Remembering James Brown

I don’t believe any of us can recall the very first time we heard James Brown, but more than likely it was through some commercial project attempting to utilize “I Got You (I Feel Good)” or “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag (Part 1).” Chances are though, that if you’re a fan of the man’s music, you know when it first hit you, and for me it was while I was working in a restaurant sometime in 1999. The morning crew we had consisted of a five foot something (if that) Chinese prep cook, a three hundred pound opera singer, and a six foot five rapper. Which one of these people do you think introduced me to James Brown?

It would be the six foot five rapping chef who kept playing the Dead Presidents soundtrack over and over and over again which first truly introduced me to the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. The soundtrack would eventually grow on me, introducing me to not only soul and funk, also helping me begin to explore James Brown’s catalog with a song that still, to this day, stands as not only my favorite James Brown track, but one of my all-time favorites: “The Payback.”

My sophomore year in university was spent at a community college as I tried to figure out what direction I should head in. The second semester was a complete enjoyment for me as I took half of my workload to concentrate on classes that I was just taking for fun. One of the classes was “Rock and Roll History.” I passed.

Throughout the class there were students who I felt increasingly negative vibes from as they began to understand that while the subject matter is an enjoyable one on the whole, they would have to explore music and the corresponding history which touched on unpleasant topics behind the music; it was after all, rock and roll.

During the discussion of the Detroit Race Riots the classroom only played the music of James Brown, and during those discussions there were two people who actually seemed to enjoy the music: the professor and myself. The song that was played most during the time was James’ “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” just one of the man’s 48 top ten singles.

All this considered, and I have only really been a fan of the man’s music for the better part of a decade — I can’t even imagine what impact he has had on those who have followed him throughout his entire career. James Brown was human and he fell, especially in his later years, but he continually attempted to use his celebrity to help those around him. Last week Brown participated in his annual holiday giveaway in Augusta, the city which he was raised in, the city that since last year has dawned a bronze statue of their patriarch.

I hope those who condemn Brown for his failures also look at what he has done for our culture as a whole. James Brown: Soul Brother Number One, Mr. Dynamite, the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business, Minister of The New New Super Heavy Funk, Mr. Please Please Please, The Boss, the Godfather of Soul… you will be missed.

(This post was featured by The Boston Globe December 27, 2006.)

Subhumans (Canada) Interview

Punk. It has changed from a term labeling a condensed segment of society’s outcasts to that which labels pop culture accessories and commercial music. Heralded Vancouver first wave punk icons, the Subhumans, reignite its reputation with the recent release on Alternative Tentacles, New Dark Age Parade. The album serves as the reuniting element to a band that has been at the forefront of history, a band that had lost a member to imprisonment, and a band that eventually collapsed due to internal pressures and disbanded. New Dark Age Parade sees original members Brian Goble, Mike Graham, and Gerry Hannah team with drummer Jon Card (ex-Personality Crisis/SNFU/DOA/Stretch Marks) in what marks itself as one of the most crucially outspoken anti-apathetic exertions that recalls sincere punk ethics and aesthetics. In this interview the band’s original members all take time to discuss modern day celebrity, modern punk bastardization, and Gerry Hannah sets the record straight on America’s War on Terror.

With the modern expansion of globalization many countries are finding a similar fate to that of America, fighting wars abroad as well as at home. Between class wars and wars of violence the world is an increasingly scary place to live in. If the band were to have released “World At War” in the late '70s would the lyrics have reflected a different story?

Gerry Hannah: Not much of a different story, but things have certainly intensified since then. Obviously globalization, deregulation, and neoliberal economics, which were just starting to take hold back then, have played a huge role in creating poverty and hopelessness on a scale unimagined in the '70s. Of course, the neocons will tell you that you that these processes have created more wealth, but what they won’t tell you is that while they’ve created scandalous amounts of wealth for a very tiny percentage of society, they have actually worked to decrease the ranks of the middle class and vastly increase the ranks of the very poor. Consequently, there are far more people living in desperate circumstances now than there were in the '70s. But having said that, there were plenty of poor people with “no future” back then as well and then, as now, it was completely unnecessary; they could have been housed, clothed, fed, and employed with minimal consequences to our general standard of living. Although, perhaps in that scenario, the stinking rich would’ve had to be a little less “stinking.”

As for military campaigns, yes for sure the world seems to be more at war now and for sure it is scary. In the late '70s, the Vietnam War had just ended and U.S. administrations had learned an important lesson from that war: better to have proxy armies fight your battles for you in secret than to send actual American troops in to do the dirty work. That way no one at home gets upset about American loss of life, the mainstream media isn’t all that interested, and the people doing the fighting for you can be as brutal and merciless as need be without any American ever being held accountable (at least in theory). As a result, for most people in North America and Europe, it seemed to be a relatively peaceful time. For many people in places like El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chile, Angola, and Zaire (to name just a few) though, the time was anything but peaceful. The violence and cruelty inflicted on them was easily as horrific as what is now being inflicted on the people of the Middle East and the numbers of people mutilated, raped, tortured and murdered was staggering. In El Salvador alone it’s been estimated that approximately 75,000 civilians were killed during this time.

And sure, with the Armageddon generals, the Project for the New American Century and the Zionists currently clamoring for an even larger “theater” of war than the massive, miserable mess that we already have on the go, yeah, the future doesn’t look too damn friendly. But it’s important to remember that in the '70s we had the specter of nuclear annihilation hanging just inches over out heads, ever threatening to turn our dreams into nightmares. That was scary too. (I guess it still is though, with the U.S. possessing the greatest stockpile of WMDs in the world and crazy talk in Washington of tactical nukes possibly being used against targets in Iran.)

“Class of the Intransigents” touches on America’s War on Terror and one of the most emotional moments in the song comes through the lyric “You’re not ‘freedom fighters’ you’re compassion betrayed.” America has now seen more human life lost through this war than through the attacks of September 11 — could you elaborate on the specifics of this song and what you feel can possibly be done to counter these modern atrocities?

Gerry Hannah: First of all, I object to the phrase “War on Terror” being used to describe the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq. It isn’t a war on terror, it is terror. What was obvious to thousands of us a long time ago has finally been admitted to by U.S. spy agencies themselves in an internal document titled, the “National Intelligence Estimate,” namely that the war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism and is helping to fuel Islamic radicalism worldwide. Add to that the fact that the war has led to the deaths of between 30,000 – 100,000 civilians (not to mention 10 times that number of permanent, dismembering/disfiguring injuries) and it becomes obvious that we are in fact, talking about terrorism on a massive scale. So no more talk about “America’s War on Terror,” please.

In answer to your question, “Intransigents” refers to both the arch-conservative, so-called “Christians” and Zionists here in the West that believe you can shoot and bomb people into accepting your master plan and the arch-conservative, so-called “Muslims” in the East that believe pretty much the same thing. Both sides seem pretty firmly entrenched in their beliefs and both sides are causing untold suffering and grief through their actions. Both sides claim to have God on their side and that their’s is a merciful god and yet both sides have shown precious little mercy towards the populations they claim to be liberating. Both sides claim to be freedom fighters, but by their actions we can see that they don’t even know what freedom is. You can’t truly believe in freedom and at the same time believe that it’s okay to bully, torture, and murder a people into seeing and doing things your way.

We in the West can help to avoid these atrocities by only going to war as an absolute last resort and by keeping known war-mongers and corporate henchmen out of office. The war in Iraq was never about keeping people in the US safe and secure; it was about maintaining U.S. hegemony in the world, providing U.S. oil companies with access to oil and greater ability to set oil prices, providing billions in profits to U.S. defense contractors and last but not least, giving Saddam Hussein one on the chin for pappy Bush. There were no WMDs and there was no link to Al-Quaeda. The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has said so in its report issued September 8, 2006 and come on, it was pretty obvious even before the invasion. As well, it’s clear that Bush and his cronies were itching for a fight with Iraq long before 9/11. Yet people voted for him anyways. They either didn’t know about it or didn’t care about it.

As for people in the East, I don’t really feel too comfortable lecturing them as to what they might do to counter these modern atrocities as they are clearly having far more atrocities inflicted on them than we are here in the West. I guess if I were to say something to them it would be, look, please remember that there are tens of thousands of people in the West that do not support the actions our leaders are taking against people in the Middle East. In fact, there are tens of thousands of us who deplore these actions and are actively working to try to stop them. Please try to remember that when deciding what actions to take and against whom in response to the senseless horror that is being inflicted upon you. Governments in the West, as in the East, often do not act according to the people’s wishes.

How have years of outspoken protest helped fuel the thoughts portrayed in “Nowhere to Run?”

Gerry Hannah: To be honest, not so much. The song describes more of a personal struggle with depression, anger, and a fear of failure. It’s a song about how easy it is to keep making the same mistakes over and over again when one is afraid to make the necessary changes in one’s life to become a whole person. It often seems easier to run away from the fear and pain one feels inside, but eventually (hopefully), one realizes that you can’t run away from something you’re carrying around inside of you. You have to deal with it. You have to understand it and to meet it face to face in order to eventually be free of it. I guess I use my personal experiences with this problem to speak to others who may also be struggling with these issues, other “wounded people” (as John Lydon calls them in The Filth and the Fury), in an attempt to present a possible solution.

“In Good Company” and “Celebrity” are blatant cries for the demonization of modern celebrity. Though examples of gross misuse of privilege are far too abundant to begin discussing, do you have any heated examples that directly spurred these songs?

Gerry Hannah: Actually, “In Good Company” is more a message to disenfranchised, alienated people everywhere telling them that they’re not alone, it’s a message to people who are sick to death of the greed, hatred and violence in abundance all around them. It’s a message saying, hey, we’re sick to death of it too and there are lots more like us all over the world (even though mainstream society would have us believe otherwise).

Mike Graham: Well, Ms. Hilton and Mr. Jackson were both in the news a lot when I wrote “Celebrity,” but when are they not? That kind of person and the mis-focused attention they receive were the starting point for that song, but the onrushing stream of celebrity celebration is so pervasive that it’s almost impossible to pick out single examples. It all just mushes together into a stew of unpleasant detail.

The broader point of the song was that the notion of celebrity is metastasizing, spreading from the Hollywood entertainment world until it’s a general model for the culture. Journalism, politics, and business: everywhere you look there are cults of personality, deliberately created to dazzle us and keep our thoughts away from actual issues. We’re encouraged to view those who wield power as personalities of various levels of attractiveness, which effectively ends any discourse about the wielding of power itself.

In relation to the band’s songwriting, past and present, have you found that there are topics or opinions that you’ve distanced yourself from that you had previously stood for or held?

Mike Graham: I don’t think my opinions on anything I’ve written about have changed that much over the years. There are a lot of things I’ve found out about that I didn’t know in 1979, but the general shape of the world hasn’t changed that much, and the political or social issues that found their way into some of my songs still provoke pretty much the same reaction from me. There are a few things I wrote that I wish were expressed better – but there are things I wrote yesterday that I wish I’d expressed better. Fortunately, the two-hour punk rock opera that I wrote in praise of Ronald Reagan during the late 1980s during my brief flirtation with authoritarian capitalism was never actually released (ha, ha). (Not all of our songs are topical, by the way…)

“Modern Business” questions something that I hold very close to heart, that being the internal struggle once deals with when facing such a push towards mass consumerism. In your opinion how has consumerism and Corporate America affected punk since its inception?

Brian Goble: I suppose that the idea put forth in the song modern business could be applied specifically applied to punk, but I think that that would be limiting the scope of the far reaching effects of the phenomenon I was trying to convey in this song. What I see that has happened to punk music specifically, is the loss of credibility, the corporate control of direction and the categorization of punk into a neat little genre that can be safely marketed and processed for maximum profit. Of course that only applies to the mainstream bands that have the sound and the image, as there are millions of relatively unknown bands that will never qualify to make the megabucks and will have their short lived output and fade away. I guess the line in the song that says “reaping the crop from the culture called pop” best sums up my feeling of the way punk has been affected by the Modern Business approach; it has been neatly absorbed into pop culture.

As you’ve played with this band, what is your reaction to the words concerning the Bad Brains reunion, including HR, at CBGBs this fall?

Mike Graham: I haven’t really been following their later career. They were a powerful band back in the day, and one can only hope they still are.

Do the Subhumans have any plans for a tour coinciding with the release of New Dark Age Parade?

Mike Graham: We’re touring Canada for three weeks starting October 13, and perhaps people in the U.S. can drive up to the border and cock their ears northward over the top of the barbed wire, guard towers, and patrolling Minutemen.

If the band had one final show to play, who would you most like to share the stage with?

Mike Graham: A tasteful modern dance troupe who would interpret “Death to the Sickoids” and other songs with a fluid and yet challenging vocabulary of motion and the liberal use of colored silk banners. Either that or a small thermonuclear warhead.

dj BC Interview

Reviving underground eminence with his recent ragtime/hip hop set, Wu Orleans, Boston based bootlegger Bob Cronin, aka dj BC, takes a tip from his past releases and once again changes the ever shifting view on what is possible within the confines of mash-ups. Cronin established himself within the mainstream with his release of The Beastles in 2004, a collaboration that saw him fuse various tracks by the Beatles with vocals performed by the Beastie Boys. As the presence of mashups received national notoriety, Cronin gained praise for his work from the likes of Rolling Stone, Q Magazine, and Newsweek, establishing him as one of the world’s premier bootleggers. In this conversation he talks of Wu Orleans‘ reception and inspiration, the legal implications of mashups and his upcoming original release(s).

A recent article on suggested that you were constructing Wu Orleans as “the spiritual rebirth of the storm-torn area” and concluded by taking a poll on whether or not this mashup project does its part to commemorate Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath? As mashups haven’t historically been given tons of artistic credit, especially in these terms, how does this publicity make you feel?

dj BC: Well, I am always thrilled for my mixes to get attention, as most people would be and this isn’t the first time I have gotten press, so the excitement was a little less than it was when the Beastles first came out and it was popping up in various news sources. However I really did appreciate it, as it meant that more people would hear the tunes. And it was SPIN, which I used to read in high school, so that’s pretty cool. All in all, I wasn’t that surprised, as there was a lot of buzz surrounding the Katrina aftermath and New Orleans, making this an ideal blog item.

Were there any intentions of actually creating the set as a tribute?

Well, yes and no. I love New Orleans, and I got married there last April. I’ve visited as often as I can, and my wife lived there for several years when she went to grad school at Tulane. So even before the hurricane happened, we were pretty focused on the city as we were planning the wedding: listening to the music, reading up on the city and its history, visiting NOLA to make the plans, that sort of thing. And then once the tragedy happened, it was almost all we could think about. Of course we went through with it, and we couldn’t be happier that we did — but it was touch and go for a few months!

We’d booked clarinetist Chris Burke, drummer Barry Martyn and a couple of other musicians to play our wedding. When I got a True to New Orleans CD (Chris Burke and His New Orleans Jazz) from Chris Burke, and another amazing CD from Barry Martyn, I knew I wanted to mix with those tracks. We also saw Rebirth Brass Band play when we were down there, that was a no brainer, because those guys are amazing, and of course their music is very rhythmic and really swings. “New Orleans Method” was the first track, using Chris Burke’s recording against Method Man’s somewhat goofy lyrics and easy, almost drunken rhyme flow. It seemed to me a perfect fit that cast both musics in a new light and created a new vibe.

The album concept of “Wu Orleans” came to me in a flash, really, but it follows from that first track. However it really did start to feel more and more like a tribute as I worked on it, though more of a tribute to the music and the vibrancy of the town than to the Hurricane victims or as a remembrance of a tragedy. When I was nearly finished I realized we were coming up on the anniversary, so I pushed to finish it on time, which explains some of the rougher edges.

As you have released a number of high profile mashup “albums” along the lines of the most recent Wu Orleans, and the amazing Beastles, what precautions do you take to help prevent any legal problems from arising?

I don’t really take any. I have a little message on my site, and if I get hassled by The Man, which has happened a few times, I immediately remove the songs in question and do not repost them. I guess I am living on the edge?

In a way, the more publicity you get, the higher the likelihood that someone in a high position within any number of record labels is going to see your work and take action against you. Do you believe it was a scenario along these lines that spurred action from Apple?

I suppose so. I think the record companies are trying to figure out how they can make money from this without becoming bad guys or trying to squash the scene. As of yet they have left many mashers alone, thankfully. I hope they come up with something as a lot of the bootleggers have made stuff that deserves to be released, and people like hearing it.

By the way, it wasn’t Apple who shut me down, it was EMI’s legal department. And they told me they were acting on the behalf of both the Fab Four and the B-Boys. No ill will there, mind you, just setting the record straight.

With the ever-increasing publicity surrounding your music, have there been any artists that have approached you praising your work or asking for remixes?

Yeah, John Meyers (formerly of the Pogues) and Pete Yorn have said nice things. I ended up working with John on a track and plan to do so again. I did a remix for Heaven 17 this year, and last year I did one for the Americana band Uncle Shaker, and one for Boston punk band Veronica Black Morpheous Nipple.

I am currently working on a full length album of remixes and mashups for the Boston punk/ska outfit Big D and The Kids Table.

What other opportunities have come from your mashups in the past few years?

Well, the Big D project I just mentioned is one fairly solid opportunity. I also have a couple of other “official” releases in the works, but the whole thing is so dodgy, and the releases are as of yet tentative, so I would rather not jinx it. But I have done a few talks at colleges and the like on the subject, have DJed at events, had guest DJs from around the world at Mash Ave. I have done some music work for TV. The most gratifying thing is finding out that the Beastles was spinning in NYC bars, in Paris, or that one of the tracks was on MTV Brasil, or making Rolling Stone. Very exciting!

I often look at your “Yoshimi Battles Snoop Dogg” as my favorite mashup, hands down. What is your personal favorite in terms of your own work and what makes it your favorite?

That’s tough. I love a lot of my boots. Hearing something old like Yoshimi actually makes me cringe sometimes, because that was before I was really mastering and tweaking the tracks as much as I do now. It’s tough to say. I love them all like my babies. Usually my favorites are the newest ones I have not yet released. Right now, that’s a Paul Simon/Kanye thing for Bootie, and one I have been working on for the holidays — John Lennon vs. the Jackson 5. I am probably most proud of “Summer In The City” and “Crazy 80s” as those were probably the most involved and difficult tracks I’ve made.

How much time do you spend on your bootlegs compared to what some might consider “steady work,” such as playing weddings and other such events?

A fair amount of time. I am doing music full time now so I spend at least a few hours working on music every day, sometimes more.

Have you ever been overtaken with a sense of awe while playing an event?

Yeah, when no one shows up, and I feel like a heel. I haven’t really done many huge events like that. Looking forward to spinning Bootie San Fran in October though. That’s the largest bootleg night in the world, I think.

If you had one final show to play, who would you most like to share the stage with?

Man, this is tough. Because I am a DJ, not really a live concert performer, I would feel a bit odd being up there with, for example, the Beatles. I can just picture John’s snarky comments. But honestly, I would have to say I truly envied the gig Freelance Hellraiser landed — spinning Beatles bootlegs as an opening act for Sir Paul. Now THAT would be an “is this for real” situation.

The Majestic Twelve Interview

One of my favorite albums this year has been the Majestic Twelve’s Schizophrenology. It touches on an absolute select feeling which embraces change in contrast to a voice angrily minimizing those endorsing opposing views. The album inspires through amazing musical experiences with actual feelings of love at the lyrics' core, coinciding with political rants fueled by blind bipartisanship. Also, if Accordion-Steady is your thing, Schizophrenology has you covered. As an unexpected correspondence of emails developed into a lengthy dispelling of haters, our online conversation eventually gave way a few formal questions to dispel negative criticism, question modern independent music and most importantly, give the band's frontman Kenyata Sullivan a place to rant. And rant he did.

Who are the Majestic Twelve and what does the band’s name mean?

Kenyata Sullivan: Sshhhhhhhhh, the Majestic Twelve don’t exist! We are a top secret organization formed during the Truman administration in order to evaluate alien technology for potential military use. Eventually we became the people who broker the deals between the aliens and the government.

Say, for example, that the aliens need 17 more abductees for their experiments. They contact us, and we contact the Pentagon. The Pentagon say, “OK, but you can only take them from rural Iowa, and we want the Mister Master Monster Mixer in return. Deal?” And we go back and forth between the two parties, until everyone is satisfied with an equitable exchange.

That is, that’s what we’d do if we existed. Which of course, we don’t.

As a cover story, we pretend to be a rock band from Wilmington, NC, who have a nasty habit of drinking lots of beer and getting into trouble.

What was the band’s purpose when getting together in 2002 and how have the members grown since its inception?

Kenyata Sullivan: We started out as a hobby, hell, I’ve been trying to quit all this music crap for years! We didn’t think anyone but our friends would ever hear us. The first disc Searching for the Elvis Knob was written by me, Alex, and Joey in my living room on acoustic guitars. People kept buying it, so Mike D and Anthony joined. We got a band room and powered up so we could play some shows here and there. And people still kept buying it, so my friend Brian Rainey made a video last year for one of the songs, and it got added to MTV’s Overdrive, and played on Much Music. That’s when we finally gave up and decided we were doomed to be a real band. So now we’re making records, and making videos, and nice folks like yourself allow me to babble on and on about it all.

How does the band’s voice fit within the modern musical landscape now as compared to the time of the release of Searching for the Elvis Knob?

Kenyata Sullivan: I think the new record is a bit more current. Since we wrote the first one in kind of a campfire setting, the older songs feel more folksy to me, and more intentionally melodic. When you’re writing with electric instruments, you have a lot more sound to work with. It can be freeing in a way. You can build something off a repeating bassline, or a drum riff, or a guitar effect, and it changes the process somewhat. Plus, the first record was an intentional rejection of the “indie rock” sound in some ways. After years of doing all kinds of things – low-fi singer-songwriter stuff, alt rock, experimental noise, etc, often concurrently – I really wanted to get back to basics, and write some good old fashioned structured pop songs. And after I got that out of my system, I felt OK embracing some things from indie rock again with Schizophrenology, though for now we’re still holding on to some pretty structured kinds of arrangements. We plan to continue playing with all kinds of sounds and formats as we move forward, there’s just so much that we’re interested in musically.

How is “Thank God Everything On TV Is A Lie” a response to blind, adversarial bipartisan aggression?

Kenyata Sullivan: We’re all really tired of partisan politics, and actively reject the “red state vs. blue state” thing. People have stopped thinking for themselves on both sides. Instead of listening to each other, or even trying to make rational arguments, so many people are just picking a side and whacking away at each other. It’s become more about winning the argument than actually solving real world problems, and that makes the argument itself more important than the people who are directly being affected by its outcome. This is horrifically dangerous. We wanted to point out how this kind of “debate” is a bad thing, and instead of preaching about it, we let the opposite sides preach for themselves (admittedly, at their most didactic), and then call bullshit. Instead of trying to tell people what to think, we’re trying to get them to think for themselves, and this seemed like a more earnest and entertaining way to do that.

Chelsea Beyer’s recent review for Up & Coming Magazine noted of “Condoleezza, Check My Posse” that “Some parts of the song are humorous, but its sarcasm could also be mistaken for Sullivan’s being narrow and a supremacist.” What is the meaning behind this song and how do statements such as Beyer’s contribute to its meaning?

Kenyata Sullivan: “Condoleezza, Check My Posse” is a sarcastic look at the arrogance of a political majority. And you know what? If the Democrats had been in office, if they had made these kinds of mistakes post 9/11, and then refused to even acknowledge those mistakes, let alone not make any attempt to actually fix them, we’d be going after them just as hard. So ultimately, this song isn’t even anti-Republican, the Republicans just happen to be the guilty party at the moment. I have a really hard time with people – especially people in public office – who refuse to recognize when they’ve made mistakes. If you can’t see where you’ve failed, then you have zero ability to adjust your decision making process in the future, and you’ll continue to fail again and again. When real people’s lives are at stake, this is inexcusable.

As far as the Beyer commentary, (lol) am I supposed to take that seriously? She even took us to task for calling ourselves “The Majestic Twelve” with only five people in the band, we’re still giggling about that review. I’m sure she loses sleep every night with the fear that people might suppose that Jello Biafra really wants to kill the poor, and that Jonathan Swift may have been genuinely advocating that the Irish eat their own children. Sleep well, my dear Chelsea. We wish you all the best.

To me “Cry” speaks volumes about the discomforting association between love and hate, what was the basis for the track when writing it?

Kenyata Sullivan: It’s tough to write a good love song, because so few of them deal with genuine emotions. Like most things, love is really complex, intense emotions are complex. So with “Cry” we wanted to try and tap into that complexity. The real heartbreaking thing about it is that they can’t get it together, they’ve crossed the line with each other, and they’ll never be able to make it back. They’ll miss each other for the rest of their lives, but they just couldn’t find a way to stop hurting each other, so it had to end. That’s always stunningly hard to go through. We’re working on a love song for the next disc that’s about that moment in the relationship where you feel completely safe and forgiven, and that one’s proving even tougher to write. It’s just really hard to write love songs that feel true, so here’s the trick – can we write a sappy love song that isn’t just complete bullshit, and actually makes smart people feel something?

I’m a big fan of puzzles, and like the idea of writing songs that are more complex than they seem, especially lyrically. Anyone can write something that works highbrow or lowbrow, but can you write something that works highbrow and lowbrow? Now that’s a challenge. It’s more fun to strive for that, too. There are times when I’ll intentionally try to pull off a hokey lyric just to see if I can make it fly in context, I love multiple layers of meaning, symbolism versus the actual story, stuff like that. But the most important thing is that even if you don’t get any of the additional meanings, that should be ok – I’m not trying to force a listener to try and find all the little inside stuff, the song should work whether you’re looking for that kind of thing or not. And ultimately we’re just trying to keep ourselves entertained, and make music we like to listen to ourselves, so (lol) that answer is probably ridiculously over-thought.

I love the humor that is implicit throughout the album, especially the barking resentment of “Are you gonna stand up like Patrick Henry, or just get baked watching Patrick The Starfish?” in “Are You Ready?” How has this helped the band get its point across and will such illustrations roll over to the band’s next album?

Kenyata Sullivan: I think the humor is just a reflection of who we are; we refuse to take ourselves too seriously, ya know? Though we do find that using humor makes some people a bit more receptive to the things we want to say politically. No offense meant towards anyone, but we’re a bit tired of hearing folks singing sad weepy folk songs about how much Bush is a dick. It seems like the only genres addressing protest politics are sad folk singers and angry hardcore folks, which makes sense, because those genres are traditionally political in nature, but why not a funny political disco song? Instead of sad protest music, why not write protest music that jumps? In a lot of ways I think that the left wing in particular have kind of stereotyped themselves as sad bastards who are victims, and that’s just not us. We’re happy bastards who want to actually get things done, and try and fix stuff. So we’re often upbeat and optimistic, even though we have no illusions about the dire nature of some of the issues we’re talking about.

We’re still working on the next disc, and the lyrics haven’t been fully written yet, so I’m not sure how it’s gonna come out! There’s no telling, it just depends. There’s a family friend who was a painter named Claude Howell, and he used to talk about having a “conversation with the canvas,” and I like that idea. You may start out painting a picture of a rose, but at some point, you have to let go of that, and let the canvas tell you what to do next, wherever that leads you. I think our songwriting works a lot like that: we’ll work on something for a while, and then all of a sudden, as cheesy as it sounds, it’s like the song just tells you what it’s supposed to be about, and where it needs to go next. We’ll see how she travels.

Tentatively titled We Are An Army Waving Pillowcase Flags, what themes are starting to develop on the band’s next album? How does it compare to Schizophrenology?

Kenyata Sullivan: The next disc is turning out weird! Right now it’s centered more around concepts than specific events, but it’s changing constantly. I can say though, that the title track is pretty locked down as a celebration of DIY. I love the image of the pillowcase flag as a symbol for an independent arts movement. A pillowcase flag can’t be mass produced, each one has to be handmade so each one is inherently unique. You don’t need any money to make one, or any specific kind of training, just an idea you believe in and the energy to create it. And I love that it’s the kind of thing a child would make as a toy, just for fun. So for me, a group of people who are very different from each other are well represented by the idea. Waving a pillowcase flag doesn’t presuppose any political belief other than the belief that if we all express ourselves individually, that’s a good thing, and I really just like the concept of that.

What have been the most beneficial and rewarding aspects of releasing your music through your Pandora’s Legacy label?

Kenyata Sullivan: Because we’re on our own label in the very early stages of our development, there are honestly many more liabilities than benefits right now – we have to either do every job ourselves, or earn the money to outsource those jobs. There’s very little sleep, and a whole lot of Top Ramen! But we’re learning an awful lot about all kinds of things, and every day we get a little better grasp of how much needs to be done to put a successful infrastructure in place. But that’s the price you pay for your freedom, you know? If you want to control your lives, take control of your lives. It’s a lot harder, but it’s worth the effort.

And despite my longstanding DIY ethic – I said “no” to my first major label A&R guy back in 1992, and have never looked back – sometimes I get a little frustrated with the tried and true “indie vs major label” debate, because I think it’s a bit outdated. I think that as musicians, we need to shift the topic – in a lot of ways, that debate has become a smokescreen. When the true history of indie labels began – and I’m talking about the early 80′s, with labels like SST, Alternative Tentacles, Dischord, Bomp, etc. — though there were jazz labels before that that probably would qualify – back then, indie labels were founded out of a real sense of community. People started founding their own labels because the majors wouldn’t support the kinds of music they wanted to hear. And they weren’t just putting out their own records, they were also putting out records by their friends, and entire scenes evolved around their rosters. This is when the first indie vs. major ethic started to evolve, and it was very much a clear cut “us vs them” situation.

Then Nirvana broke, and everything started to shift. One of the worst changes that happened is that people started creating indie labels for some pretty non-indie reasons. These labels were not founded for the community by members of the community. These labels were founded by businessmen who are accumulating intellectual property, with the hopes of one day becoming acquired by a major label. To be perfectly frank, it’s fucked. They use their “indie” status as a badge of honor, pretending that they’re fighting the good fight for the little guy, when the truth is they’re screwing the little guy so that one day they can sell that little guy out to the industry machine.

This is really a very simplistic account of a very complicated thing, but the bottom line is “indie” means absolutely nothing anymore, other than a marketing concept. It’s a dead term, and we need to find a new concept. I recently witnessed an argument as to whether Death Cab were still indie after signing to a major. One person said that was stupid and it was impossible to be indie on a major, and another person said that because they had retained control over their money and their creative careers that they were still “indie at heart” and that that was good enough.

I personally think it doesn’t matter one whit, hoot, or holler whether Death Cab are still “indie,” but we can use them to shift the focus to something that’s infinitely more complex, but so much more important – good contracts vs. bad contracts. Fair compensation vs. unfair compensation. A more equal balance of power between artist and administrator. Labels need bands, and good bands need good supportive labels, so suits and musicians are stuck with each other – our main focus, is to try and help create a new standard that doesn’t have the A&R guy staying at the Ritz-Carlton on a young band’s tab, while the musicians in that band are sleeping in the van and scrounging for gas money. A standard that treats signed bands as employees instead of labor for hire, so they can get the same insurance benefits that the guy who works their radio has. A standard that allows for the songwriters in the band to receive publishing royalties long after their active careers are over, instead of that money going to a retired executive who’s wiling his days away on the golf course.

It doesn’t make for a good snappy slogan, but the details that build or destroy the real careers of real artists aren’t easily condensed into soundbites. So forget indie vs. major. There are good and bad people on every side of the ball, and our goal now shouldn’t be to decide which is which – our goal should be to try and create a new standard that is inherently more fair for everyone.

That being said, I plan on staying genuinely DIY for as long as humanly possible, because I don’t trust any of the bastards.

What is the ultimate goal of the band’s music?

Kenyata Sullivan: To make at least one record we’re really proud of a year. Year after year after year, until we die, leaving behind us a full body of work that might mean something to somebody who isn’t us. We just want to keep going, all the while doing our level best, and trying hard not to suck.

If you could play one last show, who would you want to share the stage with?

Kenyata Sullivan: What a great question! The Smiths circa 1987, followed by Led Zeppelin circa 1974, followed by Louis Prima and Keely Smith circa 1957. We would open of course, ’cause there’s no way in hell we’re going onstage after that.

Gary Numan Interview

Gary Numan is an icon within the realm of synth pop and industrial music. Generally considered an originator for his work in the late ’70s, Numan now takes his minimalist creationism to a new heights within the realm of dreamy, moody electronic based industrial. With his latest release, Jagged, Numan futher proves that his star hasn’t fallen. In this interview he discusses the development of his latest sound, his influences in the last twenty years and playing with T-Rex’s Marc Bolan.

Some of your latest songs are very robust as far as industrial is generally considered. The sounds bear a weight deeper than a lot of more commercially successful industrial, which tends to be based on much more of an electronica base. What do you attribute your band’s sound to?

Gary Numan: I’m not sure but I would guess it has something to do with this. I am constantly looking for new sounds and, in so doing, will often stretch the technology but I’m sure others do the same so that’s not the complete answer. I hate the very idea of doing the same thing twice and so I’m always looking at where to go next, rather than revisiting where I’ve been, musically speaking. That may have something to do with it. I think in a ‘live’ frame of mind when I’m working on new songs in that I try to imagine how a song will sound live, rather than just the studio version, and if it isn’t huge I tend to abandon the song. I like songs that are multiple layered, songs that take many, many listens to hear all that is going on. The first time, the main melodies need to hit home, after that an increasing amount of lesser but vitally important layers of production should become more obvious to the listener. I like big or strangely haunting sounds. Little or thin doesn’t interest me at all. Finally, I try to make each album sound bigger and more powerful than the one before so it’s a very focused direction in terms of sound creation.

In your recent interview with The Times Online you mentioned that an album needs to be a body of work and that the sounds on an album need to sound like they belong together. As your career has progressed, how have you grown better at making the album’s sounds become more fitting to each other?

It actually gets harder as time goes by because the amount of sound generators available these days is incredible. The degree of manipulation that you can then bring to bear on those original sounds is staggering. That enormous variety needs to be controlled if the album is going to sound like a body of connected work throughout the length of the album.

It was easier when I started as the equipment was much more basic and had a much smaller amount of usable sounds. Having said that I’m sure that a small army of people would disagree but that’s the way I see it. One of the reasons that the new Jagged album took so long to make was for that very reason. I had already recorded more than half of the album when I changed producers and started to work with Ade Fenton. The sound of the album that we came up with was so different to what I had done before I felt that we had to redo every thing that had been done up to that point or else it was going to sound like a collection of songs by different people from different times. It didn’t hang together at all. Once all the songs had been reworked with me and Ade working as a team the sound became more consistent. All the songs on Jagged sound as if they belong to that album and no other.

Within the terms of modern rock, you are an originator. One of the most commercially successful, and in my opinion, better, covers of your classic “Cars,” by Fear Factory, and other like it have helped reintroduce your work to a new generation. I’m curious as to what you think of modern interpretations of your music and how they have helped your career?

I’ve enjoyed listening to all of them. New ones are coming in all the time in fact so it’s an ongoing thing. Some I’ve liked a little more than others but it is such an honor, as a songwriter, to have other artists cover or sample your songs, I find it a very enjoyable experience. I’m very flattered that it has happened so often and by so many high caliber bands and I think they have helped my career considerably. Firstly they would have raised my profile to people who may not have heard of me. Secondly, the respect that it gives me as an artist and songwriter has the secondary effect of encouraging many people, including perhaps some in the media, to rethink how they see me and my contribution and, for some, to see it in a more complimentary and positive way. I’m very grateful that not only am I covered and sampled on a regular basis but that so many comments about my influence are made by artists that are themselves very influential. It makes me very proud but a little nervous that, with each new album I make, I will fail to live up to it.

Which modern acts or artists that you are a fan of are currently close to breaking out and finding a new audience in the way that The Pleasure Principle did for your career in the late '70s?

None that I’m aware of. My career was actually built around a single in the UK called “Are Friends Electric,” which was number one here for four weeks. That song got into the charts because of two major pieces of luck, and who can predict luck? I see very little in the charts that has the depth or the power to interest me. So much of today’s chart music is based on looking backwards for ideas rather than forwards and I hate that. It’s too light weight, too wimpy. The heavier, more interesting things struggle to get heard so it never seems likely that they are just about to break and find a bigger audience. Still, it happens from time to time so perseverance obviously has a lot to do with it. My other problem is that I drift in and out of following music; depending on how busy I am, so I often don’t know if something is new or old. I like Combi Christ, Velvet Acid Christ, and others but I don’t know how long they’ve been around.

Touching back on a comment you made to The Times, you mentioned that there is a lot more stability of sorts when writing songs as a team compared to writing alone. How did this outlook lend itself to the new album?

I don’t write as a team, I produce as a team. The song writing itself is still a very insular process. The problem with writing on your own is that it’s very easy to get into a downward spiral of self doubt. It’s easy to lose perspective and therefore your confidence. Sometimes you need someone to say ‘that’s good’ to make you believe it isn’t the useless piece of shit you’ve come to think it is. I’m terrible for loving something in the morning and hating it by the evening. It can make song writing a tortuous process at best. I’ve learnt now that, in those darker moments, erasing everything is a mistake. Keep it, go back to it a day, or a month, later and thing again, with a different mood, and see how I feel about it then. Quite often I love it again. Being able to move away from something without getting deeply depressed at your own incompetence is a very useful trick to learn.

Considering how artists’ songs and styles age as they grow older what has directed your style to where it is at this point in time? Who has influenced you in the last twenty years?

So many people but key would be Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode in the early '90s and virtually no one since then. A song here, a song there, but no one band that blows me away completely. A lot of people have great things to offer though so I’m not saying I work in a void but I can’t think of anyone that I can rely on to consistently put out albums overflowing with genius. I doubt many people could though, I know I can’t, so that’s probably an unrealistic thing to look for. I get bits and pieces from all over the place. I listen to anything that I consider useful, anyone that is doing things I wish I had done or that I could learn from but, as I say, it’s bits and pieces, no one band in particular.

If you knew that there was one final tour and one final show and you could choose any band to play with you on your last billing, which band or artist would that be?

Difficult to answer. Would I choose someone so great they would blow me off the stage or someone so shit they would make me look good? I always loved and wanted to meet Marc Bolan from T-Rex. He died before I had any success so it never happened. Yes, I would choose Marc Bolan. And he would blow me off the stage.

The Majestic Twelve "Schizophrenology" Review

The Majestic Twelve are one of the only bands that will make you rethink the music you're currently listen to and question why you’re not only not listening to more of the Majestic Twelve, but why you hadn’t listened to them sooner. (That is unless you have heard of the band, in that case the previous statement doesn’t apply to you.) Nonetheless, the band epitomizes, for me at least, the purest sense of the term indie rock 'n roll. What is that, you might ask? Indie rock (in its purest form, mind you) is something that should be, by nature of the term, independently released, without any form of major distribution or promotion. (Duh.) The rest is all opinion, and as opinion has it, indie rock should be refreshing, and reflect the world around you, whatever world that may be. It should be free of many guiding restraints, musically or otherwise, and come out of nowhere, stabbing you with its majestic beauty. And without a doubt, the key to it is that it shouldn’t take itself too seriously. Schizophrenology helps even the most jaded of listener rediscover music through a seemingly effortless attack on modern rock intellect. How much more indie can you get?

Sorry about all that hipper-than-thou rhetoric, but it often seems like a band can’t fully be accepted unless it meets certain unspoken requirements within certain realms and segmented music communities. The point being, if there was ever a band that I can stand behind — without knowing its full history, but simply on its musical and lyrical merit alone — the Majestic Twelve is that band.

To say that the band’s music is overtly political at times is a slight understatement. “Condoleezza, Check My Posse” name checks friends and ideals from a (stereotypical) right wing conservative viewpoint before breaking down with an a cappella harmonization gracefully overlapping “Ann Coulter… Rush Limbaugh… Sean Hannity… Tucker Carlson… Paul Wolfowitz…” The song finds solace in the simplistics of an upbeat neo-art rock beat while carrying on, and uniquely identifies a way to build lyrical momentum without losing the listener.

The brilliance is that the band doesn’t stick to pointing fingers at any one side or belief, but rather, tries to understand both sides of an argument through “Thank God Everything on TV is a Lie.” “We’ve got to win the war on drugs for the sake of our society / Our future as a global force depends on our sobriety / Pornography corrupts us, it makes us less than pure / And if everyone found Jesus, all those fags would have a cure,” balances a later verse, “There’s no justice in America / Democracy’s a fraud / And you really must be stupid if you think that there’s a God / If you’re straight and white and male you are the lord of the dominion / You were born as an oppressor with no right to an opinion.” The band makes an actual point out of this confrontational lyrical quarrel, which sets it apart from any musical contemporaries, should they exist, “I’m inquisitive and questioning, I’m thinking and I’m free, I’m not one of you, or one of them, I’m one of me, I’m not in either party, Both sides are illegit, I’ve figured out that all of you are completely full of…”

Does the band stand on higher ground with ill contempt for those who disagree or see things differently? Not really. Just as a love song bases love from one’s given perspective on emotion, this album bases many thoughts from the perspective of a political minority, simply stating without blatantly negating other’s beliefs. There are love songs too, though, in case you were wondering.

“Cry” casts an explosive, manic spell in which its characters find themselves in such dire need for each other that they both leave, explaining real emotions and not simply superficial standards. “All the things that she said, I’m so stupid, she’s right, No, I’m right, she’s a bitch, no she’s not, no she isn’t, (I’m still here waiting for you), All the things that she said, I’m so stupid, I want her, I want to destroy her, He breaks down and cries.” The point is how they come to terms with all of this, knowing full well that there is a reciprocal emotion between them, without either being able to say a word.

What’s that, you say? Lyrics based on vibrant emotion colliding with music that truly graces a new age of rock doesn’t intrigue you? Well, the band is funny too — how about that? “Pandora’s Legacy. Marketed by The Majestic Twelve with the help of several trailer parks full of bottle throwing children," reads the album notes. "Said children are a subsidiary of The Majestic Twelve Corporation.” See what I mean?

Back to that original statement, the band is indie, man… in its purest form. Still don’t believe me? Here's what the group offers as limitation for sharing the album: “Feel free to burn, upload, iPod, broadcast, bit torrent, download, seed, KaZaa, post, blog, distribute, Limewire and/or pimp this disc.” So, really, there's no reason not to introduce yourself to the band that you will be shocked to know that you didn’t already love: The Majestic Twelve.

Punk Rock Graduation Part 2

My intentions aren't to spark a debate or express myself as something that I'm not. I'm a simple fan with simple thoughts, but when Angela and I were talking and a post-punk reference was dropped I was sort of taken back that she wasn't quite certain what post-punk is. I was listening to a newer Brooklyn-based band the Pretty Flowers and I immediately thought post-punk. To be honest, it's hard to say that everyone can agree on what post-punk is and I'm not sure that I can narrow the term down myself.

As I was introduced to punk through which ever wave was going down during the mid to late 90s I was too introduced to post-punk. There were a variety of books I read during my teen years that lead me to believe that there was something huge that I was missing out on musically. The only information I previously had in my timeline included bands like Sonic Youth, Ramones, and through grunge references The Melvins, Green River and The Butthole Surfers. Who were bands like The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Echo & The Bunnymen, Gang of Four, Joy Division, The Cure and The Minutemen? Though, not all post-punk, per say, they all help lead into this discussion.

And now, however fitting it may be, I live near Minneapolis, the Mecca, in my opinion, of the American post-punk movement.

For the life of me, I see post-punk as a number of things. Elvis Costello, post-punk. Suicide and PiL, post-punk. But for the most part, when I close my eyes and think of the term, one set of lines flows through my mind; "Walking around with your head in the clouds, it makes no sense at all." The lyrics, are from Hüsker Dü's 1985 "Makes No Sense At All." When I think post-punk, I think lighter-toned alternative.

When Angela asked me to post a little for her I told her that I'd love to, and my agreement closely followed our brief mention of post-punk. I've recently been working closely with another blogger friend on a project and we were just throwing out names of bands that we were currently listening to. As Angela had previously mentioned the dozen or so Calgary based-bands that I've never heard of, I hadn't heard of the vast majority of my friend's list. What I was listening to, I told him, was Sonic Youth. He told me that he had never heard the band and had never given them a shot because "he shies away from bands with huge discographies that he's not familiar with, why get into them now?"

Now, if you will, allow me to preach for a moment.

It's important as a music fan to look into these bands, whether it be Elvis Costello, whether it be Public Image Limited or even The Replacements. The more you listen to music the more you know about why music today sounds like it does. The more you listen to music the more you figure out what was happening during a time before your own. The more you listen to music the easier it is to identify with those, thousands of miles away, who you may never see face to face. And finally, I find that the more you listen, the easier it is to love.

[This article first appeared on But She's on Fire.]

Punk Rock Graduation Part 1

There's something special about what our host, Angela, is going through in this particular time of her life. She's on her way to her senior year in high school, and presuming she graduates, she'll be looking forward to a new chapter of her life. As I graduated from a high school in Calgary I thought that I would extend a short examination of how a branch of my taste in music began taking shape, ie: babble/rant on about nothing important.

I was recently discussing a few things that have been going on in the city with Ms. Angela and I was baffled by how little I recognize the landscape. She named a number of bands off the top of her head including Pressure Kill Common Style, The Collapse, Woodpigeon and The Failure to name a mere few. Though I knew very little to begin with about the local scene, when I was graduating high school I spent a lot of time listening to bands like Rancid, NOFX and Gob which led me to begin to explore a little into the Calgary punk scene. In doing so, friends advised me somewhat of what was going on (maintain the time period of roughly '98-'01) and I found out about a few bands like Belvedere, Chixdiggit and Downway. Though I was a timid concert (or "gig" as the hipsters callen 'em) goer, I began listening to these bands a little, especially Chixdiggit, and felt somewhat close to the music.

As time has progressed I've grown closer to that band's songs for a number of reasons (here's where I babble) my journey towards my university diploma I found myself in a community college taking a course in rock & roll history. My teacher, Jocko, told tales of growing up in New York (not unlike my own tale) and spending time at, of all places, Rockaway Beach. How cool is that?! He continually mentioned how miserable a place it was, polluted and rocky with bitter waves. It was during this class, that I thought about the Chixdiggit song "Sikome Beach." Though I had never traveled there, legend has it that the beach was the same depressing polluted and rocky, sad excuse for a beach, swamp that old Jocko was referring to.

Oh, and for the sake of this rant, I had heard along the way that a member of Chixdiggit had babysat for someone who worked with my dad. Yeah, so I'm only like two degrees of separation from the band, but, I'm not trying to brag or anything.

Punk was and continues to be a major influence in my musical tastes. It's very enjoyable for me to listen to some of the music I listened to during high school and reflect on how like my tastes, I have changed. Angela has already proven her musical prowess by much of her postings on this site...and she's only 16. So with that being said, thanks for checking out the first part of the punk rock graduation rant. Topping it off will be the initial chance for me to reminisce a little longer and examine where some of my punk rock roots might have started. This has been Chris from and this is one of the few songs that I can look back and thankfully acknowledge as one of the puzzle pieces that lead me towards what I listen to today. (I can't believe how dated this video looks!)

[This article first appeared on But She's on Fire.]

Mike Patton Interview

Mike Patton has one of the most expansive bodies of work in modern rock music, ranging from the now defunct multi-platinum selling Faith No More to recording with the thunderous math/noise rock band the Dillinger Escape Plan to multiple guest spots with avant jazz composer John Zorn. His most recent project, Peeping Tom, reveals collaborations with a collective of some of the most influential and entertaining musicians from around the world ranging from the human beat-box Rahzel to adult-contemporary darling Norah Jones to UK trip-hop founders Massive Attack. In this interview Patton discusses the demo and collaborative process, recording in Italy and the future of Peeping Tom

Where did the Peeping Tom name come from?

From the 1960 thriller movie of the same name.

What can we expect to hear with Peeping Tom that differs it from past projects?

Well, it is certainly more linear. I hear a lot of different elements and genres rolled into one messy pile. But for all I know you will hear nü-metal!

With prior collaborations with musicians ranging from John Zorn to Buzz Osbourne how did you go about deciding who to work with for the Peeping Tom album?

The music directs me. After I work on something it is usually pretty obvious who I should get to play it. I pretty much imitate people when doing the original demos on each track. I like to work with people I respect and that I know are pros. But I do also like to explore the unknown.

Have you had any recent opportunities to guest on other band’s albums as you did with the Dillinger Escape Plan or the myriad of other bands & artists you’ve worked with.

I get offers all the time. I recently went to Italy to work with an orchestra on a classical piece written by Eyvind Kang. He is a total little known musical genius in Seattle. Talking to Dan the Automator about doing something and Rahzel as well.

What future plans do you have – is there life after Peeping Tom?

More Peeping Tom recording and touring, more Tomahawk, more Fantómas, more Lovage, the record with Eyvind Kang, scoring and indie film, voice work in video game “The Darkness”… It never ends!

Nardwuar Interview

Nardwuar has long since made a name for himself through his unique, high pitched interviews in which he is known to delve into areas of pop culture history generally unknown to the masses. His band, the Evaporators, follow suit, living in obscurity while playing music reminiscent of a parade of caffeine induced indie-geeks (the good kind). Signing to Alternative Tentacles seemed like a reasonable move as Nardwuar’s classic interviews with Jello Biafra have proven that underneath the political guise, we’re all music just music nerds. Here, Nardwuar addresses the Evaporators early beginnings, ultimate stage-mates, and Thee Goblins.

One of my favorite quotes about the band’s music has been Nardwuar’s “We like simple songs like that where we tell people the title before we play so they can sing along.” Some look at the Evaporators as “a too-silly-to-even-be-funny Canadian quasi pop-punk band” (Jeb Branin from In Music We Trust). I’d like to think that the Evaporators are more of a “smart-in-life-so-we-can-play-fun-music” band. Who are the Evaporators?

Narwuar: The Evaporators, in my opinion, strive to make people smile, think, and inspire. We love doing songs with history related themes, which covers the thinking part, and the smiling part is hopefully covered by the live show. As for inspiring people, I think that happens because people that see/hear us say to themselves, “I can do that!”

From what I’ve read, the Evaporators have played with amazing bands like Pavement, Sleater-Kinney, and the Melvins in the past. If the band could play one last gig, who would the ultimate stage-mates be?

We would open for the the Pointed Sticks from Vancouver, BC, Canada! The Sticks formed in 1978, and broke up in 1980, but along the way produced the catchiest toons ever to come out of the Northwest. They even appeared in the movie Out of the Blue (1980) with Dennis Hopper!

Did the band really start up in 1986, and if so, what’s the 20th anniversary line up?!

Yes! The Evaporators were born on February 20, 1986. However, our first official CD Ripple Rock did not come out till 2004, so I would say we are only two years old!

Where did Thee Goblins (and their many incarnations) come from?

Thee Goblins formed in the women’s costume section of the Value Village in Bellingham, Washington, USA. After a few years, of playing the same nine songs over and over again, they decided to “spice” things up a bit and morph into other bands! Hence Thee Skablins (Ska), Thee Technoblins (Techno), Thee Disgoblins (Disco), Thee Dublins (Dub), Gob Bizkit (Asshole Rock), Thee Gothblins (Goth), well, um, you get the idea…

With so many side projects like John’s work with those Pornographer guys, [your] ongoing work in Vancouver, and David’s continued efforts with the Smugglers to name a few, will there be another Evaporators album?

Actually there kinda is a new album out now! My new interview DVD, Doot Doola Doot Doo… Doot doo! contains over an hour of Evaporators and Goblins Videos including quite a few unreleased toons. No joke! Check it out!

Leftöver Crack Interview

From the ruins of the self proclaimed squat-core band Choking Victim emerged the ska & punk influenced Leftöver Crack, and the band continues to persevere through political persecution, corporate neglect and personal tragedy. I had the opportunity to ask a few questions of lead singer, Stza, and he was gracious enough to take some time and work through some thoughts on corporate punk, the Zapatista tribe, and maintaining the band’s integrity.

I believe that bands like Leftöver Crack have a connection with bands like Anti-Flag & other borderline corporate bands like Against Me! While I think that one cannot exist without the other, can politically fueled music truly exist at a corporate level?

Stza: Well, the issue of hypocrisy is definitely raised and I feel it is a very important issue, but I also understand how manipulative the media in this country is, and while I don’t believe I would ever be interested in signing to a corporate label. I know that having a band like Anti-Flag in the spotlight will only help a band like ours prosper. Plus they are friends of ours, so I support their decisions.

I’ve read that the band has played with the Dead Kennedys in the past. Recently, has the band been approached by any other notable acts concerning playing with them during the upcoming spring tour or thereafter?

Stza: Well, I must say that when we played with the “NEW” DKs, we had already turned them down in the states as we wanted nothing to do with their cashing in on important political issues and tarnishing the group’s good name. The fact is we weren’t told till the day before and we didn’t want to let down our own fans in England. And no, we don’t get too many offers to play with popular punk bands that we respect and when we do, we usually have already booked a tour for those dates and have to turn the band down… but we will be playing a couple of shows in the Midwest with the Subhumans this April.

Touting that Leftöver Crack is “anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-cop, and anti-breeding, but pro-choice” — does the band still feel that they can be successful in America given that it is such an uphill battle?

Stza: Well, I think that we have already achieved a fair amount of success. When I talk to the fans that we do have, they are usually extremely enthusiastic about our music and political messages, the latter being the more important. I think if it wasn’t for our politics, we might sell a few more records, but people wouldn’t be steadily gravitating towards our back catalog over the years as they have. And as Immortal Technique says, if you go platinum, it just means a million people are as stupid as fuck.

While reading, I came across some information noting that you’ve spent some time in Mexico with the Zapatistas. How has that changed, influenced or confirmed the band’s music?

Stza: It’s hard to find popular revolutionary movements that have actually had some success, especially so close to the United States, where our government feels the need to crush all revolutionary activity. So, it’s definitely inspirational and reaffirming that we are not completely crazy and there are popular movements that thrive on many of the same principals that we hold dear.

I am a graduating business major and find myself constantly battling between the rules that govern our society and my personal ethics. I’m not trying to find a balance between my personal ethics and the political & business-based environment, because in doing so I have to greatly compromise my personal beliefs and integrity. I’ve heard that Leftöver Crack have been banned from certain clubs. Has this compromised the band’s beliefs at all, and how can I continue without giving up my beliefs?

Stza: No, when we are banned from clubs because of our political beliefs, it just reaffirms our righteousness. It’s easy to continue without compromising your beliefs — it simply involves shunning a lot of the best opportunities and settling for less money and less recognition.

Thank you very much for your time, and I hope that the band has a very successful tour this spring!

Stza: Gracias y viva la lucha.

Stephen Yerkey "Metaneonatureboy" Review

There are two things that jump into my mind when listening to Stephen Yerkey's Metaneonatureboy: the first being what I feel the music to be, and what I think Yerkey feels the music to be. Growing up, I really got off on using the word "bastardization" in terms of alternative music. I remember calling people out when they would claim their favorite music to be alternative. “It’s an alternative to what?!” I often responded, following with a statement along the lines of, “That’s merely a bastardization of the term, man.” On an opposite yet similar note, through print and video artists often refer to their projects as something that they wanted to hear, make, watch, etc. “I just wanted to make the kind of music that I wanted to hear at the time.” Unfortunately, as experience has shown me, this statement repeatedly reflects something along the lines of “I just wanted to make music that I was hearing elsewhere, and thought to myself, I could probably come up with something pretty close to that.”

Metaneonatureboy would be an album that I would call alternative, and after simply one song in, it’s easy to understand that Yerkey is truthfully “making the kind of music that he wanted to hear at the time.” Starting with a two song bluesy set, including the dark, despondent Delta track, “Dark and Bloody Ground.” “Fall Out of Love” inspires what would become an ongoing theme of deeply rooted instrumental versatility, with its inclusion of piano, clarinet, saxophone, trombone, a little guitar, a little bass, and backing vocals by Colleen Browne. “Alice MacAllister” offers my favorite “love as an intoxicant” lyric as of late, “I’m drunk at breakfast, I’m drunk at dinner, I’m drunk at… Alice MacAllister.” Not to be out done however by anecdotal “Cadillacs of That Color,” “‘Reverend Ike, how can you help people riding in a car that looks like a pickle?’ And he fixed me with an intense stare and said, ‘Little boy, how can I help people riding on a bicycle?’” “My Baby Love the Western Violence” offers a slick, hip politically incorrect love psalm. Taking a trip through what can only be affectionately called lounge-core, and “Link Wray’s Girlfriend,” the album ends with the ten minute “Stinson Beach Road,” a song deeply entranced in instrumental ossification. What's that, you say? Your favorite music is alternative…? Take a listen to Metaneonatureboy and please reconsider the lingo.