Monthly Archives: April 2016

SPECIAL DELIVERY: The Miamis

Miamis1_Gruen

New York City’s CBGB/Max’s scene in the mid/late ’70s spawned plenty of now-familiar names — Blondie, Ramones et al — but there were even more lesser-knowns well worth revisiting. Our resident New Wave archivist, Dr. Steinfeld, takes a look at the late, great Miamis, who just happen to have a must-hear retrospective recently released.

BY DAVE STEINFELD

As anyone who has more than a passing interest in rock and roll knows, the New York City music scene of the mid 1970s was one of the most exciting and influential of all time. The clubs Max’s Kansas City and, especially, CBGB became a spawning ground for an extremely diverse bunch of artists that loosely fell under the umbrella term “punk rock” (and later “New Wave”). Some of the bands who started out playing CBs to tiny audiences, such as Blondie, went on to achieve #1 hits and international stardom a few years later. Others, like The Ramones, never scored a big hit per se but still exerted massive influence on other musicians and built up a huge number of fans over the years. (These days, here in NYC, it seems like you can’t walk more than a few blocks on any given day without seeing someone wearing a Ramones t-shirt — often someone who wasn’t even alive when the band first played at CB’s!).

Be that as it may, for every Ramones and Blondie, there were two or three talented bands who came out of the same scene but never managed more than a brief record deal and/or cult following at best. Some of the other musicians who played Max’s and CBGB during that storied period include rockabilly revivalists like Eddy Dixon and Robert Gordon; Mink Deville, a band that was heavily influenced by R&B and Latin music and fronted by the late Willie DeVille; the dark electro-pop duo Suicide whose live performances were the stuff of legend; the witty, theatrical rocker Wayne (later Jayne) County; and a bunch of great pop groups like The Laughing Dogs, The Cryers, The Marbles, The Mumps, and The Miamis.

That latter band was led by brothers Tom and James Wynbrandt, both of whom wrote, sang and played guitar. The Miamis were rounded out by drummer Georgie Day; bassist Dale Powers; and keyboardist Tommy Mandel (who joined the band a bit later and has been a high profile session musician for decades). The Wynbrandts were born in Chicago but, true to their name, raised mainly in the Miami Beach area. They came of age in the 1950s and 60s — and you can hear it in their music. The majority of songs in the Miamis’ repertoire display early rock and roll influences as well as a good sense of humor. Unlike some of the bands from the CBGB scene — Suicide, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, even The Ramones — there was no darkness in their music. As Glenn Coe writes, “They weren’t interested in starting a revolution; they just wanted to provide the soundtrack.”

The Miamis were one of the most popular bands of their day among their peers. Hell summed it up when he described their sound as “Palm trees on the Bowery.” The late Tommy Ramone said, “A Miamis show was a guaranteed good time,” while none other than Debbie Harry quipped, “I tried never to miss a Miamis show… The [Wynbrandt] brothers in action was always a great night out.” Indeed, when I asked Carter Cathcart of The Laughing Dogs — a pretty great pop group in their own right — if there was one act from the 1970s New York scene that should have become bigger, he answered without missing a beat.  “No doubt in my mind,” said Cathcart. “The Miamis. They never got signed, and they should have. I just loved those guys.”

Why The Miamis never got signed is a good question, and not one that has an easy answer. For decades, the few recordings they made were nearly impossible to hear. But that’s changed with the recent release of The Miamis: We Deliver — The Lost Band of the CBGB Era (Omnivore Recordings). It’s an impressive package, from the vintage photos and excellent liner notes by Coe to the music itself. The title track kicks things off and sets the tone for the rest of the album: short, high energy pop songs. There are 23 tunes in all, recorded between 1974 and 1979. Roughly half are studio recordings and the rest are mainly live cuts and demos. Aside from the title track, some of the standouts include the 50s-influenced “I Want A Girlfriend”; a terrific pop song called “Another Place, Another Time”; a cover of Sinatra’s “That’s Life,” which closes the CD; and my personal favorite, a mid-tempo tune called “She Works Hard (At Lovin’ Me)” which features a rare lead vocal from drummer Georgie Day.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Tom Wynbrandt who, by sheer coincidence, lives about 10 minutes from me in Manhattan! He shared his thoughts with me on the old days, the new CD and what he and the rest of The Miamis have been up to more recently.

First, tell me a little about the genesis for putting this compilation out 40 years after the fact.
Sure. My cousin, Jesse Lauter, graduated from NYU with a major in music production. And he’s produced, or assistant produced, a number of groups… He’s had some success. He urged me to digitize the old tapes of The Miamis because he loved the stuff when he heard it: “Let’s do something with it.” So we did have the tapes digitized — the 11 or 12 songs that we had tapes of.  Then we put them on a CD and in 2009, we released it with no fanfare, no promotion. People who heard it liked it — but not many people heard it.

Fast forward a few years and Jesse took that CD to Omnivore Recordings, where he had an in with some of the executives. He played it for them, they loved it and they said, “Do you have any more of these tracks? We’d like to do something with it.” Jesse came back to me and we found an old live tape from CBGB’s. And we found a few others in the archives that we digitized and remixed, got rid of the pops and hisses that accumulate over X number of decades in the can, and made it sound really good. Omnivore loved it and that’s how we got to where we are now.

The live stuff I hadn’t heard in forever… It was a good show at CBGB’s. We had some very good musicians backing us up that [night].

Tell me how you [and Jim] first got into music. Did you turn each other onto music or did it happen independently? How did that work?
The first of us to pick up a guitar was my brother, at age six, just sort of banging on it. We had seen Elvis in his first national television appearance, and we were smitten immediately . Then nothing happened. Cut to my teenage years, when friends of mine played guitar; this is just before The Beatles. They taught me some chords [and] I started to play. Then when The Beatles came out, the next year, I was completely besotted, hooked — you name it! I thought these guys were the coolest ever.

My brother took [guitar] up after I graduated from high school. This is in the ’60s — but I think our tastes were formed earlier. I’ve always loved the rock and roll of the 1950s. The excitement, the rawness — all of that. Att the same time, I’ve always been a melodic fan too. I love Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson, obviously The Beatles. When my brother came to New York to go to NYU, he had a guitar with him [and] he could play it. But we never really played together until we traveled around Europe together. He was 19 and I was a couple of years older. You know, we learned a few tunes that we could perform — stuff that we thought people would know. We did Everly Brothers, we did Paul Anka’s “Diana,” we did some Beatles songs… And while we were there, we [said], “When we get home, we gotta start a band.”

So when we got back, we did start the band. I stayed in Europe longer than he [did] because I didn’t go to school and he had to get back to NYU. I had also been involved in this underground theater stuff. Before we went to Europe, I had met all these people from the Andy Warhol universe. I met Jackie Curtis and Wayne County and all those people. I had been in the show Femme Fatale with Patti Smith and Penny Arcade and Jackie, who wrote it. Tony Ingrassia directed it. And one of my songs was used in the show. Jimmy had been in another play with these people, called Island.

Wayne wanted to do country music in drag. He wanted to sing old Hank Williams songs, and he wanted Jimmy to back him up. But they decided after seeing the New York Dolls, they wanted to have a rock band. At this point, I arrived back in the States and joined in, and the band became Queen Elizabeth. Wayne County Featuring Queen Elizabeth. We played The Mercer Arts Center and we were very close friends with the Dolls. They were our best friends, in fact.

Wayne fired us when he signed with Mainman, David Bowie’s company. They wanted to hire him and put us on salary and Jimmy and I didn’t like that. You know, we started this together, we should all be in — a third, a third, a third. So Wayne got rid of us.

And then he went on, I guess, to The Backstreet Boys.
Exactly… You know, my brother and me were so not Wayne! We looked like nice kids despite our best efforts not to. And I think the contrast between us and Wayne was sort of charming, or at least intriguing, whereas The Backstreet Boys was all one color. But that was his choice.

I’ve read quite a bit about — I should say “her” these days.
Her, yeah. Jayne these days. Quite a performer. No voice but a great performer with a great attitude.

So at that point, my brother and I decided to start our own band, The Miamis. The name seemed good to us. Yes, we came from Miami Beach — but we wouldn’t have been the Des Moines had we come from Iowa! It was a just a name that seemed to have the right kind of vibe attached to it. You know — sort of upbeat [and] a little tongue in cheek.

In the liner notes, it talks about how at one of your first gigs you guys came onstage in the middle of winter wearing these bright pastel suits.
Yes! Barbara Troiani made those for us. She was a very talented seamstress. And those were some suits!

Tell me a little more about the scene from the mid ’70s at CBGB. Just you thoughts about the club and the city and the music scene in general.
[In] downtown New York City, CBGB was the dive du jour. It was one of the few places that bands could play original music and have a shot at getting paid for it…. It was our clubhouse. All of us who played music — along with the attendant roadies, sound people, girlfriends and fans — had a home there. Hilly Kristal was just as sloppy and disheveled as the rest of us, and maybe even less organized. His daughter and his employees really kept the place together. Beer was cheap and nights were long. The bathrooms, as everyone knows, were disgusting. But it was a place we could play our own music. That made it kind of wonderful.

But let’s be real here. There was a lot of drugs. And there were a lot of people of…. (pauses) less than stellar character. Let’s put it that way. You know, many of the women were involved in the personal services industry.  There were a lot of lazy people. There were great musicians and there were less good musicians. And the whole idea of punk was [that] you didn’t have to be able to play, you just needed attitude — which I guess took many of them very far. But it’s still a mystery to me how some of the bands made it as big as they did.  You know, there were a lot of really great bands that just didn’t catch on.

Who else from that era should have gotten [bigger]?
Mink Deville. The [Laughing] Dogs. You know, The Shirts probably should have been bigger than they were. Hilly [Kristal] really liked them. Annie Golden, who’s now on Orange is the New Black, was their lead singer. She was an adorable girl with a wonderful voice. The Revelons should have been bigger. Great group! Greg Pickard, their leader, wonderful writer and a compelling stage presence.

Can I ask you about a couple of the actual songs?  Tell me about the title track. You sing lead on that — one of the better known Miamis songs.
Yes, if there are such things! I was in Barbara Troiani’s apartment, without electricity.  I shared [an] apartment with Dale and my brother. Dale and I had had one of our many disagreements and I couldn’t stand to be around him. So I went to Barbara’s apartment — and Barbara was dating Dale and was at our apartment! (laughs)  She gave me the keys and I went over there, and she had heat. So I was lying in bed and the whole song basically came into my head. The only thing I didn’t have was the ending.

So the next day, I go back to my own apartment [with] Dale and my brother, and I was playing it for them. My brother suggested the ending and the line “make your stars shine bright.” Then we had it! We were a brand new band at that point. So by the second or third gig, we could open or close with that one. And people liked it a lot.

This is kind of weird because I think it’s a demo but “She Sure Works Hard At Lovin’ Me” is a great little song. I wasn’t expecting it [because] it’s after the first 10 and the drummer sings it, right?
Yeah! Thanks very much! I wrote that [when] I had an apartment for the summer on 6th Street just off Second Avenue. I was sitting around with the guitar one day and something about the idea of state employment, you know, finding a rhyme for that, struck me as something I wanted to do…So I wrote it. It took an afternoon.

Blondie did it once. It had a bridge too — like a B section that subsequently got dropped because it didn’t work that well. But when Blondie did it — and there may even be a recording of it somewhere — you can see why [the bridge] wasn’t a good idea (laughs). But you know, we wrote a few things for Debbie and Blondie that they performed before they got big. But they never put them in the right keys! We’d play it for them and there was never any thought on their part of, “Let’s make sure it works with Debbie’s voice. Maybe we should raise it or lower it.”  So they did that one and they did one that my brother wrote, a charming song called “A Girl Should Know Better.” That one exists somewhere.

The version [on the CD] is the first time it was ever played — with all of us! We were in Tommy Mandel’s apartment and I was showing them how it went. You can even hear us say, “Lead break!” [Below: a live recording of the band performing at CBGB]

To bring me up to date, tell me what you’ve been up to in recent years and maybe what the other Miamis have been [doing].
Sure. I’ve had an advertising and marketing agency with my wife. We’ve worked mostly in the financial services sector, doing projects for Deutschebank, American Express, Citi, Barclay’s Capital — [companies] like that.

Recently, I’ve been doing less of that and more writing and editing. I worked on a couple of books with Ali Velshi. He was formerly the chief business correspondent for CNN, and then he went to al-Jazeera. We wrote two financial self-help books together. And I edited one, last year, by a fellow named Maury Harris who is the chief economist at UBS. That one is called Inside the Crystal Ball: How to Make and Use Forecasts.

My brother has a pilot’s license and he’s a very successful aviation journalist. He writes for a number of magazines and papers including Executive Jet Travel — things like that. He flies himself to these assignments around the country — and everything is tax deductible!

Georgie Day lives in Puerto Rico now. He went back to being George Diaz. And he’s the manager of a ranch that trains horses for dressage — you know, jumping and all sorts of things. He’s the manager of that ranch.

I have no idea what Dale is doing [but] he’s somewhere in the East Village.

Tommy Mandel, you know what he’s doing. He’s always in the studio or at a gig… It’s all music, all the time. [He’s played with] Bryan Adams, Dire Straits. I’m sure there are others I can’t think of right now. He’s played with them all. He did an audition for Steve Winwood [and] didn’t get picked for that. But I mean, it’s that caliber. He’s good!

TomWynbrandtToday

Above photo courtesy Tom Wynbrandt / Top Photo Credit: Bob Gruen. (L-R) Tom Wynbrandt, James (or Jim) Wynbrandt, Tommy Mandel, Georgie Day, Dale Powers.

SHE’S THE KING: Jeannette Kantzalis & The Chubbies

JK

She’s three, three, three mints in one: A vinyl (and digital) swansong for the beloved Cali pop/punk femme-rockers finds the songwriter referencing her past and laying the groundwork for future endeavors via rockin’ nuggets and torchy gems.

BY FRED MILLS

Inland Empire rock vixen Jeannette Kantzalis first pinged the rock radar circa ’92 as Jeannette Katt, whose Pink Mischief album was issued by A&M and remains a genuine, not-necessarily-guilty, pleasure. The label, sadly, dropped the ball, marketing-wise, unsure of what to do with a gifted, assertive female songwriter who declined the opportunity to be pigeonholed into either the Courtney Love or the Indigo Girls camps. Most folks, however, remember The Artist Formerly Known As Katt from her subsequent tenure fronting all-girl Cali band The Chubbies, a beloved Sympathy For The Record Industry label mainstay that started out as a solo vehicle for the young Kantzalis but at various points would operate as a duo (with her friend Christene Kings; she’s pictured on drums in the below photo with Kantzalis) and even a trio in order to tour and record more extensively.

2 piece Chubbies live

1997’s Tres Flores remains a must-hear thanks to standout tracks such as the punkish “Play Me,” the torchy “I’m Not That Girl” and the irresistibly anthemic “Didjahaftasaythat?” (Consult eBay and Discogs to get your fix, and quite a few Chubbies titles—including the relatively recent archival title Official Greatest Hits that Kantzalis released via her own The Kitten Next Door label—can be grabbed digitally at Bandcamp.)

In any event, here’s a lot of intriguing history here worth tucking into, particularly for fans of never-say-die DIY punk, distaff punk/garage and classic girl-group pop. Along the way Kantzalis has operated an indie record store, started a family, and at one point put together a short-lived, power pop-tilting band called the Tragic Hearts. Yours truly, reporting on the latter, commented, “A three-guy/one-gal combo [whose] pulchritudinous vocalist/guitarist teases you with her coquettish, Bangles-esque come-on while the band unleashes brawny garage raveups. Yet the Hearts aren’t out to indulge a retro vision of power pop, and by injecting a vigorous, punkish vibe they ultimately come off as contemporary—‘alt-power-pop,’ as their Web site bills ‘em.”

More recently, she’s been releasing music under the name A Brokeheart Pro, which both incorporates elements of, and builds upon, her previously-laid musical groundwork. To date there’s been 2007’s The Kitten Next Door and 2012’s Josephine the Outlaw King—the latter also sharing its title with a noirish Kantzalis-penned novel—along with material posted online both at SoundCloud and at YouTube, including reworkings of old faves and a series of cover songs by the likes of Ryan Adams, Portishead, Old 97’s and the Gin Blossoms.

As the musician herself put it not all that long ago at Facebook, “I’ve always been fascinated with the crossbreeding of styles by accident or because of curiosity. The melding of rock and soul, mostly. I used to devour stories about the working class ethics of the Beatles, Bowie, Prince… how they’d show up when they were supposed to and respect the time and talents of others. I found so few in the music world I was in. I suppose that’s why I ended up teaching myself how to do everything. I never found anyone who wanted to put in the hours, who found music’s creation so intoxicating they just didn’t want to stop creating it.”

Chubbies 4-19

That sure sounds like a mission statement to these ears. Kantzalis, throughout her myriad musical explorations, has garnered a loyal fanbase enamored of her instinctive tunefulness and forceful-yet-silky arrangements, piqued by her charismatic, provocative style of lyricism and delivery, and impressed by, yes, her work ethic. All that, plus the aforementioned intrigue, rears its head with the new self-released Jive and Honey. Kantzalis bills the album as her Chubbies swansong, writing in the record’s liner notes how the band “started off with just me, playing, writing, performing and producing everything by myself in my garage on my 8-track” and how now, in 2016, “that’s how I’m ending it,” with eight songs pressed up on limited edition vinyl (or available digitally) via CDBaby.

Gorgeously designed, graphically, for the 12-inch format featuring a series of full-on artist photos gracing both the outer and inner sleeves (there’s also a lyric sleeve), the record kicks off with the part-cautionary/part-defiant “Gotta Get Away” which, against a thrumming guitar/bass/drums backdrop that’s classic Chubbies (particularly with the three-part backing harmonies), smartly sets the stage for what’s to come…

“Let me get out of this sticky conversation,” Kantzalis sneers, at the start of brittle, Nuggets-worthy garage raveup “The Quiet Ones,” adding suggestively, “Words turn to glue in a bad conversation/ I see you across the room contemplating/ I think I need more of what you’re not saying…”. That’s followed by “He’s Got A Way,” all sweet ‘n’ sour, shadows ‘n’ sunshine, one minute serving up come-ons (“he’s got a way about him”), and then the next, confessions (“I can’t take it back”). Side A then closes out on the delightfully Sixties-ish pop of “Wonderful,” a sweeping, pledging-my-love anthem. Flip the record to cue up the New Wavey electropop of “I Am Jeannette,” which doubles as a personal manifesto and—spoiler alert—a career summation lyrically referencing the artist’s past. You want manifestos? Try on “I’m A Rebel,” a sleek-but-stilettoed Blondie-styled slice of drama that leaves multiple earworms in its wake. Then Kantzalis opts to turns cinematic, first with the Spector-esque girl-group pop of “Stay Right Here (Flynn’s Song)” and finally, to complete the cycle, the luminous “I Wasn’t Looking For Trouble.” The latter, with its jazzy sway and darkly sensual lyrics (“trouble came looking for me… I ached with a low burning glow”), is pure Dusty Springfield—and, in its echoes of that much earlier “I’m Not That Girl,” is also pure Chubbies.

It’s a fitting conclusion for this long-running musical project. Way back when, on the group’s first album, Kantzalis announced I’m the King. Here, on the final release, she declares, “I Am Jeannette,” firmly taking hold of her Chubbies legacy, putting it proudly up on the shelf, and clearing the table for what’s to come. “I conquered anger, I conquered fear,” she confesses, adding, “They tried to kill me but I’m still here”—then threatening, “I could break your heart.”

Indeed she did. Indeed she is. And indeed she could. No jive.

 

END TIMES: Parker Millsap

Parker Millsap 2

With a brilliant new album just out, the Okie from Purcell—thought we’d say “Muskogee,” didn’t ya?—is proving that all that critical acclaim for his debut breakout wasn’t a fluke.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Parker Millsap is only in his early 20s, but listening to his music, you’d swear he was a peer of John Prine or Woody Guthrie or hell, even Mississippi John Hurt with access to better recording equipment. There is a timelessness to his records that so few can claim nowadays.

His self-titled debut was a fantastic introduction for the Oklahoma native, an album brimming with stories of old time religion, redemption and confliction, passing through the genres of Blues, Americana and Folk. His latest, The Very Last Days, still carries over a few of those themes (growing up Pentecostal, those ideas are hard to shake), but it’s a far broader record musically paying off on the promises of greatness that were hinted at with his first one.

The subject matter on The Very Last Days strums some strong emotional chords, from “Heaven Sent,” about a gay son trying to get acceptance from his religious father, to “Hands Up,” a fast tempo track told from the point of view of a criminal.

Millsap, packing for yet another trip to South By Southwest, spoke with Blurt recently about the influences that shaped his music, recording in a studio that may or may not have been haunted and finally getting to quit his day job before he was old enough to legally drink.

BLURT: When you were pulling together this album, you guys recorded in Louisiana. You’re live in Nashville now with access to some pretty fantastic studios. Why go all the way to Louisiana?

MILLSAP: I was living in Oklahoma at the time and Gary (Paczosa) was in Tennessee and we had the budget to go and spend a little time in a nice commercial studio, which was a nice change. So he sent me a few links and I chose the one that seemed the vibe-iest from the pictures on the website. It was spooky down there. It was great and it happened to be between Oklahoma and Tennessee, so it was equal driving distance for all of us.

What do you mean spooky? Just the vibe of the place?

Yeah, yeah, it was just spooky. My bass player is just a little more attuned to that kind of thing and he was kind of spooked, so that made me spooked. But it was a good thing, kind of exciting.

So going into this album, you had mentioned having a little more money to record with. What else was different this time around?

It didn’t have a whole lot to do with money, but the difference was working with Gary (John Prine, Dierks Bentley, etc.). We recorded “You Gotta Move” prior to the rest of the record, to work with him for a day and that worked out really well, so we we’re already comfortable and we knew each other and how we worked before we got into the studio (to record the rest of the album). It was very low pressure. The songs were already written and we had already rehearsed them for about a month leading into the recording, so it was really easy.

“You Gotta Move” is obviously a cover. A very cool song, but not one many people know or have covered before. What was it about that song that made you want to take a stab at it?

Well, we’ve been doing it live for a while and people always ask “where can we buy this song?” They were watching You Tube versions recorded from an iPhone, so there was a financial incentive to record that song and also it seemed to fit the theme of the record.

This record sounds a lot more expansive compared to the first – there’s a lot more instruments, the sound is bigger. Was that a conscious decision?

I think so. With the way the songs were written, they lend themselves to that – the big choruses – they lend themselves to that. And also Gary is really good at making acoustic instruments blast out of the speakers and sound huge. Which is not an easy thing to do if you’ve ever tried to make an acoustic guitar sound big. And also having a drummer who added a lot to the record. It covers a lot of space.

Is it pretty easy for you to write on the road when you’re touring or do you have to really make an effort to set aside time to work on new songs?

It kind of depends. Sometimes they just happen and you think “this is really easy” and other times you’ve got a draft with you for two months just trying to get it right. I wish I had a more consistent work ethic when it comes to that, but it just happens; it’s not necessarily a whole process for me.

I know a lot of your band members have been with you for a long time. How do you go about writing songs and the music that goes underneath it? Do you usually bring in the lyrics and you guys work it out together?

I write the melody and the lyrics… and I bring it to the band and I sometimes have an idea of the tempo or the grove and we just play through it and if they have ideas it’s just “hell yeah.” That’s what we’re here for. They make up their own parts and I really like that. It’s very much a band situation when we’re recording and when we’re on the road.

Are there any songs in particular you really like off of The Very Last Day

I like playing “Morning Blues.” It’s probably my favorite song to play live, just because it feel like a rock and roll song.

The first album was kind of a slow build. It took a while for critics and writers to pick up on it but you ultimately got a lot of really positive attention for it. Were you nervous at all going into this record knowing that people would be paying attention once it came out?

Not really. You try not to pay attention to that. I’m aware of it, but I take comfort in the fact that the news cycle is really short. If you do something and no one likes it, nobody’s going to remember tomorrow anyways.

You and John Fullbright (another Oklahoma native) both have a sound that is pretty timeless – it could have come out when John Prine first started recording or, well, now. What did you grow up listening to?

A lot of Gospel music. And a lot of Blues and pre-Rock-influenced music, if that makes sense. Stuff like Taj Mahal, Howlin’ Wolf and songwriters like John Hiatt, Lyle Lovett, John Prine, I could just list a billion people. Old Blues cats for sure. Mississippi John Hurt is my spirit animal. When I first started playing guitar, he’s what really got me into it and from there I got into folk and songwriting.

Is there anything you listen to now that would surprise people?

Right before you called I was listening to the new Kendrick Lamar album. I’m an omnivore.

Obviously a lot has happened to you since the last record came out. Any highlights of the last couple of years that really stand out?

I’m just really amazed that I’m able to survive just doing my kind of music. I’m grateful for that. Most of my heroes are dead so I’m not going to meet them.

Do you remember the moment when you were finally able to focus on this full time and quit whatever day job you had?

Yeah, I was 19, 20 and my bass player started playing a lot of house concerts. He hooked up with the Folk Alliance and through some of their conferences – it’s sort of like South By Southwest but it takes place in a hotel and you might see a polka band in a hotel room or a singer songwriter in a hotel room – but we got into that scene and we were doing that for a few years. It’s a blast.

What’s next for you?

I’ve been telling everyone I hope this record brings world peace. I’m optimistic about it.

Well, you must be if you’ve been following the presidential campaign.

(Laughs) It’s exciting, right? It’s like watching a movie. It’s hairy out there. I watch it, but I try and treat it like I’m watching a movie.

It’s got to be great fodder for new songs though, right?

I don’t know. It seems a little too easy.

I guess you’re right. Save it for the punk rockers.

Parker Millsap 1

 

BACK TO ATHENS: Pylon’s Vanessa Briscoe-Hay

Pylon 2

 

Ed. note: Eighties Athens band Pylon is justifiably legendary, with recent years seeing the release of the group’s back catalog and its stature continue to grow as a younger generation discovered the band. (R.I.P. guitarist Randy Bewley in 2009.) In 2014, vocalist Vanessa Hay, now Vanessa Briscoe-Hay and also of the group Supercluster, mounted a one-off project she called the Pylon Reenactment Society featuring some fellow Athenians, and since then she’s repeated the show at a handful of dates, including a little over a month ago at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, plus Asheville and Atlanta. Plus, there is a two-disc live Pylon album due out in the very near future (all respect to Henry Owings of Chunklet fame for putting that into motion); a documentary that captures performances from various bands (including Pylon) at early ‘80s NYC nightclubs; and in one of the more improbable strokes of punk providence, Lexus automobiles recently aired a commercial featuring Pylon as the backing music. So it seems entirely appropriate to publish this interview with Briscoe-Hay, conducted recently by longtime BLURT contributor Tim Hinely for his own zine, Dagger. Special thanks to Tim for allowing us to reprint it, and to Vanessa just for all things Pylon. To read more about the band at BLURT, go HERE to check out a retrospective piece we ran a few years ago on the occasion of the group’s reissues. – FM

BY TIM HINELY

I can remember where I was when I first heard Pylon, the unique band that called Athens, Georgia, home in the ‘80s (and beyond). It would have been 1983 or so and I was hanging out at the one punk/new wave club that we had in South Jersey, The Ivory, located in the town of Margate, at the time my home away from home. The club’s deejay, Howard McCabe, played all kinds of great stuff and, specifically, two cuts by a band I had never heard. The songs were “M Train” and “Feast on My Heart.” I went up and asked him who the band was and he stated Pylon. I made a mental note in my head to find their stuff.

I then found the “Crazy” b/w “M-Train” single locally (Sound Odyssey in the Shore Mall) and thought to myself, “What idiot put this fish sticker on here?” and promptly tore it off—stupid me…I realized it was supposed to be on there, and luckily I was able to find another one.

Pylon 1980 by Terry Allen

Then came this love affair with this band that sounded like no one else. Not just musically; Vanessa Hay’s vocals were brilliant and one of the most unique I’d ever heard, both arresting and beautiful, sometimes at the same time. And on stage, it was even better as we got to see her jumping and dancing all around, so refreshing in the era when most bands were too cool to move. I bought all of their records, and though I missed ‘em live the first time around, I did catch them in the later ‘80s when they reformed (at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ).

I contacted Vanessa via email and she was more than happy to answer some questions. From Georgia with love, it’s Vanessa Briscoe-Hay!

BLURT: Were you born and raised in Georgia?

BRISCOE-HAY: Yes, I was born in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up in a small town between Atlanta and Athens called Dacula.

What was the first song you remember hearing that really knocked your socks off?

My father was a country and western fan, so most of what I heard growing up was of that genre. He listened to the radio a lot and would watch a lot of TV shows on Saturday which were country music. He also had a clock radio which usually was tuned to WSB which was a MOR kind of thing that played a lot of different type of things. I wouldn’t get up in the first and second grade until Moon River came on. The other song which stuck out for me was Johnny Cash and June Carter singing “Jackson.” This was the pre-seatbelt era and my brother and I would argue over who could lay in the back window of my Dad’s oversized black car with runninng boards. “Jackson” went nicely with the rhythym of the  telephone wires looping up and down on the poles next to the train tracks next to the road as he drove along.

Was there much music in your house growing up?

Yes, my brother and I had our own record player. We would play whatever was lying around. My parents had some Sun 45s and 78s and my Aunt Jane had some Chubby Checker and gospel singles which she would lend us. When I could buy things with my own money, I would buy singles at the local 5 and 10 which came in multi packs. One good record on top and 3 unheard of ones underneath. I bought quite a few singles by the Beatles, Monkees, Marmalade and some albums like Jesus Christ Superstar. We also went to see bands play at the drive-in in the nearest town over who covered things like These Boots Are Made For Walking.

What was the early Athens scene like back in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s?

It was mostly a house party scene. There were very few places that had live orignal music other than large concerts put on by the University Union. One of my fellow art school classmates or one of our professors would throw a party and buy a keg. There would be wild dancing to the whatever the latest vinyl happened to be that week. When the B-52’s first performed, it was a revelation. Things were happening right here in Athens that were as much fun as anything you could imagine. When they moved away, my band Pylon started to perform along with some others which included bands like The Method Actors, Love Tractor, The Side Effects, REM and  Limbo District, .

Can you name some bands from that scene that should have been huge (or at least who were very good) but that we might not have heard of?

A band who performed with us the second time we played called the Tone Tones seemed poised to break out, They had some high profile shows, but broke up without recording. The Method Actors came out of that band. Dana Downs who was the bass player, still performs with various people including Fred Schneider and Cindy Wilson in their solo efforts.

Another band who I dearly loved were the Side Effects. They were a very good dance band who had their own followers called the Effectets who were wild dancing girls. Jimmy Ellison was the bass player and he passed away from a brain tumor. Their drummer Paul Butchart became Pylon’s soundman on the road.

You have probably heard of Love Tractor. They were excellent as well. Amazing instrumentals. I heard a version at last years Athfest called We Love Tractor. “Spin Your Partner,” a favorite song of mine, took me back to that time which for me was the first golden era of Athens music.

Limbo District were probably the most experimental of the lot and my husband Bob Hay joked that he once saw them clear out a fraternity party in 5 minutes flat. They recorded some material which has never seen the light of day. Take a look at Jim Herbert’s film A Carnival of  Sorts which is on Youtube if you want to get an idea of what they were about.

The Squalls were one of my favorite bands who were among the stronger songwriters. They have a song NaNaNaNaNa which is in Athens, GA inside/out. I have to confess that I married the lead singer Bob Hay, but I would never let my musical taste be clouded by the rose colored glasses of love, right? Anyway, they were very good, but didn’t really get beyond a regional level with their success.

How/when did Pylon begin? Who came up with the name?

Pylon began as a collaboration between Michael Lachowski and Randy Bewley who were roommates and attended the UGA art school. In fall of 1978, they decided to start a band, perform in New York and disband. They subscribed to New York Rocker and one of their goals was to be written up in NYR.  Randy and Michael obtained instruments and started to create music together in Michael’s art studio. Neither had any real training. Curtis who lived directly upstairs heard them practicing the same riffs over and over and decided that they needed a drummer, he went downstairs and offered his services. He had playing drums since he was a kid and things began to take shape.They were at the point that they wanted a vocalist. Several guys auditioned, but none worked out, so they were going to use found sounds and recordings for the vocals. Randy thought that I might be someone who could do it. We were friends and honestly it wasn’t anything I had any goal to do, but he saw something in me that I didn’t see. I auditioned and was asked to join the band.

Michael and I worked at Dupont on the weekends. It was possible to support yourself just working 2 days a week there in a totally industrial environment. We were art students and were interested in the image or shapes of certain things. One early band name idea was Diagonal, but we ended up calling ourselves Pylon after the orange safety cones that we saw at work.

Did you feel any kind of a kinship with other bands in that scene (ie: REM, etc.)?

We felt a kinship with bands that we ended up playing with like Mission of Burma, the Gang of Four and PIL. Randy and Michael had a pretty extensive collection of German and British singles. There wasn’t anyone locally at that point who were heading in the same direction that we were. We liked other bands like the Fans, Swimming Pool Cues, B-52’s and later, after they had formed, bands like REM, Love Tractor, the Method Actors. There was a lot of new stuff happening almost everyday and it was nearly impossible to keep up with. We depended on the curating skills of the guys at Chapter Three records and DJs that we listened to on the road to keep us aware of what was happening.

Was that gig at Hurrah (which I’ve seen some footage on You Tube) your first time playing NYC? If so you were you extremely nervous?

That video is of one of the later times that we performed there. But, I do remember the first time we played in NYC. We opened for the Gang of Four who were some of our heroes at that point. I was a little nervous and don’t remember a whole lot of what happened while we were up on stage, but I do remember people at the front reaching out and trying to shake Randy’s hand as he was moving stuff off the stage after we played. It was packed and to see him get that immediate recognition as a good player was wonderful.

When/why did Pylon break up the first time? How did the reformation come about? (I saw you guys in ’88 or so, at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ).

We broke up because it started to seem more like work and less like fun basically. City Gardens in Trenton was one of our favorite places to perform. We played there the first time we were together and also the second time.

After REM became pretty famous, we continued to recieve fan mail and then Athens, GA inside/out came out. REM encouraged us to come and open for them and perform. The B-52s also asked us to play with them. We decided to come back and treat it more like a business and hired a manager and that type of thing. Before that, we were self managed except for a brief stint with Vic Varney of the Method Actors doing some of that stuff.

Pylon_at_AthFest_2005

It was so sad to read about the death of guitarist Randall Bewley. Did that officially mark the end of the band?

That officially marked the end of Pylon. There couldn’t be Pylon without any of the original members.

SuperclusterSM

Were you in any bands after Pylon? Are you in any current bands?

I formed a recording project in 2007 called Supercluster [above]. I invited a dream team of some of my musician buddies to be in it. That project included a ton of people: Randy Bewley, Hannah Jones, Bob Hay, Kay Stanton, Bill David, Jason NeSmith, Heather McInstosh played on 3 songs, my daughter Hana Hay played cello on a song, Bryan Poole joined us sometimes, John Fernandes, and Bradford Cox came and recorded guitar on a few songs after Randy died to help finish the record. It is called Waves and Cloud Recordings put it out.  For a few years, I did some backup percussion and vocals for New Sound of Numbers. I sang a version of Form A Line on a recording by Tunabunny and recently recorded a little back up for a song on Dressy Bessy’s new record.

Right now, I am not involved with either of those projects. I had a few things going on and I couldn’t really pay attention to music for a year or two. Recently, I retired from my day job as a nurse and I have had time to sing a little here and there mostly locally. Last year I did a full set of Pylon music with some of my friends (Jason NeSmith, Kay Stanton, Joe Rowe and Damon Denton) and we call ourselves Pylon Reenactment Society. We performed at Art Rocks, an event which focused attention on the late ‘70s and early ‘80s art and music scene this past fall. We opened for Fred Schneider here in Athens. My friend Tammy from Dressy Bessy has a new record coming out and she asked us to play a few dates with her.

PES

Of all of the bigger bands you have opened for (ie: U2, REM, etc.) which particular one were you most excited about playing with?

Probably the B-52s, REM and PIL are up at the top of that list. It would be hard to decide between them.

Who are some current bands that you like?

I like Deerhunter,Tunabunny, Sia, Lourde. I have a soft spot in my heart for a great guitarist.

Care to list your top 10 desert island discs?

I’ll be happy to list some, but my taste changes from week to week. Here is more than 10 off the top of my head.

Hank Williams – Best of

Gram Parsons-Grevious Angel

Kraftwerk -The Man Machine and TransEurope Express

B-52’s – The B-52’s

Talking Heads – Remain in Light

Afrika Bambaata and Soul Sonic Force – Planet Rock

Elvis Costello – My Aim is True

Public Image Limited – Metal Box

Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul

David Bowie – Heroes

Patti Smith – Horses

REM – Document

Pylon Live

Any closing comment? Final thoughts? Anything you wanted to mention that I didn’t ask?

I can’t think of anything really other than to please register to vote and please don’t vote for Trump.

Well, I do on the Pylon side of the questions. Pylon are releasing a live record later this summer. It will be the full show of our final performance back in 1983 here in Athens, GA. Henry Owings is going to put it out. It has been mastered, but I haven’t heard the acetate yet. It was a good performance. Michael said after listening to it that he couldn’t believe that we broke up. Ha, ha!

BONUS QUESTION: It is true a Pylon song is featured in a car commercial (I have not heard it yet, a pal told me about it)? If so how did that come about?

That is true. The ad rep for Lexus approached us late last summer about using “Cool” in an ad. We were in agreement after discussing it. It still freaks me out to hear the guys playing on TV, especially that great riff of Randy’s. We didn’t really announce it, but Lexus put out some sort of press release. Our friends and fans have been definitely noticing that it is Pylon and for the most part they are happy to hear us. We are all way more excited about this live record that is coming out and have been focusing on that.

www.wearepylon.com

www.facebook.com/pylon

www.facebook.com/pylonreenactmentsociety

Pylon 4

 

THE GRAND TOUR: George Jones

George 1

A terrific new biography does the country legend right. It’s a great excuse to dust off his old albums or to start stacking up on his catalog.  

BY JASON GROSS

When most people think of ‘country music,’ they center on the huge pop crossover successes of the last few decades from the likes of Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Dixie Chicks, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Shania Twain and Miranda Lambert.  But even before that, a handful of stars also made the leap into pop cultural consciousness- Willie, Dolly, Mr. Cash.  And then there’s the artists who are legends in the field of country itself but not household names otherwise, such as Hank, Merle (RIP), Lefty and the man that Frank Sinatra called the 2nd greatest American singer (after himself of course) – a Texas boy whose legacy includes a decades-long trail of broken marriages, drug use, rehab visits, business flops, violent incidents, police incidents, vehicular mishaps, abandoned concerts and label leaping. Still, anyone who knows more about country than what you can read in the tabloids can tell you that at his best, George Jones, a/k/a Possum, epitomized the best things that style of music has ever had to offer.

With a career that spanned about 60 years (roughly the mid-50’s up until his death in 2013) and a lifestyle that would make most rock stars blush, author Rich Kienzle (editor at Country Music Magazine) had his work cut out for him.  Surprisingly, for a legendary figure like Jones, his life has only been covered thoroughly in an 1996 autobiography (I Lived To Tell It All), Bob Allen’s clinical, somewhat moist 1994 bio George Jones: The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Legend and 2014’s useful The Legend of George Jones, written by a pair of old friends. Because of his rough and tumble life, any Jones bio could easily become a sex & drugs & country tome.  Because of his massive discography (dozens of albums, over 100 singles), being comprehensive about his music would take a door-stopper book worthy of Roberto Belano or David Foster Wallace.  But with The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones (Dey Street Books), and in a mere 262 pages, Kienzle wrangles the seemingly impossible- he defies Jones in places but doesn’t hide his disgust of his crappy recordings or crappy behavior and takes in some granular detail of his most famous songs.

Jones book

Starting with Possum’s early years with a drunken abusive dad and a supportive religious mom and a military stint, Kienzle details how Jones pays his dues in small honky-tonk joints, side man gigs and local radio shows before hooking up with producer/label-man Pappy Daily to start recording in 1954 (the same year Elvis started).  Originally a Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell discipline, Jones soon developed his own full throated style, starting with  rambunctious hits like “The Race Is On” and “White Lightnin'” and soon moving to tear-in-your-beer ballads like “She Thinks I Still Care” and “Walk Through This World With Me.” Jones also evolved from being an impressive singer-songwriter to becoming an even more impressive interpreter, again like that Elvis character, with songs coming from some of Nashville’s finest songwriters (i.e. Dallas Frazier, Harlan Howard).  Because Daily saw Jones more as a manufacturing line than an artist, the producer had him crank out several albums a year (sometimes recorded within a single day) and led Jones through a series of novelties, ill-advised rock moves and syrupy ballads, which means that his catalog is kind of spotty and best heard through compilations – Fantastic Voyage’s 3-CD set Ragged But Right, Bear Family’s Heartbreak Hotel and Rhino Record’s The Best of George Jones are great places to start.

Though Kienzle’s narrative barely touches on the social and musical upheavals of the 50’s and 60’s (except for one funny run-in with the Rolling Stones), he does draw a good, detailed portrait of the sessions and label maneuvers that Daily did during that time, all the while as Jones’ self-destructive behavior would sometimes get the best of him, but not derail his career as it would later.  By the late 60’s, a new direction made itself felt as country itself was going through changes, with smoothed down ‘countrypolitan’ sound coming into its own.  Jones left Daily (and a few wives by then) to hook up with producer Billy Sherrill, who led him through a more managed and seemingly mannered background for his music. But one where he could let his voice sail too. Sherrill would help to guide him to new artistic highs, which unfortunately were accompanied by managers and ‘friends’ who got him to other kind of highs, with a coke habit.

On the plus side, the early 70’s also meant that Jones’ next marriage partner would throw him into high profile.  Tammy Wynette was already a country star by the time she hooked up with Jones in ’69 and their union did produce a string of impressive hits (especially 1973’s “We’re Gonna Hold On”) and tours together. But Possum’s old destructive habits plus Wynette’s own pill addiction meant that the long term prospects for the couple weren’t a given, leading to a D-I-V-O-R-C-E, as Tammy once sang about, in ’75.  This part of Jones’ life might be the only part of Kienzle’s book that leans a little too much towards tabloid sensationalism, though in fairness, the couple did give celeb watchers plenty of fodder back then.

For the rest of 70’s and through a good part of the ’80’s, Jones fell into a downward spiral of drink n’ drugs but to his credit, Kienzle doesn’t indulge as much in Jones’ indulgences here, maybe because by then, Possum’s seppuku-like behavior was more private.  Luckily, Sherrill hadn’t given up on him, assembling an all-star duets album in ’79 (My Very Special Guest) with Tammy, Willie, Waylon, plus Linda Ronstadt, Elvis Costello, James Taylor and the Staple Singers- but even then, Jones’ voice/body/spirit were barely there, requiring two years of work to finish the album.  Even his best-known song, 1980’s gorgeous, heart-breaking “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” took another two years to complete, not only because Jones thought it was too dreary but also because he was in no shape to sing it most of the time. After a disastrous Country Music Association Awards appearance in ’81 (detailed at the start of the book), Jones stumbled into his salvation with his fourth (!) wife Nancy Sepulvado, whose saint-like patience helped to get him finally on the wagon with his drinking.

(As a side note, I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville in ’95 and picked up a Jones-related curio from the gift shop- a cute little Jones teaspoon with his photo at the top, his name engraved on the inside bowl, a tiny guitar medallion in the middle, a Confederate Flag style background on the box and a “Made in Taiwan” sticker on the back.  Turns out it was a souvenir coke spoon)

Unfortunately, by the time Jones was straightening out his life, the country hit parade has passed him by as the dawn of the megastar crossovers happened in the early 90’s. Though he was seen a living legend and some of the New Traditionalist pack (Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Clint Black) helped to boost his rep (especially on 1992’s all-star collaboration “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair”), Jones’ recording career slowed down as his hits disappeared and labels dropped his contract, forcing him to go the indie DIY route of putting out his own albums. By the turn of the millennium, his album output had crawled to a stall, with years of hard living finally catching up to him.  By then at least, he was happy to play the role of respected elder statesman, not to mention actually showing up and finishing concerts, though that also became a chore as his health kept declining towards the end.  But even just before he died three years ago, he was still tentatively planning a series of farewell shows to cap his career and maybe make amends for his years of dodgy concerts.

In the end, Kienzle’s take on Jones’ life is such a page-turner that you’d wish he would provide more detail, which there was plenty of in Jones’ life. And again, an encyclopedia-sized book would do the job but until that time, this will more than suffice.  Country fans, Jones fans and just plain music fans would find this a good read and it provides a great excuse to dust off his old albums or to start stacking up on his catalog.  Just make sure it’s the ‘greatest hits’ collections though.

 

ACOLYTE, ARTIST, GUITARIST, VOYAGER: Steve Hackett

Todmobile concert for Orchestra and choir with special guest Steve Hackett at Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik, Iceland. January 16, 2015

Todmobile concert for Orchestra and choir with special guest Steve Hackett at Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik, Iceland. January 16, 2015

From his early days with Genesis through his latest solo explorations, the British axeman has fully earned an additional label: legend.

BY BILL KOPP

Steve Hackett is best known as the lead guitarist in Genesis from 1970 to 1977. He embarked on a solo career while still in that group, releasing his first album, Voyage of the Acolyte in 1975. since that time he has continued to work as a solo artist, in collaboration with others and (briefly in the 1980s) co-fronting GTR with Yes / Asia guitarist Steve Howe. I first interviewed Hackett around the time of the release of his 2010 album Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth. That album – featuring guest appearances by King Crimson’s John Wetton, among others – was informed by Hackett’s then-recent breakup of his marriage.

These days he’s on much happier footing, and married to Jo Lehmann. A 2015 biographical film, Steve Hackett: The Man, The Music brings his story up to date, and his current “Acolyte to Wolflight” tour with Genesis Revisited ties together the disparate strains of his fascinating musical career. I spoke to him as he readied himself for the tour.

BLURT: I think it’s interesting that so many of the most highly-regarded British musicians of your generation (and even those a bit older) grew up with music in their homes. Pete Townshend and Paul McCartney both had dads who were semi-professional or professional musicians, John Lennon was taught guitar by his mother, and your dad played harmonica. What qualities in your own music do you attribute to that background beyond an awareness of and appreciation for music?

HACKETT: You’re absolutely right. My dad was able to get a tune out of a number of things, really. He was good on harmonica, and he dabbled with clarinet and bugle. He could do one-finger piano. I was very impressed, as a kid. And I think like the people you mentioned, when your introduction to music is via your father, and it comes from within the family, it just seems to be as natural as breathing.

Also, many years later after harmonica, my dad brought me a guitar from Canada. By the time I was 12 I was able to get my arms around it.

 

In The Man, The Music DVD you discuss you early love of classical and opera, alongside blues and rock ‘n’ roll. That’s fairly unusual for a musician of your generation. Do you thin it was the sort of wide-screen appreciation for different musical genres that led to you getting involved in progressive music?

I think so, yeah. The best of progressive combines genres. It’s a collision of so many different styles. And it’s an attempt, I think, to bridge a generation gap or two. So I don’t have a problem with listening to pretty much any genre of music; it’s who’s doing it for me. If it was country, then I’d be thinking of Roy Orbison or k.d. lang, and loving that. And early records – things like Slim Whitman – that my dad had around.

 

The Genesis: Sum of the Parts documentary DVD that came out last year was remarkable in that it brought all of the Genesis guys back together, if only for the discussion parts of the film. I think that without explicitly stating it, those group conversations illustrated the tensions that led to the classic-era group splitting…

I think there always was an underlying tension within Genesis; it was always a very competitive band. I think that sometimes that competition produced very good work. Other times, I think that it managed to block very good ideas coming out not just from me, but from everybody.

 

You’ve had a long and very successful collaborative relationship with Roger King. The Man, The Music discusses that, but it doesn’t explain how you got together. Tell me a bit about that.

We met several years ago, and originally I was going to do some writing for a German artist. It didn’t come to pass. Roger happened to live round the corner, so that was the qualification. Of course I found out over time that he was brilliant at a number of things. He had been a classical organ scholar, playing cathedrals.  He was also an engineer; we shared a love of all sorts of things. He was particularly keen – at least when I first met him – on Stravinsky and the atonal stuff, the more experimental end of classical. And he professed not to enjoy the romantics at all. But in recent years he’s gone back to taking piano lessons; he’s trying to get a grip on Chopin, on playing very, very quietly. And he tells me how difficult it is to do that, to put the exact right amount of pressure on the piano keys. So I think he’s got a sneaking respect.

I found it interesting that in The Man, the Music, you characterized Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins as being a self-contained “power trio” within Genesis, and you seemed to characterize yourself and Peter Gabriel as being musical outsiders who had to struggle to find a way into the arrangements. Am I summarizing that accurately?

I think you are, yes. Often the three of them would come up with very dense arrangements: busy keyboard parts, busy drum parts, not to mention bass or 12-string. If you’re a singer, you’re going to end up – I’m trying to put this politely – it’s a bit like throwing up all over it in order to make your presence felt. For me as a guitarist, I realized that I was not going to be allowed to play heroically over everything. So I had to look for a way that the guitar could be used in a subtle kind of manner.

A few years before we got a synthesizer – it’s a very old word now, synthesizer; it was ’73 when we first got one – then it was my role to do what synths would do later. In other words, it was an attempt to be all sorts of things, to imitate all sorts of thing. Take a musical box, or the human voice or a violin from time to time. So that colored my approach, and I know that Peter Gabriel called me a “colorist.”

And I think that stood me in good stead, because I’m using that this very day. I’m recording at home with Roger, and sometimes it’s the more subtle things that work. I don’t always power in with everything; I’m not trying to be heavy metal.

 

Do you think that quality among the three of them – early on – was a key to them staying together long after you and Peter had left the group?

I think so, but it’s getting on 20 years now that that power trio did anything creatively in the studio. We are talking about history here, of course. I think it was easier. You’ve got clearly defined roles: one guy does the chording, one guy does rhythm, and the other guy writes. You haven’t got the competition. There’s not another great keyboard player waiting in the wings, or another guitarist who’s trying to be of relevance without just doubling the bass. Or doubling something that the keyboard’s doing. It does show you that bands don’t need to be any bigger than three.

Although The Beatles would have probably disagreed. But they had all that manpower, from any orchestra you’d care to name anywhere in the world; everyone wanted to work with The Beatles.

Genesis was rather different; it was another school, where it got smaller and smaller and smaller. And eventually, I guess, phase cancellation leads to nothing. So there you are. I think there’s a danger in trying to do it all in-house. Because obviously we know that from Tubular Bells onward, no keyboard player really needs anybody to work on their albums.

But collaborative work is nice; it’s great to work with someone who’s a great singer. Many of my great memories are of working with powerhouse singers. Such as – not just the Genesis guys – but Richie Havens, who was extraordinary. And Steve Walsh from Kansas, and Randy Crawford, who sang “Street Life” with The Crusaders … all on the same album. I like to work with other people, believe me. I don’t like to be doing all of it myself; not every album, anyway.

 

In The Man, The Music, you set up in the control room and play your “Firth of Fifth” solo along with a backing track. You say it’s your favorite, and it’s my favorite Genesis moment on my favorite song of the group’s. There’s something deeply emotionally resonant about the solo, but I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what it is. Do you have any thoughts on what makes it so special, so beloved by fans?

It might be contentious, but I would say the influences on that solo range form the simplicity of Erik Satie through to some of the kinds of shapes and patterns that Bach used. But there’s a kind of visualization that goes with it. Many years ago – a year before I joined Genesis – I worked with a band called Quiet World. Three brothers had lived in South Africa; they came to these shores – they were signed to Pye Records at the time –  and their father was a medium, a psychic. He used to receive spirits, and he’d send tapes over, instructing them on how to record, on what they should do. This was extremely exotic for me, this stuff. So we’d sit around this flat in Bayswater, and this guy would be describing the idea of “imagine a sea with a bird flying high above it.” And I had that in mind when the solo starts, with the F# sustained note. The idea that you’ve got that tranquility underneath, this thing that just sits there, riding on the top of it. There’s a high F# before the theme kicks in.

So that’s part of the history. Then of course you’ve got the Mellotron, you’ve got organ, you’ve got the band sounding quite symphonic. The band plays a supporting role as they let me have the longest guitar solo on any Genesis track before or since. It’s arguably the most famous Genesis guitar solo, but I think the reason why it works is because the melody was good in the first place. And that I can’t claim credit for, because it was Tony’s melody. And my interpretation of it, of course.

 

In their review of your 2011 album Beyond the Shrouded Horizon, Allmusic describes you as being at the peak of your powers. That goes against the conventional wisdom in rock, that it’s a young person’s game. Even though you often focus on playing music from your Genesis days, obviously you still have a lot new to express musically. From where do you draw your inspiration?

I do travel a lot. It’s a byproduct of being in the music industry. And in the past year I’ve traveled to places as far flung as Peru, for instance. Listening to the marvelous music there, I had a charango (a little stringed instrument) and a kind of flute that you play with that very shrill, fast vibrato. And all of that is marvelously evocative.

And in recent times I’ve worked with a guy called Malic Mansurov from Azerbaijan. He’s someone who’s like a cross between Ravi Shankar and John McLaughlin. He’s got this mystical element and this bulletproof technique, lightning fast. It’s very magical.

I get inspired by other people on other instruments. Just today we’ve been working on a rock song. But it’s got a lot of flamenco elements. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Spanish guitarist – the flamenco guitarists, the Gypsies – are the  best rhythm guitarists in the world. Perhaps that’s not a revelation to many people, but there, I’ve said it.

And I’ve been trying to work in that genre, taking in what I saw when I was in Seville. I was very, very taken with all of that: watching the Gypsies dance and play. I was talking to one of the guitarists; he was showing me one particular technique that had baffled me for a long, long time. And because I’m not an expert in that area, it fascinates me. If I’m not good at something, I need to learn how to do that. How do these guys do that? How do they make as much noise as they do with one guitar? How do they play as if it’s the last, desperate gasp of any human being? It’s an extraordinary level of energy, and I think that rock can afford to take some of that on board.

I heard some of this when I was in Spain, as a matter of fact. I heard things on the radio, things that might sound straight, but then you hear this flamenco salvo going across. And you think, “Wow. That actually works really well.” So I’m trying to get some of that into my playing.

With Genesis Revisited, you’re bringing classic-era Genesis music to fans around the world. I’ve seen a French Canadian band called The Musical Box; they work with the same material. Are you familiar with them?

Yes, I am. I jammed with them when they played in London, and once in Switzerland. I try and encourage as many tribute bands as possible. Because I think keeping that music alive is important. There are a lot of Genesis tribute bands around.

When I do it with my band, we try to not slavishly repeat everything. We try to be authentic; it’s not a “Jazz Odyssey” version. And it’s not a classical collection of suites loosely based on the works of Genesis. It is the real thing. But I might play a different guitar solo on the end of “Supper’s Ready” if I feel the need to do that, to take it to the next level, to the mountains. We do what the band might have done if they had a virtuoso soprano sax player, Rob Townsend. So some of the flute or keyboard lines are given over to that. Or twinned, so that we have lightning fast keyboard with lightning fast sax doubling it.

We divide it up in different ways; it’s hard to get three 12-string players in a band, but Genesis had that at the time. So sometimes we subdivide that: we might have one person on the 12-string – probably me – and the keyboard player might be doubling that with a 12-string sample. But he’s adding something to it. And a Variax [MIDI guitar], doing a sort of modeled version of that. When everyone’s chiming away together, it’s a magnificent noise.

You’ve acknowledged that the early 1970s Genesis catalog was not very commercially successful in its day. But it’s so highly regarded now. Why do you think that is the case? What do you think is the source of the enduring appeal of that Genesis music?

The albums that didn’t necessarily sell that well in their day subsequently sold huge amounts; Genesis was a very slow burn. By the time we were doing a guest spot on the Mike Douglas Show, the band had been playing together for a long time. And I’d been with them about six years. Suddenly, when you get that level of national exposure – for any act who’d got to play on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, or David Letterman, or whomever – you’ve got that coast-to-coast coverage. And that makes a huge difference. You’re not playing to clubs and colleges; you’re playing to stadiums and arenas. So that’s hugely beneficial. And it helps if a band’s got a decent catalog for people to discover.

The band had a long time to form its ideas. And luckily in 1973, John Lennon said that we were one of the bands he was listening to. Now these days, of course, if he had given that in an interview to WNEW in New York, that would have been instantly tweeted and the social networks would have had it. And maybe the rise to fame of Genesis would have been years quicker. But in the day, it hardly got a mention. We couldn’t get a gig in the States at the time! You couldn’t validate that back in the day. Now, of course, I take that as a huge compliment. I know that I’m profoundly affected by that. It’s something that was huge encouragement for us guys who were sitting round listening to Lennon, who was ten years older than us. Praise doesn’t come higher, really.

This weekend [interview was conducted in March 2016] you have an appearance that’s billed as “In Conversation.” Tell me about that.

That’s in Leicester. Paul Gosling, a friend of mine who happens to be a professor and filmmaker, and who’s been working on some videos with me in recent times is an extremely accomplished, gregarious and intelligent guy. Through him, some dances worked up some stuff that was based on one of the tracks on Wolflight, the latest album. The tracks is “Corycian  Fire,” based on the idea of Greek history before Delphi was up and running, and before it was sacked by the early Christians. There was a place called the Corycian Cave. It’s hidden away beneath Mount Parnassus. My wife and I did this trek, uphill, for an hour and a half to find this place. And we were completely exhausted by the time we got to the top. It’s a hugely impressive, spooky, magical place. It’s where divination first took place. We shot a video there with Paul, and it’s one of the things that’s upcoming.

So one of the things we’ll be talking about is that. It’s basically a Q&A. He’ll ask me questions, and then he’ll throw it open to the audience. So it’s for anyone who wants to know anything about anything from Genesis to fuzz boxes to Yehudi Menuhin. I guess I’ll talk about everything openly.

The website teases that the tour will include material from your solo work and Genesis, plus a few surprises. Can you give any hints as to the nature of those surprises?

In recent times, I have a band that includes Roine Stolt [Flower Kings, Transatlantic], someone who’s a brilliant guitarist in his own right. He plays bass with us, and a bit of guitar; we swap some lead things. We do two sets; we’re like two bands in one. First it’s the solo stuff, then we have an intermission. Then we come back with the Genesis stuff; we become the Genesis of a certain era: before the video era, and when the music was more experimental. It’s the period 1971-77, and most of the time we’re highlighting the Peter Gabriel years.

And last year was the 40th anniversary of my first solo outing, Voyage of the Acolyte, so we’re doing quite a few things from that album. We do a bunch of things from Spectral Mornings, a bunch of things from Wolflight. It’s an attempt to throw light – if I can use that word – on the total experience: those who’ve got on board with my solo stuff, and those who’ve got on board with Genesis. Rather than exclusively doing Genesis all night, I’m stressing both ends of the spectrum of my career.

By the time you’re finished, you don’t get a lot of short change out of about three hours.

 

Might we hear anything from Defector?

Hmm…I’ll have to check in with the band, and see if they’re able to do it from the drop of a hat.

 

Near the end of The Man, The Music, you talk about you and your wife Jo moving into a new house last year, and your hope to build a studio in the garden. Have you started that project yet?

I haven’t waited until we got the OK from the local council; what I’ve done is, I’m recording in the living room at the moment. It’s not the first or last time that I’ve done that. I’ve had studios in the past; the last one I sold in order to move into the new house. So meanwhile, half the living room is turned into a studio. It’s annoying in one way but wonderful in another; I can fall out of bed straight into the studio.

Steve Hackett photo credit Tina Korhonen-57 couch F

***

Photos by Armando Gallo (top) and Tina Korhonen (bottom). Steve Hackett’s North American tour continues through April 19 when it wraps in Durham, NC (right in BLURT’s back yard, no less). From there it’s on to Japan, the UK, and Italy. Don’t miss it, fans.

 

STILL STORMING THE GATES: Willie Nile

Nile-11-15-Point1

His latest album, the appropriately titled World War Willie, finds this tireless troubadour venting passion through perseverance.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Willie Nile possesses two of the key ingredients necessary for not only making a career in music, but sustaining it as well — passion and purpose. Add a third quality as well, namely perseverance. Born Robert Anthony Noonan, he remains a rabid rocker some 35 years into what’s best described as a roller coaster of a career.

It began innocently enough. After attaining a degree in Philosophy from the University of Buffalo, he relocated to Greenwich Village in the early ‘70s. Stricken with pneumonia during his first winter in the city, he spent his convalescence writing music. Once he recovered, he became a fixture at CBGBs and Kenny’s Castaways, the Manhattan haunts that helped spawn the city’s seminal punk scene. The buzz quickly spread, and in short order, he was lauded as Rock’s heir apparent, winning heady comparisons to Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

Signed by the fledgling Arista Records, he released his eponymous debut for the label in 1980. However, soon after the release of his sophomore set, Golden Down in 1981, Nile became entangled in protracted legal hassles which forced him off the road and kept him out of the studio for most of the decade. In 1988 he was inked to Columbia Records and after luring stellar assistance from the likes of Richard Thompson, Roger McGuinn, Louden Wainwright III, the Hooters and the Roches, he recorded another milestone, Places I Have Never Been. The title was sadly prophetic. The album was delayed two years due to a company shakeup and by the time it was released in 1991, his career had come to a standstill.

Happily though, in the past 20 years, Nile’s done anything but sit still. He’s a had a streak of superlative albums in recent years, beginning with 2011‘s double header, The Innocent Ones and Streets of New York, and continuing through 2013’s American Ride and culminating now in his latest opus, World War Willie. A master at creating anthemic rockers that surge with feeling and sway the emotions, at age 67, Nile’s now at the top of his game. [He’s also touring regularly: go HERE to read a review and see a photo gallery from a show last November in Toronto.]

Nile knows it too. His energy and enthusiasm are palpable, not only in the music he makes, but in the way he talks about his still-budding career. That was evident when Blurt was given the opportunity to speak with him just prior to the release of the new album.

BLURT: Where did you come up with the title to this latest opus?

NILE: In traveling with the band on tour, just seeing all these places, I was joking about the fact that all these stadiums were named after these corporate entities. So I was joking that maybe I should brand myself the same way and call myself Citibank Nile. We should all change our names to establish a corporate connection. One day I woke up with this idea that maybe I could establish a brand like the Delta Blues of Wall Street. That’s how the song “Citibank Nile” on the new album came to be. The alliteration of the title really struck me and I had a good time with it. And then I figured I’d call the album World War Willie. I just liked the sound of it and it sounded borderline ridiculous enough to appeal to me. And it came out on April Fool’s Day which fits the purpose. Any album with a title like that is perfect for April Fool’s Day. It’s about relationship wars, and I’m mindful of these kind of connections. I was on tour in Italy and we were outside Bologna and we walking to the venue. We came upon this huge mural where they had this picture of Dresden after it was bombed during World War II. As soon as I saw it, I knew that would be a perfect album cover.

So what was the inspiration?

I’m always in motion. I’m so passionate about so many things, just about life and just about being alive. I could have made the whole album full of songs about angst and strife, but it’s more playful than that. I had fun with it. I’m still hoping the world can come together, and this is my comment on that, so to speak. Let’s make the world better. To me, music is always about redemption and salvation and trying to make sense of the world. So the picture of me in front of this backdrop is about me trying to make sense of this world. I believe in music. I believe in people. I believe in the human race. But at the same time, I was having fun with the songs and making light of myself in a way. I don’t take things too seriously. I mean I do, but I can also make light of it too.

This album is timely — there’s a lot of discord and division these days.

There does seem to be a fair amount of chaos out there. You’d think every generation would learn from the mistakes of the past, but they don’t. It’s a tough old world out there.

It’s wonderful how, after all these years of making music you’re still able to create these anthems that sound so fresh and dynamic. You still have the spark. How do you keep coming up with these songs without retracing what you’ve done before?

I guess it’s because I’m still alive and still feeling that passion and that drive. It hasn’t deserted me. Life still matters. Where they come from and why they keep coming… that’s a mystery to me. I’m working on a new tune. I love writing. That’s what I do. If something strikes me, I pick up my guitar or sit down at the piano and write about it. It’s a great outlet for me. I’ve never had more fun…that’s what’s so interesting to me.

You’ve been lauded by some very distinguished individuals… Pete Townshend and Bruce Springsteen, among them. You even toured with the Who, did you not?

I did a three week tour in the early ‘80s, and ended up in L.A. where the Who’s management came to see me. I ended up touring with the Who across the U.S. I had heard Pete was a fan of the first album, but I thought it was just some kind of hype.

Nevertheless, you scaled back after that, did you not?

I didn’t tour a lot in the ‘80s, and eventually I just walked away. It became more about the business than the music. That’s not why I came into it. It was the music that inspired me, and it still does. So I didn’t play throughout much of the ‘80s. I moved to Buffalo, raised my kids, my four children. Those were hard times, because there was no money coming in. But I was still writing, and eventually Sony called me up.  And then in the ‘90s, I started going to Europe and at this point, I’ve been going there for years. In the last five or six years, I’m doing more touring than ever. I’m working very hard, but fortunately I never got burned out. My health is good. There is a certain amount of bitterness that’s felt by some musicians. After all, life is hard. Everyone has their burdens. But that monkey that’s on a lot of people’s backs never came to me. Music is why I do it. It’s the songs that do it for me, whether it’s about having a good time or about love and loss or something that’s political.

So are you the rocking grandpa in “Grandpa Rocks?”

“Grandpa Rocks” is kind of about me. I have four grandchildren. It’s amazing. It’s a Clash-like tune with a lyric that’s kind of tongue-in-cheek. I’m enjoying the music and the performing more than ever now. It’s a blast. The songs come from everyday life. They keep coming. It’s a blast to go out now and play with my band. We’ve gotten really tight. It comes through on this record I think.

You were with some major labels for awhile — Sony, Arista etc. Many artists speak with disappointment or disgust about their major label experience. What was the experience like for you?

I see a lot of that disappointment, but I don’t feel that bitterness. A lot of people really tried hard for me. We can talk about the word “success.” For me, if I write a song that pleases me, then that to me is success. It’s about the craft. It’s never been about fame for me. It’s the music that resonates, something that makes something clearer. You can talk about the great songs, whether it’s “Satisfaction” or “Blowing in the Wind.” Those are songs with meaning.  It penetrates my soul. For me, it began with “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly, the first record I ever bought. I listened to it a thousand times. It changed my life. So I’m still dancing down the street with the music in my head. The fact that at age 67, I’m having more fun than ever is amazing to me. People don’t believe that this 67 year old geezer and his band can rock like this. If the song inspires me and inspires other people, all the better.

There’s a very inspirational song on the album called “Runaway Girl.” What’s the story behind that?

“Runaway Girl” is about empowering women. They asked to use a song of mine for an appearance by Malala Yousafzai, that young Pakistani girl who crusades for human rights, and that was what they used. I walked into her event in Washington D.C. and there were all these signs, “Our time, our place, our moment in the human race,” and that’s the chorus of the song. It was very meaningful to me.

It’s very unusual to find someone with your kind of idealism these days.

Maybe I don’t know any better (chuckles).

You seem so joyful, almost like you’re in a bubble. It’s remarkable to find someone so driven and inspired.

I feel like I’m just getting going in a way. I will not go into a recording studio unless I feel like I can come out with something special. I’ve walked onstage with a fever, but if I don’t think it will be special, then I’ll stop. I love recording. Eight out of twelve vocals on the new album are scratch vocals. I didn’t change one word. I think I’m singing better than ever. I think it comes from all the stage work I’m doing.

You mention that fame isn’t the goal, and yet you’ve had this 35 year career…

I’d love to be stinking rich. There’s no doubt about it. Just because I could do more. I could help people and I wouldn’t have to worry about surviving. But that was never my thing. It was all about the music and that’s served me well.

But is it ever frustrating that more people aren’t aware of what you do? Do you think it’s strange that you’re not filling arenas at this point?

The audience is still growing at this point. I’m making a living and I’m doing well. But it is what it is. It has nothing to do with society’s perception of it. My sense of importance isn’t dependent on people patting me on the back and telling me how great I am. It would have been easier to have the big money, especially in the ‘80s when I was raising my kids. I didn’t have the hits in the early days. But I’ve been able to learn and grow and I’m letting it evolve. Yeah, it’s frustrating when you want to go to Europe and you can’t bring everybody because the costs are prohibitive. But I’ve been working through it. I have a good agent who’s able to book me in a lot of arenas overseas. I’m not done yet. I’m able to do what I love to do and I’m lucky in that regard. How many people get to do something they love? I’m grateful for that. Do I need to be the biggest guy on the block? No. I never had that.  I’m not concerned with what other people are doing. I just have to make my music. That’s my job. And it’s working. I’m having a great time. I’m making records I’m really proud of.

It’s interesting that you finished off the record with “Sweet Jane.” Was that your tribute to Lou Reed?

He was a friend of mine and he was so nice to me. He’d always greet me with a big smile and he was so kind. I saw him ten days before he died. A friend of mine invited me to a book signing that he was going to do for this big coffee table book of photographs that he and Mick Rock collaborated on. The place was packed to the rafters. Then my friend told me, “Lou’s not coming. He’s not feeling well.” So I knew things weren’t great. And then ten minutes later he walked in. Lou went out of his way — and by out of his way, I mean he was dying — but he came out to support his friend Mick Rock.

That must have been a very special event.

It was the two of them at the table. Lou’s color was very gray and his hands were shaking. He didn’t look great, but he still came out and he was still interesting and funny, and it was great to hear the two of them reminisce about the ‘70s. When it was over, I went behind the stage to talk to somebody, and when I turned around, Lou was walking right by me. People were helping him walk because he was very fragile. So I went over and put my arm around his shoulder and said, “Lou, it’s Willie,” and he looked up and gave me a big smile and said my name and then gave me a big hug. And I gave him a big hug back. He said, “It’s great to see you. I love you man,” and I knew it was goodbye. Then ten days later he died. We worked up a little arrangement of the song and we’ve been playing it ever since. So we decided to record it for the album. God bless Lou Reed.

Your last album, If I Was A River, took some people by surprise. It was a set of piano instrumentals and very different from anything you had done before. What was the inspiration for that?

As a kid, I took piano lessons. I absorbed the influence from my grandfather. He worked in Vaudeville and he was a great piano player.  So I took classical lessons and then gradually got interested in rock ‘n‘ roll after hearing it on the radio. Chuck Berry and Little Richard and Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis, all that great stuff. I’d always have the radio blasting. But piano was my first instrument. I picked up guitar later. I’d just sit at the piano and play. I’m known as a rocker, but I also do a lot of ballads and I always wanted to do an album like that, with just piano based songs.

Willie 2

It certainly was a change from the album that preceded it, American Ride.

American Ride was a great album as far as I was concerned. I was very pleased with that. For me, it was a mountaintop. It was really well received. But I always wanted to do a piano album. I have so many more songs in that vein too. I could make five albums like that and I want to make more. But most of these songs were written relatively recently. I wanted to make a minimal album compared to the work I had done, because the seeds for World War Willie were already planted. I knew I was going to come back with a real rocker of an album. So it was the perfect time to release it, especially around the holidays. And it did very, very well. As it turned out, the piano that was in the studio was the same piano I played 35 years before, the night John Lennon was killed. I was in the Record Plant recording my second album for Arista at the same time he was recording “Walking on Thin Ice,” Yoko’s song. I was in studio A and John and Yoko were in the next room. He started on a Monday. We started on that Friday. And in the studio there were two pianos, one which John had done a lot of stuff on for his sessions. For me, it was so special because John had played on it. We were so excited. My producer knew him and we had plans to meet him a couple of days later, but of course, fate intervened. I was literally playing that piano when the call came in that somebody had shot John.

What a tragic story.

Life is very temporary and transient. Things keep changing, especially the order of the day on this planet. Life is tough, but if you can make music and get people out of their blues, it’s a great thing to be doing. For those of us who make it or write about it or go to see it, it become transformative. It’s a form of redemption and something to be celebrated. How many people get to share that?

Live photos of Nile by Eric Thom for BLURT.

 

 

 

Pace Yourself: A First Timer’s View at SXSW

SXSW logo

We’ll take “tacos” for ten bucks: Blurt’s resident “ginger man” bum-rushes the Lone Star State, gets his SXSW cherry busted, and lives to tell us about it….

BY DANIEL MATTI

Before I took the flight to Austin, many people who had been to SXSW before told me these simple words “pace yourself”. For me, being a 27 year old male with a love of live music and indulging in alcohol, these words were thrown to the wind.

With brochure in hand and ambitions to see every band the festival had to offer I ended up at Cheer Up Charlies to see ANAMANAGUCCI play a DJ set to get the crowd amped for the night. Joining them on stage for a brief moment to get the crowd hyped was Peelander Z‘s front-man Peelander Yellow. After the set I decided to set up camp at the bar next door Valhalla. Hosted by Chicken Ranch Records the lineup was stocked with great punk bands. From the local bands Yuppie Pricks and Midnight Towers to Atlanta’s own The Woggles and New York’s Japanese action comedy punk band Peelander Z. Yuppie Pricks left the lasting impression of the night, hiding behind a Styrofoam wall as if Donald Trump built it himself. “Send Tacos Not Rapist” and “This Side Poor” was written in spray paint across the wall immediately grabbing your attention towards the stage and left you wanting to catch a glimpse of the mysterious band behind.

The following day after trying to catch my breath from the night before I started off at The Ginger Man where we host the annual Blurt Magazine day parties. This year was sponsored by the great Texas brewery Karbach Brewing Company. Kicking it off was the Philly-based band The Kickback. The day proceeded to get more interesting as Freedy “Bad Reputation” Johnston took over, leading into Brett Harris and many others. I left as Harris was playing to go catch Guerilla Toss at Cheer Up Charlies, a venue I would come to love during the next couple of days.

Upon arriving there I got to catch the last three songs of Toronto’s Dilly Dally. The three songs I was able to catch had guilted me into wishing I had gotten there at the beginning of their set. After getting sardined into the inside I was able to catch Guerilla Toss from the very back for the small but enjoyable 15 minute set from them. From there, I hustled back to The Ginger Man to catch Supersuckers rip up the stage. The real delight was hearing that it was frontman Eddie Spaghetti‘s birthday. After the set he was delivered a cupcake and the packed crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to him. When the set ended I began to make my way to Austin City Limits for my main “headlining” act of the night, Iggy Pop. I made sure to get there as early as possible, for I did not want to miss gaining entrance to what I presumed one of the hardest acts to get into of the festival. I was mistaken and got in with ease and was able to make my way up the rail front and center and I patiently waited for man himself to grace the stage.

The Moonlandingz opened the showcase, which ended up being by far the weirdest band I saw at SXSW. Frontman Lias Saoudi came out with his face covered in what appeared to be Nutella and chunky peanut butter. From then I couldn’t stop thinking if this was homage to Iggy when he supposedly used to cover himself in chocolate pretending to be feces. The Spinal Tap-esqe band absolutely blew the venue away. After the crowd-stunning set ended, the solo artist Noveller came to grace the stage using a series of guitar loops that were soothing but yet complicated. 15 minutes went by and then Iggy Pop with members of Queens of the Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys hit the stage opening with “Lust for Life”. For the next 2 hours Iggy and his band played the whole new album Post Pop Depression, with old classics mixed in.

Blurt SXSW 2016

Blurt’s Industry Of Music shows at Ginger Man were where I would find my “oasis” during the festival. [Pictured above are the Jon Langford-designed posters for the day parties.] Where I could go and feel welcome from the insanity that ensued outside of the pub. Every band that graced the stage had something that was inspiring, be it Mercury Rev who brought out Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins so that they could share old stories of the good ol’ days, or Eli “Paperboy” Reed who when on stage felt like he was taking you to church with his soulful style of singing.

As the next few days unfolded I would see bands from noon until 2am. A fresh live act about every hour. From hanging out at The Ginger Man and seeing the great Dave Pirner play a Soul Asylum acoustic set, to venturing over 12 blocks to see Car Seat Headrest play a corporate stage.

SXSW is truly an endurance run of how much you can fit in a day. Do you want to see an up and coming hip-hop artist play a huge stage? Do you want to see a punk band destroy a dive bar? Do you want to see a local act that you’ve never heard of? Or do you just want to go get tacos?

Below: the author.

Matti

 

 

Jazz Nazis, Fuck Off: Herbie Mann, Reevaluated

Herbie Mann (w/ Will Lee)

Previously-unheard 1969 live tapes from jazz flautist and his band make it clear that Mann was nothing if not underrated. “Herbie was pushing the envelope,” says album producer Pat Thomas. “He always had his ear to the ground,” agrees Mann biographer Cary Ginell.

BY BILL KOPP, BLURT JAZZ DESK EDITOR

Nominally a jazz musician, flautist Herbie Mann (1930-2003) enjoyed crossover appeal and success that brought his music to a much wider population than simply jazz aficionados. Mann released dozens of albums, and restlessly explored different styles of music. He sold a lot of records, won numerous DownBeat polls, and was a reliable concert draw for decades. But along the way, his interest in different musical forms sometimes worked against him: today, many regard him as little more than a dilettante at best, and at worst a shameless, commercially-driven hack.

That’s largely unfair. He did churn out some rather disposable pop, especially in the 1970s, with hit singles like “Hijack” (#14 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, and #1 on their Disco Action chart) from 1975’s Discothèque LP), but he was a true innovator, an artist who was always looking for the cross-fertilization of genres that is vital to music’s ongoing development.

herbie_mann_whisky_rgm

A new 2CD set from Real Gone Music should help rehabilitate Mann’s undeservedly tarnished reputation among jazz lovers, and among musically adventurous listeners in general. Live at the Whisky 1969: The Unreleased Masters compiles previously unreleased tapes from Mann’s week-long engagement at Hollywood’s famed Whisky a Go Go. The set features performances of Mann with his stellar band – bassist Miroslav Vitouš, who would later go on to found Weather Report; vibraphonist Roy Ayers; saxophonist Steve Marcus; drummer Bruno Carr; and avant-jazz electric guitarist Sonny Sharrock. And the set’s second disc includes a rare gem: Sharrock’s wife Linda Sharrock joins the band onstage for some free-form avant-garde vocals that some have likened to the early work of Yoko Ono. By design, this new 2CD set has no overlap with the music released in 1969 as Live at the Whisky A Go Go.

The archival project of rescuing these performances from obscurity came to light thanks to the efforts of Pat Thomas, producer of many reissues and author of Listen, Whitey: The Sights and Sounds of Black Power and (with soul jazz legend Les McCann), Invitation to Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography of Les McCann.

Thomas explains how the project came about. “I had been a big Herbie Mann fan. And his live albums, of course, are only 30-40 minutes. So it was obvious to me that they didn’t go in and record four songs and leave. I thought that since this was a small club gig, it would be more interesting than, say, a show at Madison Square Garden.”

Thomas “bugged the powers-that-be at Atlantic Records,” but says their response was along the lines of, “’Oh, we can’t find the tapes,’ blah blah blah. So when I moved to L.A. and started doing more reissues and more research, I hooked up with Bill Inglot; he’s done a million research projects for Rhino and other labels. He told me, ‘I found the tapes you’ve been looking for.’”

That entire week of shows at the Whisky had been taped by famed engineer Bill Halverson, who recorded Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young‘s 4 Way Street. “The tapes sounded great, and were really easy to mix,” says Thomas. “We pulled the tapes out of the vault. Brian Kehew – who does a lot of mixing; he mixed that big Yes box set [Progeny: Seven Shows from Seventy-two] – and I mixed the tapes.”

What they found was that the tapes from the first night didn’t even feature the band’s leader. “That first night, Herbie was sick, so the band played without him,” Thomas says. “I was really hoping that there could be some wild jams, just based on the fact that they didn’t play a real set. But unfortunately, they noodled! They got levels on their instruments and didn’t really play.”

But as Thomas and Kehew dug deeper, their efforts paid off in a big way. They discovered “two versions of “If I Were a Carpenter” that are really just extended jams. I could hear that Herbie was really stretching out. And the most surprising thing was that Linda Sharrock was in the audience, and Herbie brought her up onstage. They did these Sonny and Linda Sharrock songs from the album Black Woman, songs that they had only recorded in the studio three weeks earlier.”

The audience at the Whisky would likely have been mystified by Sharrock’s unexpected and very out-there performance. “Herbie was pushing the envelope,” Thomas chuckles. “The Whisky A Go Go is known for great music, but it’s not exactly an avant-garde jazz haven. So I’m sure there were people in the audience scratching their heads, thinking, ‘What is this Linda Sharrock shit?’”

There was some precedent for the unusual musical direction Mann took his band with Linda Sharrock. “Herbie was very kind to his sidemen,” Thomas points out. “He made sure that all of them wound up putting out a solo album.” That generosity extended to the wife of his guitarist, an avant-garde singer who would release the highly-regarded Black Woman, her first album with husband Sonny, for Mann’s Vortex label, not long after the Whisky dates.

sonny_sharrock

And Sonny himself was considered by some an unusual choice for Mann’s group. His style is closer in spirit and texture to Jimi Hendrix than, say, Joe Pass. But it’s a major highlight of Herbie Mann’s acclaimed 1969 LP, Memphis Underground.

“In the ‘60s, Herbie wanted to appeal to younger audiences,” observes Cary Ginell, author of several books including The Evolution of Mann: Herbie Mann and the Flute in Jazz. “And the way to do that was through rock ’n’ roll. He always enjoyed challenging his audiences and thumbing his nose at his critics, and when he got a hold of Sonny Sharrock, he did that and more. He was really deliberately antagonizing people by getting the most ‘out’ Hendrix-styled guitarist he could find, and letting him have at it.”

Ginell notes that “Herbie never told his musicians what to play; he figured they knew what they were all about. Sharrock was the first of a run of musicians Herbie hired who stepped out of the jazz mainstream and played from another perspective.”

Real Gone’s Live at the Whisky 1969: The Unreleased Masters puts the exciting, adventurous side of Herbie Mann’s music on full display. “I think this album – for those who are paying attention – is going to establish Herbie more in that Miles Davis camp of groundbreaking progressive jazz,” says Thomas. “That’s a part of his legacy that doesn’t get into the history books, because most people think of him as a sort of pop-jazz hack.”

“Obviously there were points in his career when they did take him seriously,” says Thomas. “But I think that the more casual jazz fans certainly didn’t like the more pop aspects of his work; by the mid-1970s, he went very pop. And then there are these people – I call ’em jazz Nazis – who always tell me that soul-jazz and funk-jazz are not jazz. ‘Oh, Les McCann? That’s not jazz!’ And Herbie Mann gets tossed in that pool.”

herbie_mann_bw

Ginell agrees, noting that “critics never liked Herbie, possibly because he got tired of playing the pigeonhole game. They liked him when he played straight-ahead jazz, and then when he ventured into Afro Cuban jazz. But as soon as he started having crossover success, they started accusing him of selling out.”

Ginell points out that in the 1960s, Mann “started recording covers of songs on the pop charts — things by the Beatles, Donovan, etc. — and that alienated him further from the intelligentsia. Crossover success has never been popular among jazz critics,” he says. “They’ve always wanted jazz to themselves; anyone who is successful is accused of selling out.”

Mann’s abilities as a musician are underrated, too, according to Ginell. His research turned up what he calls “mixed messages on how Herbie was viewed as a musician. Some, like vibraphonist Dave Pike, thought Herbie was a phony with limited talent. [Vibraphonist] Terry Gibbs told me he thought Herbie was a terrible musician. Personally, I don’t see it,” Ginell says. “He had great chops, an excellent rhythmic and melodic sensibility, but could get bogged down in simplistic patterns. Herbie was all about excitement, though, and knew how to be a showman. That was his strength.”

That, and putting together excellent bands, and reaching beyond the confines of his genre. “I think he has been vastly underrated as a musician who expanded jazz’s horizons, most notably in mixing jazz with world music,” says Ginell. “Herbie’s efforts helped call attention to jazz among young listeners. He always had his ear to the ground to see about the new styles of music that were coming into vogue and what young people were listening to.”

Ginell observes that “styles always change, and Herbie never wanted to be pigeonholed or forced to play just one kind of music. For that, purists called him a commercial sellout. He refused to play their game. They wanted him to play straight ahead bebop forever, but he abandoned that in the late ‘50s.”

herbie_mann_color

Herbie Mann was “the first American to record with Brazilian musicians,” says Ginell. “He used integrated bands with musicians from other countries, he experimented with Japanese, Eastern European, and other musical areas that other jazz musicians wouldn’t touch. He was curious and was a musical explorer.

“But,” Ginell concludes, “he never gets credit for these things, because he was always looking at music with a commercial eye.”

For those who appreciate Herbie Mann’s music, there’s even more on the way. “I just put together a collection of Herbie Mann seven-inch singles for Varese,” says Thomas. “There are some incredible non-LP funk singles in that collection. There’s no release date for that yet; probably late this year or 2017. It’ll be all over the map, because it’s going to have ‘Hijack’ on it along with some pop stuff, but it’s also going to have a funk single circa 1970 that had a rapper over the top of it! That’s something that the fan will want to chew on.”

Pat Thomas says, “I think Live at the Whisky 1969: The Unreleased Masters will help set the record straight. I think people will be pleasantly surprised, for sure.” He smiles and adds, “Projects like this are what get me out of bed in the morning; this is what it’s all about.”

Main photo credit by Tom Marcello, via Wikipedia Creative Commons

***

Bill Kopp is a music journalist, editor of Musoscribe.com, and editor of BLURT‘s newly-launched jazz desk. He has written liner notes for several jazz reissues, including Cannonball Adderley‘s The Price You Got to Pay to Be Free and Music, You All, both due out in May.

 

 

AN ORCHESTRATOR & ORIGINATOR BY ANY OTHER NAME: P. Hux

Hux on mic Disney 14 sun and spotlight

From early days as a force among the North Carolina indie scene to a productive major label stint to current work with ELO offshoot The Orchestra and a respected solo career, Parthenon Huxley has spent his entire adult life in motion.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Call him Parthenon Huxley, or simply P. Hux for short. The former Richard Willett Miller formally changed his name in honor of two lifelong influences — his love of Greece, where he grew up, and writer Aldous Huxley, who he read frequently. Now the latter is the banner for a musical career that began nearly 30 years ago and has continued to flourish ever since.

Upon landing in the college town of Chapel Hill, NC, in the late ‘70s, Hux soon found himself a part of much-loved bar band The Blazers (at the time he was known as Rick Miller, although soon enough another Rick Miller began making waves with a local group called Southern Culture On the Skids). He went on to form The Dads and also cut a solo record as Rick Rock. [Fun Fact: He was also a rock critic of some regional reknown, subsequently advising a certain future BLURT editor to marshal his own writing talents and pursue a life in music journalism. Thanks, Rick. – Ed.]

Hux’s career kicked into next gear as touring guitarist with singer, songwriter and producer Don Dixon, and subsequently blossomed when he was signed to Columbia Records in the late ‘80s. A subsequent album, Sunny Nights, overseen by veteran producer David Kahne, received rave reviews but failed to sell, ending his tenure at the label prematurely. He then went on to produce albums for Eels frontman E and work with fellow power pop practitioner Kyle Vincent before forming his namesake band P. Hux and again reaping acclaim from the critics. [Below: P. Hux band promo photo]

P Hux Promo Shot 1PS

Hux continued to record under his own aegis, as well as with a side project known simply as Veg, but he notched up more mainstream attention when he joined Electric Light Orchestra Part II in 1998. Then in 2000, co-founding member (and original ELO drummer) Bev Bevan retired and sold rights to the ELO name back to co-founder Jeff Lynne. The remaining members of ELO Part II subsequently formed The Orchestra (Starring Former ELO Members), resulting in an album of original material entitled No Rewind in 2001. Hux left the band briefly in 2007, allowing him to resurrect his solo career, moved to Maryland, and started a family. He currently splits his time between his individual efforts, which have yielded a dozen albums to date (including his latest, Live Deluxe, a 1996 recording of the original P. Hux lineup captured live in Durham), and touring with The Orchestra, which currently includes original ELO members Mik Kaminski on violin and Louis Clark on keyboards, along with vocalist/keyboardist Eric Troyer, drummer Gordon Townsend and vocalist/bassist Glen Burtnik, all seasoned musical veterans in their own rights.

Hux plus Orchestra sign

Hux himself remains a dedicated musical devotee, and when we recently caught up with him on the third Moody Blues Cruise, featuring the Orchestra as one of the special guests, we found him quite enamoured with the other acts onboard. “I’m part of a second generation, so I get to see some of my heroes here,” he exclaimed. “Seeing Mark Farner is a really cool experience. And he’s a terrific guy. I’ve brought my copy of Grand Funk’s first album from him to sign. Chuck Negron is here and we played together a year or so ago and had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. So I get to connect with him again. John Waite is a really good friend of Glenn. They’ve written songs together. Carmen Appice has been around for 50 years and I’ve never gotten to see him play and he’s incredible. I’m also seeing Rod Argent for the second time. He’s someone you’d never get to meet, and now he’s almost a regular acquaintance.”

Of course, Mr. Hux has his own admirers, and he chuckled while recalling the reaction he gets from some of his fellow passengers. “I don’t like to have breakfast until I’ve been told I’m awesome at least three or four times,” he jokes. “It’s funny. You’re in the buffet line for breakfast and you’re just barely awake and somebody is yelling, “You’re awesome! You killed it!”

Awesome indeed.

BLURT: While you’re a major player in The Orchestra, you also have a prolific solo career. So let’s go back to the beginning. What inspired your pursuit of music in the first place?

HUXLEY: My musical awakening began with the British Invasion and Motown on NYC radio when I was six or seven years old in New Jersey. I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and my life was changed forever, not that I knew it then, but it’s pretty obvious to me now.

In 1966, my Dad threw a curveball and moved the family to Greece. We sailed from NY to Athens on a small Italian ocean liner. I started writing songs on that ship. It was my first taste of communing with the mysteries of songwriting, and I loved it to death.

I lived in Greece from 5th to 12th grade. My exposure to music was filtered through the ex-pat American community. The older kids were pretty hip and we were into all the cool albums of the period, from Beatles to Cream to Hendrix to Zeppelin to Bowie, etc. Armed Forces Radio had Top 40 stuff but no one listened to it. New kids would arrive at the school and “What albums do you have?” would be among the first questions asked. I was turned on to the Stooges by some kids from Detroit, for example.

Being in Europe we also got wind of groups like The Move, Golden Earring, Taste, Gun and others long before they were well known in the States.

So when did you start making music of your own?

I played original music in various bands throughout high school in Greece. It was small potatoes, light years from anywhere relevant, but we were very creative over there (no TV or malls to distract us) and we had tons of fun.

When I returned to the States in 1974 for my freshman year at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, I was a stranger in a strange land to say the least.  My bands in Greece might’ve been pretty good, but we were miles from being professional. When I saw the level of talent that routinely passed through Chapel Hill’s music clubs I was blown away. “I’ll never be that good,” I remember thinking after watching a long-haired, big-amped cover band from Georgia do Aqualung note for note!

It seems that living in Chapel Hill had a profound effect on your musical trajectory.

Chapel Hill had several fantastic record stores and I noticed there was a lot of promotion for an album called Prolepsis by a group called Arrogance. Turns out they were local, which intrigued me greatly. I’d always felt like music came from Somewhere Out There, certainly not from people you might actually know. Arrogance played in town a lot and I became a huge fan. Anyone who knows their story can testify how great they were. They had two lead singers and songwriters — Don Dixon and Robert Kirkland, both brilliant.

Cut to late spring 1979. On my last day of college I was unsure what to do with my Journalism degree, but I did have a gig with a band I’d joined the previous year called The Blazers. They were primarily a covers band, but I helped change the band’s culture by integrating my own original tunes into the setlist. Our gig that night was with none other than Arrogance, and Don Dixon heard my songs at our sound check. He approached me and said, “You write good songs. We should make a record.”

And you did?

We recorded The Blazers: How To Rock at TGS Studios outside of Chapel Hill. The album featured six of my songs. It took about a week to record and I got my first taste of being professionally produced. It came out on Moonlight Records and got some local radio play. I was at work one day — I took part-time jobs to supplement the Blazers income — and one of my songs came on the radio. Everyone said, “Is that YOU?” It was a glorious moment!

Blazers LP

And you pursued music journalism at the same time?

Around this time a new weekly arts newspaper appeared called Spectator Magazine. Every city has one now, but in 1979 it was a cool new thing. I was asked along with a half dozen other musicians to write about the Best Unheard Music. I wrote a glowing piece about Dwight Twilley which the editor loved. He offered me a job as music critic. I did have a journalism degree so it was kind of up my alley.

My job as Spectator music critic got me in to any and every show there was to see: Iggy Pop, Police, Go-Go’s, David Bowie, Richard Hell, R.E.M., Ramones, Brave Combo, Riders In The Sky, The Clash, Jason and the Scorchers, and on and on.

My mantra as a music writer was to figure out what an artist or band was trying to accomplish and then fairly judge how successful they were. I didn’t get into sexy angles or controversy (I probably would’ve been more widely read if I had). The tricky part was reviewing local bands, since I was in a local band myself. I’m proud to say I never caught shit from any of my brethren. Everyone felt they were treated fairly in my reviews.

Were you able to still pursue your music career concurrently?

Interviewing and writing about musicians of every stripe taught me a lot. I’d been in a few bands post college — after The Blazers I formed The Dads with Matt Barrett, my childhood friend from Greece — but I wanted to try something that was uniquely my own.

I found a bassist and drummer — Andy Church and Chip Shelby — who I really liked and went to work. I wrote songs like a madman and we rehearsed for nine months before performing in public. We called the band Rick Rock after a nickname given to me in Greece, and we made our recorded debut on a compilation album of new North Carolina bands called Mondo Montage. Rolling Stone magazine loved our tunes (“Buddha, Buddha” and “Sputnik”) and Rick Rock soon created a buzz in local clubs.

It appears as if you were really hitting your stride at that point.

We were a great little band. Our set was crazy good since we’d worked on it for nearly a year. We opened for The Romantics, Berlin, R.E.M. and other bands of the time. Then my ambition got the better of me. We played dates in Dallas, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Chicago and Lincoln…maybe in that order!  Our van broke down, and, long story short, the more sensible guys in the band called it quits and headed back to their jobs in Chapel Hill before we got any further in debt. I went underground in California and Chicago with my girlfriend for five months to lick my wounds and figure out my next move. I had no idea what to do.

So what did you do?

I ended up back in Chapel Hill and made an arrangement with TGS Studios to record two songs during their off hours. It took months, but I ended up with a demo that was the best I could do. I sent it to seven or eight major labels and got especially good responses from Island and EMI. I ended up doing a demo deal with Island. They didn’t sign me, but I added more songs on my demo reel. On a visit to New York City in 1985, I handed my tape to an artist manager named Michael Solomon. He loved it and asked if he could shop it around L.A. “Sure, why not?” I said. A month or so later Michael called me and asked if I’d be interested in a publishing deal with MCA Music. I said, “What’s a publishing deal?”

Michael explained that MCA would basically be paying me to write songs. In other words, since I already wrote songs all the time, I would be paid to exist. I liked the sound of that!  Rick Shoemaker and Scott James from MCA met me in NY and we hit it off. Rick was a huge Beatles guy and we bonded mightily.

P Huxley Columbia Promo photo by V. Lee Hunter

The deal with MCA took me to California. Their studio was in the basement of their headquarters in Universal City, and the artist/writers were tasked with recording during eight hour sessions on 2″ 16 track tape with pro engineers. It was a whole new world for me. After my first year MCA took my new songs around to the labels and eventually we got some interest at Columbia via A&R man Jamie Cohen and staff producer David Kahne.

I did a demo deal and Kahne worked me over pretty good, asking for loads of rewrites on one song in particular. We liked working together enough that he and Jamie offered me a deal and I became a Columbia recording artist.

 So that jump started your solo career which is still ongoing. In addition, you’re now part of a band that could be considered a super group of sorts. The guys in your band each have remarkable individual histories. While your focus may be on playing the music of ELO, has the band ever given thought to making an album of original music?

If we all lived in the same time maybe. The logistics of creating something you have to rehearse together are pretty difficult. But I like that you said that. It’s an amazing band. If we all lived in New York or London and we were inspired to do something like that, then maybe we would. But as it stands, some of us live in London, some of us live in the States.

You could send tracks back and forth over the internet

Yeah, but I hate that. It’s got nothing on the energy in a room when you’re all together. Not to put a damper on it, but what label would take a chance on a record by a bunch of guys our age?

But you each have proven track records. You’ve have solo albums, hit songs… that should count for something. And these days, you really don’t even need record companies.

That’s true. I’m making my records. Eric’s making documentary films. Glenn does his special ‘60s tribute concerts. So we’re all busy. I’m raising my kids, so I have to wonder if another band would be a good idea. Would I want to be on the road any more than I am now? I love the idea of that, but I’m not sure about the practicality of it.

What you do with the Orchestra has to be a labor of love. It’s clear that you love this music.

It’s not so much a labor anymore. I’ve played these songs over 500 times. I know them pretty well at this point. [Below: with The Orchestra’s Mik Kaminski]

Hux and Mik rockin

Do you get any opportunity to add your voice to these songs, or do you consider it strictly a faithful note for note replay?

I think we do. We’re not trying to copy the music exactly. We don’t replicate the vocals to sound like anyone but ourselves. We have a respect for the music so we do pay attention, but I play guitar like me and everyone plays their instruments in their own individual ways. We have our sound, even though these songs sound pretty close to the way they’re supposed to be. [Below: The Orchestra live in Chile in 2005. Hux notes, It’s one of my favorites. It’s from the Vina Del Mar festival in Chile, broadcast live to all of South and Central America. There’s a live audience of 17,000 fans known as “The Monster.” The Monster has the option to applaud you and award you a trophy…or boo you off the stage if they don’t like you! (We got the trophy.) The song is “Jewel & Johnny,” one of my songs from our No Rewind LP. And, to top it off, this performance happened at 3am!]

What are you currently working on?

My last studio album, Thank You Bethesda, took me four years to complete. I would visit the tracks every few months and add overdubs and tinker with things trying to get the songs to be perfect. I didn’t have a deadline, so there was never any pressure to finish. It was only when I got up the courage to do a Kickstarter campaign—which to my shock and surprise, netted me about $15,000— that I finally had a release date.

I swore to myself I would never dilly-dally over a record like that again. So just last month, after just a handful of quick rehearsals with the bassist and drummer from my local band The Suitors, I went into the studio and cut basic tracks for ten new songs in two days. We didn’t use a click track. We relied on feel and the energy in the room. I’m really excited with what we got. The music reminds me of all my favorite records from the ‘60s and ‘70s that are peppered with little mistakes and tempo changes that no one ever gave a shit about. I have to remember that I was never mad at records for being imperfect–in fact I’ve always loved records that just felt good, warts and all. This new record feels like that. Now all I need is a deadline, so I’m thinking of doing another Kickstarter campaign!

Finally, the other project I’m excited about is a record I’m producing for two guitar students of mine. They’re both 15 years old. They are great songwriters and singers. We just started this week and it already sounds amazing. They are talented beyond their years.

Hux on the web: http://parthenonhuxley.com

Go HERE for Hux music, including free downloads.

A la the Blazers LP back cover