“Music has always been playing in my head. I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a song playing in between my ears.”
“When I was four I was in my first show. I remember asking… begging… pretty much demanding that I take some acting classes. I went up to my parents and told them that I wanted to sing. I was in my first show and I remember being on stage and thinking, wow here I am… I’m home. Everyone always asked me if I got nervous and I always looked at them funny because I thought that was a silly question. That was like asking someone if they’re nervous when they’re in their living room watching TV… are you nervous in your safe space? What an unusual question I thought.
From that day on I was always on the stage, always performing, always memorizing lines, always learning new songs. I was always in a production from the age of 4 to the age of 18 because that’s where I wanted to be. I would walk around singing and perform shows for my parents in the kitchen. I watched endless musicals and learned every bit of music that I could. I remember when I had my Discman, the first CD that I got was Avril Lavigne’s Let Go. I was 8 years old and had just been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I was in the hospital for a few days and my parents bought me that CD to keep me company.
VIA PRESS RELEASE | STIV: The Life and Times Of A Dead Boy is an upcoming feature-length documentary on legendary punk icon, Stiv Bators. It will be the first film ever made about the rowdy and controversial performer, and his life will be documented through archive footage, photography, music, and all-new interviews with the people who knew him.
Stiv Bators was one of the early American punk pioneers, and is primarily known for his work with The Dead Boys and The Lords Of the New Church. Classic songs like “Sonic Reducer” and “Ain’t It Fun” continue to inspire fans and musicians from all walks of life. Acclaimed director Danny Garcia will helm the project, and already has numerous punk documentaries under his belt, such as The Rise and Fall Of The Clash, Looking For Johnny, and Sad Vacation: The Last Days Of Sid and Nancy.
Filmed and recorded on location at the haunting and historic Lear Theater, “How Could I Have Known” is part one in a series of live music videos produced by The Sextones and Emmy award winning videographers, Ford Corl, David Ware, and Shawn Sariti of The Reno Sessions.
“It was in a rehearsal that the idea first came up—we considered it a ‘Hail Mary’ option considering no events have been held in the Lear since its doors closed 13 years ago,” stated Mark Sexton. Maybe the off-limits mystique was what made it the perfect location.
After several trips to city hall and back, the band graciously received necessary approvals from the City Of Reno and Artown. “We were so happy to have the city and arts community behind us on this very ambitious idea. It’s been stimulating to see Reno working to create a community in which artists can thrive.”
It’s springtime, and live records seem to be budding like tulips; Rockbeat has four in the racks right now on vinyl and compact disc from Paul Butterfield, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, the Flamin’ Groovies, and Emerson, Lake, & Palmer. This writer’s evaluations vary as wildly as the genres assembled, but it suffices to say there’s something here to satisfy nearly any fan of rock’s “classic” era. The number of tracks also differs, in the case of ELP quite substantially, so take time when choosing LP or CD.
Late one night, or more accurately early one morning, while leaning against a wall in a rowdy basement as Cheap Trick at Budokan spun methodically on a cheap turntable, a voice entered my ear via tones simultaneously familiar and enigmatic. Its words: “live records are mere souvenirs, serving as reminders for the few who attended and providing a substitute for the many who didn’t.”
Obviously, that shit was something of a vibe-killer, but when I turned around to bark “bug off, killjoy,” my eyes landed on a tattered poster of Iggy Pop. He was holding court on stage, shirtless and wearing yellow tights as he contorted the skin on his belly into a doughy mass with his hands. It was a powerful, nay a downright fucked-up sight to behold, and in response I promptly fell right over. Just as my body kissed the cement I can remember acknowledging begrudgingly that the voice had a point.
But from an older, wiser place it becomes clear that live recordings also serve to solidify the history we’re ceaselessly hurtling away from. Take these Rockbeat releases as four examples. Paul Butterfield’s set is the oldest in the bunch, and it deepens the stylistic redirection the famed Chicago blues rock harmonica specialist undertook after guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop exited his band.
When it comes to snot-nosed punks cracking wise, the Black Lips are right up there with the immortals—The Dictators, the Angry Samoans, Kix, the Dead Milkmen, the Beastie Boys even. Since their formation in 1999 the outré garage rockers from Atlanta, Georgia have been turning out irreverent anthems—“Bad Kids” and “Juvenile” being amongst the best of them—for fellow delinquents the world over. Their music is a deliriously funny salute to the proposition that stages are meant to be pissed from, and the best example of this is 2007’s “maybe” live LP, Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo.
Purportedly recorded at a club in Tijuana, Mexico, Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo is one of the most riotous live albums I’ve ever heard, and in the end it doesn’t much matter if it was recorded in the tequila-reek of a dissolute cantina in the Gateway to Mexico or in a studio in Kalamazoo. (The dispute over the recording’s actual provenance is likely to be waged forever, from YouTube—on which you can find what looks to me like some convincing film footage—to your house.) People sing sea shanties and howl in Spanish, a mariachi trumpet gets played, glass gets broken, songs stop halfway through, and there’s a lot of alarming electrical crackle. And if you listen real hard you can hear the Black Lips crank out one great acid-tinged garage rock tune after another. But don’t sweat the lo-fi sound quality—it’s every bit as good as that on their studio albums!
Both Cole Alexander and Jared Swilley—high school pals who got tossed out their senior year in the wake of the Columbine Massacre for posing a quote subculture danger unquote—have nasal voices that remind me of the Dead Milkmen’s Joe Genaro, and when they sing together, which is often, it’s a treat. And not only do the lads in Black Lips have a knack for crafting simple but catchy garage rock songs with zip, they have the swagger and just enough chops to fill them out. Which is more than I can say for most of the Dead Milkmen’s oeuvre.
Those who purchased a copy of Imaginational Anthem Vol. 8 are likely familiar with the name Tom Armstrong. Most everybody else…probably not so much, for the latest installment in the long-running series of instrumental guitar compilations is focused upon private press releases. In a positive development, Tompkins Square is reissuing Armstrong’s sole LP as the first of several full albums from artists included on IA8. If post-Fahey fingerpicking springs to mind, wipe that noodle clean, for the The Sky is an Empty Eye plugs in, gets much nearer to a psychedelic disposition, and even dishes a bit of vocals. It’s out on vinyl, compact disc, and digital April 28.
Armstrong’s comes closest to the American Primitive guitar approach right away on The Sky is an Empty Eye, the structural framework and mood of opening track “White Pines” somewhat reminiscent of Takoma-era Fahey, though it’s a similarity immediately offset by the guitarist’s deft tempo changes and a distinctive use of harmonics.
Those bell-like tones subside roughly halfway through the piece as the folky inclination redirects toward searching yet unperturbed and mildly psych-oriented progressions. This shift is ultimately helpful in situating Armstrong even further afield from the American Primitive fingerpicking tradition; it’s a style that’s played a significant role in shaping subsequent solo guitar activities, and nowhere more so than the Imaginational Anthem series mentioned above.
“White Pines” was Tompkins Square’s pick for Vol. 8, an entry collecting tracks from assorted self-recorded and released discoveries from the ’60s to the ’90s. The Sky is an Empty Eye was issued on Armstrong’s Dharma Bum Records, the Kerouac-inspired name deepening a spiritual undercurrent as the album’s largely non-vocal nature helps keep the contents from becoming too spaced-out or insubstantial.
“My introduction to music was listening to my parents’ records; the Beach Boys, Elton John, and Jim Croce were regular staples. Ever since then, vinyl has been my favorite way to experience music. There’s an intimate interaction that comes from cracking open a new record and analyzing every inch of the cover before placing the needle in the groove.”
“I discovered my parents copy of Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy when I was a young kid. The artwork on that album is burned into my memory. That Heironomous Bosch style imagery was dangerous, psychedelic, and naughty. My six-year-old brain was incapable of taking it all in, but I knew that I liked it. I’ve always felt like the artwork on larger formats like vinyl brings so much more to the music.
I am a visual artist, so having a substantial visual element to accompany the musical content is especially appealing to me. Before vinyl started making its current comeback, I began making these sculptures that referenced nostalgic objects like record players, headphones, and rotary telephones. I’ve always romanticized the physical interaction with analog technology that existed before the digital age.
Mark Mulcahy was once primarily recognized as a founding member of Miracle Legion, but in the current century he’s equally known for a solo career. Ambitious yet welcoming as a singer-songwriter, Mulcahy’s work can be emotionally powerful without hardening into severity. His latest is less guitar-focused and more orchestrated, but the artist hasn’t gotten lost in the transition. The Possum in the Driveway came out as a limited gold-vinyl edition for Record Store Day, and the standard LP, CD, and digital release follows on April 28 through the Mezzotint label.
Alongside the recently reactivated Miracle Legion, which released a slew of college-radio and indie staples from ’83-’96 (surviving the initial bankruptcy of Rough Trade in the process), Mark Mulcahy was in Polaris (of “Hey Sandy” and The Adventures of Pete & Pete fame) and has additionally collaborated on five operas with the cartoonist Ben Katchor (noted for the long-running weekly strip Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer). As mentioned above, Mulcahy also has an extensive solo discography that’s capped with 2013’s terrific Dear Mark J Mulcahy I Love You.
Too frequently when solo artists elect to swap out their guitar-based approach for some combination of electronica, horns, and orchestration, the results can radiate like a poorly executed attempt at cinematic greenscreen. Occasionally the disjointedness succeeds, but more often it pits the familiar realness of the musician and their songs against a grafted backdrop, with the resulting artificiality (or fakery, to be less kind) either unintentionally alienating or deliberately jarring.
In striving for fresh sonic territory, The Possum in the Driveway avoids this problem. Instead, “Stuck on Something Else” begins with a mixture of boldness and intimacy, the spare instrumentation offering a music box quality as Mulcahy’s vocal sparks a more productive friction, sounding like it might be emanating from a sparsely populated booze-den at right around closing time.
Bob Marley & the Wailers’ classic Exodus album, the ninth studio album of the band, was released on June 3, 1977, featuring a new backing band including brothers Carlton and Aston “Family Man” Barrett on drums and bass, Tyrone Downie on keyboards, Alvin “Seeco” Patterson on percussion, and the I Threes, Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, and Rita Marley on backing vocals, and newest member Julian “Junior Marvin” on guitar. The album was released on June 3, 1977, just six months after an assassination attempt was made on Bob Marley’s life in Jamaica in December, forcing him to flee to London, where Exodus was recorded.
This June, The Marley Family, Island Records, and UMe will mark the 40th anniversary of Exodus—named the “Best Album of the 20th Century” by Time magazine in 1999—with a series of four separate reissues, three of which will feature Exodus 40 – The Movement Continues, son Ziggy Marley’s newly curated “restatement” of the original album.
As part of the celebration, Ziggy Marley has intimately revisited the original session recordings, uncovering unused and never-before-heard vocals, lyric phrasing, and instrumentation, incorporating and transforming these various elements into brand-new session takes.
“The first music I heard was on vinyl. But I don’t really remember my parents playing the Mamas and the Papas or Peter, Paul, and Mary records that were in their collection. The earliest records I listened to were the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas and a comedy record from the Smothers Brothers. That Chipmunks’ record is really dreadful to listen to, so I guess my family had a lot of tolerance for children doing their thing, but I can’t claim an early bonding with the vinyl medium for its warm tone and a cosmic centering over great music early on.”
“Of course I moved through tapes and CDs and into the digital age with the consumers’ ease of a baby bird. “I’ll take whatever you give me, mass media Mommy.” It wasn’t until I started touring and making music of my own that I really listened to and got interested in vinyl.
I remember playing Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion in 2008 or 2009 and seeing Dr. Dog for the first time. I was blown away by their performance and went directly over to the merchandise to find something to take home with me. And it just clicked. They had CDs and vinyl, but I was going to buy their record.
Now, I had an old record player and a collection of thrift store vinyl up until that time which I had curated to some success. Living in Virginia, you could find Doc Watson or Norman Blake records for some fine early flatpicking guitar. There was the “borrowed” stash of Beatles’ records from somebody’s dad’s collection that I’d spin with some frequency. Aretha, Dylan, John Denver, Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder. Classics. Important music.