Category Archives: Industry Insider

SONIC REDUCER / CARL HANNI

 

Searching
For The Wrong Eyed-Jesus

 

By
Carl Hanni

 

In
2003 filmmaker Andrew Douglas shot this Southern travelogue featuring the
singer and songwriter Jim White. If you don’t know Jim White, you should: he’s
released a series of idiosyncratic records on David Byrne’s label, Luaka Bop,
including an early one from 1997 called The Mysterious Tale of How I Shouted
Wrong-Eyed Jesus!
that led Douglas to
White in the first place. 

 

White
is to Americana
as Flannery O’Connor was to American writing: in it and of it, but with a
totally unique take that couldn’t be further from conventional twang and weepy
infidelity. His records are smart, literate, sonically adventurous, and filled
with voluminous, complex and overtly spiritual lyrical leanings, and have
absolutely nothing in common with either commercial, NASCAR country music or
straight-up Americana ala Lucinda/Dwight/Allison etc. It’s more akin to
Southern Gothic literature, as filtered thru the Carter Family and the Bible,
but played for a post punk audience. The man is a true original. He’s also one
of the best tour-guides a filmmaker (or an audience) could ever hope for.

 

I
don’t know what sort of a film Douglas set out
to shoot, but I’m willing to bet that he got more than he bargained for.
Whatever the original inspiration, Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus is
so perfectly pitched and so right in so many way that I need to be careful to
not go all hyperbole over it while still hoping to convey whys it’s well worth
one hour and twenty-two minutes of your time. So, I’ll just say it now: for
anyone with an interest in arcane American music and in the socio-spiritual-religious
fabric of the American South, you will be well rewarded. 

 

White
spent most of his childhood in the South, leaving as a teenager and returning
many years later after living and traveling all over the world. Beset with
mixed feelings about the South as a young man, he returns with fresh eyes. As
such, he comes back as a tour guide with a worldly perspective: “Until you get
away from it, you can’t see it.”

 

The
film opens in the Louisiana
bayou, where he picks up the right car to travel the backroads of the deep
South, a low-slung, white 1970 Chevy with big primer patches. Next he buys a
statue of Jesus, which rides, partially wrapped, hanging out of the trunk of
the car for the duration of the film. In a typically pithy exchange, the seller
asks for $500; White offers $60, and they settle on $65. Meanwhile, White’s
buddy Johnny Dowd plays a deathly dirge from the hood of a junker.

 

The
film is a journey into the deep vastness of the Southern spiritual psyche, and
White states his own right up front: “I’ve chose my divinity, rather than my
divinity choosing me.” But this is not an aimless narrative; it’s a series of
set pieces, cut in and through with musical interludes, as White stops to talk
to coal miners, bikers, evangelists and locals of all stripes, and makes
extraordinary trips into a prison, a couple of Pentecostal churches, a
roadhouse bar on a Saturday night and a truck stop diner dedicated to saving
souls. It’s beautifully shot and edited, with outstanding sound and not a
moment than doesn’t work. It’s just right.

 

The
appearance of Johnny Dowd, writer of songs of unmitigated starkness, is the
first of many by like minded souls. Eventually The Handsome Family, David
Eugene Edwards, Melissa Swingle, Lee Sexton, the Singing Hall Sisters, Johnny
Dowd & Maggie Brown and David Johansen all show up, and White throws in a
couple of numbers himself. But the first to make an appearance is the
formidable writer Harry Crews, dressed in black and strolling a bayou backroad
with a cane and a few stories to tell. Crews appears as a sort of swamp savant,
delivering stories and monologues with a delivery that’s simultaneously
inviting and intimidating, and cuts right through skin to the bone. You sense
that he could smell bullshit while asleep, and would not suffer fools or
phonies lightly. Some of it may be persona, but that makes it no less real, and
it’s fascinating and a little scary. 

 

David
Eugene Edwards (of the terrific 16 Horsepower) wanders in next, strumming
a  banjo and singing a spooky as hell version of “Wayfaring Stranger.”
It’s as backwoods as a front porch in a West
Virginia holler; moonshine whiskey practically sweats
out of the sky. 

 

And
with Dowd, and then Crews and Edwards, followed by the rest, the filmmaker sets
up a central mystery of the film that he toys with from beginning to end,
namely: how much of this is set up and choreographed, and how much is
spontaneous and unrehearsed? Things that first appear to be spontaneous –
Johnny Dowd strumming his guitar in a barber shop full of locals getting buzz
cuts – are revealed to be set pieces; a music video, basically. But how much?
Was it just invented on the spot, or written out in advance? Others, like the
scenes in the bar, diner, prison and churches, are clearly unrehearsed,
spontaneous, and shot with a hand held camera. Other’s seem to split the
difference. But it’s an interesting set-up that, whether intentional or not,
keeps us a little unsettled while in no way messing with the flow of the film.

 

 

Jim White, slumped in a booth, talking
to Johnny Dowd. “Whataya been doin’?”

Dowd: “Killin’ time.”

Pause.

Dowd: “It won’t die.”

White: chuckle. 

 

 

Douglas takes his camera into an
unnamed jail or prison. Everyone is skinny, white, and looks meth ravaged. He
gets the inmates to talk about their crimes, their time, their regrets, their
histories. The prisoners are hanging out, bored, restless, full of regret and
bluster, letting their guard down a little. Crime, to them, is just a way and a
part of life that they understand, or don’t. Opening line from an unseen
prisoner: “Its the bad. Bad’s exciting.” Later, White sums up the options
available to the restless and broke-ass in small town America: “Let’s
DO something, even if it’s something wrong.” You never see this kind of stuff
elsewhere on film. It’s incredibly sad, and moving, and a rare look into a
world that the outside world would generally like to forget about. Jim White
doesn’t forget about them. 

 

Next
up: The Handsome Family doing their catchy, minimalist classic “Cold Cold
Cold.” Are these guys down-home, or hipster faux down-home? Hard to say: he
looks hipster, with his tall hair, lip thatch and thick rimmed glasses. She
looks hipster in her thrift shop print dress. Can they hunt, fix a truck, cook
meth? Who knows, but boy they sure write killer songs and deliver them with
pleasing, molasses slow deliberation. They’ve got the stuff. 

 

Then
on to Slim’s, what White calls a ‘cut and shoot bar,’ hanging with the locals
on a Saturday night. What do the locals want to talk about? Sin and salvation, the
church and the bar, Jesus Christ, how great Slim’s is, the fraternity of the
local drinkers, what time they’re going to church tomorrow, how wasted they
are. White, meanwhile, has moved on to a drive in burger joint where he turns
eating an ice-cream cone into an entire small town sociological set-piece. I am
not, not, making this up. 

 

After
Saturday night comes Sunday morning, and one of the most remarkable pieces of
filmmaking you will ever be lucky enough to witness, as Douglas and White are
somehow able to film a service in a Pentecostal church. “Things happen (t)here
that defy explanation,” is how White sets it up. If you’ve never seen anything
like this before, it’s utterly mind-blowing. Witnessing a group of well
dressed, ordinary locals speaking in tongues, going into convulsions, weeping
and laughing hysterically, leaping and falling about, dancing and quaking and
shaking is something that just might change move your perspective a few degrees
in another direction. The band and choir, led by the preacher Rev. Gary
Howington, burns a white hot gospel rock beat, with multiple electric guitars
and crashing drums channeling and directing all the madness at their feet. I
defy you to watch this and not be moved in some way. White understands the
necessity of the church as an antidote to much of the outside world: “In a poor
world like this, gravity seems a lot stronger, it’s pulling you down, into the
earth, and everyday is a fight to not disappear.” 

 

And
his own divinity? He’s “Looking for the gold tooth in God’s crooked smile.” Eat
that, Pat Robertson. 

 

And
then there’s a dark trip to Sheffield’s
roadhouse diner, where the sign proclaims Jesus Is Lord, and where the locals
trade morbid tales over bbq and catfish and hear of one sinners exit into hell as
he’s dying in prison. As White says, “It’s so wrong it’s right.” And also,
“These hills here are so full of spirit, no wonder everyone’s thinking about
eternity and hell.” And Crews: “The most ordinary conversation in the South has
a theological basis.”

 

There’s
more, lots more, including a stop at a coal mine where the resident banjo
picker, Lee Sexton, plays “The old, lonesome sound;” Melissa Swingle bending
some serious musical saw on “Amazing Grace;” and David Johansen and Larry
Saltzman in a hotel room busting out with Gesshie Wiley’s much revered “Last
Kind Words.” Dowd, The Handsome Family and Crews all make more appearances.
There’s also a scene with a tiny, rather remarkable looking tele-evangelist as
she appeals to everyone to save their souls before damnation is upon them. It’s
unsettling and absolutely mesmerizing. 

 

And
finally, as he drops his Jesus off along side the road somewhere and heads off
into the Southern night, White leaves us with a final pointed comment: “If you
want to know the secrets of the South, you’ve gotta get it in your
blood.” 

 

Your
wise blood.

 

 

***

 

Carl Hanni is a music writer, music publicist, DJ, disc jockey,
book hound and vinyl archivist living in Tucson, AZ. He hosts “The
B-Side” program on KXCI (streamed live on Tuesday nights 10-12 pm at
KXCI.org) and spins around Southern Arizona on
a regular basis. He currently writes for Blurt and Tucson Weekly.

 

 

WACKED / STEVEN LORBER

 

 

DRIVING WITH NO AIR CONDITIONING- OR 10 SONGS
FROM THE PHANTOM ZONE

 

By Steven Lorber

 

Today I crawled into my house after being stuck in
the Washington
traffic and remarked to my wife how the sweltering heat/bad drivers and NPR was
enough to make ” a grown man cry”. I went on to further whine how nice it would
be to have a cd player in the car where I could at least steal some inspiration
from tunes and  block out   the unrelenting summer heat. “Dum Dum-you
have a cd player in your car-don’t your remember in the 90’s you gave me one on
my birthday.!!! What’s wrong with you-you’re starting to scare me!”  “Oh Yeah-Yeah-does it still work has it been
there all this time-how could I have forgotten…. Ok I’ll try it.

 

Variety is of course, “the spice of life” and I
quickly discovered the one artist cd does not cut the mustard.  So in the spirit of Open Source… Here is my
gift with love  “From Me to You.”

 

1)     Cat
Stevens-Here comes my baby

 

How ironic Mr. Jew here
picks as his no.1, a tune by everyone’s favorite Imam-Yusef or Cat Stevens.
During the heyday of swinging London-Cat was quite the cool dude-coming up with
psychedelic pop freak beat classics like-I love my dog/Matthew and son/I’m
gonna get me a gun
-and of course this gem-best known as a hit for the
Tremeloes. Cat later graduated to a post hippy sensitive troubadour and
appealed to the sophisticated female granny glasses feminist set. I’ll never
forget in 1985 I was in London
with my wife in a very Tony woman’s clothing store and they had Tea for the
Tillerman playing on the stereo.  Yes Ok
I bought three tops.

 

 

2)     The
Nits-Tutti Ragazzi

 

The Nits were a Dutch power
pop group who found their place in the sun during the early 80’s on the “action
strasse” or Club Paradiso. One thing they had in common with all European pop
bands is their skewed interpretation of American rock and roll.  But you got to love them.  To better understand the appeal-imagine that
you took the Beach Boys “I Get Around,” and put it through google
Translator…you get..

 

 

3)     Flamin
Groovies-Slow Death

                        

Now here is the ULTIMATE
Nerd Band. If you were a Geek or a Nerd You could never be Mick Roger Keith
Robert John or Paul but you could be Cyril Jordan or Roy Loney-the Nerds Nerd.
These guys waved their freak flag and planted it on Mt. Everest.
They gave us the rare commodity-Hope!! This was something to strive for. Salute
the masters.

 

 

4) Linda
Rondstadt-You’re a very lovely Woman

 

                I always had strong
uncontrollable sexual feelings for this woman. Many the nights I spent with
that album cover in New North. This is an obscure tune originally penned by
Emitt Rhodes. She had the voice the conviction and the……

 

 

5)Algebra
Mothers-Strawberry Cheesecake

 

          In the Bowels of Rock History there
is always a group/artist to prove someone wasn’t the first-and in this case
these guys were rapping &  hip
hopping to a new wave groove while 
Jay-Z/grandmaster flash/ice cube/diddy/kanye  were all 
in diapers. Who were these guys/wp-content/photos A copy of this cd to anyone who can
decipher the lyrics!! I cant.

 

 

6) Trevor White-Crazy
Kids

 

         For my money this is the greatest song
to come out of the Glam rock movement. An unsung teenage anthem-step aside  Pete Townsend. My nephew had a rock band in
high school and I said, Ben play this song and the girls will be crawling all
over you and the guys will be destroying everything in sight-he just gave me a
look…………..

 

 

7. The Sunny Boys-Alone
With You

 

The spiritual descendants
of the Easybeats. This is Australia’s
biggest secret and quite possibly the best modern band ever to come from the
land down under. A history of bad management, drug abuse and mental illness
destroyed their promising career. Their early albums and singles were-I know
its overused—pure genius. Jeremy Oxley the world needs you!!!

 

 

8. Esther & Abi
Ofarim-Wonderlove

 

              Esther & Abi  were the Sonny & Cher of Israel.  And they had some worldwide notoriety with
the sixties song “Cinderella Rockafella,” This video begins with some
unintended shtick.  Only a Jewish
performer would have a nosh on stage take pictures of the audience and then
sing one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Last I heard they were still
performing at the intercontinental in Tel Aviv.

 

 

9. New Math-Die Trying

 

              Another great obscure band with
an even greater and more obscure song. Groups and songs like this is my
personal reason for believing in America– American Rock and Roll and
steak-ums. There are a thousand stories in the Naked City
and this is one of them.

 

 

10. Hank Marvin & Mark Knopfler-Wonderful
Land

 

             One of the excesses of the 70’s
was the slogan “Clapton is God” Eno
is God.”  The truth was “HM was God” and
still is.  Ask any British guitarist from
Eric Clapton/jimmy Page/Jeff
Beck/Alvin Lee… and they will all agree. Mark Knopfler was a disciple and his Sultans
of Swing had Hank Written all over it. I’m not a particularly religious
fellow-but I would consider joining the church of Hank.

 

 

The Above excerpt
is from the Authors New E Book, ” Cry Screams & Rants from the
Masturbatorium”

 

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up / John Moore

 

Shonen Knife

 

By John B. Moore

 

It’s taken almost four decades, but I alone have finally
been able to pin down the definition of punk rock for the rest of the world:
It’s a three-piece, all-female group from Japan, playing loud guitars and
singing bratty, but impossibly catchy sing-along choruses. See also Shonen
Knife.

 

You’re welcome.

 

Thirty years ago, singer/guitarist Naoko (no last names
please, this is punk rock) started Shonen Knife with a strong fetish for The
Ramones and a strict adherence to two-minute pop punk songs.

 

Drummers and bass players have come and gone over the years,
but Naoko and her knack for writing solid punk anthems have remained a
constant. Just days after the release of the band’s latest album Pop Tune (naturally), Naoko was kind enough
to fire up the laptop and answer a
few questions via e-mail.

 

***

 

When
you first started the band, did you have any idea you will still be playing as
Shonen Knife songs 30 years later?

No, I didn’t. I’ve never imagined that.

 

The
Ramones are an obvious constant influence. Have your musical influences changed
over the years?

I’m influenced by the Beatles very much from the beginning
but I listen to various kinds of music from classical music to death
metal. In these years, I like a ‘70’s Scottish band Pilot and Strawberry
Alarm Clock.

 

Do you
still perform as a Ramones Tribute band?

When we get offer to do that, we sometimes play as Osaka
Ramones.  Osaka Ramones had a show this March in Kobe,
Japan and will play in London in October,
too.  Might be in the U.S.,
too.

 

 

 

What
can you tell me about the new record?

Our new album Pop Tune became very pop, fun, happy album like a jewel box with the best line up of
Shonen Knife.  Ritsuko and Emi did lead vocal for each song.  It’s
good variation.  I hope everybody enjoy it.

 

Emi is
new to the band. How did you find her?

I’ve seen her played at other band and her performance was
great.  When we tried to find a drummer, she’d just quit the band and she was
a big fan of Shonen Knife. I thought she is the perfect for Shonen Knife.

 

How
does Emi change the dynamic of the band?

Right after she joined to the band, we went to UK/EU tour
for five weeks.  Playing shows everyday made us having groove. Emi
likes Shonen Knife from the beginning and she had already understood the band.

 

So you
have plans to tour the U.S.
this year?

Yes, of course.  Our tour will start from July 19th
We’ll go to all over the states.  Let’s Rock with Shonen Knife.  (Tour dates: www.goodcharamel.com/?select=artists&data=shonenKnife )

 

 What is the punk scene like in Japan right
now?

There are many interesting bands at the underground scene in
Japan. 
Recently, I like Extruders, Yellow Machinegun and Convex Level.

 

 What’s next for the band?

Japan tour from June to July; North American tour from July
to August; UK/EU tour from October to November.  I’ll continue to write
songs and keep on rocking.

 

Do you
have anything else you would like to add?

Please listen to our new album Pop Tune and I hope you enjoy it.  Xoxoxo!!!

 

 

 

 

THREE MONTHS IN L.A. PHOTO BLOG / SCOTT DUDELSON

 

Out ‘n’ about in the City of Angels with Blurt’s roving shutterbug Scott
Dudelson – this time, including  the 26th annual Jazz Reggae Festival at UCLA, Memorial Day Weekend, May 27 & 28.

 

By Scott Dudelson

(above) The Roots, Jazz Reggae Fest

 

Alison Hinds, Jazz Reggae Fest

 

Bill Frisell & Matt Chamberlain, The Mint

 

 

Booker T, Jazz Reggae Fest

 

 

Don Carlos, Jazz Reggae Fest

 

 

 

 

 

Gary Clark Jr., Jazz Reggae Fest

 

 

JJMZ (Z Berg of The Like), Sunset Jubilee Festival

 

 

 

 

Mogwai, The Music Box

 

 

 

 

 

Shaggy, Jazz Reggae Fest

 

 

Ten Thousand, UCLA Royce Hall

 

 

 

 

 

XBXRX, Sunset Jubilee Festival

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up / John Moore

 

Toys That Kill

 

By John B. Moore

 

It’s been six long years since the guys in San Pedro’s Toys
That Kill last brought their brand of Elvis Costello meets The Descendents punk
rock to the masses. In that time, they decided to amp up their slow takeover of
the music world by dividing and conquering (three fourths play in the band
Underground Railroad to Candyland and frontman/guitarist Todd Congelliere put
out a solo record in their hiatus). Oh yeah, and Congelliere has also spent the
past decade building up the highly influential indie label Recess Records,
which has put out albums by Screeching Weasel, Off With Their Heads, the Green
Day side project Pinhead Gunpowder and many others.  

 

So you can’t blame the guys for allowing Toys That Kill to
take a breather. But with the release of Fambly
42
, it’s finally time to clear out the empties
from the van, air out that smell and start loading it up again for another road
trip, including a stop at The Fest in Florida
this fall.

 

 Congelliere spoke
recently about the six year gap between records, whether or not they thought
about disbanding and how to tell your friends that you won’t be putting out
their record.

 

***

 

There’s been about six years between
your last full length and this one. You guys all obviously play in other
bands, so what kept you preoccupied during the break?

 Well,
definitely the other bands. Between The Underground Railroad to Candyland’s two
albums, Stoned At Heart album, my solo album, and all the tours that coincided
with them… Basically same shit different day. I always wanted to say that.

 

During that time off
from Toys That Kill did you ever think about ending the band or
starting over with another group?

I
might’ve told a person or two that I really dig bands that do three albums and
might’ve mentioned that Toys That Kill had three albums and we might’ve not
needed another one. I’m really glad we did a fourth album ‘cause it’s our
favorite one. I know that’s typical for band to prefer their latest effort
though. It truly feels like we are starting a new band. 

 

Who did you recruit to play
on this record?

 Just
us. Ryan Young (Off With Their Heads) did a background vocal but that’s it. We
played, wrote and recorded the whole thing in my garage.

 

 

So what can you tell me
about Fambly 42?

 It’s
our fourth album. We recorded it at Clown Sound, which is just my garage
transformed into a practice/recording studio.

 

What’s the title a reference to?

 Sean
had a song called “Fambly” after reading The Stand. We also
are obsessed with the number 42 due to reasons I can’t really publicly say. So
I thought the title Fambly 42 would
not only sound nice but have an inside meaning for us band mates. It also is a
carbohydrate binding module if you Google Family 42. We watch our carbs. So it
all makes sense.

 

You’re day job is running Recess
Records. What’s the hardest thing most folks don’t understand about running
your own label?

 Sometimes
you have to deal with prima donnas who don’t even like playing music anymore
and expect you to handle everything perfectly even when it’s out of your hands.
But Recess mainly deals with stand up people who make music ‘cause they love
to. Sometimes a pressing plant will fuck up five LP’s on one order, make you
pay for them and then later threaten to sue you over bills that aren’t yours.

 

Have ever had to pass on putting
out a friend’s record?

 Yeah.
It’s hard to do that. But true friends remain and if they were just
acquaintances then that usually means they’re not anymore.

 

What made you decide to start
Recess Records years ago?

 I
didn’t have a plan to start it. In the late ’80s I was putting out cassettes
for my one man project called Five Year Plan. We called ‘em demos but more for
the fact that they we’re on the tape format than that I would be shopping it
around to labels. I think it was just like that back then. Or I might’ve just
misunderstood what bands were doing and blindly followed (laughs). Tapes we’re
easy and affordable but I always wanted to put out a 7″. It was almost a
pipe dream. Just one 7″ though. I thought when I’m a grampa and my grand
children ask what the furniture was made out of, I would tell them “Boxes
of my record that didn’t sell”. Somehow it snowballed over the years into
this. I couldn’t be more grateful.

 

What’s next for you and for the
band?

Hopefully
tour a lot. I wrote some songs last night that I think would make a good
7″. Even if I was stoned or something it’s nice to feel like we are very
active right now.

 

Here’s the band’s tour schedule:

 

May
31st Austin, TX Chaos in Tejas at the Parish $
June 1st Austin, TX day off at Chaos in Tejas
June 2nd Las Cruces, NM at the Trainyard
June 3rd Phoenix, AZ at the Meat Market
July 15th Los Angeles, CA at The Fonda *
July 20th Pomona, CA at VLHS %
July 24th Los Angeles, CA at Blue Star %
July 26th-29th Hawaii (TBA) % 
October 26th – 28th Gainesville, FL at The Fest

~ = w/ the Avengers and the Fleshies
+ = w/ the Bananas, Ennui Trust and RAD
/ = w/ Joyce Manor, Culo, Gas Chamber and Koward
$ = w/ Pierced Arrows,Tenement,Gun Outfit,Teenage Cool Kids and more!
* = w/ Screeching Weasel and The Queers
% = w/ Night Birds

 

 

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up / John Moore

 

Pennywise

 

By John B. Moore

 

The Hermosa Beach
punk band Pennywise has been faced with the break up question before.

 

In 1996 when founding bassist Jason Thirsk committed suicide
they had to decide whether to keep the band together or call it a day. They opted for the former, bringing in bassist Randy
Bradbury and turned in some of their biggest albums to date.

 

So when singer Jim Lindberg decided to leave the group in
2009, citing a desire to spend more time off the road and with his family, the
other guys in Pennywise already knew they would soldier on without him. They
hired Ignite front man Zoli Teglas a few months later and got to work on All or Nothing, their 10th record.

 

With the new album finally on the merch table and a summer
full of tours ahead, Bradbury spoke recently about Lindberg’s decision to leave
and the band’s decision to brush it off and start over. 

 

***

 

How did you end up finding Zoli? Did you audition other singers?
 
We had toured with Ignite, and we were also fans of Ignite before we even knew
Zoli. I had always thought from the first time I saw Ignite, back in 1996 that
Zoli would be a great replacement for Jim, if Jim were to quit. Jim was always
threatening to quit, even back then. So Zoli was always on our radar, but after
Jim quit we wanted to be sure that we had at least tried out some other people,
to make sure we were making the right choice. We tried out quite a few others,
and got demo tapes from even more people. In the end there was a lot of good
stuff coming from everyone that tried out, but Zoli just fit like a glove.

 
So at any point when Jim left, did you
guys think of calling it quits or even recording under a different name?

 
Not at all. We never considered quitting or changing the name. Jim didn’t like
being in the band. We like being in Pennywise and we like playing Pennywise
songs to Pennywise fans. Fletcher (Dragge) and Jason (Thirsk, former bassist
who passed away in 1996) started the band, it’s Fletcher’s band. We aren’t
going to quit because Jim says so. Not taking anything away from the amazing
accomplishments that we achieved with Jim, and not taking away from Jim’s great
song writing, and his voice… But still, we didn’t think his quitting was
warranted. We felt like his desire to quit was based on his perspective alone,
a perspective that the rest of us don’t believe was completely legitimate (at
least from the way he tried to explain it to us). The success that Pennywise
has been gifted is extremely fortunate. This success deserves the ultimate
respect, and our fans deserve the ultimate respect for supporting us. Quitting,
in my opinion, is a slap in the face to this gift of success. That’s how I see
it…. I have a family also; I have four beautiful children that I love more
than life itself. We all have families. Pennywise has always done minimal
touring so that we can be at home as much as possible with our families. It’s
the best of both worlds, why would we give up on a lifetime of work, a dream
come true, that has taken two decades to build? It just wouldn’t make sense for
the rest of us to quit just because one dude is over it.

 
From the Punk Rock Dads documentary it seemed like the split was not as contentious
as it was made out to be online. Was everyone pretty ok when Jim left?
 
No, we were not ok with Jim leaving. Jim was awesome when he had enthusiasm for
the band. Jim was a great songwriter, a great performer, a fun guy to be around
when he was happy. We wanted Jim to stay in the band. We tried very hard to
make things comfortable for him. We limited our touring, we tried to be non-confrontational,
and we tried to include songs that he wanted to play. We even offered to pay
for a nanny for his children when we were on the road. Jim was a great singer
and songwriter, the last thing we wanted was for him to leave the band. But
once he decided to go, I think I got a little bitter that he didn’t put the
same value on being in Pennywise that I did, so now there is this trail of shit
left in the wake.

 
When did you start work on All or Nothing?
 
I started writing songs for All or
Nothing
the day we got out of the studio for Reason to Believe. We didn’t know the title, or what the future had
in store, but I always write music. But, I would say we conscientiously started
writing All or Nothing, with Zoli,
about two years ago. There was a lot of getting used to each other’s styles and
finding the right way to express ourselves musically with a new singer in the
band, and we didn’t want to fuck up. So we took our time with this album, and
we are really happy with the results. Zoli is such a great singer and he has
adapted his style to fit our music
so well, all the hard work and trials that we’ve gone through all seem worth it
now.

 
Was the writing of the music different
when you add Zoli to the mix?
 
Well, we could write in a higher registers because Zoli has a higher vocal
range than Jim did. We all had input on every single song. We were able to
experiment more with every song until we all felt that we had done as much as
we could to make it the best we could. I think we just worked harder and more
like a team on this record. It reminded me of back when we did Full
Circle
.

 
Was there any kind of initiation he had
to go through?
 
Fletcher has been hazing Zoli pretty much constantly, but I think Zoli actually
likes it. Zoli can dish it back pretty damn good. They are pretty evenly
matched when it comes to playing the dozens. All in all, Zoli is like a long
lost brother, he fits in Pennywise so good. I love having him around, he’s a
fun guy.

 

 There seems to be a lot of songs about
standing up for yourself. Was there meant to be a general theme to these songs?

 
It’s kind of a general theme. These songs are written post 9-11, post George
Bush, current Obama, the president of NON change. There is so much corruption in the world and so many lies being fed to us
by the liars in charge, it’s hard for us to not write songs suggesting you
stand up for yourself and take the power back. I know it gets a little
repetitive, but repetition is how you get things to stick in people’s heads…
The real overall theme though, is to get people to think for themselves. Don’t
fall for the bullshit that the media dumps on you, that’s fed to them by the
power elite in order to make us, the common peasants, easier to control. The
theme is to think for yourself and try to make this world a better place. These
songs are just meant to be eye openers, and stir up the thought processes of
anyone that is interested in the message. These songs are not intended as a
blueprint, just as a motivator to start thinking.
 

 

SONIC REDUCER / CARL HANNI

 

Mixing
It Up with Adrian Quesada

 

By
Carl Hanni

 

The world is full of musical
multitaskers, but by most any standards Adrian Quesada is an unusually busy and
productive guy. I’m aware of four ongoing acts that he splits his time between:
his main band Grupo Fantasma, who won a Grammy Award in 2011 for their record El
Existential
; the Latin funk combo Brownout, who share numerous members with
Grupo Fantasma; Ocote Soul Sounds, who he co-leads with Martin Perna from
Antibalas; and his own project The Echocentrics, who recently released their second
album, the digital-only Echoland, a tribute to the hip hop producer
Timbaland. Just hot off the presses is a brand new CD by Brownout, Oozy

 

And it hardly stops there: Adrian also runs Level One Studios is Austin, Texas,
where he and Grupo Fantasma call home. Recent projects there includes work on a
new EP by Daniel Johnston; remixes of two tracks by ‘70s hit-makers Chicago,
one of which (“Saturday in the Park”) has been licensed for the hit TV series Breaking Bad; and an upcoming record by
cinematic soul guy Adrian Younge. He has done remixes for fellow Austin
multitasker Graham Reynolds of Golden Arm Trio/Golden Hornet project fame, and
mixed the CD Pussyfooting by Foot Patrol, a nasty slice of retro ‘80s
synth funk dedicated to foot fetishists. He’s done soundtrack/score work for
the documentary films Inside The Circle and The Least of These. His music has
been featured on HBO, Showtime and MTV.

 

Oh, and Grupo Fantasma were
tapped by Prince to back him up for a series high profile shows. I could write
all day about the incredibly groovy stuff that Grupo Fantasma has done (backing
up everyone from Larry Harlow from the Fania All-Stars to Maceo Parker, TV
work, etc.), but what I’m really concerned with here is the big picture on
Adrian Quesada.

 

All of Quesada’s acts reflect
different parts of his wide, inclusive musical vision, but they are also all
stamped with his innate attention to musical detail, bracingly high production
quality and seemingly incredible ease with which he blends, mixes and matches
various styles and genres. Although all unique, with Quesada as producer (or
co-producer) each of the projects share variations on a certain clean, rich and
sexy sound boasting pristine-but-ballsy grooves and fabulous separation in the
mix.

 

Grupo Fantasma’s mix of
modern Latin funk, cumbia, spaghetti Western jams, rock/pop and whatever else
they choose is some of the most delightfully accessible music (as in
commercially viable) produced in the last decade. Brownout opt for a more overtly funky sound, but one infused
with numerous Latin influences, from mariachi to cumbia to rock and soul. Ocote
Soul Sounds blend Martin Perna’s Afrobeat tendencies with Quesada’s pan-Latin
wide net into a fully intoxicating melange that moves from ambient sounds to
orchestral synth music to full fledged AfroLatin funk; on their last album,
2011’s Taurus, Eric Hilton from Thievery Corporation (the group records
for Thievery Corp’s label, the progressive leaning ESL Music) was added in as
one of three producers along with Perna and Quesada, lending his gift for rich
downtempo grooves to the proceedings. Echocentrics mixes Latin pop,
experimental tangents and hip hop technology into unpredictable and surprising
combinations. 

 

Over five CDs by Grupo
Fantasma and Ocote Soul Sounds, three by Brownout (+ a limited edition remix
CD) and two by Echocentrics (including the new, digital only EP), Adrian
Quesada has created a body of work that stands with anyone’s from the last ten
years. 

 

He recently answered some
questions for BLURT and Sonic Reducer.

 

BLURT: We’re you raised in a musical environment? Were
there music and/or musicians around your house growing up?

My parents
listened to some music, but I wouldn’t say it was a particularly musical
environment. There were NO musicians around my house, no instruments, singing
or dancing. There seems to be more music around my dad’s house nowadays, with
singing and festivities, but as a child not really.

 

How and where did you learn your way around a studio,
record production, mixing and re-mixing, etc.?

My interest in
recording began as it does with most studiophiles, with a 4 track cassette
recorder in high school. I was obsessed with it when I first got it, and to go
back even further I remember being in 7th or 8th grade and getting a little
Casio where you could record little snippets and play drum patterns and trying
to recreate NWA beats. 

        From the 4 track (which continued into
my college years) I moved into production and beat programming on an MPC 2000
and worked my way up to a Roland Hard Disk recorder and eventually into GarageBand
on a Mac, which naturally led to Logic. Fast forward to now and I’ve been
working in studios for fifteen years, the first few mainly as an observer as my
bands were recording, but a few years into it I really got immersed and fell in
love with working in studios and the art of making a record. And the most
important thing for me has really been trial and error. There is no right/wrong
in recording, mess around, study the past and find out what works for you and
your ears.

 

All of your records always have an incredibly high
production quality. Do you have any particular philosophy and approach that you
apply to all of your productions, mixes, etc.?

I think my only
philosophy is to make a great ALBUM out of something. It seems with the
onslaught of digital information, our attention spans have gotten really short
and people listen to things on shuffle or listen to one song they downloaded or
DJs play short snippets of songs but I used to love to come home with an album
and make it an experience….every part of it was special to me – from opening
the packaging, starting at a cover, reading credits and sitting down and
listening to the WHOLE thing from start to finish. That’s really the most important
thing for me, as for production and mixes, obviously I lean towards the sounds
of the 60s/70s but everything is fair game really, whatever works for my ears.

 

Can you tell us a bit about the new Echocentrics release and how it came
together?

Sat down one
day after a bit of writers block and thought I’d do a cover song as an
exercise….shuffled through a bunch of music and somehow figured Timbaland
would be the most challenging as it’s not as obvious as say George Harrison or
Morricone or something which lends itself to the instrumentation. One turned
into another and I thought that’d be a fun theme, Timbaland has always been one
of my favorite producers and because of his association with some pop I think
he gets overlooked in an artistic sense. To me he’s like a modern day Phil
Spector or Norman Whitfield, someone who makes pop (and some awesome hip hop)
super out there and interesting.  

 

Grupo Fantasma won a Grammy Award in 2011 for ‘Best
Latin Rock Alternative or Urban Album.’ How has that changed things for the
band since then?

Not much if at
all, honestly. It’s just something they use to announce us now.

 

Ocote Soul Sounds releases stuff on Thievery
Corporation’s label, ESL. What sort of doors has that relationship opened up
for you? Do you have any more projects in the works with Thievery Corporation?

Thievery and
ESL have been super great and generous with us and very supportive from the
early days. We’ve toured with them and Eric Hilton helped us produce our last
Ocote Soul Sounds album. The whole DC crew is great.  

 

I recently noticed that you were the producer on the
CD Pussyfooting by Foot Patrol, an album dedicated to foot
fetish funk. That’s an outrageously funky record, in a mid-80s sort of way.
What’s the story on that release?

I actually only
helped them mix the record, didn’t produce it. I’ve been friends with a few of
them for years and they asked me to mix the record a couple of years ago and
sent me a few songs which I loved. It was a challenge for me because of the 80s
production aesthetic which I enjoy listening to but don’t ever really attempt,
that made it a lot of fun as it took me out of my comfort zone. The record was
recorded in different studios over a long period of time and song to song often
differed on production aesthetic and that’s actually something I’ve been very
used to working with as several of my bands’ albums have been done like that
and you face the challenge of making the record cohesive. 

 

How did you come to do remixes with Graham Reynolds
and Golden Arm Trio?

Graham’s an old
friend of mine from my first band in Austin, Blue Noise Band. We used to do
shows with him often even once did a legendary Golden Arm Trio vs. Blue Noise
Band show where we played their music and they played ours. He emailed me about
it out of the blue.  

 

Can you talk a bit about the genesis and going-ons at
Level One Studios? What have you been working on there lately?

Been doing
informal recording and production sessions out of my home studio for years,
decided to make it official, boutique yet also somewhat portable, basically LOS
is just the name for my productions, I move around to different studios in
Austin that I love quite a bit – Big Orange, Wire Recording, Public Hifi, EAR,
etc. etc. but generally always finish production at my home spot. Lately – just
finished an EP for Daniel Johnston, doing some stuff with David Garza,
Echocentrics vocalist Natalia Clavier’s solo album, Funk Ark’s record from DC
which I produced last year just came out, a collaboration with Adrian Younge
from LA, some friends called Baby Atlas, new Echocentrics material, etc. etc.
Some other cool stuff I’ll reveal later….May also be doing some stuff with
some Tucson
folks soon I hope!

 

How did Grupo Fantasma get to play with Prince?

Our old manager
knew someone who used to work with Prince and mentioned his club in Vegas at
the time, 3121. We sent a copy of our live album, next thing we know we’re
playing there on Thanksgiving, then the house band, so on and so forth.  

 

 

 

There you have it. Adrian
Quesada, multitasking away on numerous parallel tracks, always with his eye and
ear on the good groove.

 

Also see:

 

http://levelonestudiosatx.com/

http://grupofantasma.com/

http://ocotesoul.com/ocotesoulsounds/

http://brownoutmusic.tumblr.com/

http://echocentrics.tumblr.com/

 

***

 

Carl Hanni is a music writer, music publicist, DJ, disc jockey,
book hound and vinyl archivist living in Tucson, AZ. He hosts “The
B-Side” program on KXCI (broadcast and streamed live on Tuesday nights 10-12 pm at
KXCI.org) and spins records around Southern Arizona on
a regular basis. He currently writes for Blurt and Tucson Weekly.

 

[Photo Credit: John Speice]

WACKED / STEVEN LORBER

 

From File Clerk to CEO-or My Dinner with the Georgetown 5.

 

By  Steven Lorber

 

 

 

(Just call me Willie)

 

 

———–THE PORKYS
NATIONAL ANTHEM——-

 

 

 

It’s a hard world to get a
break in
All the good things have been taken
But girl there are ways
To make certain things pay
Though I’m dressed in these rags
I’ll wear sable
Someday
Hear what I say
I’m gonna ride the serpent
No more time spent
Sweatin’ rent
Hear my command
I’m breakin’ loose
It ain’t no use
Holdin’ me down
Stick around

But baby, but baby
Remember, remember
It’s my life and I’ll do what I want
It’s my mind and I’ll think what I want
Show me I’m wrong, hurt me sometime
But some day, I’ll treat you real fine

 

                                     “It’s My
Life” – The Animals

 

 

 

I have recently joined the
ranks of the unemployed. Not by choice, but rather the all too familiar
corporate heave ho. Yes I enjoyed the requisite pity party, the Muslim breast
beating ritual (minus the razors)-the Buddhist meditation which ended with a
non-directed fuck you; and so, I was back where I started. Déjà vu- -or what I
call-the Peter Sellers Syndrome.  I
dusted off the mantle, the nameplate, and the web site of the once great Metro
Music. Yes the business where I was the King- and the King was I. The challenge
that now stood before me was; could I resurrect a vinyl business in a digital
world and achieve greatness as I had done 15 years before?? The world had
changed in my absence. What kind of bizarro universe was I entering where
10,000 songs can be had for nothing; stored on a disc the size of a pinhead.
Music that could be ripped sampled trampled mixed doctored downloaded and
served up fresh on an I-pod/cell phone/I-pad-the cloud?!!. Would I be able to
meet this Herculean challenge?? Could I bring some semblance of sanity to a
world gone mad!! Once again I was at the crossroads-“hello darkness my old
friend”!!  Just as the Green
Lantern-summoned his strength-“On the darkest day in the darkest night-no evil
shall escape my sight”-I called on the Gods of Porkydom-Barney Fife/Harvey
Pekar/Sgt.Bilko/Captain Kangaroo/Ed
Grimley-Give me strength my friends-breathe life into my soul so that I may
soldier on-and show the world that a vinyl record-is your friend-its there to
comfort you-to inspire you, and to love you. And so it became, I, Steven Lorber,
went from file clerk to CEO of Metro Music.

 

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit
that these recent events triggered the inevitable 19th Nervous Breakdown-the
rush to the doctor for more powerful drugs and the spiritual questioning/self
loathing inherent in this porkys genetic makeup. I spent my days making friends
at the local Dunkin Doughnuts emporium drinking way to much coffee and
convincing myself that “Their Satanic Majesties Request,” was light years ahead
of Sgt. Pepper (2000 in fact). Strangely enough no matter what psychotic roller
coaster my mind seemed to take-I kept
coming back to the question of education. My education. Had I received my
degree in 1975, as I should have-what would my life have been like/wp-content/photos. You see
I had a small difference of opinion with Mr. John Carroll and -thus I engaged
in a 25-year war with the almighty Georgetown.
The epic David & Goliath battle ended in august 2000 as the bruised and
battered giant awarded this belligerent porky his cherished BSFS degree.

 

 

 

In the process of getting the
Metro Music office ready for business I couldn’t stop thinking as to how I
arrived at this place in my life. –  58
and starting all over again? Had I even started/wp-content/photos What had I really done?
—  “Who knows where the time goes”?
/”Time has come today-Time in a bottle-The time and the place-Love me two
times-Summertime-Time wont let me be-Time is on my side-Time of the Season- Tea
Time (won’t be the same without my Donna)“.”

 

 It was a sunny day in June-after returning
from DD and trying to put my office in order I came across an unmarked file
filled with letters documenting my 25-year war. 
I marveled at the gall, the tone and the slightly pathetic nature of my
letters. How they must have dreaded receiving my letters with the never ending
cajoling, begging demanding; imploring, beseeching, requesting and petitioning.
Who said you cannot petition the Lord with Prayer??!!. After a cursory
examination-I concluded that I’m a pretty damn good beggar! And why not-Hell
I’m not that proud, I spent my whole life begging for grades, begging for sex
and begging God to forgive me. Amongst the mountain of documents I was sorting
for posterity one caught my attention. It was a one-page transcript with my class rank. – Steven Lorber Class Rank
350 of 0355.  Yes I actually finished
higher than 5 other people. The days went on and I kept
thinking who are these 5 people? How was I able to finish ahead of them?? Well
I decided to find out. It was just my luck that I had a connection with a girl
who worked in the GU admissions office. With the requisite begging and bribery
I tracked down my fellow low ranking Georgetown
comrades. After the perfunctory introductory e-mail, I sent them all an
official invitation to come back to DC to enjoy a dinner and pay homage to each
other as we would examine our lives and our connection as the bottom 6
graduates in the class of 2000.

 

 

 

Feeling smug, anxious,
excited, and nervous-I went to greet my fellow travelers at the world famous
Willard hotel on the designated night of November 12, “A day that will live
in…There was Thomas Bergeron, Sheridan Fawnstock, Susan Emerson, Sean Driscoll
and Cynthia O’Connell. I hosted this Dinner in one of the Willard’s private
banquet halls. It was my dream that this magical meeting-this dinner -would
help me realize my station in life. Secretly I was hoping that this special
event-this meeting of the minds would confirm my superiority. Arrogant?
Absolutely! Insecurity is the defining genetic marker of all porkys.  It drives us to beg, borrow or steal any
morsel of praise, encouragement and acceptance
being offered.

 

As we sat down at the dinner
table-our private waiter poured the wine. Sheridan
suggested we all introduce ourselves and give a brief description of our professions. Sheridan Fawnstock started
out explaining that after a few false starts he followed the path of his degree
right to the state department. Stamping passports in Burundi
eventually led to an appointment by George Bush to be the American Ambassador
to Nigeria.
Thomas Bergeron then went on to explain after a series of dead end jobs he went
for masters in accounting and was now heads the international division at PRICE
WATERHOUSE. . Cynthia O’Connell went to Georgetown’s
nursing school and is now the Head of the Nursing dept
at Bellevue Hospital in NYC. Sean Driscoll went to
open a successful line of department stores in the Midwest.
And Susan Emerson became a well known social worker in Maryland spearheading the Martha’s Table
Homeless shelters throughout the tri state area.

 

I immediately realized I
stepped into a big pile of do do. The Georgetown
5 were major success stories. Listening to my peers brought me to panic attack
mode. My stomach flew to my brain. -My brain tried to exit my head. The
elevator that was me was in free fall. When it came to my turn, I had to pinch
my leg to pull it together, “Well I worked briefly as a paralegal for a
prestigious law firm and then after a difference of opinion-I started a record
business selling vinyl, press kits, posters, buttons, cassettes…it’s a good
business with international appeal I provide……People like to touch and hold
records….it’s tactile-it’s an art object.. It gives pleasure…..Everyone’s a
collector-you’ve seen the TV show Pickers…no not Hoarders ..Pickers…. My worst
fears materialized-I saw that glazed look in their eyes-a look I knew so well.
Before I even finished, I morphed into the mentally challenged child at the
holiday dinner. I was “lather.”

 

 

 

The nights one piece of good
luck presented itself when the waiter interrupted
my bumbling announcing dinner would be served shortly. I did my best to curb my
conversation; use the knife and fork properly, napkin on lap and no nose
picking. I went out of my way to be polite, gracious and cultured. Halfway
through the evening I excused myself and went to the bathroom. I popped an
adderoll to focus and a Valium to relax. I took a few minutes to pull myself
together, engaged in some chanting and entertained nostalgic memories about
Quaaludes.  As the evening came to a
close Cynthia suggested we all describe our greatest success or
achievement.  Sheridan started off saying how he brought
two warring African tribes together and brokered a peace where there had been
horrific genocide. Thomas proudly described how he instituted the Price Waterhouse
college fund, which gives out $500,000 a year in scholarship money to needy
students. Cynthia heads the nursing staff for doctors without borders. Sean
makes it a point to hire 25% of his work force from minorities and the
disenfranchised population. Susan worked on the Presidents task force for
Welfare Reform.  Then it was my
turn—I’m not sure why-perhaps the Valium, but I felt strangely comfortable
with my level of achievement

 

“Well um I worked on the
Grammy’s-well not really… I did win this contest at a record show here in
Arbutus Maryland
were I was able to piece together a story using Beatle song Titles.. not a
simple feat mind you! -Here let me show you.” Do you wanna know a secret?  She was a day tripper, with a ticket to ride.
She said She Said, you’re a loser a nowhere man-yes I’m down-but I’ll be back-I
should have known better-help, its been a hard days night but its getting
better all the time-everyone is trying to be my baby….I don’t want to spoil the
Party…

 

Just as I was hitting my stride
my compadres got up and briskly left the banquet room. I was alone rapping “for
no one”. The GU 5 were now hurriedly walking down the long corridor towards the
exit exchanging phone numbers shaking hands and making promises to keep in
touch. How could this be happening to me, this nightmare -this meltdown– a
nuclear holocaust-a turned down day.

 

Then a force took hold of me;
from where I have no idea-and with the speed of a vampire from Bon Temps-I flew
past the GU five; fell to my knees, blocked their path and with my hands
stretched out to the heavens- I pleaded.

 

“I’m just a fool whose
intentions are good oh lord please don’t let me be misunderstood.”

 

 

 

 

The above excerpt is from the Author’s New Book, “Song Titles are
My Life.” Due for Publication early next year.

 

 

I DON’T WANNA GROW UP / JOHN MOORE

 

D.Y.S.

 

By John B. Moore

 

As part of the legendary “Boston Crew,” the highly
influential 1980’s hardcore scene that also included bands like Jerry’s Kids,
Gang Green and Negative FX, D.Y.S. provided an East Coast alternative to the
slew of Cali
bands that were dominating punk zines at the time.

 

Though their initial sound was pretty simpatico with their
peers, the band ultimately broke through the hardcore clutter and committed an
unwritten taboo at the time with their self-titled second record, by changing
their tuning and mixing in metal influences creating a new sound. While that thrash
influenced punk rock has become fairly standard with today’s metal core bands,
in 1984 it was unheard of and caused chaos in the Boston scene, pissing off a lot of punk rockers
that, ironically, had become very rules-focused in their scene.          

 

That record was the swan song for the band for the next
couple of decades, with co-founders Dave Smalley and Jonathan Anastas moving on
to play in a number of other punk bands including Dag Nasty, Slapshot, ALL and
Down By Law.

 

A reunion in 2010 seemed to rekindle something in the band.
Smalley and Anastas, who had remained close throughout the years, put together a
new line that included Franz Stahl, from the legendary D.C. band Scream,
Powerman 5000’s Al Pahanish, Jr. and Adam Porris, formerly with Far From
Finished.

 

The band, now signed to Boston-based Bridge 9 Records (appropriately
enough), are in the middle of a musical experiment, releasing a single a month
for 12 months and playing live when they can. Smalley and Anastas spoke
recently about the break up, the reunion and why metal pissed off some many
skinheads in the 80’s.  

 

What
was it that finally got the band to reunite? 

 Smalley: The
motivating factors for a D.Y.S. reunion were actually the best reasons of all:
friendship and loyalty. Those are two of the most important qualities in life,
you know.  We had been asked many times to do something and it hadn’t been
right, for whatever reason.  But when two of our friends from back in the
day in Boston – Duane Lucia from Gallery East, where D.Y.S. played some wicked
shows and Drew Stone from the Mighty COs and Antidote – were making a film
about the Boston hardcore scene, and asked us to headline a show to help them
to promote their documentary, we all instantly said we would be glad
to help. That was one of the best things about the Boston crew, the loyalty and mutual help we
would give each other, whether it was in the pit or in a fight or
whatever. And it was really, really good to see each other again. And
while I think honestly it sounded rusty as hell at the beginning, it gelled
surprisingly quickly, which is a tribute to those players.

        One of the
things that struck me during rehearsals was how D.Y.S. had become a complicated
band in terms of song structures, the second album stuff. Not freeform jazz oD.Y.S.sey
weird, but on some songs, unique arrangements and lines per verse, that
kind of thing. So it was interesting to rehearse these songs and see them in a
new light, and actually tweak a few of them here and there. And then when we
played the big show with all our friends there, and it honestly sounded really
powerful, it seemed really a bummer to not play together again. So we kept the torch lit instead of dousing it without reason.
So it has been very musically honest.

 

Had you
all stayed in contact since splitting up?

Smalley: Jonathan (Anastas) and I have been friends since 1981. So that’s a great bond
and we always keep each other posted on life and love and rock. And he is
really good at staying knowledgeable about where people are. I’d had occasional
contact with the other guys too, but he really made it all happen. There has to
be friendship or a band won’t have a certain kind of spark and chemistry. D.Y.S.
always had that.

 

Franz,
Al (Pahanish, Jr., Powerman 5000) and Adam (Porris, Far From Finished) are now
part of the lineup. How did they get involved?

Anastas: For
our initial reunion, Ross Luongo (our original lead guitar player) had already
been playing in a band with Bobbie and Jack called Automatic.  The three
of them had great musical interplay.  Leveraging that into what we thought
would be a one-off D.Y.S. reunion show and movie shoot made a lot of sense and
you can hear the power of that line-up on our Bridge Nine live album More than Fashion: Live from the Gallery East Reunion.  Almost immediately after the
show, Ross got transferred to the UK as part of his work so that
specific chemistry changed. As the future
plans for D.Y.S. became more ambitious, it was clear that we needed players
with a closer geography and the time to write, record, tour, etc. I had known
drummer Al Pahanish Jr. since DreamWorks relocated his old band – Powerman 5000
– to L.A. from Boston and I had a ton of respect for his
playing.  Dave and I had also recorded with Al on a sort of (still
unreleased) “punk rock supergroup” project (Dave on vocals, Jamie
Sciarappa from SSD on bass, Al on drums, I played rhythm guitar and Johnny Rock
from the Boston Band Half Cocked played lead guitar) and we were impressed even
more.  D.Y.S. and Franz’s band Scream go all the way back to early
hardcore together.  After many years of being out of touch, it turned out
that Franz and his family lived in the same neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills
that I did and we became close socially.  I had been looking for a way to
play music with Franz for a long time.  Adam – like Al – went to Berklee School
of music in Boston
and has amazing chops.  Right after we met, I searched on YouTube for his
work with Far From Finished and was impressed by this young kid who had a real
confidence on stage.  His leads were like a young Billy Duffy where he’d
just naturally take two steps to the spotlight and dig into that Les Paul. I’m clearly the weak link musically, and those
three guys have upped the game on the new songs – and the old ones – more than
I ever imagined.  

 

When
you played those reunion shows in 2010, did you know at the time you were going
to write new music or did that evolve over time?

Smalley: Well,
as I said, it was only a one-off thing, but the show was so powerful, and the
reactions so strong, and the emotional feeling onstage was so real, that when
it was done, it seemed crazy to let that not take root and grow. I
don’t think we had specific plans, like “let’s rehearse next Tuesday”
or whatever, but it was more like “that was amazing, let’s see if anything
else happens.”Then our friends in the Bosstones (Dickey Barret was and
forever will be a cherished member of the original Wolfpack and of the
Boston Crew; he drew the first D.Y.S. album cover) asked us to play with them
at the House of Blues in Boston,
we said sure and really enjoyed that. Then we got asked to play in New York, and it just
started taking off from there and musically we got tighter
and tighter, plus Jonathan gave me some lyrics – to songs like
“Wild Card”, “Sound of Our Town” and
“Unloaded” among others – that are just great. I wrote some
music for them and they came out with their own sound. I didn’t try to
make it hardcore, or make it metal, or punk or whatever, I just wrote what I
thought the lyrics were demanding. It was a very honest and organic and
powerful process. D.Y.S. was never afraid to break musical walls.
 We’re a punk rock band that will always be hardcore and metal influenced,
and will always have it be heavy and powerful.

 

So why
do a single a month vs. just putting out a traditional full length?

Anastas: The music business has
clearly changed in the last 10 years and that’s changed how fans want and
consume their content.  Fan’s desire for physical albums has been largely
replaced by a singles mentality.   It’s been a long time since D.Y.S.
was last an active band, and it was important to re-introduce ourselves in the
language of today. Monthly singles also give us a chance to stay in the
musical conversation over a longer period of time, versus the old-school
“album cycle.”  It’s also been fun to create so many images, one
for each song, rather than just one album cover. That said we do plan to
release all the new music into a collection – in both digital and physical
formats – at some point in 2012.

 

For the
singles project do you already have the songs written and recorded or are
you doing it as you go along, month by month?

Anastas: We’re
sort of mixing those two ideas.  We recorded basic tracks for the first
five songs over the course of a couple weekends in late 2011. Since then,
we’ve been adding one or two songs each time the whole band is together in Los Angeles. The way we
write these days is I start with lyrics and send them to Dave. He writes the basic
song structures, vocal melodies, etc.  Then he brings them to LA and the
band polishes those frameworks up collaboratively in rehearsal spaces and the
studio.  Our producer, Mudrock, has a strong voice in the final versions
we record.  He’s really a legend with all kinds of heavy music and also
shares that Boston
music history with us.

 

D.Y.S.
is obviously known for being one of the first hardcore bands to add a strong
metal influence to your sound- which is actually the norm now. Were you
surprised at all how some people reacted negatively to that?
 

Anastas: At
the time, we were simply striving to play the music in our heads, our version
of the music that was influencing our own lives, our friends, the other bands
we knew.  All our peers were evolving in the same direction.  And,
living in that bubble, we didn’t see the backlash coming. In hindsight, that negative reaction makes sense.
 Hardcore felt special to the community, something unique and pure that
they owned.  I’m sure it was surprising and troubling to see the bands
they love head into a different musical direction, something they thought was
more commercial. And we gave them a lot to react against.  In one fell
swoop, we de-tuned to drop D, a metal tuning; Dave sang a full octave higher.
 Songs went from (a minute and a half) to six minutes, they had multiple solos.
The record had digital drum samples on it. We even recorded a power ballad.
 It was a huge shift to take place in one release.
However, their perception
that this move to Metal was a “sell-out” or a move to get cash wasn’t
true.  We were simply as inspired by this new sound as we were the first
time we heard punk or hardcore.  Hardcore had ironically become as rigid,
as much of a formula as the music it initially rebelled against.  And we
were straining against the limitations of the genre.
When we first met Metallica, they were living as DIY, as hand to mouth
as any punk band we knew.  And when we first saw them live, damn, it was
powerful, powerful stuff, as angry and as aggressive as hardcore, but with way
more chops and one would argue more power. And
that backlash and sense of rigid scenes cut both ways.  A record executive
told us flat out “you can’t look like this and play metal, you need to
wear spandex and studs or you need to go back to playing hardcore.”
 We didn’t fit in either world. Of
course, as you point out, that changed. From the Cro Mags to the later Victory
bands like Earth Crisis, the sound we tried on first really did become the
kicker that helped hardcore “break” in the 90s.  By that time, D.Y.S.
was long gone.

 

So what’s
next for the band?

Smalley: I think just to keep producing new stuff, playing
in front of as many people as possible, keep the creativity and the power
strong. And always do it honestly. I love playing with Al, Franz and Adam, and
really respect them as people and musicians. And I’m so appreciative of the
reactions from our old and new fans. So it’s going to be something that
continues to grow. The future is unwritten for everyone in life, but it should
always include an electric guitar, raging drums, thundering bass and a
heartfelt scream.

 

 

I DON’T WANNA GROW UP / JOHN MOORE

 

 

La Dispute

 

By John B. Moore

 

Post-hardcore
rockers La Dispute could have easily churned out a paint-by-numbers collection
of distorted guitars and aggressive vocals for their second full length and
chalked it up to the clichéd sophomore slump. But in the three years between
their debut full length (Somewhere at the
Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair
) and Wildlife, the band faced a slew of life changes.

 

They managed to
fill the three year gap with a handful of EPs, 7 inches and splits (seven in
all), but quickly realized their next proper follow up would have to be more
than just a collection of disparate songs. And it is.

 

The complex Wildlife has a conceptual theme that
connects the songs together and rather than screwing it up with my own
half-assed explanation, La Dispute vocalist Jordan
Dreyer was kind enough to explain it to me, along with answering a few other
questions about these Grand Rapids, MI-based punk band.

 

 

Can you talk a little bit about the concept behind the new
record?

Wildlife is set-up as a collection of sort of stories/poems annotated by
the author and split into thematic sections by four monologues. The idea was to
find a way to discuss a more diverse range of topics than we have in the past
while still maintaining a personal emotional narrative throughout–with those topics being what’s addressed in the
stories and the annotations/monologues that personal connection. At the same
time, we wanted to write a record that was in a way conceptual, but didn’t
necessarily need to be thought in that context. Oftentimes, I think records
with a linear narrative narrow the ways in which a person can enjoy it, and not
everyone wants to sit down and listen to something front to back. Weaving that
linear narrative throughout a set of somewhat separate songs/stories/whatever
kept it open to listening to it both as an album-length story and as a
collection of totally different and unrelated-if-you-want-them-to-be songs. At
least that was the intention. 

 

When did you get the idea for this?

The initial idea came up pretty early on after our previous full
length but really didn’t fully materialize for quite awhile. Shortly after Somewhere… I decided that I wanted to
branch out more from what I’d discussed on previous releases lyrically but
wasn’t quite sure exactly how to do that without straying too far from whatever
niche we’d carved out. Part of that was I felt some of the stronger and more
rewarding songs on that record were the ones that weren’t about my own life and
relationships, and part of it was that I, over time, became witness to some
pretty astounding stories, either from a chance meeting or from just being in
close proximity to something. On top of that, and on a more general note, we
were at a different point in our lives; three years older and being confronted
by a different set of questions and challenges. In a way I think the older you
get the more complex things become, and the record is indicative of that. But
I’m rambling, as always. Essentially, we had all these stories and we needed a
vessel to house them. The book/annotations idea gave us that and gave us the
thematic diversity to accomplish all the things we wanted to musically, which
was quite a bit. Three years time didn’t just give us new experiences and
stories; it gave us a whole new understanding of who we are as individual
musicians and as a group. We wanted to cover all of that musically and setting
the record up the way we did allowed for that. Going back to the idea
developing over time, the initial conversation about the idea snowballed every
time we all sat down together. In a way, the idea got the wheels turning and
writing the music finished the job; kind of transformed the idea into a whole
new entity. I don’t know. It’s kind of a strange birthing process. 

 

This is pretty ambitious
for a second full length. Any idea how you’re going to follow it up?

I don’t know, to be honest. We don’t really think about it that
way. Like I said before we were at a different point in our lives both as
individuals and as a group as we were when writing Somewhere… and I’m certain we’ll be at a different point in our
life when another idea presents itself. Writing and recording an album for us
is essentially just taking a picture of that time, so using a previous work as
a measuring stick is kind of worthless. We’ll have to see what happens.

 

What’s the music scene in Grand Rapids like right
now?

Grand Rapids has a fantastic music scene and we are forever in its debt.
Really. There are so many phenomenal people writing incredible music, running
amazing spaces for shows, and in general taking care of the arts there that I
will eternally be proud to call it home. There’s an arts cooperative that is
communally run for shows and art showings and the like, a great bar with a 400
capacity venue run by some really good friends of ours, and a bunch of awesome
bands. Jowls, Radiator
Hospital, Procession,
Damages, Cain Marko, etc. Look into it if you’re reading this.

 

So what’s next for the
band?

Right now, vacation. We have the rest of the year off to
recuperate from the first 10 months of it and we’re all enjoying the down time.
Of course, you never really shut it off, and even now we’ve started the ball
rolling on some things we’re all pretty excited about. None of which is
concrete enough to announce at this point but you’ll know as soon as it is. As
for tour, we’ll be heading to Europe and
Australian sometime in the near future, and we’re starting to formulate plans
for a headlining tour in the States come spring or so. We’ll let you know.