Category Archives: Artist

BIGGER AND BADDER: The Godfathers

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The UK band may have bum-rushed the charts during the ‘80s and early ‘90s with their powerful brand of R&B-tilting punk, but on the evidence of a new studio album, there’s plenty of fuel remaining in the tank. Following the text, check out some recent live video clips.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Legendary British rockers The Godfathers could easily spend the next couple of decades coasting on Gen X nostalgia, hitting the festival and theater circuit every summer to cycle through an endless greatest hits set from Birth, School, Work, Death and More Songs About Love & Hate. But to quote band founder and front man Peter Coyne “We’re not dusty museum pieces!”

Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s The Godfathers churned out one great album after the next, mining a sweet spot between punk rock and classic R&B. They band called it quits for a while, when Coyne tried to walk away from music and simply “just be a human being.” But normal life didn’t take and the band was back to playing music again. godfathers-cd

After a long time away from the recording studio, Coyne has reassembled The Godfathers and recorded their best album since 1991’s Unreal World. The latest, A Big Bad Beautiful Noise is a clarion call to the world of rock, an album crammed with big guitars, strong hooks and soaring vocals.

Coyne, who is currently touring across Europe with the band took some time recently to talk about the

BLURT: It’s been years since you last recorded as The Godfathers. What got you to do it again?

PETER COYNE: Well, we did something in 2000 and took and eight-year break. In between that I didn’t want to be in any other groups and was quite happy just being a human being. So, I got a call from Kris Dollimore, who used to be in The Godfathers and was putting together a band, and I said, “I’m not really interested, to be honest.” I then said, “Well, who’s in it?”

“It’s Rat Scabies on drums and me on guitar.” and I said “I’ll do it. Just like that.” We did that for about a year. We were called The Germans, recorded a bunch of demos and did about eight gigs, but we never made proper recordings which I always thought was a damn shame. Then I got The Godfathers back together to promote (the anniversary of) our debut album, Hit By Hit, in 2008 and that’s how it all started again. (Below: “Rewind Time” from the new album.)

In getting the band back together, and recording that great live record (Shot Live at 100 Club) in 2010, did that show you that there was still an appetite out there for more from The Godfathers?

Definitely, because we were playing gigs all around the world and there was still interest in The Godfathers. There was a lot of love out there for the band. That was quite pleasing to discover, so we started it all again. (Below: classic early hit “Birth, School, Work, Death”)

You guys certainly have a slew of songs that go back decades, which fans still relate to. You could just as easily make a comfortable living, and I’d assume easier, touring solely off playing the hits. Why keep writing new music and record again?

I’m not interested, neither is anyone else in this lineup of the band, in reflective glory or trading on what we’ve done in the past as The Godfathers. I think we’ve made some fantastic records with the band: Hit By Hit, Birth School Work Death, More Songs About Love and Hate, Unreal World, that one’s that’s called “the Orange Album,” they’re the sort of classic Godfather recordings as far as I can work out, but we wanted to do something with this new album that’s a completely different sonic adventure. We didn’t want to do More Songs About Love And Hate, Part Two and Hit By Hit: The Sequel; Unreal World: The Follow Up. Not interested; No, thank you. We’ve done things like that before. Our job right here, right now is to make rock and roll for today and make it sound even better, if it’s possible, then we’ve done with the group in the past. We’ve got high benchmarks in this band, lofty standards and we don’t want to drop the load ever. And I think A Big Bad Beautiful Noise is a fantastic album. It’s a collaboration between everyone in the band, it’s not just me. birth-school

This is the first time you’ve recorded with a lot of the folks that are in the band now. Were there any rules or outlines about writing that you had?

Not really. The only rule was that all of these songs must be great, they must have something special about them. Writing came completely naturally. I’d done a lot of work with Steve (Crittall, guitar) and I’d just show up with a lot of lyrics to his studio in Soho, London and I’d explain what I thought was the best way to approach it. He’d turn around, have a think about it and then start working musically about what fit. We’d bat it about between the pair of us and within half-an-hour to 45 minutes we’d always have a great number we could work with. The same with Mauro (Venegas, guitar).

Over the past 10 years or so, a lot of younger bands have cited The Godfathers as a musical influence. Were there any bands that influenced this album when you were writing it?

Not really. I think we were copying The Godfathers, copying our own sound if you know what I mean. Everyone is influenced by someone. I think A Big Bad Beautiful Noise is influenced a little bit by The Stooges. I think musically “You and Me Against the World,” the finishing track on the album, borrows a little bit from David Bowie. Musically it was inspired by the death of David Bowie and lyrically from the fallout of Brexit and what’s happening at this moment.

It’s very pleasing that bands in the States, and in fact all around the world, are influenced by The Godfathers because we’ve definitely been influenced by the bands that came before us and it’s great to get that feedback from other groups. There’s a couple of American bands, Local H and Spoon have covered Godfather songs on their records and there’s that band Mars Volta that said that whole album (editor’s note: Noctourniquet) that was influenced by The Godfathers. That’s fantastic.

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I know you guys have started a tour in Europe. Any chance you’ll be in the U.S. now that the record is out?

I’ll be quite honest with you, we’re seriously looking into it. It is so expensive, you wouldn’t believe it, for British bands coming to America. It’s a lot easier for American bands to come to the UK. It should be no problem to get us to the States, but you’ve got to pay for visas, you’ve got to pay for flights. It’s incredibly expensive. We really want to do it though. We love to play live and with an album like A Big Bad Beautiful Noise you’ve got to hear this live. We’re not dusty museum pieces this is fresh rock and roll music that we want to deliver to people. We want to go back to the Motherland of rock music and deliver this to the yanks.

Top photo credit: Sean Robert Howarth / Live photo: Monty Strikes

THE STORY BEHIND THE ALBUM: Jazzmenco by La Vienta

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The El Paso jazz guitarists were an unlikely highlight of the Lone Star State’s music scene in the ‘90s, and with the album discussed here, they stormed the Billboard charts and nabbed a Grammy nod. Time to revisit—and to catch up, as well.

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

Ed. Note: The concept behind our series “The Story Behind the Album” is pretty straightforward: what went into the making of a particularly noteworthy recording, as seen through the eyes of its creator(s). It can be an acknowledged classic or an under-the-radar gem, but the basic parameters are the same: a title that stands out in an artist’s catalog, one which has stood the test of time and still commands the respect of fans. It could even have been a critical flop or a commercially under-performing record upon its initial release, but the years have steadily unveiled its extant genius. Our first investigation was into Thee Hypnotics’ 1991 classic Soul Glitter & Sin. Then we took a look at New River Head by The Bevis Frond, followed by Rock ‘N’ Roll by The Cynics, From the Heart of Town by Gallon Drunk, Couture, Couture, Couture by Frausdots, Blue Sky Mining by Midnight Oil, and Illuminated by the 360’s. Here’s our latest, a remarkable album, released in ’93, by a remarkable Texas-based jazz outfit that is clearly dear to our “Story Behind…” editor Levitt’s heart. Enjoy.—FM

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La Vienta is a jazz group that formed in my hometown of El Paso, Texas. Founded by Mario Otero and Stefan Schyga in the early 90s the band was one of those rare occurrences in a town filled with either metal heads or Freddy Fender wannabes.  This was one of those cases where the right elements for success seemed to just coalesce out of the ether, like a freak thunderstorm in the desert beauty arrives and quickly dissipates from whence it came. Sometimes the right climactic conditions come together and all hell breaks loose, as it did when a young guitarist from Hildesheim, Germany studying music at UTEP of all places became friends with a local El Paso guitarist who together as La Vienta set the jazz scene on fire with their debut album Jazzmenco released back in 1993 for jazz label Telarc records.

With lead cut “Tu Sonrisa” or you’re smile you knew the band could bring the goods.  Here and on the rest of the album you could tell the band was working from a deep fondness for flamenco music. Their collective talent crossed like bridges over a desert wash blending flamenco guitar with a broader jazz sensibility to take the music to somewhere fascinating and uncharted.

“San Miguel” is more straight ahead flamenco with strains of Cuban piano that fuses well. Here drums, congas and palmas (hand claps) sparkle and give the song even greater heft.

“Spanish Invasion” is healthy mix of Pat Metheny and Carlos Santana. I appreciate the shifting of styles on this piece and the delicate fret work in the calmer moments of the song. It’s also a cool moment on the album that despite the dated sounding keyboards shows one of the many strands of creativity flowing through this duo.

“Paco’s Night Out” bolts out of the gate with its galloping beat, here the playfulness of the guitar playing dips and climbs over the pulsing beat, a great track to play as you drive up Transmountain Drive to catch the sunset.

“Skeleton Samfa” is a jazzy number that offers a great back and forth dialogue between Stefan and Mario. The tune which is stretched over a taught drum beat cut with some Jimmy Smith organ virtuosic embellishments will have you tapping your toes, and luxuriating in the positivity.

“Moroccan Face Dance” would have gotten the band in trouble had it been released in Trump’s America with its Mexican and Arabic influences or at least it would have had to been left off the album due to visa issues. Joking aside, this track is worth the price of admission alone, with its deft playing that’s infused with intrigue and romance, sailing in on tendrils of myrrh incense. The song then shifts gears with vocals and palmas and an electric guitar that just rips before ushering the flamenco guitar back into the mix. Stefan says, “[It’s] a song that tells a story kind of [like] “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin.”

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Despite being a shade too early for internet promotion, Jazzmenco managed to climb to #17 on the Billboard contemporary jazz chart and garner a Grammy nod for production. As with many big label debuts this record shows the abundance of talent the group would draw upon for subsequent releases. That said, there’s something vital and electric about this first album that later albums seemed to dampen down a bit, which is why over the last twenty years this record has remained on constant rotation in my life, providing me with a much-needed dip back into the beauty of the southwest, with its sun-bleached edifices and alluring smell of creosote permeating the air after a summer downpour.

I was able to connect with Stefan and Mario to answer a few questions about how Jazzmenco came about. These days besides teaching music, Stefan is busy recording his next solo record that will be out sometime in 2017. Meanwhile Mario is also still involved with making music and running a music school. Both of them still call El Paso home and while they aren’t currently playing together as a duo, the bond of friendship remains deep between the two.

Online: http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/artists/La-Vienta/

https://www.stefan.us/bio

http://mariootero.com

Blurt: How did you guys start playing together?

Stefan Schyga: We met at the UTEP and heard each other play and thought it was cool to play together.  In those days’ lots of people just hung out in the hallways and jammed, it was a really cool situation.

 

Who came up with the name? What does it mean?

It is from a poem by Doug Adams.  He talks about a girl “and she moves like the wind and he called her La Vienta”.  We just always thought that the name was cool and different, and kind of described our south west style of music.

 

A German-American is not the first person you think of when it comes to Flamenco, how did you develop a taste for this sort of music?

When I was 16 I found a couple of Flamenco albums and fell in love with the music, even though my teacher later said they were horrible. I won’t mention any names but he was very popular in the US during the 60ies. My teacher then let me listen to some great players such as Ramon Montoya, Mario Escudero, Sabicas and many more. I was just amazed by what these players were able to do on the Guitar.  I also loved Classical Guitar but these Flamenco players were using all these cool and formerly unheard (by me) techniques.

 

How long after forming La Vienta, did you start to get interest from labels?

Mario had some good friends Keith and Muriel that were kind enough to finance the first album.  It sold like crazy locally, even outselling Michael Jackson during the Christmas Season. We decided to just send it out to some labels and had 2 labels jump on it.

This was pretty crazy, as one label guy told me: “This stuff never happens”. The labels were Higher Octave and Telarc. We decided to [sign] with Telarc. (Below: Stefan’s advance check in 1993 from the label.)

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Where did you guys record the album?

We recorded it here in El Paso at El Adobe a really nice 24 track analog studio, but Telarc brought in their Digital recorders.

I think they were Yamaha Digital 8Track recorders that you could chain together, kind of like the first ADATs

I know we did not have quite enough tracks since most of the recordings they used to do were live sets such as Joe Pass, Oscar Peterson.

This presented a big problem during the mix since the Engineer had to bounce some of the audio, such as congas and other percussion onto one track and we could not change those levels later.

Of the 14 tracks on the record, what was the oldest song that had been kicking around? What songs went through the greatest evolution in the studio?

I think the oldest song was “Paco’s Night Out”, a great song that Mario composed.  We added the drums and stuff so it sounded a lot bigger than we were used to with just the 2 guitars.

Also in “Moroccan Face Dance”, we added the Jaleos and Palmas performed by a Flamenco Singer who happened to live in El Paso. Mario also added some cool electric guitar so this song became a lot bigger sounding.

 

Before you guys entered the studio were the songs 100% ready to go or was there some major tweaking to be done?

We really had rehearsed them well, but there were still slight changes.  Before the session we had opened for Flora Purim and Airto Moreira and we played pretty much all of the songs with the full band.

 

What was the input of your producer Michael Bishop and what songs went through the greatest changes in studio?

Well, Michael was really not our producer but the Engineer.

The biggest issue that we had was that we were using new digital technology and had very limited tracks. So, some instruments were bounced to a track to save tracks and we could not go back and change individual instruments in the mix.  That was a real problem.  Telarc was used to more “live” recording than studio multi tracking.

 

How many of the compositions were penned by you and how many by Mario?

From the beginning, we decided to always do a 50/50 split. (Below: La Vienta with fan Billy Gibbons)

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How many songs were recorded in total and who made the decision on which songs to cut?

We recorded 14 and fought for all of them, and Telarc worked with us.  There were issues such as string noise, but they did agree to keep all the tracks. I think this really helped the album to be a cohesive listening experience.

 

Of the tracks on the record who came up with the running order? Was lead cut “Tu Sonrisa” (Your Smile) worked to jazz radio?

Telarc had radio promoters and other people listen to it and they came up with the order.  We really did not know how any of this worked.  When we listened to the final order though we were happy with it.

 

How did the song Moroccan Face Dance come about?

I just wanted to write a song that combined Rock and Arabic/Flamenco elements with full drums. Can you say “Spinal Tap”? A song that tells a story kind of [like] “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin.  I really enjoyed recording that song and Mario really whaled on that electric guitar!

 

When the record came out how was it received?

It did extremely well, much better than expected.  The album got lots of radio play with stations like KKSF in San Francisco having up to 6 songs on heavy rotation.  We got quite a few concerts out of it and did radio interviews etc.  Telarc promoted it with Sound Warehouse (a record store chain) and it jumped on the Billboard Charts!

 

When is the last time you listened to Jazzmenco and if you could change one thing about it what would it be?

I’ve been listening to the album for this interview. I don’t really listen to it.  Maybe once every 5 years!  I think we’d like to re-record it, but most artists feel like that.  It is a moment in time and that’s it. Some songs sound great and some songs well, Mario and I might have heard them differently. Sometimes we feel that our first self-produced album captures the feel better than the first Telarc recording, but then again the guitars sounded much better on the Telarc recording.

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What formats was the album released on?

Cassette and CD.  I still have a cassette, what a weird thought.

 

Where did you first hear the final mix?

I think Mario and I got together and listened to it.  It was weird, because the mixes were done sending tapes back and forth to Telarc.  We were not present for the mix, which in the end was probably not a good idea.  We still liked it though, and I remember driving into LA and hearing it on the Wave ([radio] station), [that was the] coolest feeling ever!

 

What was the feeling when you opened the cd for the first time?

Wow, just pure excitement! All the work has paid off. Let’s see what happens.

 

Stefan, do you disown that haircut that graces the front cover?

The hair got even worse for the second and third albums!

 

Will there ever be a reissue?

Mario and I are currently researching what it would take for us to re-release the very first album. I think people might really like it.  We just have to be aware of publishing contracts etc.

 

When and where do you remember hearing that Jazzmenco was nominated for a Grammy?

We were actually just told after the fact, like yeah you guys were nominated.

 

Did you guys attend the ceremony?

Nope

 

After the nomination, what sort of venues did you play at and what artists did you perform with? Any Jazz fests?

Nothing much changed but we played gigs with people like Joe Bonamassa, Joe Satriani, Tommy Emmanuel, The Rippingtons the Ike Turner review etc. We did play some wine fests also in northern California. (Below: performing at a jazz festival)

lv-at-jazz-festival

How did the album sell?

I believe it was like 100,000 copies

 

In terms of sales do you remember your first royalty check you received from Telarc?

Yes, the very first one was actually an advance.  Still have a copy of it! As far as royalties I don’t think we ever recouped, at least to the statements we have seen.  We still have to receive a statement from Concord Jazz, but that has been our fault for not checking up on it.

 

Seeing as you’re of German extraction (Stefan) did you manage to pick up some coverage in Germany at the time?

We did actually pretty well in Europe.  I remember my former guitar teacher seeing the album in Amsterdam and not buying a copy!!!!  Got lots of radio play.

 

Did any of this make an impact in El Paso?

I think so, lots of people remember us, and I hope we helped to start some other groups.  We have a very vibrant music scene in our Border Town(s), this includes Juarez. Mexico.

 

Did the A&R people or other label staff get involved at all with pushing some creative ideas towards the band?

They let us record what we wanted, but then they started to push some of the tracks they thought were [going to] be more successful in radio play.  They also listened to radio promoters to check on the order of the songs.  All that input was really helpful for the project.

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What was Telarc’s input on the promotion of this record? Did you have any issues with the publicity for the record?

Well Telarc had all the greats like Joe Pass, Al DiMeola and really did not have to promote them so much since [they’d] sell anyhow?

We kind of felt that Higher Octave might have done a better job breaking a new artist, but hey what do we know?

 

How soon after the record came out did discussions begin floating around for the next one?

Right away, since it sold so much (for a new artist), but now with a “real producer” etc.  That is a whole different story though.  I think our favorite album will always be Forgotten Romance.

 

Will La Vienta ever surface again for a new album?

Hey you never know!

 

Stefan, when will your solo record come out?

It will be released this summer (2017)

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Below: Some of the group’s press clippings and billings.

 

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RE-ANIMATED IN THE FUTURE NOW: Milemarker

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The post-hardcore group, with roots in both the Chapel Hill and Chicago indie scenes, formed in 1997 and powered through eight glorious years before going on hiatus. They briefly re-emerged in 2008, then disappeared again—until now. And we’ve got the scoop on their new album, Overseas, and a whole lot more. The band is currently on tour in the west and then to the midwest this week.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY DAVID ENSMINGER

As the millennium unfolded, bands like These Arms Are Snakes and Milemarker felt like redeemers that cracked the egg-dome of punk norms. Emo had taken shelter in pop modes, math rock unleashed charmless vanities, street punk often felt sulking and rodent, but Milemarker felt like an expedition transmitting new frequencies. Their searing coterie of tunes, like “Signal Froze” (with its warped vocals, undulating electro vibes, and crackling rock’n’roll urgency) and dramatic “Shrink To Fit” (imagine Gary Numan meets Atari Teenage Riot), signify their crack post-modernism.

Instead of mustering play-by-numbers angst, thin protest, and soon faded disaffection, the stuff of teenage war cries, the music of Milemarker seems fermented in a nuanced analysis of the sensory-overladen landscape of late-capitalism and the information economy. Plus, they always feel shaped by prescient literary sources: William Burroughs, William Gibson, J.G. Ballard, and more. Hence, nothing in their music, lyrics, or composition is overtly stripped-down or bareboned; they offer no simple recitation of revolt. Instead, they approach tunes in a cyber-fiction way, creating scenarios, news dispatches, and memos from the digital edge, producing music that morphs and transcends.

Roby Newton’s (who also masterminded their light show) moody chromium voice fills tunes like the hypnotic “Food For Worms” as she excavates all the damage done to women in the world of dead, damaged, suicidal heroines and forced silence, when the best minds of a generation starve for their place in intellectual and cultural spaces: “The girl’s heroes have taken their own lives. We’re left with sewn lips and model lines. The place for us: we are seen and not heard.” She urges people not to take shelter in desultory destruction; instead, turn off the ovens, throw out the stones, shut off the gas, she infers, and don’t enact the tragedies all over again, like a vicious interlocked replication of breakdowns. It’s a call to liberate from the dire ends of Sylvia Plath and others, to crush the monocles of madness, and to fight omnipresent confinement, barriers, and censure.

Meanwhile, her tireless tidal waves of dark, distressing keyboard shape the erratic pull and push of “New Lexicon,” a prescient tune examining the idiom of conformity – the recited phrases learned by rote, never questioned or doubted, like pre-programmed, mass-recited Orwellian thought squelching all dissent and difference. Due to so many memes, jargon, and scripts emanating from the political spectrum, the song looks hard at how language can become no more than a glass paperweight dampening the flicker of free thought.

Yet, despite heady preoccupations, Milemarker can still unleash pummeling power and slanted rhythms, like “Sex Jam One: Sexual Machinery” and the holographic punk of “Tundra,” which doesn’t feel a million miles from Kanye West (as does their urban dance-throttled “Idle Hands”) as it gnaws on incandescent keyboard riffs, the drums explode in sudden urges (from jazz-bridged syncopated asides to sheer fist-stomping smackdowns), and the slow, degraded guitar forms a distorted plumage. Newton and crew weigh in on the impending ice age – using the song as stretching harsh light to illuminate the impending eco-cataclysm bound to upset economies, military agendas, populace routines, etc.

Having taken a break since 2005, they have re-emerged, like nomads populated with new band members and up-to-the-minute visions. Overseas (released on the Lovitt label), with Monika Bukowska providing the unflinching internal roil and rhythm on the heaving beats on songs like “Conditional Love” (an electro-punk motif frosted with singalong punk propellants), is dancefloor odored and ordered, an electrifying emblem of punk hybridity.

Al Burian kindly offered to answer questions “haphazardly.” [Editor’s Note: This feature originally appeared at the most excellent ‘zine Dagger, which not so coincidentally is helmed by our very own Tim “Dagger” Hinely. Many thanks to him and Mr. Ensminger for allowing us to share it with the BLURT readership.]

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DAVID ENSMINGER: No doubt, members of long-lived bands come and go, line-ups change, etc., but now only half of the band remains at the core. Have you essentially re-imagined Milemarker, not just resurrected it … perhaps taken off the guardrails?

AL BURIAN: Milemarker always had a pretty shifty line-up; every record has had some variation in the musicians playing on it. And from the beginning, we always had an agenda of pushing boundaries, at least our own personal boundaries, of getting the people in the band to go places where they are uncomfortable. Dave and I wanted to do some new stuff with the band in 2015, so we found the other two people, Lena and Ezra, and immediately wrote a record with them. The band history gave us some sort of aesthetic range or parameter for writing– I guess in that sense the band as an abstract entity is the guardrails.

Your tune “New Lexicon” (which musically always reminded me a bit of …Trail of the Dead) is so apropos to this volatile era, this immediate strife. Was the song intended as a play on Orwell’s notion of language being an epicenter of control: “We don’t need big brother to enforce the new lexicon … we wrote it for ourselves.” Is the general public, and not just Trump, responsible for the emergence of alternative facts? 

.A lot of the dystopian science fiction elements in the bands’ past lyrics are becoming descriptive of current reality, which is not a very good development. It seems to me that this current administration is fundamentally different from anything I’ve experienced in my lifetime.­ Though to be honest, I have no idea what to expect. I’ve been sitting in my apartment in Berlin, viewing the U.S.A. through the mediated lens of the internet. Of course, we are all responsible in some way for what is happening. With the band, and especially with touring in the U.S. now, I assume everyone in the audience is going to be aware of what’s going on; they don’t need a political analysis from us. Our agenda is to make music. That’s not meant apolitically: if I’m going to be optimistic, I’ll say hopefully that music can serve as a unifying force, maybe even communicate something fundamental and transcendent.

 

Another changing format that has become the de facto norm is “reality TV” (actually, scripted to the core), which the band presciently recognized on “Make Love to the Camera Obscura.” The line “what’s the point of doing anything if it’s not on camera” is eerie. People have shifted from mere consumers to endless makers of content. Does that appeal to you, in the “become the media” sense punks like Jello Biafra once espoused, but also trouble you?

That line is actually taken from Warren Beatty, spoken derisively to Madonna in the documentary, Truth Or Dare. But yeah, if “new lexicon” is Orwellian 1984, dystopia “make love to the camera obscura” is Huxleyan Brave New Worlddystopia. I think Huxley was closer on the mark in terms of predicting our present situation, although really maybe it’s kind of a gross melange of the two, with an authoritarian Big Brother presiding over a sheep-like hedonistic pleasure-centered society. The worst of both worlds! I think the song still holds up overall, social criticism-wise, although the line “you’re on camera an average of ten times a day” is out-dated: that was the average number of surveillance cameras you’d encounter per day in 1999. The number of cameras that capture you on a daily basis now is undoubtedly exponentially higher.

By the time you cut tracks like “River of Blood” for the last album– over eight minutes in length – had you become restless with post-hardcore routines? The lyrics seem pointedly political – the destructive machinations of government and war, but the song (called “math-core” by Pitchfork), seems restless as hell…searching.

“Rivers of Blood” was a pretty old song when we recorded Ominosity. It was written fairly soon after the songs onAnaesthetic. We were into longer songs at that point. As far as the lyrics, why do you say “but”? You can’t be pointedly political and restless as hell at the same time?

 

People tend to romanticize the independent networks of labels, indie publicists, and fanzine editors that formed the backbone of punk from the 1970s-2000s, etc., but the longer I chronicle the movement, the less transparent, and even less honest, it all seems. How would you describe dealing with the punk “infrastructure” (for lack of a better term)? Did we create an alternative commerce and ethos, or did we fail?

Punk led me to pretty much everything I know about as far as “alternative” or anti-mainstream ideas. It’s a conduit for all kinds of information and can lead you to all kinds of interesting places. But it’s only one way to get to these points, and it can lead you to some pretty dumb and nihilistic places too. The question of failing depends on what the goals are. We’re all only humans, and we exist in the framework of the current economic system; to feel like a new world didn’t spring out of your efforts is a beautifully idealistic standard to hold yourself up to, but maybe a little unfair to yourself. We’re all doing the best we can, for the most part. One thing I always liked about punk is that it embraces deviance generally. So there are a lot of freaks, a lot of scam artists and schizophrenics, a lot of bad thoughts, bad ideas, experiments gone awry. There are a lot of lonely people just trying to get attention. That’s all part of it, and part of what makes it great. “Succeeding” might be the wrong paradigm for thinking about it.

On the web:

www.milemarkerwebpresence.com

www.lovitt.com

Portraits of a Rock Band on Fire: Parquet Courts

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“Fight back!” On February 11, the Artist Sometimes Known as Parkay Quarts stormed the gates of Atlanta’s Terminal West venue, ultimately selling out (the venue, not the band). And we were there.
Photo Gallery By John Boydston

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Bigger galleries of this and other curiosities in rock and nature are at jobo.smugmug.com
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THE PHILLY KID: Dave Hause

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Despite living in California now, the punk/Americana artist is still very much a child of the City of Brotherly Love—and he’s got a terrific new album to prove it.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Born and raised in the city, it’s where he started his hardcore band, Paint It Black, and eventually his punk band, The Loved Ones. Hell, his first concert was The Hooters, and despite the rest of the world’s insistence that the City of Brotherly Love is all cheesesteaks and Rocky statues, you don’t get much more authentically Philly than a Hooters concert.

So, the fact that Hause – who as a solo artist now plays a perfect blend of punk and Americana – asked Hooters singer/guitarist Eric Bazilian to co-produce his latest shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. The album title? Bury Me in Philadelphia. (Natch.)

Released last week, on Feb. 3 via Rise Records, the album is quite possibly his best to date. Not an easy feat as both Devour and Resolutions, his other solo efforts, were praised by critics and fans alike. Hause, gearing up for a tour that will likely have him on the road for most of this year, spoke recently about the influence Philadelphia has had on him, the chances of another Loved Ones record and writing music after getting sober.

BLURT: I wanted to start out talking about how and why you got Eric Bazilian involved. I think he’s wildly underrated and was stoked to see you were working with him.
DAVE HAUSE: I totally agree, he’s vastly underrated, and is one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with. Helen Leicht, the midday DJ at WXPN in Philadelphia, found out that my first ever concert as a 7- year-old kid was The Hooters at the Tower Theater, and introduced us. Eric checked out Devour and Resolutions and really dug the work I had done, and came out to the headline show I played in Philly for Devour. He played “And We Danced” with me and my band as part of the encore, and we kept in touch. When things weren’t working with the producer I initially started working with for this record, Eric was my first call. He loved the demos of the songs and we booked the time and within a few months, the record was done. It was pretty amazing.

I know you live in California now, but even more so then just the title, I can’t help but think that this sounds like a Philly record. How has the city influenced your music?
Philly is what shaped my whole perspective, my work ethic, the way I view the world. It took moving to California to understand how much of a Philadelphian I truly am, and that ended up being a big part of this record. It’s another reason why recording it with Eric in the Philly area was so crucial. The cover art is the sky above Roxborough, where I grew up, and ultimately that theme of figuring out where you’re from and who you are, no matter how far you run definitely makes its way through the album.

You started writing this record after getting sober, from what I understand. How did that change the way you approached writing it? Was it harder?
I wrote it over the course of a few years, so some of it was while I was still partying. I think the focus that came once I stopped drinking and using drugs was really pivotal to not only completing this record the way I wanted it to be, but also the 40 other songs I have that’ll come out over the course of the next few years. It really helped to have clarity and to get the hell out of my own way. There are more than a few songs I wrote about that topic that didn’t make the record, but maybe will see the light of day down the road. We’ll see.

Your brother also worked with you on this one, right? How did that come about?
Tim was taking classes at Temple University when Devour came out but was a little uncertain what he wanted to do. He played a few songs with me at the record release shows I did in Philly and it was really fun, and it got my wheels turning to take him on tour. His first tour was a 10-week trip of North America in the winter, which was insane. We developed a musical bond beyond any I had ever come across, and when I was having a hard time determining what songs would become this record, I just started collaborating with him and he was a natural, he came up with so many amazing lines. I look forward to writing more music with him, most of our collaboration was lyrical, and his sense of melody is so keen, that’s gonna be so fun to turn over that leaf. He’s a great kid, really is a personal hero of mine.

You put out a great record last summer under The All Brights moniker. Any chance you guys will record a follow up?
Actually, we recorded another EP that’s been done for a year. I think it comes out Memorial Day, 2017. It’s even more ridiculous than the last one, and marries my love of satire, making fun of California culture, punk rock and cartoon noises to an absurd effect. It was fun making those songs with my friend Matt (Wilson), we cranked them out really quickly with the rule that if it made us laugh, it stayed. So, stupid.

You also played some shows with The Loved Ones last year to celebrate the anniversary of your debut. Any awkward moments playing with those guys again after so much time?
I think the only awkward thing about that stuff is that you revisit who you were when those songs were made. I’ve grown a lot as a human, and I’m hopefully kinder, more compassionate, and have less to prove, so remembering some of that young arrogant scared guy is uncomfortable, but all in all it was nice to play and see that we all survived, and actually thrived, 10 years later. We had a blast.

Any talk about working on new music with them?
I have most of what could be a third Loved Ones record written, it really is just a matter of whether or not we all set aside the time to rehearse and record it. We’ll see. I don’t want to play any Loved Ones shows unless we were to make new music.

What’s next for you after this record comes out?
Touring like crazy. We do record release shows on both coasts, headline Europe, then do Canada. It’s really exciting, I can’t wait to get this band up and running and really see what we can do. I have a record’s worth of songs almost completely recorded already, we’ll see what we do with that, and then a bunch of songs written that I need to record in addition to that, so things will be busy. I’m not taking such a long break between records, I want to see if I can get on a few years’ tear where I put a lot of stuff out. Who knows, gotta get this one out first I reckon…

OPENING CEREMONY

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From the mid-ninetimes comes a dark tale, guest-starring Love and Rockets, Genesis P-Orridge, Rick Rubin’s haunted mansion, and a Dante-worthy conflagration…

BY KEITH JOYNER

After the heavy rains, an early spring balm fell over the canyon. The air was alien. I could see their shadows moving in the low light of the grand old house. I walked without purpose up the stone stairs in the vain hope of avoiding human interaction. In retrospect, I should have been more welcoming, though I was a different person in 1995, or at least I’d like to think so. One with less patience, and prone to snap judgments. And besides, my brief respite had been interrupted. What’s next? The question always loomed.

Daniel Ash had at least made the effort, inviting me out one evening along with his posse of rock n roll revelers. In typical fashion, I declined. I had only lived in the house on Laurel Canyon for a month when the members of Love and Rockets moved in. Meanwhile, I had recently completed a stint in Matt Johnson’s the The, was recording and playing club gigs with Marty Willson-Piper of The Church, and had just started a new band with David Newton of The Mighty Lemon Drops. Suddenly I was at the center of the universe when it came to ’80s alternative rock. Strange circumstances indeed.

I was charged with little more than ensuring the squatters didn’t return. After the renovation, the house was to become the headquarters for Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label. My room on the second of three floors consisted only of an unreliable air mattress, a portable stereo and a digital clock. Hollywood glamour at its finest. But it was rent-free, and it bought me valuable time. On most nights, Kevin Haskins arrived in a very nice car to join his brother David Haskins (aka David J) and Daniel Ash for Love & Rockets jam sessions lasting into the wee hours of the morning. But tonight was different than most. There was a new arrival.

Inside the foyer, Daniel’s motorcycle was parked for the evening. After rehearsals he would usually padlock a chain to the door in order to thwart any would-be thieves. Following a cursory hello to David, I hastened to my room, but was stopped short by the figure descending the spiral staircase. David made the introduction. “Keith, this is Genesis.” She certainly made a first impression. Long grey dreadlocks framed a weary face that featured heavy, dark-encircled eyes. She wore a floor-length tie-dyed dress, and approached smiling, placing her hand weakly in mine. OK, perhaps not a she. At least, not yet. Androgynous, yes.

I had heard of Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle, but was otherwise unfamiliar with those seminal industrial bands. He was very polite, and there was a sad kindness behind his eyes. But there was also something rather intense about his countenance. This house already challenged my preconceived notions about the paranormal. Genesis P-Orridge’s presence could only stir the sleeping ghosts that lay dormant within its walls. That night, as I drifted to sleep, slowly deflating to the floor, I asked myself what in the world was I doing here? How did I end up living in an outtake of the film Withnail & I? It was time to take action. There were decisions to make.

Days passed, and turned into a week or more. Genesis was still there. I helplessly watched my bank account descend into dangerous territory. Soon I would need to find work, hardly the spoils I expected Tinseltown to deliver. Meanwhile, the songs emanating from the formal dining room downstairs were starting to take shape. David and Genesis were simultaneously working on something far more experimental. I was stalled, sleepless, incapable of a simple course of action.

Never fear. Tomorrow the universe will make decisions of its own.

Seven-sometime AM. A relentless unthinking buzz roused me from sleep. Had I set the alarm? I had no particular place to be. It was to be another day of waiting for nothing to happen. No. This was louder, more urgent. It beckoned from elsewhere in the house. An acrid stench filled the air. I sat bolt upright. Burning electronics, wood and drywall. I raced from my room to the top of the stairs. I could already hear the combustion.

I descended the stairs to find the dining room engulfed in flames. There, in the foyer, I encountered a frantic woman I had never seen before. She screamed, “The door is chained! How do we get out?” I calmly advised her to unlatch the window from the living room and get out quickly. “Go! And find Patrick!” Patrick was the other caretaker who lived in the detached studio under the outside stairs. I would wake the rest of the house. The fire was too far gone. Whether the motorcycle was there I don’t recall, but to contemplate the simple physics of gasoline and fire at this late date still gives me the chills.

I ran to the second floor again. The smoke became blacker and thicker. I stopped short to consider the paucity of my current state. For a brief moment I thought I might succumb then and there, but was quickly shocked back to the matter at hand. Who should I wake first? David and Genesis were at the opposite end of the second floor, and furthest from the fire. I devised a plan in short order.

On the third floor I found Daniel’s room and pounded on the door, shouting of imminent danger. Silence. I tried the handle. It was locked. Is he in there? I imagined the fire growing in size and creeping up the staircase, searching for someone, anyone to claim. I opened the window and crawled onto the clay tile roof. It was a long way down at the front of the house. I found a window. The curtains were drawn. Again, I rapped loudly on the pane. I tried to open it. It too was locked. I considered breaking it, but with what; my bare hands? He’s either a heavy sleeper, or he’s not in there. I remember saying aloud, “I’m sorry. I have to wake the others.”

Up and over the roof I went, trying not to look down. At the back of the house there was a better way down. The back yard was terraced, and I could jump with ease from one floor to the other until I was safely on the ground. I ran the length of the back of the house and circled to the front. “David! Wake up! The house is on fire,” I shouted. All the while, I thought of Daniel sleeping peacefully and unaware of his impending doom.

After several tense moments, David materialized at the balcony to his room, the lord of the manor, dapperly dressed and seemingly nonchalant about the situation. This really should have been his house. He belonged there. In that moment he was equal measure Howard Hughes, Jay Gatsby and Count Dracula. Somewhere behind him was Genesis in a panic. It was an easy way out, or so I imagined.

Meanwhile, I could hear the sirens approaching. Fortunately for everyone, there was a fire station at the top of Laurel Canyon where Mulholland crossed. I don’t recall if it was me or Patrick who unlocked the chain link gate just as the fire engines arrived. I imagine they would have driven straight through at any rate. The fire was quickly and expertly extinguished. Ultimately, there was only interior damage and the foundation remained intact.

I found a corner of the front yard to collect myself. I was covered in soot, dressed in what were likely my only good clothes left. I waited for news of Daniel, fearing the worst. Genesis had been severely injured. I couldn’t quite work it out. There were doors leading to the back yard. The fire hadn’t reached that end of the house. In fact, it had stopped at the top of the staircase at the second floor. Somehow he had fallen. He must have lost his footing. I can only speculate that he didn’t know the location of the fire and had tried to scale down the front of the house from his room.

Then, magically, he appeared, dressed in leather pants and jacket, his hair slicked back, sporting giant-framed sunglasses as if he were about to take the stage. It was impressive, and I recall being relieved and happy to see him. “You all right?” Daniel asked as he walked toward the gathering throng near the front of the yard at Laurel Canyon. It was quite the contrast given that I had last encountered him in the kitchen wearing cut-off jean shorts, a white tank top and the most massive white man’s afro I had seen in a good while.

I felt strangely happy and destitute at once, freed by the flames, and grateful in a way that I was now forced to start over. I actually looked forward to finding an apartment, getting a job and maneuvering toward a normal existence. The house had successfully expelled us all. The spell had been broken. We would all have to move on. And so ended my first strange episode in the City of Angels.

David kindly returned some of my belongings that he found in the aftermath. He included a nice letter as I recall. Still, I spent several years avoiding the subject unless pressed. Love and Rockets were forever linked to the fire, and I didn’t relish the idea of revisiting that moment in any shape or form. So when I was invited by a friend to see the band headline the now-shuttered Hollywood Grand, I didn’t exactly jump at the chance. I don’t know if it was resentment or blame that I felt, but ultimately it was of my own invention. I agreed to go. It was actually the first time I had ever seen them. And they killed it, opening with a searing version of “Ball of Confusion.”

There was something dark and hypnotic about my first days in Los Angeles. And it clung to me until that moment when the band played on. Truth is, I can hardly recall the feeling anymore from the safe haven of my Highland Park home. But I felt compelled to put “pen to paper” after all this time and relay my own version of the events. Currently, I lead a relatively quiet existence by comparison. But sometimes when the sun sets, I look west beyond the hills and imagine the shadows falling over the house on Laurel Canyon. It still stands, like a bulwark against time, striking the temporary inhabitants with unease. They will come and go. As for the house? It will likely always be there.

***

Keith Joyner’s band Seven Simons was recently chronicled at BLURT ( “The Time is Now, the Time is Yesterday“). The veteran Georgia musician’s  latest project is les biches, and you can find out more about that at his official website. Below, you can check out the les biches track “I Had a Thought.” (And incidentally, just to extend our kudos and credits here, above-mentioned L&R member David J, go HERE for details on his most excellent 2014 book on his earlier band Bauhaus, Who Killed Mr. Moonlight? Bauhaus black magick and benediction.)

TIME & A FEW WORDS WITH… Alan White of Yes

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Tempus fugit when you’re having fun—the virtuoso drummer on Yes’ past, present, and future.

BY BILL KOPP

Progressive rock heroes – and 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees – Yes are embarking on a short, 10-date tour of the Southeastern USA in February 2017. A continuation of the band’s popular “Album Series” of concert tours, the performances will feature the group’s 1980 album Drama plus Sides One and Four of the sprawling 1973 album Tales from Topographic Oceans. The tour kicks off with a February 3 show at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Western North Carolina.

The “Album Series” is a relatively new approach for the enduring British band founded in 1968. Beginning in March 2013, Yes concerts featured performances of complete albums from the group’s deep catalog. The band would take to the stage and run through an entire album of material, start to finish (sometimes, as in the case of performances of 1972’s Close to the Edge, they would play the songs in reverse order). The first albums to be performed live in their entirety were Close to the Edge, Going for the One (1977) and 1971’s The Yes Album. The group’s 2014 tours featured 1971’s Fragile along with other songs. The 2016 tours featured the first complete performances of Drama, considered on its original release as a major musical departure for the group. By Summer of ’16 Yes was performing half of Tales from Topographic Oceans (specifically, sides 1 and 4).

Since its inception, Yes has gone through myriad changes. In fact – if one wants to get picky about it – the 2017 Yes lineup includes no original members. Allow me to explain in as concise a manner as is possible …

Yes was founded near the end of the ’60s in London by bassist Chris Squire and vocalist Jon Anderson. The remaining three members – guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist Tony Kaye and Bill Bruford on drums – would each subsequently leave the band; both Bruford and Kaye would return at various points, but a full Yes personnel chronology would be mind-numbingly intricate; consult Wikipedia if you really must know.

Jon Anderson left for the final time in 2004; he currently tours with two other Yes alumni, guitarist Trevor Rabin and keyboard virtuoso Rick Wakeman. Chris Squire – the only member to have participated in every Yes concert and album up to that point – passed away from leukemia in 2015. With Squire’s passing, the sole founding member of the group was gone. But the current lineup of “new” members is anything but new. Guitarist Steve Howe joined in 1970; drummer Alan White took over for Bruford in 1972, and has played on every Yes release since Tales from Topographic Oceans.

The other members of Yes all have substantial history with the band. Keyboardist Geoff Downes came on board for Drama back in 1980, and rejoined as a full member in 2011 (he’s also been a mainstay of the closely related progressive/pop group Asia since its founding). Bassist Billy Sherwood is unique in Yes world in several ways: he’s one of only two Americans (current vocalist Jon Davison being the other) in the group; Sherwood has been in and out of Yes – in both official and unofficial capacities – several times beginning as far back as 1991. It’s worth reminding oneself that 1991 was more than a quarter century ago.

And with the exception of a medical leave during the group’s 25-date Summer 2016 tour, Alan White has been behind the Yes drum kit for every show since a concert in Dallas, TX on June 30, 1972.

White didn’t simply appear out of nowhere back in ’72; his impressive résumé already included work with John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, Denny Laine’s short-lived group Balls, and stints with former Animals keyboardist Alan Price as well as a brief tenure in Ginger Baker’s Airforce. Through absolutely no fault of the preternaturally good-natured White, most of those projects had run aground in disarray. But the drummer remained undaunted. “I’ve always been very positive,” White tells me during a late January 2017 conversation. “If things fall in place around you all well enough, I don’t complain about much at all. I just get on with performing, and go in a straight line forward. Things come and go around you.” That resilience has served him well during his 45-year tenure with Yes, as he’s seen the band endure – and thrive – through countless changes in style and personnel.

Yes’ original drummer Bill Bruford approached his craft from something of a jazz and improvisational mindset; in fact his stated reason for leaving Yes – already known for its intricate and demanding musical arrangements – was to pursue an even greater musical challenge with King Crimson. But even then, newcomer White was no slouch himself.

White provides some context. “Prior to Yes – and in fact for quite a few years while I was doing all of this other stuff – I had my own band in the English countryside that actually played a lot of prog style music.” He says that the music was in a style not wholly unlike Yes’ approach. “So I tried – when I got into Yes – to incorporate the rock and roll style along with knowing how to do the jazz things. I combined all of that into a fusion type of drumming that went along with a lot of Yes’ music.”

Looking back upon his entry into the band, White recalls the challenge of joining the band on the eve of a major tour of America. “Getting asked to learn and play the whole repertoire in three days was quite an exciting challenge for me,” he laughs. “One I’ve seem to overcome.”

When I interviewed Chris Squire in 2011, he recalled that time as well. “I was never sure it was going to work out when Alan first came in,” he told me. “But after awhile, he did so well that we melted into being the new ‘engine room.’”

For his part, White recalls that he seemed to get it mostly right onstage in Dallas. “Chris said, ‘That was great! We were all sweating bullets, because you didn’t really have enough time to learn the songs!’” He notes that while Bruford had played drums on the then-new album Close to the Edge, even he had never attempted to play the demanding material live. “I was experimenting to the point of how it would work on stage,” White says.

White and Squire quickly developed a close musical rapport, one that did indeed serve as the engine room that Squire described. White says, “When you play with somebody for 43 years – or even for 20 – you get to know how each other play so well, you kind of know what they’re doing before they do it. It’s an unwritten thing.”

Shortly before Chris Squire passed away, he made clear his wish for Yes to continue without him, and hand-picked multi-instrumentalist and longtime musical associate Billy Sherwood to take his place as the group’s bassist. For his part, White has a long musical history with Sherwood, both in and out of Yes; the pair have played together in Circa, a side-project band. White has also played on many of the various tribute albums Sherwood has produced and recorded.

White brushes away any suggestion that Sherwood’s bass playing requires a significant change in the way he plays drums on Yes songs. “You know what? Chris was Billy’s mentor. Billy studied Chris a lot through his life from an early age,” White says. He knows what he’s getting with Sherwood. “We were just in Japan together, doing a Yes tour,” White recalls. “Billy turned to me one day and said, ‘I’m 51 now. And I’ve known you since I was 19!’”

Asked to name his favorite song and/or album from among the 21 Yes studio releases he’s played on, White launches into a long list, jumping forward and backward through the catalog, naming songs and records from most every year and incarnation of the band. “You could go on forever,” he laughs, and he means it. White does make special mention of “Ritual,” the 21-minute-plus track that makes up all of Side Four on Tales of Topographic Oceans. That track features a long and memorable – and exceedingly musical – drum solo from White, and it’s a centerpiece of the February 2017 tour. “It’s really exciting to play,” says the 67-year-old drummer.

White’s long tenure with Yes has seen him take a major role in creating the band’s enduring legacy. But he takes accolades in stride. Case in point is his reaction to the recent announcement that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – long viewed as hostile toward progressive rock – will be inducting Yes in its next annual awards ceremony. “Yeah, well, it’s funny enough,” he says, noting that an artist has to have been active for 25 years before they’re eligible. “And it’s been almost 25 years since that happened for us.”

He continues on that point. “Fans have been saying for years and years, ‘I can’t understand why you guys are not in there!’ I talked to the guys in Rush when they got in; I was down at the ceremony in 2013. They said, “I can’t understand how we’re getting in the Hall of Fame when we modeled all of our music on yours!'”

Yes begins its February 2017 tour in Cherokee, NC, followed by a headlining/hosting spot on the five-day Cruise to the Edge floating festival. Once back on dry land, Yes will play a string of dates in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Future – but as yet unannounced – plans call for a Yes summer tour, a South American series of dates, and, says White, “possibly doing another album in the studio after that.” As the group heads toward its 50th anniversary in Summer 2018, Yes shows no signs of stopping.

You may also enjoy Bill Kopp’s 2016 interview with Yes’ founding member Jon Anderson

 

FAREWELL TO… Game Theory’s Gil Ray

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1956-2017 R.I.P. Ace drummer also manned the kit for the Rain Parade in recent years. Above photo by Robert Toren.

UPDATE 1/29: Gil’s wife Stacey wrote a moving comment on Facebook, noting that she struggled all week to find the right words. Ultimately, she found the perfect words.You can read it HERE.

By Fred Mills

This one, for obvious reasons to anyone who visits the BLURT site on even an irregular basis, hurts more than most. Gil Ray, erstwhile drummer for ‘80s power pop legends Game Theory, passed away on January 24 following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was only 60, and he leaves behind an extended family of fans, friends, and fellow musicians that, even as I write this obituary, is grieving as heavily and publicly as any artists I can think of from the recent past. Just one visit to Gil’s Facebook page will confirm the outpouring of sorrow, accolades, and remembrances. Many have also posted pictures of Gil from over the years, and one friend also posted an image that I’m taking the liberty of reposting here, because I think it sums the man up in ways I could never match:

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I suppose you can peruse his overall bio readily enough at his Wikipedia page, which summarizes his long career, which started in Charlotte, NC, in the late ‘70s, hit an early peak in the mid ‘80s on the West Coast after he joined Scott Miller’s band Game Theory, and after a spell resumed, as drummer for Miller’s subsequent outfit, the Loud Family. He also embarked on several side projects, additionally cutting a wonderful solo album in 2006, I Am Atomic Man!

Then in 2012 he was tapped for kit duties in the Rain Parade, and enjoyed renewed fame alongside his fellow Paisley Underground alumni. BLURT’s own Jud Cost documented a particularly memorable 2013 concert in San Francisco that featured the Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate, the Three O’Clock, and the Bangles.

On a personal level, I feel compelled to add that I’m eternally grateful to have reconnected, if on a long distance level via Facebook, with Gil during the past six months. Whenever I got to see Game Theory back in the day, he and I would chat and catch up on North Carolina goings-on, especially about Charlotte since I was living there at the time. (He was clearly the hometown hero when GT came to Charlotte, with old friends coming up, hugging, asking him what he’d been doing aside from the band, etc.) As it turns out, Gil had seen some of the Game Theory coverage that yours truly and fellow GT fanatic Michael Toland had been diligently publishing here at BLURT. Among those clips:

Dead Center” album review, 2014

Nighttime of The Season” feature, 2015

Lolita Nation” bonus track MP3, 2015

Unreleased Live ’88 track” MP3, 2015

The Big Shot Chronicles” album review, 2016

Then there was a piece written last year by Jason Cohen and featuring exclusive photos by Robert Toren. It concerned the band during its Big Shot Chronicles period, and for some reason I decided to title it “This Band Could Be Your Life”—yes, a nod to the classic Michael Azerrad book about the alt- and college-rock era in the ‘80s—because Game Theory seemed so emblematic of what a lot of us, from fans to writers to musicians, experienced during that time. Below is one of Toren’s photos that he so kindly shared with us.

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Gil seemed particularly surprised and proud that his old band commanded such reverence among both his fans and his peers, and he expressed his appreciation to me for remembering him and his bandmates so fondly.  And after we had reconnected after all these years, he popped in from time to time with an observation, comment, or anecdote regarding something I’d posted at BLURT. A passage from the Cohen piece involving Gil now stands out in my mind, and by way of tribute, I’m going to repost that section here. Meanwhile, to Gil, all I can say is—you are already deeply, permanently missed, and while I know this is a cliché that gets uttered all the time, at least we still have the music and the memories. As I type this, I’ve been spinning GT music for the past hour. I never get tired of it. Please say hello from all of us here to Scott Miller when you run into him…

By Jason Cohen, from “This Band Could Be Your Life” article: In the fall of 2012, The Rain Parade announced that they’d be getting back together to join the Tim Lee 3 at an Atlanta benefit show for Lee’s Windbreakers compadre Bobby Sutliff, who’d been in a bad car accident. The Rain Parade’s Matt Piucci posted on Facebook that they needed a drummer, prompting both Lee and Dan Vallor (the other co-producer of these reissues) to send separate Facebook messages to Ray, who hadn’t played live in 12 years.

He got the gig. “It was one of the best things a 56 year-old guy could have dreamed of,” Ray says. “We were meant for each other. Some of the best shows I have ever been involved with were the Rain Parade shows. The fact that I was a former member of Game Theory made it even more special. Worlds collided in a fabulous way.”

I’d gotten to know Tim and his wife, Susan Bauer Lee, both on the Internet and IRL, when they started playing in the Tim Lee 3 around 2001. When the Sutliff benefit was first announced, I tweeted that I wished the Dream Syndicate and the Rain Parade could follow that up by playing SXSW with the Windbreakers and Game Theory. When the Three O’Clock reunited to play Coachella 2013, I fantasized out loud on Twitter about Game Theory following suit (and more than once). So when the Lees heard from Gil about Scott’s death, Susan knew I’d be almost as heartbroken as she and Tim were, and sent me a Twitter DM.

Losing Scott in the social media era–balancing public virtual grief with private grief–was “one of the most messed up things I’ve had to deal with, ever,” says Ray. “I did not know how to process and handle my loss, his family’s loss, and his closest friends’ loss…on Facebook.” This was especially true in the days before Miller’s death became public knowledge. That ended up happening during the Three O’Clock’s April 17 show at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, between the two Coachella weekends.

“I knew it was going to be a very emotional night,” says Ray. “Before the band went on, Matt showed me his phone. It was now public knowledge. We hugged each other and cried. I looked up and a large part of the audience were staring at their phones. I will never, ever forget that. It was the most emotionally charged moment of my adult life. This was the new world. This was social media. This was fucked up. But I made it through somehow.”

Then the Rain Parade came to Texas to play Austin Psych Fest. It’s a show I wouldn’t have missed in any case, but now it was also something of a wake. It was where I needed to be to feel Scott’s loss, but also to temporarily fill the void. And it was where Ray and his Rain Parade bandmates needed to be to expel their own grief at high volume. A show of strength. An offering to the rock’n’roll gods. One more for St. Michael.

“The audience knew,” Ray says. “They gave me great respect, and we played what Matt called ‘our most punk rock’ set ever. It was healing, for the moment.”

Below: Gil and Suzi Ziegler performing at a 2013 memorial for Scott Miller. Via Wikipedia: By Lwarrenwiki – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34079211

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THE INSPIRATION BEHIND… Michael Fennelly’s (Crabby Appleton) “Go Back” (1970)

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Ed note: We continue our series devoted to tunes that hold special places in our hearts and in our collective experience as devotees to and lovers of timeless indie rock. To kick the series off, we asked Eric Matthews, of both solo and Cardinal fame, to talk about his classic number “Fanfare,” from his 1995 Sub Pop hit It’s Heavy in Here. Next was Bill Janovitz of Buffalo Tom pulling back the curtain on one of his early gems: “Taillights Fade,” from 1992’s Let Me Come Over, cut with fellow bandmembers Chris Colbourn (bass) and Tom Maginnis (drums). Now we dip way back to 1970 for the proto-power pop of Crabby Appleton’s “Go Back,” penned by frontman Michael Fennelly.

BY TIM HINELY

At this stage in the game we probably don’t have to tell you that the early ‘70s was a breeding ground for the genre we’ve come to know and love as power pop—Big Star, the Raspberries, and the Nazz being just three of the more prominent progenitors. Count L.A.’s Crabby Appleton—vocalist Michael Fennelly (late of Millennium) plus a group popular on the local scene called Stonehenge: Felix “Flaco” Falcon (percussion), Casey Foutz (keyboards), Hank Harvey (bass), and Phil Jones (drums)—among those icons, too. Although the group managed to land insistent, hooky Fennelly composition “Go Back” in the Billboard Top 40 in 1970 and tour nationally on the strength of their eponymous Don Gallucci-produced debut album, the couldn’t maintain their momentum and wound up splitting following the release of their poorly-selling 1971 followup, Rotten to the Core. Fennelly would go on to a lengthy career as a songwriter and solo artist, and we recently caught up with him at his home in Portland, Oregon, to take a quick trip down memory lane to the “Go Back” period—and a musical legacy that’s still cherished by power pop fans across the globe.

BLURT: What was the initial inspiration for the song? 
FENNELLY: There wasn’t a particular incident or person as inspiration. I wrote songs all the time. Sometimes they were personal, and sometimes they were attempts at commercial placement. Some songs seem to write themselves. Go Back was one of those. Sitting playing my big old Gibson acoustic 12 string. Stoned. Out it came. Probably took less than a half hour.

  Any idea how your long-time fans feel about it (ie: would it be considered a “fan favorite” or anything?)
It’s the song more people know about than any of my others. A lot of people really liked it upon its release and many remember it fondly and comment how it was among their favorite of the era. So, in some respects it’s a fan favorite, although people who are familiar with my catalog over the years might have other choices for their faves.

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Was it a staple of your live sets ever years later? 
After Crabby Appleton, I didn’t play “Go Back”. Many years later, in the ‘80s, my bands would include it – sometimes as an encore. It was fun to revisit.

Is there anything about the song you’d change? 
Nope. It came out just as it should have.

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Tell me a little about the recording of it – where and when, how long did it take, any watershed moments or glaring problems, etc.?
“Go Back” was among songs I’d written before Crabby Appleton. We worked up our version in rehearsal. When we recorded it, producer Don Gallucci suggested the keyboard be a Farfisa Organ. It was a nice suggestion, I think. When we ran into problems was when we were close to finished mixing the album, and Don felt strongly that Go Back should not be on the album. He’s been involved with heavier concept album stuff (Touch) and though the song was too light and kind of bubblegummy.  Of course it did have elements of that genre, but I felt they were well offset by the minor-to-major changes in the chording, and the power of the overall sound. I also felt VERY strongly that “Go Back” was to be Crabby’s hit. We got in a shouting match in Elektra’s VP’s office over it. I won. [Below: Fennelly’s original demo for the song.]

How do you feel about it now? 
I like the song – I like Crabby rendition of it. And I feel a fondness for it as my one-hit wonder. Having a song and record that many people know and love is indeed a wonder! And “Go Back” opened all sorts of doors for Crabby and for me. It got us on American Bandstand [watch the performance, below), and had us playing arenas and pop festivals. We used to hear it come on the radio as we were driving to gigs across the US. That was a thrill.

I’ve attached the original scrawled lyrics, and a link to the original pre-crabby guitar/voice demo.

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IN LONDON YOU CAN CELEBRATE… Punk London

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Punk rock’s 40th anniversary (and other rock revolutions) brings a variety of exhibits and events that salute punk rock in London but do they contradict punk’s anarchistic philosophy?

TEXT & PHOTOS BY MICHAEL BERICK

Back in November, Joe Corré, the son of Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, made of very public burning in London of punk rock memorabilia that was estimated to be $6.25 million? Do you remember hearing about this? Corré’s gesture was prompted by his disgust over the citywide Punk London celebration and his actions resulted in many debates over whether Punk London was just a capitalistic marketing ploy or a sincere salute to this important cultural movement. (The complete name is Punk.London: 40 Years of Subversive Culture. Note the “dot” between “punk” and “London,” incidentally.)

These questions were in my head when I visited London at the end of December, and the answer that I came up with is “yes.” Punk London represents both an establishment commercialization of the anti-establishment punk rock movement along with providing useful reminders and insights about what it was all about.

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Although Punk London’s main events were in 2016, some are lingering into the new year. Since one of Corré’s complaints was how punk rock has become a brand like McDonald’s, it seems fitting that London’s Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising (www.museumofbrands.com) has a small (basically three display cases) exhibit, “The Graphic of Punk” (closing Jan. 29). Displaying a collection of ads, posters, magazines and comics, the exhibit shows that the punk rock didn’t shy away from publicity or commercialism. McLaren started the Sex Pistols in part to promote his clothing store so it could be argued that punk rock, particularly in the way McLaren used the media to the Sex Pistols famous/infamous, was branded from the very beginning.

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Along with an eclectic array of vintage memorabilia, this exhibit also highlights the influential graphic artwork created by Jamie Reid. Described as an art student and anarchist, Reid is credited with coming up with the cut-out letter, random note-style artwork that became one of punk rock’s iconic looks.

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The Museum of London’s (www.museumoflondon.org.uk) just closed “Punks” exhibit also was a small – basically a hallway that connected one gallery to another – but it presented a rather unique perspective on the city’s early punk rock scene. Rather than focusing on bands or their memorabilia, it looked at the people who were the punk teens of the ‘70s, and who they are now. It was quite fascinating to read the impact the music had on these kids’ lives, like the anecdotes about the girl who gave musicians haircuts in a club’s women’s bathroom or the boy’s whose 999 design wound up as the band’s logo on one of their albums, as well as seeing how they are now. It was a type of small-scale, but powerful, exhibit that would be nice to see more of in museums.

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Going from tasteful museums to something actually tasteful, London’s W Hotel (www.wlondon.co.uk) is serving up an imaginative variation of afternoon tea. Although it might be antithetical to what “punk” was all about, its “Anarch-Tea” does upend English traditions in its own way, as well as offering some wonderfully tasty confections to enjoy.

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The cordial W staff will set you up at a cozy table and bring you tea (or, since you’re by the hotel bar, you can order something alcoholic too), and they then deliver the special Anarch-Tea treats. You will get five desserts, along with four “Gang of Four” finger sandwiches, all served as on a tiered cake stand cleverly made from old vinyl albums. It is best to go on an empty stomach because the pastries are a scrumptious indulgence. anarchtea01

The most traditional item is the jam-filled scone called, naturally, “The Jam.” There is also “The God Save The Queen,” which is a checkerboard cake topped with a sugar crown, and “The Mohawk,” a skull-shaped raspberry mousse sporting a bright blue (and edible) Mohawk. The two other sweets also feature colorful edible accessories. “Shut Up – The Strangers” is a frozen raspberry parfait resembling a big pair of red lips that are “sealed” with a (yes, edible) zipper. Hard-core choco-philes, meanwhile, will love the “Going Round In Circles – Alternative TV,” a dark chocolate roulade dotted with silver “studs.”

If you have visited London, you know that walking tours are a prime tourist activity. Not surprisingly, there are several music-related walks, with the Beatles being a popular subject. London Walk (www.walks.com) has several Beatles tours as well as the broader themed “Rock ‘N’ Roll London Walk,” which hits sites related to the Who and Pink Floyd, the Clash and Oasis. You can even do a punk-focused walk. “The Original Soho Punk Rock Tour” (www.flipsidelondontours.com) is a much-praised two-hour jaunt around the legendary Soho neighborhood, where clubs like the Marquee and Roxy clubs once stood and other place important to groups like The Jam and Sex Pistols.

The question of when commemorating rock history shifts from being presented as a cultural movement into something that is more of a commercial product also rears its head at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (www.vam.ac.uk/). The esteemed museum is presenting an exhibit entitled “You Say Want A Revolution: Records and Rebels 1966-1970 (through Feb. 26) that is yet another look at the glorious times known as the Sixties. (Below photo and the photo at the top of the page from the V&A exhibit.)

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The large, ambitious exhibit covers a lot of ground, examining not just music but also touching on fashion, film, literature, politics and other social movements. It is a lot to try to condense into one show, and perhaps too much. Some important issues – like gay rights, women’s liberation and radical politics – are given rather cursory looks. There is a heavy emphasis on the Beatles and The Rolling Stones, whose histories are pretty well known already. A room about rock festivals is dominated by a big screen showing clips from the Woodstock film, which people can watch while laying on artificial grass (and making it awkward for others to look at the room’s displays).

Not surprisingly, the emphasis also is on the English side of the story. So instead of talking about Rolling Stone Magazine, you get learn about the underground magazine Oz and its serious, yet sometimes comical, obscenity trial. Similarly, instead of focusing on Andy Warhol’s pop art crowd, the exhibit spotlights Swinging London’s pop art and fashion, which allows you to find out about Michelangelo Antonioni’s great film Blow Up and the tragically short career of pop artists Pauline Boty.

By the end of the massive, and massively informative, exhibit, you may be understandably exhausted, but try not to breeze through its final gallery. Besides some fun looks at Sixties’ consumerism and a too brief look at architecture and design, it also addresses the two main World Expos from this time-period, Montreal in 1967 and Tokyo in 1970. It’s illuminating to read about hopeful utopian spirit behind these projects, which often get ignored in the typical nostalgic retrospectives. Similarly, there is a flag display, which may seem like a head-scratcher until you read that over 50 new countries were established between 1955-70. Flags were designed to stand as a visual symbol of these new nation’s existence and a statement about the era’s revolutionary times, just as you could say the “Revolution 9” or “God Save The Queen” were.

(Below: the Nashville Room wall poster, w/punters, natch.

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