Klaxons at 7th St. Entry (Minneapolis, MN)

It’s not often that a band plays its set exclusively for one particular person at a show. One person crammed in amongst the rest of an over-sold audience. One person amongst many in the humid, low-ceiling showcase of The Entry. That and it’s hard to honestly believe that the now mythical band from the UK, Klaxons, touted as rock’s missing link by its native media outlets, was playing song after song just for me. Seems strange and somewhat unbelievable, but believe it. I was there.

True. It could be said that as the band has essentially released a mere handful of EPs, much of which were included in the release of this year’s Myths of a Near Future, it would be rather likely to hear most every song on the night’s wish list. Those people would be wrong in this case, because in between planets aligning, tides rising and babies being born—the band played for me.

Shortly following the exhausting two-hour session from local hype machine DJ SovietPanda, the band tapped into the set that utilized much of one of this year’s most energetic releases.

And so it began, “Atlantis to Interzone,” “Totem on the Timeline,” “Golden Skans,” “Two Receivers,” “Gravitys Rainbow” and “It’s Not Over Yet” were all covered, amongst a selection of others. The songs that previously overwhelmed the band’s latest release, however, such as the new rave archetype “Atlantis,” failed to capture the entire crowd in the same fashion as some of the album’s non-singles. Further dividing thought as to what characterizes the band’s strengths was the performance of “It’s Not Over Yet,” with its synth-welding exterior, which seemed to overtake the crowd in a way that the band’s singles never did. Shutting down the set with “Four Horsemen of 2012,” the mighty Klaxons shed its swank exterior and broke a smile, uniting the sweaty 18-plus crowd that had knitted itself closely around the small stage throughout the course of the show.

Whether or not a band is actually playing for one person or a rolling meadow full of festival attendees is somewhat meaningless. Because while singing the memorized lyrics and mumbling the way through those only known phonetically, no one in the world can argue that the band is not playing for you. And for a band that has attracted such a vast audience of listeners across the Atlantic to play in front of some 200 fans, there can be no better show than the show they play exclusively for you. Or, in this case, me.

[This article first appeared on How Was The Show.]

Aesop Rock Interview

Aspiring MCs could prosper from modeling themselves after the likes of New York-based producer/MC Aesop Rock, though doing so would most definitely have negative effects on the global market for gold and platinum grillz. The Boston University graduate recently released the latest in Nike’s Original Run series, titled All Day, which follows last year's releases in the series by the Crystal Method and LCD Soundsystem. (These online exclusives focus purely on assisting runners in their daily training, all coming in at around forty five minutes each.) In maintaining his healthy work ethic, Aesop Rock is also finalizing his upcoming album entitled None Shall Pass, from which the title track was recently released as apart of the Def Jux/Adult Swim Definitive Swim compilation.

Much of hip hop’s modern releases seem very upfront and quick to the punch whereas All Day takes a few minutes before even properly introducing itself. How did you approach the Nike mix knowing that you’d have to dictate the pace so it could maintain consistency over the better part of an hour?

Aesop Rock: Thanks. The assignment was forty five minutes, and they gave me a very slim outline of how they wanted it to move: a seven to eight minute warm up, thirty minute run, seven to eight minute cool down. In my head, the thing just had to remain entertaining. I needed to make it change as and grow over time so that just as somebody became used to a certain element it would fade on to the next. It’s interesting to approach a song like this because usually you’re designing something that will get heard over a three to five minute period. Where on a four minute song you have a ten second intro, now you have a four to five minute song, your intro grows, your build up grows, it’s a whole different way of listening.

Whereas Nike had previously approached electronic-based artists like the Crystal Method and LCD Soundsystem for the series, do you feel that it was a logical move for the brand to shift towards hip hop and in particular an artist such as yourself?

Logical? I don’t know if choosing me is ever logical for anybody ever but I know they were looking to branch out from dance music into hip hop and rock. My name was thrown in the hat with a bunch of others and I guess the good people over there liked what I do. I think they eventually want to cover all genres, or many.

What was the idea behind your collaborations with guitarist Allyson Baker and DJ Big Wiz on All Day?

Allyson is three things: a badass guitar player, an avid runner, and my wife. I was going to her left and right with questions on how to approach this music for a “runner,” is this working, is it not, etc. She always had great input, which soon grew into her playing on the song. I was given so little time to do the whole project, so any riffs she could come up with or we could come up with together we’d lay it down and move along. As for Wiz, I told him “hey I got forty five minutes of music here, let’s get busy.” I basically wanted it to come off like he was just scratching in his room, like he just had free range to get open. Whereas I usually create these songs and we go through them to choreograph sections where scratching may be good, this time I just really wanted him to treat it like he was freestyling, just go with the beat. So we got together a bunch of sounds and one at a time recorded a ton of cuts.

What was the process for writing the material for the mix – did you write individual songs and just blend them together or did you approach All Day as one extended track?

I made about seven separate sections, maybe eight. The first and last were designed as the most chilled out parts, as to serve their functions as “warm up” and “cool down.” The middle sections were all about moving forward, driving, and slowly changing sounds, a soundscape (lame term) that kind of grows and evolves as you move forward.

There are a fair amount of solid instrumental pieces within All Day but how did you even begin to approach this piece lyrically?

I did all of the music first. I knew I would go back an add lyrics after, but I wanted it to be primarily instrumental. I used the vocal sections almost like one would use a horn or instrument that kind of meanders in and meanders out. They were there to wake up the listener, to be something that says “hey look where you are now, this scenery is different since last I spoke.” The actual lyrics would play off the vibe of the particular section they were on. I wanted things that tried to keep the visual aspect of the music alive, anything that pushed the music into a clear, painted image.

Continuing that subject – could you explain the lyrics behind the track “None Shall Pass,” your contribution to the recent Def Jux/Adult Swim mix?

“None Shall Pass” is a good track to lead into the album of the same name. Much of the album’s overall concept has to do with growing. Hitting a point in your life in which the people around you, your peers, view you as an adult, and you become way more responsible for your actions than you were as a child. You hit a point where “acting” dumb is no longer viewed as funny, you hit all these areas in which your contemporaries will look at you and judge you. The song is about being responsible for your actions, and recognizing that a day will come when your neighbor will decide whether or not you are an asshole.

What has been your favorite part of the sessions for the new album?

It has been a long process. I’m not sure what my favorite part is, I mean most of the stuff I do revolves around me and Blockhead. I guess just knowing that I am still walking through this adventure in the music industry with my best homie is always fun. These days I take more time to step back and acknowledge that. There were a couple times on this one where we actually kind of stopped and took time to say “hey man, damn we been doing this together for a bit now. That’s pretty cool.” I guess I don’t have a favorite moment, but recognizing things like that is always good and helps keep me grounded during some of the worse times.

Type O Negative at First Avenue (Minneapolis, MN)

Type O Negative is the type of band that people—often, young adults who were furiously trying to find an identity—listened to when they wanted a taste for a gothic lifestyle without necessarily giving it the old college try. The band is fairly accessible, its landmark 1993 release Bloody Kisses went platinum and its 1996 follow-up October Rust went gold, and since then, one has really never had to struggle to find anything new about the band or its music. Contrast that to the likes of even the most popular of underground gothic acts such as Christian Death or the somewhat obscure Sopor Aeternus, and it’s easy to see what has allowed Type O to reach the level of popularity that it has. The band plays a somewhat generic, toned down sound. A sound that is honestly easy for any hard-rock fan to enjoy. That being said, Type O Negative is one of my favorite bands and its ability to deliver heart stopping music with tongue firmly planted in cheek never ceases to amaze.

Rousing the crowd before a performance can have both positive and negative effects—either the audience is going to roll with the punches or get rowdy and pissed off. With that said, after three full loops of “The Chicken Dance” theme, even I was beginning to become a bit suspicious and impatient. After all, Celtic Frost had just wrapped up its set, one as deeply covered with satanic imagery as the band members in corpse paint were.

As fans grew increasingly impatient, the stage crew continued to test the “applause,” “you suck,” “booooooo” and “laughter” signs on the stage. It was like a twisted version of The Merv Griffin Show (much to the displeasure of one roadie who happened to take the brunt of the joke as every time he walked on stage the “boooooo” sign mysteriously lit up). At last, the lights dimmed… and… finally,… the parodic anthem “Kazakhstan” from the recent Borat film began to play, accompanying the floor lights which came back on.

Believe it or not, the band actually took the stage at some point during the night and played an excellent show. Its previous tour brought the act to town accompanying Cradle of Filth at the now defunct Quest and it came at a time when singer Peter Steele’s back was in terrible shape. Apparently no longer an issue, Steele and the rest of the band played a far more complete set this time around and the high energy of the crowd was a direct reflection of that—though some still weren’t over that whole “Chicken Dance” incident.

The band’s recent release, Dead Again, debuted on the Billboard Top 200 at #27, further proof of the band’s ongoing accessibility. Criticizing your idols is never an easy task, but if nothing worse can be said than “they’re too popular,” “too accessible” or “easy to enjoy” it might be time to stop looking for flaws and start enjoying the music again. Thankfully, on this night I was able to do just that.

[This article first appeared on How Was The Show.]

Social Distortion "Live at The Roxy"

The album that had the greatest influence on the way I listen to music is Social Distortion’s 1998 live album Live at The Roxy. It isn’t entirely important for its musical influence, as I'd already been a fan of the band for a number of years and was quite familiar with the songs before purchasing the disc, but rather because it drove home the importance of music’s context. Since first hearing the group and taking time to study its history, I've come to appreciate it as one of the greatest punk bands of all time. Not because of an edgy sound that spits acid in your eye all the while telling your mother where to get off, but because of that same question of context. The group did live poor, they struggled and slummed, and in the end came out as champions of a scene that many didn’t survive. Junkies, prostitution, violence—if a band and its music can survive a scene bearing these obstacles only to release a career-capping live record some twenty years later, proof is given to hope and the music carried within gains an unmatched power.

The album also has a storyline that laments on Social Distortion’s historical heartache, and with a packed house of people who lived it alongside them, who actually remembered “[w]hen that parking lot was a 7-11” and getting in fights with the local high school jocks, there's a feeling of history that one feels without ever experiencing a second of that life. This album changed the way I listen to music not in that it expanded my sense of what music could sound like, but rather in the sense of what music I hold dear to me. The songs that changed my life aren’t ideally artistic, nor are they musically superior to much of what passes through my ears; they are however honest and critical of the world around them and many of which you can find on Live at The Roxy.

[This article was first published by Nerd Litter.]