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MY FAVORITE YEAR: Coltrane ’58: The Prestige Recordings

John Coltrane March 23, 1959 Rudy van Gelder Studio Hackensack NJ

Craft Recordings compiles a comprehensive 8LP set, Coltrane ‘58: The Prestige Recordings, of all John Coltrane recordings from a pivotal year. It arrives in stores March 29. (Above photo: Esmond Edwards)

BY BILL KOPP

1958 was a landmark year for saxophonist John Coltrane, and by extension, for jazz as a whole as well. Coltrane had made his first recordings (in Hawaii with fellow Navy servicemen) some 12 years earlier and played as a sideman with Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk in the middle 1950s, not recording under his own name until his 1957 debut, Coltrane, recorded for Bob Weinstock’s independent label, Prestige. While Coltrane is a superb album, it only hints at what was in store for the groundbreaking musician.

In 1958, Coltrane traveled seven times to Van Gelder Studios, working with engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Showing up at the Hackensack, New Jersey studio on average of once a month between January and May, and once more in both July and December (the latter on the day after Christmas), Coltrane recorded 37 songs. Remarkably by today’s standards, each session took place in a single day, and no songs were played on more than one session.

Newly clean after a serious bout with heroin addiction, John Coltrane was man on fire throughout ‘58. And at the risk of gross oversimplification, the experience of listening to those sessions in chronological order reveals the almost real-time flowering of the saxophonist from merely a very good musician to a visionary one.

The 1958 sessions yielded material that would see release on various albums, but only a handful were released during the period in which Coltrane was signed to Prestige. The five tracks recorded on February 7 yielded Soultrane, originally released the year of its recording. The box set’s remaining 32 sides would be scattered across other albums: The March 7 sessions yielded Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane (released 1963). Other tracks appeared on Lush Life and Settin’ the Pace (both 1961), 1962’s Standard Coltrane (1962), Stardust (1963) The Believer and Black Pearls (1964), Bahia from 1965 and The Last Trane (1966).

The tracks cut in gloriously pristine high fidelity by Van Gelder variously featured some of the era’s best sidemen, many of whom went on to greater fame themselves: Kenny Burrell on guitar, trumpeters Donald Byrd and Freddie Hubbard, Paul Chambers on upright bass, drummers Jimmy Cobb, Louis Hayes and Art Taylor, Tommy Flanagan and Red Garland on piano and trumpeter/flugelhorn player Wilbur Harden.

Coltrane’s earliest session from this banner year began with the saxophonist playing in a relatively conventional (yet transcendent) style; as the year progressed, Coltrane seemed to grow more ambitious. His famous “sheets of sound” (characterized as such by critic Ira Gitler) showed up early but became a central part of his approach as the year wore on.

The 8LP set opens with “Lush Life,” a cut that would be released as the a-side of a 1960 single. Six other tracks appeared as a- or B-sides on other Prestige singles (“I Want to Talk About You” and “By the Numbers” with Red Garland each saw release on 45s’ split across both sides). By the time of cutting the Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne chestnut “Time After Time” in December 1958, Coltrane had assimilated his adventurousness into a wholly accessible style. His approach seems almost effortless, true to the original melody yet unencumbered, unrestrained by it.

Hardcore Coltrane enthusiasts – and no doubt many others – will already own all of these tracks via their appearance on the aforementioned LPs and/or CD reissues. But that fact in no way lessens the impact or essential nature of the new Coltrane ‘58. Housed in a heavy cloth-bound binder, the set is spread across eight 180-gram vinyl LPs, each placed inside a black paper sleeve that fits into a heavier brown paper page of the 1 1/2” thick binder. The package also features a bound-in 40-page booklet that includes Grammy-winning music journalist/author Ashley Kahn’s superb essay, copious black-and-white and color photographs and reproductions of relevant memorabilia (Van Gelder’s handwritten notes, tape boxes and so forth).

The loving care that has gone into every part of this package more than justifies its cost. In fact, the music itself does that; as top-notch as it is, everything else included in Coltrane ‘58 should be regarded as bonus material.

INDIE ROCK CAN STILL BE A… Holiday Flyer

The beloved ’90s Sacramento indie  icons get reissued by the equally respected Darla Records label. The duo discuss their career (interview originally published by the ever-diligent Dagger ‘zine). Photos follow the text, so scroll as you desire.

BY TIM HINELY

Holiday Flyer were truly something special in their 1990’s heyday. Hailing from Sacramento, but even in a scene that boasted bands like Tiger Trap and Rocketship, Holiday Flyer seemed to be off on their own island doin’ their own thing. Formed in the early 90’s by sibling John and Katie Conley, they released four LPs and several EPs and singles before calling it a day (and forming their next bands, California Orange for John and Sinking Ships for Katie,….now those bands are John’s Desario and Katie’s Soft Science).

I still remember them driving a few hours from Sacramento to Santa Rosa, where I was living and booking shows (circa 1994-’95) and introducing themselves to me at a show I had put together (I think it was Codeine) and telling me about their band, which got me immediately interested. The music was soft, spare and pretty….not quite folk music but close (with decidedly non-flowery lyrics). As the band went on and they added band members the sound got a bit denser but no less personal and still very melodic.

This year the Darla label is reissuing the first two albums, 1995’s Try Not To Worry and 1997’s The Rainbow Confection on limited edition vinyl (500 copies each).  It’s the first time on vinyl for both and the download for each one includes several extra unreleased tracks.

So, here a few weeks before their 2/14/19 release date, I shot John and Katie some questions re: the origins of the band and what they’re doing now. Quiet was the new loud.

 

Did you guys grow up in Sacramento or nearby?

John: We grew up in Rocklin and Roseville. In my early 20s I moved to downtown Sacramento. I have lived in or around the area ever since. Currently, I live in West Sacramento. I’m still really close to the downtown/midtown area of Sacramento which I like. I still try to go to as many shows as I can here in town.

Katie: So the Rocklin/ Roseville area is about 20 miles northeast of downtown Sacramento. It has grown a lot in the last several years with a major expansion of business and residential development. When we were young and growing up there the area still had a small town feel and some parts of the community were considered pretty rural – including our backyard ;-). I too eventually made it downtown and stayed for many years while I finished college. I still live in the Sacramento area.

What did you get into first…punk rock? New wave? Something else? What was the progression like?

John: The first genre of music I got into was Metal. The first album I ever bought was Blizzard of Ozz – Ozzy Osbourne. I met my Mike Yoas (Holiday Flyer, Desario) in 1985. He introduced me to Punk and New Wave. One of my favorite bands he turned me on to was Naked Raygun. They are still a favorite. Around 87 or 88 Katie and I started to listen to similar bands. We both loved The Smiths, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Echo and the Bunnymen etc. When she turned 15, our parents would let her go to shows with me, which was cool. Looking back now, she was pretty lucky. She got to see some killer show. A venue in Sacramento called the Cattle Club booked some amazing bands in the 90’s. We saw Ride, Lush, Slowdive and Nirvana there, just to name a few.

Katie: Yep, as little sister, John pretty much always had an influence on my musical taste. He’s got great taste so why not follow! But I have to say I never really got into the punk rock. As a young child I really loved Olivia Newton-John, Pat Benatar, Fleetwood Mac, and Madonna (I must confess). Later The Bangles and the Go-Go’s were pretty big in my world. By my mid-teens is when John and I really started seeing eye to eye again regarding music. We watched a lot of 120 Minutes on MTV together. I remember that the first music posters on my bedroom wall in high school were Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Smiths and R.E.M. Those bands pretty much sum up the start for me. And yes, I was seriously lucky my big brother didn’t mind taking his little sister with him to shows. The Ocean Blue and The Mighty Lemon Drops in San Francisco is one of the stand out shows John let me tag along on that comes immediately to mind.

Was it pretty early on that you and Katie began making music together?

John: Katie was always singing, even when she little. I started playing guitar when I was 13. I had a band my last year of high school and Katie would occasionally sing with us. We didn’t start playing together until after Katie graduated from High School.

Please tell me about the early days of Holiday Flyer? Was it pretty easy to make music with your sister or did it take some coaxing?

John: After High School, I had a couple of bands that didn’t last very long. I kind of lost interest in playing music for about 6 or 8 months afterwards. I didn’t stop listening though. I think one of the records that got me to pick the guitar back up was Today by Galaxie 500. There was something so different and special about that album for me. I started writing songs again and Katie would just come into my room and start sing with me. That was sort of the beginning of Holiday Flyer.

Katie: Yep, I pretty much forced my way in with harmonies that were not asked for.

What kind of stuff were you guys listening to at the time the band started?

John: I was really into a lot of shoegaze stuff. Ride, Lush, Slowdive. I think the band Moose had a huge influence on our writing. I had the early Moose EPs and remember buying an import copy of their first album. It was so different from the EPs, not shoegaze at all. It was really 70s folk influenced but still dreampop. At that time we were also really into some unfashionable 70s soft rock like Al Stewart, Bread, early Chicago, early Bee Gees ( Katie learned to play the snare/ride cymbal set-up playing along to Chicago and Carpenters records).

Katie: Bands I recall listening to quite a bit during the early days of Holiday Flyer, include The Red House Painters and Belly. Looking at both of our lists, I think its clear that the bands we regularly listened to at the time were quite different that what we were. We never really set out to replicate a sound. If anything I think the influence or take away we always had from whatever we were listening to was melodies, lyrics, and song structure. This was put through our filters and out came HF songs.

Had either of you been in bands before or was Holiday Flyer your first band? At what point did Verna come into the picture? Who else was in the band other than the two  of you?

John: I had a short lived punk band in High School. After that I had a band for a couple years called The Boon with Mike Yoas (Desario), and then another short-lived band called Ellie. There was a band called Light Iris that Katie and I were in with Jim Rivas ( Rocketship, Holiday Flyer, Desario). Katie and I both felt we were better able to achieve what we wanted to do musically as a duo so we left. Jim went on to play in Rocketship. That’s how we met Verna. We played shows with Rocketship and Dustin Reske engineered all of the early Holiday Flyer recordings. Katie and I worked as duo for the first year. The early recordings are layered guitars and Katie and I singing. We didn’t play live that often at first. In fact, we didn’t play a show until after we started sending out demos. We got asked to play a showcase for Alias Records in LA, and I had to wrangle a show at a cafe just to make sure we could pull off the songs before we went to LA. We continued to played shows as a duo (electric guitar and vocals). Katie added the snare drum and cymbal after we released our first 7″. When Rocketship broke up we asked Verna to play bass with us. This was the core band for most of Holiday Flyer. We had guests on most of the records. Our friend Toby Marshall played lead guitar on the Sweet and Sour EP. Ross Levine (Soft Science) played trombone on “The Rainbow Confection”. Mike Yoas played bass and Matt Levine (Soft Science) played guitar on “You Make Us Go”. For “I Hope”, we expanded to a full band with Jim Rivas on drums, Mike Yoas on bass.

When did it feel like a real band? When the first record came out or even before that?

John: It started feeling like a real band after we released “Try Not To Worry”. We were getting good reviews for the album and doing fanzine interviews. We were also playing shows in San Francisco and LA and opening shows for Red House Painters, America Music Club, Low and Smog.

Lyrically were there any specific themes you were exploring?

Katie: Looking back at the lyrics, some of them I really love, and a few of them I think oh no…can’t listen. They are lyrics only 19 year old me could have written. But overall, I think the HF lyrics are really just kids trying to make sense of it all in a somewhat sweet naive way. I think that might be part of the appeal? They are very honest.

John: I agree with Katie, I think most of the lyrics, especially on the early recording and first couple of records were us just writing what we knew. Some of it is difficult to listen to now, for numerous reasons. Ha Ha! That being said, I’m really proud of what we did in Holiday Flyer.

Katie: Me too.

When and why did the band break up?

Katie: Oh boy, why do you have to bring up old shite? Ha, Ha.

John: Well, it was my decision to end Holiday Flyer. It was just a good place to stop. We had made our most polished album, I Hope and I wanted to do something different. Verna and I had already released the first California Oranges album with our friend Ross Levine on drums. After a couple of show as a trio, we added Ross’s twin brother Matt on lead guitar and started working on our 2nd album “Oranges and Pineapples”. During that time Katie and Verna started recording a record with Ross and Matt which ended up being The Sinking Ships. About a year later we decided to merge the two bands and Katie joined California Oranges.

Sacramento is kind of a low-key city but has always had a great indie rock/pop scene throughout the years with all of your bands plus Rocketship, Tiger Trap, etc. Why do you think that is? Something in the water?

Katie: Perhaps the area somehow cultivates shut-ins? Ha, Ha.

John: Not really sure it’s big enough to call it a scene (ha ha). I think there might be a one degree of separation for most of the indie bands from Sacramento.

Please tell me about the reissues that Darla Records is doing?

John: James Agren at Darla has been wanting to reissue Try Not to Worry and The Rainbow Confection for a long time. Both albums were originally released on Silver Girl Records and have been out of print/unavailable for many years. With these reissues the entire HF catalog will now be available through Darla records. About a year ago James was finally able to get me to start the process. I felt it was a good time to reissue them. It took us awhile to gather all the miscellaneous tracks which will be included with the digital downloads of each record. I’m looking forward to them being available on vinyl for the first time. Both albums have been remastered by Mike Yoas along with all the bonus material including demos and songs we recorded for compilations. I’m really happy with how it turned out. The LPs sound really good. I think people who like the records will be happy with them. I designed new sleeves for both records too, which was fun. They also have liner notes written by Jack Rabid and Dave Heaton, which is super cool.

Will the band be (or have you been?) playing any gigs for the reissues?

Katie: I love singing with John it is a special experience that I really appreciate now that I have more perspective on what we did. But, we will have to see. We are both pretty busy with our other projects right now.

John: Katie and I played a few show over the last few years. One was opening for Mark Eitzel which was cool. We played a show with Mike Yoas on bass and Jim Rivas on drums for a local Summer concert series last year. Our current bands come first at this point, but if the right opportunity came up I’m sure we’d make it work.

Katie: Yes, we really appreciate everyone who helped make the reissues happen! Even our friend Scott Cymbala from Fingepaint Records (the label that released the first HF 7”- also Beck’s first 10”) dug through boxes at his house to find original copies of old songs that were remastered and are included with the bonus material.

What are you two doing musically these days?

John: I’ve been in Desario now for going on 15 years, which seems crazy. It’s not as easy to find time for music like when we were younger, but I’m glad to still be playing. Desario are going to start recording a new album in January and hopefully play some shows out of the Sacramento area next year.

Katie: I am in Soft Science. Our 3rd album Maps came out in June of 2018. It was released through Test Pattern Records which Ross and Matt Levine run, and I help here and there on occasion. John does most of the graphic design for the Test Pattern releases as well. We are all very fortunate for that! This last year was a pretty amazing year for Soft Science. A couple highlights include playing Paris Popfest and traveling to Michigan to play at the Kalamashoegazer fest. I enjoyed seeing you there Tim! I also enjoyed seeing my old pen pal from the HF days, the wonderful Janice Headley, who created the Copacetic zine in the early 1990s. I had not gotten to see her in many moons so that was fantastic. She was there playing in Tears Run Rings so that was an extra treat! For 2019 Soft Science will just be doing whatever we can with the current momentum we have. All in consideration of our normal lives of course ;-). But we all love it so, new songs, and more live shows are in the works!

What are some current Sacramento bands that we might not know about but need to?

Katie: Soft Science played with Rosemother this year and I thought they were quite good!

John: Arts & Leisure are working on a new record, which I’m excited about. Two other Sacramento bands I really like are Ghostplay and The Surrounded. Ghostplay has and EP out now, and The Surrounded are working on an LP or EP.

Any final thoughts?  Closing comments? Anything you wanted to mention that I didn’t ask?

John: Thanks Tim for all the support and interest over the years for our music. I’m also thankful to still be playing and look forward recording and playing live in 2019.

Katie: Just thanks for asking us to do the interview! We are thrilled there is interest in the reissues of our old HF albums. There is an overwhelming amount of music out there so when anyone listens and likes you it is best to be grateful. That we are!

 

Bush Tetras at SXSW 2019 – The Interview

 

The seminal NYC post-punk outfit reflects on their rise, demise, and eventual reunion. Buy their 2018 EP Take The Fall at Wharf Cat Records.

BY ROBIN E. COOK

“I just don’t wanna go/Out in the streets no more.” With the opening words to “Too Many Creeps,” the Bush Tetras bridged the chasm between discord and dance beats. Formed in 1979, as punk entered its transition period, they could make punks tap their feet and follow up with ominous tracks like their cover of John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey.”

The group dissolved in 1983 and regrouped sporadically in the next two decades. They’ve remained together again since 2005, and the current lineup—singer Cynthia Sley, drummer Dee Pop, guitarist Pat Place, and new bassist Val Opielski—descends on South by Southwest this year. In this interview, conducted via email, they share what they’ve learned and their future plans.

BLURT: Tell me about how the band formed originally. You were friends beforehand, correct?

Dee Pop (drums): The initial four involved in forming Bush Tetras were Pat Place, Laura Kennedy, Dee Pop, and Jimmy Joe Uliana. Pat and Laura were friends. Myself and Jimmy were friends. We knew of Pat from The Contortions. When she left that group, we approached her about playing.

Cynthia Sley (vocals): I was coerced into it in the fall of 1979. I was close friends with Pat and Laura and they thought it would be fun to have a band together. I had written some lyrics.

Pat Place (guitar): I was living with Laura Kennedy and Cynthia was our best friend. Laura met Dee through a friend and we started jamming after I left the Contortions.

 

What are some the most notable experiences from the band’s early days? Did you consider yourselves part of any particular scene? And which artists most inspired you?

Pat Place: We toured pretty constantly right out of the gate for two years . . . opening for the Clash at Bonds was a big moment. We also played several shows with Gang of Four—I loved their music . . . so many inspiring bands and performers . . . and women were playing—it was opening up for women. Patti Smith . . . Blondie and all of the No wave bands had girls in them . . . there was definitely a music scene in downtown NYC in the early 80’s and yes…we were part of it.

Cynthia Sley: When we played with the Clash at Bond’s, it seemed surreal. We had all been big fans and it was such an honor. Also, when we played at Roseland with Gang of Four and Bad Brains, I felt we were at our peak and it was a great bill, great night. I was inspired by both of those bands.

Dee Pop: We considered ourselves a NY band and part of the lineage of great bands that evolved from the CBGB’s scene I.e. Ramones, Television, Patti Smith. We were not really a no wave band. Notable things: we got to see most of this country and Europe. We played on bills with The Clash, Gang of Four, Pete Ubu, X, Bad Brains, Husker Du, Mission of Burma, Flipper, Delta 5, ESG, Liquid Liquid, A Certain Ratio, Lydia Lunch, Romeo Void, Killing Joke, Wall of Voodoo, The Gun Club.

I was curious about the song “Too Many Creeps.” Was there any real-life inspiration for that song? Were you surprised that it became one of your signature songs?

Pat Place: I was working at the Bleecker Street cinema and the people were getting on my nerves! Also, when we would walk around the streets, we would get hassled. And yes….it was all a surprise!

Cynthia Sley: Pat and Laura and I were always hassled on the street so it felt right to lament about it… It is such a simple song (a few can play one-handed!) but it is catchy and dance-y along with being relevant politically, so to me it makes sense it turned out to be the most remembered.

 

You were one of several bands (along with the Talking Heads and Gang of Four) who drew on funk and dance music for your sound. Were there any funk/R&B artists who influenced you? What was it about that style of music that appealed to artists of your generation?

Cynthia Sley: I grew up with Motown coming from Cleveland. I listened to that non-stop in the ’60s.

Pat Place: I got the James Brown influence from working with James Chance in the Contortions.

 

Topper Headon of the Clash produced one of your EPs. How did that collaboration come about?

Dee Pop: I had known them from previously interviewing them when I was a writer. I simply just asked first Mick Jones who couldn’t for scheduling reasons but who suggested Topper.

Cynthia Sley: We hit it off right away and he really liked the band’s direction. He added some great sounds to that record. A real creative producer.

The Bush Tetras had a couple of minor hits on the dance charts. What was that like for you? 

Dee Pop: Limos and champagne. Kidding. It was again kind of shocking to us but it didn’t really have any effect on our daily lives.

Pat Place: It’s always nice to get some commercial recognition but I don’t think we ever expected it!

 

Why did the group disband in 1983, and what led to your reunion in the 1990s?

Pat Place: We disbanded from general burnout—the lifestyle of drugs and alcohol on the road took some of us down– and just youthful dysfunction! We would do occasional reunion shows, and in the 90’s we all had ourselves somewhat back together—so we decided to try to write some songs and see what would happen!

 

I’d like to ask you about the making of the Beauty Lies album, which you recorded in the 1990s. You’d previously done mainly EPs and singles. What was it like to record a full-length album, and what was it like to work with Nona Hendryx on the album? 

Dee Pop: To start with our reunion was a sort of accident. At first it was just a one-off show, but after the show we were immediately ask if we wanted to record. We scratched our heads and said sure, which is pretty much our MO. It was kinda tough to do. A lot had changed in the world and in our personal lives. We didn’t know where we fit in the landscape of music at the time. Our tastes had also polarized. No longer was funk the common ground. Now it was on one extreme free jazz and on the other harder rock. It was confusing. Poor Nona, who was such a pro, had to sort it out.

The Bush Tetras have been together again for 14 years, yes? What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned playing together as a band? Is there anything you wish you’d known/realized sooner?

Cynthia Sley: You have to really listen to each other and accept differences and always play what feels right us, not what others may want to hear. We love each other deeply so we are lucky in that. The chemistry is palpable, and Val has fit right in.

Pat Place: I wish I could have avoided the drug trap — I’ve been sober for 30 years and it is much more fun! And you can show up!  It is important to have respect for the band as a whole.

Dee Pop: Lesson 1: Ultimately the only kind of music we play can be Bush Tetras music. We can’t do anything else as a group.

Lesson 2: If I want to do something outside of that realm then I do it outside of the group. This limits frustration.

Lesson 3: All four of us are strong-minded individuals and sometimes our opinions will wildly differ but in the end, gravity will naturally find us our balance.

Lesson 4: You have to think of the future and take care of business. Which is tough, because all we want is to make our noise. (Below: the Take The Fall 12″ EP, issued in 2018 by Wharf Cat.)

What are the group’s future plans? Do you hope to record any new material? 

Dee Pop: To re-release our entire back catalog, to make an entire new album and to go out with grace and passion.

Cynthia Sley: We hope to record an album in the fall. We have lots of new songs!

 

What advice would you give to young musicians? 

Cynthia Sley: Appreciate your creativity.

Dee Pop: Always split EVERYTHING equally. Treat your band mates with love and respect. Cherish your audience.

Pat Place: Don’t believe the hype! In other words—don’t get tripped up in ego–it’s not you—you’re the channel. Skip the drugs and have fun … and take care of yourself!

Above: the band in Dec. 2016. Photo taken from their Facebook page. Grab your Bush Tetras swag at their Bandcamp page.

 

ATLANTA RECKONING: Cowboy Junkies Live (photos & review)

The Cowboy Junkies wrapped up their brief Southern swing this month with shows in Franklin, TN, Birmingham, AL, and two sold-out shows, March 9 and 10, at Atlanta’s City Winery.  Our man in Hot ‘lanta caught the Saturday night show, and raved to tell about it.

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY JOHN BOYDSTON

For this show, and no doubt the others, The Cowboy Junkies are doing something considered daring or even suicidal by today’s music biz standards – not only recording new music but spending most of their first set actually playing it live, and coming back for the older stuff after a break.   With new songs and a performance this good it is, of course, what they should be doing, because their fans are ready for anything this band wants to play.  (As a ground-zero CJs fan who saw the band several months back in Asheville, NC, I can testify to both that and to their prowess in delivering. – Blurt Editor)

The latest LP is called “All That Reckoning” and by my newly acquired familiarity with their catalogue, it is as great as than anything they’ve done, maybe better than some. (Ditto. It’s brilliant. – Ed.)

The Cowboy Junkies are from Canada and formed in 1985 by Margo Timmins (vocals), Michael Timmins (guitarist), Peter Timmins (drums) and Alan Anton (bass).  There they are, three siblings (plus close friend Anton), together all these years, continuing to write, record, and perform powerful music, despite ups and downs of life and music.  The band is joined onstage by multi-instrumentalist and longtime collaborator Jeff Bird, who is a secret weapon up there in the background.

Described as a blues-folk-rock-jazzy-alternative-country band, I could make the case they are their own genre, brcause it’s hard to pin ‘em down on any one thing.

Tour resumes in April – dates are here:  https://www.cowboyjunkies.com/tour/

And one last plug – you can buy Cowboy Junkies vinyl and CDs here, directly from the band:  https://www.cowboyjunkies.com/albums/   They are high quality, and priced right.  Having turned into a Cowboy Junkies junkie,  this live show isn’t going to do much to change that; it probably made my habit worse.  Thank you, Margo, and fellas.

 

Join John Boydston on Instagram at @johnboydstonphoto or visit his other photos at jobo.smugmug.com Then book him for your band’s next cover shot.

 

 

CHECK OUT THE BLUES WITH… J.D. Simo

and those blues will never die when they are in hands as good as this…. (Photo at top for promotional use only: screen grab from Simo’s YouTube tutorial for Relix.)

BY TIFFINI TAYLOR

The blues are back and is on fire with J.D. Simo. There is special place in American history for the blues. J. D, Simo is a bluesman with heart in the music he creates. In the past he has toured with band such as The Allman Brothers and Blackberry Smoke. His success is due to a good talent and a love for the blues. His influences include Jimi Hendrix, Mile Davis, and bluesman such as B.B. King and Lightnin’ Hopkins.  He came and played Hard Rock Café in Pittsburgh, PA and brought blues to a crowd.

There was a chill in the air and the audience was ready for a show. It was quite a show. The band is simple comprised of a drummer and bass. This allows for riffs of continuous blues that will impress anyone. He is truly a talented guitarist and his guitar will make you want one yourself. The evening was filled with crowd approving with roars of excitement and appreciation. If you want a good blues show and a great night out, check his concert out, you will not be disappointed.

We had the opportunity to speak with J. D. Simo, and below is what he had to say.

Blurt Magazine: How old were you and what was the first song you heard?

J.D. Simo: “The first song I remember was John Lee Hooker singing “Boom Boom” in the Blues Brothers movie. I was probably 2 or 3 years old. I was obsessed with that movie!”

Blurt: What age were you when you decided music is what I am doing?

J.D.: “Oh, it wasn’t too long after that. I got a guitar when I was 4 and it was all I wanted to do. I started performing for folks right around then too. By the time I was 8 or 9 I was playing out in bars. I can’t really remember a time where I wasn’t doing it.”

Blurt: What age did you begin playing guitar? Why choose the guitar, or did the guitar choose you?

J.D: “I was 4. I originally wanted to be a drummer but my folks where having none of that. The guitar was such a part of what I was into that it was a natural second choice. Scotty Moore behind Elvis, Steve Cropper on all the Stax stuff. I wanted to do that!”

Blurt: What style of guitar do you play now? What is your favorite guitar?

J.D.: “I’ve had to play all sorts of stuff to make a living. Lots of Bluegrass and country along with all the R&B, Blues and Rock and Roll. At heart, I’ll always be a blues player with a cherry on top, haha. My favorite guitar is an old 1962 Gibson 335 I’ve had for several years. I’ve beat it all to hell! We’ve been through a lot together me and that guitar.”

Blurt: Who were your early influences you growing up? Who inspires you now?

J.D.: “Elvis and his early band with Scotty Moore were big. As I mentioned, Steve Cropper and Booker T and the MG’s. Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, Bill Haley and the Comets, Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry… All the 50’s stuff because once I was into Elvis, all that other great stuff was linked to it and I found it easily. Looking back, it’s cool that I learned about Rock and Roll from the original source forward instead of working backwards.

Today I’m still influenced by all that old stuff. Eddie Taylor, Earl Hooker, Otis Rush, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Johnny Guitar Watson, Magic Sam. I could go on and on!”

Blurt: How would you describe your musical sound?

J.D.: “Well I guess I’m a hippie who plays the blues. Hahaha”

Blurt: How did the band come to be, how did you come together with the other musicians?

J.D.: “Well when I was younger, I always played with guys 20 years older than me or more! No one my age was into playing. When I moved to Nashville 12 years ago, I finally got to work with guys my age. After a bit of struggling to get established in Nashville, I was lucky to get into doing session work. I made my living for several years playing on peoples records every day. My band formed initially out of that. I met a couple like-minded guys who wanted to play what I wanted to play.”

Blurt: Do you have a favorite song from the album being released in March?

J.D.: “Oh, they’re all special to me. I really dig playing “You Need Love though”.”

Blurt: How was the recording process like of the album?

J.D.: “It was low key. I built a studio in my house and throughout 2018 I’d cut stuff to learn the room. We’d have little breaks between tours and I’d invite folks over to cut some stuff. What makes up the album is really 1 session after the summer tour. We just cut like 5 tunes in a day and I really was happy with them. I added 3 from previous sessions and there you have it.

It’s a funky spot and I love having my own space. It’s only got 8 tracks so I can only work old school which I prefer. I love it!”

Blurt: There have been quite a few changes in the music industry and how music is released to the masses, what are your thoughts on the changes? Do you find it easier to get music out to people, and if so, what are the pros and cons of it?

J.D.: “Well, since recorded music is really less than 100 years old, I’d say it’s never stopped changing really. The general concept is still the same though. Get music to folks in the way that is prominent at that time. I’m a millennial and I buy vinyl and stream music constantly. So, it makes sense to me. I’d say it’s actually easier to get music out there than it’s ever been but it’s harder to market because there’s so much. I’m a firm believer that the cream rises to the top though. When something is good it might take longer for folks to find it, but they will.”

Blurt: What advice would you give to up and coming artists?

J.D.: “Get your butt out there and work. No one is gonna do it for you. In that same breath I’d say, how to you expect folks to help you if you won’t help yourself. Book shows, promote yourself on social media, make Youtube videos and work it. In the end it’s up to you how hard you’re willing to work.”

Blurt: This is your opportunity to say whatever is on your mind. Anything else you want to say?

J.D.: “That the world is a beautiful place. I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the world and meet all kinds of folks. Poor, rich, educated, drop out, male, female, etc and we really are inherently the same. We all want security, a roof over our head, a good plate of food, money in the bank and most importantly, to be loved and accepted. It never ceases to amaze me how I can be thousands of miles from home and it can feel so familiar. We’re all in this together and it’s up to us to reach out and be kind and loving. The world needs it and we need it too.”

The blues are alive and well thanks to great musicians such as J.D. Simo, it is one of the best parts of American music history. The new album is “OFF at 11” and it is what the music world wants and needs.  J.D. Simo and the Cohorts are touring the U.S. at this moment and so go check it out.

RETURN TO FORM: Greg Norton of Porcupine (oh, and Husker Du, too)

To say the legendary bass player influenced a generation would be a massive understatement…

BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS

Let’s get one thing straight from the start: Greg Norton (Husker Du/ Porcupine) is one of modern music’s greatest and most influential bassists; his playing, a static and aggressively melodic force, an always solid spine to the Husker Du’s often high-speed tears, fueled by frustration, alienation, the often hum drum existence that was the Midwest during the Reagan Era.

I sat in my downtown apartment, staring at the phone, waiting for Norton to call, nervously anticipating the ring; I’m never anxious for interviews but this time, this time was different.  I would be interviewing one of my heroes, a bassist whose playing has influenced an entire generation of players and was there, alongside Bob Mould and the late Grant Hart, at the beginning, the early 80s births of not one but two genres: what we recognize now as “alternative music” and the brutal and often beautiful beast that is Noise Pop.

As for spending his time in the stoner rock meets power pop trio Porcupine, Norton seems nothing but happy.  “A friend of mine and I saw that The Meat Puppets were playing in LaCrosse, this was around 2009, Cris (Kirkwood) was back in the band and I hadn’t seen him since like, ‘87 and we decided to go check them out.  Porcupine was the opener.  I thought they were great and was like, Holy shit, these guys are local? Casey (Virock, Porcupine guitarist/vocalist) gave me a copy of their record Trouble in Mind and we stayed in touch.” Norton continued, “In the summer of 2016, there was a Porcupine Facebook post that their bassist Dave was leaving the band.  About a week later, Casey calls me up and started telling me the story of Dave leaving, how they were trying out this new guy but it wasn’t working and asked if I still played my bass.  I said, well, yes.  I went and tried out and joined the band.”  Norton’s joy with the band is evident within his bass lines on What You’ve Heard Isn’t Real each holding a groove that is classic Norton, augmenting Porcupine’s sound with a dominance that hasn’t been heard since the glory days of hardcore.

“The new record (What You’ve Heard Isn’t Real) is probably the best sounding record I’ve ever played on, musically and lyrically, it ranks right up there near the top of anything I’ve recorded.”  Norton’s confidence in the material is obvious on tracks like “Pull,” the snarling “Distraction” and the live recording “Exit 180,” a recording that showcases the band’s strengths and power while showing how much Norton brings to the band, much like his performance on the Husker Du launching pad that was Land Speed Record, an album recorded at the 7th Street Entry in their hometown of Minneapolis.

“I’m sure a lot of Husker fans there that night were surprised, maybe a little shocked at how fast we were playing. (on Land Speed Record)  Our goal when Husker first started out was, let’s play faster than the Ramones.  When we got that down, it was let’s play faster than The Dickies.  We always wanted to go more, to push it as hard and loud as we could.”  Drawing influence from bands like Joy Division, The Sex Pistols, Stiff Little Fingers and The Attractions, Norton formed a sound that is distinctly his own, brutal and punishing one minute, stylized and razor sharp the next.

Beginning with the live recording Land Speed Record, Husker Du helped redefined what it meant to be punk, all while sharing a roster at SST with some of the most powerful and varied acts of the early to mid-80s; bands like Black Flag, the country fried acid punk of The Meat Puppets, the jazz and rock leanings of The Minutemen and the power punk of Saccharin Trust.  “I can never think of one bill that stood out from another.  We opened for REM in ’83; Peter Buck was a fan of our records and asked us to open. That was a solid bill,” he continued, “The SST Tour with Black Flag, Saccharin Trust, The Meat Puppets, Minutemen and SWA was a good powerful lineup.  It was always good playing with D. (Boon of the Minutemen), you never knew what he would do.”  Norton was always certain of Husker Du’s dominance, knowing where they stood on any given night.  “Oh yeah, there were nights that I knew, I just knew we’d blow whoever off the stage.  And if we didn’t make the other band look bad, we’d at least make them work harder.”

Husker Du’s magnum opus, double album 1984’s Zen Arcade was radically different from other hardcore records, while it did possess moments of the breakneck speed that was definitive Du, it was the beginning of Mould and Hart becoming one rock’s best songwriting teams, often clashing, fueling the fire that gave the listening world albums like Flip Your Wig, New Day Rising, Candy Apple Grey and Metal Circus, each album different than the last, showing the three members ability to change, adapt, play at super-human speed and volume, or finding a delicate place to put a ballad or psychedelic trip around the piano keys.  “People always tell me that Zen Arcade is the one that changed their lives.  I can see that, it shows Grant and Bob at their best writing wise.”  The band was able to twist and bend in any direction they wanted to go, looking ahead to the next thing, pushing themselves, along with their fans to new places, always growing, building songs that stand the test of time, like “Diane,” “Everything Falls Apart,” “Hate Paper Doll,” “Writer’s Cramp” and “Celebrated Summer,” songs that both help define and shatter what it means to be punk, to break barriers, to force listeners to embrace the unknown and to find who they are along the way.

All this Husker talk brought us around to Norton’s band mate Grant Hart, who died from cancer in 2018. “When I think of Grant, what comes to mind is the music, how good of a songwriter he was, truly great.  And another thing about Grant is if he liked you, he could be hard on you, just brutal.  I think his illness softened that somewhat but, yeah, he could be hard on you.  I miss him.”

Norton is a man that is comfortable talking of the past, getting nostalgic for times gone by, friends lost.  He isn’t all about the past though, not one of those rock heroes content to not move forward, to play the old music night after night, to relive the former glory and create nothing new.  Norton is a man that still loves his craft, loves lying down a snarling bass track and rocking on toward the horizon.  Happy to talk about the past at the same time looking forward to what comes next for Porcupine.

“I’m really excited about the new record (What You’ve Heard Isn’t Real), every one of those songs could be on the radio, no question.  Writing songs with Casey and Ian is a good experience, they’re two of the most gifted musicians I’ve ever worked with.”

When reflecting, I asked Norton if there was anything he’d do differently on Husker Du’s SST output, he said without reservation.  “I’d like to see the albums remastered,” a move that would undoubtedly  prove the band’s greatness to a whole new generation, to slap kids back to reality, to show them what real punk is and answer the question “What Would Husker Du?”

 

 

 

 

 

ROCKIN’ IS MA BUSINESS – Blurt’s Rock & Roll Roundup Pt. 6

 

And business is good, whether your thing is punk, power pop, garage rock, rockabilly, glam, action rock, and their various spinoffs and offshoots. Our guarantee to you: no Nickelback allowed. Go HERE to read Dr. Denim’s first installment of the series, HERE for Pt. 2, HERE for Pt. 3,  HERE for Pt. 4, and HERE for Pt.5.  FYI: links to key audio and video tracks follow the main text. Pictured above: Deniz Tek; photo by Anne Tek. (We meant to get this column out before the end of 2018, but life happens. So consider this a round-up of the best rock & roll from the last half of the previous year.)

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Austin’s reactivated Crack Pipes often get tossed in the “garage rock” bin, and while that’s not inaccurate, the quintet has never been a sixties revival act, not even in its earliest days. That’s especially true on Fake Eyelashes (Super Secret), the Pipes’ fifth album and first in a baker’s dozen years. The Pipes distill the raw end of their record collections down to tracks both sweet (“Fake Eyelashes,” “Medusa, Do You Mind?”) and savage (“Lil Cheetah,” “(I’m a) Moon Man, Baby”). Adding bits of soul (“Sha-Zam”), country (the title cut), psychedelia (“Giraffe”) and the blues that shaped the band’s core back in the day (“Sweet & Low”), the Pipes rip on all cylinders, letting strong songwriting power the performances, instead of the other way ‘round. Just to reiterate that this is no retro garage rawk project, the record’s sole cover comes from the catalog of alternative rock icon Grant Hart – and it’s the rocking “You’re a Reflection of the Moon On the Water,” from 2009’s Hot Wax, too.

The Morlocks (American division) hail from the original 80s garage rock revival; amazingly, nearly 35 years after their inception, they’re still standing (even if singer Leighton Koizumi is the only original member left). Bring On the Mesmeric Condition (Hound Gawd!/Rough Trade) – only the San Diego quintet’s fourth studio album in its career – doesn’t alter the original formula an iota. The Morlocks still write tunes that sound like long-lost Nuggets gems and perform with the kind of energy that could only have generated following the late 70s punk rock wave. Which is to say that “Down Underground,” “Easy Action” and “Bothering Me” explode out of the speakers with killer riffs and snarling ‘tude, with Koizumi’s pop-eyed growl as the eye of the hurricane. Not too many of these bands are left, and even fewer can do this bop with any real verve or authenticity. Four decades into their career, the Morlocks still have the goods in spades.

The Ar-Kaics also party like it’s 1965, though not nearly as raucously as their elders. That has less to do with energy than style on In This Time (Wick/Daptone), the Richmond act’s second LP. The quartet comes off less as sneering punks than brooding nerds, with a midtempo rhythm drive that calls to mind folk rock more than garage punk. That doesn’t mean the band can’t rock out when required – cf. “No Vacancy” or “She’s Obsessed With Herself.” But moodier protopsych fare like the seething “Distemper” and poppy “Some People” are far more common. Similarly, Boston’s indefatigable Muck and the Mires share a devotion to sixties pro-am rock, particularly the party variety, but the quartet’s songs simply transcend such easy classification. Muckus Maximus (Rum Bar), the group’s latest EP, spills over with catchy tuneage, “Break It All” and “Loneliness” sure to bring smiles to faces.

Nearing their (gulp) thirtieth anniversary, the Bottle Rockets lean into their Americana side on their thirteenth album Bit Logic (Bloodshot). That doesn’t mean the veteran Missourians have discovered their inner Chris Stapleton – just that Brian Henneman dials up his Willie ‘n’ Waylon influences so they’re a bit more obvious, as on “Way Down South,” “Knotty Pine” and the title track. The band also gets poppy on “Maybe Tomorrow” and “Saxophone” without losing the rootsy influence. Henneman’s trademark wit is in fine form, poking wry fun at humanity in “Doomsday Letter” and “Human Perfection,” and at the music industry itself in “Bad Time to Be an Outlaw.” The Rockets keep their Southern rock edge low-key and avoid their Crazy Horse side, but that doesn’t make Bit Logic anything less than (yet) another solid Bottle Rockets LP. For a taste of the louder version of alt.country, turn to Austin’s Western Youth, whose self-titled, full-length debut (self-released) cranks up the amps even as it keeps to the virtues of songcraft. Frontdudes Taylor Williams and Graham Weber write tunes with melody, heart and just the right touch of soul, and their dedication to the electric guitar as the guiding force of the band keeps soft rock Americana clichés at arms’ length. Check out “Hangin’ On” and “Dying On the Vine” for the Youth at their best.

For Oldest Friend (Off the Hip), its first LP in seven years, Perth, Australia’s Painkillers expand to a four-piece, as singer/guitarist Joe Bludge and drummer James Baker (Hoodoo Gurus, the Scientists, Dubrovniks, etc.) joined by bassist Martyn P. Casey of the Triffids and Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds and guitarist Richard Lane of the Stems and the Chevelles. The addition of two such notables really doesn’t change anything – Bludge still writes country-flavored guitar rockers that teeter between cynicism and sentimentality and sings them in a raw voice devoid, for good or ill, of polish – everybody just stays out of his way to let him express himself. Redolent of everyone from Johnny Dowd and Townes Van Zandt to the Jacobites and the Velvet Underground, Bludge’s vision doesn’t any room for bullshit – “$6 Chicken,” “Honey Bees” and the title track drop pretenses and shoot straight to the heart of barroom prophets everywhere. “I’m doin’ it all over in a rock & roll band,” he declares in “Drunk on a Train,” and that about sums it up.

In case you’ve ever wondered what barbers do in their spare time, the Cutthroat Brothers have the answer. Real life haircutters (though the album cover is a bit too reminiscent of a classic Monty Python sketch to make anyone comfortable sitting in their chairs) Jason Cutthroat and Donny Paycheck (who originally beat the skins for Camarosmith and the mighty Zeke) work out the demons on their self-titled debut (Digital Warfare). Paycheck keeps the rhythmic heart throbbing for Cutthroat, whose grunged-out slide guitar and sedate vocals give basic riff-rockers “Oceans of Blood” and “Kill 4 U” a current of menace and a bucket o’ guts. The pseudo-sibs also bring surprising soul to “Violent Crime,” a ballad (!) that has more in common with Nick Cave than Roy Orbison. Perfectly produced by Jack Endino, whose relationship with Paycheck extends through Zeke to the bands the drummer signed to his sadly defunct Dead Teenager label.

Those missing the wild ‘n’ crazy guys in Guitar Wolf will likely warm to the bluesy garage rock sounds emanating from fellow Japanese combo King Brothers. This trio aren’t the maniacs that Wolf are – let’s face it, no one is – but Wasteland (Hound Gawd!/Rough Trade), its debut album, has plenty of wild-eyed thrills. “Bang! Blues” and “No! No! No!” don’t mess around in the group’s mission to make “Kick Ass Rock.” Melbourne’s Beat Taboo similarly channel the unhinged spirit of the early garagabillies on its debut album Dirty Stash (Off the Hip). Over trashy twin guitars and a rhythm section (including OtH majordomo Mick Baty) as comfortable with rockabilly grunge as swamp rawk, Pange De Bauche growls, howls, rants and croons his way through “Lick My Wail,” “Cat Lady Man” and “Voodoo Beat” like the successor to Nick Cave and Tex Perkins.

Considering how tense modern times are, it takes some balls to sing “I’m a gun and I’m gonna kill you.” But that’s the Blankz for ya, apparently, at least on its third single “I’m a Gun” b/w “Bad Boy” (Slope). With analog synth sharing space with crunchy guitar, the Arizona quintet’s new wavey punk pop is big on old-fashioned pop hooks and sneering attitude. Better is the band’s fourth single “(It’s a) Breakdown” b/w “You’re Not My Friend Anymore” (Slope) – both tunes let the keyboard take the lead and feature stronger vocal performances.

Protopunk legend Deniz Tek has had a productive decade – between Radio Birdman reunions and side projects, he’s released three solo albums in the past five years. That includes the brand new Lost For Words (Career), which, as might be gathered from the title, dismisses lyrics and vocals in favor of an all-instrumental program. Unsurprisingly for the guy that wrote “Aloha Steve and Danno,” surf rock is the biggest building block – cf. “Eddie Would Go” and “Hondo’s Dog.” But there’s more to Lost For Words than refried Dick Dale, with the influence of spy movie soundtracks (“Lies and Bullets”), spaghetti western cinematic twang (“The Barrens”),  Southwestern folk rock (“It Shall Be Life”) and groovy soul (“Boneyard”). The record also includes a pair of Birdman tracks: an instrumental reworking of the title track to 2006’s Zeno Beach and the otherwise unreleased “Vanished.” Another highlight of an always interesting and frequently brilliant career.

Speaking of legends, Paul Collins still walks the earth, dropping power pop nuggets as he goes. The erstwhile leader of the Beat resurfaces after a few years off with Out of My Head (Alive Naturalsound), the follow-up to 2014’s Feel the Noise. Though he’s in his sixties, Collins has managed to hold on to the boyish quality of his voice, which gives simple, lovelorn ditties like “Kind of Girl,” “Beautiful Eyes” and “Emily” a certain poignancy. And while rockers like “Midnight Special” and “Go” don’t exactly set amps on fire, they’ve got enough verve to at least rearrange the furniture. “Killer Inside,” meanwhile, explores an area of rock noir that’s not usually on Collins’ itinerary, and does it quite well, too. Seattle’s Cheap Cassettes work similar terrain on the Kiss the Ass of My Heart EP (Rum Bar), the follow-up to its excellent debut All Anxious, All the Time. Leader and former Dimestore Halo Chaz Matthews likes simple, traditional pop melodies roughed up with rock & roll guitar and vocal grit, making “Black Leather Angel” and the title track balms for pop fans in studded belts.

Chicago musicmaesters Rick Mosher and Kenn Goodman have an estimable career going back to the eighties with the Service, the New Duncan Imperials and their industrious indie label Pravda. The Imperial Sound, the duo’s latest music project, blends airy power pop with horn-driven soul on its debut The New AM. If anything defines this record, it’s taste. Guitarist Mosher and keyboardist Goodmann keep their licks straight and to the point, and the horns augment the tunes perfectly. Given the LP’s title, it’s unsurprising that Mosher’s melodies betray a love of the smarter side of 70s pop and soul, and his arrangements keep ‘em clean and sweet. While Mosher’s plainspoken voice suits “Daylight,” “The Sun Goes Out” and “Back On Your Table” just fine, he also brings in friends for other tracks, highlighting singer/songwriter Nora O’Connor on the straight soul of “Yesterday,” R&B belter Robert Cornelius on the funky “A Man Like You” and the duo of Kelly Hogan and Peter Himmelman on the snappy “Ain’t Crawling Back.” Every track is catchy and to the point. Folks who wondered what happened to these folks after the New Duncs petered out will be happy to tune up The New AM.

We loved the first album from Justine and the Unclean as a wonderfully tight collision of glam, power pop, punk and hard rock. Unsurprisingly, Heartaches and Hot Problems (Rum Bar), the Boston quartet’s follow-up EP, is just as good. From the turbocharged pop of “Be Your Own Reason” and the bare-knuckled punk ‘n’ roll of “The System is Set to Self Destruct” to the deadpan boogie of “Margaritas and Secondhand Smoke” and genre-agnostic rawk of “Monosyllabic Man,” the Unclean waste no time on anything other than good tunes and hot rockin’. Frontperson Justine Covault seems to have picked up the long-abandoned baton of Nikki & the Corvettes, a most welcome infusion of new energy into the artery-hardened revenant of rock & roll. Though pulling from the same elements, Giuda ups the glam quotient considerably on its latest seven-inch “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music” b/w “Born Under a Bad Sign” (Rise Above). All power chord riffs and choral chants, the Roman quintet has never been about anything other than a good time, and with drums that seem to beam straight from the British charts circa 1972, it can’t do anything else.

At its best, rock & roll should have an edge of danger and insanity, as if things might threaten to fall apart any minute. There aren’t many contemporary artists who embody that edge more than Obnox, AKA Lamont “Bim” Thomas (pictured below). The Clevelander’s latest album Bang Messiah (Smog Veil) – his tenth in less than a decade – is a half-hour of his stripped-down blend of punk, hip-hop and electro rock, starting with an obscenity-filled rant called “Steve Albini Thinks We Suck” and ending with the simmering electro-thwomp “Fluss.” In between you get straight rap cuts like “Rally On the Block,” mutant R&B like “Peek-a-Boo” and punk rock tantrums like “I Hate Everything.” Thomas is definitely not everyone’s flagon of cyanide, but there’s no denying the guy oozes rock & roll attitude in a way far too many rockers of his generation eschew.

 

AUDIO/VIDEO

The Ar-Kaics – “No Vacancy”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxQ4bCN2y08

 

The Blankz – “I’m a Gun”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5OarOqldgg

 

The Bottle Rockets – Bit Logic Bandcamp:

https://thebottlerockets.bandcamp.com/album/bit-logic

 

The Cheap Cassettes – Kiss the Ass of My Heart Bandcamp:

https://rumbarrecords.bandcamp.com/album/kiss-the-ass-of-my-heart

 

Paul Collins – “Go”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTaIbtZtSqk

 

The Crack Pipes – Fake Eyelashes:

https://soundcloud.com/supersecretrecords/sets/the-crack-pipes-fake-eyelashes

 

The Cutthroat Brothers – “Kill 4 U”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu1McejK5RE

 

Giuda – “Rock N Roll Music” 7-inch Bandcamp:

https://giuda.bandcamp.com/album/rock-n-roll-music

 

The Imperial Sound – “A Man Like You”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv32UI7aBiA

 

Justine and the Unclean – Heartaches and Hot Problems Bandcamp:

https://rumbarrecords.bandcamp.com/album/heartaches-and-hot-problems

 

The King Brothers – “No Want”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcvvysF0RLA

 

The Morlocks – “Bothering Me”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5QJauQBEuw

 

Muck and the Mires – Muckus Maximus Bandcamp:

https://rumbarrecords.bandcamp.com/album/muckus-maximus

 

Obnox – “Cream”:

https://soundcloud.com/franklisa/cream

 

The Painkillers – “Oldest Friend” Bandcamp:

https://the-painkillers.bandcamp.com/track/oldest-friend

 

Deniz Tek – “Burn the Breeze”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1bJ_u8pKGU

 

Western Youth – s-t Bandcamp:

https://western-youth.bandcamp.com/

 

HERE TO ROCK: Another Day’s Armor

The heavy-ass outfit may title their record “Simple as Sin,” but there’s nothing simple about these dudes.

BY TIFFINI TAYLOR

New York has always been a place where alternative and rock collide to bring some hot bands to the music forefront. Another Day’s Armor is one of these bands. Comprising members Logan Manganelli on vocals, Nick Palma on lead guitar, Ryan Bicknell on rhythm guitar, Joe Grunski on bass, and Alec Keshishian on drums, this is a band that combines arena rock with borderline instrumental rock which has brought them into the spotlight. To see where this band goes in the future will be amazing.

BLURT: How did the band come together? How did you meet each other?

Another Day’s Armor: “The band first came together when Nick and I played in a previous band. After going through some lineup changes, we found our current lineup from local music shops and recommendations from friends and fellow musicians.”

BLURT: Where and who came up with the name Another Day’s Armor?

Another’s Day Armor: “I honestly don’t remember where or who came up with the name, it had to of been almost 4 years ago, but it’s got a nice ring to it and we all think its original.”

BLURT: How would you describe your band’s music?

Another Day’s Armor: “Our music tries to blend rock and metal into one sound as well as a few other genres. All of us wanted to play in a band where the music was heavy, but with a vocalist who had a killer voice and Logan does justice.”

BLURT: What kind of guitar do you play? What kind of bass do you play? What kind of  drums do you play? Any other instruments?

Another Day’s Armor: “I play a red Tama Starclassic kit with Sabian cymbals and I absolutely love the sound I get. Nick has like 50 Schecters, Ryan uses ESP, Joe uses Sterling, and Logan uses Manganelli vocal cords.”

BLURT: How old were you when you began playing your instrument? How old when you began singing?

Another Day’s Armor: “I first started playing percussion in elementary school, but started playing a full kit in middle school so I’m gonna throw a random number out there and say 13?”

BLURT: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Another Day’s Armor: “We draw inspiration from a ton of bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot, Trivium, and Periphery. Aside from the music talking to the right people can also be inspiring.” (Below photo from the band’s Facebook page.)

BLURT: What was the recording experience like for Simple as Sin?

Another Day’s Armor: “We all had a blast when recording Simple As Sin. Our Producers at WerleyBird Studios are so much fun to record with and are great dudes. I’ve honestly never met anyone like them before.”

BLURT: What is the songwriting /music composition process like for Another Day’s Armor?

Another Day’s Armor: “Nick, Ryan, and Joe come up with riffs while I add drums to them and help structure the song, but Simple As Sin was written in our practice space with everyone contributing. Logan and Ryan write the lyrics and vocal melodies.”

BLURT: When and where can fans get your EP?

Another Day’s Armor: “Our EP is fully recorded, but we are waiting for the right time to release the whole thing. Our new single, “Death Investing,” is out now”

BLURT: Your band is unique in the way that you guys want the rock n roll image and you guys want to connect in a good way with your fans, how is that going and how does a band keep it going in today’s music scene? Other than concerts any other way fans can get in touch?

Another Day’s Armor: “Aside from the music image and the fans are very important to us. Our image has certainly helped us gain new fans and social media is a great way to connect with them. We also like to stick around at our merch table after the show to personally connect with fans.”

BLURT: If you could collaborate with anyone or any band who would it be? Who would be your dream tour with?

Another Day’s Armor: “Collaborating with Matt Heafy from Trivium would be pretty sick. Dream tour would be with Metallica and Avenged Sevenfold.”

BLURT: What is next for Another Day’s Armor?

Another Day’s Armor: “We are writing new music and building new relationships with people in the industry.”

BLURT: Anything else you would like to share?

Another Day’s Armor: “I just can’t wait for everyone to hear the new music!”

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Another Day’s Armor is a band to keep an eye on, they a band that does enjoy fan interaction. They want to know their fans. Another Day’s Armor is a rock band. They are an alternative band. They are going to be around for a long time. Looking forward to seeing them soon. Simple As Sin is their EP and it will surprise anyone because it is that good.

Online: https://anotherdaysarmor.com/home 

https://www.facebook.com/anotherdaysarmor/

 

 

THE CREATIVITY OF… Tod Junker

The Die Fast vocalist and Junker Designs clothing maestro talks music, creativity, lifestyles, and more.

By Tiffini Taylor

Tod Junker creates masterpieces in whatever he desires to do. He does everything from a thriving line of clothing, which is Junker Designs, to a popular rock punk band, Die Fast. He has a flair to have fun in anything he develops and that is what makes him a success. I recently had the opportunity to receive his views on all he creates.

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BLURT MAGAZINE: Being from Houston, Texas, how was your childhood as a creative person?

Tod Junker: Well Houston was great! my parents were supportive my mom painted, sewed and knit … and I had other friends that like to draw and create. I basically grew up running around in the creek making up adventures and drawing. the 1970 s were a great time to be young

BLURT: When did you begin designing? When did you begin creating music?

Tod: Designing is a hard question …… it was serious …. I think I was in my teens. I would draw and paint all over my clothes and dressed as I wanted. To me it was art on clothes and didn’t register as fashion. I was influenced by bands and movies mostly. Maybe I was into character building. music was kinda hand in hand with the clothes experiments. I started playing drums at maybe 12 or so …. Played drums in a bunch of punk bands in Houston. Blind Ignorants was maybe the most successful. I was heavy into Rush and Kiss but really got into the Circle jerks and D R I so those styles mixed well for me. In 1991 I started singing. Fronting bands is a blast.

BLURT: Why did you decide to design?

Tod: It was the simple need to have something I wanted that I just couldn’t find. I spent a lot of time looking at The Dead Boys and New York Dolls, Hanoi Rocks and other punk bands and looking at the pants … the jackets, the t shirts. There was no internet, so I just had to figure it out. I starting hand drawing my own Kiss, Frank Zappa and Dead Boys t shirts and putting jean legs on jacket bodies. I was around 16, I think.

BLURT: How old were you when you begin?

Tod: 16ish for music and fashion.

BLURT: Where did the band get the name Die Fast? (Watch a couple of Die Fast video HERE and HERE.)

Tod: I think I was making fun of the “Live Fast Die Young” saying. there is nothing romantic about that party and crazy life style if you aren’t around to enjoy it. Around the same time was this other dumb resurgence of the “Party like a Rock Star “also a romantic version of the horrible truths of death and addiction. So, I figured if you prescribe to these things in a self-destructive way you should just “Die Fast “and get the fuck out of my way. It’s very hard to watch friends die. it happens… its terrible, and a lot is avoidable.

Most of the guys I ran around with in high school are dead … either overdose or suicide.

BLURT: How did the band come to form?

Tod: The band formed in Los Angeles around 2003, I think. Now we are all in Texas.

I like being home. Its better here for me. It’s me singing Glenn Gilbert on guitar he also plays and tours with Richie Ramone, Jimmy Douglas on Guitar, Roo Olivarez on bass, Chis Moye on drums.

BLURT: Your debut single is titled ‘Handsome’, how did the band decide to release it as the first single?

Tod: It thinks it’s a really good album preview. It let people know what’s coming.  It’s also catchy and not too fast. Its recorded and mixed by Andrew Murdock he is really great to work with.

BLURT: Die Fast has an album coming out this summer, what was the recording process like?

Tod: Yes, we do.   It will be called “creek/creak “that could change. The album is unusual. It has been in the works for over 5 years if not longer. Lucky for us Andrew Murdock saw the band out and took a liking to us. We recorded Welcome to Hollywood “ourselves, but he came in and produced and mixed it. That album is out now. That was the first thing we worked on. Then we agreed to do another. That’s “creek/creak” That recording process was pretty standard, I guess. we practiced a lot, so I didn’t take a bunch of time once we were in there.

What did have a pretty big impact was the amount of personal on the record, it was done during the decay of the L A Die Fast and the birth of the Texas Die Fast. So, I think there were 3 different guitar players 3 bass players and 3 drummers. 3 versions almost of the band. We also added two songs at the last moment as well. Chris LaForge was the Texas guitar player. He and I talked a few times when I was living out of state and he put the Texas version of the band together. I had known him through a bunch of other bands in Houston. So, we played together for a bit and revamped some old Die Fast stuff and wrote a couple new ones. Lucky for us all he recorded rough demos on his laptop and he and I did a demo of Dead Boys and Girls. Unfortunately, Chris died. He has a massive stroke getting off a plane in Las Vegas. We are stoked that he will be on the album anyway. Hid guitar solos on these songs are really fuck n high art. great stuff. RIP Chris.

So, the album was a long road that’s what I remember, also Murdock the producer is the only guy to actually produce the band.

Having another person there with ideas comments and suggestions or someone to just kick your ass some is a great help esp. to me. He seemed to like take 20 or so for vocals ….the takes were I could hardly continue he likes …. As do I.

BLURT: Not only do you design clothing, but you have also designed costumes for film and TV, how did that happen?

Tod: Robert Rodriguez, the film director, was collecting my jackets I found out right about the same time I had made him some vests …. Just as a far out far I made him those vests to try and connect and let him know I am a fan I want to work in film and I am a Texan as well . he shoots all his stuff in Austin    so it’s a perfect match. I have worked on Sin City 2, Machete Kills, Dusk till Dawn the Series and Alita Battle Angel with Robert. In Alita he even let me act ……. I play Exploder and bad robot.

BLURT: Do you have a preference, music or design?

Tod: I think I won’t choose.  Hahaha… I love loud….so music will always be my salvation.

BLURT: They’re both creative do you have any other creative outlets you want to show the world in the near future?

Tod: I would like to act more.

BLURT: Does Die Fast have any plans to tour?

Tod: Yes … working on some possible dates with Bullets and Octane.

BLURT: What is your favorite song on this new album coming out?

Tod: Hard to say… Handsome and Satanic Overboard are really good.

BLURT: Anything else you would like to add?

Tod: “Handsome” the single and “Welcome to Hollywood” the record is out now! Please download it and add the Die Fast YouTube page. Also, please add Junker on Instagram (at @todjunker). Make sure to say hi!  Thank you!

Tod Junker is a renaissance man, someone whose ambition and the love of creativity has taken him out of Houston and across the lands. His success is art. When someone takes something that others see as garbage and then makes it into art, well, it is wonderful. Art can be in many forms and it is a wonderful thing. The world needs more artists. Many musicians are artists, music is an art form in itself, it takes talent and a lot of hard work to do it all. Check out Junker Designs as well as Die Fast.

KEEPING THE PROG FAITH: Neal Morse Band Live

Live at Charlotte, North Carolina, venue the Neighborhood Theatre, on February 11, the prolific Xian prog-rock hero (and erstwhile member of Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic) served up the recent “The Great Adventure” and plenty more. Tourdates follow review.

BY BILL KOPP

Neal Morse is well established as a key figure in American progressive rock, a field that—certainly as compared to its British and European counterparts—is sparsely populated. But even if there were exponentially more prog artists operating in the U.S., it’s assured that Morse would still be at the top of the heap.

Morse first came to prominence as a member of Spock’s Beard; he wrote a good deal of the music and lyrics for that group before leaving for a solo career … or, I should say, careers. In addition to making music under his own name (with a strongly faith-based perspective that sets him apart from most everyone else in rock), with international all-star prog group Transatlantic, guesting on others’ albums, and with the Neal Morse Band.

Neal Morse has been staggeringly prolific, with a volume of output that rivals that of Steven Wilson. Morse’s religiously-oriented worldview is a central characteristic of his music; try as one might, there’s really no escaping it. On his solo albums like Testimony (2003), Sola Scriptura (2007) and 2012’s Momentum, Morse chronicles his faith journey both directly and in the form of parable-like stories; Sola Scriptura, for example, is based upon the life of Martin Luther.

Listeners not predisposed to enjoying Christian-themed music may find Morse’s lyrical subject matter not to their liking; while there are long—and quite often impressive—instrumental passages on most all of Morse’s albums, when he sings, it’s pretty much always about his faith. To the converted, doubtless Morse’s lyrical themes are inspiring; even removed from that perspective, his lyrics are objectively good, steering as clear of cliché as one can do when working within the comparatively narrow format of faith-based music.

But before he was a Christian (or at least a born again one), Neal Morse was a progressive rock musician. And he has lost none of the fire and passion for musical adventurism that characterizes the best of that genre. Combining faith-based subjects and ambitious music is in itself a daunting goal, and—again, looking at it from the outside—one at which he has succeeded mightily.

But there are still those lyrics. Lots of story lines about journeys, trials, tribulations and (nearly always) an uplifting ending are what listeners will find. As one of several vehicles for his lyrical and musical ideas, Morse launched the Neal Morse Band in 2015. The group has to date released three epic-length albums: 2015’s The Grand Experiment, The Similitude of a Dream in 2016, and his newest, The Great Adventure. The standard Morse established years ago is adhered to on all of these albums; though he’s a superb musician himself, in this group Morse surrounds himself with fellow top-flight players including Mike Portnoy (drums), Eric Gillette (7-string guitar), bassist Randy George and keyboardist Bill Hubauer. It’s worth noting that all five sing, and quite well.

As I discovered in February 2019, the experience of seeing and hearing the Neal Morse Band live onstage is, surprisingly, not at all like listening to a CD. To be sure, the music’s quite similar: the current tour presents The Great Adventure start to finish, plus an encore of sorts drawing from Morse’s solo work. And the players are the same. But there’s an energy that even Morse’s finely-crafted albums can only hint at. And for that reason, the live experience is the one to have. This is especially true, I should think, for music fans of the non-religious (or other-religious) variety. While Morse puts across all of the same ideas, concepts and messages onstage that he does on record, in a concert setting it’s far easier to allow oneself to get wrapped up in the stunning musical interplay, the sublime vocal harmonies and the general upbeat, passionate energy of the show.

Think of it this way perhaps: if you’re seeing, say, an Italian progressive rock band that features vocals in the group’s native tongue, then you revel in the sound of the vocals rather than the content of the lyrics. For the most part, that’s what I did at the show I witnessed. It’s worth emphasizing that there’s very little in Morse’s lyrics with which most could (or would) take serious issue; it’s positive, life-affirming stuff. And in that way, it’s not all that different from, say, Jon Anderson’s lyrics for Yes about astral traveling and universal brotherhood. In Morse’s case, though, you just know it’s all about Jesus and so forth.

And that’s okay, and should be okay, even for listeners who aren’t of faith. The musicians are so outrageously good that, in the end, little else matters. Morse writes prog with the values of a pop songwriter, and that’s meant in the best possible way. He knows his way around a hook and a melody, and he’s skilled at the long-form approach, weaving musical themes in and out of extended pieces. In short, the man just knows how to write a compelling rock opera; it’s just that he chooses topics like Pilgrim’s’ Progress as his inspiration. Hey, it beats yet endless recycling of J.R.R. Tolkien.

And the band is jaw-droppingly good. Eric Gillette is the rarest of guitarists: he can shred with the best of them, but he’s supremely melodic, and doesn’t engage in hey-look-at-me pyrotechnics. He sings lead and harmony all the while, which itself is a triumph. Portnoy’s much the same; his command of his big kit is complete, but he never seems like a show-off. Hubauer’s keyboards often seem to melt into the overall sound of the group, but his vocals are a major asset to the group. Randy George has that rock-solid yet thunderous bottom end thing down cold.

And in front of it all is Neal Morse himself, leaping about the stage like a young Ian Anderson, disappearing briefly every once in a while, only to return in a new costume or mask. Nothing too flashy—this isn’t 1972 Peter Gabriel—but his costume changes do get across the points that (a) there’s a story here and (b) Morse is having a wonderful time.

And ultimately, that’s the vibe that comes across strongest. The Neal Morse band isn’t a bunch of dour-faced musos (with the possible exception of bassist George, who gives off a slight hey-let’s just-get-on-with-it air). They’re musicians who are having the time of their lives playing this challenging and breathtaking music. And unless one is irrationally hostile to Morse’s lyrical point of view, that enjoyment is wholly infectious.

At the end of the day, I don’t know how much time I’ll spend in the future playing Neal Morse’s albums, but I do know that I will never miss an opportunity to witness him and his band live.

Neal Morse Band upcoming live dates: http://nealmorse.com/live.asp