Friday, December 19, 2008

Another Band Worth Knowing...

Did a brief e-mail interview recently Josh Ocean, singer with New York-based electronic/pop punk band TV/TV. They are currently unsigned, but certainly not for long.

How did you all first get together?

I started the band as a music project with my roommate in our East Village apartment. The goal was to write pop music that we wanted to listen to and play small clubs around the city. We booked a residency at Piano's on the lower east side and when we needed a drummer and bass player we searched MySpace. We first found Francois and later Camillie. Francois and I from New York and Camillie is from New Jersey.

You had a pretty big name producing team to record your EP, without label backing. Was it hard to convince them to produce your record?

Actually no. Zack and Kenneth were very into the band since we first e-mailed them a demo of "Indie Rock Girl". They were busy working on the "Band in a Bubble" (Cartel) show on MTV, but we were the first band they contacted when they got out of the bubble.

Why did you choose them?

We wanted to get out of the city to record for a few reasons. Most of all we knew that they would bring a real pop sound to our more rock and indie type songs.

Are you surprised by the amount of attention you have gotten after the release of the EP?

Yes. It blows my mind to think that we put the band together in five months and then recorded the EP. The buzz that followed was pretty crazy. The craziest thing to me is that the buzz seems to keep growing.

Do you plan on signing to a label or trying to go it alone for awhile?

Yes. We will definitely sign with a label when we feel the time is right.

What's the toughest thing about doing all this alone, without a label?

We have to pool our resources to make everything work.

What's the upside?

We own everything and we have complete control.

Do you all still hold day jobs? Is it hard to tour around those schedules?

We are in limbo at the moment. It is really hard to have a job when you are home from tour for a few weeks then have to go out again.

Have you started writing a full length yet?

We have just been focused on writing for the new EP coming out in early 2009.

What's next for the band?

We are playing the entire Warped Tour in 2009. We will release a music video and continue to tour non-stop.

Anything else you want to add?

Check us out at I just ask people who haven't heard us to take a listen because that’s all it takes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Band Worth Knowing...

Amazing new record from Richmond, VA-based band The Riot Before.

Here's a recent interview with them:

Just two records into their career, the guys in The Riot Before have managed to create an album many longtime punk vets would kill to have their name on.

“Fists Buried Deep in Pockets,” The Riot Before’s sophomore effort, may be steeped heavily in Hot Water Music and Avail, but is still remarkably original. Lyrically and musically it’s a fantastic counterargument for those cynics who whine that good punk music died sometime in the mid-80’s.

California transplant Brett Adams, now firmly entrenched with the rest of the band in Richmond, VA, took some time recently and answered a few questions via e-mail, discussing “Fists”, high rents in Santa Barbara and why guys with beards shouldn’t wear mascara.

How different is Fists Buried in Pockets from Horseshoes and Hand Grenades?

If our records thus far were that depiction of human evolution which shows a monkey over the course of five or so pictures increasing in human characteristics, “Horseshoes” would be scrunched over on the far left, Dryopithecus I guess, while “Fists” would stand a little more upright, one or two fundamentalist-Christian-denying monkey-men to the right, maybe Homo Habilis. “Fists” is more evolved in pretty much every way, though I don't put it all the way on the right because I hope that it's not the most evolved record we will ever make. Maybe a few records down the road we will be metaphorically standing completely upright and we will literally be totally rich and famous. I could go through every nuance of betterment between our first record a Fists, but instead I'll just say that we recorded “Fists,” not just as a band (something “Horseshoes” didn't even have), but as an experienced band who had spent months and months preparing for the record trying to anticipate everything that would confront us in the studio, and two years playing nearly 300 live shows. I think that increase in experience shines through on the songs. Also, I'm three years older and I think I've grown up a lot, and that maturing has shown itself (I hope) in more thoughtful and nuanced lyrics, written with a lot more perspective and humility.

How long did you work on the new record?

Total time recording, mixing, and mastering was about three weeks, but that's really just the tip of the iceberg. A few weeks before officially recording everything we went in and demoed the whole record so we could listen to it and make appropriate changes. That was preceded by about two months of very intensive practices working everything out, planning the exact order of songs and how they would all work with each other, and going back and teaching out new guitarist, Jon (Greeley), all the songs we had worked with Garrett (Berneche) on, including re-writing all the lead guitar parts. I had spent the last year and a half or so working on songs, not incredibly diligently, but at least persistently. Accumulated, it was a ton of work.

Do you guys share similar musical influences?
For the most part our musical influences fall under the same very broad umbrella of punk, though we all have our unique divergences from that. Though we were all influenced by more or less the same genre, we didn't necessarily listen to the same bands. I grew up pretty isolated from the punk underground so I missed out on a lot of the bands that defined the genre for the other band members. Also, we all grew up in different parts of the country so what was popular in Chicago was very different than what was popular in central California or Virginia. But yeah, it's all pretty similar. None of us are metal heads at least.

How did you end up connecting with Say-10?

Cory (Crime, bassist) had known Adam (Gecking) from when he lived in Virginia Beach. Adam had run a label a few years back and was looking to get back into it, so he offered to help us put out a record. We were broke, he's a really trustworthy guy, and the rest is history.

Of all places, how did you end up in Virginia?

After I finished college in Santa Barbara I knew I wanted to move far away from California (just for the hell of it really, nothing against the state) and that wherever I moved would have to be a place I could hub a touring band from. I always wanted my band's bio to read heavily of touring and hard work, and so I couldn't move some place like New York where rent was as bad or worse than Santa Barbara, and I'd have to spend more time at work paying bills than in a van paying dues. So after looking around and asking a ton of people, I ended up picking Richmond for very practical reasons. It's pretty cheap and right in the middle of the east coast so you can easily tour north or south in a part of the country that is very densely populated. Plus, I'd never been to Richmond and I knew no one, so it totally fit the and-then-I-packed-my-car-up-and-drove-across-the-country-to-a-city-I-new-nothing-about narrative that I'm so fond of. So, if anything, it was guaranteed to be a good story.

So maybe you can tell, what is it about Richmond that produces such down to earth punk bands? I have yet to see anyone from that town in a band that uses mascara?

This question kinda stumped me for a bit cause I never really thought much about it before. I just accepted the fact that if you played in a shitty pop band or had mascara on your eyes, it was probably a good idea to skip Richmond. Then again, that's really only true of the city. The suburbs love that stuff. I'm sure Aiden would draw a decent suburbs crowd here, though there's no way they'd be able to be from the city. I talked to a friend about this last night and he had a pretty good answer so I'll steal it. There's a really big art college here in Richmond, and so pretty much everyone is some sort of artist, or at least surrounded by artists, and that really affects the taste of the city. You get a bunch of pretentious artists together and the last thing that they're gonna tolerate is eyeliner and music that is a copy of a copy of something that was kinda cool in '98. Granted, there's still a lot of pretension, but its way more veiled. And when pretentious people are trying to pretend they're not, they end up liking bands that actually aren't pretentious at all (i.e. Avail, Strike Anywhere). Does that make sense at all? I think it does. Maybe the answer is simpler, like: beards are popular here, and you just look stupid if you have eyeliner and a beard, so people just don't wear mascara.

How was playing Fest this year? Did you get to catch any of the other bands playing?

This was our second year playing the Fest and it was a ton of fun but also incredibly tiring. I love the Fest because it brings together a lot of the people in the country (and a few other countries too) that actually like your band, and our show at the Fest has been our best of the year two years running. The turn our this year was surprisingly good considering we had to play at the exact same time as The Lawrence Arms, No Trigger, and Andrew Jackson Jihad (three bands I really wanted to see) and given the choice, I don't know if I would have gone to our set over those other bands. Luckily I had no choice. Not only does the Fest bring together a lot of fans of music, but also the musicians themselves. There are a ton of bands we've become friends with over the years, but because we're always on tour we pretty much never get to hang out with them. So it's great being able to catch up with good friends you don't get to see very often. As far as actually watching other bands, I tried and mostly failed. There was just too much going on. It's like standing surrounded by people shouting at you and trying to pick out and pay attention to what everyone is saying. It's impossible and really tiring, and eventually you just give up and go back to a friend's hotel room and watch House for a few hours and comment on how the show is pretty much just Scrubs but with more somber lighting and Dr. Cox as the protagonist. I did get to catch some good shows though. Then venue we played at on Saturday was good all day long so I just hung around and watched the Cobra Skulls, Nothington, Broadway Calls, The Menzingers, Polar Bear Club, Fake Problems, and a few others. I watched Hour of the Wolf's set on Sunday and that was completely insane. There was blood and nudity and trash, all in a set of incredible songs. One of the downsides of the Fest for me is that I have a really bad memory when it comes to the people I meet on tour every night. Like, I don't just forget names, I forget faces. It's awful but there's just no way for me to fix it. Let's say I meet ten new people every night on tour (which is a pretty conservative number), if we play 150 shows in a year, that's 1,500 people that I talked to in one way or another, and I'm completely incapable of remembering everyone. You never really know who you'll meet again and who you'll never see anymore, so my brain just kinda files everyone in the same brief-encounter-folder and it's really hard sorting through it all in an instant when someone says hi to you. At the Fest there are all these really great people from all over the country that I met in the last few years and they would come say hello and I would just stare at them, trying to figure out even what state they were from. And everyone kinda just expected me to remember, so they wouldn't re-introduce themselves or be like "hey it's _____ from ____" (cause once I had that info I pretty much remember everything). So the Fest ended up being this really great and fun reunion where I walked around constantly in fear of being a dick, terrified that I'd run into yet another person I didn't remember. I felt awful at lot of the time. We meet all these really generous people who basically sustain our band every single night and I can't even remember most of them. I hate it. I ended up having a lot of anxiety and not really going anywhere or making eye contact with people I didn't think I knew.
Any tour plans for Dec. or early 2009?
Sadly no. We're broke and our van is not too mechanically sound. We really don't trust it on long drives and so we're looking at trying to buy a new one, which is not cheap. At this point it looks like we're gonna try and get back out on the road and hit up the whole U.S. next March/April, hopefully Europe in May, and then maybe the moon late next summer. I'm probably going to go crazy if I have to stay in the same city until next March and I'd really like to leave before that, but right now finances are dictating out touring plans.

What's next for the band?
We'd like to spend the bulk of next year on the road. That's our only goal pretty much all of the time, to play shows. Granted, we have other goals that are more personal: Freddy wants to introduce a line of hair care products, you know like mooses and styling gels; Cory wants to be on Project Runway; and Jon wants to play forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, but all those things are a ways off. Right now we just want to play shows to more than, like, ten people at a time.

Anything else you want to add?

Check out These Numbers Have Faces over at

Thursday, December 4, 2008

X-mas Song from Scott Reynolds

Suburban Home Records received a cool little Christmas song from Scott Reynolds the other day ("It's Christmas Anyway").
Here's the message Suburban Home honcho Virgil Dickerson received from Scott:

Last year I recorded a little Christmas ditty for my myspace. It ain't much of a recording (used a toy drum set, my epiphone, and my trusty mac computer), but it's a nice song, and I figured it would make a good Christmas present this year. So here it is. If you're not a Christian, don't worry. Neither am I. I don't think it matters much. SO HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY CHANUKAH, KILLER KWANZAA, AND A PEACEFUL AND HAPPY NEW YEAR. GOD BLESS US EVERYONE, AND TO ALL A GOODNIGHT!!! ……………….. Scott

It's a great song and SHR and Scott are giving it away free. Here's the download:

Scott's a great musician, so please download it and pass it along.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Clash Review

The Clash – Live at Shea Stadium (CD/Legacy) and THE CLASH by The Clash (Book/Grand Central Publishing)
The Sex Pistols get points for being there first, but The Clash are by far the most influential punk rock band. Formed in 1976, just a year after The Pistols - a band known more for safety pins, studs and a heavy dose of brattiness - The Clash focused more energy on songwriting than publicity stunts, injecting a heavy dose of working class politics and a touch of anarchy into their songs.

The Pistols, though a goofy band and influential in their own way, only released one proper album before imploding, while The Clash kept their heads down and focused on their music, inspiring an entire generation of punk rockers in the process. Consider the best known punk and punk-inspired bands playing today: Green Day, Rancid, Dropkick Murphys, Rage Against The Machine; None of these bands would be around if Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon hadn’t first paved the way.

The band may have finally gained entrance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, but the back to back releases of the “Live at Shea Stadium” concert on CD and the new book THE CLASH by The Clash, do more to honor one of the greatest political music acts to ever record.

“Live at Shea Stadium” is the only full show live album released by The Clash. Recorded in 1982, when the band opened up for The Who, the sound quality is flawless. The recording starts off with an introduction by sometime manager and longtime band friend Kosmo Vinyl who prods the crowd for not being loud enough then proclaims: “We ain’t got no baseball tonight, we ain’t got no football tonight… but what we have got is a little bit of what’s going on in London…” before bringing out The Clash, who jump into “London Calling.”

Playing during a steady downpour of rain, the band tears through 15 songs in under an hour. The set list is tight for the most part, with the band playing all of their hits that were out at the time including “Train in Vein,” “Tommy Gun,” “Spanish Bombs,” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go.”

The Clash sounds a bit testy at times, telling the audience early on to “Stop yakking!” Not very punk rock, but then again I’ve never played in a stadium in front of tens of thousands and had to sing over people talking.

Not every track’s a winner, (Paul Simonon’s turn at the mic for “The Guns of Brixton” was probably a good time to go get a t-shirt), but taken as a whole, the album is a fantastic snapshot of one of the world’s best rock bands, at their peak, playing a brilliant show. Because of Strummer’s death from a heart defect in 2002, most of never got a chance to see The Clash play. “Live at Shea Stadium,” though hardly a substitute for the real thing is still a decent memento worth getting.

Equally impressive is the book THE CLASH by The Clash, crammed with hundreds of color photos and interviews with the band. There have been plenty of Clash bios over the past few decades, but this is the first time the band has given their own story of The Clash. Every band member is included (Strummer participated in several of the interviews before his death).

Though the interviews are great, it’s the pictures that justify the book’s hefty $45 price tag, with many never before or rarely seen material like tour posters, artwork, and pics of the band at home, on stage, in the studio and on the road.

There will always be great punk bands, but there will never be a band like The Clash, the first to combine incendiary guitars and strong political themes railing against everything from fascism to Thatcher’s right-leaning version of England. Long live The Clash!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ever Get the Feeling You've Been Cheated?

Sex Pistol's front man Johnny Rotten (ne John Lydon) doing a butter commercial. Seriously. Filthy Lucre indeed.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rise Against - Behind the Scenes

I was a bit slow to catch on to Rise Against. It wasn't until the release of "Siren Song of the Counter Culture" about three years ago that I finally decided to pay attention to the Chicago band. I've heard the new record, "Appeal to Reason" (due out on Oct. 7) and think the group has just turned in their best record. It's still filled with plenty of political diatribes and the guitars still ring, but there is strong eveolution in the band's sound that can't be ignored. I'll have a review up in about a week or two.

Doing a Nov. story on the band for MeanStreet magazine, so should have plenty more info to post about Rise Against soon. In the meantime, here's some behind the scenes footage of the group making a video for their first single off the record ("Re-Education").

Making Of Re-Education - Rise Against

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Clash - Live at Shea Stadium

I got a promo copy of The Clash Live at Shea Stadium. Amazing! I'll have a review up closer to the release date (Oct. 7). Here's a taste.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Your Next Favorite Band...Fun

In 2006, The Format released "Dog Problems," a record that is nearly flawless from start to finish.

Produced by Redd Kross's Steven McDonald with arrangements from Roger Manning (former Jellyfish founder), the record was criminally underrated. Lyrically and musically, it is one of the best pop/rock albums to come out this decade. Drawing influences from bands like XTC, ELO and Jellyfish, the duo (Sam Means and Nate Ruess) was miles ahead of their peers in terms of creativity and musicianship.

I was working on a piece for AMP magazine earlier this year and had interviewed Ruess by phone. I asked about a new record and he said they were going to get back to work soon, and were bringing back McDonald and Manning to help again. A few weeks later, however, it was announced that The Format was splitting up and there would be no follow up to "Dog Problems". The break was cordial, but the news still completely sucked.

Last week, the gods of music decided to make the world a little brighter. Through a MySpace post, Ruess announced that he had formed a new band, Fun (the band's name, not a commentary from me), with Andrew Dost of Anathallo and Jack Antonoff of Steel Train (both bands were constant tour mates of The Format). A press release went out soon after announcing that Fun will begin recording their debut album this September with.... (wait for it)... producer Steven McDonald, arranger Roger Joseph Manning Jr. Nice.

Their debut album should be available in February, 2009, but they have already posted a demo for the song "Benson & Hedges" (which can be downloaded from their MySpace page). And all is right with the world again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Needed: New Spokesperson for Slipknot

I can't say I'm a fan of the band Slipknot, the goofy, gimmick-prone metal heads from Iowa (they wear masks for God's sake!), but someone needs to help out the group and offer better advice than their label.

The British and South African media this week have been reporting on a brutal incident in South Africa where a 16- year-old wearing a Slipknot mask and carrying a sword killed one fellow student and injured a few others at the school. In a predictable move, school officials are using an old chestnut from the 80's, blaming the attack on "Satanic music" (about 20 years ago, this was known as the "Ozzy Osbourne/Judas Priest" theory).

What was Slipknot's response?
Glad you asked.
Someone from Roadrunner Record's, the band's label, said: "We've had no confirmation that it was, in fact, a Slipknot mask. The band is not going to respond."

The teen apparently did not buy a sanctioned Slipknot mask from an approved seller, so the band has no response. Not a "We are saddened by this tragic event," or a "Our thoughts are with the victims' families," etc. The kid didn't shell out cash for the real thing, so the band will have no comment.

Stay classy Slipknot.

Friday, August 8, 2008

CD Reviews - The Replacements Edition

The Replacements
Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash; Stink; Hootenanny; and Let it Be

I’m the first to admit that re-issues of old albums are generally nothing more than a cynical way to cash in on a record twice.
There are very few albums that sincerely deserve a re-launch and are actually worth all the extras picked out of some long-forgotten vault, dusted off and slapped onto the re-release. The Replacements first four records, however, are a major exception.
The first couple of records (“Sorry Ma…” and the “Stink” EP) show a sloppier band that is bursting with potential. They tempered a bit of the brattiness with “Hootenanny” and Paul Westerberg started to evolve a bit lyrically. With the release of “Let It Be,” boasting songs like “Unsatisfied” and “Androgynous,” the band solidified itself as one of the best American rock bands. Ever.
The bonus outtakes and demo tracks Rhino added to these records make them worth the re-release. Here’s hoping their later albums get similar treatment. One of life’s big mysteries is how a band as brilliant as The Replacements have remained the darlings of critics everywhere and served as inspirations for an entire generation of punks and garage rockers, but never really managed to garner the mainstream success that far, far weaker bands have managed to snatch.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Clash - Live! (Finally)

Those bemoaning the current state of popular music (the line forms just behind me) can take a moment and relax.

Epic/Legacy has just announced that they will finally release "The Clash Live at Shea Stadium". The CD comes out on Oct. 7. There will also be a new Clash book coming out in November, "The Clash by The Clash."

This soon-to-be classic CD captures the band's Oct. 12th and 13th shows, opening for The Who's farewell tour, (as recounted in numerous bios on The Clash and Joe Strummer).

Here's the track listing:

  1. Kosmo Vinyl Introduction

  2. London Calling

  3. Police On My Back

  4. Guns Of Brixton

  5. Tommy Gun

  6. The Magnificent Seven

  7. Armagideon Time

  8. The Magnificent Seven (return)

  9. Rock The Casbah

  10. Train In vain

  11. Career Opportunities

  12. Spanish Bombs

  13. Clampdown

  14. English Civil War

  15. Should I Stay Or Should I Go

  16. I Fought The Law

The band was on the road promoting Combat Rock, at the time. This record is a must buy for any Clash fans - casual or die hard -and required listening for any up and coming bands who think punk rock started with Green Day and Blink 182.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Band Worth Watching: War Stories

It's easy to get cynical about music when you consider the overwhelming amount of mediocre, slapped together static that passes for music nowadays. But, every now and then - and it doesn't happen nearly as often as you'd think - I come across a CD from an unknown band that just blows me away; reminds me just how brilliant a band can be when you combine talent, emotion and ambition. San Diego four-piece War Stories is one of those bands.

Here's an expert from a recent interview I did with the group's singer. Their record comes out on Aug. 19. Here's a link to their MySpace page where you can listen to a few songs.


You’d have to go back pretty far in the annals of rock to find a more appropriately named band than War Stories.

In the midst of a major tour, trying to build up name recognition across the country show by show, the guys in San Diego’s War Stories got shoved out the door of a moving tour van (figuratively speaking, of course) by Sony Records before their debut even landed on the store shelves.

To make matters worse, their label refused to let the band keep any of their songs, preferring to preserve them a closet somewhere.

Bruised, a little jaded, but more determined than ever to bring their songs to light, front man Evan Robinson, along with drummer Adam Barker, bassist Eric Mace and guitarist Reid Curby went right back to work on their second, first record. The result is Vol. I, nearly a dozen beautifully-crafted songs that manage to sound both hauntingly intimate at times and tailor-made for packed arena sing-alongs. Though it’s almost cliché to compare a rock band to U2, a song like Vol. I’s “What Does God See” could easily fit alongside any of the tracks on the Irish band’s groundbreaking “October”.
I spoke with Evan recently in a very frank and open interview, covering everything from the band’s abrupt dismissal from the Sony family to the future of War Stories.

How did you find out that your debut was not going to be put out by Columbia? Did they give you a reason?
Evan: I got a call from our management half way through our U.S./Canadian tour with Kasabian and Mew. They said, "Columbia is dropping your band and is not going to put out the record." To be honest, I was not surprised. Even though we had great tours, a beautiful video, a strong record and an overall great "team"(ha) behind us, something didn't feel quite right. I often found myself in situations where I was forced to compromise my musical and personal integrity to keep the interest of the "machine." Though my experiences with the "machine" all seem horrible, in reality it was one of my life's greatest learning experiences. No regrets.

Did they let you keep the songs from that record?

Evan: Absolutely not. And given the fact that they basically hosed us off and hung us out to dry, you would think that the least they could do is give us back our songs that we wrote. But OH NO, NO my friends! For the last two years we have been trying to get our songs back. But in order to fight the "machine" you need an attorney, and attorneys LOVE money, and since we don't have the bank of Sony behind us anymore, no one wants to give us their time. All legal bullshit aside, those are our songs that we wrote. We are going to treat them that way.

Did you ever consider calling it quits after the first record fell apart?

Evan: It actually motivated us. It forced us to re-evaluate our intentions behind creating music. It reminded us that we write and perform music because it is simply who we are. The writing of songs and sharing them with people is what we love to do. That being said, we came to the conclusion that we were going to remain a working band whether there was $2 or $2 million dollars behind us. The end of 2006 was the time we were dropped. But it was also a time when we felt a sense of freedom and relief that we were no longer part of the major labels downward spiral. spi.ral- a plane curve generated by a point moving around a fixed point while constantly receding from or approaching it.

Once you finished this new record, did you consider talking to major labels again?

Evan: Of course the thought crossed my mind. I am a kid with a dream of playing music for a living. Major labels allow you to do just that. The problem is that the "dream" usually lasts for a very short period of time and sometimes comes with lifelong consequences. I’m 25 years old. If I want to be doing this when I am 60, I cannot put my career in the hands of a record company that throws their artists against a wall in hopes that it might stick. Not to mention being part of a "machine" that was designed to make the rich richer and keep the artist in debt. No thank you.

With the current state of the music industry, do you think bands really need record labels now?

Evan: Nope. You need a good manager, a part time job, committed members and passion.

Can you tell me a little about the songs on the new record? Is there a central theme?
Evan: This record is a compilation of 11 heartfelt songs. It’s the soundtrack to life. From the issues of depression and addiction addressed in "Without Love," to my frustration with the music industry stressed in "Rage," to my gratitude expressed to my guitar on the track "Beautiful," the songs are just real. I have experienced a whole hell of a lot these past few years, and it is really rewarding and therapeutic to share those experiences through my songs. The central theme to this record could be summed up by unconditional love.

Have you started touring behind this record yet?

Evan: No one in the band is independently wealthy, therefore making tour a difficult task at the moment. Plans to tour? Yes! I plan on spending the majority of my life on the road. There is no greater experience to me than sharing and performing our songs to new faces every evening. I believe that you experience more in one month of constant touring than most people experience in a lifetime. Call me old fashion, but I am a big fan of: playing our set, sitting down at the merch table, taking the crinkled up 10 dollar bill out of the persons hand, making a new friend and sending them home with a great record all at the same time. To meet and converse with the fans, the people that encourage us to continue to do what we love the most is a really great thing.

Anything else you want to add?

Evan: Ya, I would love to add this...Right now is a very exciting time in the music industry. Like Johnny Cash said, "What's done in the dark, will be brought to the light." As the greedy heart and selfish character of the business is revealed, the torch is being past on. The power is now back in the hands of the artists. The people that create and love music are now in control. As much as the "machine" would love to think that it is still in control, it is not. In fact, it is about as in control as a sperm that is trying to fertilize an egg inside a women who is on the pill. That translates to 0.1% control. As for the remaining 99.9% of bands, we need to embrace this change and take action. With the help of our fans, I truly believe we can resurrect the music business - this time being built on a foundation of sincere love for music. I hope to see you all at a show one day. Remember; where there is passion, there is success. Peace and Love.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

CD Reviews

Millencolin - Machine 15 (Epitaph)
After 15 years and seven full lengths (not counting EPs), the Swedish pop/punkers in Millencolin have finally moved away from being just another skate punk band with snarky lyrics and have entered “influential punk rocker” territory. After a three year break, the band’s latest offering, “Machine 15.” is by far Millencolin’s best effort to date. Brimming with pop-worthy sing-along choruses, a driving rhythm section and perfect punk rock guitars, the sadly underrated band is bound to win over a whole new crowd with the new record while holding onto enough of their old sound to satisfy longtime fans. Along with a slightly matured sound, the band has also grown immensely in their songwriting, with snatches of brilliant political protest in songs like “Broken World.” That’s not to say that the band has turned into Europe’s answer to Bad Religion. One just needs to listen to a slightly goofy track like the highly infectious first single “Detox,” to be assured that the guys in Millencolin can still crack a smile. The band’s evolution from just another skater band with a jones for So Cal pop/punk to one of Europe’s best contemporary punk rock band’s may have taken awhile, but thanks to a record like “Machine 15” the trip was well worth it.

1997 – On the Run (Victory)
Victory Records, one of the most powerful indie labels operating today, may be best known as the home to teeth rattling post-hardcore and metal acts, but oddly out of place on their roster is one of their best signings, the piano-heavy emo-tinged indie pop act 1997.The Chicago natives play endearing, lush pop that is separated from their contemporaries thanks to their trade off of boy/girl vocals. The addition of new singer Alida Marroni propels “On the Run” way past their decent, but decidedly uneven debut. Their latest record is stronger mainly due to the risks the band takes this time out. The almost Brian Wilson-like opening vocals on “January 19th” and the sing-along tracks like “Winds of Change” (probably one of the best emo songs Dashboard Confessional didn’t write) show a band much more confident. That’s not to say the album is flawless. There are musical risks that don’t pay off, but the successes far outshine any missteps. With “On the Run,” 1997 have taken piano and stellar vocals to help define the new sound of Victory Records.

Nerd Herder – IV (Oglio)
Nerf Herder has never been able to shake comparisons to the other jokey nerd rockers in Weezer. Both bands play chuckle worthy, sing along pop, with the big exception being that Nerf Herder are all for exploiting their goofiness for the sake of good songs (they also don’t have a head case for a lead singer). The band called it quits a few years ago then had second thoughts and reunited in 2005. It took awhile to finally put together IV, their first record since reuniting, but these tracks are just as strong as their earlier material. With songs about loser stalkers, backpacks and embarrassing high school reunions, the band doesn’t stretch much on this record, but then again they wouldn’t be as much fun if they actually matured. Taken for what it is, a silly pop-punk record, Nerf Herder’s “IV” works just fine.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Same Old Song

Complaints about the current crop of "rock stars" signed to major labels is certainly nothing new. Like payola and bad morning DJ's, moaning about the current state of popular music is nearly as old as radio itself.

That being said, I am a card carrying member of Generation X, and believe it is my God-given right to cry in my flannel about the mediocre soon-to-be has-beens that pass for musical heroes nowadays. Below is a Saturday morning rant a buddy/music fan/and longtime music mag publisher sent over this weekend. Thought I would share:

I have become one of those music snobs and I just realized it today. I am sitting here with a stack of CDs on my desk per usual and listening to this average band at best playing radio friendly adult contemporary music you might find in 1986. Why is this relevant in 2008? Why do people record this stuff and spend lots of money to put it out?

I have become jaded because some of my rock heroes have become my friends and I think their music is the elite. So why can’t these unsigned bands be as good as Pearl Jam, King’s X, Juliana Hatfield, Hamell on Trial or Ani DiFranco and I think that is a pretty diverse selection of music mind you.

Where has the soul and heart and passion gone in music. Who would really make the commitment in today’s bands to play a three hour show and sweat through their clothes like Eddie Vedder or Bruce Springsteen and those dudes are in their latter years. They could out rock any of these new punks on the block who think they know about music. Hell they think music started with Blink 182, Green Day. They only like the Clash, Joe Strummer, Sex Pistols because it is “punk cool” to like them. But do they know the history, do they know the literal blood sweat and tears some of those bands put into their music?

Sure there are still good bands out there playing for the sake of the music but in this era of downloads, My Space what not, anyone can play three chords, write and record a song on their computer and call themselves a musician.

A friend of mine, who was mentioned above, told me that music was becoming disposable and sadly they were right. One click of the button and you can throw a song into your computer trash bin or erase it from your IPod when you are sick of it. But how can anyone really get sick of music?

After reading his rant, I decided to go through my own stack of promo CDs to find one solid release courtesy of a major label. Nothing. There is some great stuff coming out on smaller indies (the new Gaslight Anthem on SideOne is amazing and the Osaka Popstar live record will likely be in my car stereo for the next three years!), but small labels are limited in their distribution and the amount of money they can spend on promoting a band, so chances are you will likely never hear about any of these bands if you don't regularly hit the small dive clubs and bar.

All that being said, I will continue to do my admittedly small part and trumpet these smaller, far more talented bands in any way that I can, from magazines to blogs. It's a drop in the bucket, but it at least makes me feel better about myself.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dennis Wilson Review

OK, so you don't always (or ever) think of the Beach Boys when someone mentions punk rock. But Dennis Wilson did hang with Charles Manson ever so briefly, so that may be a strong enough connection to justify mentioning him in this blog.

Legacy Records just released a remastered version of the former Beach Boy drummer's only solo record, with tons of extra (including a never before released second record!). R.I.P. surfer man.

Here's the review:

Dennis Wilson - Pacific Ocean Blue (Legacy)

History is packed with drummers that tossed away their sticks and grabbed the mic (Dave Grohl, Phil Collins, Glen Fry, etc.), often with uneven results. Former Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson was one of the few drummers who could actually pull off the change.

Though he may have spent his brief musical career behind the shadow by his older brother Brian, the re-released version of his 1977 solo record shows he was every bit as talented. Wilson’s solo record was/is a big step away from the traditionally cheery Beach Boys, melody-soaked songs, leaning more toward beautiful, melancholy piano-backed efforts. Light on production and extra instruments, Wilson uses little more than a piano and his voice to move the songs along.

The Legacy Records deluxe set treats this often neglected gem of an album right, with four bonus tracks that didn’t make it on the original record and second CD of Wilson’s never released “Bambu” project: 16 rarely-heard tracks, and a new version of the unfinished song “Holy Man,” aptly enough, with Foo Fighter’s drummer Taylor Hawkins on vocals. The package also comes with a 44 page book of photos and several essays about the musician.
Listening to “Pacific Blue” in its entirety, followed by the salvaged songs on “Bambu,” you can’t help but mourn for the short, but understated brilliant solo work of Dennis Wilson and what might have been had he not died in 1983.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Band Worth Knowing: Ludo

The only back up plan the guys in Ludo had was “don’t have a back up plan.”

It seems to have worked out OK for the St. Louis-based rock band. Just a few years into it’s existence and Ludo has already signed with Island and are hitting the road with the Presidents of the United States of America to promote their second full-length “You’re Awful, I Love You.”

Co-founder Andrew Volpe took time recently to speak with me about the beauty of not looking back.

So where did all of you meet?

We came together in pieces. Tim Ferrell and I played together as Ludo while we both were in college. We started playing acoustic shows full time in early 2003. Tim Convy, who had known Ferrell since high school joined after that spring and the three spent that summer recruiting a rhythm section and got Matt (Palermo) and Marshall (Fanciullo) that summer. We recorded our first album after being together for a few weeks, and immediately went on tour.

I know at least some of you dropped out of college for Ludo. How thrilled were your folks about that?

I think all of our parents had a feeling early on their kids were going to pursue something like this. They've all been very supportive - they see how hard we work, and they know how much we love what we do. Of course there's an occasional "get a REAL job!" but for the most part they've all been great.

How would you describe the band's sound?

Describing what music sounds like is like trying to draw a picture of what spaghetti tastes like, so it's not really something we like to do but in short - we're a rock band.

Do you guys have any influences that would surprise people?

We really like Chuck Berry and we've all got individual tastes that would surprise people. Tim Ferrell has been really in to music in "pure" intonation which basically abandons all rules of Western notes, chords, etc and it's crazy!

Have you all been able to quit your day jobs yet or do you still work between tours?

We've been very fortunate and have done nothing but Ludo from the day we started. We always say "If you have fall-back plan, you'll fall back on it." Before Ludo we did everything from bartending, DJing, graphic design, and selling shoes, futons, and all sorts of things.

How did you get the attention of Island records?

We played a show at South by Southwest in Austin and there was an A&R guy there from Island. He saw us, took us out to eat the next day and then brought his boss to see us at home in St. Louis.

How long have you been working on the songs that made this record?

Years. Some of the songs have existed since December of 2003, and others were written while we were in the studio.

How was the recording process this time around?

It was really amazing and probably one of the most positive experiences we've ever had as a band. Our producer, Matt Wallace, was incredible and supported us in making the record we wanted to make. We also got to live in Hollywood for two months which was quite an experience in and of itself.

What are the largest and smallest crowds you've played in front of?

We played to over 4,000 people at a show during the Final Four in St. Louis. We also played to about four people in a swimming pool at college in Texas.

Any advice to bands that are just now starting out?

Love it. Do it for yourself. Write lots of songs. Push each other. Play every show you can. If something isn't fun, don't do it. Get plenty of sleep.

What do you have planned for the rest of 2008?

We're going on tour with The Presidents of The United States of America. Before that, we need to get the oil changed in the van. And after that, who knows?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

CD Reviews

Old 97’s

Blame It on Gravity
New West Records

The Old 97’s have been churning out their endearing brand alt-country/power-pop now for nearly 15 years. With their latest, “Blame it on Gravity”, unfortunately the wear and tear is starting to show a bit. It’s not that the 13 track record is bad – in fact it is still better than most efforts the genre is likely to offer this year – it’s simply that the Texas boys set the bar so high with their earlier efforts. Songs like “Time Bomb” (off of “Too Far to Care”) or “Victoria,” (off of “Wreck Your Life”) were instant classics. In comparison, there really are no obvious classics off of the group’s latest. “No Baby I” would have obviously been overshadowed and ignored if it were on one of their first records, but comes off as one of the stronger outings on “Blame it on Gravity.” This record is still a must-own for anyone who was a fan enough of the band to buy front man Rhett Miller’s solo efforts. For all others, I’d suggest picking up a copy of “Too Far to Care” and waiting to see what the next record brings.

Good Riddance
Remain in Memory - Live
Fat Wreck Chords

Coming in at 31 tracks, it’s easy to dismiss “Remain in Memory,” Good Riddance’s live album, as overkill. But for an underdog band that made it almost 20 years, churning out good-to-great political rants, backed by solid punk rock only to be ignored by many outside of their native Southern California, 31 tracks almost seems like not enough for a band that’s more than earned their place in punk rock history.

Recorded on May 27, 2007, in their hometown of Santa Cruz, “Remain in Memory” marks the band’s very last show together. Throughout their career, they were overshadowed by far less talented bands with bigger resources, but the guys in Good Riddance, undaunted, continued to turn in album after album of passionate punk rock fight songs. Fueled by old Bad Religion and Dead Kennedy’s albums, distorted guitars and a healthy dose of cynicism, Good Riddance managed to put out eight albums before finally calling it quits. Lacking a greatest hits record, “Remain in Memory” is a perfect starter album for those just discovering the band and a nice keepsake for longtime fans.

The De’Villes
Switch Blades & Heartaches

Motherbox Records

New York has a storied history of churning out stellar punk bands and The De’Villes are no exception. On their debut, NY Rock and Roll, the Long Island foursome play solid punk rock in the vein of Social Distortion and The Dead Boys. The eight song E.P. starts off strong with “Coulda’ Been My Baby” and doesn’t let up. Jarett Slionski's scratchy vocals complement the band’s sound perfectly. With a subtle nod to rockabilly and the occasional blues riff thrown in, the De’Villes are proof that NY has not lost its touch for launching great bands. Though not known by many outside their turf yet, the group is a full length record away from launching a brilliant career.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hair Metal is Taking Over Again

So Poison front man Bret Michaels is a TV Dating Show super stud now and Axl Rose may be the best thing to happen to Dr. Pepper since the aluminum can, now Def Leppard, the best metal band with a one-armed drummer has just debuted on the Billboard Top 200 charts at #5. Seriously.... There is no punch line there. Well, maybe one. Their first single is a duet with Tim McGraw.

Here's the press release:

Debuts at #5 on Billboard Top 200!

Band’s New Release Garners Highest Charting Debut Since 1992’s Adrenalize

“Nine Lives” Maintains #1 Spot on Classic Rock Chart for Three Solid Weeks

New York, May 7, 2008 – Def Leppard, Great Britain’s premiere arena rock band, released their 14th studio album, Songs From The Sparkle Lounge (Bludgeon Riffola/Island/UMe) this past Tuesday, which has debuted at #5 on the Billboard Top 200, earning Def Leppard their highest-charting debut since their 1992 album Adrenalize. Songs From The Sparkle Lounge contains 11 new songs including the new hit single “Nine Lives,” featuring a groundbreaking collaboration with country music superstar Tim McGraw. The song has been sitting atop the Classic Rock chart at #1 for three weeks, and is also holding at #15 on Mainstream Rock radio. The band recently kicked off the release of their new album last week with a slew of high profile television performances on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and NBC’s The Ellen Degeneres Show.

Recorded last year during month-long stints at lead singer Joe Elliott’s Dublin studio, the album’s title refers to a backstage area called “The Sparkle Lounge” on Def Leppard’s 2006 tour where the band would go to write songs. In addition to the album’s hit single “Nine Lives,” other standout tracks on the album include “C'mon C'mon,” which will be the album’s next single, “Go,” reminiscent of the band’s classic track “Rocket” in its power and aggressive tribal beat; “Love,” an emotive and moving epic song; and the anthemic “Tomorrow,” a song written by guitarist Collen about the death of his father.

Songs From The Sparkle Lounge includes a limited edition custom PIKCARD®, which unlocks the Def Leppard online "Vault” (named after the band's best-selling greatest-hits CD). Inside the “Vault,” Def Leppard fans have exclusive access to a variety of content, contests and memorabilia, featuring highlights such as personal photos from the road, registration to the band's fan club, entry into an exclusive contest to win backstage passes and VIP access the next time Def Leppard comes to the winner's town, new album lyrics - handwritten by Joe Elliott- and a personal message from the band.

In addition to the album, Def Leppard have partnered with Activision Inc.'s (Nasdaq: ATVI) Guitar Hero® III: Legends of Rock on an epic three-song track pack that gave fans an exclusive opportunity to sample the band's #1 new radio single, "Nine Lives," before their upcoming studio album hit stores. The track pack became available starting April 24th and also features live versions of "Photograph" and "Rock of Ages," two of Def Leppard's most beloved chart-toppers from their multi-platinum Pyromania album.

With more than 65 million albums sold worldwide and two prestigious Diamond Awards to their credit, Def Leppard--Joe Elliott (vocals), Vivian Campbell (guitar), Phil Collen (guitar), Rick "Sav" Savage (bass) and Rick Allen (drums)—continues to be one of the most important forces in rock music. Over the course of their career, the band has produced a series of classic groundbreaking albums that set the sound for generations of music fans and artists. The group’s spectacular live shows, filled with powerful melodic rock anthems, have become synonymous with their name and are an institution in the touring industry as they continue to sell out arenas worldwide.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Punk Rockin' in China

Chinese punk band Brain Failure have just recorded their new EP, which includes the song "A Box on a Broken Ball", (no idea what that means, either) a collaboration with Public Enemy's Chuck D that talks about China's environmental problems.

The lyrics detail severe pollution problems - a result of China's fast economic growth - and the recent abnormal weather changes due to global warming. The band unveiled the song at a press conference in China. Again, Brain Failure held a press conference IN CHINA - a country not exactly known to welcome dissenting views - to talk about a song that is critical of their own country. Now that is punk rock!

Here's a link to the song:

The single is being released through the iTunes Music Store exclusive on April 30th. Their third album, "Made in China," is expected this fall.

Great band. If Joe Strummer were raised in Beijing he would definitely have started this group.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Interview Do's and Don'ts...

The main reason I started covering punk music - aside from the brilliance of The Clash - is that the interviews tended to be much more spontaneous. I'd covered mainstream music in the past and it had all the pleasure of chewing on tinfoil.
The bands' PR department's had media-trained any originality out of the musicians. I would see the quotes from my story picked up in half a dozen other articles about the band. There also seemed to be a sense of unearned self-importance around a lot of these bands. They were signed to a major label, In their little world, they had made it, so granting an interview to the press was seen as little more than a favor to the record companies.

About five years ago, as a favor to a friend I did a piece on a small punk rock band and was shocked at how much fun it was. The band loved talking about themselves and did not shy away from a single question - controversial or not. They were crammed into a tiny van with their buddies for months on end, eating peanut butter on white bread to save some money for beer and couldn't be happier. They knew that major labels were never going to come knocking on their van door with a million dollar contract, but that didn't seem to matter. They had day jobs and twice a year, saved up enough money to tour behind their albums, playing to small, but devoted crowds of kids who loved their music. They also saw an interview as a great way to speak to their fans. I was sold.

From that day on, I tended to concentrate mainly on covering punk bands.

About a year ago though, I noticed that these interviews have started to become less and less fun. The problem almost always seems to come when I'm covering younger bands, on tour behind their first record. Not sure if it's a generational thing - Millennials who were pampered by their parents and now think the rest of the world should treat them like the precious little snow flakes their parents raised them to be. Regardless, it's starting to get annoying.
That's why I've thrown together this helpful list of do's and don'ts to help out these snow flakes and their PR folks (my day job is in PR, so I'm not asking you to do something I wouldn't do myself).
Here we go:

  • Let's drop the attitude. I'm sure you were a big deal at your high school talent show, but I've never heard of you before and chances are 99.9% of the record buying public hasn't either. You're not too good to spend 20 min. on the phone with a reporter who is trying to give your band a little publicity. I have interviewed some of the bigger names in punk, folks in Bad Religion and Flogging Molly, who don't need a mention from my magazines to sell records, and they have been fantastic, entertaining every single question I had without an eye roll. You'd be lucky to have a career half as successful, so suck it up buttercup and handle the interview like a big kid.

  • Buy a watch. This one seems obvious, but if you're on tour, I know you have nothing to do until sound check late in the afternoon. There's no need to be two hours late for an interview. Put down the PSP and show up to the interview on time.

  • Pretend like it's your first time. I know interviews can sometimes get tedious. Especially when you get asked the same questions again and again. Here's a little secret: we're asking you those same generic questions because we know absolutely nothing about you. At all. You've been together as a band for less than a year, you have one five-song E.P. to your name and your bio includes absolutely no interesting details other than your drummer spells his name with an "i" rather than the traditional "y" spelling. We're just desperate to keep the conversation going longer than three minutes. If you're give us nothing, then you're going to get questions like "How did you guys first get together?" Here's a deal I'll make with you, you don't sigh loudly when I ask a question you've heard before and I won't ask how your band got it's name. Deal?

  • You're really not that funny. I'm sure it can get boring on the road. You need a diversion, so why not screw with the reporter and not take a single question seriously. Being sarcastic is an art form that few can pull off (Fat Mike, being one). Chances are you will not come off funny, but will inevitable just sound like a douche. Nice job! You have now pissed off the reporter who will never write about your band again and alienated tens of thousands of readers who might have bought your record. At least your bass player laughed, though.

  • This one's for the flacks. Dear publicist, I know you got this job to one day meet the guys in Green Day and now you're stuck pitching a band like Cute is What We Aim For (one of my worst interview experiences ever, by the way), but suck it up. Return that e-mail and answer your phones. The only time I hear from some of you is when you are pushing some no-name band that is about to disappear into the ether and your client is pressuring you for a clip. I have no problem covering small bands if the publicist has been cool in the past. Mike at Earshot and Vanessa at Mutiny and Fat Wreck Chords, for example. I would cover anyone for these guys because they have been extremely helpful, setting me up with hard-to-get interviews and ALWAYS answering my e-mails, even if it's a question about when a record is coming out. Earshot and Mutiny have a phenomenal client list, in part because their owner's know how to deal with the media.

  • This one's for flacks, Pt. II. Tell me the truth. I know I'm not writing for the New York Times. If your client doesn't want to talk to every outlet, that's fine. Just don't tell me "he's not doing interviews," when I will pick up a competitor's magazine next month and see an exhaustive Q&A with the dude. Again, I'm in PR, so I know those conversations are uncomfortable, but if I lie to my reporters they don't cover any of my clients again. I'm the same way. You're dead to me. Also, don't pester me about covering some horrible band and then go silent the second I ask to get some more details on one of your bigger clients. If that's your M.O., don't be surprised to see your clients walking out the door because you can't get a reporter to answer your calls.

OK, I have stepped back down from the soapbox. All in all, the vast majority of bands and PR folks I deal with on a day to day basis are extremely professional. They make this job, of which I get paid almost zero dollars for, worth doing. To all of you I say "Thanks".

To the others, remember this phrase: "Would you like to supersize that?".

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Me and Willie

So I woke up to another birthday this morning.

I am now officially 35 and while it would be easy to start ticking off all the cliched dreads that come with getting older (another day closer to death; thinking about all that I haven't done; all the money I haven't put aside yet; blah, blah, blah)... not this year. This year I greet the anniversary of my ride down the log flume of life with a great big grin. Why?

Because last night, the Fed Ex driver left a package at my front door. Inside was the Holy Grail: A copy of the latest Willie Nelson box set "One Hell of a Ride: (thanks Randy @ Legacy/Columbia!).

Wille - who incidentally turns 75 later this month - has been a constant in my life and in my CD (formerly tape) collection. Despite years of evolving musical tastes, Willie has always been there for me. I may have been sporting a bolo tie and paisley vest in the mid/late-80's but I was listening to "Whiskey River" as I was getting ready to hit the skate ring.

In fact, Willie and Bruce have been the only two constant anchors in the Mt. Rushmore tribute to my musical heroes (unfortunately, at a low point in my musical tastes they would have been sharing real estate with Kiss and a handful of hair metal bands).

I'm turning the tables on the tradition of gift giving this year and handing you a present. Take 3 minutes and listen to this song:
No need to thank me.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Is Axl Rose a Pepper, too?

In a brilliant PR move from Dr. Pepper, the company recently offered everyone in the U.S. (with the exception of former Guns N' Roses guitarists Slash and Buckethead) a free Dr. Pepper if the long-gestating "Chinese Democracy" is released this year. the record has been in the works for 17 years and counting.

The release, in part, states: "In an unprecedented show of solidarity with Axl, everyone in America, except estranged GNR guitarists Slash and Buckethead, will receive a free can of Dr Pepper if the album ships some time -- anytime! -- in 2008. Dr Pepper supports Axl, and fully understands that sometimes you have to make it through the jungle before you get it right."

And who knew Axl had a sense of humor? Here's the response, posted on his Web site:

Guns N' Roses
March 26, 2008
Press Release from Axl Regarding Dr Pepper By Axl

We are surprised and very happy to have the support of Dr Pepper with our album "Chinese Democracy," as for us, this came totally out of the blue. If there is any involvement with this promotion by our record company or others, we are unaware of such at this time. And as some of Buckethead's performances are on our album, I'll share my Dr Pepper with him.
Axl Rose

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Can't Listen to the Boss? That's a Stabbin'

Not that I condone this reaction, just sayin' I'm a big fan of the boss as well, and this might deserve some sort of pardon...

Woman stabs partner to death after fight over Bruce Springsteen

(CNN) -- An Australian woman pleaded guilty Thursday to fatally stabbing her boyfriend because he objected to her listening to Bruce Springsteen's music.

The national news agency, Australian Associated Press, reported that the Supreme Court in the city of Brisbane sentenced Karen Lee Cooper to eight years in prison.

Cooper told arresting officers she "just got tired" of her boyfriend, Kevin Watson, bossing her around during their two-year relationship.

"I couldn't even play Bruce Springsteen on my stereo. Can you believe that? Can you believe that?" Cooper told police, according to the Courier Mail newspaper.

Later, in a formal police interview, she repeated her claims: "I mean, who doesn't like Bruce Springsteen? I am 49 years old and I want to play my own music."
Springsteen is an award-winning American singer-songwriter, best known for his lyrics about the struggles of the common man.

The couple had been drinking at their rental home the night of the stabbing two years ago when they began arguing over Cooper's choice of music, the Australian Associated Press said.
Cooper's lawyer told the court she experienced a "brain snap." She ran to the kitchen, grabbed a knife and stabbed Watson, 49, after he said he didn't want her to listen to a Springsteen CD, the newspaper said.

Cooper took a handful of pills before calling police. She told officers she hoped the pills would kill her before they arrived.

According to the press reports, Cooper regretted the stabbing and did not think her boyfriend deserved to die.

Again, not condoning her reaction, I'll just ask the question we're all thinking: why would you want someone to turn off Bruce Springsteen?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

So last night VH1 (or more likely VH1 classic) aired the latest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony... and I watched Jon & Kate Plus 8 which some how seemed much more rock and roll than the bloated RnR rubber chicken dinner (let's put on tuxes and sit at assigned tables! Rawk on!!!)

I'm not even going to bother to list the inductees, because Johnnie Cougar is the only one that really mattered this year.

Which brings me to the (only) greatest moment in Rock& Roll Hall of Fame history, when they tried to encase the Sex Pistols. Johnnie Rotten (aka John Lydon) may be the biggest ass in music history (and I'm including the Oasis brothers), but he was the first and only to give the appropriate response when the folks at the Hall of Fame knocked on his door.

"Next to the SEX PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain," said a statement the band sent to media. "Your museum. Urine in wine. Were (sic) not coming. Were (sic) not your monkey and so what?"

The band also rightly pointed out that folks had to shell out $25,000 for a table, "or $15,000 to squeak up in the gallery."

"Your (sic) not paying attention. Outside the shit-stem is a real SEX PISTOL."

Here's a link to the full statement, psychotic handwriting and typos included.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Maxim Reviews

Nice job Maxim! You could almost be forgiven for giving the new Black Crows record 2.5 stars without ever having listened to it (aren't all Black Crows records the same?), but you got caught reviewing the new Nas record... when he hasn't even finished recording it!

Since when did Maxim start including words, by the way?

Here's the response from Nas:

"I'm finishing the album now, and it will be out April 22," Nas told the New York Post's Page Six. "I'd prefer [a review from] Playboy," he added. "That kind of stuff doesn't reach my radar or effect anybody around me. I don't know what a music rating from Maxim is . . . I don't know what it even means really."

In the spirit of Maxim's contributions to journalism excellence, I have decided to Maxim-ize a few reviews of my own, having never heard a note of these records.

  • R.E.M. - Title TBD (due some time in April). Decent attempt to re-live the 90's, but Michale Stipe and the GA boys fail yet again. 2 stars out for 5

  • Coldplay - Title TBD (Due sometime this Spring). Zzzzzzzzzzzz. More non-offensive British moping over piano. Nothing earth-shattering, but decent enough for background music. Expect to hear in a Grey's Anatomy commercial any day now. 3 stars out of 5

  • Madonna - Title TBD (No idea). Crappy dance music; vocals fed through millions of dollars worth of computers, and a pitiful attempt at speak/rapping. 1 star out of 5

  • Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping (Oct.) Hipster band still not accessible enough for radio, but pasty, trendy indie kids can't get enough of this album. 4 stars out of 5

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Label Profile: Sinister Muse Records

I found out about Chicago's Sinister Muse Records about 6 months ago when an editor asked me to profile one of their bands. The band, Dead Town Revival (brilliant street punks in the vein of everyone from Sham 69 to The Clash), I learned was just the tip of the sonic iceberg. Though home to just four bands, each was nearly as exciting as the next (DTR, The Frantic, The Tattle Tales and Random 55).

I had to find out who started a label that is home to four incredible, though solidly diverse bands. After trading e-mails back and forth with the label founder Christian Picciolini, I finally asked last week if he'd be up for a quick interview. By the way, at the same age and somewhat similar backgrounds, anyone who knows me will peg Christian as a much, much cooler version of me. My punk rock doppleganger, perhaps?

Follwing is the transcript from the interview with Chris:

How long ago did you start Sinister Muse?
Well officially I started Sinister Muse Records in 2005, but the idea had been there stirring for quite some time before that.

How old are you and what's your background?
I'm currently 34 and my background is actually pretty diverse. Over the years I have been involved in the music industry in several different capacities, from owning my own indie record store (Chaos Records) in the mid-90s, to playing in bands (Random55), producing songs, managing bands, and even selling dubbed cassette tapes out of my backpack when I was in high school. More recently, I worked as a marketing and operations specialist for IBM for 7 years. It was pretty strange coming off the "street" to work for a Fortune 100 company, but I think it was my ambition and my fresh approach that made me excel while at IBM. I also learned a lot being exposed to corporate culture. I now try to find a good balance between the corporate ideals I learned and the street knowledge I have and blend them into a working philosophy that suits me better than either one did individually.
Why did you decide to start the label?
Well, I knew that I still wanted to continue to make music and that didn't necessarily mean strapping on a guitar and hitting the studio. While I do still enjoy to physically make music, I tend to enjoy working with bands that are making music even more. I guess I am living vicariously through them. The real reason I decided to leave a high paying job at IBM to get involved with music again was that I just wasn't feeling passion in my life anymore. Around the same time, my brother was shot and killed and that really made me question whether life was too short to not do what you are passionate about. So I decided that I could take what I learned and already knew, take what little money I had, and use that to help artists that had the talent but didn't know how to navigate their way through the music industry.

How many employees do you have?
Sinister Muse has fluctuated from the very beginning where we initially had 5 people doing various jobs and eventually life led these people to other careers. I guess I never replaced these people as they left and I found it more efficient to outsource their roles to independents who already had a good track record. For instance, our various publicity, retail, video and radio promotion activities are handled by very capable indie promoters. All of our design and marketing is done in-house. Bookings are handled by various agents, etc. In a nutshell, I am the only remaining employee. I hope I never have to fire myself. Ha!

Are you at the point where the label is now your only job?
The label has been my only job now for the last several years. It's important to me that the bands know they are entrusting their livelihoods to someone that is completely focused on their careers. I wouldn't have it any other way. It's also why I am very selective with who I decide to work with.

You have some phenomenal bands, from straight punk (Dead Town Revival, Random 55), solid power pop (the Tattle Tales)and pop punk (The Frantic). Did you make a concerted effort to sign bands with different sounds?
While I try to stay somewhat within the realm of rock or punk because of my roots in those genres, my only real criteria for bands I decide to work with are that I must be completely passionate about their music, as well as equally respect them as people. As far as diversity, I also signed a great folk artist out of Portland, Maine by the name of Graham Isaacson. While he is no longer with Sinister Muse, it shows how diverse my tastes really are. When I decide to work with a band I am "all in" physically and emotionally and it is for the long haul, so it is important that everyone involved is very realistic, up-front, and committed.

How do you find your bands?
Believe it or not I have never found a band I wanted to work with by receiving their demo in the mail. All of the bands I either found myself live or they were recommended by someone I trust. Although I did find some by just poking around on MySpace. Amazing how many good bands there are out there. But there are also a ton of bands that really need to be realistic about how bad they sound. I get dozens of emails a week saying "I've got this band and we're real good. We don't have a demo yet and we're still looking for a singer but if you sign us we'll promise to make you millions and tour for 40 years." Unfortunately, I don't think they are being realistic.

Who was the first band you signed?
The first CD we released was from Random55, which was my old band from the mid-90s. I released that for pure posterity purposes. But the first band I signed was Dead Town Revival from Chicago. Great guys, amazing songwriters.

Do you encourage bands to send in music to the label?
I listen to everything I get, and I get a lot! But it's true what they say about putting your best song first. I rarely have time to listen past the first song or two and even more rarely do I have time to sift through 12 pages of a bio and press clippings and photos and stickers and any other tree-killing things people often send me. My best advice to all bands is to send a well-produced CD with contact info and a simple one-sheet of concise information outlining your accomplishments. What's even better is short email with a link to your Myspace or Purevolume page. That way, the artist can save their money on shipping and put it into production and touring. Rest assured, if I like what I hear I will ask for more information from the band. Along with running the label, you also do A&R.

Are you encouraged by the music you are hearing now or are too many bands trying to sound like everyone else?
Some bands are good, some bands are bad. Every once in a while you find a great band that rocks your world. I love A&R or scouting for new artists. I think it goes with the territory of always searching for something fresh and exciting.

Obviosuly the major record lables are having a hard time figuring things out right now. Do you think independent labels are better equipped to be successful moving forward?
I think so. We're more nimble and we have the same resources available to us as the majors do. I think majors are inherently antiquated, although there are definitely some more progressive ones out there trying to replicate the relative success the indies have had lately. It's a very democratic and interesting time for music. I'm glad to be part of the revolution.

What's your stance on file sharing and downloading music without paying?
I am really torn on the subject. While I certainly don't condone stealing of music, I do feel that giving away free music is the best promotion any band can do. We encourage our bands to give away a majority of their music by passing out digital download cards at festivals that contain a code to download a few free songs from their album. If people like the music, I believe they will buy it. "File sharing" has always been there in one form or another, even when we used to make dubbed cassettes for our buddies or mix-tapes for our girlfriends back in the day. Does that date me and make me sound fucking old? That's how I got turned on to some of my favorite bands and became a fan for life. Once I liked a band, I went out and bought their entire catalog. I encourage everyone to do the same, or their favorite bands won't be around long enough to enjoy. Support music, go to shows, buy merchandise. That's my stance.

Any new music you are listening to now that you'd recommend?
I love The Frantic and think they can save rock and roll (shameless plug!). But outside of my own label, I am really digging the new Foxy Shazam, Flatfoot 56, and The Mars Volta records.

Any new releases Sinister Muse is putting out soon?
I have made a conscious decision to focus only on what I have on my plate right now. It is important to me that can devote 100% to my projects before I decide to take on anything more. But, you never know.

What's next?
I am currently developing an artist development and management company called CRIMSON Music Group. I think I am better served helping talented bands who need some guidance maneuvering through the industry while making the most effective impact. It is a boutique artist development, management and consulting group. That's where my mind is taking me these days.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


This was a brilliant move.

Shortly after Led Zepplin's completly over-hyped reunion show (please note my obvious bias from an earlier post), news got out that (gasp!), the dinosaurs were coming to the U.S.!!! Aparently they would be playing amongst the petrulli and Birkenstock set at Tennessee's jam band packed Bonnaroo fest (though with the addition of Metallica to this year's bill, there might be fewer hippies making the pilgrimage).

The folks behind Bonnaroo's marketing let word get out on message boards for weeks, before their PR firm finally sent out a release yesterday stating, that yes, the rumors were indeed true. Zepplin would, in fact, be playing this year... I'll let the release explain the rest:

NEW YORK, February 6, 2008 – After rumors following Led Zeppelin’s reunion performance at London’s O2 Arena in December that Led would headline the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Bonnaroo promoters have finally confirmed that the 2008 Festival will, indeed, feature an historic performance by Zeppelin – Lez, that is -- the New York City-based, all-girl quartet that has gained international acclaim as one of the world’s most exciting and talked about live acts. Several major news organizations, who mistakenly reported that Led Zeppelin would headline the festival, scurried early this morning to correct the snafu. Said to embody with blazing accuracy the spirit, sound and swagger of the original, Lez Zeppelin is the first “tribute” act ever to be asked to appear at Bonnaroo.

Nicely played Bonnaroo. Nicely played.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

This Album Brought to You By...

Read a piece yesterday in the British press (so it's got to be legit, right?) that made me spit coffee out at the computer screen. I actually went back and re-read the article to make sure I understood correctly. So far, more than 700 media outlets have picked up on the story, giving it more credibility.

Based on several reports, EMI, which just this week dropped the axe on 2,000 employees, is floating the idea of letting companies sponsor albums.

"EMI will allow its artists, who include Coldplay and Kylie Minogue, to be sponsored by corporate companies, according to reports.

The proposals, which could see Coldplay’s new album ‘Prospekt’ released with corporate branding, are expected to feature as part of an extensive shake-up of the company.
Terra Firma, EMI’s new owners, believe the plans would help increase the label’s revenue as it struggles to meet the growth of the digital marketplace."

Here's a quote from the Financial Times:

"Football teams have very distinct corporate sponsorship. Why shouldn't some of the leading bands have the same sort of relationships?" said EMI Chairman Guy Hands.

Are you kidding me?

So this is what we can expect in 2008:

  • Lexipro Presents... Britney Spears!

  • Ambien Presents... Coldplay!

  • Bengay Presents... Aerosmith!

You got any others?