grunge/riot grrrl era with fans like Kurt Cobain and Tobi Vail (Bikini Kill). The Raincoats are a unique multicultural ensemble with members from Spain, Portugal, and the UK. Mixing their cultural backgrounds with their art-school influence and politics, they created a feminist, experimental, and punk sound that echoed in the hearts of many fans. And yet they have always been a mystery. Who are the Raincoats, and how did they create such an eclectic and emotional experience? Jenn Pelly, being a fan herself, felt the need for a book about uncovering the mystery of the Raincoats. Forty years after the beginning, Pelly’s book dives into the making of the band, dissecting songs from their self-titled first album and the impression the band made and continues to make. The band began with various members and eventually becoming a four-piece all-female ensemble with Ana Da Silva (vocals, guitar), Gina Birch (vocals, bass), former Slits drummer Palmolive, and classically trained violinist Vicki Aspinall. Some came from art school and others were fresh to the London punk scene. It was only a matter of time before these four women crossed paths and clicked on a musical and creative level. Being from the punk scene and having the background they had, it was inevitable that they would be an artistic, political, and feminist band. Even within the band, there is a collaboration that occurs. There is no distinct leader, on the contrary, all the members helped create that first album from writing, to multiple vocals, playing various instruments, and even how the shows were promoted. Pelly’s evaluation of songs makes the reader revisit and hear it with different ears. Such as the consumerism in “Fairytale in the Supermarket.” Even the Kinks cover of “Lola”’s sexual ambiguity gets a new female twist. “The Void” paints a film noir version of solitude. In the song “In Love,” Birch was craving echo and instead of using a machine she repeated the words for effect, “in, in, in, love, love.” There is meaning in the lyrics and composition. Even though most band members were not very experienced with their instruments, they created a raw sound. And then Aspinall, being a strong violinist, added another layer. The Raincoats marched to the beat of their own drum. To promote the new book, Da Silva and Birch, along with the author Pelly, did a panel, book signing, and show at the art/music nonprofit event space, the Kitchen, in New York this November. The book signing was the first two days, and the third day was the show. For the true die-hard fans that could not make the show but still paid for the panel/book signing, they were surprised with drummer Palmolive joining the panel. Palmolive told personal stories of dating Joe Strummer and being in a band with Sid Vicious for a week. And the show also displayed art by Da Silva and Birch.
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After the panel, their old art school videos were shown of burning bras and jumping through walls. The videos were almost a visual parallel to their lyrics and style. The real treat was the secret performance at the end of the talk. They played all the favorites from “Adventures Close to Home” and “Fairytale in the Supermarket.” The energy could be felt in the crowd. For the third day, the band Bikini Kill reunited for the momentous occasion. The influence of the Raincoats defies time and will continue to be a staple for those who the lyrics and music resonate with. And the book will be the Raincoats companion for getting closer to the music and the band. —Carolina Enriquez Swan
HOLD STILL by Jenna Putnam Paradigm Publishing September 2017 Jenna Putnam takes herself away from the camera and explores a new medium in her debut book Hold Still. The construction of the book is unique in its use of blank space— sometimes a few pages at a time, sometimes taking heartbreaking, pure, insightful statements and suspending them on an otherwise blank page. The marriage of white space and soul-exposing metaphors is one of the many reasons this book is so enjoyable. Even those who do not lend themselves to poetry may become converts after skimming the pages of Hold Still. Putnam’s writing beckons a nuanced femme-punk style as she claims her sexuality in its entirety. Her writing boldly explores the fine line between love with all its comfort, and lust with all its passionate release. Piece by piece, she hacks away at the pain of pleasure, the pleasure of pain, and the consequences of both. Favorite Piece: 11th Between A and B
Where did you even come from though, Lunchmeat?! Du bist toll, ich mag dich.
NEW WINTER MERCH shop.tomtommag.com
SYNTHESIZER OF OUR SONIC DREAMS
by Anthony Brisson and Lisa Schonberg
Critter & Guitari co-founders Owen Osborn and Chris Kucinski met in college in 2006, started making music together, and soon began building experimental instruments. In 2010, the current form of their popular Pocket Piano was released. Tom Tom was very excited to get a hold of their latest flagship synthesizer, the Organelle. The Organelle uses the basic structural layout of the Pocket Piano, but expands substantially on the range of inputs and function, and dives into the world of opensource programming using Pure Data, a powerful computer music programming environment.
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As drummers, we found the Organelle super easy to use, and very compact and portable—it’s amazing what they’ve fit into such a lightweight module—and it fits readily into a drum setup. It’s easy enough for a novice to have success with straight out of the box, yet its operating system and malleability offer enough options to keep even the most experienced synth artist busy experimenting. On top of that, it has a unique and pleasing aesthetic. The Organelle has 25 rounded wood keys, four potentiometer knobs, one patch selector knob, one volume knob, two USB slots, an 1/8 inch headphone jack, two stereo L/R outputs, one stereo input, an 1/4 inch expression pedal input, an HDMI output port, and a selector knob for an adapter. With all of these options, the Organelle can shapeshift into many roles: synthesizer, drum
machine, sampler, sequencer, arpeggiator, effects unit, and it even works as a phone charger (an accidental discovery we made during a desperate moment). The Organelle comes out of the box with a USB drive of 49 stock patches. Many of these patches have the capacity for exciting rhythmic sequencing and arpeggiation. Some of our favorite stock patches are the Analog Style Sequencer, Arpeggio Sampler, and Wepa!—which allows you to control the playback speed and delay parameters of a sampled voice. To manipulate the stock patches, simply put the provided USB drive in your laptop. In your file manager, substitute your own sounds—and build your own drum machines—by dropping WAV files onto sample patches. The Organelle can be latched to an external MIDI signal or clock so that you can easily master live beat matching. The provided stock patches alone can provide endless hours of experimentation; each patch has a unique way of approaching your sound. In addition, Organelle users can access a continually growing collection of patches and variations—and add their own contributions. If you are knowledgeable with Pure Data, you can build your own patches, and even reassign variables for your potentiometer and selector knobs. Critter & Guitari regularly release new patches that you can download from their website, and the growing community of Organelle users post their own patch creations on the expansive Organelle Patch forum on the Critter & Guitari website, and on other independent forums.
Audio Specifications: • • • • •
Sampling Rate: 44.1kHz; 16-bit (In & Out) 2x ¼" Mono Sound Output Jacks (L & R channels) ¼" Stereo Sound Input Jack ⅛" Stereo Headphone output Jack ¼" Footswitch Jack
The Organelle is an instrument that can continually evolve with technology and creativity. This summer Critter & Guitari released an exciting operating system update, which is installed by simply dragging and dropping the file onto your Organelle USB drive. The new OS increases the Organelle's capacity to 1000 patches, offers the ability to build patches with multiple pages of parameters, and allows you to save the state of any patch, including knob positions, among other exciting additions and improvements.
Critter & Guitari's musical instruments and video synthesizers have become commonplace in the synthesizer community for good reason. We highly recommend adding the Organelle to your own setup, as its durability, design, and open-source capability present endless possibilities for performance and recording.
You can learn more and purchase your own Organelle at www. critterandguitari.com.
• High-Contrast OLED Display Screen • Four Parameter Knobs • Rotary Selection knob with Push Button Select • Volume Knob • 25x Maple Key • RGB LED
• 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 with 512 MB RAM • Linux Operating System • Boot time: ~12 seconds Storage:
Additional Connections: • 2x USB Port (2.0 standard-A type connector). USB Host for: MIDI over USB & Serial over USB • HDMI output port
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• 4GB USB Drive included; Patches and any required files (audio samples, etc.) stored here
ÂŠ2017 Avedis Zildjian Company
Introducing the all new K Custom Special Dry Collection. We created the dry sound over a decade ago and have now remastered these raw and earthy cymbals for todayâ€™s modern music styles. Each cymbal delivers a dry, funky sound with a fast attack and lots of trash for a unique expression. Once again, Zildjian has taken the art of cymbal making to the next level and has left its imitators behind. This is #DryDoneRight. See and hear all 16 models at Zildjian.com.
azriel and the blackwolf
debut single â€œsoviet strangeloveâ€? coming 2017