Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Steely Dan,
Pretzel Logic

Steely Dan was Thee Consummate anti-garage band of the seventies. Steely Dan’s Walter Becker and Donald Fagen didn’t just polish their LPs; they buffed, burnished, lacquered, and airbrushed them until they were as perfect as Andy Gibbs’ coif. The Kings of Studio Sheen were perfect examples of what could be done if you were willing to spend 4,000 hours creating LPs as high gloss as a Lamborghini just off the assembly line. They produced the most waxed wax this side of insane perfectionist Tom Scholz of Boston, who has been known to spend a good decade spiffing up an LP before it meets his impossibly exacting standards.

Lots of people hate Steely Dan for this—I myself, a big Dan fan, want nothing to do with anything they released after 1976’s The Royal Scam, because they finally took the whole 50,000 coats of lacquer shtick a bit too far, while also moving towards a smooth jazz/pop fusion that left me cold—but I’ll stand by their earlier LPs to the end. Over the course of four years they released five albums that boasted great melodies, brilliant lyrics, and the best studio musicians money could buy, including guitarists Rick “All-American Boy” Derringer, Elliott “Total Fucking Genius” Randall, and Larry Carlton, which is why you’ll search in vain for a mediocre guitar solo on a Steely Dan record. They had impeccable tastes in ringers.

The Steely Dan story is familiar to most; Becker and Fagen met at ultra-liberal arts Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York (where I once spent a weekend so dissipated that when I left my pal Dan, a Bard student, was pissing blood), formed a band they named after a dildo from William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, and in 1972 put out debut Can’t Buy a Thrill, which turned them into overnight sensations thanks to its songs “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ in the Years.” (I remember my eighth grade English teacher, a young and pretty flower child type, playing them for the class as examples of the “groovy new poetry” being “dug” by young people).

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Needle Drop: Blood Cultures, “Indian Summer” b/w “Meavy Hetal”

Blood Cultures appeared earlier this year with the startlingly brilliant, melodic pop jam “Indian Summer.” Since then they have slowly released a few tracks including a new single which will be pressed as the B-side to “Indian Summer,” the bit-crushed, self-help ballad “Meavy Hetal.”

What is most refreshing about Blood Cultures is their ability to let their music speak for itself. Indeed, no one even knows who or what comprises or composes this glittery programmed pop. Is it the masked figure in the pictures? Probably not. This healthy serving of mystery is complimented by no website, no Facebook, no Twitter handle, and no personal information anywhere.

All that leaves us to talk about is how awesome the music is, which I suppose is the point. Everyone from Hilly Dilly to Turntable Kitchen has placed this mysterious figure in the pantheon of emerging 2014 talent, and with a million plays on Soundcloud within the past 6 months, I would say the general public is in agreement.

Check out the B-side here.

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Graded on a Curve: James Blackshaw,
Fantomas: Le Faux Magistrat

Last Halloween, British 12-string guitar wizard James Blackshaw, in collaboration with electro-acoustic composer and sound-instillation artist Duane Pitre, Slowdive drummer Simon Scott, and multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Glasson, delivered the live score for the final installment of master French director Louis Feuillade’s silent film series of 1913. Fantômas: Le Faux Magistrat, Tompkins Square’s 2LP/ CD/ digital issue of the performance’s recording, reveals an ambitious undertaking that succeeds due to a lively combination of respect and invention.

Perusing the details of the centenary celebration of Louis Feuillade’s Fantômas, specifically an event coordinated by Yann Tiersen hosted last year in Paris’ Théâtre de Châtelet (additionally broadcast live on the European ARTE TV channel) that indeed culminated on All Hallows Eve 2013, is enough to inspire Pavlovian levels of salivation in movie buff/music fans. The affair generated scores from Tiersen, Tim Hecker, Loney Dear, Amiina, and Blackshaw for all five parts of an enduring opus by one of cinema’s most talented and intriguing filmmakers.

Naturally a danger accompanies these sorts of endeavors, in particular the belief that the images receiving a soundtrack are somehow lacking in vibrancy and require a boost of modernization. This often results in knuckleheaded maneuvers (e.g. noise hostility, egregious dance beats) or more problematically gestures of shallow commentary or even attempts to subvert the message of the picture.

Of course, the other extreme is inhabited by scores, reliably knocked-off by studious nimble-fingered scholarly pianists, which are well-intentioned but unfortunately burdened with quaintness. At least this tactic eschews arrogance and largely avoids obnoxiousness; in the case of Feuillade though, playing it overly safe is almost as insulting as underestimating his visual skills and undermining his status as a visionary.

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Festival Fast Talk:

If you caught our previous Festival Fast Talk, you saw that we spent time at the Red Bull Music Academy at Bonnaroo. The facility was a spot that Red Bull set up, bringing 20+ producers together, granting them time in fully stocked studios, having Mannie Fresh and Thundercat lecture them, and encouraging them to write music.

Though the entire crowd of producers were all great, one producer who definitely resonated inside the pack was BoomBaptist. Just as his moniker implies, he religiously studies the art of boom bap, making offerings to its church in the guise of hip hop beats and heavy grooves. BoomBaptist makes hard hitting and soulful beats over chops of kitwork and carefully queued samples. Be careful, his tracks might just give you whiplash if you’re not paying attention to how hard you’re nodding along when the snare follows the kick and it hits so hard its difficult not to just be like “damn.”

How did you start making music?

My mother instilled a love for music in me as a child. She was a very talented pianist, extremely focused, and dedicated to her craft. She put me through piano lessons early on in life, around six years old, I believe. But as far back as I could remember, I was drawn to the medium. Supposedly I would play the glockenspiel for hours and rock to the rhythm of washing machines as I sat on top of them.

Several years later, when I was exposed to East-coast rap on the radio in Miami, I obsessively studied all the production greats of that era—early ’90s—Premier, Dilla, Pete Rock, Diamond D, etc., etc. I realized that what drew me to those records was the production. At the time, a couple of friends and I had invested in our first turntables/mixer. The package was called the Gemini Starter Kit and was the budget option for people wanting to get their feet wet with DJing. Around the same time, I started dabbling with other styles, playing in a couple of jazz groups (percussion/woodwinds), a Latin group, etc. But ultimately, I had a real love for hip-hop and its production. About a year later, I discovered a free online program named Fruity Loops that was a very elementary option, and that sparked what became BoomBaptist.

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TVD Vinyl Giveaway: Fozzy, Do You Wanna Start a War? Signed by Chris Jericho!

From yesterday interview with Fozzy’s Chris Jerico:

What can we expect from the new Fozzy album, Do You Wanna Start a War?

The only rule we had with this record is that we had no rules. We didn’t want to make a record that was like anything that we had ever done before. We wanted to take our sound to the next level. You know, a lot of bands can kind of fall into a trap of doing the same record over and over again, and that’s fine. We love bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, we love Avenged Sevenfold but we also love Queen and Pink Floyd, Zeppelin and the Beatles, bands that would make a different record every time. There was really no rules or chains as to what kind of songs they would do.

I mean, if you look at a Queen record, there would be a metal song, a rock song, a pop song, a dance song, a rockabilly song, a ballad. It was all good, because it was Queen. That’s what we wanted to do, just make a really diverse record with good songs. I think that’s the difference. There’s some songs that are more danceable songs, you could hear them at a dance club. There’s songs that you could hear at a strip club, there’s songs you could hear at an R&B club, but they are all good, they are all heavy and they’re all Fozzy, and that’s what we wanted to do.

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Identical Homes,
The TVD First Date
and Vinyl Giveaway

“That bead of sweat. Do you remember? What part of the body was it? I don’t think anyone knows. But Hall and Oates H20 is definitely the first album cover in my parents collection that caught my eye.”

“It was leaned up against their dark wood record cabinet that housed their wood grain Rotel player. Vinyl was on its way out, and my brother and I were on a steady diet of Dead Milkmen, early Chili Peppers, and Iron Maiden tapes. Anything remotely related to adult contemporary would spark a protest. Blasting Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” was how they got us out of the house on the weekends.

But even my bleached hair and vision street wear attitude couldn’t shake a song like “Maneater” on vinyl. That heavily delayed sax solo through the bridge? It’s undeniable. I’m not saying the album was without its faults. The song, “Italian Girls” features this line: “I eat, I eat, I eat so much pasta basta, I’m so full and yet so lonely.” Regardless, that record would stay with me through the rebellious years, foreshadowing the musical direction I would eventually head in.

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Graded on a Curve: Gramercy Arms,
The Seasons of Love

Since the dissolution of ‘90s indie pop-rockers The Dambuilders, singer-instrumentalist-writer Dave Derby has focused upon a variety of projects, one being Gramercy Arms, a New York City-based outfit whose self-titled ’08 debut established a revolving member, indie all-star affair. Roughly six years has elapsed, and now Derby has coordinated a follow-up. The Seasons of Love features unfussy professionalism and a slightly broadened scope; while not a consciousness-altering record, it does go down smoothly enough, and fans of pop-rock song-craft should take note.

Though they released seven full-lengths across a near decade of existence, Boston via Honolulu’s The Dambuilders received their highest profile as a four-piece in the mid-‘90s. Part of the era’s indie deluge, the first three LPs came out through German imprint Cuacha! NYC’s SpinART issued the Tough Guy Problem 10-inch/CD EP in ’94 shortly prior to the group’s emergence on the roster of EastWest Records.

That Atlantic-subsidiary funded The Dambuilders’ best work, ‘94’s Encendedor and the next year’s Ruby Red. As was the case with many of their indie-to-major contemporaries, the band’s last statement, ‘97’s transitional Against the Stars, was a disappointment. Subsequent to breaking up in ‘98, guitarist Eric Masunaga went into film, opening a studio specializing in post-production, drummer Kevin March continued beating the skins, most prominently in one of Guided by Voices numerous lineups, and violinist/vocalist Joan Wasser embarked solo under the name Joan as Police Woman.

Bassist/lead singer Derby has kept himself quite occupied as well, initiating the side-project Brilliantine, hooking up with Lloyd Cole in the cult Brit’s post-Commotions ensemble the Negatives and completing two solo albums, ‘03’s solid Even Further Behind and ‘07’s borderline excellent Dave Derby and the Norfolk Downs. He commenced Gramercy Arms not long thereafter.

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TVD Premiere & Vinyl Giveaway: LA Font, “Teen Bazooka”

“A lot of people say that vinyl sounds warmer or just better, but I think that’s an overstatement. A lot of new vinyl is not pressed well and it sounds tinny and squashed—but grab a Rolling Stones album from the ’70s out of a bin at the thrift store for $.50 and you will be knocked backwards by the sonic depth and detail.”

“I like vinyl for a lot of reasons—rich sound, having a cool keepsake thing, vinyl records often appreciate in monetary value because of their scarceness, and I tend to like indie labels and indie artists and often they’re the biggest purveyors of vinyl. Plus I need coasters like anyone else. But you don’t like vinyl in a vacuum—you like vinyl because you like the artists on vinyl.

Plus I need coasters like anyone else. But you don’t like vinyl in a vacuum—you like vinyl because you like the artists on vinyl.

Vinyl is temporary. Record stores are temporary. Musicians are temporary. Songs are forever.”

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Candy Darling,
The TVD First Date

“I am no purist and as such have little respect for the drooling fetishists who pay a small fortune to own an original pressing of some obscure jazz fusion album. I’m not fussy about formats and spend much of my time listening to music online. However there is no denying that my listening habits have been retarded by the tsunami of free music available on the internet.”

“As a teenager I was keen (and perhaps pretentious) enough to force Frank Zappa, Charles Mingus, and Igor Stravinsky records down my throat until I fell in love with their cacophonous beauty. Now I make rapid fire decisions about the relative merits of a song before the first 30 seconds has played out, thoughtlessly clicking through an incessant glut of free music whilst the full beam of my attention is obliterated by a thousand digital distractions.

CDs were trash, far from the indestructible future of modern listening which they purported to be. They never survived our parties and lacked the aesthetic gravitas to be treated with care. I used to spit on them and rub them on my jeans in a vain attempt to get them to play before throwing them across the room in disgust.

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Chris Jericho of Fozzy, The TVD Interview

Lionheart. Y2J. Moongoose McQueen. The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla. Whatever name he’s gone by, the one thing that has remained a constant for Chris Jericho is entertainment.

First, he made a name for himself in the ECW, WCW, and WWE as one of the top wrestlers of his era. His musical passion saw the light in 1999 when Jericho joined guitarist Rich Ward in the cover band Fozzy Osbourne. Shortening their name to Fozzy in 2000, the band took off. Five albums and fourteen years later, Fozzy is preparing to release their sixth album, Do You Wanna Start a War this week. We had a chance to talk to Chris about the new album, Abba, doo-wop Slayer songs, vinyl, and much more.

You’ve been busy! Dates with Fozzy coming up, a new album coming out, and a big return to the WWE a week ago…

Yeah, it’s just par for the course for me, man. The WWE thing kinda just came about at the last minute because we were off the road with Fozzy for a couple of months. The timing just really worked out well. Always busy, man.

What’s your take on where the WWE is nowadays?

It’s great man. It a very reciprocal business. Characters come in, and take control, take charge. The WWE will never die, man. It continues to grow. As it grows, new people come in and freshen the scene up. It’s always a very exciting time.

Way back when Fozzy Osbourne was something you did for fun, doing covers, did you ever think it would morph into Fozzy and go as far as it has?

At the time, when we started, it was just a fun thing. It was a good way to get my feet wet in the music business. I had been a musician since I was twelve, but had never actually made a record or done tours. I think once we started doing our own thing and becoming an original band, especially when we made Fozzy the priority back in 2009, that’s when I would totally say, “Yes, I expected this,” because I wanted to be the biggest band in the world.

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