Two Presidents, four comedians, one notorious murderer
and Hunter S. Thompson all M.I.A. Not to mention $$$ owed to dB’s, Beefheart,
Skrillex, and, er, Fuck.
KEITH A. GORDON
15, 2012 music industry organization Sound Exchange released its updated database
of over 50,000 recording artists and record labels that are owed millions of
dollars in unclaimed digital performance royalty payments. Those artists and
labels included on the list are currently owed better than $30 million in
accumulated, unclaimed royalties. Funds that have been held for three years or
more and aren’t claimed by October 15, 2012 will be forfeited.
Formed by the Recording Industry Association of America
(RIAA), Sound Exchange has been authorized by the Library of Congress to collect
royalties for the digital transmission of sound recordings and then pay these
monies back out to artists and record labels. For example, Sound Exchange
collects royalties from XM Sirius satellite radio; from cable and satellite
television (Muzak or MusicChoice channels); and from Internet radio stations
like Pandora and Spotify.
Reverend spent the better part of a weekend digging through the 50,000+ names
that Sound Exchange has listed as “unregistered” artists for which
they’re holding unclaimed digital performance royalties, and who they just
can’t seem to track down. The results are sometimes puzzling, and other times
amusing. Among those people that the organization is looking for are former
Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. While the latter may be difficult to
track down considering that, you know, he’s been dead for awhile, ol’ Slick
Willie has never been better and shouldn’t be too hard to find in his Harlem office.
of actors are included on the unregistered list, such as Tom Hanks, Neil
Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother),
and Seth McFarlane (Family Guy).
Several comedians are also included, such as Artie Lange, Amy Schumer, Dave
Chappelle and, in the case of Judah Friedlander (30 Rock), an actor and a comedian. Future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Derek Jeter of the New
York Yankees is owed some cash, as is the estate of the late, great gonzo
journalist Hunter S. Thompson. One of the oddest inclusions on the list is
convicted murderer and notorious cult leader Charles Manson…which, of course,
means that somewhere on satellite radio or the Internet, somebody has been
playing Manson-penned-and-performed tunes like “Garbage Dump” or
“Cease To Exist.”
the world of rock ‘n’ roll is well-represented on the Sound Exchange list.
While some of the artists included are relatively new to the game (King Tuff, Lana
Del Ray, Skrillex – call your attorneys!), others such as Dave Grohl (Foo
Fighters), Steve Van Zandt (Springsteen’s E Street Band), and Roger Daltrey
(The Who) are seasoned veterans. Sometimes both a band and an important member of same are listed – such as Tom Verlaine
and Television, or Chris Stamey and the dB’s. And in some cases, as with the
Chris Robinson Brotherhood, it’s just an old, familiar name fronting a new
Internet has made everything old new again, which is why such obscure rockers
as Sir Lord Baltimore, Bloodrock, Ducks Deluxe, and Kenny & the Kasuals are
garnering airplay and earning royalties. Cult artists are also in abundance on
the Sound Exchange list as young listeners discover the charms of talents like Skip
Spence (Moby Grape), Barrence Whitfield, Jules Shear, Merrell Fankhauser, Sky
“Sunlight” Saxon, and Neutral Milk Hotel. Genre doesn’t seem to matter,
either, as the list includes punk rockers (Agent Orange, Black Flag), Americana artists
(Slobberbone), pop songwriters (Ben Vaughn), and metal bands (Kotipelto,
Opeth), all of which are owed some amount of money.
number of late artists are included on the list, and their estates should know
that Sound Exchange is holding royalties for such beloved musicians as Clarence
Clemons, Captain Beefheart, Alex
Chilton, Dee Dee Ramone, Country Dick Montana, Stiv Bators, and Sandy Bull,
among many others. There are even a few true musical oddities to be found…OK, many
of these qualify as bona-fide trainwrecks…but certifiably unlistenable fare
from the likes of Screaming Lord Sutch, Jandek, and Lothar & the Hand
People is being played somewhere by
curious listeners and gaining royalties in the process.
readers, the Reverend is no prude, but an astounding number of, well…shall we
say “scatological” band names are to be found on the list, including
several variations on the “F” word. Members of the bands Fuck, Fuck
Buttons, Fuck The Facts, and the Fuck Ups… register with Sound Exchange and
then, please, consider a career change. If your choice of band names is this
unimaginative, I can’t imagine how bad your music sounds. Ditto for the band
Piss Shit Fuck… have you guys considering taking up accounting?
for once and for all, that rock ‘n’ roll truly is the devil’s music, Satan is
included on the list…although considering that he’s already claimed the soul of
every record company executive, I can’t imagine what else he might want. You’re
never too big or famous an artist to have PR squad to hype your art, which may
be why Satan’s Cheerleaders is also listed here. Ol’ Scratch has some
competition, however, as Schaffer the Darklord is earning some coin of his own,
and the Suspicious Cheese Lords are lurking in the shadows, waiting for their
kidding aside, if you make music, or any sort of audio art, there’s a good
chance that you’re getting some play on satellite radio or the Internet, and
Sound Exchange may be holding some money for you. It may not be much cash, but
you’ve earned it, and the organization has paid out over $1 billion in
royalties so far, ranging from as low as $10 to as high as $100,000. If you’re
not listed with Sound Exchange, get over to their website immediately and
register… if not for today, then for any future royalties your music may earn.
The Material Girl (and
Pussy Riot aficionado) kicked off her US
tour in Philly on August 28 and we were there. You got a problem with that?
BY A.D. AMOROSI
By this point in her career, Madonna is sick of hearing your
shit. That her lyrical and visual imagery – be it religious, sexual or
political – is heavy handed. That she’s too old for dance pop.
She’s tired of the Pope and the French president. She’s
tired of Elton John. She’s tired of Lady Gaga (but not tired enough not to poke fun at her). And she was
probably tired of her adoring fans that filled Philadelphia’s
Wells Fargo Center
for the first night of her American tour on Tuesday night (August 28, Wells Fargo Center) but booed
her for taking too long to get on stage.
“We had so many changes to make from Europe to America I
wanted the show to be perfect,” said Madonna, after apologizing for her
tardiness. “You deserve perfection.” She paused and said exactly what you
thought she might: “I deserve perfection.”
Welcome to the MDNA Tour. You’re going to get what you
deserve if the other night was any show of things.
Oh and “Free Pussy Riot.” That’s a sentiment Madonna shared while
talking about her democracy’s freedom of speech, the thing she treasures about
living and working in America
versus a Russia
that persecutes its PDA-loving gay population and rockers that speak against
its seat of politics. “Never forget how lucky you are to live here,” she
Madonna started her MDNA show in a church-like setting with
Gyoto monk-like cooing (the chants of the Basque trio Kalakan) the writhing of
male dancers and then, of course, a shrouded Maddie who must break out of her
floating glass confessional so to be a “Girl Gone Wild.” Dressed in tight black
everything with a rifle in her hand, she tickles the slight synth-heavy song
and goes about the business of shooting and breaking everything in sight
through to the next slow stuttering synth-onic song, “Revolver.” Only now,
Madonna’s dancing girls have guns and a giant sized screen of Lil Wayne appears
behind the dark staged proceedings, rolling his eyes and mumbling something
unchaste or whathaveyou. Darkness is a big part of the first chunk of Madonna’s
MDNA – dark outfits, dark theatrical links to gun violence, kidnapping,
molestation on a tightrope and bloodshed. By the time Madonna and her crew get
to a cheap hotel motif and the grouchy “Gang Bang,” she’s shooting a handful of
old lovers and bad news assaulters while writhing on bed sheets as her
background screens run red with splashy crimson splatter.
A bit late to be Tarantino. A slow slog through blue
distancing songs with uneasy imagery – this after having made her crowd wait
for the show’s start. These things are questionable, yes, but not without weird
merit – as if she was experimenting with her own new brand of theater different
from the racy kitten of yore (part of that theatricality is playing air guitar
with a real guitar, I think).
After a coolly minimalist “Papa Don’t Preach,” a blipping
“Hung Up” and a grouchy-in-a-good-way “I Don’t Give A *” complete with an
on-screen Nicki Minaj cameo – again, with the guest making silly faces – it was
time for some fun.
Catty fun no less as Madonna, dressed as drum majorette,
shook her ass into the cameras and mashed up her own brashly sassy “Express
Yourself” with Gaga’s “Born This Way,” smiling and all the while and adding
ripostes like “She’s not me” as part of the chorus (“She’s Not Me” is yet
another Madonna song so you got a triple mash up to contend with. Incroyable.)
With drummers flying overhead her in mid-air and drummers running and spinning
around her, the whole mash-moment and its staged motif looked like Cirque du
From there, Maddie and her crew made “Give Me All Your
Luvin'” and “Turn Up the Radio” more memorable than their recorded versions by
playing up the dramatic verve of its verses. She quieted down nicely for the
drum trio/Gregorian chant/acoustic guitar take on “Open Your Heart,”
the foreign-ly intriguing “Sagarra Jo” and the humble “Masterpiece”
ballad from her W.E. film. Though odd
in its half time rendition, “Like a Virgin” found Madonna accompanied solely by
a piano and being quietly schmaltzy. That’s a direction I’d kill to hear her
steer into – the Vegas lounge lizard. While a humming “Human Nature”
offered a strip and a shot at seeing Mad’s giant back tattoo that read “No
Fear” the gospel-yowled “Like a Prayer” and the churchy upbeat
“Celebration” offered a move toward the light and the brightly gilded
Madonna her audiences have come to expect.
Maybe they should throw all expectations out of the window
going forward. Madonna certainly did.
We continue our conversation
with Lisa Gerrard – go here to read part one.
I’ve heard a few bands
cover Dead Can Dance songs and it’s always interesting to see other female
vocalists tackle your work. Some of them are quite good, not exactly the same,
but executed quite nicely. Have you come across any vocalist that covered your
GERRARD: I have heard various performances. Sometimes I’ve gone on YouTube and
had a look at some versions of my own abstract pieces. I’m curious to see how
people pull those off. I was really pleasantly surprised. Because they didn’t
try to copy my words, they made them their own. And I loved that. If they were just
to copy my words, then it would take the authenticity away. I found it really
interesting and inspiring because it shows you that I’m not slightly autistic
and I’m just doing this thing. It shows you that it’s a matter of tuning into a
Because your music is
influenced by so many cultures, do you tend to travel a lot and engulf yourself
in various foreign environments for inspiration before you write or go into the
Dead Can Dance, we’ve probably been touring now for about 25 years and we’ve
been to lots and lots of different places, but ultimately most of our
influences came from our childhood. We grew up in Greek, Turkish, and Italian
areas. And I grew up in an Irish home, so did Brendan. I think you can very
clearly see the mosaic of things that inspired us as children that kept us hungry on the path of music at a very early
age. There’s also education and exploration. If you’re really passionate about
something, you’ll want to learn to play various pieces of music from around the
world. It enables you to understand how they’re constructed and it also it
takes you out of the box of simply making Western four form music.
Brendan dabbles more into
the Western influenced stuff and sings in English. Do you every co-write his
never touch his lyrics, they’re very personal to him. He never touches mine.
We’re very reverential towards that side of the work. We do influence each
other when it comes to writing music. We definitely create the musical side of
the voices very differently, but that’s kept
very personal. Although, I did write a piece for him to sing. It was called
“Hymn for the Fallen” and I ended up singing it myself on the last tour. I did
want him to sing that but he said, “No, it sounds really great when you do it,
you should do it.”
You’ve collaborated with
Hans Zimmer on the score for Gladiator.
Have you ever thought about doing an original score with Brendan as Dead Can
Dance? I think that would be amazing.
course I have, and if Brendan was to write a film score it would be really
beautiful, but he is not of the temperament that he could do a film score he feels. He can’t just go and change a
piece of music so that it fits a picture. He wouldn’t do it. He’s very
consistent when it comes to it. With him its: This is the song form, this is how it is, and nothing can be
changed. The only reason we’ve been able to do an edit one of our pieces is
because we were able to take out some parts of it without changing the words.
When you’re doing film, you have to be obedient; you’re working as a team. You
can’t take control of the music in the project. We did a movie together, El Nino De la Luna, years ago and it
ended up almost coming to blows. That was really frightening. He didn’t want to
conform to what the director wanted, when in fact you have to. It’s not your
You hear a song like Return of the She-King and it’s so epic.
Something like that should be in a film.
probably end up in a movie, but it’s such a different climate when you’re in a
room of full of people and you have to write something for them. You have to
tune in to what they want. You have to redefine the fabric of yourself based on
the inspiration of what you’re looking at and on the energy from the people
you’re working with; it’s all part of it. Brendan doesn’t want to explore that
area. He’s not interested.
Well, maybe one day. Maybe
think he will. I remember talking to Mark Magidson about that. He wrote a
little piece for Baraka at the end
titles. He wrote that for the picture but he’s been working with Mark for years. It’s like, you write him a piece
of music and you give it to him. I just finished working with him on Samsara. And we wrote the music to the
picture. But he’s different to work with because you’re writing whole pieces of
music. When you’re doing cinema, the picture’s constantly evolving and
changing. And you have to constantly redefine the music so that it’s getting nearer
and nearer to unlocking the subtext. It’s a completely different experience and
that would unnerve Brendan.
Speaking of an unnerved
Brendan, I want to talk about the tour a little bit. He spoke to the audience
when they got too noisy, in a polite way, of course. He even told us a story
about walking offstage during the last tour because people were yelling and
requesting things like “Free Bird.” [Laughs].
Do you get distracted by noise from the audience? A lot of your music is so
serene and there are near silent moments, and that’s usually when a fan takes
the opportunity to scream that they love you.
don’t notice it at all. I’m so tuned in to what I’m doing. I have to really,
really focus very deeply for me to be able to do the work that I do. It’s an
internal experience. For Brendan, it’s much more external. He’s actually
telling a story and so for him the bridge of communication is already open.
One of my favorite moments
at the Los Angeles
show was at the very end of “Rise of the Moon.” When you were finished, there
was this moment of complete silence. You could hear a pin drop. And then you
smiled and said to us, “You’re absolutely fabulous.”
I thought it was pretty
amazing for you to say that. It caught us off guard and the audience erupted in cheer. It was almost as if you said that
because even you noticed the dead silence and that you had captivated us.
lovely, I know, what an audience. What a fantastic audience. That piece is so
exposed. I wouldn’t have noticed the silence while I was singing, but when I
stopped, I was moved by it.
Is there a reason why there
was no chamber orchestra on this tour?
weren’t really sure how things would go, you know? We had to sort of see if our
audience was still out there. Maybe next time we’ll have a budget that will
enable us to bring a lot more live musicians, because we’d really like to. It’s
lots of fun having live musicians onstage. We’ve already got great musicians;
the people we’re working with are phenomenal.
Well, you sounded amazing
and you look stunning by the way. Can you tell me about your wardrobe? You
walked out and it was like elegant superhero meets Greek goddess.
[Laughs] That’s so lovely, thank you.
It’s really tricky to pick the clothing to wear onstage for Dead Can Dance,
because you have to cover so many genres of music and styles of singing, that
in a way, it has to be timeless but still poetic. Women speak volumes with
their clothes. With something like this music, the dresses almost have to be
able to lend themselves to each individual piece uniquely. That’s why my dress
was designed so that it covered anything from Byzantine, through to Greek,
through to the Mediterranean, through to
classical in a kind of suggestive and poetically quiet manner. As opposed to,
wearing a sort of ‘60s cocktail dress [Laughs].
It’s really tricky getting those right.
Was it a daunting task to
pick your setlist for this tour?
came pretty quickly, really. We were a bit disappointed we didn’t get some
things in there. We were sorry we didn’t put something from the really early catalog, which we would’ve
liked to play something from the very first album. And we thought about that,
but we didn’t get to it. By the time we got all those other pieces ready to
perform, we ran out of time to go further.
You and Brendan seem like
musical soul mates. Even after 16 years without making new material, you
finally came back and did another album. How long will fans have to wait until
the next album?
think what we’ll probably do because this concert tour is about 7 months
overall, we’ll develop pieces while we’re away. Otherwise, we can’t do the same
pieces for 7 months, we’ll go insane. I think out of this experience of us
working together now, we’ll grow new pieces while we’re actually traveling. So
they’ll probably come out not too long after the tour is finished. Maybe 3 or 4
months after. That’s basically what we’re hoping will happen, but you can never
tell—Especially with Brendan and I [Laughs].
Lisa Gerrard talks about the
long running band – currently on tour – she shares with Brendan Perry.
It’s been 7 years since their 2005 reunion tour, but
after an overly long hiatus Dead Can Dance are once again touring and
enchanting the world in support of their stunning new album Anastatis, which is also their first new
album in 16 years. Dead Can Dance, formed by minstrels Lisa Gerrard and Brendan
Perry, began captivating music
lovers over 30 years ago their unique and now signature blend of experimental
art rock, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Celtic, African and other world music
influences and they have undoubtedly not lost their magic touch. On August 14 the duo enraptured a very enthusiastic audience at the Gibson
Amphitheater in Los Angeles.
Entering the stage wearing a gown and
a flowing golden cape that looked like a cross between some sort of elegant
superhero meets Greek Goddess, Gerrard along with Perry took the stage to thunderous
applause. The band opened up with “Children of the Sun” (the album opener for Anastasis) where Perry’s soothing and one
of a kind, mighty baritone filled the theater and instantly set the tone for what
would be a breathtaking and out of this world, two hour show. The next song,
“Anabasis,” was the first lead vocal by Gerrard and once that very first second
of vocals emerged, it sent an instant shockwave of spine-tingly loveliness
across the room. If you’re a fan of this particular genre or not, it’s a voice
that needs to be heard and it’s truly amazing how much of a modern day muse Gerrard
The band also delivered some of the
many fan favorites from their back catalogue.
The crowd erupted into cheer
as “Rakim” began and Gerrard marveled us all by displaying her talents with the
hammered dulcimer (aka Yangqin). Other highlights that received strong audience
reactions included the lush “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove,” “Nierika,” and the
always chilling and goose bump inducing “The Host of Seraphim,” arguably one of
Gerrard’s finest vocal performances, which was also backed up by Perry’s
haunting chants. It was with the latter track where you looked around the room
and you could clearly see that her voice had an emotional and spiritual impact
as it brought some of the audience to tears.
But the most impressive moment of
the show came after the band performed their epic, Celtic-styled “Return of the
She-King.” The stage was cleared, the audience clamored for more and Gerrard
once again emerged for a third encore, this time with only one other musician.
She performed a serene and mesmerizing little number called “Rising of the
Moon” that had the audience entranced—it was like an audience full of
serpents watching an elegant and unworldly snake charmer. At the very tail end,
after her final note, there was this small moment of complete and total silence—you
could hear a pin drop. Gerrard, eyes closed, stepped to the microphone, and in
a breathy tone said: “You’re absolutely fabulous” and the crowd went from dead
silent to roaring cheers and applause (See the video below) and she smiled,
blew a kiss and waved. It was the perfect and gratifying finale for this
We were lucky enough to have a little chat with Lisa
Gerrard a few days after the show. In our interview we discuss the writing
process of Dead Can Dance, her unique style of singing known as glossolalia,
the tour and what journey lies ahead for our two favorite musical soul mates. (Dead Can Dance is on tour in the U.S. through Sept.
7; go to DeadCanDance.com to view the dates.)
BLURT: This is your first
new album in 16 years and we’re curious as to what sort of magic occurs between
you and Brendan after such a long break. Can you explain what it’s like in the
studio when you two reunite in person for the first time? What’s your writing
The way that the process happened with this one started while Brendan was
experimenting with Mediterranean rhythms, which he sent to me over the internet
to acquaint myself with. They were quite complex. They sound really simple, but
they’re quite complex to write with because of the way that the harmonies have
to stretch out and still make sense over different periods of time. It’s the
first time I’ve ever worked like that with him. From that point of view it was
different, but I have to tell you that as soon as we started writing together I
felt that you could immediately hear the signature of the stuff that we make. I
was really excited that that hadn’t gone. The character of what we do together
was still there.
I have to ask about your
style of singing, glossolalia. Your vocals are amazing, yet they aren’t a real
language. Are they instantly induced by the music you hear in the studio? Or is
it more like an epiphany and that can even take place outside of the studio?
automatic. And it’s innate within the music itself that determines how I respond
with my voice. I can’t explain it myself, I really can’t. And I’ve tried for
many years and I just think, you know what, I’m not going to try and explain it
anymore because I really don’t know. I
know that it is an innate, automatic response to the music that I hear. It’s
like the pathway between my mouth and my heart, and I respond emotionally with
the groaning of the heart. Each piece of music presents a completely different
Do you always write the
music first then do the vocals after? Or has there been a time where a vocal has
come first and then you built the music around it?
in fact, the very last piece that we do at the concert, “Rising of the Moon.” I’m
writing that as we go and it’s really about the voice and just two notes. So,
that will just grow from there. And after some concerts it will have developed
into a piece. Sometimes it’s nice to do something that you’re writing while onstage.
You once described your
style of singing as being free and uninfluenced by the prisons of language.
After you record these original vocal pieces, what’s it like for you to
replicate them live? Other artists who sing and write in English, for example,
can write their lyrics down on paper and memorize them.
comes very organically. The thing is, I have written my words down if I have to
repeat something that’s got a very difficult keyboard line that follows the
voice and there’s no timing. I’ve had to write out the words for the person
that’s playing the keyboard and mark where the chord changes are under the
phrases so that it has the same organic. But I’ll be really honest with you, I
almost can’t sing them. I can’t say them. I can’t do it because I’m reading and
my work doesn’t come from reading. It’s a completely different dynamic. In fact
with “Anabasis,” because there’s a gap and there’s a really strange timing in
that piece. I had to write out the phrases so I could give it to the musician
so that they would understand what was happening at that point with my voice.
As soon as I wrote it down, I couldn’t sing it. I really struggled with that.
It created a drama in my connection to the music and I had to refine my
connection after corrupting it by
So after you finalize a
recording and move on to live performances, would you say that your vocals for
a particular song are never exactly the same again and they’re always evolving?
always slightly different but the vernacular is very similar. That’s the thing
that always surprises me about it, is that particular vernacular is unique to
that piece of music. There are some colors that cross over but mostly it comes
the concrete wave with the Wax Poetics-tipped soul singer extraordinaire.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
I just let my pen flow, and I don’t know where it’s going to go,” confides the
30-something neo soul diva Kendra Morris, whose debut album, Banshee, released by Wax Poetics, blends
the old school vocal chops with a post-modern complexity. A devotee of
pre-digital writing technologies – pen and paper – Morris says that she’s
willing to follow a song wherever it happens to take her. A scrap of melody, an
image, a bit of story is all it takes to get her pen moving.
her first taste of soul music rifling through her parents’ record collection as
a pre-teen, stumbling onto Marvin Gaye, the Jackson 5 and the Spinners in her weekend
listening sessions. Raised in a musical family – her mom a singer, her dad a
guitar player – she soon found that soul was a many- faceted thing, with strong
regional traditions in Philadelphia, Detroit, the Deep South and her own native California. “California soul – bands
like Santana and War – had a strong Latin influence,” she remembers. “I got
into that early on, and then moved to R&B artists like Tony! Toni! Toné! and
SWV in high school.”
family moved to Florida when she was young,
and she finished growing up in St.
Petersburg, still fascinated by older music. “What I’m
most into is a voice, I guess I would call it a honey-dipped voice, and the
breaking point in that voice,” she says. “For me, I feel like soul music goes
to the roots of where you’re at, even where your ancestors are. You’re kind of
taking your pain or your or love or whatever you’re experiencing and translating
it for other people.”
she values the authenticity and honesty of classic soul, Morris is also a big
fan of complexity – of intricate, multi-part songs that say one thing and
contradict it with another and, most of all, of vocal harmonies, which are
everywhere on Banshee. “I think about
Brian Wilson and the way he took harmonies and pieced them together,” she says.
“That’s something I’ve always been obsessed with, the way you can fit five
different songs into one song. If you find a hook, you can just take the hook
and hide it inside of a song, and you can say so many different things in a
moved to New York City from Florida about a decade ago, intending at
first to make a go of her band Pinktricity. The band broke up after less than a
year in the city, and Morris decided to simply enjoy New York and take a break from music. But
then one day around 2006, she found herself in a music shop, eying an old eight
track recorder. Morris bought it and
carved out a little recording space in the closet of a shared Bushwick loft.
roommate was a painter, so she’d always be painting in her room and I would be
in my room and I would just sit there and build these tracks, layering guitars
and layering vocals,” she remembers. “And then I put them on MySpace. Everybody
was putting songs on MySpace then.”
Except not everybody licensed their home-made tracks to
MTV, as Morris did, selling the rights to her song, “Gain” to the new show Exiles. After the show, so many people
downloaded the track that Morris was able to pay her rent one month. She began taking her songs to New York City clubs – Fat Baby, Vigilante and
Piano’s – lugging an old Sharp Ghetto Blaster from gig to gig, and plugging her
guitar and loop pedal into the home-made set up. Her DIY phase lasted three very self-sufficient
years, and then, just as she had started thinking about how to take her songs
further, she met Jeremy Page.
where he had worked with a number of local hip hop bands. He was in the process
of moving to New York
when he and Morris met and shortly after, started a studio in Bushwick. So I
brought these demos to him and we started just hashing out these songs, with
full production, and after about a year of developing that sound, we put out
the Kendra Morris EP,” she says. That album, which included the single
“Concrete Waves,” caught Wax Poetics’ attention, and the two began thinking
about a full-length debut.
didn’t start writing the album, however, until early 2011. First she had some
personal issues to sort out. A long-term, live-in relationship wasn’t working
out, she remembers. She went home to Florida
for Christmas 2010 and realized she didn’t love the man she shared an apartment
with. She wrote the song “Just One More,” while still at her parents’ house,
staying up all night to capture her
conflicting feelings. “It’s just so hard knowing that a person isn’t the one
for you, and wanting to tell yourself that he is and still wanting to selfishly
have them for one more night,” she explains. “It’s so hard listening to your
gut like that.”
(Listen to Morris’ version of the Johnny Mathis classic “No Love [But Your Love]}):
returned to New York City
for New Years, not intending to end the relationship, but almost immediately
broke up with her boyfriend. New York
real estate being what it is, however, he couldn’t move out immediately, and
Morris spent an unpleasant month sharing living space with her ex. “I always
had a weird, bad feeling, at my apartment, like I can’t be here,” she recalls. “So
I would just spend every day going to the studio. I would just sit there and
write and write.” She adds that the later songs on the album even show when her
boyfriend moved out and things started to get better.
The breakup may have been the main theme for
the album, but Morris drew ideas from lots of other unexpected places. “Right
Now,” a song about being lost and finding a way forward, emerged out of idle
thoughts about the Hansel and Gretel story. “Banshee,” the title cut, came from
fascination with an old Disney movie and some research into the banshee myth. “If
You Didn’t Go,” the second single, was prompted
by a bass line that Page brought into the studio one day, which led to a
melody, which led to a song.
performs all these songs in her own, very natural voice, shunning the kind of
digital processing that has defined pop music for the last couple of decades. “We’re
like birds in a way. Birds are known by their unique chirps. They all have
their own sound. It’s the same thing with humans and our voices. It’s like our
fingerprints. When music gets processed, it loses that identity and what makes
(Listen to Morris cover Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”):
shameful about the British chanteuse.
BY STEVEN ROSEN
The most important thing to know about Gemma Ray, the
engagingly prolific and eclectic British singer-songwriter-guitarist whose
latest album is Island Fire (Bronze
Rat), is that she really, really trusts her instinct.
Growing up in Essex where she developed an early interest in
the arts, she took up the guitar without ever trying to emulate virtuoso
British guitar gods like Clapton,
Page and Beck: “I was inspired by working out with the guitar and seeing what
noises you could make,” she says on the phone from Berlin, where she now lives. “I’d play
around with different effects. I couldn’t really see the point in learning
these boring chords-I just made up a tune and it sounded good when you banged
it and dropped (the guitar).”
With that kind of attitude,
and the fact she has been known to use a carving knife in concert to get the
right edgy guitar sound, you’d figure Island
Fire would be a continuation of the grungy, low-fi nature of last year’s
covers album, It’s a Shame About Gemma
Ray. When she started working on this, actually before Shame, she was thinking along the lines of riff-based, repetitively
rhythmic rock ‘n’ roll.
But remember: she is
eclectic. And just as It’s a Shame was unlike two earlier albums, Island Fire is different, still. The arrangements are layered with imaginative instrumental
and vocal ornamentation; most of the songs have melodically strong, varied
verses and rousing, memorable choruses. Yet they aren’t just bright, cheerful
pop-Ray has been influenced by the sonic mysteriousness of film composers like
Ennio Morricone and Angelo Badalamenti and her guitar burrows into all sorts of
unusual side pockets.
Her approach is a good
match for the vividly descriptive
yet enigmatic lyrics and titles of the album’s songs, such as “Alright!
Alive!,” “Put Your Brain in Gear, “Flood and a Fire,” Runaway” and “Trou De
Ray, relying on instinct, switched to a more “classic” song
structure while she was working on this album. “All of a sudden I found the
age-old challenge of putting a lot of emotions and drama and atmosphere into a
three-minute pop song, and then doing something slightly odd with it, became
the new Holy Grail for me,” she says.
Island Fire was recorded, Ray notes, on a series of islands-Britain,
Australia, Giske in Norway.
“I feel like these songs come from a mythical place, a fantastical place, so it
made sense they should have some kind of geographical location.”
It also contains two bonus tracks, released earlier this
year on a single, of her collaboration with L.A.’s
duo/band (Ron and Russell Mael) on their songs, “How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall”
and “Eaten by the Monster of Love.”
“When I was starting to
write this album and had songs a bit more riff-based, I thought maybe they’d
produce it because I was so influenced by Sparks
albums from the millennium onward,” she says. “I contacted them and they were
really busy and couldn’t commit. And my album went in a different direction in
the end. But then Russell contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in
singing one of their songs for fun, and it went from there.
“I’m incredibly proud to
have worked with Sparks
and it made sense for the songs to be there,” she continues. “But they’re in
their own island within my island, I guess.”
songs about garages and dudes: that’s the Australian garage combo’s prevailing
aesthetic. And no, before you ask, they ain’t broken up. Just taking a break.
BY JASON GROSS
So what makes one garage-rock band sound better than the
millions of other ones that are out there right now, haunting bars worldwide? How
do you make a 50-year-old tradition still sing and reach people with the same
two chords or less? Noted scientists have been pondering this, fruitlessly
testing out theories about this for decades but we here at Blurt Laboratories
have tireless worked to find a solution to these age-old questions and we are
proud to present our findings here.
The secret sauce, as it turns out, isn’t just recycling the
same riffs and easiest-to-learn bar chords but regurgitating them in an appealing
package. Slur your words the right way, play just above Shaggs-level
competency, nail down a good groove, throw in the right amount of sneering
personality and then you’re on to something.
That’s pretty much the case of a foursome from Melbourne. Fittingly born around the time that punk
exploded in the UK in the late ‘70s, a very
impressionable young lad named Mickey Young from Frankston (a coastal Melbourne ‘burb) fell in love with Kiss in his pre-school
days and then absolutely swooned over a guitarist named Jimi by the time he hit
the Aussie-equivalent of grade school. Young explains that his family had a
hand in his own decision to pick up a guitar: “Since I was about 11, (my)
brother was in bands, so seeing his mates come around and jam surely had an
effect on me.”
Brother Danny happened to be a drummer and would figure into
the ECSR story as the siblings hooked up to play together. Bassist Brad Barry
was a no-brainer to slot into the group since he was an old friend of the
brother Young (as a side note, AC/DC, featuring another pair of Aussie Young
brothers, were also an influence on Mickey). Singer Brendan Huntley made his
way into the picture as he and Mickey worked together at garage haven Corduroy
Records, which operated out of Ormond, another Melbourne
Corduroy Records wasn’t just putting out records but also
distributing zines and running its own pressing plant. From the plant, Young
had heard about a co-worker jiggering around with an “eddy current suppression
ring,” which stabilizes magnetic currents in the pressing process. And so, not
only was a memorable band name was born but the foursome decided to rechristen
themselves as such:
-> Eddy Current
-> Danny Current
-> Rob Solid
-> Brendan Suppression
After starting out in December 2003, ECSR had the good
fortune of having hardcore troupe Straightjacket Nation take them under their
wing, dragging them along on tour and showing them firsthand how to organize
shows and put out records themself. Mickey/Eddy reckons that doing hardcore
shows was good for his band: “When you play to a bunch of people you don’t
expect to like you, it’s a bit more challenging and I think it helps you try
that li’l bit harder.”
After a few singles for Corduroy, the band released their
2006 self-titled debut, done for Melbourne
indie Dropkick Records, started by another Corduroy employee. The band knocked
out all the music in couple of hours, doing on only a few takes of each song,
basically mimicking the sound of their practices and live shows. As Mickey
explains, “We never have been too interested in achieving perfect takes as I
don’t think our music would suit that; we’re more interested in making sure
there is some excitement in there and usually an early take is going to have
Mickey was working with another band, the raw, lo-fi Ooga
Boogas who started their own Aarght! label in 2007, which also put out ECSR’s
second album the following year. Primary
Colours was a leap forward for the band as they sounded more confident and
tighter as well as folding in the artier parts of post-punk without smooching
its arse. The pay-off was some added recognition for the band as well as an
American distribution deal with Memphis’ Goner
Records. It didn’t hurt, either, that the album won the Australian Music Prize,
garnering them the princely sum of $30,000. Touring
became less of a chore for the band, too, as the Aussie stations added their
music into their rotations.
Mickey saw good things and bad things with the added
recognition. “It allowed us to be a bit more choosy about shows maybe and also
allowed us to get paid well enough to ease up on a real job for a while, which
was nice. The shows certainly got bigger, especially in Melbourne
which was sometimes hard for me to deal with. I think I missed something
intimate and exciting about smaller shows and they were becoming increasingly
harder to do.”
2010’s Rush To Relax marked a change of pace for the group as they knocked down a few MPH’s to their
speedy sound, and managed to reach the top 20 on the Australian charts. Mickey
saw the change in the music as inevitable: “[We were] just becoming more
comfortable as a band to stretch a little bit in each direction. We are kind of
a limited band as far as the sounds we can make so I don’t think we will ever
change drastically, just slightly push ourselves in the directions we can.”
After that, other than an impressive double CD collection of
singles and demos (So Many Things)
put out last year, the band decided to take a breather. Mickey and Brendan
started the doomy, more electronic Total Control which had an impressive debut
and tour in 2011, while Brendan spread his wings with the poppier indie rock of
Boomgates. Danny, meanwhile, isn’t playing much, working as a tattooist during
Any break-up rumors about ECSR are definitely premature
though. As Mickey sees it, “When we got something new worth playing, we’ll
start again.” Hopefully that won’t be too long- we could all use more savvygarage rock in our lives right now.
An edited version of
this story appeared in the latest print edition of BLURT (#12, Spiritualized on
the cover) as part of our Australian-band special. Check it out on your local
behind the mood of one of New York
City’s greatest bands speaks.
BY RON HART
Given the resurgence of the aggro mentality of old school indie
rock in young groups like The Men, Slug Guts and Cult of Youth, it should come
as no surprise that a rise of interest in the oeuvre of Cop Shoot Cop in recent
years. But while the controlled cacophony of CSC’s role on the New York noise
circuit of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s alongside the likes of Sonic Youth, Swans
and Unsane is being revisited by today’s Pitchfork-pandering
pipsqueaks discovering such classic (and woefully out-of-print) titles as
1990’s Consumer Revolt and 1993’s Ask Questions Later, former Cop
keyboardist Jim Coleman continues to blaze a path of greatness as a craftsman of
electro-acoustic music on his latest studio LP, Trees.
An accomplished film composer who is classically trained in piano
and French horn, Coleman has scored for such established directors as Todd
Phillips (Frat House) and Hal Hartley
(Henry Fool) and provided bed music
for HBO, PBS, A&E and TLC among other networks. He’s also delved deep into
the realm of modern electronic music under the moniker Phylr as well as
collaborative projects with Italian composer Teho Teardo (as Here) and J.G.
Thirlwell (as Baby Zizanie). With Trees,
Coleman brings together all of these aforementioned elements of his creative
cache with the help of a full-bodied ensemble of longtime friends and sparring
partners, including former CSC drummer Phil Puleo and Dawn McCarthy of Faun
Mr. Coleman took the time out to speak with us about the creation
of Trees, his time in the television
and film industries as well as a most gratuitous look back at his days in CSC. (Below, check out some tracks from Coleman, Phylr and Cop Shoot Cop.)
did you first get turned on to electro-acoustic music?
COLEMAN: In an indirect way, I started performing electro-acoustic
music around the time my first solo album as Phylrwas released. I didn’t really think of it as electro-acoustic
music at the time, but I was performing with samplers, electronics and
sequencers along with live percussion. So in a way, I guess this could be
considered electro-acoustic. I guess, though, that in this way, even Cop Shoot
Copcould be considered electro-acoustic.
But now I think of
electro-acoustic music as a particular, yet broad genre of music. Perhaps my
first taste of this was some of the early Fennesz releases.
Who are some
of the artists you have followed or currently follow in that realm and do these
acts harbor any influence on your own work in the field?
I have somewhat intentionally not been following or listening to
music in the electro-acoustic genre. When I started to see Trees as a distinct body of work, I wanted to approach it as much
as possible on a purely emotional level, not from the intellect. I didn’t want
to get reactive in my music making by being overly informed about similar music
that is out there.
That being said, I
don’t live in a padded room. In my earlier years, I submerged myself in Brian
Eno’s Music for Films and Music for Airports. I was listening to
Steve Reich and some Phillip Glass early on. Others that have mad an impact on
me: Fennesz, David Lang, Zoe Keating, DJ Olive, Biosphere, Autechre.
What is it
about trees that inspired you to name the album as such?
I’ve always been fascinated by trees. There is something mythical
about trees, how their limbs reach to the sky and this is mirrored by their
roots, digging down deep in the earth, unseen by us. It’s like they traverse
all these different planes of existence. They are like nature’s shamans. Don’t
get me wrong, I don’t go around hugging them, but they fascinate me.
This album felt like
a similar journey, one that is deep and down and dark at times, and also light
and airy at times. And it felt organic, both in the creative process and in the
How did you
go about choosing the artists that you employed for Trees?
The choice of artists was also organic. I continually work with Phil
Puleo. We’ve been working together pretty much since Cop Shoot Cop blew apart.
Although I hadn’t worked directly with
Kirsten McCord prior to this album, we vaguely travel in the same
circles and it was an easy fit. The recordings with Dawn McCarthy were actually
outtakes from the recordings I did for the first Phylr album, Contra la Puerta(she appears on that record as well). Ellen Fullman I had recorded
previously playing her long stringed instrument in a semi permanent
installation in Austin Texas. I was there working on some music for a dance
piece and had the opportunity to meet here and do some recordings. And Bryan
Christie, who runs a high-end graphics studio but also plays sax. Brian and I
were friends and collaborators. I had done a few music bits for his studio and
clients. I brought him over to the studio just to see what would happen. I
generally am not a big fan of sax, but this somehow worked so well.
As a student
of film, what movie did you feel you learned the most from and why?
Before I was in film school, I was in art school and was shown a
film by Meredith Monk called Key.
This had a huge effect on me, opening me up to what was possible in creating a
personal language in film, music and the two living together. Somehow that film
was a totally immersive experience for me at that time. I would love to see it
again to see if that still holds true. I guess also this film also validated
that I could make my own rules. This was something I took with me when I later
entered film school. I was the only student focused on making experimental
films at the time. The program was all about teaching the pre-existing rules. I
was about creating my own rules, my own language, and my own world. This for me
is the magic of creative work. Ultimately, I settled in to both. I did learn
the basics of narrative and documentary filmmaking, but I continued to focus on
experimental filmmaking. Maybe I’m a romantic, but I’ve always felt that
passion trumps knowledge. But I also believe that they need not be exclusive,
we can have both.
I also recall going
to a double feature that really resonated for a long time afterward. This could
also partially be attributed to the chemical balance or imbalance in my brain
and body at the time, but nonetheless. The double screening was Aguirre, The Wrath of God followed by Apocalypse Now. Somehow this double
header just threw me in to a beautifully dark place for a long time. It also
showed me just how powerful films could be.
soundtrack composer, whose template have you followed in regard to the way
you’ve approached making music for film?
I wouldn’t say that I’ve really followed any specific template in
my scoring, or really in any of my creative work. I’m not saying that from any
haughtiness. I’m not saying that what I do is always that unique. I’m saying
that because I’m a bit disorganized in my approach to scoring and music making.
Even in a literal sense, I have read again and again how it is beneficial to
create templates for whatever DAW you are using (Music software like Logic, Pro
Tools etc). But I never have yet to do this. Of course, when working on a film,
there is attention paid to various themes and sub themes. But I tend to
approach things on much more of an emotional level than an intellectual level.
This is rather interesting to me, as the rest of my life is truly rules by the
intellect, to the point where at times I can have difficulties accessing my
emotions. But somehow in the creative realm, it’s just right there.
Growing up and in my
adult life, I have always enjoyed listening to a variety of composer’s work:
Carl Stalling, Bernard Herrmann, Henry Mancini, Lalo Schifrin. Some of this
stuff gets way over the top. But when it’s subdued (for instance, the track “Shifting
Gears” from Bullitt), it’s just
One of my
favorite stories about Neil Young is how he recorded the soundtrack to Dead Man while he was watching an early
cut of the Jim Jarmusch Western. Have you ever composed a score in that
I did several seasons of the A&E series The First 48. The deadlines and work process ended up being so
crazed that it demanded a good amount of blind scoring. I would usually see the
first cut, just past the assembly stage really. Sometimes I didn’t even see
that, the editors were basically working from a huge amount of tracks that I
had created for them. At the end of the day, I made a library of tracks for
them. But having done if for a few seasons, I knew more or less what would work
and what wouldn’t.
different is it to compose music for television versus film?
There is something special about film, where it gets really deep.
The music becomes a part of the overall language of the specific film, helping
define characters and situations. I’m sure that it can be like this for television,
but most of the work I have done for television has been in the realm of True
Crime. And a lot of television is somewhat formulaic. I think films have the
opportunity to stretch out more, to defy convention. I’ve found myself to be in
a deep, immersive world at times when composing for film. My experience with
television has been more fraught with deadlines, people running around just
trying to get it done.
your thoughts on how some of your contemporaries – -Nick Cave,
Mick Harvey, Clint Mansell, Trent Reznor, Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO – -have
crossed over into the world of film scoring and whose work do you admire the
most amongst the brood?
I think that it’s a natural move for a certain type of musician
and composer. First off, all these guys all understand the language of film.
Secondly, they all must be comfortable around the technology, as film scoring
has become somewhat of a technical venture. And thirdly, they all must be
somewhat in the mix socially. It’s sad but true, social politics underlie so
much. At times I’m surprised at what I’ve been able to do through the years, as
I am not much of a hustler.
I admire all these
artists. There needs to be some women and some non-Caucasians on that list too
though! Of all four you mentioned, I’ve always felt the closest connection to Trent. His music has
always spoken to me very strongly. I still am listening to “The Social Network” score with a degree
been many new bands as of late citing Cop Shoot Cop as an influence on their
own method of performance — bands like The Men and Slug Guts among others. Are
you cognizant to how much of an impact CSC is making on this new generation of
heavy-minded indie rockers and do you welcome this resurgence in interest in your
I guess I’ve been living in my padded cell again. I actually have
not been aware of this, but I welcome it with open arms. I’ve been listening to
The Men since their album Leave Home came out and I guess I can see that connection, though their music is quite
different as well (which is a good thing). I’d be curious to learn more about
bands that we have influenced. I know our old stuff isn’t that easy to find, so
it’s reassuring to me that it still is finding ears and that it still resonates!
In light of
this renewed interest, has there been any talk about revamping the CSC catalog?
From time to time, there has been talk about it. As I just
mentioned, CSC records aren’t easy to find. They aren’t on iTunes, not in brick
and mortar stores. There are still broken lines of communication within the
band, but I do have faith that everyone would like to see the recordings become
more available. Perhaps it is time to put aside all the petty shit that drove
us apart and agree to do this.
Of all the great tours CSC was involved
in during the 1990s, which was most memorable for you and why?
For several years, all the tours kind of merged together. At
times, we were on the road for 9 months out of the year. But I can provide you
with some selected memories (feel free to pick and choose if I go on too long):
A.) Banned in the suburbs of
Washington DC: Woke up in a motel somewhere outside of Washington
DC I believe. Upon leaving the
hotel, Natz started doing something with the fire extinguishers. I can’t recall
if he was hosing down people or the van or possibly the mess we left in the
room. In any case we had to leave in a hurry. We went to breakfast at some kind
of pancake house which felt like it was full of church going god fearing
Christians (must’ve been a Sunday). There was a problem with our bill. We
didn’t get everything that we had ordered, though the waiter insisted that we
did. After tedious calculations, we left money for what food we had received,
left and went next door to the gas station to gas up our vans. As we were
getting ready to pull out of the gas station, several cop cars pull up and
block our way. The restaurant had called the DC PO on us. We gave them our side
of the story and promised never to return to their town again.
B.) Banned in Hoboken: We played
Maxwell’s once I think, and were never allowed to play there again. During our
set, the power went off. Out front, someone’s van window was broken. A
microphone ended up missing. Maxwells determined it was all our fault.
C. The crazy girl from Wrightsville Beach: We were doing a more or less clockwise tour of the states and Canada. When we showed up at the
club in Wrightsville beach, two young girls were waiting outside the club. I
don’t know how young. One of them came back for the show, the other one didn’t.
The one that didn’t get to the show re-surfaced the next morning as we all
reconvened for breakfast. She kind of hooked on to Tod, and ended up in the van
as we were going out of town. Except
we had to make a pit stop at a Victorian looking mental hospital so she could
get her meds. We found out later she failed to get these meds. And we found out
later that she had been walking down the street with her sister, saw Todd in
the window of the diner and told her sister she just had to say hi to a friend
and that she would catch up to her wherever they were going.
So she got in the
van and joined us on tour for a few dates, selling merchandise and hanging out.
Luckily, not one of us tested her virtue. I don’t know why, but it didn’t
happen. We were about to do the long haul through Texas and end up on the West
Coast, so we basically told her that Atlanta was the end of the line. She said,
“OK, no problem, she had friends there.” So she stayed in Atlanta.
In L.A., we started getting messages from out
booking agent saying that some girl’s family kept
calling him. Their daughter was missing and they had information that she had
left with us. I ended up being the designated caller. I got the number and
called her family. I talked to her sister, who advised me not to talk to her
parents. At that time, she still was not home. I assured her sister that we had
all acted like gentlemen, and told her to call us back if she didn’t reappear
in a few days. I never heard back.
D. Somewhere in France
(perhaps Marseille): We were playing in a small club that was so packed, so
hot and so humid that my samplers and electronics kept freaking out. It was
just impossible to play. So I removed every article of clothing and wandered
around the audience while the rest of the band played. Figured I had to at
least add to the entertainment value.
E. Gent, Belgium: Late night after a show there, we ended up finding this
construction site not that far from our hotel. We got in easily and started up
a percussion jam, using all the stuff from the site. After a while, I looked
over to see a good dozen concerned residents out on the street. We took the cue
and started to leave. And sure enough, the police start showing up. We all run
for it, in several different directions. Most of the band made it back to the
hotel. Tod and I went on a long haul through a maze of back streets and alleys,
through the red light district. There were several police cars chasing us, we’d
look down an alley and see one, so we’d hi tail it the other direction.
Eventually they caught the two of us and took us in. They proceeded to serve us
tea and we got in to an involved discussion about the history and politics of Belgium while
some of the other cops went and checked out the construction site for damage.
Once they checked it out and found that nothing was destroyed, they took us
back to the hotel.
F. Detained in L.A.: We were slated
to play UCLA the night that curfew was lifted from the Rodney King riots. Given
our name, they decided to not have us play, though they paid us anyway. At the
time, we were being courted by Interscope Records, and they put us up at some
ritzy hotel. We went downtown to have some dinner. At the time, our tour van
was an old shorty school bus that was painted camouflage, complete with
camouflage curtains. We bought it off of some guy who used to go around to army
bases and sell bumper sticker sand stuff like that. We parked our van, and
walked the block or so to the restaurant. On the way, we passed some kind of
military police who were talking in their radios about us, but we paid it no
mind, thinking they should get a life.
After we ate, I was
a bit tired, so I went out to the van on my own. I walked out and started
walking back to the van when all of a sudden this guy yelled at me to stop. I
looked up and saw a helicopter
hovering with its searchlight hitting the ground just in front of me. A cop
came over and asked me where I was going, so I told him that I was just going
over there to my van. He immediately swung me around, put handcuffs on me and
started to march me away. I told him that if he was taking me anywhere, I
needed to let my friends inside the restaurant know. He asked me what
restaurant and I pointed it out. I heard later that several cops went in to the
restaurant with guns drawn and hauled the rest of our party out, with no
opportunity to settle the bill.
They took us all to
one area a short distance away, where they detained us against a wall. Somehow
they got it in their heads that we had a bomb in the van. They had blocked off
a several block radius, brought in a helicopter,
Military police, and LA police. I tried to give them the key as they were going
to break in to the van. They didn’t take it, instead opted
to wrench the back door off. And what did they find? Many Cop Shoot Cop T
Anyway, I could go on for a long time with stories from touring.
It can be a very unique alternate reality. I feel very fortunate that nothing
really seriously bad ever happened during that time. There were so many close
me about CSC’s first gig.
The first gig I played with CSC was at The Court Tavern in New Brunswick, New
Jersey. Tod had recently gotten discharged from the
hospital after getting third degree burns on his hand. He was inebriated at a
party and had put way too much hairspray on his hair as a joke. When he lit a
cigarette, his whole head went up in flames. He extinguished his burning head
with his hands and arms. He couldn’t use his fingers at the time, so he was
playing his bass with this metal cylinder.
I forget the reason
why, but we got pulled over on the way to the show but were able to drive away.
The gig was a big sloppy affair, just a big somewhat violent mess. A TV was
burnt on the stage. Most of our early shows were kind of like this. We could
never finish sets, as some altercation was always happening either in the
audience, in the band, or between the audience and the band. For a while I was
bummed out, as we could never really just play a full set. But later, when
things calmed down a bit and both the band and the audience was a bit more
mature, I kind of missed those early days, when you never really knew what was
going to happen. Definitely kept you
in the present, though there was usually quite a bit of unnecessary drama
attached to it.
We got pulled over on the way home from that gig as well. We were
lucky to walk away this time. But the [policeman] who had pulled us over was
also a bass player. He just couldn’t believe that Tod was playing without the
use of his fingers.
been any talk of a CSC reunion at all?
There has been talk of a CSC reunion, but not within the band. I
keep hearing that posed as a question. I dream of it, literally. But it’s not
always a good dream. The recurring part of the dream is that we are about to
hit the stage, and we realize that we haven’t rehearsed even once. I’m sure
this dream says more about me than anything else. In reality, I don’t see it
Do you have
any plans on taking the Trees ensemble out on the road?
There are a number of ways that I could perform Trees. From solo laptop to multi instrumentation. I’ve considered this,
but haven’t really focused my energies in this direction so far. Through the
years, I’ve perhaps gotten more comfortable in the studio than on stage. That’s
not a reason NOT to play. Perhaps it’s more of a reason to play, to get outside
of my safety zone…
projects do you have in the works currently?
Currently in the works: I’m continually working on original
material and remixes as Phylr: beat oriented stuff for the most part, but still
quite cinematic. I’ve been doing a bunch of music for a film called Tabbo by Beth B, which is a documentary
on contemporary NYC based extreme performance art. And I’m working on a follow
up to Trees. This work was originally
based on recordings of individuals near death experiences and psychic trauma,
but is opening up a bit more.
With the legendary British band having recently
toured the U.S. and soon
headed to Europe, let us pay tribute to the
group and its “timeless” sound.
KEITH A. GORDON
Zombies offer up a textbook example of the magic of rock ‘n’ roll to create
legend out of obscurity. Formed in the U.K. in 1961 by singer Colin Blunstone,
guitarist Paul Atkinson, bassist Chris White, keyboardist Rod Argent, and
drummer Hugh Grundy, the band was signed by Decca Records after winning a local
music competition. They scored a hit single right out of the gate when the
Argent-penned “She’s Not There” charted in both the U.K. and the U.S.
in August 1964. The Zombies rode the British Invasion wave into the U.S. Top
Ten with Argent’s “Tell Her No” later in ’64, but half a dozen or so
subsequent single releases failed to match the band’s earlier chart success,
and Decca dropped the band in early 1967.
Zombies had spent a couple years of hard touring across the United States, performing
alongside folks like Dusty Springfield and the Searchers when they signed a
last-gasp deal with CBS Records which resulted in what has since become known
as the band’s magnum opus, the wonderful Odessey
and Oracle. An inspired mix of the band’s British R&B roots and
contemporary late 1960s psychedelic pop/rock with symphonic overtones, support
by the label for the making of Odessey
and Oracle was virtually non-existent. This forced the band to use a
then-novel Mellotron to mimic orchestral passages because they couldn’t afford
studio musicians on the miniscule recording budget provided by CBS. When the
label demanded a stereo mix of the album (which was recorded in mono), Argent
and White footed the cost themselves.
sank like a stone in the band’s homeland, and was only released in the U.S. because of support from Columbia Records
A&R man Al Kooper, a talented musician and songwriter in his own right, who
had bought a copy of Odessey and Oracle during a trip to London
and recognized its brilliance. By the time of the album’s late 1968 U.S.
release, the Zombies had already broken up and Rod Argent had begun forming his
self-named hard rock band with Zombies bandmate Chris White…all of which made
the unexpected success of “Time Of The Season,” which would rise to 3
on the U.S. charts in late 1969, all the more awkward. The band members
declined to tour in support of the album and hit single, resulting in at least
three counterfeit versions of the band touring the states as “the Zombies”
well into the 1980s.
along the line, though, that ol’ rock ‘n’ roll magic kicked in, and as new
audiences discovered Odessey and Oracle,
the album became a bona fide record collectors’ dream, a holy grail of 1960s-era
psychedelic pop that commanded hundreds of dollars for an original vinyl copy.
Music historians connected the dots between the Zombies and like-minded
“sunshine pop” bands like Left Banke and the Millennium, while musicians
like Paul Weller and Dave Grohl confessed their admiration for the band and its
landmark album. In the wake of renewed enthusiasm for their work, three of the
five original members reunited briefly during the 1990s to record a new studio
album, mostly to retain their rights to the Zombies name.
Blunstone and Argent got back together and re-formed the band with White and
Grundy to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Odessey
and Oracle with a series of live shows. The duo has been at it ever since, touring
annually as the Zombies featuring Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, the two
joined by former Argent/Kinks bassist Jim Rodford and his son, drummer Steve
Rodford, along with guitarist Keith Airey, who would be replaced by Tom Toomey
by the time the re-vamped Zombies recorded their critically-acclaimed 2010
album Breathe In, Breath Out.
2011 the Zombies were invited to perform in front of a small, albeit
enthusiastic “invitation only” audience in London’s Metropolis
Studios, an intimate concert that was documented for the subsequent release of Recorded Live In Concert At Metropolis
Studios, London (Convexe Entertainment), a two-disc audio/visual
extravaganza certain to thrill the pants off of any longtime fans of the band.
The CD and DVD offer up 19 tunes, most of ’em bona fide classics, including six
from Odessey and Oracle as well as
the earlier hits, and even a couple of cuts from the Zombies’ most recent, Breathe In, Breath Out.
starts out with “I Love You,” a popular but failed 1965 single that
features a distinctive riff and forceful melody. How can a “failed
single” be popular, you ask? Well, it was originally released as the
B-side to a meager U.S. single, “Whenever You’re Ready.” But the song
would become a hit when it was later recorded by the California pop band
People! in 1968, rising to 14 in the U.S.
and working its way into the top ten in Japan
(twice!), Mexico, Israel, the Philippines, and elsewhere. Decca
reissued the Zombies’ original as a single in late ’68 but it sank like a
stone. Still, it’s remained one of the band’s more popular live songs, and here
it’s provided a strong performance, with solid vocal harmonies, psychedelic
fretwork, and plenty of Argent’s manic keyboard-pounding.
acquits itself nicely on the Jimmy Ruffin smash “What Becomes of the
Broken Hearted,” which was a U.K. hit for Blunstone and keyboardist Dave
Stewart (not the Eurythmics guy) back in 1981. With the band providing
Motown-styled backing harmonies, Blunstone imbues the song with a longing and
wistfulness that falls just short of Ruffin’s original. An odd instrumental
interlude mid-song detracts somewhat from the performance, but Argent’s soulful
keyboard riffing hits just the right note. Toomey’s guitar solo near the end is
elegant and tasteful, extending the song to its short, discordant ending.
“A Rose For Emily” is the first of a half-dozen songs pulled from Odessey and Oracle, a wan pastoral
ballad that displays moments of Beatlesque melodic brilliance and interesting
audience is preternaturally patient waiting for the hits, and they get the
first in the form of “Time of the Season,” an uncharacteristic song
in light of the rest of the band’s more sedate psyche-pop milieu. With its
familiar riff, unusual melody, chiming keyboards, and oblique lyrics it’s an
instantly accessible tune and while it originally flopped as a 1968 single in
the U.K. it would hit 3 in
the U.S. and top the charts
a year later. “Tell Her No” suffered a similar fate previously when
released in 1964, hitting big in North America while the band’s hometown
audience largely yawned. “Tell Her No” offers a similar syncopated
melody and chorus, and the 21st century Zombies do it well, Blunstone’s soft
lead vocals providing a counterpoint to the band’s almost overwhelming backing
harmonies. It’s an engaging moment that thrills the audience.
of the Zombies’ hit U.S.
singles to be performed this night was also the band’s first, “She’s Not
There” hitting 2 in the U.S.
and Canada while charting at
12 in the U.K.
In many ways, it would set the standard by which subsequent releases would be
measured, which is why, perhaps, “Tell Her No” and “Time of the
Season” rose above the band’s other singles in that they all share a distinctive
harmonic vibe that stood out as different and innovative at the time. Performed
here, the song lends itself to a lively Argent keyboard solo, with great vocal
harmonies lending to the larger-than-life sound of the song. The classic rock
radio standard “Hold Your Head Up” was Rod Argent’s biggest hit with
his self-named band, the 1972 single hitting 5 in the U.S. and receiving
constant radio airplay ever since.
Zombies’ version here of “Hold Your Head Up” is stretched out and
definitely over-the-top, allowing Argent to bang away at the keyboards with
reckless abandon, his vocals assisted by the band’s harmonies on the chorus
while Toomey delivers the song’s timeless guitar lick. Although the audience
came to hear the hits, the Zombies had a lot of good-to-great songs that never
received their due. “I Don’t Believe In Miracles,” from the band’s
1991 reunion album, is a bittersweet ballad that features a strong vocal turn,
beautiful harmonies, a melancholy melody, and finely-crafted lyrics. “Care
of Cell 44” is a deceptively catching
slice of sunshine pop with a uniquely British ambience and instrumentation
similar to colleagues the Kinks while “Beechwood Park,” at times,
reminds of Procol Harum with classical-tinged baroque instrumentation and
somber yet effective vocals.
1960s-era bands touring the oldies circuit these days are living entirely on
past glories, you can’t say the same of the Zombies. Sure, Recorded Live In Concert At Metropolis Studios, London strikes all the highlights of the
band’s career for an appreciative audience, but the hits are a small part of
the 19 inspired performances caught on audio and video that night. There’s a
reason why Odessey and Oracle is
considered a rock ‘n’ roll classic, and it has a lot to do with the depth of the band’s songwriting chops, their
instrumental prowess, and their often whimsical imagination, all of which are
on full display on both the CD and DVD of Recorded
Live In Concert At Metropolis Studios, London.
Laura Burhenn opens up about her band, the new
album, DAR and more.
Burhenn has something to say.
frontwoman and driving force behind the Mynabirds doesn’t mince words when it
comes to her takes on politics, social justice and what’s wrong with the world.
passion is reflected in the Mynabirds’ sophomore release Generals, which Saddle Creek Records released in June. The recent
work is more outspoken than the band’s first effort, 2010’s What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the
Flood. But while Generals kicks
ass and takes names, the album also presents moments of encouragement and
uplift. And when not entirely moving, the album simply moves.
grew up in a small town in western Maryland and spent 11 years in Washington,
D.C., where she released both solo work and was one half of the pop rock duo
Georgie James. Following the Georgie James break up, Burhenn needed a change of
scenery, hence a move to Omaha,
Saddle Creek’s home turf. Since the move, she’s released two Mynabirds albums,
toured with label mates Bright Eyes, launched a website, The
NewRevolutionists.org, featuring photos of women, and helped found the Omaha
Girls Rock Camp.
Mynabirds – not to be confused with the mid-’60s Canadian R&B Motown act
the Mynah Birds that featured Neil Young and Rick James – was recently on a
headlining tour of small venues in support of Generals. The band announced additional dates for later this month
up with Burhenn before a performance at the Satellite in the Silver Lake
neighborhood of Los Angeles.
At a nearby Thai restaurant, over a plate of yellow curry and papaya salad,
Burhenn elaborated on Generals, the
Daughters of the American Revolution, Bright Eyes and the possibility of Neil
Young knowing who she is.
BLURT: I saw you added some more dates to the
end of August recently. Are things going well?
BURHENN: Things are going great. We’re really excited.
I understand you got the title (of the new
album) from a photograph. What about that photograph spoke to you?
at the Corcoran Museum
in Washington, D.C. It was an exhibit of Richard Avedon’s
work. It was an exhibit called Portraits of Power. One of the photographs in
the exhibit was a photograph called “Generals of the Daughters of the American
Revolution.” It’s a photo of women who are in that organization, DAR. I am
supposedly eligible for that. The women in the photograph are wearing these
starch satin gowns and sashes and satin gloves above their wrists and tiaras.
It seemed to contradict the title to me. When I think of revolutionary women .
. . it didn’t really fit. I really started thinking about revolution, about
revolutionary figures, and particularly people in our own society now, and even
in my own life who I consider revolutionary, and they don’t look like that, in
my mind. They’re not afraid to get their hands dirty. And a lot of them you
don’t see in the headlines every day. You won’t see them in a portrait because
they’re too busy getting stuff done and they’re not necessarily always lauded
for the work that they do.”
You qualify for DAR?
what I’ve always been told. I’ve never gone through the process.
What do you get out the organization?
think it’s sort of like a ladies club. It’s an old boys club for ladies.
Historically they’ve had some real missteps. They denied Marian Anderson to
sing in Constitution Hall. Eleanor Roosevelt found out about it and got pissed
and was like, “No, no, no, you’re going to sing on the steps of the Lincoln
Memorial.” I honestly don’t know what they’re up to now. It’s interesting none
I was just curious. Do you get perks,
discounts at hotels or something?
do then I’m definitely signing up. I’ll take a discount on tour, that’s for
Generals, is it a political record or protest record? How would you
definitely a protest record. I would characterize it as a concept record. I hesitate to say that it’s political,
even though that it deals with politics. I know that’s maybe mincing words, but
I feel like people shy away from politics a lot. I’m a pacifist through and
through. I’ve been thinking a lot for about 10 years about war and discord. Is
it possible to change society? I participated in a lot of protests leading up
to the war in Iraq
living in D.C. We see tens of thousands of people converge on the National Mall
when it doesn’t stop anyone from doing anything. So you start to wonder, what
affect can I have personally? Do grassroots campaigns actually still work
today. And does anyone care because we’re all comfortable watching our iPhones
and drinking our lattes and this war doesn’t affect most people, so who cares,
you know? I’ve been really struggling with that for a decade.
As a pacifist and a vocal person,
I really wanted to… answer a lot of questions related to that. One of which is
in the opening song “Karma Debt,” I basically ask what can I as a musician do?
Is it even my role to talk about these things? I’m having this discussion
within myself. There’s all these terrible things happening. What can I do?
Should I even talk about it? Finally, it’s like, I don’t care what I should do,
I’m going to do what I can do, and that’s all I know to do.
The first half of the record
is really almost looking at this situation from a birds-eye view. So there is a
lot of politics, in “Generals” of course, talking about health insurance and education
and war and how we’re spending our money as a society and the powers that be,
you know? But I think ultimately what I came up with is the most I can do in my
own community, be kind to my neighbors. It has to do with self empowerment and
empowering those around you. Therefore you kind of bypass politics as a result
I also do think that
politics divides us. Just this election year is something that’s maddening to
me. You see how many millions and millions and millions of dollars are pissed
away in ad campaigns that are full of lies. And we talk about how little money
we have for education, for health insurance, but yet we manage to find money
for this shit? I think in the end I kind of wanted to bypass all of the
political bullshit and remind everyone that it’s about our interpersonal
relationships. So, yes, it’s a protest record, yes it’s a concept, yes it gets political, but I think ultimately it
ends up being kind of like a record of love songs that has moments of dancing.
I love that quote, and I forget who said it, ‘If I can’t dance, I don’t want
your revolution.’ I love that quote.”
The title track sounds like a call to arms.
“We got strength in numbers/and they’re goin’ to pay for it.” Who or what is
that directed at?
think in my mind I was contrasting the image of the Avedon photo. I’m like
calling to the new generation, to the generation that wants something different
than the status quo. I knew there was a fine line to walk here. How specific do
you get? Or is there some strength in generalities? This is an internal
struggle in my mind. As we get older we become comfortable and you kind of
become numb to the world around you, you just accept
it. In my mind it was this youthful awareness of what’s really happening and
saying we can have something different. Let’s do it. Let’s do what we need to
do to have that.”
Was this at all influenced by the Occupy
song was written before that. When the Occupy movement came about, I thought,
“There really is like a Zeitgeist about this feeling.” We feel like the wool
has been pulled over our eyes for long enough. After September
11 and a lot of our civil liberties were being eroded in the name of safety and
security, it didn’t affect people really. You can go to war and people say
that’s good, that’s for our safety, that’s for our security, but at the point
that we bankrupt a country through
doing this and there’s no work anymore, people are getting laid off from their
jobs, they can’t afford their mortgages, and finally it’s really hitting
everybody. The sad thing to me are the men and women who serve in the military.
They go off, and for the most part they’re unseen. Your average American has
very little understanding of what military families go through. It’s
heartbreaking to me that that divide even exists. There are whole groups of
people that no one has any idea about what their suffering is on a daily
There does seem to be some more uplifting
songs, like “Body of Work.”
that’s the arc of the story line. When I say it’s a concept
record . . . I wanted the record to get personal. I think (the song “Mightier
Than the Sword”) was a protest in my mind about kids being bullied and
particularly people who are discriminated against and bullied to the point of
committing suicide for being gay. The fact that that happens in our modern America
society, and that it’s so prevalent, is truly, truly heartbreaking. That’s the
point, at the end of that song, “When you forget the words, I will sing them
for you.” That’s the first bit of encouragement. There’s a lot of double
imagery in the album because I wanted the songs to stand on this very
metaphoric level on one hand and on this very personal, easy level on the other
hand. “Body of Work” and “Disarm” are very dualistic.
TheNewRevolutionists.org, tell me about this
project, why you wanted to do it?
we did the album, I wanted to do Avedon style portraits of women, and I wanted
them to be warrior portraits. They’re inspired by some of my favorite black and
white photos throughout history, even recent history. Anyone can nominate
anyone, and they can nominate someone else and pass it down the line. It’s an
idea I’ve had, but it’s something that doesn’t belong to me. I want it to be
really democratic. I feel extremely honored that women like Lizz Winstead,
co-creator of the Daily Show, Roseanne Cash and Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go’s
are part of this, but there’s also some really amazing women from my own
community. Women who run non-profits. That’s the idea. To give women some
credit who don’t normally get it, and to offer up a new face for what is
possible for women to do. You see the women on the magazines in grocery stores,
and I just thought it would be nice to present something maybe younger women
could look up to. A yearbook of sorts.
You started the Omaha Girls Rock Camp?
part of that. Stefanie Drootin, she really is the person who really did the
heavy lifting of that. The second year of the camp is happening right now, so
I’m really sad I’m not there for it.
Did you participate last year at all?
created a class. The history of women in rock. I was on tour with Bright Eyes
last year, and flew in from Europe the night
of the showcase and got to go and watch them all play their songs. The girls,
they were amazing.”
Did you ever go to a camp like that growing
wish one had existed. I grew up in a tiny town in Western
Maryland called Boonsboro. I was lucky to have some really great
teachers. When I went to my piano teacher and told her I wanted to start
writing songs instead of playing Chopin, she said OK, show me what you’ve got.
It goes a long way. I really believe in the power of music to save kids lives.
How did you end up in Omaha?
You grew up in Western
Maryland, and I know you lived in D.C. for a number of years. Now
Omaha’s home base?
I’ve basically been around D.C. my whole life and D.C. proper for 11 years, and
I love it. It’s always going to be home to me in some way or another. After
Georgie James, my old band, broke up, I had gone through a really difficult
personal beak up as well, and need something new. I had made friends with a lot
of people from Saddle Creek and a lot of people in Omaha from having worked with Saddle Creek
before. I just thought, why not? It seemed crazy on one hand, but it felt
right. There’s a really great community of artists and musicians out there who
are really, really supportive. I’m really happy there.
It seems like a lot of musicians in D.C take
off for New York or Nashville.
considering that. I was like, I think I’m going to move to L.A. You can’t really beat the sunshine and
the ocean and the desert and the mountains and everything that’s right here.
Luckily I get to tour through a bunch and have good friends I come to visit. I
got out in Joshua Tree in February. It’s
so amazing out there.
You mentioned you toured with Bright Eyes.
What did you take away from that experience?
learned a lot. It was really great watching a band at a much different level
than I am and just seeing how they do things. I love Connor and Nate and Mike
and the rest of the band and the crew involved in making that whole thing
happen. They’re truly kind and generous people. Which is really funny. People
always ask me, “So tell me how that was.” Not that you’re trying to do that.
But some people ask, like, they want dirt or
But we got to play Radio
and Royal Albert Hall and I got to learn to surf in Australia
and made a bunch of new friends. It was really great for other people to be in
Is being in charge difficult, or is the
totally OCD and worry about everything. Like all the tiny details, and the big
picture, and I want everyone to be happy. It’s just so much to keep track of.
Luckily I play with some really amazing people who keep me sane. They talk me
down when I get out of control (laughs).
We do fun things. We’ll just go and get fireworks. Go late night swimming.
The name of the band, what does it mean,
where does it come from, the Mynabirds?
made the first record with Richard Swift, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to
release it. I didn’t know if it should be a solo record or a band name. A
friend of mine, her sister was having a baby. Her father asked them names of
female charters in James Joyce novels. One of them was Mina. For some reason I
thought Mina, Myna, Mynabirds, I like that.
When I was talking with
Swift, I said I want to do a record that sounds like Neil Young doing Motown.
That guided us making the first Mynabirds record. When I Googled it, and found
out that it was Neil Young and Rick James on Motown, I was like, I have to take
this. It was really, really serendipitous.
This past year for Record
Store Day, the original Mynah Birds put out a seven inch, or Motown put it out.
So I like to think, I like to hope, we had something in helping aid a revival.
You reached Neil Young.
Neil Young would know who I was, I would die a happy woman.
You never know. Maybe he’s around. Maybe he’s
going to come out tonight and check out these other Mynabirds.
What’s next for you?
been thinking about what kind of record I want to make next. I feel like this
record kind of surprised some people. They weren’t expecting it. It’s different
from the old record. I’m always curious musically. I feel like my voice stays
the same, but everything around I like to switch it up. I’ve really been
thinking about making a make-out record.
A make-out record?
like in the vein of Portishead or My Bloody Valentine. I’ve been thinking a lot
about how to make a make-out record. It seems like the right record to follow a
big protest record. Just about love.
The Mynabirds’ American tour resumes Aug. 23
in Dallas. For
more information, including tour dates, visit TheMynabirds.com
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