Author Archives: Patrick Kigongo

Straight Outta Compton, Street to Screen

In Spring 2015, Universal Pictures began its promotional campaign for the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton here in Los Angeles. From Culver City to Calabasas, you could find posters of the Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren, Dr. Dre, and DJ Yella on every bus shelter and construction. More poignantly, N.W.A’s image is currently painted on the wall of the City National Bank on the Sunset Strip, just before the border with Beverly Hills.

As a lifelong hip-hop fan and history buff, I couldn’t help but think about the significance of an unabashedly divisive rap group receiving this scale of attention nearly 30 years after the release of their debut album.

Hip-hop has been a revolutionary force in popular music and culture since Jamaican-born Bronx resident DJ Kool Herc invented the breakbeat in the early 1970s. But like every form of Black American music, hip-hop has also been a source of controversy. N.W.A portrayed themselves as street toughs unafraid to use profanity to express their contempt for police, women, and anyone else who got in their way. But to better understand the group’s nihilistic worldview, one needs to go back to mid ’60s.

Watts, located just three miles from Compton, was founded as an independent city in southern Los Angeles County. In 1926, the city was annexed by the city of Los Angeles, partially to prevent the growing black population from taking control of municipality. Several decades of discriminatory housing laws, the absence of medical services, and police brutality fueled a simmering rage among black residents. These tensions came to a head when a routine DWI stop in Watts on August 11th, 1965 escalated into a confrontation between the arresting officers and the mother of the accused. A street fight quickly coalesced into five days of street violence in Watts and the surrounding area.

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How to Have a Relationship and a Band: Thoughts on how to do it right from someone who did it wrong

My name is Patrick, and I’ve been in the band Ra Ra Rasputin (as well as other groups) for seven years. I’ve also been in some relationships. I’ll admit that I’ve made my share of mistakes in trying to balance my creative endeavors with my personal life. But I’ve certainly learned a lot along the way. I wrote this essay so that you can learn from my experiences….That, or you can have a good chuckle.

Time Management
Between October 2009 and April 2011, I was working a full-time job and playing in three bands. A quick scan of my old calendars reveals a sea of band meetings, event planning, rehearsals, travel, and more. Real talk, I bit off more than I could chew. Furthermore, my relationships during that two-year period suffered because I allowed my personal life to fall by the wayside. I wasn’t arranging enough date nights or cute little surprises. I wasn’t sending enough texts that said, “I’m thinking of you” or “Miss you. Let’s have dinner after rehearsal.” Of course, there were other factors that contributed to the end of these relationships. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to the punishing effects of my schedule.

I’ve since learned that if you really want to make things work, you have to make time. If someone is important, then it’s worth stealing a bit of time to see him or her. This might mean re-analyzing your priorities and being more selective in your scheduling (e.g., quitting a side project or turning down some offers). Oh well. As the O.G. Scrooge McDuck once said, “Work smarter, not harder!”

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Screamadelica: Why Primal Scream’s 1991 Opus was the Most Important Album of
the Year

1991 is remembered by many as the year that “punk” broke: the year that Nirvana’s Nevermind signaled the death of glam metal and prompted a revolution in the music industry. But to be fair, Nirvana, and many of their contemporaries, were still trafficking in guitar music. Angry, inspired and powerful guitar music, but yeah, it was still guitar music that was rooted in the past.

Over in the UK, the most important and forward-thinking music was dance music, particularly house music. The kids who organized raves and ran pirate radio stations were inspired by the DIY ethics of punk. But the music was futuristic, and producers made no attempt at referencing pop music’s past. While many balked at the rise of house music, its cultural reach was undeniable. If you were serious about music or youth culture, there was no way you could ignore it.

At the end of 1989, things looked grim for Primal Scream. Despite a promising early run of singles on Creation Records, their debut album, Sonic Flower Groove, was over-polished and short on tunes. Their second release, Primal Scream, was marginally better but managed to alienate the twee cognoscenti due to the band’s open embrace of the MC5, The Stooges, long hair and leather trousers and all things “rawk.”

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Backspin: Blur,
Think Tank (2003)

Much has been made of the musical and thematic similarities shared by Blur’s second, third, and fourth albums (Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife, and The Great Escape, respectively). All three records contained character sketches of life in John Major’s Britain, punctuated with music-hall flourishes and memorable choruses.

Like all good ideas, however, Blur’s Anglo-centric approach eventually ran out of steam. The band’s final three full-length records included more introspective lyrics and incorporated a far wider palate of sounds. We’re examining them in a three-part edition of our Backspin series, Backspin: Blur. Beginning with their self-titled 1997 LP on Tuesday and then 1999’s 13 on Friday, we conclude with 2003’s Think Tank today.

In the decade that has passed since Think Tank’s release, no one has been able to provide a definitive answer as to why guitarist Graham Coxon appeared on just one track, “Battery In Your Leg.” Even in reunion bliss, the band is cagey on the subject. What is known, however, is that Coxon checked into the Priory, seeking treatment for alcoholism and depression in late 2001. Around that same time, preliminary sessions for the album began at Damon Albarn’s West London studio. At some point in late 2001 or early 2002, Coxon stopped turning up and decided to focus more on recovery, raising his daughter, and his burgeoning solo career.

So then there were three…

From then on, it was Damon Albarn, Dave Rowntree, and Alex James and a rotating cast of guest producers. The band continued recording in London and then moved to a Moroccan villa in summer 2002. They would return to England in the fall to finalize the album under the shadow of the run-up to the Iraq war. In total, it took 18 months to make Think Tank, the longest gestation period of any Blur album.

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Backspin: Blur, 13 (1999)

Much has been made of the musical and thematic similarities shared by Blur’s second, third, and fourth albums (Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife and The Great Escape, respectively). All three records contained character sketches of life in John Major’s Britain, punctuated with music-hall flourishes and memorable choruses.

Like all good ideas, however, Blur’s Anglo-centric approach eventually ran out of steam. The band’s final three full-length records included more introspective lyrics and incorporated a far wider palate of sounds. We’re examining them in a three-part edition of our Backspin series, Backspin: Blur. Beginning with their self-titled 1997 LP on Tuesday, we pick up with 1999’s 13 today.

“That relationship absolutely crashed. It was a spectacularly sad end.”
Damon Albarn on his breakup with Justine Frischmann,
    No Distance Left to Run (2010)

The death of a relationship may be a debilitating blow of fate, but it can also be the source of tremendous inspiration. The history of pop music is full of fantastic records inspired by breakups: Here My Dear, Blue, Blood on the Tracks, etc. And while a breakup can feel all-consuming, it is difficult to distill all those negative emotions into a single coherent statement. As a result, a lot of breakup albums are about 80% breakup and 20% other shit that was happening in the author’s life at the at the same time.

If Blur hinted at the cracks in Damon Albarn’s relationship with Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann, 13 described their love’s painful demise. After nearly eight years together, Frischmann decided to end things in an effort to sort things out with her band, as well as her addiction to heroin. After the breakup, Albarn moved into a small flat where he wrote the majority of the album.

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Backspin: Blur, S/T (1997)

Much has been made of the musical and thematic similarities shared by Blur’s second, third, and fourth albums (Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife and The Great Escape, respectively). All three records contained character sketches of life in John Major’s Britain, punctuated with music-hall flourishes and memorable choruses.

Like all good ideas, however, Blur’s Anglo-centric approach eventually ran out of steam. The band’s final three full-length records included more introspective lyrics and incorporated a far wider palate of sounds. We examine them in a three-part edition of our Backspin series, Backspin: Blur, beginning with their self-titled album.

Blur’s self-titled 1997 album was the sound of a band hitting the reset button. The commercial success of 1995’s The Great Escape and its notorious lead-off single “Country House” proved to be a troubling influence on the group. Singer Damon Albarn found himself frustrated both by the lack of privacy, as well as mounting problems in his relationship with Justine Frischmann. Guitarist Graham Coxon was openly questioning the band’s musical direction and drinking heavily to self-medicate. Drummer Dave Rowntree, ever the quiet one, was suffering through a difficult divorce. Only bassist Alex James seemed to be hanging in there; he was well into a period where he allegedly spent £1 million on champagne and cocaine.

The band was regularly coming to blows and was allegedly on the verge of splitting at the beginning of 1996. It could’ve ended in tears. Thank fuck it didn’t.

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Ra Ra Rasputin,
A Work in Progress

Patrick Kigongo of Ra Ra Rasputin shares some thoughts on the band’s progress and inspiration in advance of this Friday’s 5-Year Anniversary Show with Miyazaki and Misun at the Black Cat. For a preview, check out shots from Ra Ra’s secret show at the Velvet Lounge a couple of weeks ago.

Towards the end of 2011, we realized that we weren’t taking enough time to write new material.  Most of the band’s time was spent running the set for upcoming shows. As a result, the arrangements for many of our songs weren’t “finished” until it was time to record. In an effort to be more efficient and productive, Brock, Joshua, Ken, and myself decided to take a sabbatical and put in some serious work.

Let’s Work It Out

After performing at Red Palace on February 24th, we blacked out our calendar from March until July.  Having played regularly since 2007, it was exciting (and daunting) to face the challenge of writing without distractions. The only deadline was the 5-Year Anniversary Show, which was eventually scheduled for late September.

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Tresors:
The TVD Interview

For the better part of the last fifteen years, France has become one the most influential exporters of electronic pop music. Ranging from the groundbreaking (Daft Punk, Air), the shamelessly careerist and poppy (David Guetta), to the iconoclastic (Justice, Sebastian Tellier, the Ed Banger label). Thankfully, the nation’s rising international profile has resulted in underground musicians getting some love as well.  

Trésors is a Paris-based duo comprising two men named Adrien (Durand and Kanter, respectively). Since their formation at the end of 2010, the two have been crafting experimental music with a strong pop twist. The result is danceable music that’s challenging without being needlessly unlistenable. Adrien and Adrien have performed across Europe with the likes of Suuns, Puro Instinct, and Teengirl Fantasy. They are currently mixing a record in beautiful Baltimore, MD, and I had the pleasure of interviewing them.

How long have you known each other? 

Adrien Kanter: For about five years now. We were in different bands but involved in the same scene.

Adrien Durand: We shared a lot of stages before playing music together. But I don’t remember our really first meeting, maybe AK does! In a club in Paris, I guess.

You’re both named Adrien. How does that work when someone wants to address one of you when you’re both in the same room?

AD: I don’t know how but it always works. Tibo, our soundguy, calls us “Monsieur D” and “Monsieur K” though.

AK: Yes, it needs a bit of training but we’re starting to be good at guessing. You have to listen to the way people say it, rather than to the word itself.

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Strange Times with
The State Department

This Sunday, local post-punk bad boys The State Department will be bringing their special blend of madness to the Black Cat, where they open for garage rockers Gringo Star. Some new material is in the works, but in the meantime, guitarist Patrick Kigongo took a minute to reflect on the strange and wonderful times past. Fear and loathing optional, chaos and destruction likely.

I had no idea that being a guitarist in a rock band would cause so much trouble…

 “Lost Dranks”
In January 2010, we played a show in Pittsburgh that went unexpectedly well. Even better, we met a group of very friendly girls who invited us to crash at their place. We decided to celebrate, so we purchased a case of 40s for the after-party. Everything was lining up perfectly. (Though, en route, [vocalist] Mike [Medlock] managed to run over a sapling in front of a cop!)

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Inspiration and Perspiration: 10 Tracks That Sum Up The State Department

Tomorrow night at DC9 will be a District showcase of sorts, with local rock mainstays Modern ManThe State Department, and Shark Week sure to shred.

The State Department | Engender Me

State Department guitarist Patrick Kigongo took a few minutes to prep a playlist for your Friday enjoyment of songs that have inspired them during their journey to success and excess. Give it a listen through the YouTubes below, or stream it on Spotify, then come out tomorrow night and see this DC post-punk powerhouse.

The State Department | Mt. Pleasant

1. Happy Mondays – “Wrote for Luck”
Tony Wilson was right. Shaun Ryder really was the greatest British poet since Yeats.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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