Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 08:35 PM ( 37507 views ) - Interviews - Posted by dagmarsieglindeI recently talked with Strify, vocalist and Kiro, bassist of Cinema Bizarre before their opening show for the Fame Tour with Lady Gaga. They were in Seattle for the first time and don't hate these guys because they're beautiful - instead love them for their dramatic music and striking stage presence. I haven't seen a band quite like them and I really enjoyed how they bring so many elements along with their great songs - they've got a cool vibe and they are really gripping to watch. Their first US album, BANG!, is set for an August 25th release.
Dagmar: You met in Berlin?
Strify: Not in Berlin, in Koblenz. It was a convention on manga/anime and Japanese culture.
D: So youíre really interested in Japanese art?
Kiro: The style, the music was why we were there. We were all people who came there from Europe to this convention and share interests.
Strify: Basically I was always interested in androgyny, people like David Bowie, Adam Ant and Grace Jones, for example. I found out about Visual Kei, a Japanese youth culture Ė an underground youth culture Ė which found its origin in the 80s, and because there wasnít any hard rock in Japan at the time, there was one band called X Japan and they really started to dress up. Their look was very MŲtley CrŁe inspired. I found out about it and really loved the look. It broadened my style, my development of style. Itís pretty androgynous.
Kiro & Strify @ the Showbox, 2009
photo by Dagmar
D: Are you interested in horror movies?
Strify: I am not but Kiro really is.
Kiro: I love horror movies. Iím a fan of Twilight Ė I really loved the movie.
Strify: When it comes to movies Iím a fan of Tim Burton. I love the worlds he creates. I like the fact that heís always working together with the same team Ė never change a winning team. I am looking forward to his Alice in Wonderland. Iím also a big fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Ė thatís one of my favorite movies. I also love A Clockwork Orange. Movies that show a completely different world Ė and thatís what we want also in the band. Thatís why we called ourselves Cinema Bizarre Ė we want to create a world, a universe.
D: I think youíve done a great job of that.
Strify: Weíre like the complete opposite of the garage band. A lot of bands are like, we donít want to have an image, which is their image Ė not to have an image. We want to have a whole package of music, look and everything.
D: Whatís it like living in Berlin? Did any of you grow up there?
Strify: We moved to Berlin two years ago. We come from different cities. I come from the south of Germany and weíve got people coming from the north of Germany. We decided to get together in Berlin. Berlin really has got a cool vibe. Thereís a lot of musicians and the area we live in has a lot of actors. In Berlin, when there are people doing something which they are famous for, people arenít really interested. Itís not like when you come to LA and there are paparazzi everywhere. I really love Berlin. You could describe it as glamorous and trashy. And thatís what I like because I would also describe our band as glamorous and trashy.
Strify onstage @ the Showbox, 2009
photo by Dagmar
D: Do you like making your videos?
Strify: Yes, for sure. I would love to shoot even more videos.
D: I saw a video on YouTube of you doing a video shoot and you had a giant bird. Was it heavy?
Strify: It was. But it was such a beautiful animal. Iíve never seen a hawk so close. It had beautiful feathers and those eyes were so impressive. Itís such a proud animal. I wasnít afraid of the animal but I had a lot of respect [for the animal]. It was called Friday.
D: How did you two get involved in music?
Strify: Music has always been a passion. When you have a passion for something so strong you want to get involved in it. I tried choirs but it never worked for me. I really got started when I met the other guys [in Cinema Bizarre].
D: You, did you start learning bass as a teenager?
Kiro: It was, I think five years ago. A good friend [taught me] Ė she plays bass in a band. I come from a small village in Germany and there were not many musicians I could identify with. She showed me a bit and then I went to a professional teacher.
Kiro onstage @ the Showbox, 2009
photo by Dagmar
D: You mentioned David Bowie, what other bands do you like, for example from the 80s?
Strify: Dead or alive. I love Kim Wilde. I really like the voice of Kim Wilde. Grace Jones. I am also a big Madonna fan. Iím also a big fan of Adam Ant and David Bowie, but thatís before the 80s.
D: I noticed Depeche Mode let you sample them (Everything Counts in
Escape to the Stars).
Strify: Musically they were a big influence. My father was always listening to Depeche Mode when I was little. When youíre small you usually hate your parentsí music. Then thereís the day you find out that itís good stuff your father listens to. It was Depeche Mode, David Bowie and Queen . . . electronic/Depeche Mode vibe was a big influence on our music.
D: Who came up with the name Cinema Bizarre?
Strify: I found the word Bizarre. People look at us and say, "Youíre so bizarre, why are you so strange, what is up with you guys?" We wanted to give bizarre a positive background. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is also bizarre Ė positively bizarre. Itís the same for us. But just Bizarre wasnít a good band name. We found out about a new movie category called Bizarre Cinema, which features really strange movies from the 70s. It was quite fitting.
Kiro: It was perfect.
D: How did you get on the tour with Lady Gaga?
Strify: We met in Berlin. She was the opening act for Pussycat Dolls. We wanted to meet her. I have followed her career from the very beginning. She really liked us. We went backstage after her show and I think the first thing she said to us was, "You look like all my ex boyfriends, youíre so cute." It was so great. It was such a nice compliment. We met her crew and her dancers. Two days later she called and asked if we wanted to open the show.
Kiro: We couldnít believe it at first.
D: Youíve traveled all over Europe now?
Strify: France, Russia, Scandinavia, Italy . . . Iím always happy to come back to Paris because itís one of my favorite cities.
Kiro: I like Moscow. I like Russia so much. Moscow is like Berlin only bigger. Saint Petersburg also is a very beautiful city.
Strify: [Saint Petersburg] is impressive. They have so many big buildings. Itís the same kind of architecture you can find in Berlin and Moscow. Stalin-inspired architecture.
See more photos of Cinema Bizarre's show here.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009, 07:04 PM ( 7625 views ) - Interviews - Posted by dagmarsieglindeI interviewed Jeremy Haines and Sammy Rubin of Project Jenny, Project Jan before their Seattle show in March. I am ashamed to admit that I actually misplaced the interview but the coincidence of losing the interview and the fact that one of my favorite songs of theirs, Negative, concerns lost negatives is not lost on me. The loss of the interview really upset me and discovering it on my computer a couple weeks ago was such a relief. Anyway, enough about me. PJPJ comes from Brooklyn, New York and their songs combine all sorts of sounds - they are fearless in incorporating whatever they want in their music. I love that. Their new EP, the Colors, is out now and you should get it. Really.
Q: I love the video for Negative Ė where did you find the footage of the girl dancing & the negatives?
Sammy Rubin: The girl dancing was just easy Ė I just found some footage. The negatives are the interesting part because that was how the whole song started. We had to write a whole bunch of songs in a really short time because somebody asked us to play a party and we didnít even have any songs. We were writing, working and drinking. Iím working on the music for it and Jeremy canít figure out what this song is going to be about. He goes, Iím gonna take a walk and get some beer. On the way back [he has] plastic negatives in a sleeve. I was working on my computer and he just stuck it on the screen. He was just like, thatís what Iím writing a song about. We ended up scanning them and putting them into the video. Those are the actual negatives we found. Somebody lost those negatives.
[The original of the video is no longer on the site but you can see it in the background of the live version above.]
Q: Do you like directing and producing videos?
S.R.: I donít really consider myself doing video at all. I want to stop. I want somebody else to do the videos for us. I want to just work on the music.
Q: The video for Zoobar is cool too.
S.R.: Which one?
Q: The one with the toys.
S.R.: I didnít make that one, thatís Chris Herbeck.
Q: You have a different video for it?
S.R.: We use the one live that we made originally for it, which is actually worse. Do you remember Meet the Feebles? It was Peter Jacksonís first thing Ė they looked like Muppets but they were really warped. I used that. Itís also distasteful and quirky in its own way.
Sammy Rubin - photo by Dagmar
Q: Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
S.R.: I donít feel guilty [about music]. I like Billy Joel. There was one the other day I was thinking of and I wouldnít tell anyone about it. Iím trying to think of it so I can tell you right now. It was something really, really bad.
Q: I like Aqua. The whole album (Aquarium) is great.
S.R.: Oh yeah. We came into today and there was a station just playing techno. Did Aqua play Barbie Girl?
S.R.: We drove into today and they were playing [this techno music] and Jeremy was like, are we in Russia? It was fun to listen to, I mean, we didnít change the station.
Q: Is this your first band, or have you always played music?
S.R.: Iíve always played music. When I was in music school I had a band there. Jeremy was in a band in college. He was the lead singer. We became friends and didnít form a band - it didnít even occur to us for a while. All the sudden we were like, letís start making music.
Q: What instruments did you learn as a child?
S.R.: I started with piano and learned saxophone and then moved to bass guitar. I was a bass player for a long time before I did this. Iím into bass a lot. Itís both rhythmic and melodic. I think that ends up coming out in our music. Most of our stuff is bass driven.
Q: You studied music theory?
S.R.: Theory, composition . . . it was at University of Rochester.
Q: Do you like classical music?
S.R.: I got into Chopin for a while and Beethoven.
[Jeremy Haines joins us]
S.R.: We were talking about classical music.
Jeremy Haines: You know, the girl before asked me that too. She was like, it sounds like you guys have classical references in your music. I said that Sammy used to play jazz, and thatís why.
Q: I havenít seen the movie yet, but you two did a cameo in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist?
J.H.: I play this character named Randy, who has a band called Are You Randy? - which is us. Weíre integral to the plot development. Theyíre trying to go see their favorite band, Whereís Fluffy? They think thatís it going to happen at this one place, and everyone goes, and then we show up. Everyone gets sad and leaves.
S.R.: Yeah, they all walk out. I liked that.
J.H.: Itís fun to be the villains. My character comes and goes throughout the course of the movie. Heís the guy that keeps coming back. It made our fan base a lot younger Ė a ton of teenagers saw it. A small percentage of them were interested enough in our characters and music to look us up. Now weíve got a lot of fifteen-year-old friends on Myspace.
Jeremy Haines - photo by Dagmar
Q: What were your initial impressions of each other?
S.R.: I thought he was an idiot.
J.H.: I thought he was a jerk. The first time I remember meeting him heíd just crashed his car after a long drive from Long Island. I thought he was crazy. He was like, I just crashed my car, I need a drink.
S.R.: I had to get it towed. I was so frazzled by it I needed whiskey.
J.H.: He was friends with my best friends from high school so they put in a good word for him.
S.R.: Otherwise he would have thought I was a big jerk.
Q: Jeremy, you studied art, do you do all the posters and artwork for the band?
J.H.: I do all the drawings. In the videos Sammy puts them altogether Ė heís the editor/director. Thatís what I went to college for. I moved to New York to pursue it.
One of Jeremy Haines' posters - brilliant.
Q: Do you ever read reviews of your live shows?
Q: Does it make you self-conscious?
J.H.: You think youíre above it all, youíre like, whatever . . . but then you read something sometimes and youíre like, that hurts.
S.R.: Even if itís filled with misspellings and a readership of two, it still stings.
J.H.: Itís like a critique when youíre in school, sometimes you get bombed.
Q: Iíd want to comment back.
J.H.: Thatís the other thing. With critiquing you can defend yourself.
Q: I read some interview, I think in Orlando, where you wanted some Disney characters to show up. Whoíd you like to turn up?
S.R.: Depends where. The Disney characters kind of suck.
J.H.: No they donít, what about all those princesses? Tinker Bell is kind of lame, but if she was really here, sprinkling fairy dust on everyone so that everyone could fly Ė this night would be crazy. Everyone boozing and flying around.
S.R.: That would be awesome.
J.H.: I like the effect Tinker Bell that would have on everyone.
Tinker Bell by Disney
Q: Do you remember your first show as Project Jenny, Project Jan?
J.H.: Totally. We have it on video.
S.R.: We never put it up.
J.H.: Because it sucks.
S.R.: Itís not horrible.
J.H.: But itís not that good.
S.R.: If I remember right, it looks like a high school talent show.
J.H.: Iíve got long hair.
S.R.: And Iím sitting down. I think we only had three songs. It was a variety show.
J.H.: It was a fun show Ė we had a great time. Our friends were all there and we got a show directly from it.
Q: What kind of clothing style or fashion would you like to see come back?
S.R.: Maybe hats. How about the earring that connects to your nose?
J.H.: That was sweet.
You can see more photos I took of their show here.
Monday, May 25, 2009, 02:58 AM ( 1128 views ) - Interviews - Posted by dagmarsieglindeThe Crystal Method returned this year with their fourth studio album, Divided by Night, a smashing collection of songs featuring such diverse artists from Matisyahu to Peter Cook. I got the wonderful chance to talk with the Crystal Methodís Ken Jordan, who along with Scott Kirkland, has created significant electronic music thatís maintained its cool factor. The band is scheduled to appear at the WaMu Theater in Seattle on May 30th and I cannot wait for the experience.
Q: What are some of the changes for the new tour?
Ken Jordan: There are a lot of different technical things. On our tour weíre running two synced up MacBook Pros. Weíve got our brand new Axiom controllers and all the lights are new stuff. This company High End Systems out of Austin is letting us use brand new lights that are not even available to anyone else yet. Light and sound is all pretty new.
Q: Emily Haines is on the new album - how did you meet up with her?
K.J.: We knew of Metric but it wasnít until we saw this video on youtube, where she was singing with someone playing acoustic guitar. Her voice was very prominent and we just really fell in love with her voice and wanted to try to get her on the record.
Q: You also have Justin Warfield and his wife, Stefanie King Warfield on the album?
K.J.: He delivered a great vocal on Kling to the Wreckage. We also had this background vocal part and we asked who it was. He said it was his wife so we got her to do another song, which was Black Rainbows.
Q: They both have cool voices. Are there other people youíd like to collaborate with?
K.J.: Yeah, weíre going to keep finding new people. I donít want to spoil it by not having it come true.
Q: What about somebodyís voice that you really loved, like when you were growing up?
K.J.: Stevie Wonder stuff from the 70s. Bill Withers. We actually did try to reach out to him [Withers] because I heard heís still singing really well . . .
Q: Are there any music genres or styles that youíre interested in trying that you havenít tried yet?
K.J.: We find out what works best for us is trying something thatís totally different. Weíre willing to try anything. The things that donít work out donít show up on the record but weíre always trying different things.
Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan of the Crystal Method - photo courtesy of thecrystalmethod.com.
Q: Youíve contributed a lot to movies and soundtracks. Are there directors that interest you?
K.J.: Weíve done some scoring. We scored a film called London and I scored a TV movie once Ė Columbo Likes the Nightlife. We really do like scoring to picture. Thereís a lot of directors we do like so hopefully we will get to work with them.
Q: Are you still working on the Doorsí music?
K.J.: We did the one remix a while back for Roadhouse Blues. This year weíre going to do another remix for Break on Through.
Q: When were a little kid did you learn to play piano or did you pick it up later?
K.J.: Much later. I didnít even take piano lessons until I started going to college. I never wanted to be in a band or anything. I actually started making music because I was running the college radio station and bands that liked my taste in music asked me to come into the studio with them. Thatís when I decided I wanted to be a producer/engineer. The little piano that I had learned helped me quite a bit. When I started working with Scott it became more of a band Ė not so much being a producer or an engineer.
Q: Did you two meet initially in college?
K.J.: We met in Las Vegas Ė we both grew up in Las Vegas. We had both already started working on some music with other people, Scott more by himself. I was working with a singer. We had the same part-time job and he came in with a drum machine one day and we started talking. We put all of our gear together and eventually the Crystal Method was born.
Q: Was Las Vegas an interesting place to grow up?
K.J.: Itís an interesting because when youíre a kid you donít realize that other places donít have slot machines and 7-Elevens. Neither one of our parents worked in the casino industry so it was a little more normal for us.
Q: Are there some types of music you disagree on?
K.J.: Scott likes a lot of the 80s hair metal bands and I donít like any of them.
Q: Where did you get the title of the new CD from?
K.J.: Divided by Night is kind of a metaphor for our lives. We lead pretty hardworking normal lives during the day but then when weíre going out in the clubs and djing or playing concerts itís just radically different. The phrase Divided by Night represents that division.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
K.J.: I play a lot of ice hockey.
Q: Thatís brutal.
K.J.: No, itís not.
Q: How did you start doing that?
K.J.: I didnít learn until really late in life. I didnít play until I moved to L.A., back when Wayne Gretzky was on the teams. I got really interested. A lot of friends of mine from Vegas had a team and were in L.A., so I joined the team.
Q: You need to have strong ankles for that.
K.J.: Well the boots keep your ankle together pretty good.
Q: How have you and Scott managed to stay friends, for like 10 years?
K.J.: Itís more like 20 years. Besides our immediate family members itís the longest relationships weíve been in. You learn to get along. You have to like each other first or itís probably not going to work anyway.
Q: Whatís the songs of yours youíre most proud of?
K.J.: The last song [on Divided by Night], itís called Falling Hard and I think itís the most beautiful song weíve ever done.
Q: If you could have the power of a robot what would it be?
K.J.: Thatís a good one because we donít really know what robots do right now.
Q: There are limitations.
K.J.: I would like the power not to be so emotional sometimes.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009, 08:29 PM ( 515 views ) - Interviews - Posted by dagmarsieglindeRussiaís Mumiy Troll were in Seattle earlier this month for their sold-out show at Chop Suey. Iím guessing theyíll play an even larger venue next time they come here. The very charming and very handsome performer/singer/composer and emperor of rockapops, Ilya Lagutenko sat down and talked with me before the show and I canít recall what it was that initiated talk about the Russian Blue cat, but thatís where we started.
Ilya Lagutenko: They make the mistake and call them British.
Q: I used to have one of those cats.
IL: My wife has two of these and they are most unfriendly. Itís like that saying, dogs have bosses and cats have staff.
Q: Thatís right. Are they nice to her?
IL: Theyíre nice to her Ė theyíre nice to themselves mostly. They wait until all people leave the lounge and then they sit on the sofa and watch TV. The moment you get into the room they [leave].
Q: I was actually going to ask you about cats. I was reading about you being a spokesperson for Siberian tiger conservation. Have you been able to go see them?
IL: I saw them in the zoo but not in real life. I heard them in real life when I was in university and we did our ecological lessons. We had to study ecology. I studied Chinese Ė Mandarin and we went to the Far East of Russia, in the middle of nowhere. It used to be a pre-Chinese inhabitance. The weather was so bad Ė for a whole month. When you dig dirt for ecological purposes it has to be dry and if it rains you have to wait four or five days and sit and do nothing. One night we heard these really strange sounds and itís not a dog Ė you donít have dogs in the middle of nowhere. Itís not like a roar you hear in the movies. Itís kind of haunting. The next morning the local ranger told us not to go to that part because tigers had had a party, killed a wild boar Ė it was their space. They know youíre here and you know theyíre here. It influenced my music style, in a way. Iíve been doing this charity work for the last seven years and itís a Russian-British organization. I met with this lovely British lady who worries about our tigers more than any one in my hometown, which is supposed to be doing more than any one else. My hometown is mostly famous for its biggest rate of crime, the most political battles between mayors and governors, shortage of hot water in the winter. Now itís all those demonstrations against economic policies. People always know about Vladivostok Ė even in Russia Ė only bad things. Thereís nothing wrong with it, itís just for some reason people only hear bad news about it.
Q: Thatís terrible.
IL: Thatís why I wrote one of the songs, Vladivostok 2000, a rock hymn. It became a big hit in the whole of Russia. And I do the charity Ė at least weíll keep the tiger alive.
Lagutenko @ Chop Suey 2009 - photo by Dagmar
Q: When you first started in the Soviet Union you would get jailed for playing shows?
IL: Now when I try to remember those Soviet times it makes me laugh to be honest. When people tried to [say] music was bad and rock concerts are something like putting a swastika flag on the Kremlin. . . It was the same kind of mad idea Ė it could never happen. Rock music was a bad word. We didnít really feel any ideological or political message, it was a game for us. It was a toy, for me personally. We were so secluded in Vladivostok. In Moscow and Saint Petersburg they had their big underground scenes. They had really big bands Ė some of them still going on now Ė and great musicians. In our hometown thereíd never been a movement and I knew about the rock bands from Japanese magazines sailors would bring from Japan. Youíd tune into AM radio and hear some American radio station which would broadcast for American soldiers in Okinawa and then [youíd] hear [static] and Michael Jackson and Rockwell. Somebodyís Watching Me - what a song. I still have tapes which I recorded from the radio. It was terrible quality. It was random music experiences Ė sometimes my mother used to have Elvis Presley or John Lennon solo albums and I remember we had this tape at home. On side A was Deep Purple Live in Japan and the other side was soundtrack to Emmanuelle, this erotic movie from the 70s. Both things were cool because it was so different from what you could hear on our radio and on our television. It gave you a landscape to dream and fantasize about something. It gives you inspiration. We created our own world without knowing what we should create. In the end we had two or three rock bands in town and we created our own club and we would see each other. In a way itís similar to whatís going on now with the Internet. When you donít have a big promotional tool, like television or a company with some idea of how to promote you . . . it was basically, I like this band and I can reference it to a friend. Thatís probably why at some point we were as popular as, like, Black Sabbath. So coming back to the question about being jailed Ė it wasnít for [us] being so scary it was just some people in our local communist party who were supposed to do reports for their bosses . . .weíre fighting western influences, these rotten capitalistic influences so what shall we do? Black Sabbath Ė banned. Mumiy Troll, what the hell? Banned. We were on the same scale. Every week young communists would go to meetings and say, those guys playing rotten western music, theyíre bad guys. The government hates you and it feeds your teenage ego.
Q: Were your parents musical?
IL: Not at all actually. My father died when I was a small kid and my mother worked hard. She used to work in [todayís terms] the fashion industry but in those days there was no fashion industry in the Soviet Union. It was government orders to create peopleís uniform. Basically she was designing dresses and stuff. For fun she designs for theaters. She was supportive of my music interests. The circle of her friends were artists so I grew up in a so-called Soviet bohemia, if there is any. Vladivostok is a port city, a sailorís place. Itís a really young city.
Q: She let you go on a choir tour when you were a little kid? How old were you?
IL: Yeah, seven. It was my first tour of Russia.
Q: Did you decide then that you wanted to be involved in music?
IL: Not really. It was just for fun but at some point me and friends decided weíd like to be in a band but we understood that itís not the thing to which to devote our lives. It would never work because you cannot be a musician on your own terms. At that time, to be in a band was like another galaxy. You have to choose your profession so I entered Far Eastern University to study Chinese and Chinese history. While I was studying the Soviet Union collapsed and everything went topsy-turvy. In one day all those ideals just collapsed. If yesterday you felt like Big Brother was watching you and you had to follow the orders and your bosses would check how you behave in society . . . in school we had not only marks for knowledge for math but behavior. Good, bad . . . you can study very well but not behave good. How they judge it was on their own terms. And suddenly thereís no country and no one to judge, you can do whatever you want. And what about work which you have to provide for me? Forget it. You just find it yourself. Thatís why some people feel frustrated in Russia because at some point, okay we didnít have enough choice and freedom but at the same time it was a predicted life. For many people it was okay. You have a flat and your factory will hire you for life. For me it was challenging because you can travel anywhere you want. I used to live in China and England. I used to work for an investment bank in London and Iíve been involved in building toll roads in China. You have too many things to try out. At some point I understood I wasnít enjoying do all these entrepreneurial things. When I was in England a friend of mine said, letís just record an album and release it in Russia. The music market started to grow and you can sell CDs, play music and sell tickets. Why not? We tried and we succeeded. Now it sounds too easy. It was probably the cheapest studio in London that we could find. When we brought it to Russian labels they said it was too western, too good and I said, before you told me itís not quality enough. Ten years before it was too lightweight and ten years later itís too serious and radical. Historically it was the biggest-selling indie album ever in Russia, which basically showed to other people in the business rock music can sell. Before that no one really believed rock music could sell in Russia. It was at the same time as all those British bands like Oasis so thatís why they call us Britpop in Russia because I did the album in London. Itís nothing to do with Britpop. Then all this stuff started about how I defined the music so I made up this term, rockapops. It still sounds Russian. Now Iím the emperor of rockapops. Iíve always been fascinated that someone created the term rock Ďní roll out of nothing.
Q: I havenít seen the film you played a vampire in, Night Watch yet. Do you plan on more acting?
IL: I do not really enjoy acting, to be honest. Actorsí work is hard work and youíve got a hundred people around you. Youíve got the director, who knows what you have to do. There are probably relations between actors and directors if youíre doing it full time but Iím not a natural-born actor. As a band, in a way, youíre free to do what you want to do. I was obsessed to see all my favorite bands from the 80s and itís boring when you see it live. Great songs but live . . . lots of current bands, when they do the same stuff thatís on their records Ė do I really have to listen to the same quality CD? I like the real experience of today. I remember I saw U2 once and Bono was like, excuse me Iíve lost my voice, and I liked it more because I need energy, right now. Itís based on communication. We never rehearse, I think itís a waste of time. The audience will never be the same, weíre never the same because me and you Ė weíre not the same tomorrow as today. For us thatís the most important thing, right here right now.
Mumiy Troll returns to the States in March 2009.
More of my photos from the Chop Suey show can be seen here & here.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009, 05:39 PM ( 1674 views ) - Interviews - Posted by dagmarsieglindeMad Rad is one of Seattle's great wonders. They're lively and out for fun. Their songs and shows are parties unto themselves. P Smoov, performer/lyricist/beatmaker of Mad Rad talked with me in December 08 about the band's origins and foxy fan base - oh, and I found out he's also a talented visual artist. Read on.
Q: You recently played in New York?
P Smoov: Yeah, we played the Knitting Factory, which is a legendary three story venue where a lot of amazing punk acts and pretty much every act that comes through there at some point or another. We played on the bottom floor Ė it was so chill [with] a really good turnout and kids know how to dance in New York City. It was so much fun.
Q: The tour reception was positive?
PS: Everyone was receiving us well and they all loved the tunes. It was just like, yo do you need a place to sleep, you can crash on our sofa. . . It was a very different scene and a different crowd from Seattle Ė or Portland even. But a cool scene.
Q: You guys dance around a lot in Mad Rad Ė how would you describe your dancing style?
PS: I personally think that Iím a horrible dancer. I think we just like our tunes and when we get onstage we canít really help but to wild out. Buffalo [Madonna] is more of the dancing guy. He starts flipping out on the ground like a fish out of water.
Q: Yeah, he was pretty dirty after crawling around the floor of the Funhouse.
PS: That was nasty. I think Terry Radjaw is the best dancer out of all of us. Sometimes he just gets down and dances onstage for a couple of minutes without even doing any lyrics. Itís hilarious.
Q: Whatís a typical Mad Rad show?
PS: A typical Mad Rad show starts about three hours before where we start drinking and smoking weed Ė just wilding out, practicing our lyrics. We get there and thereís a lot of scantily clad women with makeup on. I guess we just wild the hell out for as long as weíre onstage and try to do the best job as possible.
Q: The show at the Funhouse had a lot of pretty women there Ė thatís typical?
PS: I would say we definitely lucked out when it comes to our fan base. Itís largely female, which is great. [And] the girls bring the boys.
P Smoov @ the Funhouse, December 2008
Q: You played with 2 Live Crew at Nectar Ė what was that like?
PS: Oh, man Ė that was such an awesome night. It was such an honor to work with such legendary cats like that. We played with another band that weíre friends with, Champagne Champagne. It was cool Ė 2 Live Crew brought out a crowd that we probably never could have brought out ourselves. It was such a fun opportunity to perform in a setting with a band of that magnitude. That was the day before we left on tour so we left with such high spirits.
Q: How did the band get together?
PS: Buffalo and Radjaw were vibing out together before I met them. They were writing songs together and they didnít have anyone making beats for them at the time. I saw Terry Radjaw doing a solo performance at Nectar and I approached him. Buffalo, at that time was just a backup dancer, he didnít even have a mike. So they came through and we hit it off. All the tunes that we were making were some of my favorite tunes that I had made and their favorites tunes that they had been working on. We were just like, fuck it, letís do this. Letís go all out.
Q: That was this year?
PS: Our first show April 9th of 2008. Weíve been performing for less than a year.
Q: Whatís Fresh Espresso?
PS: Fresh Espresso is my other band with the rapper Rik Rude. Heís a local legend Ė one of the illest mcs that Seattle has to offer. Iíve been working on Fresh Espresso for longer than Iíve been working on the Mad Rad shit. That album is coming out soon. I came to Seattle to start a studio, called the Robot Room, in Queen Anne. One of my main focuses is recording, engineering and mastering other bands. Iíve had a fucking great opportunity to work with a lot of different musicians.
Q: Where did you move here from?
PS: I moved here from Los Angeles. I was born in Michigan, moved to Orlando then to Los Angeles. I settled in the Northwest.
Q: Youíre also an artist.
PS: Yeah, I do art under the name of Ten Hundred.
Q: The drawings and paintings are really, really good.
PS: Thank you. I have been going crazy for art lately ever since I got off tour. Being in that tour van . . . Iíve been painting nonstop. Itís such a relaxer for me.
Q: Do you ever think about having Mad Rad dancers?
PS: Weíve had impromptu dance competitions onstage, where we invite a couple of the ladies from the audience to compete with dance moves for a copy of our cd or for one of our t-shirts. These girls go all out Ė itís such a show. It gives us a chance to catch our breath while theyíre shaking their asses. Last night there was a row of ladies in front and I was just like, can you guys please just come onstage? And they flooded the stage. I donít think we want people that we bring with us to dance onstage. We want the crowd to come up onstage.
Q: Who writes the lyrics?
PS: We all write the lyrics and write the hooks. Itís not ego-based. We just try to crack each other up and whatever makes us laugh the hardest is pretty much what we use in the songs. The beats . . . I do those and we also had a guy, Lou Pal, who contributed to the production of the record.
Q: I really loved the video for My Product Ė was that shot in South Seattle?
PS: Some of it was shot in Sodo and some of it was on Capitol Hill. That was directed by Dave Otte - from Brooklyn. He flew out and was kind enough to shoot a video for us. It was three days of so much fun. It was on a shoe string budget Ė I think we spent maybe 150 bucks for the whole video.
Q: I wanted to ask you about the song Electric Sheep. Whoís the science fiction fan/Blade Runner fan?
PS: Iím a science fiction fan. The electric sheep are from Philip K. Dickís Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Buffalo Madonna, at the time, was reading a lot of Philip K. Dick. I put together this tune and that was its central focus Ė I thought it was such an ill tagline. For me it wasnít tied directly to Blade Runner or Philip K. Dick Ė it was just such an ill concept.
Q: Do you have many pairs of sunglasses?
PS: I lose a pair of sunglasses at every show. Iíve pretty much stopped wearing glasses unless I can borrow them or steal them from my friends. Then theyíll get lost and theyíre kind of mad at me. They just fly off my face or kids grab them off my face. Terry Radjaw has an ill sunglass collection though.
Q: What do you think when people say Mad Radís lyrics might be sexist? Is it just good publicity?
PS: Thereís a lot of negative stuff floating around on the internet about our band. The way I see it is if you donít have haters then youíre not doing your job right.
Q: I think thatís true. When I listen to you guys I donít think of it as mean-spirited.
PS: Thereís this one site called 206proof.com [with threads] talking about how weíre racist and sexist and just horrible people. Itís such a laugh looking at that stuff. They canít even spell.
Check out the videos for Electric Sheep and Superdope
and I've also got more photos of them from the Funhouse here.
Mad Rad next plays Artifakt @ Lofi on January 16th plus a string of shows that month and February beginning with OBAMA RAMA!!on January 20th.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008, 02:58 AM ( 4492 views ) - Interviews - Posted by dagmarsieglindeI interviewed Al Doyle in 2007 - this originally appeared in Little Radio.
Q: I saw you guys open up from someone earlier this year Ė I canít
remember who it was.
Q: Yeah, thatís right. I came to see you guys.
Doyle: Oh wow. That would have been in March.
Q: Were they good to tour with?
Doyle: Yeah they were a friendly bunch of people, took an interest in what we were doing Ė which isnít always the case with bands that you support. They borrowed a keyboard from us as well so they were indebted to us at an early stage, which was good. We did about six shows with them.
Q: Was that the first time youíd been to Seattle?
Doyle: Yeah, it was the first time I had been to the West Coast in fact. We came back to L.A. and San Francisco in August and this is our second time going fully down the West Coast.
Q: Is this your first headlining tour of the West Coast?
Doyle: Apart from those two dates in August. Itís good to be in Seattle. We didnít have such great weather but I had a good time. We went to Pike Place Market Ė having a little walk around a few bars and restaurants.
Q: Youíre a classically trained cellist Ė when did you start learning?
Doyle: Maybe six or seven. Iíve been doing music for a long time Ė different kinds. I ended up doing this kind of stuff. I also have a strong left hand. Worked well for the guitar, like I could pick up the guitar quite easily. I still play the cello, record with it now and again. It might be on the next album, hopefully, I donít know. I enjoy playing it from time to time. I should play it more Ė I can still get a sound out of it and everything. Yeah, thatís my background.
Q: I was actually going to ask if you were going to have the cello on any of the CDs?
Doyle: I do some other music with Felix in the band and weíve done some soundtracks for documentaries and stuff like that. We use the cello on that because itís a quite pleasing sound and atmospheric. We have some other string players Ė like on the song Look After Me on The Warning thereís a violin on that. Thereís a really good string quartet that we know in London called the Elysian Quartet that have supported us on a couple of shows. They do from Modern classical stuff to Beethoven and have things written for them by UK composers. So we can always draft them in if we need some strings, which is useful.
Q: What kind of documentaries have you worked on?
Doyle: It was a documentary about the Last Lighthouse Keepers in the UK. Basically all of the lighthouses were automated in 2002, I think. Up to that point there were about three people on every lighthouse and gradually they would stop working at a lighthouse that was about to be automated and keep running that. It was just a strange life that a lot of them led. Now there really arenít any of them any more. Theyíre getting pretty old now and it was a chance to listen to some of their stories. Itís a really good documentary. Felix and I will also be working on another one next year with the BFI, which is the British Film Institute. Weíre going to have access to their archive to choose a movie and rescore it or possibly score a silent movie. That wonít be towards the end of next year, but thatís going to be a really interesting project. We all do kind of bits and bobs on the side, apart from Hot Chip. Itís kind of good to have that breadth and have different projects that can give you a break from doing the album. That often can inform that process as well Ė you can also be a bit more experimental, like when we do remixes and things for other bands we can try out some things that you wouldnít necessarily think of. Itís useful as a kind of study and just improving your technique, I suppose compositionally Ė like with technology.
Q: The celloís kind of a sorrowful instrument, isnít it?
Doyle: It can be. Itís equivalent to the tenor voice, I suppose. Itís got a very wide range so you can go right down to the bottom there but you can still actually go surprisingly high as well. It seems to be a very expressive instrument Ė all string instruments are but the cello seems to be a lot of peopleís favorite. Iím lucky that I learned it, I suppose.
Q: You do a lot of the remixing?
Doyle: We all do. Joe and Alexis do some and sometimes I might work with Alexis or Felix and I work together mostly. And Owen sometimes as well. It generally ends up doing two teams of remixes, which means we can get a lot more done. Which is great. We enjoy it Ė the only thing thatís bad about it does take up a bit of time, and we donít have that much time to do our own music. So when youíre at home and not touring you sort of like you might prefer to get on with your own stuff rather than do a remix. Up to now itís just been paying the rent basically, they bring in a bit of money and weíve needed it. Now itís got to the stage where we can pick and choose a little bit more, we donít have to take everything is thrown at us. Weíre being a bit more choosy about who weíre remixing. Sometimes it can take a day or something but sometimes it can take 2-3 days. It just depends on what youíre working with or how creative youíre feeling.
Q: Are there songs out youíd really love to do?
Doyle: Anything with a really good vocal. A lot of stuff we do thatís what lets it down. Somebody who hasnít got a voice thatís worth listening to, basically. We did remixes for a lot of UK guitar bands for a while and they were just these kind of shouty, very unsubtle singing basically. So weíd take like one syllable or one word and Ė cause obviously they like you to have a bit of vocal in it but we try to get away with as little as possible if itís bad.
Q: Youíre from Leeds?
Doyle: Yeah. Joe, Alexis and Owen are kind of Southwest London. Felix actually grew up near the British Museum in the center of London. Iíve been down in London for the last four-five years. Iím enjoying it, itís good. Now weíre all actually living a bit closer together. Felix lives just up the road. Felix and I have a studio in the building I live in Ė so we can do Hot Chip stuff there. Itís lucky for me, I just roll out of bed and into the studio to do some work.
Q: Do you feel a little different from the rest of them?
Doyle: Yeah, though do sort of mention my different roots now and again. But itís never really a big deal. Iíve had a lot of friends in London for a long time so I know the city pretty well. I like going back and seeing my family. When I go back North I get back more of my accent, but when Iím down in London I donít have that strong of an accent. Iíve been accepted.
Q: Youíre all doing something on stage Ė no oneís lazy up there. How do you do it?
Doyle: Weíre very busy. I personally donít like to be just standing around. I feel uncomfortable if Iím not doing anything. A lot of the songs will have natural gaps in them and Iíll try to find something else to do. At the moment weíve got some congas on stage so Iíll do some percussion. Thereís always something to do because weíve got quite a lot of instruments- more instruments than we can actually play at the same time. Thereís four keyboards, two guitars Ė if someoneís playing a guitar then that means thereís an extra keyboard free Ė for instance on the first song on the album Careful, when we do that live I play both keyboards at the same time. Trying to multitask. It can probably be an error, maybe we should try to tone down the texture a bit in some cases, but itís just too much fun. We can make these big sounds with these keyboards so thatís just whatís been happening. We have actually stripped it down a little bit because weíre playing with a live drummer now so that makes for a much fuller sound straightaway. Weíve had to pull a few things back and incorporate that more into the group. Itís starting to work really, really well. We donít normally have a live drummer but we tour with Pat Mahoney from LCD Soundsystem. Heís done a few shows with us in the US and now heís doing the whole tour with us.
Q: Putting things together and layering. How hard is it not to sound messy?
Doyle: Live weíve just gotten a little bit better at playing. Weíve done so many shows. This year we did twenty-six festivals from May to August, a couple of tours in the middle of that. Weíve been on tour since September, so we did three weeks in Europe, three weeks in the UK and three weeks in the US as well. So pretty much three months on the road and hundreds of shows, so naturally youíll get a lot tighter and the song structures are quite fluid. The instrumentation is quite fluid as well so thereís a lot of room to change and improve and figure out what works and what doesnít. Itís not something that is very consciously decided but itís something thatís more like an evolution.
Thereís quite a lot of communication going on onstage. It didnít used to be like that. When we first started out, especially with the stage setup that we had, when we were all in a line, we were basically all locked into what they were doing. Like watching five guys doing individual concerts but they happened to be on the same stage at the same time. Whereas now weíve got more of a curve going on and we can look at each other a bit more. Thereís a bit more of a group feel to what weíre doing and weíre not concentrating so hard on getting our parts right because we play it everyday and we can look around and listen to some other people. Like a proper band.
In terms of recording, itís building things up by layers, constantly listening and figuring out whatís too prominent and what can be tucked underneath. I know that Joe and Alexis wanted the album to be something you could listen to repeatedly and discover new things in the mix you might not have noticed on the first listening. Like there are little things that will reveal themselves as you listen more, which is quite good. I donít think youíd get that in a normal live recording of a band. If you look at some of those songs on the computer thereís so many different tracks and different little bits coming in. It should be quite rewarding, hopefully, as a listening experience.
Q: How do you decide which sounds youíll use. Like the xylophone, I am obsessed with xylophones.
Doyle: Oh really? Itís actually a glockenspiel thatís on the CD. But funnily enough we just played with Dennis Young, whoís the marimba player in Liquid Liquid, a seminal sort of experimental disco group Ė you know the White Lines by Grandmaster Flash, thatís a sample from one of their songs. Youíd recognize a lot of their songs because theyíre really heavily sampled for hip-hop. Young contacted us through myspace and said hey, youíre playing in New York, mind if I come and play with you? It was like, wow, this is unbelievable Ė heís a real legend. He played about three songs with us on marimba. Weíre a big fan of those kind of sounds although they can be overused sometimes Ė itís difficult to not make them sound a bit twee. But sometimes it is just the right thing.
Whenever weíre choosing sounds itís just whateverís best for the song. People always go on about how we use cheap keyboards or casios. Itís not necessarily just because itís cheap that we like it, itís just that happens to be a sound that is nice and maybe we spend 1,500 pounds on another keyboard and use that as well. But thereís nothing to say that oneís better or worse just because how much they cost or where you got it from. Itís just a case of looking at things very objectively and deciding what would work best for the song and what sounds best. Iím sure thatís how most people go about doing this kind of music. Or I hope it is. People shouldnít fetishize certain sounds as being the ultimate thing, like when the 303 kind of acid sounds used to be really popular, I mean itís a really great sound and we have a 303 but itís become this kind of thing above and beyond itself. I donít think thatís very good when that
Q: How surprised are you by the response youíve received in the States? I wasnít the only one you came just to see you as openers.
Doyle: It was crazy Ė I think Stereolab were quite surprised as well. Weíre constantly surprised by people coming to our gigs. Or how they know about us. Because the album is selling alright but itís not flying off the shelves in the US by any means. There are a lot of people who are sharing music and thereís a lot of our tracks on blogs and stuff in the US and also thereís been quite a lot of good reviews and articles in local and national press for us. We deliberately came over (to the States) in August even though it was only going to be a very short trip Ė If we hadnít played in the US as much I think people might have forgotten about us a little bit Ė so it was important to do that. It just sort of helped maintain the interest. I think the live shows are a big part of that. People seem to particularly enjoy some of the live versions of the songs that we do, and theyíre very vocal about them. A lot of our fans seem to be very willing to talk about us and to convert other people, which is great. But otherwise I have no idea why they seem to being picked up on. I mean the songs are poppy and theyíre easy to listen to. Thereís nothing too difficult, weíre not trying to do anything thatís too way out. Obviously thereís some very experimental aspects to the music but weíre not deliberately trying to create any barriers. We want everything to be accessible and danceable. I think people pick up on that and hopefully get excited about that.
Q: Your nickname is Al-Doit?
Doyle: Not really, no. It was just in a press release.
Q: Do people call you that?
Doyle: No, no one calls me that. I think there was just a point where people were trying to put in nicknames. Originally I suppose what it came from was that I was the last person to join the band. It wasnít really clear what my role was going to be. There used to be a live drummer and then Felix started playing drum machines and we didnít have a drummer. Then maybe I was going to play drums, because I was a drummer as well, and then people were saying we need someone to play some synth as well and it became, Iíll do it Ė in every situation. I think thatís sort of where it came from.
Q: They were called Hot Chip when you joined?
Doyle: Yeah, Hot Chip as a music making entity has been going since, like 97 probably, when Alexis and Joe as a duo self-released some stuff in the UK. And then they had an ep out on a very small label called Victory Garden records in the South of England in 99 or something like that. The switch to a more electronic bass kind of poppy sound was only just before Coming on Strong, which was when they started to get the band together. Since weíve become a band itís obviously become a different entity. Hot Chip, as people know Hot Chip, has only been going for just over three years.
Q: Whatís your favorite song to play live?
Doyle: New songs, I suppose, is always going to be the obvious one. Weíve got new songs in the set Ė one is not really a new song for us because weíve been playing it for about seven or eight months, but itís not released yet. Thereís one particular one which is quite pacy and fast and itís a lot of fun Ė youíll probably notice when we play a new song because weíre all a bit more animated. I enjoy playing "Over and Over" because the crowd reaction that is always amazing. We play it at the end and people always seem to really go for it in that song. We get to do our real, sort of rocking out Status Quo stuff on that song. Weíve also been enjoying playing a lot of new acoustic songs. Weíve been doing some radio sessions here in the US and Europe. For those sessions itís just me, Joe and Alexis, just a guitar, one keyboard and some percussion Ė very stripped down versions of the songs.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008, 03:57 PM ( 751 views ) - Interviews - Posted by dagmarsieglindeMy interview with Richard Hawley first appeared in Little Radio.
I first saw you on a show called London Live, and they had one of those cool lights that shoots all over Ė I canít think of what theyíre called.
Richard Hawley: A mirror ball?
RH: Mirror balls are great. We donít always have them but if we do have a mirror ball Ė no matter who you are, whether youíre a little old lady or a hard-core punk it affects every one the same. Itís a nice light - it seems to be a true light Ė itís light reflecting off all shapes of glass.
Q: You donít use your natural accent while singing Ė do you ever think about singing with your accent?
RH: I donít deliberately do anything. It just comes out the way it is Ė I donít think Iíve got a particularly American accent. The songs are based, a lot of them anyway Ė not all of them Ė in my hometown, with geographical places as points of reference. But I never wanted that to be exclusive to people so that itís so colloquial that only people who live at the end of my road can relate to it. That would be a waste of time. I grew up listening to American music, so that when you open your mouth to sing thatís what comes out. Iíve learnt from birth.
Q: You toured in strip joints when you were 14 with your dad?
RH: Some of the gigs were in strip joints.
Q: Was that kind of a dream come true?
RH: It was a fucking nightmare. I was so young I really didnít know what was going on. My uncle Chuck played piano for my dad in the 60s. It was the early 80s and basically they couldnít get an adult to do the gig so the only person they could get was this snotty nosed 14 year-old kid who knew all the chops. It was a trade off of him having to deal with this kid with his first time out of the country let alone out of the city. We thought a foreign holiday was a weekend in Wales. He lied to my mother, he said weíre playing really nice venues and heís going to be looked after. We played shit hole bars and strip joints and really dodgy places. I got escorted into the gig and then at the end of it escorted out. A lot of the dodgier bars weíd be playing all night Ė which for me, I had the energy of a lion then Ė I was enjoying it, it was great. I didnít really know Ė when youíre young you deal with the reality thatís presented to you. At the end of the night theyíd lock me in the van and Iíd sit there bored and theyíd go and get shit-faced. I saw some interesting things Ė it only lasted over a month because it was in the school holidays. I lived off Mars bars Ė in American speak I lived off candy bars and Grolsch beer. I was skinny as a stick anyway. I must have lost about a stone. My Mother was in tears. I think my Dad knew that I was ready for it, he thought that if he survives this then heís going to make it through his life. Music is not an easy profession to chose. He prepared me for what may or may not happen in the future. Looking back, as a father now, I donít think I could do that to my kids but I donít resent the fact that he did that. I thank him for it now because I knew from when I was really young that all I wanted to do was play music. It was a way of saying, here you go.
Q: Are your kids into music?
RH: My daughter plays guitar, sheís really good and my sonís got a little drum kit. The babyís too young. He just dances to rock and roll. He loves Little Richard the most, but he likes Johnny Cash as well. He also loves the Sonics Ė his favorite is Have Love Will Travel Ė do you know that one?
RH: You should know that. Are you from Seattle?
Q: I am.
RH: You should know your own history. You have a good pedigree here. We better be good tonight.
Q: Youíre a spokesperson, along with Sean Bean, of Hendersonís Relish?
RH: Itís a local condiment.
Q: They had an official Richard Hawley sauce?
RH: They did bottles in tribute to the albums, which was amazing. Local beer companies made four different beers for the albums. My Dad said youíd cracked it now, they never did that for me. It was great.
Q: Your wife and you got an allotment?
RH: Youíve been doing a lot of reading. Itís kind of a backburner now Ė itís utter chaos at home right now. Iím kind of glad Iím on tour. Iím not a hippie or anything Ė I fucking hate hippies Ė love and peace are not fashion accessories, itís a state of mind. We live in a world where everythingís prepackaged Ė thereís loads of crappy food. We just liked the idea of growing stuff ourselves. My dad and grandfather were gardeners Ė I know how to dig a hole. Iíve dug quite a few in my time - of various kinds.
Q: The video for Serious, where you have a mannequin for a girlfriend is great.
RH: It just brings a smile to peopleís face.
Q: Have you seen the documentary Love Me Love My Doll?
RH: Yeah Ė I saw that after and it freaked me out. I couldnít believe there were people who actually did it. I thought it was just a product of me and Shane Meadowsí (Seriousí director) warped mind, that we kind of imagined . . . what if. Are you aware of Shane Meadows?
Q: I want to see This is England.
RH: Youíve got to see it. Itís awesome. Itís his life, in Nottingham but itís that period of time when kids were really passionate about music and music culture. It is still important now but not like it was. When I was a kid people would fight in the street because youíre into different music. It was quite serious and it got quite heavy at times. Itís basically working class factions of the music. It was important to take that seriously.
Q: What group were in?
RH: None really. I was always into a bit of rockabilly a bit of a Teddy Boy. But I also liked a lot of music that the Mods liked.
[Hawley was really open and shared some photos with me of his family. I say this honestly Ė itís a lovely family.]
Itís funny because looking at these photos stops me from feeling homesick. I never used to (get homesick) but being a father you really miss home. You get back and youíre kind of in bits and they just say Ďhi Dadí. Anyway so now you know I am telling the truth. I take telling the truth very seriously. If youíre a liar and you invent stuff, your life has no meaning. The truth, however ugly, cannot help but be beautiful. Sometimes things are not so easy to face up to. I canít tell anyone how to live their life. For me, if youíre going to grow as a person you have to face yourself and the truth. Itís quite hard. You become less of a victim then, especially for women. You become less prey to advertising and how you should be. We are not what we wear, what we own or do Ė those are things that just pass the time. Thereís something more fundamental about a human being other than those things. Iíve been searching for that my entire life.
Q: Do you feel like youíve found it, or bits of it?
RH: Bits of it, but not all of it. That would spoil it. I think the journeyís possibly more interesting. This trip has been great. Iíve been to Chicago before and English bands donít always go down too well in the Mid West. They loved it. I was really surprised. I understand in New York and LA theyíve got the Anglophiles who think American culture sucks and England is some kind of magical place, which it so isnít. I really like to communicate musically with Americans Ė not just the East and West Coasts.
Q: Do you think they were tuned into the rockabilly?|
RH: Possibly, but everything went down well, even the colloquial stuff, like Coleís Corner. Coleís Corner is just a play - the actual subject of the song is about loneliness going out on a weekend. I think itís just something fundamental that has no geography to it Ė but it has a very specific geography. As a writer, as a singer, as a drunk, itís given me a whole new perspective on the songs Ė the songs have taken on a whole new life.
Q: What do you like to drink?
RH: Guinness. I could drink that forever. Doesnít touch the sides.
Q: But not mixed with anything, like Coke?
RH: What, you mean cocaine?
Q: No, soda.
RH: Hideous. Jesus Christ you must be American. Fucking hell Ė Guinness with soda. Guiness straight. I gave up drinking spirits a long time ago. Occasionally I will have a vodka, cause that is a demon for me. If you have a pint thereís a quantity to it. Red wineís my nemesis. I love it.
Q: Does it make you crazy?
RH: I donít get crazy anymore. I used to.
Q: What about Pulp. Did they get you out of a crazy phase in your life?
RH: I was crazy from being a young lad. Doing drugs and drinking was something I did anyway. It was on the estate where I was growing up Ė everyone did mushrooms. All the kids smoked weed Ė homegrown weed. The thing was then you didnít have heroin, coke and crack. You might get a bit of speed. My perspective is Iím a 40 year-old man and Iíll never do drugs again. The only regret I have, well Iíve got loads Ė every human being has regrets, is Ė Iím with Bob Dylan, never look back. If you look back youíll never be able to change things. I think there are things you can do in your future that can apologize for your past. I wouldnít say that Iíve done anything really bad, although a couple of things just flashed through my mind Ė Iím just a travelling musician, and I was trying to have as good time as possible. Sometimes you have too much of a good time. But to get back to your original question ĎPulp saved meí Ė they reset, kind of re-calibrated the guiding system. They werenít saints, they were all out of their minds in their own ways. That had all finished by the time I started working with them.
Q: What are the songs youíre having fun doing on this tour?
RH: Iím enjoying the new record. We toured it loads in Britain and Europe. Playing it to an American audience Ė our country and yours speak the same language but in actual fact we donít. Our humors totally different, some people get it some people donít. British people are closer to Europeans in their mentality actually. Very subtle things. But itís been a pleasure to see the reactions from the Americans and not just people who are into British music. Itís people who are mid westerners Ė lots of check shirts and baseball caps, guys who just dropped in off work. I like that. Iím a steelworkerís son. My entire outlook on life is from the perspective a steelworker Ė a steel workerís son should I say. I never worked in the steelworks Ė that would be a lie. But that kind of working class outlook Ė just checking it out. A lot of them didnít even know that we played. Weíve had a lot of support from the people who booked us. Tom, the guy who ran the bar in Minneapolis, he was an angel Ė amazing. He worked for hard for what he does.
Q: Is this the first time youíve been in Seattle?
RH: No, we played here a couple of years ago. Next door to where we played [turns out it was the Tractor Tavern] was this record store that had over a million records and a gramophone where you could sit down on a sofa and listen to records. It was great.
Q: I wonder if itís still there. It might be gone.
RH: Well thatís sad. One of the things I do is shopping, hunting for records. People can distract me easily from getting a pint by saying thereís this great record store . . . The bastards only told me that this place existed twenty minutes before we were going onstage. This guy opened the shop for me and I blew like 400 bucks. Dean, our drummer, and I went to the Army Surplus store and got these satchels we can put all our vinyl in to take home.
Q: You recently made a horror movie, Flick?
RH: I am a horror movie. Itís kind of like a rockabilly spoof horror film. It was good fun.
Q: Did you get to be a killer?
RH: Oh no. I got to play a pirate DJ Ė he was called Bobby Blade and he was on a barge on the river in London. Originally when they asked me to do it this film was a really tiny budget film. I first got asked to do the soundtrack to it. Why donít we meet up and go through the script because they wanted pieces of music for the characters. We got to the bit where thereís this Bobby Blade Ė it was like a late 30s guy with glasses and a quiff and I said Ė whoís playing that? And they said, actually you if you want to do it. I said Iíd do it for a laugh because it was a really small part and I thought, I can probably do this. And then it all changed because a lot of money came in. So all my scenes were with Faye Dunaway Ė I was really nervous. Itís like diving in the deep end with lead boots on. But it was good and Faye was really gracious. I told her Iíd never acted before and she said that I was a con man, that I was winding her up. There were also a couple of English actors I really respect like Mark Benton in it who was amazing. Liz Smith was in it as well whoís a classic English actress. The only hard thing about it was that I had to get really violent with Faye. I was brought up to respect women in general, very much, and having never acted before and getting your head into this space where you have to be aggressive towards a woman was something that didnít sit right with me at all.
Q: Are you going to meet with Shane Meadows again?
RH: Weíve talked about it. Thereís quite a few projects weíre gonna do. I kind of introduced him to my life and I took him in a few bars that I go in where there are regular music sessions Ė no rehearsals, musicans just play. It happens every night in this bar in Sheffield. He freaked. Iíve taken loads of musicians there, Jools Holland, Nancy Sinatra Ė I took her in there for a pint. Itís a beautiful place. Weíre maybe going to make a film about that.
Q: Nancy Sinatra seems interesting.
RH: Sheís great - sheís really down to earth. Whenever you work with someone youíre a fan of you always pray that theyíre going to be okay. If ever anybody on the planet was going to be difficult it might have been a little difficult you might have thought it would be the daughter of Frank Sinatra, but she was the exact opposite. She was just like my big sister, we got on great. We still email and speak to each other Ė sheís a very special person in my life. If anybody can be that humble and gone through what sheís gone through and be who she is and still be straight in her head . . . there are people who are shopkeepers who are nuts. Sheís a beautiful person. When we did the recording it was late in the year Ė September or something like that Ė I got home and then it came to Christmas time. This huge package turned up at our house Ė and I mean it was fucking huge Ė a big cardboard package. We couldnít get it in the door. Me and my wife had to open it in the corridor. When we got it all out it was all these hat boxes that went from big to small and when you assembled them all it made a snowman for the kids. Sheíd made it herself Ė she didnít order it from the store Ė it was paper mache and crepe paper. We still put it up. The kids put the tree up today, which made me really homesick. Theyíve got Nancyís snowman. Nancy had filled it with sweets. I didnít know whether to thank her or send her the fucking Dentistís bill. No, it was a really generous and kind gift. That displays what sheís like.
Click here for photos I took at his show.
Sunday, December 21, 2008, 01:52 AM ( 464 views ) - Interviews - Posted by dagmarsieglindeThis interview with Sharin Foo originally appeared on Little Radio in 2007 ahead of the Raveonettes' Electric Duo Tour.
Q: Whatís happening with the Electric Duo Tour?
SF: Actually today we were going to Canada but Suneís had his passport stolen. I donít think weíre going to be able to go to Canada, which is really disappointing to me. Then weíre going to do our West Coast part of the tour in June, which weíre really excited about. We did our East Coast tour already and it was so much fun for us to do it this way Ė just the two of us, a stripped down version, to play the songs in a very minimal way.
Q: Iíve been hearing good things about the show. So Suneís passport just disappeared?
SF: Itís vanished.
Q: Thatís horrible.
SF: It is horrible. Itís very strict getting into Canada, itís always difficult, so thereís just no way. Thereís US visas and Canadian visas so weíve been back and forth with the traffic control group and embassies. This is just a classic obstacle which happens occasionally. I was so looking forward to going to Canada and I havenít seen Sune for a while because Iím living in Los Angeles and heís living in New York.
Q: Have you been able to go back to Denmark at all recently?
SF: Itís been a while since I was in Denmark. I think the last time I was there was when we did a show in January. That was the last time we played with a full band with AC (Anders Christensen, bass) and Jakob (HÝyer, drums). I miss Denmark. I miss my family and my friends. Weíve just confirmed a show in August Ė Iíll be in Denmark in the late summer.
Q: I think it was probably a couple of years ago now when you played for the Danish royalty?
S: We played for the Crown Prince when he was getting married to the Tasmanian Princess. We played a big party at the Royal Theatre and it was the first time that they had rock and roll Ė they have classical music there . . . ballet. It was the first time that they had really noisy, really loud rock music. It was fun Ė we enjoyed it.
Q: How have the Raveonettes changed? Last time I saw you here was when you opened for Depeche Mode.
SF: That was a great tour. It feels like a deconstruction time, a rebuilding. There are a lot of unknown factors. We donít know the release time for the next album. Weíre embracing it and focussing on making a really good album and connecting with the people who really enjoy our music. Itís exciting times because itís really basic. Weíre going back to the original reasons we started this band, with just me and Sune, which is really the core of the band. Then weíre building it from there. Thatís really what this tour is about too, just to be the core of this band, going back to what was the original foundation.
Q: Iíve been listening to the new demos up on your myspace page and they sound great. Are you going to focus more on the new things or a mixture?
SF: Weíre definitely going to play some new stuff. Actually weíre going to play a lot of rare songs, b-sides, songs we havenít really played before live, like Sex Donít Sell and Experiment in Black. Weíre doing a couple of cover songs. On the previous tour we did some Gun Club. We havenít really made up our minds on how weíre going to do this next tour. We might even bring some other person to play some drums or we could play with tracks as well. We just have to be creative about it.
Q: Youíre going to love the Triple Door in Seattle.
SF: Weíre trying to play some small intimate venues.
Q: Itís a jazz club. Itís really cool.
SF: Oh wow, thatís exciting. Weíre bringing some good bands too. We have Midnight Movies for main support and then for weekends weíre bringing the Meek and also the Pity Party. Bands that we really love.
Q: Any music youíre studying right now? I know you have a background in studying some unusual music.
SF: You know, yesterday I was practicing playing drums because thatís my new thing when we go on tour. We both play upright drums. Itís really fun to play drums. Iím practicing but I donít have a drum kit so Iíve been practicing on these pillows at home. Thatís the extent of my studying at this point.
Q: Thatís organic.
SF: Yes. And Iím taking guitar lessons because I feel like itís time I really learned how to play the guitar for real, not just faking it all the way through.
Q: Did it embarrass you when Blender had you on the list of the hottest women in rock?
SF: Itís a surreal concept. I was looking at the fellow hottest girls in rock trying to see if I was in good company or bad company. Everyone from PJ Harvey to Christina Aguilera.
Q: It was an interesting group, you were in good company. I have a strange fashion question for you. You always have the perfect eye-makeup. What do you use?
SF: Thank you, a compliment. A liner, black kohl liner on the inside of the eyes always make the eyes pop when youíre on stage. I like the black smoky eyes and lots of mascara.
Q: Is there a particular brand you use?
SF: I use MAC a lot. They have good eye shadow colors. I use different mascaras Ė Chanel, Shu Uemura. Iím getting into playing with colors too Ė like really strong blues and purples.
Q: Yeah I saw some pictures from the East Coast tour and the colors looked very pretty.
SF: Iím kind of lucky because when we do shoots there are always makeup artists and they have good tips. I like it - itís very soothing when someone is paying attention to you, doing your hair or makeup. I just learn from these people Ė theyíre professionals you know.
Q: Whatís your experience like with videos and photos? I love the photos youíve done with SÝren Solkśr Starbird.
SF: Weíve been working with him even before we left Denmark. Heís from the same small town that Suneís from, in the southern part of Denmark. Weíve always enjoyed working with him also because heís a good friend. Itís always nice to hang around with friends and be creative, even though photo shoots are not always necessarily creative. But they can be fun. Video shoots are fun. When we did Attack of the Ghost Riders that was a very low key, do it yourself kind of video. It was another creative outlet for us. Itís tough because you have to work for like eighteen hours a day. I like the work with imagery.
Q: The Raveonettesí videos and photos are works of art too Ė I am always impressed by them. So whatís been your last substantial vintage clothing purchase?
SF: It wasnít actually clothes, it was an office desk. The last clothes purchase Ė I bought this really beautiful vintage dress that I really love. Like a piece of art from the seventies. It has kind of a Russian feel to it. Subtle but beautiful. Itís from a great store in New York called Family Jewels.
Q: Have you ever gotten anything back from those jerks who took your gear in Brooklyn a couple of years ago?
SF: No, nothing was retrieved. We lost everything. After struggling with the insurance company for a year we got some many back and we were able to repurchase some stuff. It was a positive thing in retrospect Ė what came out of it was that when you lose everything youíre forced to be creative about your sound and building it up again. Sune and I started rethinking about what do we really want, what kind of sound, what kind of pedals. . . That was the positive part of a really negative experience. But, no, we never found anything. Maybe one day. I heard that Sonic Youth got a bunch of stuff back six or seven years after they had everything stolen.
Sunday, December 14, 2008, 05:30 PM ( 10790 views ) - Interviews - Posted by dagmarsieglindeHardy Morris, singer/guitarist/songwriter of Dead Confederate, talked with me before the band played a recent show at Chop Suey in Seattle. Dead Confederate comes from Athens, Georgia and released their first full length cd, Wrecking Ball just this year. It's a sublime cd indeed and Morris' voice is a thundering and hot living thing. Their live set was also a miracle of rock - one you'd be so lucky to experience. I wanted to know other things too but the band's breakthrough song, the Rat, compelled me to ask Morris about run-ins with actual rats.
Q: You had a band in high school - was that fun?
Hardy Morris: Walker [Howle, guitarist] and I always played together, but I played with other folks as well. I met Brantley [Senn, bassist] in high school and he was playing with different folks. He and Jason [Scarboro], our drummer played together in a band in high school. It wasnít until after that that we all wound up together.
Q: I was reading that you studied English.
HM: Yes, I was an English major.
Q: Yeah Ė what was your favorite stuff?
HM: I kind of went through different phases. I had a big poetry phase. I went through a big Brit novel phase as the classes came along. I got obsessed with Bleak House for a while. Itís nuts. And then some of the more modern classes Ė literature and media. It was several years ago so it was when the Internet was really crashing through and taking over. I enjoyed all parts of being an English major.
Q: I just saw the new Masterpiece Theater version of Bleak House Ė it was brilliant.
HM: Anything involving someone spontaneously combusting is interesting. They get in the room and heís gone, but thereís all this gooey stuff.
Hardy Morris onstage at Chop Suey, 2008
Q: Do write all the lyrics for Dead Confederate?
HM: I write the lyrics for my songs and Brantley writes the lyrics for his songs. This album [Wrecking Ball] combined by happenstance 5 songs of mine and 5 of his. We recorded even more songs and we had other songs written.
Q: You recorded it at a set of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
HM: It was a studio in Austin. You know the band And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead? It was their old practice space. Back in the Ď70s it was a soundstage where they used to do voiceovers and overdubs for movies. They put out a lot of horror films and one of them was Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It definitely gave it an extra edge. There was a little concrete room, literally Ė the room we recorded in was concrete and painted black. I loved it. It was loud and everything sounded off the walls Ė which I think the album picks up on. It sounds pretty loud. And live.
Q: Are you into horror movies?
HM: I never got too into them. I always liked horror movies for the comedic value in them. I love Freddie Krueger and the Friday the 13th movies but as far as movies go I was always more into historical characters Ė the Wyatt Earp movies and Tombstone.
Q: I love that movie.
HM: Braveheart. Those movies were awesome. In this day and age, being an entertainer and you think about now being a musician or an actor or something . . . I just want people to hear my music. But part of what goes on is fame and what goes into being a musician or an actor. They do interviews and have publicity companies and people writing about them but people back then, like Jesse James or Billy the Kid, they were famous just for being themselves. There was no publicity company or US Magazine and everyone knew who they were. Their personalities were that big Ė itís crazy. Could you imagine that now? Youíd have to shoot a president to have that now. People may know my music Ė but thatís famous. Thatís notoriety.
Q: Who came up with the spider symbol that's on the band's drum kit?
HM: Our friend Joel Wheat. He did the ep art, which was the spider, and the album art. The spider came from an idea he had based off Soviet propaganda art. He had a whole catalog of Soviet stuff he would use for some of our posters. We thought it was really cool. We have a collection of posters that look really cool Ė we need to bust some of them back out and do more of those. Once youíre on the road you have a stock poster for the whole tour, whereas when we were doing a lot more local and southeastern shows we had specific posters that looked cool. I wish we could do more of that but you canít really do all that from a van. Iíd like to get back into that.
Cover art for Dead Confederate's 2008 ep
Q: What places would you like to play?
HM: I like Seattle, itís cool. This is our third time in the vicinity. This is our first club show in Seattle. We played at the [KEXP] Yule Benefit last year, which was just a total blessing - our first time in Seattle. Then we played Sasquatch Festival. It was cool.
Q: I was reading on the Dead Confederate blog about Conan OíBrien playing guitar.
HM: Heís good. When youíre backstage at Conan OíBrien you have your own dressing room with a television set up in there. You can watch whatever want or they also have a channel thatís the dress rehearsal. In the show theyíll do, like 5 jokes but they do 25 and then cut them. So you get to hear all the jokes. He [OíBrien] had this stratocaster strapped around his neck and he played that thing the entire time Ė his monologue and then heíd do interview stuff. I guess it was kind of like his stress reliever. Like that squishy ball or whatever - he had the guitar. Heís really into music. He knew the record and had us sign a vinyl copy for him.
Q: What about rats. Have you had any run-ins with rats?
HM: Actually yeah. We were in New York for CMJ last year Ė it was me and my brother and our booking agent. We were all out after we had played. We were all out drinking and people started to make their way back to the hotel. We decided to keep going, to go to another bar. I was really drunk and needed to go back to the hotel. So I stumbled to the place we were going next and I drank about half my drink and thought Iíve gotta go back, Iím wasted. Weíd been to New York before a couple times so I thought I knew how to get back. Dawsonís like, take a cab and I was like, Iím not gonna take a cab Ė I know how to get back. Iím not wasting any money. So I started walking, and I cut over one street and I cut over another back street and there was a pile of trash and Iím on my cell phone trying to call the hotel to figure out where the hell I was. One rat ran between my legs and I said, shit! As soon as I said shit there were hundreds of them. I was having to run for my life. Theyíre all ahead of me and as soon as I saw a main road I took the first cab I saw.
Q: Were they big rats?
HM: They were big. Little cats Ė a bunch of kittens. Want another rat story? I didnít actually see this Ė my friend did it. They had this rat in their house and they were trying to get it with these traps. It would always get the food off the trap. It was smart. One night they had been out to a bar and they got all drunk. When they got home a friend turned the light on in the kitchen and the ratís just sitting there on the counter, looking at them . My buddy had a bow and arrow for deer hunting and the ratís sitting there, frozen by the light. He got the bow and shot the rat Ė arrow all the way through it Ė stuck it to the wall. Killed it but then theyíre like, fuck, thereís rat blood all over the counter and a dead rat stuck to their wall. [They cleaned it up] and there were these rat rags. Rat blood? You donít want to fuck with rat blood.
Q: Whatís the best thing about Athens?
HM: Thereís a lot good about Athens. Itís got a killer music scene, super supportive, always something going on. Great bands Ė no two bands sound alike. Rare egos. Thereís no competition there between the bands. Thereís no traffic Ė you do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. Thereís not a lot of jobs that pay a lot of money there Ė if you want to be a musician and a cook at a taco place, itís great. If you want to try to be a banker, move to Atlanta. Itís got tons of musical history and it continues everyday.
Dead Confederate will play several shows in Georgia and Florida through December 24th. You can also see more pix I took of their show at Chop Suey here.
Thursday, December 4, 2008, 05:16 PM ( 727 views ) - Interviews - Posted by dagmarsieglindeSeattle's Blood Red Dancers sat down with me at the Comet before a recent show. The band, comprised of Aaron Poppick (lead singer, bass) Kevin R. Lord (drums & vocals) and Julian Thomas (keys& vocals), released an ep recently called Let Him Fight, I'll Be in the Breadline. It's one of the best releases of this year. I found these guys to be engaging offstage. Onstage they are still engaging but alarming in their intensity.
Q: Who came up with the name Blood Red Dancers?
Aaaron Poppick: I did. Iíd heard a story about Aborigines Ė I think itís a custom for more than one tribe in Australia Ė when theyíd kill their enemies they would bathe in their blood and do war dances.
Kevin R. Lord: At least thatís the rumor.
AP: Some of the tribes still perform the dance, but they donít use blood anymore Ė they use rocks and shards.
KRL: Itís supposed to resemble blood.
AP: We just liked the imagery.
Q: I like it. . . are you all originally from Seattle?
AP: Weíre all from California. Julianís originally from England Ė Iíll let him tell that. We met in California and we moved up here at different times. Weíve all known each other since we were very young.
Q: Julian, where in England did you grow up?
Julian Thomas: Redditch, itís near the Midlands. Itís famous for fishhooks.
Q: How did you learn to play music?
AP: Julian and I had been in a punk band since we were 14. Julian originally played guitar but then he started taking classical piano lessons when he was 15.
AP: Kevin doesnít know how to play the drums.
KRL: I have no idea how to play drums.
Q: Youíre self-taught.
KRL: I just figured it out a year ago. I generally like hitting things with sticks.
AP: Heíd never played drums and it just came naturally. Weíve been playing for 10 years and he knows how to keep up with us. I donít know how it works.
KRL: I took one lesson a couple months ago with the drummer of Diminished Men. Heís amazing.
Kevin R. Lord
Q: Who writes the music and lyrics?
AP: I write the structure and then we all write the music. I mostly write all the lyrics and then I write a bass structure. Julian writes the meat of the music.
Q: Are you doing more recording?
AP: Hopefully in 2009. Weíre writing this winter. I think weíre going to try to get back in the studio late spring/early summer.
Q: Good. . . what do you think has influenced you?
KRL: Not the band.
AP: You know when you watch the History Channel and you see all the tanks driving over the skulls and stuff?
KRL: We just think thatís kind of typical.
AP: Pharmaceutical commercials. Moral decay. The decline of society. Recently Kevin paid a guy $120 to move his mattress out of our apartment. You canít just leave a mattress out on the road anymore Ė people look down on it. $120 dollars in some countries can feed a whole family.
KRL: I couldnít even get rid of a nice comfortable bed.
AP: We just like dark, cynical imagery. Shit that makes people uncomfortable. We really like Swans, the band, their attitude.
KRL: Thereís enough dark imagery on the news every night to write songs for the rest of my life.
Q: How did you decide not to have a guitarist in the band?
JT: When we first started I was on guitar, keyboards and occasional singing. The songs I ended up liking the most were the ones with him [Poppick] singing, him [Lord] on drums and me on keyboards.
KRL: Heís a lot better as a pianist than he is as a guitarist. I mean, youíre a good guitarist, but he shines on piano.
Q: The ep stunned me. Do you feel like youíve created something different from what other people are doing?
AP: Weíre very much trying.
KRL: We want to mix our influences. If something sounds too much like a jazz song or too much like a blues song weíll mix it up.
Q: The pix of you taken by Mary Henlin . . . those are great. Whoís the girl with the rabbit head?
KRL: His [Thomasí] girlfriend. We rented that hotel room and got so fucked up and she was sober. We stayed up all night and we look completely gone. We look like scumbag freaks, which is what we were going for. Maryís good.
You can see more photos I took of their show at the Comet here.
Blood Red Dancers next play the Bit Saloon in Ballard on February 21, 2009.