Morgan Nagler (of Whispertown 2000) Interview

Culture Bully’s Chris DeLine recently caught up with Whispertown 2000’s Morgan Nagler, the singer taking some time to address a number of questions revolving around the group’s latest release Swim. The two discussed the band’s ongoing relationship with a number of Los Angeles-based artists, including Jenny Lewis, the band’s unusual approach to booking shows, and its November tour which will include 12 shows along the West coast.

Rumor has it that you guys booked your entire Summer 2006 tour via your MySpace page. How did you do it and what lessons did you take away from that experience?

Morgan Nagler: Yes, the house party tour! Well, when we finished our first tour, opening for Jenny Lewis, we got home and were sad because we didn’t want to stop. So us and our contemporary (I don’t think I’ve ever used that word before), Michael Runion, posted on our MySpace pages, do you want us to play at your house? It was a pretty crazy process figuring and mapping it all out, but ended up an amazing experience. To go into people’s homes and really connect and play for people that want to hear. Also to make your own way in the world, and live outside the lines felt great. You can really do whatever you want, you just have to want to.

How did you approach Swim compared to Livin’ in a Dream? When you started recording the new album did Swim seem like a distant memory?

Morgan Nagler: Swim was approached very differently. On Livin’ in a Dream I played the songs and then everyone else made up parts on the spot, for the most part, and also we recorded in various locations at various times. For Swim the songs were all totally worked out and rehearsed (for the most part), and recorded in a consecutive block of time. We were much more developed as a band, and continue to morph into ourselves. Yes, Livin’ in a Dream seems like a distant memory, or dream, if you will. I’m fond of beginnings.

Livin’ in a Dream featured guest appearances by Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett as well as Jonathan Rice. Did anyone outside of the band join you in the studio this time around?

Morgan Nagler: Yes, Jenny Lewis, Gillian Welch, and David Rawlings joined us in harmony on “Atlantis;” Nick White, from Tilly and the Wall, played lovely piano on “Pushing Oars;” Jason Boesel and Rawlings joined us on “Jamboree,” Rami Jaffee played organ and piano on “103″ and Jake Bellows, from Neva Dinova made vibed out contributions. Our friends are so nice, talented, funny, cool, and good looking. And smart.

Two of those names were fairly influential in your musical career. How tightly knit are you with a lot of bands in the Los Angeles area?

Morgan Nagler: We’re very tightly knit with our friends in Los Angeles, and all over the country, really. We admire and appreciate their art and kindness and support.

You’ve toured with a lot of fantastic groups including Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s, who also have a new album coming out. Are there any upcoming releases that you’re excited for?

Morgan Nagler: Well, it’s already released, but Benji Hughes A Love Extreme!

Are you making any plans for a fall tour in support of the new album? Will you be booking it by more conventional means this time around?

Morgan Nagler: Yes, we’re planning a west coast vibe early November, by slightly more conventional means And plan to tour all year, more and more conventionally.

Dungen “Satt Att Se” (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artists. For this installment, Dungen’s Gustav Ejstes describes the first song from the band’s latest release 4. Ejstes explains the transformation the song made over the course of a year, changing its title, structure and eventually even changing it from an instrumental to a track featuring vocals.

On “Satt Att Se”:

It is actually about pop culture and how things can get so blown up so quickly. The song was tentatively titled “Pop” from the beginning. My good friend Marcus started a club in Stolkholm which completely became a hip haven and and the lines to get in were almost 200 meters down the block, which he didn’t expect. That’s what the song is about – pop culture phenomenons.

Musically the song was written and recorded during the same period of a couple of days. It was actually an instrumental track for a year. I composed the tune on piano at Johan’s apartment, that’s where most of 4was written. We brought it to studio and played it with Johan [Holmegard] and Reine [Fiske]. l made the arrangements, the same time they approved the songs. “Satt Att Se” is fittingly the the first song on this album as it’s the oldest material and the first one completed.

Ryan Adams and The Cardinals “Cardinology” Review

As an artist Ryan Adams has often displayed characteristics suggesting struggle within his own reality, something that many have faulted him for. Even through times of relative insanity however, he still continued to offer examples of sensibility within his music. But on Cardinology, the music is almost too sensible. As matter of fact, to some degree I wish it were an inconsistent recording so suggestion could be made that he’s going through “one of those phases.” The chorus to “Go Easy” ever-so-briefly reminds me of My Morning Jacket and “Magick” starts off with a bit of White Stripes-type bounce, but the rest of the album is consistently bland. New York Times journalist Winter Miller recently caught up with Adams on tour, opening the musician up to questions about his current favorite albums. With no sarcasm whatsoever, Adams mentioned of Mariah Carey, “Her records are masterpieces” and of Metallica’s Death Magnetic, “Lyrically astounding.” Where I once felt like I could see past my disinterest in his music I’m now having a hard time seeing the good in the musician at all. On that note, Cardinology might be a lyrically astounding masterpiece, but then again, I can’t stand Mariah Carey.

Frida Hyvönen Interview

Prior to crossing the Atlantic for a few select US dates, Frida Hyvönen and Culture Bully’s Chris DeLine discussed a few brief topics in a quick interview; touching on her aversion to the idea of being just another Scandinavian blonde and getting drunk in Italy. Hyvönen’s new album, Silence is Wild, will be released State-side on November 4, via Secretly Canadian. Her November 13 show show in New York will be Hyvönen’s last in America before heading back to Europe, where she will wrap up her 2008 tour.

Last year you recorded a song for Stereogum’s R.E.M. tribute album, Drive XV; which songs by other musicians are your favorite to perform?

Frida Hyvönen: At the moment “Jesus Was A Crossmaker” by Judee Sill and “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison.

In the liners notes of Silence is Wild you’re credited with playing a wide range of instruments - which is your favorite?

Frida Hyvönen: The gong was fun to play but, at least in my hands, quite a limited instrument. I love the long grand piano at Atlantis. It was built for Bill Evans I believe.

I really enjoy the lyrics for “Scandinavian Blonde” as they seem to play off of the subject’s stereotypical appeal. What was the inspiration for the song?

Frida Hyvönen: Going outside of Sweden to play shows and realizing that some people I met,
would first and foremost see me or my friends as [a] stereotypical “Scandinavian blonde” - which was hilarious to me.

As you continue to tour Europe which cities are you most looking forward to visiting?

Frida Hyvönen: I really look forward to seeing Ravenna again. It was magic last time. The city in itself has a kind of dewy shimmer to it, perhaps it’s minerals, like the same air has circulated there for a long time and worked its way into the stone, so the houses are heavy and transparent at once. The streets are narrow and the religious art is detailed. My tour manager turned 25 when we were there and we filled the hotel room with auguri balloons, and got drunk off of grappa in a very tiny, very new car at a parking lot. Truly glamorous.

The Pica Beats "Poor Old Ra" (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artists. In this edition Ryan Barrett of The Pica Beats contrasts his typical approach to writing songs with that used while writing the band’s single from its latest album, Beating Back the Claws of the Cold. “Poor Old Ra,” as Barrett describes it, took form quickly as he translated the story of Ra through his own words.

On “Poor Old Ra”:

Most songs I write are inspired by the first line or two, which usually will pop out randomly while strumming on a new chord progression. “Poor Old Ra” was no different. Often, the first line that comes out is just a lyrical placeholder, throwaway lyrics that give me a direction for the melody, comprised of words that make no sense or just make me laugh and aren’t suited for a song. This was one of the luckier times when I actually liked what came out first, and the song pretty much wrote itself after that.

As is typical with most god and creation myths, the story of Ra is comprised of the themes of love, loss, desire, betrayal, aging, death, and greed. Coincidentally, these are pretty much all of the same things that everyone has always obsessed about. Even more coincidentally they are the only things I ever seem to write songs about, so I guess it was a perfect match. – Ryan Barrett

Sune Rose Wagner (of the Raveonettes) Interview

The Raveonettes have just released Beauty Dies, the group’s third in their ongoing series of fall EPs. Following the release of their September release, Sometimes They Drop By, Culture Bully’s Chris DeLine caught up with Sune Rose Wagner to discuss the series. The band will be hitting the road in the new year following their expected fourth EP, stopping by a few select dates in January.

What spurred the idea to release a string of EPs rather than lumping the tracks together as a follow-up to Lust, Lust, Lust?

Sune Rose Wagner: It’s a little bit more interesting to write and record four songs at a time than having to concentrate on 12-14 songs for a full length. This way you can do something new and exciting on all three of them. I wish people just recorded singles instead of albums, actually.

How many releases are you planning before the year’s end? How will they contrast with Remixed and Sometimes They Drop By?

Sune Rose Wagner: Four releases in all. The first one was free and then three more to go for people to buy. The next one is called Beauty Dies and it’s a crazed out, dark and twisted EP. The third one is a Christmas EP.

Are the songs that you’re including in the series from older sessions or are you recording these as you go?

Sune Rose Wagner: Two or three songs are older songs we never really used or songs we used for one specific thing, like an exclusive for something.

How did you guys transition the electronic component of the RemixedEP into Sometimes They Drop By?

SRW: We’ve always used electronic drums and elements in our music and have always recorded with computers and beats, but never really used synths, so it was interesting and new for us. It’s by no means a genius electronic epic but rather a very minimal, drone of an EP.

Lust, Lust, Lust was a bit of a shift in direction from Pretty in Black - and the first two installments of the EP series continue that transition. What has helped influence this shift away from a sound that some might say is reminiscent of the Golden Age of Rock ‘n Roll?

SRW: Pretty in Black was an album we always wanted to do. Mix the old with the new and make it shine and be very glossy and pretty. I’m extremely proud of that album. We have many facets to our music so sometimes it’s hard for us to come up with a specific [idea] for an album. That’s why the EP thing works really well for us, plus we write all the time and work really fast.

Have you been considering touring at all once the series of EPs have all been released?

Sune Rose Wagner: We’ll definitely do some shows in January on both coasts. In the meantime we’ll just write and record so we can release music whenever we want to.

of Montreal "Skeletal Lamping" Review


There is a high degree of whimsy that accompanies each new of Montreal release, one that is evidenced by the overwhelming sexuality of the records, and one that is certainly apparent in the band's new album, Skeletal Lamping. Driven by a sexual freedom, singer Kevin Barnes's lyrical candor can often be as overwhelming as his on-stage presence. All the same, it isn't always clear what he's trying to say. "Wicked Wisdom," for instance, is boggling: "I'm just a black she-male/And I don't know what you people are all about." Then again, sometimes his lyrics are glowingly forthright: "We can do softcore if you want/But you should know I take it both ways."

This sexuality is just as vital to the band's success as it is to distinguishing and appealing to Of Montreal's fans. Additionally, it's vital that the band not shy away too far from the themes that have contributed to its headliner status, a mistake that isn't made with Skeletal Lamping. Take, for instance, the number of openly frigid conservatives at the band's shows compared to that of adoring adolescents and neo-hippies. Would drab recollections timidly bemoaning lost love honestly appeal to the latter? Probably not. Likewise, which group would be more receptive to such visually ripe lyrics as those in "St. Exquisite's Confessions": "I'm so sick of sucking the dick of this cruel world, I've forgotten what it takes to please a woman/But that's all gonna change"? Which group of listeners would be interested in an album that unnoticeably shifts between electro-funk and lightly shredding guitars? Accordingly, Of Montreal have identified its core audience and such a group of youthful, free-loving music listeners will not be disappointed by Skeletal Lamping.

[This article was first published by City Pages.]

Mei-Ling Anderson of The Wars of 1812 on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

The four of us in The Wars of 1812 have been making music for most of our lives. I think that somewhere, we all have cassette tapes we made as children, playing cover songs through small practice amps. The band as it is now is a result of connections we had made in various music circles that overlapped throughout high school and college.

Our band grew out of an album that Bobby Maher (drums) and Peter Pisano (guitar/vocals) created their last year of college. I had met Bobby in high school (at jazz camp) and he asked me to play bass with them for a live show they were asked to do. We had so much fun rehearsing and playing together that we decided to take a week and record an album that summer. We initially brought in Bobby’s friend from high school, Peter Rosewall, to engineer the album, but we quickly decided that he should also play keyboards on every song. None of us went into recording the album with the intention that we would start a band, but a year later we moved to Minneapolis in order to play music together as much as possible.

I can’t emphasize enough how critical arts education is. I wouldn’t know some of my best friends, including Bobby and Peter Rosewall, without having had an arts education available to me during high school. My father and Rosewall’s father both teach music by profession, so we were really lucky to grow up around people who taught us its value. If my high school hadn’t been able to afford an upright bass, I would never have been able to travel to places like New York and Chicago. Music, theater, singing, liberal arts, and visual arts are all things that have greatly defined who I am and the things that I love.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Krista Vilinskis of Tinderbox Music & Princess Records on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

My dad is a huge Elvis Presley fan. He introduced me to Elvis’s music when I was eight and soon I had my first idol. My dad would spin records from The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Credence Clearwater Revival, The Kinks, Eagles, Rolling Stones, The Zombies, Gordon Lightfoot and Beach Boys. During college I studied abroad in England for a year and the music scene was exploding with artists such as The La’s, The Stone Roses, Blur, Catherine Wheel, The Auteurs, Slowdrive, Lush, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, Chapterhouse, RIDE and Supergrass. I was hooked and switched my major when I returned from England. I had to work in this industry.

Once I returned from studying in England, I immersed myself in classes pertaining to music and film. It changed my life and I found a new obsession. My classes helped me to digest music in a different light. I was driven by the need to understand how songs were written and what makes a song so amazing. I was excited by how a specific music composition could make or break a scene in a film or television show. I was lucky enough to have a university that specialized in Mass Communications and through our university’s TV station (UTVS), I started my own music television show called Whack!, which was similar in format to early MTV. I was able to use the universities high-8 cameras and set up in-person interviews with my musical idols such as Chris Mars from The Replacements, Uncle Tupelo, Gigolo Aunts, Frank Black and Green Day. That experience opened many doors for me. Once graduated from college, I was immediately able to work in the field of my choice thanks to the background and education my university classes provided me.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Unicorn Basement on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

Deanna Steege: I’ve always been into music and thought it’d be awesome to be in a band, but didn’t really think I could until college. There weren’t any women in the local Iowa music scene I grew up in, so the thought of me being in one seemed impossible. Moving away from home and meeting people who expanded my music taste beyond the handful of punk bands and crappy emo music I listened to in high school energized me and inspired me to start making music. I realized hey! there’s more to music than a sad kid playing in a ring of candles and punk bands who all sound the same! once max and I moved to Minneapolis we delved further into the local music scene, meeting countless bands who have supported us from the beginning. They’ve pushed us as we’ve pushed each other to continue to create new music and tour the country.

I think the arts and music are extremely connected, they definitely overlap in our songwriting process and performances. I’m not sure if it’s from arts education that I became interested in making art (other art forms such as painting and drawing) but I think it was more so due to the people I’ve surrounded myself with who continually fuel my desire to create. I find it extremely sad that when funding for schools gets cut because it’s these two categories that feel the economic crunch the fastest. Sure it’s important to give kids adequate education on subjects like science and math, but without the arts playing an important role in their schooling, they’re missing out on enhancing their creativity in a way other subjects can’t do.

Max Clark: I was totally 14 and I had this awesome friend who wailed on me with major sweet punk records. Growing up I mostly listened to the Lion King soundtrack over and over like eight times a day and drew pictures of Lion King characters hanging out together like awesome friends. I drew pictures of Batman and the Joker on giant paper bags and gave them to my mom. I stopped that when I started watching my Ramones VHS over and over. Basically I realized that if these punk kids can be super awesome and not even be as good at music as Cyndi Lauper or Paul Simon then I can do what I want to also. I told my parents that and they didn’t believe me. So I never stopped. One day my mom and dad will look at me and say something like, “You are really good at everything you do and we are super proud of you!” But until then I will keep telling them, “I am really good at everything I do and I think everyone is capable of awesome amazing things. It is just a matter of believing in yourself and fighting for those dreams and never giving in even when people tell you that you can’t live your life the way you want.” It is easy to say I believe in you and that you can be anything you put your mind to but it is much harder to really believe that your 22 year old son who has just graduated from college with a degree in Marketing is actually capable of becoming successful filmmaker or that your daughter is going to just make art for a living. The reason that is so hard is if you never learned to believe in yourself on that level.

I was totally encouraged in the visual arts. I think I showed some basic proficiency early on and people got tricked into thinking my Lion King drawings were awesome. I was never good at drawing roses. I am working on that lately. I always felt like the art department was completely insufficient and underfunded when it was present at all but it was in those classes that I learned to value creative expression and to value myself. Maybe I do both of those too much though. I believe in people in crazy amounts I think we can all accomplish anything and do exactly what we want to if we refuse to let anything stop us. I could not have that faith in other people on the level I do if I didn’t first find it in myself. Living life is like casting a miniature magic spell where you have to light five candles and make a circle with some glitter while you remember your dad. There are very integral parts that must be present and if they aren’t there the spell doesn’t work. Art and music are totally integral parts of that gigantic super awesome conjuring of education. Without the arts life would be so much less mystical and I have a really hard time finding the beauty in a world where all your spells fail.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Michael Rossetto of Spaghetti Western String Co. on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I was at a neighbors garage sale when I was eight or nine and they had a steel string guitar which I strummed with my thumb for hours. The next day I had a blister covering most of my thumb. From then I moved on to strumming tennis rackets. At 11 I began guitar and at 20 I began banjo which is now my first love. In a time of unemployment and a rough winter of 2003, I began the Spaghetti Western String Co. group with Nicholas Lemme and today we are three records deep with much more to come. Ethan Sutton joined in 2005 and Paul Fonfara began with us in 2006. Everyone in the group has their own origin stories but mine stems from the garage sale guitar and years of watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood- excellent music on that program for kids.

I was fortunate to have a great music program in middle school with a separate guitar program for general music students. These classes introduced me to the musical possibilities that can be realized with a cheap plywood guitar and a good instructor. From there my instruction came from other musicians - from my cousin who played blues in his garage to Leo Kottke. When I started on banjo, my education was from the records of my heroes; Earl Scruggs to Bela Fleck and everyone in between.

Over the years I’ve studied with other players, learned theory and technique; but have found that I’ve learned more from spending an afternoon picking with the Swsco. guys or with other local players. What makes Swsco. functional as an ensemble is that all of us have a music education background - chord theory, harmonic/melodic theory etc. as well the will to create music for the sake of making noise. When I listen to tapes of our rehearsals or our records, I hear the “schooled” parts in songs where we used our knowledge of composition, chord theory, harmony etc. and I also hear the parts where we are just playing… and improvising. The contrast between the two makes for interesting music. At least we think so.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Aaron Pollock of QuarterAcreLifestyle on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I first got into making music at age 10, back in New Zealand. I was starting off at a new school and had great envy for the kids who got to play before the school assemblies. The band consisted of all the music students; 10 guitars, two banjos, bass guitar, drums, flute… about 15 people total in the band. But the best part was seeing the three drummers sharing the set. I thought to myself “this is the coolest school ever!” From that moment I started drum lessons and got myself into the lineup. I’m so grateful to have been introduced to the drums and music performance at such a young age.

Arts education has been so important! I’m also an art director, and I’ve found that both my art and music development have been fueled by an early arts education. As a result I’m continually trying to blur the lines between design and music, and that’s probably why our sound has a cinematic quality to it. We create as many purely instrumental tracks as we do with lyrics. Sometimes the inspiration comes from an image, a tone, texture or a color, and the idea of music as the soundtrack to that picture. I attribute a lot of our musical aesthetic to our education in the arts.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Prof Lukas on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

Freestyling. That’s how I got into making rap. The first time I just let my mouth run, and it actually rhymed, I was hooked for life. There’s millions of people out there who know what I’m talking about. That feeling of pure consciousness and unconsciousness at the same time. Total focus. It’s like crack.

As far as making music goes, I went to school at a place called Ramsey IFAC in Minneapolis. That school was the shit. I don’t know if they still got it the same way, but it was mandatory to play an instrument there. So it wasn’t a coincidence that all my close hommies all had a general knowledge of what music was, and how to create it.

I remember sitting in the orchestra, a complete fuck up, Gampo Style. I never paid attention to shit. I would be sneaking around under the chairs trying to look up skirts, going around sticking gum on dudes jeans. I couldn’t read music. Still can’t. But when it came time to learn new songs, I was always down. I would play my violin super quiet the first couple time through a song. One thing that Ramsey gave me was an ear. Even if I don’t play an instrument, I can pick it up, and play a half-assed tune in a couple minutes.

As far as Art education in general, I’ve had that. I did my time at a college called MCAD. Those dudes are for real about that shit. I paint, draw, design. All that. Got to love it. I would say I approach visual arts the same I do my music. I jump in quick, then refine my way out to the finish. The creative process, for me, is almost exactly the same. What up Mike, what up Stazi, get your learn on. Go to my MySpace. Add me on Facebook as Prof Lukas. Love me hard.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Jonathan Ackerman of The Moon Goons on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I’ve just always been fascinated with music and all kinds of it. I started collecting records when I realized that I could buy most albums that I wanted on record for a fraction of the price of a CD. From there I just became more obsessive and had more money to spend on them. I just love music and everything that goes with it.

I was always supported as a kid, but my parents never would pay for me to take up an instrument. Maybe being deprived of that has driven me to what I am now. I do find that the more I listen the more I find new things that catch my ear. It’s a constantly evolving process and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Military Special on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

Charlie Smith: Like any toddler who stumbles upon things that make noise, though my ear is a little more refined today.

One of the defining moments of my musicianship was when I joined St. Paul Central High’s jazz band in my junior year. I was just starting to get my feet under me and needed someone to encourage me to take risks. Without Central’s music teacher, Matt Oyen, I wouldn’t have decided to go on to study music in college and undertake this ridiculous pursuit of making it my profession. He actually taught many fine musicians in the local scene today in that jazz band: Peter Leggett of Heiruspecs on drums, Lucy Michelle on bari sax, Chris Graham of the Velvet Lapelles on guitar, our bassist James Shaff, and Joe played a pretty mean trumpet back then. Studying music in Italy was a pretty big eye opener too.

Danell Norby: I actually just kind of fell into making music. I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking about music, discussing it with friends, going to shows, reviewing albums for my college’s music magazine, but never seriously thought about making it myself. I had all but abandoned the handful of instruments I’d taken up as a kid, but when Joe asked me to join Military Special, it was a chance to put all of those hours of music lessons to good use. It’s been really great to learn how a piece of music comes together, and I’m now trying to get more involved in that process.

Music education gave me an appreciation for music that I might not have been exposed to otherwise. I wouldn’t say that it influenced my current tastes, but it definitely helped to develop my passion for music in general. Beyond that, it laid the foundation for everything I currently know about music. I probably wouldn’t be playing an instrument today if the opportunity hadn’t been presented to me earlier in life.

Joe Schweigert: Um, really, my mom forced me to take piano lessons. And my Fisher-Price xylophone. One of my first memories of Peter is seeing him walk on the bus in first or second grade with his little guitar case. It was the cutest thing in the world.

I was fortunate to have a lot of arts education in my life. My grade school music teacher getting me to sing “Brother John” in a round was huge. Really though all I learned about music came from public schooling, no joke. I would be jacked without it.

Peter Blomgren: I started playing guitar when I was five—classical guitar. The first few numbers included “Hot Cross Buns” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It was pretty real. And I still remember how to play them. Though, I don’t really know how much you can rock out “Hot Cross Buns.” Yeah, and I took classical lessons ’til I graduated from high school. And then I stopped, but I think the main turning point in my musical career was when Joe and I were sitting in his parents’ old house and he showed me what a power chord was. And then I learned how to rock. And that kind of changed my whole outlook on music.

I went to Perpich for a little while and I learned a lot about how music works that I wouldn’t have otherwise known,, like some jazz theory and stuff like that. I’m not as good at the jazz as I’d like to be, but… just gotta keep playing I guess.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Kristoff Krane on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

It started when I was six or seven. I would beat on pots and pans in the kitchen and drive my mother crazy. I found that I had a sense for rhythm. I joined the Boys Metropolitan Choir at the age of eleven and sang my heart out until I thought I was too cool to do so. At the age of thirteen I started listening to the Dangerous Minds soundtrack (most specifically Coolio’s “Gangstas Paradise). As time went on I combined the singing, rhythm and rap and began to freestyle with my friends at the park, parties, etc.

After exhausting this outlet I found that I had a niche for writing. I found writing to provide me with a sense of security and used it as a form of release as far as expressing my self which, at the time, was wrapped inside a confused adolescent core. At the age of nineteen I began listening to underground hip-hop (most specifically Eyedea, Oliver Hart, Atmosphere and Heiruspecs). I found that there was rap out there that was attempting to communicate a message and that was what I had always wanted to do….INfluence people in some way.

At the age of nineteen going on twenty I was put in a situation where I broke the law and wound up in a county Jail for four and a half months. It was an experience that really forced me to look inside of who I thought I was, dissect this image and attempt to explain the journey that I was on; it just so happened to rhyme.

It was then when I decided that I knew I would use music to impact others in a “positive way” ( in a way that would remind others that they are not alone with the pain they feel or the confusion which they may be going through). Here I am now… trying the best I can to do just that.

Well, having experience with the boys choir helped me have a better understanding of using my voice as an instrument and to treat it like one. Choir in school helped me in the same way. Basic art class in high school showed me that, “In the world of art… anything goes… anything can be used as a tool to help build one’s piece of expression.”

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Kid Vicious on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I grew up in a house of music fans, so naturally when the opportunity arose to try out for band in fifth grade, I went for it. I was determined that my fingers were too small for my first choice of saxophone so (thank god) I was given my second choice of drums. Thankfully my parents were supportive and a year or so later I was given my first drum set, which I used and abused for the next sixteen years. I took lessons outside of school for jazz and rock drumming, and got my technical education from the marching and symphonic bands I was part of at middle and high school. Without those countless hours of practice and preparation for parades, halftime shows and competitions, I wouldn’t be the drummer I am today. And without music in the schools, I might not have been a drummer at all.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Dan Israel on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

Well, a lot of the impetus really came from my parents, who encouraged music-making at an early age. I was basically forced to take piano lessons from about age six to age twelve - at which point I decided I was more into guitar and they let me take lessons on that instead. But clearly, the background I had from taking piano lessons (even if, at the time, I felt it was just a burden) was a huge help to me with making music, and I really feel strongly that every child should have the opportunity to learn in that way, which really helps kids understand the fundamentals of music.

I was lucky enough to go to public school in a really excellent school district, St. Louis Park, where arts education was seen as a high priority and was properly funded by the city and the citizens of the school district. So I think it played a major role in keeping me interested in creating music. When kids get arts education in school, it gives them a foundation for branching out on their own and learning how to make their own music as well. It’s as much about “encouragement” and “sparking interest” as it is about “learning to play a particular instrument.” So I feel really strongly that arts education ought to be a huge priority for public schools, and there needs to be a steady stream of funding across the board (not just for wealthier school districts) to keep that important aspect of education rolling.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Indigo on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I got into making music when I realized that there was an entire movement behind Hip Hop. I found in music a way to express my views and make a difference in my own life and hopefully in others. KRS One and Erykah Badu really inspired me to speak on self worth, conflict resolution, and spiritual expression. I was always a poet and wrote songs occasionally, but recognized I could make a bigger impact by dedicating myself to my art. Since there were so many talented emcees and producers in the Twin Cities at the time, it became obvious that that was where I belonged.

Music class was always my favorite time of the day in public grade school. Music arts was way under funded then, as it is now, and class really consisted of no more than singing in our seats with a few instruments passed around. What I really loved was when our teacher would let us all come up to the front of the class to sing and dance to Bill Withers “Lean on Me.” My best friend and I would sync up our dancing and sing our hearts out. In retrospect it inspired in me a passion for performing. Although art’s education was not abundant, I used to rock out my after school latch key programs. I would choreograph entire performances to my favorite songs and have my friends and I act out scenes while the other kids sat in the auditorium to watch. I took piano class in fifth grade that helped me learn some of the basics and about classical music. I feel like music class and arts education need to be stressed so much more in schools though, because music and art offer people a deeper meaning and motivation in life.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Gigamesh on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I took short-lived piano and guitar lessons when I was pretty young but eventually took up trombone in school concert band and bass in jazz band. Around the same time (junior high), I started tinkering with MIDI programs. This eventually led to a strong interest in electronic music, which has lasted most of my life.

Arts education was pretty strong all through my early schooling and I think it has been CRUCIAL to get me to where I am today. Not only did it teach me the nuts and bolts of music, but the experience of practicing and performing with other students was valuable in many non-musical ways.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Nathan Tensen-Woolery of Ghost in the Water on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

Both Mandy and I got into music pretty young. Mandy started singing in church at a very early age. I had loved music all through my childhood, and finally began to take lessons (cello) at about age seven or eight. But as far as actually making music… I think I wrote my first songs when I was in my early teens. We actually started making music together when we were 16. We both grew up in a fairly small town, so the avenues for making music were primarily church and school.

I can’t express enough how important arts education was to my development. Honestly, I am sure that I would not be doing what I am today had it not been for arts education in public schools. My very first instrument was the cello. Without elementary school orchestra and the instrument they supplied I never would have had studied music at all. The thought of actually being a musician never
would have occurred to me had it not been for that early exposure to music and it’s performance.

Oh, and art class… What a wonderful thing high school art classes are! It’s the safe haven for all of the misfits and weirdos! But, in retrospect, I learned SO much just hanging out in the art room, chatting with the teacher and the other students. Had it not been for those experiences I would not be the person I am today. No doubt about it.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

El Guante on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I always had a love for music, particularly early-to-mid-90s R&B, Boyz II Men, Prince, stuff like that. Wasn’t a great singer when I was young, so I started writing songs and poetry. Discovered hip hop, which was a legitimate venue to publicly read poetry for an audience (these were the days before I really knew that slam and spoken-word existed), so I started rapping. Music to me is very much about sharing and community - I never wanted to be some genius writing poems in my basement that no one ever read. The final push over the edge for me was being randomly assigned a roommate in college who was a hip hop producer. Weird how life works out like that.

I’m lucky enough to have a “formal” arts education on top of hours and hours of informal hip hop and slam education (trial and error, listening, revising, building with community, etc.), at least a bare minimum. Learned how to read music and play saxophone in school, even took some music theory classes. Also got a standard academic introduction to poetry. Now, I have a lot of problems with how poetry is viewed/taught/learned about in high schools and universities, but I also understand that traditional thought isn’t necessarily bad - I learned a lot about poetry in school that really helped make my decidedly non-academic writing (raps, slam poems) a lot better. I’ve always had a foot in both worlds, so to speak.

The biggest thing, however, is that being an arts educator in the public school system has taught me a lot about art. I never had poetry or hip hop workshops growing up, but I’ve been teaching them for years now, and I’m always learning. When you’re forced to educate others, you really have to examine your beliefs, philosophies and artistic strategies. I never know exactly how much impact I’m having on the students, but I know for damn sure it’s making me a stronger artist.

Maybe I shouldn’t say that; I DO know that the workshops have a major impact on a lot of students, and I’ve seen kids who have no interest in school suddenly become much better students simply because they want that First Wave scholarship or the privilege to attend the afterschool spoken-word club or whatever. Whenever you can make school a less oppressive, soul-sucking place, you’re doing something positive. Arts education is absolutely instrumental in that, and a whole lot of people have no idea how much damage it would do if all these programs lost funding. We’re really talking domino-effect stuff. And unfortunately, in troubled economic times, the arts are often first on the chopping block. But I’m hoping that through the work we do, we can prove our worth.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Martin Devaney on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I started playing music when I was five. I can’t remember if it was at my parents insistence or my own interest. I took violin for a couple years and then joined school band playing clarinet and later saxophone. Things continued from there… Arts education was tremendously important in my continued interest in various musical endeavors. It also provided a structure, which helps for when you decide to make music on your own. I cannot emphasize how important arts education is for young people.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Dearling Physique on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I got into music seemingly late when compared to others who go on to pursue it as a career. I’ve got a pretty extensive background in acting, and having participated in a lot of youth theater I was never far off from music. I wrote a lot of silly songs, sang, and played around with the sound of my voice a lot. Around the age of seventeen I started going mad thinking of new ways to express a bunch of things I wanted to say. I remember it vividly: sitting in my bedroom and making this very honest goal to write a real song with a deep meaning…if even only to myself. Within a four hour period I had written words for not one, but two songs complete with melody. But, there was a problem! I had absolutely no experience playing an instrument, and similarly knew nothing about song composition. I went on educating myself about all things music. From theory, listening to new and strange things and an excessive amount of failed attempts at collaboration with other trained musicians. Finally I started teaching myself day by day how to write what I heard as fitting music to accompany my words. I can’t label myself a music genius, but I have found an amazing creative outlet and am entirely comfortable with the approach I’ve grown into.

The fact that I had no music training when young makes me feel less confined by the (sometimes) creative boundaries a classically trained musician might face. I speak on behalf of some musicians who have communicated this very restraint to me. It’s all just very dependent on the person and their own individual abilities. So essentially, I approach my songs in a most open-minded way. It might almost be considered some form of sound design opposed to actual “songwriting.” I just enjoy manipulating the sounds on my keyboards with very few limitations.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Bill Caperton on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I started out playing in school band, clarinet and saxophone. In high school I was involved with the Recording Arts program at St. Paul Central. We used to throw shows at VFWs, sober clubs and churches; anywhere that would take us. It’s turned into a much bigger part of my life than I ever imagined then.

Having a supportive and instructive arts education had a HUGE impact on my musical life. These programs allowed us as young fledgling artists to experiment and often fail, while supporting the exploration. Additionally, the people I met early on in these arts education programs have stuck around and become a true part of the both my and the Twin Cities at large musical community. Those relationships started and were nurtured in the arts education programs we were lucky enough to be a part of.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

My Dad taught me a few John Prine songs on the guitar when I was a kid; it all started there. Well, specifically, high school Jazz band was everything for me musically. It really taught me the correct way to be apart of and operate in a musical ensemble, mentally and emotionally.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Brandon Bagaason of Big Quarters on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I was in church and community choir as far back as I remember. I also started playing Trumpet in fifth grade and played through high school. And I think that reflects on my parents, that music was valued at home. My dad played in a band in high school, they called themselves International Dateline. My mom told me to write a rap song, she told me to make my own before I had ever considered it within the realm of possibility.

I’ve been privileged. I took part in many art-related workshops as a young person, nine and 10 years old - visual art, theater and music. In high school, I didn’t have the same kind of access. And I think that lack of led me to value music and seek outlets, especially in hip-hop. Now, Zach and I run a music studio for young people at Hope Community - as well as facilitating songwriting and recording workshops in and around Minneapolis. I don’t think music education is necessary because it could be a career path - it is necessary, because some will choose music to express themselves - for most, it will give them experience to be more well rounded and contributing members of society.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Paul Pirner of The 757s on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

Music was a part of growing up in my family. We all started playing multiple instruments at a very young age and they were scattered around the house like toys; we weren’t given the choice of not playing an instrument, and so it seemed unnatural not to. Plus, it sounded cool, and I wanted to be able to do that.

In music class, people who were into it just kind of gravitated towards each other, and the music room became kind of a club house for us. I met Moses Jackson in second grade at Kenwood, and he introduced me to The Sugar Hill Gang and Queen in 1978. He wanted to rap, I could keep rhythm for him on this crazy coconut looking thing the music teacher had in the music room, we got a bunch of other kids together and did our thing at a talent show, people cheered and I was hooked. Music does so much for brain development that I can’t even start to describe the benefits; rhythm helps in math class, lyrics help in English; it lets you see the thoughts between the thoughts.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Suzanne Vallie "Keep Away" (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artists. In this edition Suzanne Vallie offers the story of how her song “Keep Away” was born. Draped across a backdrop of summer memories, Vallie describes the track as one full of free spirited influence and thoughts of friends - two of the best things this world has to offer.

On “Keep Away”:

Originally, this song was a joke. I made it up on a drive to Duluth to make my friend laugh. But once I played it on ukulele, it turned pretty. It reminded me of lurid, spooky summers spent in South Dakota. When I was young, I’d watch the cars cruise in endless circles, going one town over and then back down Main Street. Girls hung their legs out the windows and the guys were 10 years older and spit out the windows. When Orion Treon (Plastic Chord) added guitar in the studio recording, I begged him to make it sound dirty like a tuned-up muscle car. When Dave Anderson and I did the mix, I wanted it to flirt like the girls who smoked outside Dairy Queen; funny, pretty, sexy, and a little scary. I dedicate it to Tanya G.’s homemade tattoo. She didn’t regret it. The world flipped her off first.

Tay Zonday on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

There’s a better question to ask: How did everybody else get into being silent? I ask myself that question a lot when I’m not making music. Usually there are things causing the silence that I need to confront and resolve. Then the music just happens.

My mother was trained from a very young age as a vocalist and a pianist. Her parents aggressively primed her to be a successful performer. It didn’t happen, largely because there were no opportunities for a young, black, Coloratura Soprano in the early 1960s. Despite growing into a competent musician, my mother felt that being forced into a rigorous study of the arts created a context where she never truly enjoyed music. She ended up becoming a successful professional but in a manner that was largely separate from her music.

With this backdrop, my mother never forced any of her children to pursue an arts education. But the door was always open. Sometimes I wish I had been pushed a bit harder, but who knows? Everybody spends the rest of their lives armchair-quarterbacking about their childhood. I never earned formal credentials in the arts. I try to be the best musician that I can be today, which often involves being the best student. Education is where you choose to be a student, whereas schooling is a context in which being a student is chosen for you. They can overlap.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Casey Garvey of Yer Cronies on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

Short answer: Naturally. Long answer: It was a way too keep sane and perhaps not sane in those dirty high school years. Back then we all played together in late night basements with the windows open just because it made sense, it was natural. After high school we were distanced from each other because of college in other states, but now we’re all back together again, naturally.

We have have different levels of art education (especially referring to music). I don’t think we’d be here doing this today if it wasn’t for some sort of art education in our glory days, which undoubtedly sparked the need to create in some way. After the initial spark, it gets a little hazier, which is why I think our band works so well sometimes; someone went to school for music, someone didn’t go to school for music, someone didn’t go to school… it’s a mix bag of education or a lack there of and it just happens to work out perfectly.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Josh Grier of Tapes ‘n Tapes on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I first got into playing music when I was a kid. I started playing the flute when I was seven. My brother had just started playing the piano, and I was jealous. We had some neighbors up the street whose kids played flute, so I decided that I wanted to play the flute. Luckily my parents were kind enough to indulge me. When I was 15 I started getting bored with just the flute, and I decided I wanted to learn to play guitar. One of my friend’s dad’s gave me some lessons and I just started playing guitar all of the time. It was pretty much the best thing ever.

I was lucky because my middle school and high school had good band and art programs. I really didn’t think much of it at the time. I just figured every school encouraged the kids to do what they wanted to do. A career in music was definitely something that my high school teachers presented as a viable option (which seemed totally normal, but I’ve since discovered was not necessarily typical of other people’s high school experience). So I think my educational experience definitely encouraged me to pursue music.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Charlie Parr on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

There was always music around my house growing up, and my folks always made sure I had access to instruments if I was interested in trying something. I wasn’t a very good student, so I taught myself how to play guitar (and still am). Music’s always been very personal to me, maybe because I’m self-taught. I’ve never had any real art training, but I have sought it out on my own.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Inga Roberts of The Parlour Suite on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

Music just happened on us. I love it! Couldn’t live without doing it… just kind of comes out. As for composing for a group, I think that Joel, Leah, and myself add something unique. Joel is a self taught guitar player, Leah has a choral/folk vocal background, and I have a classical past. We’ve been writing since we can remember; I remember composing songs on the paddle boat at the cabin, for my grandma Ruth - silly stuff. “You need to write that down,” she would say… and now I am. We haven’t gone to college and gotten a degree in music making, but we have learned a lot from private lessons - and just from playing with each other. There are so many resources to learn music - be it listening to a CD and truly hearing the elements or taking private lessons from an instructor.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Nobot on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

Adam Tucker: I came into music early as my parents were both music majors (teaching and musicology) and my dad was still a performing jazz drummer. My desire to play and make music definitely stems from my parents acquainting me from a very young age with both the listening and performance aspects of the art - I’ve carried more than my share of my dad’s drums! I did the standard piano lesson thing for years, then picked up bass my freshman year of high school and guitar in the middle. Since then there really hasn’t been a time when I haven’t been in at least one band. Once you’ve played live or heard a song you wrote played for an audience you never want to let that feeling go, be it heavy metal or jazz or whatever.

Without playing jazz piano and bass for four years in high school and classical/jazz bass for four years in college I would never become as comfortable with and knowledgeable about music and performance as I am now. The strictly technical aspects aside, being able to sit down with lots of musicians, both older and younger, over the years of my schooling in many different formats was one of the most valuable parts of my arts education experience. I definitely wouldn’t have had the chance to play and learn with so many talented people, or have had the opportunity to meet other musicians through them without school assistance. So thanks music teachers, I wouldn’t be myself without you, keep fighting to keep the arts alive in schools!

Kyle Vande Slunt: Like Adam I came into music from a very young age because of my parents. Both played instruments (clarinet and trumpet) and were avid music listeners. My mom would always make up and sing her own harmonies to songs we listened to in the car, while my dad would not turn off the engine and get out of his car until a song he enjoyed was over. Both have stuck with me as I continue those habits today. I wanted to play drums in middle school but when I auditioned my skills on the snare drum my instructor said “have you tried the trombone?” It was a love hate relationship but the trombone carried me all the way through high school and my BA in music. While it wasn’t really making music, I’ve been manipulating sound for as long as I can remember. I would run and hide from the loud vacuum cleaner and cover my ears only to discover that if I press and release my lobes I could create an analog low pass filter. This is how I spent the majority of my childhood, along with making sound effects with my mouth for imaginary movie trailers and cartoons. I realized at a very young age that sound was my life. Sound is music and music is sound.

Oddly (or sadly) enough, Adam and I went to the same University for our music degrees. I can’t stress how my experience shaped my life and thus Nobot’s. I had the opportunity to learn and be challenged by incredibly gifted and talented professors. I was able to perform in Jazz Bands, Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and other group ensembles. It also gave me a platform to experiment and give the first electronic performance by a student in the school’s history. My knowledge and teachings in theory, analysis, composition, and history are present in everything I do that is related to sound (composition, recording, performing, sound design, mixing, etc). One brief example: If you listen to our song “Drinking Progress” you’ll hear a sample of a Renaissance motet (Machaut’s Mass) being manipulated in the beginning. This piece was part of my required listening and analysis for one of my history classes. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it, and I wouldn’t have the skills I have now. I’m a dedicated life solider in the front lines for keeping music and the arts alive in schools and other community organizations.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Lucy Michelle on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I’ve been playing piano ever since I was six and surrounded by great music all my life. To me it’s like sleeping, or eating, or drinking water or anything that humans need to do to even exist. But I don’t think I really started making music until I was out of high school, yes, I’ve been playing music for a while but playing music and making music are two different things. You can play anyone else’s song but to write your own is whole other game. When I moved out of my parents house the room I was living in was hardly big enough for a bed, let alone a piano, so I thought of the smallest and quietest instrument that I could attempt to learn and asked my Grandpa if he could find me a ukulele (he’s pretty good at finding deals). So he sent me one and I started making my own music, and I think it was the one thing that was really able to keep me sane during my freshman year in college.

I went to Central High School in St. Paul for three years and then transferred to South High School in Minneapolis for my senior year. I was just talking to Charlie Smith of Military Special the other night and he reminded me that at one point him, Joe Schweigert (Military Special), Chris Graham (one of the Lapelles), Peter Leggett (drummer for Heiruspecs) and I were all in Jazz Band together with Mr. Oyen. Obviously our musical education had something to do with where we are now cause all of us our in these great local bands. Matt Oyen pushed us all to really work together and listen to each other, I think Jazz band was one of the most important parts of my high school career, ’cause it really inspired me to perform and gave me the opportunity to express myself in ways that I felt I couldn’t do with my other school work. Since I couldn’t get enough of jazz band I joined MITY which was taught by Scott Carter, Cory Needleman and Chris Thomson over at Macalester College, three of my most favorite teachers. I learned so much from my instructors and from everyone in the band, I was introduced to so many musicians and so much music that I feel has had an extremely profound effect on how I write/listen and play music today. Without my musical education or experiences there is no way that I would be were I am now, and I am so thankful to the all the of my teachers and friends along the way, as well as my parents who forced me to practice even though I really didn’t enjoy it… at the time.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Muja Messiah on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I’ve been freestylin’ and writing since I was 12 or 13 but I didn’t start “making” music until I was about 18. I moved into a crib on the Southside with four of my closest homies and we coped an emax two and some techniques and got down to business. Every day we would wake up and try to out do each other. That’s when I really began to sharpen my skills. Back then everybody wanted to DJ, produce and rap so the kitchen was always full with too many cooks in it. As time went on the ones who were serious continued and the ones who weren’t kind of fizzled outta tha picture. I don’t think I’ll ever stop making music. It’s something that’s just in me. {No homo} lol

I remember watching Fame when I was a shortly and wondering why we didn’t have any schools like that in here in Minneapolis. I’ve wanted to make music and act ever since I could remember but never really had an outlet to express myself. It’s just now getting to the point where Minneapolis has certain places and forums where you can express your talent. I’d like to believe that it’s because of the work me and my generation put in. Opening up doors that weren’t open before. With that said Minneapolis could still use a lot more schools and programs that specialize in the arts because as an artist I feel so many talented children are be deprived from answering their calling. Everybody hasn’t got money to go to L.A. or New York… But you see it changing. You see Josh Hartnett doin’ it, you see Atmosphere doin’ it, and you got the Cohen Brothers filming movies right in our own backyard. It’s a beautiful thing to see it happen right before your eyes. Word!

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Eric Busse of Mel Gibson and the Pants on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I’ve always been interested in making things while at the same time being extremely lazy. I got into listening to music after hearing Nirvana in the early 1990s. I started playing guitar but never got very good. Then my sister’s boyfriend, who was living with my family at the time, bought a Korg workstation keyboard. It had a built in sequencer with which you could lay out 16 track songs. I remember thinking that I wanted one as soon as I saw what it could do. So, I put all my effort into getting a keyboard.

I don’t remember exactly how long that took, but I think I got my first keyboard when I was 16 or 17. I immediately began to make sequences and would write some of the parts that would go into the (largely unheard) first Mel Gibson and the Pants project three or four years later. The thing that I liked most about sequencers was that I could do everything by myself. I had no band (I lived in the middle of nowhere) so being able to create entire songs with just one piece of equipment was essential. I didn’t know how to play piano, so being able to layer parts and make my songs sound much fuller taught me a lot about simple things like chord and song structure. I later went on to take piano lessons for a while, but nothing taught me as much about making music as sitting in my bedroom by myself arranging songs on my sequencer.

When I went to University I worked at a television station in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I worked overnights by myself so I’d bring in a keyboard or something to play during the night. One weekend, I had to train in a new guy on overnights. When I showed up, he was out in the parking lot smoking and playing a broken acoustic guitar. That new guy turned out to be Ryan Olson (of MG, Digitata, Building Better Bombs). He asked me what music I was into and when I told him the Residents, he pretty much asked me to join MG then and there. We recorded some things at work (and accidentally blew out the control room speakers with an accordion), but eventually Ryan wrote his resignation to TV-13 on a piece of toilet paper. I didn’t see him again for a few months.

One day, while I was sleeping at around two p.m., Ryan burst through my bedroom door unannounced. I was wearing only tighty whities but Ryan seemed unfazed. He was wearing a Limo Cab hat, which was this super shady taxi company in Eau Claire. He said that we had to record at his parents house. Then he left and again, I didn’t see him for maybe a month or two. It was a coincidence that would have us meet again. I was at a party with some of my friends. We were all pretty drunk so we decided to call a cab. Ryan shows up to give us a ride. So, we took my friends home and I rode around in Ryan’s taxi for a while and we listened to tracks he’d been working on. After that, we started recording at Ryan’s house regularly.

We eventually had a 19 track project that we decided to put out by ourselves. There were something like forty or fifty people who had recorded at Ryan’s house so I was always being introduced to members of Mel Gibson and the Pants that I had never met before. Sometime before it was released though, Ryan decided to move to San Francisco.

That was when fate would intervene for a second time. In honor of Ryan’s departure, I decided to smoke some illicit substances with a few of my friends and fellow MG members. A few days later, I got a random drug test at work. Not knowing what else to do, I left the TV station to itself for a few hours and met with those same friends again. I had to quit the job, but it pushed me out of my comfort zone (I’d worked there for over two years). After that, I became friends with JR (MG rapper), Drew (MG drummer), and Riley (MG guitar player). We started getting ambitious and kept the project together while Ryan was away. We played a few pretty successful shows when Ryan came back to town (including our first show in Minneapolis after which our DJ was arrested and our car impounded for three days) and eventually we all decided to move to Minneapolis. We moved, got a new bass player/neuroscientist (the amazing Ben Clark), and the rest is history.

I had very little formal training in music. Just getting out and doing it has always been the best way to do it for me. I was in high school band, but it contributed next to nothing to my development as a musician. I also listened to very little music when I was younger. I think that lack of musical background led to me being a relatively clean slate. I couldn’t sound like anyone else when playing, because I had so few influences. I just played what I could play.

I’m an English teacher in South Korea now, so I guess my writing degree in University has helped me somewhat, but the most important part of my high school and college years was learning to play my keyboard and sequencer, and then learning to play in a band. Ryan was always the one whose vision we were following with MG, but I don’t think we ever really realized that vision. He would tell us something to play, and we’d try to play it in our own way. I’m sure the results were nothing like Ryan had imagined, but that is what our music would become. During the years that I was performing and writing with a band, I stopped sequencing almost entirely. Though I was growing in other ways, I felt like my only real talent was going nowhere. That is why I decided to leave. I bought a cheap, early ’90s sequencer (much like the one that was in my first keyboard) and moved to Korea. For the last two years I’ve been writing my ass off and I feel the same excitement for music that I felt when I first began. I’ve more or less given up trying to really excel at an instrument and instead focus on just writing something that sounds good to my ears. I’ll be moving back to the States next fall, and I look forward to getting back into the swing of things, but with an entirely different way of working.

I left the band in 2006 when I moved to South Korea for something to do. I fully intended on rejoining the band after one year, but here it is late 2008 and I’m still in Seoul. In these last two years, I’ve been concentrating on writing and sequencing music for both MG and my own side project, Medici Slot Machine. In a way, I’ve been more productive since I left than I ever was when I was in Minneapolis. I’d be nothing, though, if it wasn’t for my friends back home and my band.

This is really the first decent Medici Slot Machine song. It is called “Sleep, Baby” and we recorded it in just a day or two (which is why the quality isn’t so hot) for a movie that we made called Savage Lanes. The movie was about why I moved to South Korea. The song was recorded in the original MG style with Ryan bringing in various musicians to track over the original ideas laid down by him and myself. With any luck there will be many more Medici Slot Machine songs coming in the near future.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

M.anifest on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

I fell in love with music naively and as an innocent third world child. Writing came earlier to me, but I was terrified of sharing any parts of what I would transcribe in solitary moments. I started subconsciously understanding music by listening to a plethora of cross generational music. Unearthing my grandpa’s vinyl collection during my teenage years was a significant step in me getting more consciously excited about the music past the level of just an appreciation of words. I remember myself and a friend of mine, Blitz (who is in New York now), attempting production with little or no resources and a great vision. It was a delightful learning experience and an utter product failure. I loved every bit off it.

Later on in college I was in a bit off a hiatus from creating/learning music. I re-linked with one of my rhyme partners in high school; he was in a band in college. I also finally met with O-D and other Hip-Hop producers who were fully immersed in Hip-Hop production and did dope work. This is when I actually started to create songs worth listening to. It all sort of came together in 2005. I had experimented, collaborated, and come to a certain maturity about writing and making music from the bottom up with collaborators I was in sync with.

I have no formal arts education; it’s nothing to gloat over. On the contrary, I have a great appreciation for those that pursued and mastered their craft whether in formal or informal school. It however means I had (and still have) to do a lot of learning by trying and failing - and also listening to copious amounts of music to learn what works emotionally and what doesn’t. Basically, I have an avid fan’s perspective in making music. I can hum you bass lines from soul songs, and mimic Tony Allen drum patterns but I can’t talk a lick about what major or minor notes Bob Nesta sang in. Maybe I don’t have the burden or luxury of using any sort of rhythmic or melodic formula an arts education could have provided. I’m always learning and feeling different energies of creativity. It’s all a work in progress.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)

Love In October on Music and Arts Education


How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?

Erik Widman: My first memories of music are listening to records while spinning around in my parents’ big leather chair when I was two or three years old. We had a piano in our living room which I started playing on my own at a very young age. Later I took formal lessons, but never really learned anything from them because I didn’t understand the music. I started playing music by ear instead and started writing songs. I played music I wanted to play, not music I was told to play. When I was older I picked up other instruments like guitar, drums, bass, and synthesizer. I’m still learning new instruments today; my music education never ends.

I grew up in Sweden, and we had a very good music education program through our school. We had music teachers that offered private lessons at very affordable rates during school hours. They would just come and get us out of class. We also had mandatory music class through ninth grade. In class we would learn to sing, play instruments, and learn about modern and classical music history. I was also lucky enough to have a great guitar teacher who taught me a ton of music theory in jazz, blues, and Swedish folk music. I incorporate this theory into the pop music that I write today, and I think that is what makes our sound unique. Because of this we have a different approach to song writing than most rock bands do.

Kent Widman: Most of my music education came when I lived in Sweden. The music departments in schools are bigger over there, with a wide variety of instruments and styles of music for students to learn. Even outside of school, there were a lot of events for young musicians to participate in and learn about the performance aspect of music. I was fortunate to take advantage of these opportunities. The biggest difference I notice is that they nurture musician right from the beginning and even when they are professionals. It is the government’s responsibility to provide music education outside of school as well.

(This post is part of our 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. We appreciate you visiting the site - but before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you.- Culture Bully)