Monthly Archives: March 2011


Don’t bother trying to pin down
the legendary German outfit, still going after four decades of –
shhhh! – krautrockin’.




“There is
one word that would describe Faust very much, very well and it’s dilettantism,”
said Jean-Hervé Peron, who has, for nearly 40 years played bass in the band. He
has been asked, just previously, if there is a thread that ties his seminal
Krautrocking outfit together, through multiple line-ups, genre experiments,
periods of dormancy and even across two distinct bands that are named Faust. “But
I mean ‘dilettantism’ in its primal sense, which comes from ‘delight’ and
‘joy.’  It was all about enormously
enjoying what we were doing, believing deeply in what were doing, not
considering, and not — I’m sorry, I’m going to use a rude word — not giving a
shit whether we were accepted or not. We didn’t care about anything like this. We
just cared about the urge, the inside urge. So there was no concept. It’s all
guts and emotions.”


This year
Faust released Something Dirty, the
latest of several dozen albums (including collaborations and live recordings),
that have spanned four decades. (It’s reviewed here at BLURT.) A diverse clutch
of songs, the album is alternatingly as gritty, as lyrical, as waggish and as
unpredictable as this long-running, hard-to-classify band’s history would





to do but music


Faust has
its roots in 1971 in Wümme, a small town in rural Lower
Saxony. “We had nothing else to do in Wümme, except making music,”
Peron says, “and we certainly were out there to be innovative.”


“Germany was a
very tired country, a very wasted country after the war,” Peron explained. “So
we are the generation just after the war. Born in 1945 and you take 15 years,
20 years later and that’s us. So we needed something new for sure. Something of
our own.”


generation that came of age in the 1960s and 1970s in Germany was fed up with culture imported from America and the U.K. ” So, okay, we swallow this in
the 1960s and we’ve got all this rock and roll and all this blues. Fine. Nothing
against blues,” Peron recalled. “But it’s not what we want to say. So we are
15, we are 18, we are 20, and we have something to say. We feel an enormous
pressure. We are talking about 1968. We’re talking about the social upheavals
in Europe, in France, and we
are talking about the demoralized generation of the youth people in Germany. So
that’s…all this is what’s in the air.”


members were playing in Hamburg
when they caught the eye of a local impresario. “We were a boy band,” Peron
confided, impishly. “We were two groups, not knowing each other, in Hamburg and doing our
thing at different levels and with different means of expression. And one day
we meet a producer who is looking for one group that would be different. And he
reached one of us and he said, yes, you’re good, but there is something missing.
We need a drummer and a keyboard. So we go to the other group which, in the
meantime, we had met. And we said, would you like to come and join us? Yes. They
joined us. That’s why I say we are a boy group. Maybe we are a boy group, but
thrown together by history. Not by business.”


Frisbees and sudden success


Faust got
a record contract with Polydor and began working on its self-titled debut,
released in 1971. Faust So Far followed a year later. Then, with Richard
Branson’s Virgin Records, the band had its breakthrough, the cut-and-paste
collage known as The Faust Tapes. There were, of course, no digital
shortcuts in those days. The band cut and respliced the album with scissors –
and a great deal of painstaking patience. “We were young and creative and had
nothing else to do, you know,” said Peron. “This seems to me when I think about
it, a very natural thing to do. If you have a pair of scissors, you will cut
things. And if you’re a bit creative, stick them together in a different order.
And if you’re a poet, you say ‘this is a poem.’ 
And if you are a musician, you say ‘this is new music.'”


Faust Tapes
contained a full album’s material priced as a single. It went on to sell
100,000 copies. Peron believes there are two reasons that the Faust Tapes were so successful. “Because
it was, A), weird as hell, and it was really weird. No one had heard this kind of music classified as rock. And B),
it was really cheap. I even heard a story about people buying it to play


commercial success was short-lived however, and in 1975, they were dropped from
Virgin. This began a period where Faust disappeared, re-emerging a decade and a
half later.


declined to clear up the mystery. “What happened? I will not tell you. It will
remain a secret forever,” he said, when asked about the long gap. “Everybody
keeps asking, ‘What have you done in that period?'”


“I can
tell you this much,” he added. “We kept on making music, Faust. But we were so
sick of all this music business…We got kicked out of Virgin because we didn’t
want to make any compromise, so we got kicked out of those both. So we say,
fuck it, we’re going to do our own thing.” Indeed, Peron said that the band
played live many times during this time span, though never under the name,
Faust. “We played music we liked and we had the most agreeable time in our
career,” he concluded.


is an ugly word


this period, Faust also became identified with the movement known as
“Krautrock,” a genre that encompassed bands like Kraftwerk, Can, Neu! Guru Guru
and Amon Duul. Peron admitted that he originally had trouble with the term.


“It’s an
ugly word,” he said. “When we started we called our work ‘multi-media and
spontaneous art.'” Peron explained that the word “Krautrock” was originally a
British term, a somewhat derisive phrase meant to distinguish what was going on
in Germany from what was
going on in the U.K. and America. “They
were saying, it’s rock and roll, but it’s not really rock and roll because it
comes from the Kraut.”


members never liked the term and didn’t have much contact, at least during the
early years, with the other bands it encompassed. Tongues firmly in cheek, they
named one of their compositions, “Krautrock,” and watched it gain critical
acclaim. And years later, the term “Krautrock” became almost an academic term,
describing an entire movement of rhythmic, repetitive, psychedelic music that
has become vastly influential and respected.




In the
years since 1990, Faust’s line-up has been fluid, with core members Peron,
Werner “Zappi” Diermaier and Hans Joachim Irmler coming and going, and a large
cast of others joining in at various times. “But, yes, there is definitely a
common thread,” Peron said, when asked about the many different iterations of
his band. “Enthusiasm. We were play with absolutely enthusiastic people. And,
okay, let’s use that word again, dilettante. So these people would be very
serious about what they were doing, but not taking it dead serious. Then again
have this delight or this enjoyment. And maybe one other thing would be energy.
People with a lot of energy.”


energy is necessary because of the band’s commitment to multimedia performance,
rather than just music, as an expression of its creativity. “Faust is not only
music. We believe that what we are doing on stage is not only music. It’s also
painting, acting, doing a lot of work,” said Peron. “We will sometimes have people
welding or people doing some stonemasonry or building walls or cutting wood. So
it requires a lot of energy. It’s not just picking up a guitar and playing.”


Over the
years, Faust has collaborated with many different artists – everyone from Nurse
with Wound’s Stephen Stapleton to the experimental hip hop collective, DÈ�lek. None of them, though, seem to have left the same mark as Tony
Conrad, the minimalist composer and violin, who recorded Outside the Dream
with Faust in 1972.  “Tony
Conrad’s principle was one beat, one note, 71 minutes, and I learned a lot from
that,” he said. “When we recorded together in Wümme, I think he had great fun,
because he was out of his regular circle of friends. I think he felt very free.”




Like all
of Faust’s albums, Something Dirty was composed as it was recorded, during a short, intense collaboration among
long-time members Peron and Diermaier, plus James Johnston (from Gallon Drunk
and Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds) and musician, poet and
multimedia artist Geraldine Swayne.   


Asked if anything had been written before the
sessions, Peron broke into multiple negatives. “Oh no, oh no, no, no, no. We
don’t do that. No. Faust doesn’t do that,” he sputtered. “We just go into a
studio and each of us spills what he has gathered. That’s it, that’s how we
work. No we have no composition. It’s just making us naked in the studio, in a
figurative way, of course.”


“We were
just playing together like children, without preconceptions,” added Swayne. (Peron
had talked to her before the interview and gathered a few quotes.) 


The album
has a sort of sonic dirtiness to it, a crust of hiss and echo and dissonance
over all but its most lyrical tracks. Peron says that Something Dirty was named not for that quality, however, but for a pivotal moment in the
recording process.   


“At one point,
we had a blackout. We had nothing more to spill. We were sort of empty,” he
remembered.  So Geraldine had gone down
to the floor and said, ‘Come on, let’s play something dirty.’  And she banged on the keyboard and played
something really ugly. And then out of that, something good came. I don’t know how,
because we were at the bottom of the well. But when we remembered what was the
best moment, it was when Geraldine said, ‘Let’s play something dirty.’  So we called it Something Dirty.


The title
track, along with “Tell the Bitch to Go Home,” have a certain hedonistic,
almost dance-friendly quality, though fuzzed and twisted into surreal shapes.  Asked if Faust could ever envision composing
something purely to dance to, Peron gets to the heart of the band’s
collaborative process.


“We have
always had strong personalities in this band,” he said. “It doesn’t matter
which Faust we are talking about, the Faust from the north or south, the one
before, the one now. There are strong personalities. We have a freedom to
express our own identity while still remaining in the altogether Faust spirit.”


“So now,
back to your question, why is it dancing and why is it weird at the same time?”
he continued. “It’s because when we are in the studio, we are these four individuals
and I know that Geraldine and myself, we love to dance. And I know Zappi, he
doesn’t dance much. I know James, okay, he dances sometimes. So you see, you’ve
got four…two parties. We all love to make music. We all love to make music
together. We all love to make Faust music. But two of us like to dance and two
of us don’t care too much about dancing.”


whole point of music is to express the inexpressible and the purest form of
music is music that consumes the body,” Swayne explained, again via Peron. “To
become out of one’s self and to surrender. Look round the world at what humans
use music for. Drums, collective moving, celebrating, getting high, throwing
ourselves around. Lose sight of that and you will stroke your beard until it
drops off, and then where will you be?”


“So this
is why we make the music to dance to,” Peron concluded. “Music is for dancing,
but it is for expressing whatever you’ve got inside. So also it’s weird.”


will be taking its weird, expressive, multimedia, collaborative (but not Kraut)
rock on the road this summer, visiting Australia and Poland and perhaps some
other venues. In addition, fans who want to catch Peron – and a collection of
cutting edge experimental artists – can always head to the Avant-Garde Music Festival
that he curates every year. This year it’s scheduled for June 24-26 ( and the
roster includes Faust and a score of other out-there artists from all over the


Peron is
also busy working on a symphony for orchestra and cement mixer with a French contemporary
composer. Peron said that Faust has often used cement mixers and other heavy
machinery in its shows, and that he has become somewhat obsessed with these


“I fell
in love. I discovered more and more about the concrete mixer,” he explained. “It’s
a mass of symbols.  Just try to picture
yourself when you are passing an old battered concrete mixer at a construction
site. You would see eternity. You would see humility. You will see pregnancy,
power…it’s like there is nothing and at the end there is civilization. It’s as
simple as that. From the fluent elements of sand and water and then bang,
you’ve got the Twin
Towers. This is the
concrete mixer. And when it turns, so humbly and so strong, like a pregnant
women. It just breaks my heart.” (Go here to view a photo of the musician with
his trusty cement mixer.)


And, in
the same way, Faust, even 40 years into its history, is still in the process of
building and becoming. “I will tell you the absolute truth. Faust has no plan. We
have dreams, but no plan. We are 40 years in that kind of business,” Peron said.
“We’re just taking things as they happen. This is why we’ll never get big. We
are big for a few friends that we have, and that is what keeps us going on and
on. When we have the testimony of people being really moved by our music. This
is okay for us. This is our fortune.”



 [Photo Credit: Markus Wustman]

AUSTIN OUTLAWS The Band Of Heathens

With another new
album under their belt, the Texas
outfit has mastered the art of making music accidentally…
and also on purpose.




It might seem surprising in this era of calculation and commerciality,
to learn the Band of Heathens’ origins were both accidental and organic.
Founded in the midst of a Wednesday night singer/songwriter showcase series at
an Austin club called Momo’s, the band was born from a string of solo gigs
performed in sequence by each of the Heathens’ three principals — Gordy
Quist, Ed Jurdi and Colin Brooks. With bassist Seth Whitney and drummer John
Chipman eventually added to the fold, the band’s first two albums were recorded
live in club settings, capturing the group in its seminal stages before they
offered anything from the studio or even acknowledged their band branding.


That loose, everything-goes attitude informs each of their three
studio albums as well, including their new effort, Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son. Whereas most bands that
identify themselves as Americana maintain a strict roots rock or alt country
identification, the Heathens survey a much broader musical terrain, one which
encompasses the stoic blues of opening track “Medicine Man” and the taut
R&B of “Gravity,” as well as the mournful Band-like majesty of “The Other
Broadway” and the remorseful narratives that end the album with nods to New
Orleans, “Free Again,” “Hurricane” and “Gris Gris Satchel.” In a crowded roots
rock field, that diversity sets them apart and distinguishes their sound.


BLURT recently had an
opportunity to speak with Gordy Quist and to ask him to share his insights on
what it took to make the Band of Heathens happen. Although somewhat blurry-eyed
after performing the night before, and then doing a 7 AM radio interview the
next morning (“I’m a bit hazy,” he concedes. “It’s been a long 24 hours.”),
Quist was, nevertheless, all too willing to oblige and offer insight into the
group’s unlikely evolution.




BLURT: There are
a lot of bands these days that label themselves as Americana? And yet you seem to broaden that
definition. So what is Americana
considered these days?

GORDY QUIST: I don’t know why this happened, but somehow it’s become a
really broad term. It conjures up a folk/country feel most of the time with
most people and American music is much broader than that. We’re not setting out
to say “We’re going to play American music and we’re going to play everything
we can.” We just play what we want to play and to play what we want, but
there’s a lot of Blues and R&B that’s part of the spectrum of American
music that oftentimes doesn’t get represented in Americana. To us, it’s just Rock ‘n’ Roll,
which is just a mixture of country and R&B and Blues. We just kind of play
what we’ve been influenced by. We’re trying to do something different.


 Band of Heathens took an unusual trajectory in
that you issued two live albums even before your first studio recording.

 It certainly wasn’t planned
that way. When we made out first live album, I don’t think anyone had any idea
of making a studio album. Even though we had all done studio albums before
that. The three main guys in the band all had solo albums that we had done and
our rhythm section had played on tons of studio sessions with other artists.
When this started off, we were either making a living playing with our own
bands or playing in other guys’ bands here in Austin and travelling regionally and doing
some tours nationally. Some of us had just moved to Austin, some of us had been here awhile, and
we each got booked individually at this club called Momo’s here in town on
Wednesday nights. We weren’t a band, we were playing one after another in
separate bands, and we didn’t even know each other. We met there, and at some
point it became a loose jam session with people sitting in with each other. So
we said, “Let’s make this one long set,” and we ended up staying up on stage
and that was that and it was just a kind of scene, all these musicians hanging
out on Wednesday nights.

        There were no
rehearsals, we threw songs out on the fly and the show was our rehearsal. We
had a live audience and it just had a good energy and people just started
coming out to shows, and we said, “Shoot, let’s record one of these” because
and we thought it would be fun to document what was going on, on Wednesday
nights. So that was the first live album and we sold more than we thought we
would and things started going well, so we decided to take it on the road on
the weekends and people started to coming to those shows too. So eventually we
decided to go into the studio because we had a batch of songs, and while we
were actually in the studio, we filmed the second live album, and that was kind
of unplanned as well. A TV station here in town fronted all the money and the
production and the film crews to do a DVD. It was their idea and they came to
us for it, and it just kind of happened that the two live things came out first
and while we started planning the two studio albums. Nothing was planned but
that seems kind of the nature of this band. We don’t plan things out very much.


 How did the name Band of Heathens come about?

 I’m not really sure. We called
the Wednesday night gig the Good Times Staple Club and that was the name of the
night or the jam. It was really the main songwriters and then we had people
come up and jam with us, until we just started calling it the Good Times Supper
Club. It was really just kind of a joke, but it was a loose, fun side project.
At some point, it showed up in the newspaper as Band of Heathens. I don’t know
if it was the booking agent or the promoter or the club but somebody probably
noticed the massive consumption of tequila on the stage and thought it was
funny to call it the Heathens. So when we released the first live album, that’s
kind of what stuck.


 With three songwriters in the band, do you
guys ever tussle over whose songs get included? Do egos ever get in the way?

 Yes and no. The band started
off with four songwriters initially and one guy decided he wanted to do
something else and he moved to Nashville,
so it was then down to three songwriters who wanted to front this thing.
Initially I think it was very calculated to try to share the songwriting
equally. We each had a third of the time to do what we wanted to do and of
course there was collaboration. Everybody contributed to everything, but now
the band has evolved into a band. There wasn’t that much divvying up after
awhile, so now it’s just a matter of what songs will make the best addition to
the album as a work of art, not as one third and one third and one third. It’s
definitely evolved over the five years. And yeah, sometimes it’s awkward and
sometimes it’s tough. Some of us may like one song more than the other guy

        It’s just the nature of
making art in a group setting with a bunch of artists. It’s pretty democratic,
but when it’s really kind of split, the guy who brought the idea to the table
will be the tiebreaker. But everybody’s pretty good about going with the
group’s decision, and it’s really one of the things about the band that really
works well. When we started off, a lot of people said it wouldn’t fly because
there’s too many egos involved. That sometimes makes it hard, but it also makes
it fun and that’s why we enjoy it so much and it’s also why it’s been so rewarding.
Being open to collaboration and setting that up from the beginning… when I
bring a song to the table, I don’t just get to tell people what to play. When
people get to contribute their ideas it makes it fun.


 You guys play a lot of instruments between you

 Everyone in the band plays an
amazing array of instruments, but there’s something to be said for sharing the
instrumental responsibilities with other musicians. There’s nothing like a band
that’s played, I don’t know, maybe 800 shows together. There’s something to be
said when you know what the guy next to you is going to play. You know what
direction he’s going to go in before he even starts, just because you’ve been
playing together for so long. I think that for us, when we’re in the studio, we
approach it that way. We set up live in a room and we get all the basic tracks
we can, starting with the guitars, and we even try to get the vocals live.
Obviously there’s some layering, and we’ll go back and add parts, but that live
performance is to me what makes a band great… putting them all in a room and
then you say go.


 You seem to average about 200 shows a year.
That’s a lot of time spent on the road. Are you able to keep the excitement
peaked wit that many gigs?

 Yeah, it’s intense, especially
with our families. A bunch of us are married. But when you’re on the road, the
music side is great. The momentum carries you to the next gig. The shows
definitely are the reward and keep you going. I never feel burned out on the
music side of it. Do we feel burned out with living with six or seven other
dudes in, like Cleveland or the middle of nowhere, like, say, Arkansas? That
part of it is tough, and being away from our families is tough. This last
year’s actually been the first year where we’ve actually pulled back from
playing so many shows and tried purposely to write and to be home with our
families, to spend time in the studio and do things you can’t do when you’re on
the road. And it’ been great. I hope we can keep that work/life balance and
move in that direction, not because we don’t like playing live shows – we love
playing live shows because it’s an essential part of what we do. But I think
art is also created from living life outside of working, and it’s been good to
slow down a little bit. I think this year we were right around 200 shows, but
the year before it was 240 and 250, so we’re trying to pull back a little bit.


 Do you have a faithful core of fans that
follow you… say, the “Heathen Heads?”

 It’s different everywhere we
go. No, we don’t have an umbrella name for all of them. However, we have been
really lucky to have some really loyal fans and we are lucky that we can go out
and play 200 shows a year, and that people come out to see us and we don’t have
to go out and get day jobs. When I first started playing, I said I love music
so much I just want to do this, and not have to do something else to pay my
bills. We’re fortunate that we get to do that, although sometimes it does feel
like a grind. 


 Was there one point where it really hit you
that you don’t have to go back to a day job and you can earn a living doing

 I don’t know if there was a “I
know this is coming together for me” moment. It was more about scrounging and
scraping and just taking whatever gigs you can take in order to be able to make
a living. At one point I had to quit a day job, and I had just moved to Austin, and I just wanted
to make $400 a month to pay my rent. You’re just trying to scrape by.
Obviously, no one’s getting rich. If we wanted to get rich, we’d be doing
something else. But I own a house and I get to pay the bills, and it’s really
nice to have fans that support us and come see the shows, and families at home
that support us doing this.



A duo once again, the San Fran band aims to shake
things up – for themselves.




As The Dodos entered the studio
to make their latest record No Color (Frenchkiss), guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan
Kroeber concerned themselves with one thing and one thing only – making a great
sounding record regardless of their ability to replicate it live. To fulfill
that vision, The Dodos underwent some pretty drastic changes including
downsizing from a trio to a duo, incorporating electric guitar for the first
time ever and collaborating with alt-country statewoman Neko Case.


BLURT spoke with Long
recently about the making of No Color,
how Metallica’s Ride The Lightning influenced him as a younger guitarist and the experience fo working with Case.




BLURT: After adding a third member for their last
record, why did The Dodos choose to go back to being a duo on No Color?

MERIC LONG: We went into the
studio with the mindset that we were just going to focus on the sound of the
record and not think about how we were actually going to produce it live. We
knew that we were going to have probably an orchestra – our friends in Magik
Magik work on it–and hopefully Neko Case was going to sing on it. So we knew
it was going to be something we probably couldn’t reproduce live. So we [took
the approach of] ‘whatever happens, happens.’

        When we got to mixing we started taking
stuff out and changing stuff around. The more we listened to vibraphone… we
would take it off and play it back and were like “it kind of sounds better
without it.” And it kept happening. It wasn’t even on purpose and it wasn’t
even the nature of Keaton [Snyder’s] playing. The sound of that instrument has
this tendency to blanket everything and make it softer. When we took it off, it
sounded better–so we just ended up doing that. By the time we left Portland, we basically had
an entire record with no vibraphone on it. It just made sense to go back to
being a duo at that point.


In regards to the way your approached No Color – worrying about the record
first before determining how to recreate it live – was that something new for
this record or have The Dodos approached all their albums that way?

We approached Visiter the same way. We went in there
thinking we were just going to not worry about playing the stuff live, hence
all the extra stuff that was on that record like piano. There’s a lot of sounds
we just made on the record. When we made Time
To Die
one of the goals I wanted to do was not make the record exactly
reproducible, but focus on the band more, as opposed to making a record that
just had a lot of bells and whistles. Time
To Die,
for me, was trying to write songs–good songs–that could be
performed within the group. It was more about the group, more about the three
instruments and having there be a good band dynamic.

        On this record, it was going back to
the way that Visiter was done – we’re
just going to go wild and try and make a cool sounding record with weird stuff
that would never be reproduced live ever. That also plays into the way the
songs are written too. We had skeletons on the road of the songs and would
perform them. The songs kind of changed the more and more we worked on them.
With Time To Die, it was more like
“I’m gonna write songs. They’re all gonna be done. We’re going to go record
them exactly how they are written.”


Do you prefer one approach to the other?

I don’t prefer [either].
They’re really different. As a practice, it was really great for me to sit down
and write Time To Die because it was
really studious, the way I approached it. With this last record, it was more of
a free thing. It was good, too. It just depends; they’re really different ways
to approach writing. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. It’s more
about the process. If I have a couple months of nothing to do, then sitting
down and writing songs is really good for me personally. If I don’t have that
time, it’s better to just do it this way–which was to go out, play shows, play
some songs and see what happens even if the [songs] aren’t finished.


Is there a
vibes replacement or will Keaton’s departure will cause songs like “Troll
Nacht” or “Time to Die” take on a new form live?

in the process of figuring that out. We’re going to be playing old
material–there’s no material that we will avoid because of the no-vibraphone
aspect. The vibraphone was always kind of like… you bring up a song like “Troll
Nacht” – the song is based around the vibraphone part. But we’ll just produce
it another way. We’re going to have a touring member, which they’re going to
play electric guitar. The setup is going to be kind of different–two electric
guitars now and drums, as opposed to what it was before. What I’m figuring out
right now is that you can produce a lot sounds on an electric guitar. It’ll
just be a matter of figuring out how to play those older songs.

        On a positive note, I’m really excited
to rework the material. We’ve been rehearsing with another guitarist and it
sounds like… it may have a more conventional sound, but it has a more driven,
heavier sound. We were just rehearsing yesterday, me and Logan [Kroeber], and
we were laughing about how we’ve basically turned into a conventional band,
drums and two electric guitars–which is nothing exciting or different. For us,
it’s taken all this time to come around to that. But we come to it with such a
fresh perspective because it’s like “oh my god, two electric guitars sounds
amazing!” And it does. No shit, people have been doing it forever.


When I first
read about No Color upon the initial
details coming out, you talked about Billy Corgan and ‘90s riffs. That really
caught me offguard at first.

[laughs] I have a lot of that… when I started playing guitar it was
in the early 90’s. I would go home after school and learn how to play all of Siamese Dream or all of Ride The Lightning. That was when I
started playing guitar and I forget about that for a while because I switched
over to the acoustic and really focused on this particular style of playing.
But then in the studio, we had all these instruments lying around and a lot of
electrics. I just started playing stuff over the songs and it was super fun. It
was definitely at the point of the day in recording that I looked forward to
the most. Everyone else got a kick out of me playing electric guitar [since
they don’t] usually associate that with me.


Why did you wait this long to incorporate electric

It’s just taken that long to
have it make sense in my head – to incorporate the electric. There’s a certain
thing about the acoustic, and that particular style of playing: really
percussive, heavily picked, fingerpicked acoustic that I just latched on to
whenever that was, 10 years ago or whatever. I could not let go of it. I’m
starting to understand how to reproduce that sound on an electric, but also
reproduce that style of playing in a way that’s a little bit different. There’s
so many more types of sounds that you can make on an electric and I’m starting
to discover that.

       For whatever happened, something
happened in my brain and now it makes sense to me. I didn’t want to start
playing electric and lose what I found so particular about an acoustic being fingerpicked.
I hope I’m not ditching that completely, it doesn’t feel like it. It’s
definitely a weird transition.


Let’s talk about Neko Case. She contributes to several
of the tracks on No Color. Did that
collaboration arise from your tour with the New Pornographers last year?

It came from that tour. She
came out and sang with us a couple times, which was rad [laughs]. It was sort of terrifying. A lot of it was her idea–I was
really shy about asking her to do anything. But she was really happy to and she
came out and sang for a couple shows. The last show we did at Lollapalooza in Chicago, she came out and
sang. After the show we were parting ways after two months together.

       We were just talking about what was
going to happen, what we were up to. We were like “yeah we we’re going into the
studio to record for two year.” [Case replied] “Oh, well I’m off for two
months.” I asked her to come sing and she [responded] “I’d love to.” She flew
out to Portland and sang on the record for two days.


What was it like working with Neko Case? Did you have
parts already in mind for her or did she just contribute where she saw fit?

It was a mixture of both.
There were certain parts that I had in mind. But I learned quickly that with
her–it’s better to just let her do her thing. It was amazing that she was
there… [so it was] her territory to stomp around on and take a shit all over
our music. Do whatever you want.


NSFW Alert! The singer-songwriter confronts a sexual
wizard in a story he calls “Gandalf Goes to the Sex Party.”




Ok, you asked for it. My most
fucked up story:


Back in 1993 I was asked to
play music for a sex party in San
Francisco. I was a fresh-faced, 23-year-old sitting
there in the corner of the room with some cymbals, a hi-hat on my left foot, a
bass drum on my right, a lap steel guitar, accordion, saxophone, and various
other wind instruments cycling through my hands, and a vocal mic with a delay
pedal. My job was to create an ambient soundscape that underscored and also
inspired the participants. It was kind of like accompanying a dance class.


To my right there were three
women with strap-ons trying out a variety of sapphist configurations. Over to
my left there was a woman on her hands and knees with a man behind her and
another man taking advantage of her mouth. There were various groups of folks
fornicating on the far side of the room, but I wasn’t able to see them very
well because directly in front of me, there was a group of about eight men
standing in a circle masturbating. Everyone seemed to be having a great


That’s when he walked in:
some dude who looked like he had just rode his steed over from the Gandalf
auditions for the Lord of the Rings films. The guy was probably in his early fifties. He had long, flowing salt and
pepper hair; a floor-length, hooded purple cloak; baggy velvet pants; a blousy
shirt; and a sash around his waist (he didn’t wear a belt) with lots of little
velvet pouches with drawstrings hanging from it. I don’t think anyone in the
room had noticed him… yet. 


The Cloaked One sauntered
around the room a little bit before finally choosing the circle jerk as his
destination. The circle jerk was welcoming and the participants repositioned
themselves to accommodate him before returning to their vigorous wanking. This
is when Gandalf first made eye contact with me. He had a strangely competitive
expression on his face. He was creepy as hell. Despite the other activities
happening around the room, I couldn’t stop watching this guy, and neither could
all the guys in the circle jerk.


He slowly and deliberately
uncinched one of the velvet pouches hanging from his sash to reveal a small
metal object in the shape of a barbell. It was about three inches long with
1/2″ diameter balls on each end. He held it up for all the participants to see.
Then he reached down, pulled his dick out of his velvet parachute pants, and
held it up for all the participants to see.


This is where things get


Gandalf proceeded to insert
the barbell into his dick hole. Now, this was a pretty kinky crowd, but not
that kinky. The other fellows in the circle winced, as did I.
Being good sports, they all did their best to keep the feeling alive, but
Gandalf didn’t let up. He began to pump the rod in and out of his cock while
looking around the circle to make sure that the others were witnessing his
special talent. And they did, which one by one made them all lose their
erections. It was an awkward moment. The guys didn’t know whether to stay or to
go. It was as awkward as the beginning of a middle school dance when everyone
is sitting there waiting for someone to get up on the dance floor, except these
guys were wondering who was going to walk away from the deflated wankfest
first. Finally someone initiated the exodus and one by one, they peeled away
until it was finally just me, my instruments, and Gandalf, as I was obligated to
accompany this fellow’s antics.


Now here’s the best part:
when all the others had left and The Cloaked One was all alone, he turned to me
and nodded his head triumphantly with a gloating smirk, smug as a preppy jock
in a locker room telling his buddies about how he had boned the homecoming
queen the night before. 


I did my best to keep a
straight face and kept the music going.



Mark Growden’s new album Lose Me in the Sand is out now on Porto Franco Records.



[Photo Credit: Rus Anson.
Story Editor: Randy Harward]




MARK GROWDEN – “I’M ON FIRE” (Bruce Springsteen cover)



The most original band
in the UK
returns after a 14-year hiatus with the album of its career.




For Warp Records co-founder Steve Beckett, having pinched
the London-based electronic rock group Seefeel in 1994 from the beloved English
alternative label Too Pure (following the group’s 1993 breakout debut Quique), a new era dawned for the
thriving dance imprint. Seefeel were the first act on the label to use guitars,
and it was a bold move that helped usher Warp into the rock era, a strategy that
would eventually see the company go on to work with such digitally minded rock
acts as !!!, Battles, Gravenhurst and Grizzly Bear throughout the 2000s.


However, following the release of their groundbreaking
sophomore full-length for the label, 1995’s Succour, the group eventually ceased to exist as a live performance act, releasing
one more album in late 1996 on friend Richard D. James’ Rephlex label, the
drone-y, experimental (CH-VOX), as a promise to
the man behind Aphex Twin, before calling it quits altogether. That is, until
Beckett came calling again, 14 years later, to entice the band to reunite for
Warp’s 20th anniversary commemoration, playing the celebration in Paris in 2009.


The performance, which was hailed by Beckett as an
“unbelievable” experience, prompted the label honcho to ask Seefeel
if they would be willing to make another album together right as they were
walking off the stage. Seemingly unfazed by his kneejerk eagerness, they
responded to Beckett’s offer with their long-awaited eponymous follow-up to (CH-VOX),
an 11-song masterpiece that essentially sounds like the entire sum of the last
20 years of Warp Records. Seefeel is pureed in an oscillating blip-gaze
rhythm blender, creamed out through the instruments of founders guitarist Mark
Clifford and Sarah Peacock on guitars and vocals along with their new rhythm
section of bassist Shigeru
Ishihara and drummer Iida “E-da” Kazuhisa. BLURT recently
spoke with Mr. Clifford – how else, but via electronic mail – to catch up on a
decade and a half of geeky shop talk in reference to the past, present and
future of the band who undoubtedly helped inspire Radiohead to go glitch.




BLURT: Beyond the reunion
performance for the Warp20 shows, what inspired you, specifically, to enter the
studio to record a new Seefeel album?

MARK CLIFFORD: While compiling unreleased tracks for the
re-issue of Quique in 2007, I realized that actually we had
something good (I hadn’t really listened to that album for a long time). So when Sarah
and I got together at 4AD’s offices to do some interviews for the release, we
decided to exchange a few ideas to see if anything good might arise. We did
some decent tracks and it kind of gave us the bug for it really. The Warp20 show was a happy coincidence that really gave us the focus
and made us work harder at it.

Was there any particular artist, sound
or new style of creative music that came about in the last 14 years that
propelled the direction of the new album? Why or why not?

Nothing in particular, no. We all listen to a wide range of
music and we all bring different influences, but I couldn’t say any one
particular genre propelled us through the recording process. Every sound we
hear has some bearing on the music we make, I reckon.

Why didn’t original members Mark Van Hoen and Justin
Fletcher rejoin the fold?

Well, Mark was in the band right at the start but had pretty
much left the band by time we signed to Too Pure though he continued to help
out, contributing to our first two EP’s and doing our live sound. Daren
[Seymour] was our bass player after that, but he had moved to Malaysia and
though we tried to get him back to play the Warp20 show, it really wasn’t
likely to happen. It was a shame on a personal level, though Shige has added a
new angle to that part of the band so it really worked out well for us. Justin I’m
not really so much in touch with these days. When we played our last show in
1997, we played with a different drummer. 

How do you feel the addition of Shigeru Ishihara and Iida “E-da” Kazuhisa enhanced the direction of Seefeel?

Shige, in particular, added a new and experimental edge, I
think, with his approach to bass. He’s very adventurous and a great person to
be around, as is E-da, though he wasn’t so involved creatively with the album
as Shige.

Did your work with Mira Calix bear any influence on the new material?

All music I make has some effect on what I do next, because
making music, to me, is an ongoing process; I’m always learning. I don’t think
there are any obvious parallels between this album and the one I did with
Chantal, but recording with her was a great experience because we had a great
time making those tracks. There was no real pressure, because we had no
commitments and we had been friends for a long time already. I have great
memories of all those sessions. 

What music in 2011 excites you most?

Every year has some great moments and many duff ones. I hear
so many different things, so many new sounds all the time. And so much of it is
so good it seems unfair to pick any particular albums or bands out. But right
now I’m listening to Nisennenmondai, who are not new but new to me; This Heat,
who are even older but again new to my ears (which seems remarkable to me);
I’ve heard things I like from Health, Factory Floor, MGMT… the list could go
on and on.

What are some of the different
approaches you took in regards to recording techniques and gear usage in the
making of this new album?

I made a very conscious decision to avoid using computers
except for editing/mixing. It wasn’t any kind of philosophical decision; it was
simply that I wanted to try to work in a more analogue way, partly because
I like the sound, but also really because it seemed more of a challenge. I also
wanted a drier sound which I realize might make the album less comfortable
listening to some people’s ears. I tend to rebound between electronic and live,
digital and analogue so that tracks we’ve done since the album sessions have
more electronic elements, more sonic elements.

Are most of the experiments you do for
guitar done by chance theory or through pre-determined composition?

I rarely sit down and write a song on the guitar. Sometimes I
might have a simple riff in my head and I will improvise around that, such as
on “Rip/Run”, where the guitar was all recorded in a 15 minute or so
session. Other times, I will record an array of sounds and gradually mix them
in and out until I achieve a blend I’m happy with, such as in the recording of Faults

Where do you stand in the whole MP3 vs.
CD vs. vinyl debate?

Faults was
released on vinyl and MP3 only. And although there were a few murmurs of
discontent from people wanting to buy it on CD, I really think the balance
between those two formats right now is the right one. Personally I think the CD
is a redundant format, particularly now that digital downloads can be
downloaded at such high quality.


 How does dub still
factor into your sound in your opinion? Additionally, what is your favorite dub
album and why?

I don’t listen to dub as avidly as I did years back though
it still features heavily. Favourite album? Again, so difficult. Recently I’ve
had phases of listening The Upsetters’ Blackboard Jungle Dub on rotation.

Did the current climate of the music
industry make you nervous about releasing a new album?

I always get a little nervous as release date approaches
though more because of my own neuroses! I feel totally confident whilst making
a record but once its done and pressed i start questioning if I mixed it right,
if the choices I made were correct etc., etc. I’m not really interested in
competing with anyone else’s music so that part of it doesn’t bother me. None
of us ever have been worried about being current or ‘fitting in’. And we’ve
always had a love or hate reaction from critics so I’ve learned to deal with
that. When our first EP was released on Too Pure, the first review in Melody Maker was awful. We got absolutely slated. The music, the name, everything. The
journalist who reviewed it apologized to us a few months later saying that he
just didn’t get it, but that he subsequently loved it. That’s the way things
can be. If you try to do something new, you have to be open to all kinds of
reactions and I’m happy to deal with that if the alternative is playing it

I heard in an old interview
where you mention that your album Quique was
used therapeutically with autistic children. Do you feel the new material can
be utilized in the same manner?

It would be an interesting child that found
this album soothing. But then I might have thought the same of Quique at the time.


What is the story
behind the album cover?

We were really struggling for ideas until I was shown some
photographs by a Chinese photographer called Fenk Zhang. We all liked them but
weren’t completely sure but somehow kept going back to them. There’s no real
story in the sense that the picture ‘says’ anything about us. We just liked the
image. Katya, who did the design, is someone I’ve known for a few years now.
She makes incredible music also.

Do you have any plans to do any radio sessions or podcasts? Also, where do you stand
with people bootlegging your shows?

We have been asked to do a number of things if we can find
the time. As far as bootlegging goes I don’t really have much of a problem with
it. I used to buy bootlegs and the quality you get on a mobile phone now is positively
hi-fidelity compared to some of the atrocious, noisy tapes I bought and endured
as a kid.

Will you be taking another 14 years to
release a new album or will we be seeing more of Seefeel in the second decade
of the 21st century?

We have already done more recording. The album Seefeel is really quite old to us now.
We were finding our feet as a band while simultaneously recording it, so I
think the next record will be a lot more fluid and a lot more consistent. And
certainly won’t take 14 years.



[Photo Credit: Jonathan Hyde]


The guitar-slinging
guitarist and occasional man of many words weighs in heavily, or at least
astutely, on what’s up in his world.




While he remains most widely known as the leader of Dinosaur
Jr, J Mascis has constantly immersed himself in numerous
other acts over the years including Deep Wound, Upsidedown Cross, J Mascis and
the Fog, Witch and Sweet Apple. As Mascis approaches his thirtieth year as a
professional musician, the guitar legend continues to reinvent himself despite having
very little left to prove in his career – this time with a new solo record, Several Shades of Why (Sub Pop).


On it, Mascis emerges as a much different beast from the
bulk of his past projects. Throughout his twenty-nine year career, and despite
occasional solo diversions into acoustic music as a live performer (he also
contributed ethereal/atmospheric compositions to the soundtrack of 1992 film Gas, Food, Lodging), Mascis has long demonstrated a core affection for loud, roaring
riffs and fiercely melodic noise rock. Several
Shades of Why
, his first true acoustic record, strips away all the
signature distortion and raw energy typically associated with his songs.
Instead, Mascis relies on his understated voice, acoustic guitar and a handful
of notable contributors (among them, Kurt Vile, Band Of Horses’ Ben Bridwell
and Black Heart Procession’s Pall Jenkins) to craft a record that speaks
volumes about his ability to delve into seemingly any musical style from folk
to doom metal, and succeed. We recently spoke
with Mascis about his new record and his touring plans, about paying tribute to
Neil Young recently and what’s next (or not…) for the heralded musician.




BLURT: After all
these years working with noisy, electric guitar-based acts, why did you finally
decide to put out an acoustic record?

J MASCIS: I just wanted a change, you know? I’ve always
liked acoustic music. Meg [Jasper] at Sub Pop was bugging me about doing an
acoustic record, but then the Dino reunion happened so it kind of got put on the
back burner, so it’s been quite a while. [But I’ve] thought about doing it and
now it actually happened.


Several Shades of Why includes a pretty long list of guest
contributors including
Kurt Vile, Sophie Trudeau (A
Silver Mt.
Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses) along with
numerous others. How did you get all these great artists on the record?

I just asked them, you know. People did a lot of stuff, and
I just picked things that I liked out of it. I didn’t tell them what to play, I
just wanted to see what they came up with and then picked parts out of it.


Did you work with
them in person or did you send demos out to them like you did with some of your
recent collaborations including The Hold Steady and Dead Confederate?

I think half of the people recorded it in their own studio
or whatever, and the other half came to my house to record it. You can do a lot
these days just sending tracks around on the Internet.


So I take it that’s how you and Kurt Vile got together for the tour

Yeah, he opened some Dino shows…He recorded some of [Several Shades of Why] at my house.


Do you have a
recording studio in your house or were you just working on writing parts of it

Yeah I have a studio at my


In terms of the new
record, tell me about the album title–Several
Shades of Why.
What’s behind the title?

I just came up with it in a lyric, you know. Just thought it
sounded cool so I promoted it as the title… it got promoted to song title then
to album title.


Is that your usual process in naming songs and albums?

Sometimes, yeah. Trying to get
out of that lately, but yeah [that’s what I do] on a lot them.


We touched a little
bit earlier on the acoustic nature of the record. But I’m curious as to why you
chose to not have drums on the new album as well. Why did you go that route?

I just tried to make it sound different. Add some
limitations so it wouldn’t sound like all my other stuff, you know.


I know you’re pretty
particular with your guitar set-up. How big of a difference does it make you
having the same set-up across albums as well as in performance?

I don’t have a solo set-up yet. I have a couple ideas of
what I want to use, but nothing I’m used to yet. With Dino, I’m used to all the
gear that I have so it’s harder to switch up and use different stuff. It should
be cool.


While you don’t have
everything planned out yet, what are some of your ideas that you have in mind
for this tour? Do you think you’ll have touring members playing with you?

I’ll either play or not play through an amp. Or I’ll play
through the amp and not mic the guitar. I don’t know if the amp will just be a
monitor or if I’ll play direct through the P.A. or something.


Will you be playing
songs from across your catalog or just your new solo work?

I’m sure [I’ll play] some Dino
songs and some other stuff.


In terms of moving
forward, do you have any idea what you plan on doing next – whether it’s trying
something new again, solo work or returning to one of your others projects?

Probably all of the above.


Have you started working on anything new yet with any of those?

No. Not yet.

After all these years
and different projects, are there any particular groups or works that you’ve
done that you most closely identify with?

Well, everything reflects that [certain] period of time, you
know. I’ve always liked this band Upsidedown Cross that I played drums on.


A few weeks ago, you
played a Neil Young show in New York.
How did that go? How was your experience there celebrating Neil Young’s music?

Yeah, it was fun. I got the band together – it seemed kind
of like Crazy Horse or something. Nobody else [was doing that]… mostly it was
acoustic acts. It felt like we were the only ones really trying to play Crazy Horse.
So that was kind of cool. There were all these old ladies in the front all
dressed up – they have season tickets to Carnegie Hall. [laughs] That was pretty funny.


They were all there to see you, right?

[laughs again]
They’re all there to see whatever’s at Carnegie Hall.



J Mascis is currently
on a U.S. tour with opening
act Kurt Vile through April 10 – see full tour itinerary at his official
along with upcoming UK
and European dates as well as further North American shows later this spring.



[Photo Credit: Timothy Herzog]


READY TO GO Wye Oak (Pt. 2)

With remarkable
new album
Civilian just out via the Merge
label, the Baltimore
indiepop duo moves to the next level.




We continue our
conversation with Wye Oak songwriter Jenn Wasner. Go here to read Part 1.


BLURT: How do you
write honest and personal songs about yourself without revealing too much?

 JENN WASNER: I’ll say this – to
my closest friends and family they are obvious, but that’s fine. Generally
speaking you have to have some level of privacy when you’re writing songs about
your life and experiences, and there’s lot of different ways to mask that. The
songs that I love the most from others are those that are specific, but able to
be interpreted in a variety of ways and realigned with one’s own experiences.
When I start writing it’s always with a very specific jewel of an idea in mind,
but I always try and broaden it and stretch it and make it applicable to not
just me. I want people to be able to relate to these songs, even though they’re
specific to my experience. I guess it’s just all about understanding that one
thing that means something to you, could mean something entirely different to
someone else. I listen to songs from others across the spectrum of different
kinds of music, and hear a line where I feel like I could have written that
line — but I didn’t. I can’t be too afraid of sharing too much because I know
people are coming at it from their own frame of reference, so it’s not
necessarily a guarantee that everyone who’s hearing it is going to know
automatically know what I’m talking about.  A few people probably will, but that’s okay.

       I never wanted to be a
confessional singer-songwriter, but my songwriting process is pretty much
inevitably linked to my emotional state, and I have a really hard time
separating them. I know a lot of people who can write with more of a detached
viewpoint and write from someone else’s perspective really successfully. I’d
love to develop that skill at some point in the future, that’s something I wish
I could better. But for the time being I’m kind of in this place where my own
personal experience and emotions and ideas are all kind of linked together in
this really tight way. So, yeah, confessional singer-songwriter is what I am, I
guess, for the time being!


 There seems to be this real push-and-pull on
the record between “superficial” things and real “wealth” as to what really
matters – can you elaborate?

 Absolutely, that’s true. I
think of the last track (“Doubt”) as almost like the moral or the concluding
paragraph or something, a little end-note, so “We Were Wealth” is kind of the
last full-blown track, and it has to do with coming out of, and still facing, a
big chunk of time where I’m basically homeless. We’ve been touring a lot, we’re
going to be touring a lot more – I love to tour and it’s something that I
really enjoy, but it requires of you that you cut the ties that were important
to you and be okay with drifting. I’m sleeping on couches right now in life, I’m
going to be in Europe tomorrow, and on tour
the better part of the next year if not more. And to be okay with that you have
to get into that kind of Zen mindset where you have to figure out what you
need, as opposed to what your comforts are. I’m finding that even when I’m at
home, it’s impossible for me to not live out of a bag….when you decide to
commit to a band, or anything really, it requires of you that you break a lot ties
and figure out what your absolute necessities are, as opposed to what your
comforts have been. In the past I’ve been a real homebody, I really treasure my
time with my family and friends and staying in one place here in Baltimore. But in the
next year, and in the past year, I’m pretty much adrift.

       That’s definitely a recurring theme
throughout this record. ‘Wealth’ is about finding it different places. The line
‘we were wealth and we were money of the world and needing nothing’ is pretty
much the summation of that idea. Because I find that the less that I presume
that I need, as far as things and money and objects, the better I feel. Not to
say it’s like that all the time – believe me, I’m a consumer, I’m not trying to
act like I don’t buy and spend, and I’m not trying to pretend I wouldn’t love money
if I had it, I’d love to have it. But at the same time, simplifying my life and
detaching myself from those needs has been a necessity as far as keeping up
with the scale of touring that we’re doing. And being okay with being
constantly away from everyone you know and everything you own, all that stuff.
So I guess the record is about understanding the difference between what is
superficial and what is real, and latching onto the idea of that emotional
wealth, and the connection you have with people and places that will get you
through the times when you really don’t have anything.

       When I wrote that line, I
was just thinking about driving around the U.S. in a minivan, completely
destitute and detached from pretty much everyone else’s semblance of reality.
Everyone’s going to work, getting in their car and driving to work, and I’m
just kind of adrift. There is something really wonderful about that that I
treasure, so learning to appreciate the treasures that you have is important.
I’ve always been a ‘grass is greener’ type of person, wherever I am I’m
thinking about wherever I’m not, and I’m trying to get out of the mindset, and
that’s definitely a big part of what this record’s about.

       For better or worse, when
you are in the tour bubble, as I like to think of it, sometimes you lose sight
of reality in a bad way. It can be really fun, to be really adrift, anything is
possible, you can go anywhere, do anything. But sometimes it takes your brain to
an even further place, and it’s not always where the best decisions are made.


 There are an awful lot of songs about it,
aren’t there?

 I will always be traveling; I
can guarantee that, until I’m physically unable to do so.  The kind of touring we’re doing now isn’t
permanently sustainable, and what I mean is the extent of it. I don’t want to
be doing eight months out of the year for the rest of my life. But I knew from
the second I started it would be a big part of my life. I grew up in a family
without a lot of money, I’d never got on a plane, the farthest I ever went away
from Maryland was when we drove to Florida and Disneyworld
once when I was like 12. I never travelled, I never left the country, never
went anywhere west of the East coast until we started touring. As soon as I
did, it was a complete awakening, absolutely mind-blowing. It’s become a huge
part of who I am and the life I want to lead and I want to go as many places as
I can and see as many different places and meet as many different people as I
can. If I go for too long without it, I just get miserable, so I need it. In
that way I’m really fortunate in that what I do for a living now allows me to
travel as much as I do, because I definitely have the bug for sure. I think
it’s important for everyone. Just driving around, getting out of your comfort
level, getting out of the place you’re most familiar with is a really valuable

       It’s a much smaller world
than people assume. When I tell people in my family, I’m going to Berlin tomorrow, and it
sounds like the other end of the universe, it’s really not that different from
here. Just realizing how small the world is, and how alike people are, and that
these places are real, and not just these phantom names that you hear on TV
–that changes your perspective. It’s really special to be able to do it, I
wish that everyone would and could.


 Let’s talk about Baltimore.

 Goddamn, I love it here!


 Everybody asks about the fertile music scene, but I want to know
whether you were a fan of The Wire? How
has the city affected the music scene?

 I’m a huge fan! My boyfriend
told me recently, I had no idea, that I live like a block-and-a-half away from
Bodie’s corner. Where — and when — I live in Baltimore, I live in a big giant
warehouse in Station North, the arts district, a big cold drafty warehouse
space, and just two blocks up is Bodie’s corner where he got killed. So every
time I drive by there I get very excited. As far as Baltimore
the city impacting Baltimore
the cultural scene, it’s huge. I’ve been to a lot of different places and
played in a lot of different places, and people live differently here. I think
a lot of people don’t even realize it because they’re used to it. But that side
of the city is not hidden. Where I live is typically a pretty safe block, but
it’s not far from some really nasty areas. People who are involved in music and
art in Baltimore live in all kinds of different places, and typically I find
the people who are artists and a little more forward thinking are those who
tend to not run from that sort of thing, and not be afraid of it, and to kind
of insinuate themselves into these communities and get to know these people.
Crack-heads, and people who are poor and starving and begging in the street — live
amongst that. And people who live in different neighborhoods in Baltimore, who are more
isolated from that, are really afraid of it.

       Typically speaking, I like
to remember that everywhere you are is somebody’s home. You could be driving
through a neighborhood, ‘oh, it’s the ghetto, it’s so sketchy,’ but everywhere
you go somebody lives there. And The Wire is a really good example of something like that. It’s true, in real life, these
are people going through life trying to stay alive and trying to be happy and
healthy. If there’s one thing to take away, to sum it up, is that it reminds
you to treat these people and places with respect. Fortunately, living amongst
that, a lot of people in Baltimore
do remember, and they have a little bit more perspective on what they have and
how lucky they are, and they remember to treat their city and the people in it
with respect, regardless of their station in life.


[Photo Credit: Natasha Tylea]



In which the Baltimore indiepopsters
learned to quit worrying and love the bomb… er, “to let go




According to Wye Oak songwriter Jenn Wasner, “learning to let go” was
one of the key emotional territories explored on Civilian (Merge), the superb third full-length from the
Baltimore-based duo she founded with Andy Stack. Little did they know the LP’s
10 songs would provide the first opportunity to put Wasner’s lyrical feet to
the fire.


After recording in Baltimore,
the duo turned over the LP’s mixing process for the first time to someone not
actually in Wye Oak. Wasner and Stack spent six days in Dallas with producer
John Congleston (Shearwater, St. Vincent), and the guitarist/singer confessed
she approached “nervous breakdown territory” when Congleston told them each day
to come back in “five or six hours” while he worked his analog magic on their


“Relinquishing all control to someone who was at that time essentially
a complete stranger was a huge leap of faith,” Wasner chuckles, admitting she
suffers from what Congleston termed “completion anxiety.”  “I’m trying to get past it, and let things
exist as documents of a certain time, and a certain place and moment, rather
than trying to make them into this ultimate thing.”


The leap of faith was rewarded because Civilian‘s songs still resemble semi-feral animals. One minute
they’re all sweetness riffs and wistful organ-wash melodies, then, often
foreshadowed by Stack’s ticking-bomb beats, they suddenly roil into explosive
bridges and soaring codas highlighted by Wasner’s feedback-friendly guitar
fireworks. Concentrating on first impulses and dialing back Wye Oak’s
tendencies to “tweak and fiddle,” as Wasner puts it, does more here to capture
the band’s cathartic live show – and catharsis, too, was Civilian‘s purview.


“Without getting too personal, I will say there was a lot of living
that had to be done in order for these songs to even exist,” Wasner says. “The
making of it was very much like a cleansing process for me, so it’s really nice
to have what is almost a totem of what I’ve been through and accomplished, and
what we’re capable of.”


Blurt spoke to the 24-year-old Wasner the day before the duo was to
leave for a short run of Euro dates. It was just the start to what she
predicted would be a long year away spent away from family, friends and the
town and its burgeoning music scene she and Stack feel so honored to be part





BLURT: So you
made this record with John Congleston -how’d that come about?

JENN WASNER: (Andy and I) both thought that he had a really good way
with finding space with heavily layered songs. We have a tendency in the
studio, maybe because of the forced sparseness of our live show, to go all out
in tracking. But I wanted to make a record that had space to it, that didn’t
seem just like a wall of sound and textures; a little bit of sparseness, even
if it was only a perception of sparseness. John has an uncanny knack for making
space in recordings, for providing atmosphere. We felt he’d be a great fit, and
it turned out to be true.

       We did the basics in Baltimore with Mickey and
Chris Freeland at Beat Babies studio. We did our last EP (2010’s My Neighbor/My Creator) there, where
they did the Lower Dens record, which I loved. Then we did overdubs ourselves, and
took it down to Dallas.
So, yeah, for the first time ever, we just threw our hands up and said, ‘yeah,
okay, here we go.’ That was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done, because
we have trouble letting go, and this record was, in part, about learning to let
go. In the moment I was kind of approaching nervous breakdown territory because
mixing is traditionally for me a really tough time. I have a really hard time
seeing through all the work that we’ve been doing and all the time that we’ve
been spending on it, to see the finished product. So relinquishing all control
to someone who was at that time essentially a complete stranger was a huge leap
of faith. There were definitely some moments of panic. But we really trusted
him. We had a lot of say in the mixing, but his mark is all over it. Looking
back and being able to see the final product, he did a fantastic job.


 That process seems so…mysterious.

 It’s a mystery to me. It’s amazing
to watch, takes years and years of experience, and talent. We’d give him the
sessions of a song for the day, and he’d be like, ‘okay, split, I’ll call you
in five or six hours, I’ll have a basic mix.’ Then we’d come back and spend a
few hours together tweaking the mix he made. So for the most part what he did
remained a total mystery. There were moments when Andy and I would be like,
‘how did you do that?’ And he’d say, ‘I’m not telling you.’ There are ways, but
I can’t say I know what they are even after working with him.


 I read where Andy called it ‘scary new
territory’ for you guys…

 We were basically complete
strangers, so to hand over this thing that meant so much to both of us and that
basically amounted to the culmination of two years of work for me, and what I
figured was pretty much my best collection of songs to date – yeah, scary. I’m
a complete control freak – I’m not necessarily proud of it, but I’m aware of
it. The fact of the matter is that there are people out there like John, this
is their real talent, this is what they do. I feel like in the future, I want
to be a little more open about working with people and allowing them to do what
they do best and understanding what I do best and sticking to that.


 How long were you in Dallas?

 Six days. It was terrifying. That
was all we could afford. Going into it John said, ‘we’ll make it happen.’ He
said he’s mixed full records in a day. It’s all about how long you spend on
stuff. We probably averaged one or two songs per day, remixing them. The other
thing about John, but a total surprise to us, he works entirely analog, he’s
making these mixes on the board, then prints them to tape, then they’re done.
So if you want to remix it, you’re starting from scratch. We’re used to working
in the modern ProTools realm, where you mix a song and then if you hear
something you don’t like about it you just open up the session and fix it, and
it takes 10 seconds. He said, ‘I believe that more options, and the infinite
ability to constantly tweak and re-tweak, does not necessarily make better
records. I think you’re first impulse is usually your best, so I’m going to
force you guys to make decisions about things on the spot, and you’re just
going to have to go with it.’

       That was the ‘scary new
territory’ Andy was talking about, because when it comes down to it, we’re just
tweakers and fiddlers, and we’re used to having time to sit back and take it
with us and go, ‘oh, we can just turn this one thing down real quick’ — anything’s
possible. But once you print that sucker to tape and you clear the board –
that’s it, that’s what you have. There were a couple times when we did that and
we thought ‘that’s going to be a remix and another half-day.’ And when you’re
working on a limited schedule, deciding whether the tiny thing you’re obsessing
over is worth another half-day of remixing, or if you should just live with it
– those kinds of decisions were new for us.

       In the end I’m really
proud of the way it worked out, because if we had been mixing ourselves I know
that there would be things – many things – that would be very different about
it. And if we had, even with John, the option to tweak things, it would’ve
sounded different. But it’s a moment in time – it could go an infinite number
of ways, and at a certain point you kind of have to call it finished, and let
it be what it is. He helped us do that, and I learned from him that at a
certain point you have to understand it’s done. 
He had a really cool phrase for it, he called it ‘completion anxiety,’
which I really like and like to keep in mind now because I know that I suffer
from ‘completion anxiety’ with pretty much everything I do because I’m kind of
a perfectionist. I’m trying to get past it, and let things exist as documents
of a certain time, and a certain place and moment, rather than trying to make
them into this ultimate thing.


 Sounds like it had some reverberations for the
future, too.

 Oh, certainly. I mean, I don’t
think we’ll ever make a record by ourselves again. It’s onward and upward from
here. If anything, I’m interested to see what it’s like to work with a producer
from start to finish. We’re trying to change it up and find the more
interesting and exciting way to make records.


 Did you find the analog to be ‘warmer,’ as the
general consensus goes

 There are a lot of different
ways to achieve that warmth and that kind of sound. I’m by no means one of
those people who are going to say that technology is cold and dead and
harsh-sounding always, and that digital recordings can never sound warm. I
think beautiful sounding recordings can be made with digital interface.
Obviously tape and a board, they sound a certain way and provide a certain
feel, but I’m not an absolutist. We didn’t record to tape, we just mixed to
tape, and it was really great to have that option. If we had the money and the
time to make a record entirely on tape, I’d love to see what that process is
like. But generally speaking, you can make great sounding records anywhere, and
in any way. And you can make great records that don’t necessarily sound good –
I like records that sound like shit sometimes. I like the lo-fi shit too. I
just think it’s knowing how to work within the means you have and making
something interesting and exciting with what you’re working with.


 In the original tracking, did you try to
change things up to match the live show sound, or were you still trying to get
as many textures into the equation?

 If anything, we were trying to
limit ourselves. It’s just our gut impulse to layer as much as we can because
we’re so excited to have the options — ‘what about this?’ or ‘or how ‘bout trying
that?’ – just because they’re available. In the past, we just haven’t edited
ourselves in any way in that regard – ‘okay, just pile it on, see what
happens!’ This time we made a concentrated effort toward, not necessarily
sparseness, because I think it ended up being a pretty lush record, but just
making sure that if something’s in there there’s a reason for it. ‘Is this
necessary, does this have a place, does it play a part?’ In the past we’d be,
‘how ‘bout a few layers of noisy guitar?’ This time we made a concentrated
effort writing parts and editing down to only what we thought was absolutely
necessary and making sure what was in there was appropriate.

       That’s tough for us because
we spend so much time rehearsing the live show. It’s not quiet, and it’s not
sparse, but to us we do feel somewhat limited by it. So it’s only natural for
us to kind of push it in the studio. But I’m happy that we took the extra time
and effort to edit things out as opposed to just leave everything in.


 It feels like the work of a more experienced

 I hope so, shit. It feels good
to hear that. We made this record kind of quickly – when I say it’s the product
of a couple years of work, the actual songwriting came in a really brief period
of time, a couple of months. And the recording was a month, and the mixing was
six days. For us, that’s really brief. But the work that I’m thinking of when I
say that is just learning how to be a band — playing shows, recording things.
Just being more experienced is exactly what it felt like. Going into the
process, learning from mistakes we’ve made, regrets we’ve had with recordings
we’ve made in the past.

       And without getting too
personal, I will say there was a lot of living that had to be done in order for
these songs to even exist. So I’m really proud of myself for writing them. I’m
happy with the recording but even more than that I’m really happy with where I
was able to go, writing-wise. I’m just really happy that they exist. It’s great
to be a songwriter or artist because you have this permanent documentation of
the things that have affected you most in your life, so I look back on this
record and see a somewhat different version of myself, for sure. But the making
of it was very much like a cleansing process for me, so it’s really nice to
have what is almost a totem  of what I’ve
been through and accomplished and what we’re capable of. I’m happy to finally
see it come to fruition.


To be continued
tomorrow. In Part 2, Wasner delves into the nature of her songwriting, about
being on the road and the “tour bubble,” her city Baltimore,
The Wire, and more. A version of this article also appears in the latest print
issue (#10) of BLURT.


[Photo Credit: Natasha Tylea]


Thursday night showcase at the
Continental Club, day parties Thurs. – Sat., and a brand new issue of the




Bags are packed and we’re headed to the airport:
the BLURT staff is converging on Austin
from multiple points on the map for the 2011
SXSW Music Conference
.  We’re doubly
excited because not only will we be hosting, along with our good friends at Second Motion Records, a Thursday night
showcase and co-sponsoring several day parties, we’ll also have the new issue
of BLURT, hot off the presses, in hand to pass around.


The Spring 2011 print edition is due on newsstands March 29 and
the uncompromising PJ Harvey graces
its cover, and in a revealing interview, discusses the historical obsessions
that helped inspire her curiously titled latest album, “Let England
The 10th issue carries on the BLURT tradition of
covering all things music and culture-related, with the kind of editorial
irreverence and passion its readers have come to expect since the 2008 kickoff
of and the 2009 launch of BLURT’s print magazine. This edition
includes interviews with the Drive-By
Truckers, Explosions in the Sky, Lykke Li, Nicole Atkins, Jessica Lea Mayfield,
Panda Bear, Wanda Jackson
and many more, as well as over 50 DVD, CD and
book reviews. We’re available at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Hastings, and hundreds of
other retail outlets around the word.


Additionally, with a bevy of thoughtful and insightful bloggers
(that include artists Greg Laswell, Otep
Shamaya, David Schools, James McMurtry
and others), interviews, daily news
updates and exclusive content, continues to be a destination
site for music and culture fans worldwide. As part of its evolution, the site
will be getting a facelift in the months to come. It’s all part of what is
making 2011 look so promising for BLURT and its dedicated readership.


Meanwhile, this year’s showcase will be our best
yet as we are hosting it at the legendary Continental Club on Thursday night,
St Patrick’s Day!  Below is the line-up and times. Please come early
as we are expecting a full house all night long and as always in Austin/SXSW,
entry is based on a first-come, first-serve basis. Below you’ll also find
details of our day parties, so please drop by and say hello.




Blurt Magazine/Second Motion Official SXSW Showcase

The Continental Club

S. Congress Ave

Austin, TX 78704


8pm: The Latebirds

9pm: K’s Choice

10pm: Ian Moore

11pm: David

12am: Jon
Langford & Skull Orchard

1am: Scott
H Biram




We are also cosponsoring several day parties during SXSW.
Here is the kick-ass lineup:



Lavaca St

Austin, TX 78701




1:00-1:40 Marques Toliver (solo) –

2:00-2:40  Lydia
Loveless –


Eatliz –  


 Jon Langford and the Skull Orchard (from The Mekons) –

4:45-5:15  The Waco
Bros (members of The Mekons) –

5:45-6:25  Ha Ha Tonka –   


7:00-7:40  Hoots and Hellmouth –

8:00-8:40  Kingsley Flood –

9:00-9:30  Ryan Schmidt –

9:45-10:25 Cliff Hillis –

10:45-11:25 Mean Creek –   


McAlister Drive –
12:30-1:00am Andy Friedman (solo) –


1-1:40  The BellRays –   

2:00-2:40  Richard Barone (from The Bongos, w/special guests Peter Buck
from REM, and Vanessa Hay & Michael Lachowski from Pylon who will do ‘Cool’
by Pylon as finale) –  

3:10-3:50  The Fleshtones –   

4:20-5:00  Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3 –  

5:20-6:00  The Baseball Project (members of REM, Young Fresh Fellows,
Dream Syndicate, Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3) –   

6:30-7:15  Mike Watt (Iggy Pop and the Stooges, The Minutemen, fIREHOSE) –   

7:40-8:20  LITE (instrumental virtuosos from Japan) –  

8:50-9:30  The Bluebonnets (Kathy Valentine from The GoGo’s) –  

10:00-10:40  Supercluster (Vanessa Briscoe Hay from Pylon, Bob Hay from
The Squalls) –  

11:00-11:40  Casper and the Cookies (from Athens GA) –  

12:10-12:50 Flash To Bang Time (Lynda Stipe, Michael’s sister, from OH OK) –  



1:15-1:55  Gram Rabbit –   


2:15-2:55  Locksley  –   


3:15-3:55  The Latebirds  – 


4:15-4:55  Eddie Spaghetti (The Supersuckers) ;   


5:15-5:55  Evaline –  


6:15-7:00  Jimmy Gnecco (of OURS) –   


7:20-8:00  Blackbells –  


8:20-9:00  Colourslide – 


9:20-10:00  David Wax Museum –


10:20-11:00  Girls Guns and Glory –   


11:20-12:00 Parallax Project –   


12:20-12:50 The Wandas –





And we are also excited to once again sponsor our
good friends at Bloodshot Records and their annual day party at the Yard Dog:


Bloodshot Records annual SXSW Yard Dog Party
1510 S.
Congress, Austin

March 18, 2011

12 noon – 12:20  Carolyn Mark with The Jack Grace Band
12:30 – 1:00    Ben Weaver
1:10 – 1:40     Maggie Bjorklund with Cobirds Unite
1:50 – 2:20     Lydia Loveless
2:30 – 3:00     Exene Cervenka
3:10 – 3:40     Whitey Morgan & the 78s
3:50 – 4:10     Freakwater
4:20 – 4:50     Eddie Spaghetti
5:00 – 5:30     Ha Ha Tonka
5:40 – 6:30     Waco Brothers
Party sponsored by Rolling Rock and Blurt
Savory and sweet pies by Dangerously Delicious Pies




BANDAS MACHOS Latin Alternative/Latin Invasion Music (Pt. 3)

We keep finding más y más killer
Latin Invasion bands. Now we pass them on to you – the audio and the videos.




In which our series continues on the
new wave of Latin Alternative/Latin Invasion music. Pictured above: Bam Bam. Go here for Part 1, and here for Part 2.


Last time,
we tried to compile a guide, in 2007, of Latin Invasion bands that blew up our
collective skirt, it was damn nigh impossible to whittle it down to fit the
allotted space. Without the constraints of the print medium, we’re free to dish
on as many cool bands as we want, not to mention do something we couldn’t do in
a physical publication – put the music at your fingertips.


you’ll find a list of nearly two dozen bands from Mexico,
Spain, Peru, Chile,
Argentina, Colombia and everywhere else in Latin America, along with YouTube and MySpace links to
what may be some of your new favorite songs. They’re certainly some of ours.


instance, BLURT caught Spanish indie/post-punk foursome The Unfinished Sympathy
at SXSW last year. Due to a miscommunication between us and the party
organizers, we thought they were Nudozurdo. But when the CD arrived and we
heard a fine Coldplay-esque band, we figured out the mistake – but then it took
a few months ago to track down The Unfinished Sympathy, our actual new rock
heroes. Sadly, the band broke up last year, although frontguy Eric Fuentes
continues to rock with Eric Fuentes y el Mal (Eric Fuentes and the Bad), and
he’s still churning out killer rock tunes that range from Replacements power
pop to Mötörhead’s power chord growl. Strange bedfellows, yup – but trust us on
this one: You’re gonna be hooked.


also proud to introduce you to a slew of other bandas machos like Polock, Ratas del Vaticano, Childs, Los Fancy
Free, Joe Volume & the Shot o’Clock, Hello Seahorse, Banda de Turistas,
Poncho, Inservibles, Disco Ruido and Linda Mirada. Together they cover
everything from indie to punk to garage to surf to synth-pop and then some, so
there’s something for everyone.


Enjoy –
and look forward to future editions because this is merely a third of the
outstanding music we dug up.


P.S. And
here’s something extra cool: Visit,
the label owned by Bam Bam’s Mou Ortiz, and you can download the entire roster.




The Unfinished Sympathy (Barcelona, Spain)

Eric Fuentes y El Mal (Barcelona, Spain)


The Unfinished Sympathy – “Hooligans
In Love” from Avida Dollars (Label)




Eric Fuentes y el Mal – “Rock and
Roll Is A Full-Time Job” from Eric
Fuentes y el Mal




Eric Fuentes y el Mal – “Growl”
from Eric Fuentes y el Mal (Subterfuge)




Chikita Violenta (Distrito Federal, Mexico)


“Tired” from TRE3S (Arts & Crafts)





Banda de Turistas (Buenos Aires, Argentina)


“El Rogadero” from Album (Nacional Records)





Polock (Barcelona, Spain)


“Tangerines and Unicorns” from Getting Down from the Trees (Nacional





Linda Mirada (Spain)


“San Valentin” from China Es Otra Cultura (Siesta)





Los Fancy Free (Distrito Federal, Mexico)


“Ja Ja Ja” from Never Greens, Vol. 1 (Silicone Carne)





Rey Pila (Hometown, Hometown)


“No Longer Fun” from Rey Pila (Arts & Crafts)





Childs (Guadalajara, Mexico)


“Mariana” from Yui (Static Discos)






Bam Bam (Monterrey, Mexico)


“Por Favor No Vuelvas a Nacer”
from Bam Bam (Nene Records)




“2011 Album Preview #1” (Arts
& Crafts México)




“2011 Album Preview #2” (Arts
& Crafts México)




“2011 Album Preview #3” (Arts
& Crafts México)





Ratas del Vaticano (Monterrey, Mexico)


“Tema del las Ratas”




Inservibles (Santa
Cruz Meyehualco,


“Trigueña” from Inservibles (Nene Records)




Hypnomango (Monterrey, Mexico)


“El Mundo No Es Real” from Hypnomango EP (Nene Records)






de Amor Bizarro

(Coruña, Spain)


“De la Monarquía a la Criptocracia”
from Año Santo (Mushroom Pillow)








“Yo No Te Pido la Luna” from Esquemas Juveniles (Union del Sur)






Federal, Mexico)


Volume & the Shot o’Clock
– “Oh Lord”






Tachenko (Zaragoza, Spain)


“El Resplandor”






Misterio (Buenos Aires, Argentina)


“Cochinitas” from 10 Yr Old Zombie (Nacional Records)





Hello Seahorse (Mexico City, Mexico)


“Bestia” from Bestia (Nacional Records)





Poncho (Buenos Aires, Argentina)


Kansas (feat. Banda de Turistas)” from Ponchototal (Nacional Records)