Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Kyle Andrews - Real Blasty
First CD popped into the player with a touch of trepidation, not being a fan of much of the "oh so coy" indie-pop crafted by young men locked in their rooms with a keyboard and a copy of ProTools. Think something like Bright Eyes and I'll drift off quicker than a fresh drip of Michael Jackson's propofol. Imagine my surprise then, when the initial hesitant, fully quirky synthesized keyboard stuttered across my speakers, sounding bright and boppy and fun. When was the last time you heard some fun in your indy pop? Kyle Andrews is an adept songwriter who knows how to craft a song with layers of his homegrown instruments, keyboards, guitars, drums, programmed beats and handclaps. Toss in a heaping helping of scholarly songwriting chops, a masterly command of super-sweet melodies, a comfortable, lackadaisical vocal delivery, and a basketful of quirk, and we've got ourselves a new statement in slacker rock. This is a CD that grew on me with each listen. Electronic in backbone, the music never loses it's sense of warmth, and even with the at times spartan arrangements, the songs sound remarkably full and realized.
By the second track "Naked in New York," my ears were fully perked. Big guitars crash through the layers of synth effects, eccentric sounds, smashing beats, and anything else you could imagine someone pulling out of their computer. Energetic, bouncy and jubilant, reminding me of a long-lost one man synth band, The Trees. "Polar Bear," is positively drenched in the sugar of a gorgeous melody so sweet it'd give Willy Wonka a sweet tooth. But it was the fourth track, the aggressive "Call and Fade," with it's leather-laced nasal vocals, Beatles-esque structure, synthed cello, and start and stop verses that really nailed this disc into my head. I may not be a fan of all alt-pop, but as of now, I am a fan of Kyle Andrews.
Highway Child - On the Old Kings Road
What Kyle Andrews was to alt-slacker pop, Highway Child is to seventies riff-inspired madman rock and roll--a breath of fresh rocking air. Feeling the wind blowing through my . . . scalp, as this baby took off was like a moment of pure liberation. Traffic be damned, I was gonna gun my Ghia and hit the road! As one might expect from the name, we got loads of Hendrix here, blended in with some serious MK II-era Deep Purple here (sans John Lord), Zeppelin, Nazareth, Hendrix, UFO, and just about any other 1970's riff-maniac band you can imagine. But the creative denizens of Highway Child aren't merely content to regurgitate their influences. No dice. These cats crank up the amps, toss back a few cold ones and let loose a mad six-string bending fury of hard rock fully of their own making.
Certainly, you could go through the disc pointing out the leading influence on each track, like the Zeppelin hurricane of "Lonelytime Blues," or the Hendrix explosion of "Just Like You," but that's not the point here. The boys aren't trying to re-invent rock and roll. They merely love the shit and want to pound that out through their Marshall stacks right into your cerebellum. So plug in your lava lamp, break out your air guitar and make room for a leaping-from-bed-to-couch, rough and raw '70's rock freak-out. Whether driving a chord down your throat in unrelenting fashion like "Highclass Bitch," or dipping into the southern swamps for a loose-strung guitar getdown like, "Gold," this disc is a fist-pumping, head bobbing, flashback to the future of heavy psychedelic rock. Instantly familiar, yet wholly fresh, rocking with the vigor of a hard breeze blowing through an open air concert . . . that's Highway Child.
Jump Back Jake - Brooklyn Hustle/Memphis Muscle
Seriously, the title says it all. Mix in the damn cool as velvet urban rap blues of the Fun Lovin' Criminals with the get-up-and jump beatnik R&B stomp of G Love and the Special Sauce, toss in some downhome soul, grit and dirt, and add a gentle sophistication reminiscent of the Philosopher Kings and we got us a recipe for one fine listening experience. Now, it helps that each band that i just mentioned happen to be some of my favorite bands of all time. Can't help it, there's just something magical about an ultra-smooth, cool as shit mix of soulful blues and a hip hop funk, and let me assure you right away, Jump Back Jake know that mix.
"Easy Answers," positively bops riding on the back of an ultra-funky bass, some scratch guitar and a G Love vocal that simply purrs from the microphone. By the time the bad-ass horns join in the fray, I'm already bopping my head against my driver's seat like some uber-cool hipster at some secret undergroud beat club, just knowing that I'm a touch cooler simply by listening to this shit. Give me a beret and a funny-looking cigarette and the picture is complete. But before you think this is all hipster shit, check out that tasty southern sounding guitar break. This is Memphis muscle infiltrating our Brooklyn Hustle and it's a chalk mark of beauty. I can't wait until my brethren, The Pope, hears "The Flood," for the first time on Ripple Radio. Knowing how much of a fan he is of the Philosopher Kings brand of mega-smooth retro-jazzy blues, he's going to blow a headgasket over this one. Just let those horns pour over you while that bass percolates like lava bubbling from a smoldering volcano. And just listen to that gorgeous guitar tone and those down-low vocals. Hmmm. By the time the song kicks it into fourth gear, I've already polished off a couple of martinis and cried over some long-lost love. Whether dropping into a touch of the south with the slide guitar melody of "Too Cool for Love," or raunching it up and getting muscular with "Terrible Mistakes," Jump Back Jake got some serious soul. Check it. Stream their whole album at http://jumpbackjake.com/
Fuzz Manta - Smokerings
Back to the raging seventies-fueled hard rock, and back in a big mother of a way. As the name implies and the album title makes clear, Fuzz Manta are one unrelenting assault of manic, fuzz-wielding guitar mayhem wrapped up in some serious does of THC and swirling acrid smoke. Stoner rock with a cattleprod to its temple, this is fast and furious, powerful and full-frontal attacking rock and roll. Hailing from Denmark, and featuring one of the few female lead vocalists I know of in the genre. And immediately, it's clear, this chick doesn't mess around. While the boys lose themselves in the rampaging fuzz army of "Cage of Glass," Lene Kjaer Hvillum stands tall amongst the smoke and wreckage of the charging dual guitar attack.
"Night Fright," appropriately brings in some Sabbath, Kyuss, and Fu Manchu for one monster of a downtuned fuzz blitz. Deep stoner with a bottom end that could rouse the fish from a nearby ocean, wave after wave of detuned chords and bass vibrate through my Ghia, causing unsuspecting old ladies in red hats to run away in abject fear. A killer cut, particularly through the mesmerizing choral break which squeal and whines like some nightmare creature from the titled night fright. Terrorizing stuff. "The Killer," manages to find some stoner/hippie riffs that will bring some goosebumps to even the most jaded stoner fan. Lene stands tall, her voice adding just that needed touch of uniqueness to really make the band stand alone. No doubt a killer on the festival circuit, intensely melodic and pulverizingly heavy at the same time. A blitzkrieg of psych madness from deep within the heavy hippie lifestyle. Fuzz Manta are for real.
Jump Back Jake
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
We don't like to toot our own horns here at the Ripple Effect, but we were recently featured as new media pioneers by Ariel Publicity & Cyber PR. You can check them out at www.arielpublicity.com or www.bandletter.com for lots of good advice about promoting your band.
In the meantime, we thought we'd run this interview because it reveals some of our thoughts about the industry, why we do what we do at the Ripple, and more importantly, how you and your bands can jump in the water and join in on the Ripple fun. Plus it gives us a chance to post a really groovy pic of us, the heavy metal ukele maestros.
So, without further ado,
New Media Pioneer
Q: What has to be done in the technological sense to monetize music to a greater degree on the internet?
A: A great question and one that far greater minds than ours are trying to figure out. The answer of course is as multi-faceted as the problem. First and foremost, bands have to put out quality material. The days of filler songs stuffed in between two killer cuts on an album are long gone. With each song now having a downloadable monetary value, those filler songs are a waste of everyone's time and energy. If the product is good, it still sells. iTunes numbers for top singles shows that people are willing to pay for music they feel to be of good value. So the problem to us isn't how to get people to buy music on the internet, they already are, the problem is how to get them to buy more.
This becomes complicated on a couple of fronts. One, bands frequently give their music away to build a fanbase. This is a good strategy for new up-and-coming bands to get their music into the hands of listeners, but then it sets a precedent that music has no inherent value and should be free to access. The other problem, besides filesharing, is the ready access to free music on sites from AOL to YouTube. The consumer today has an infinite amount of resources to hear music. A far cry from when AM radio was the only choice.
So what's the answer? We think that as people spend more and more time on the internet, the value of social networking sites will continue to gain in importance. Music social networking already exists, like Imeem or Last.fm, but these sites don't allow real-time social networking to the extent that Facebook does. We think a model that uses music as a subscription service or business enhancement will be the answer. One new site, Jango, is a cross between an Internet radio station and social network. The business proposition is to license the ability to stream the music as an online radio station (as opposed to striking deals with individual recording companies), build a social network around that streaming music, and then sell targeted ads. This type of model may work -- using music as an enhancement to another business model, then paying for the music with subscription or ad revenue..
Q. Where do you see the next trend in social media? What else can be done in terms of having an online conversation? What is the next "What are you doing?" question?
A: As far as music social media, we're going to stick with some version of the Jango model, building true social networking sites around music. Music is still something that excites people, builds passions, and stimulates conversations.
With the advent of Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter (and whatever comes next) the relationship between band and fan has never been more important. Fans don't want the aloof rock star, standing on a pedestal, handing down their next album from Mt. Sinai. They want --rather they demand-- a personal interaction with the band. Random updates shot across a Twitter screen isn't going to cut it anymore. The fans want a personal relationship, not a promo post. They want to feel that they are as important to the band as the band is to them. Any way a band can accomplish this, or work towards satisfying this mentality, is going to place them head and shoulders above the rest. At the Ripple Effect, we're constantly trying to come up with new ways for bands to do just this, like promoting exclusive video content or exclusive giveaways.
Q. What inspired you to start broadcasting/blogging? It that still your source of motivation?
A: That's an easy one --the music. For years, we've been addicted to digging through discount bins in record store's CD and vinyl racks, searching, mining for that great unheard band. And we'd found tons of them. Hundreds. Bands that became our favorite artists, bands of unequaled talent. These bands weren't in the cut out bin because they were horrible, they were there because no one had ever heard of them. The label failed them. The marketing machine failed them. And, in truth, it physically hurt us that no one else was hearing what we heard.
With that, we decided we had to tell the world about all this great, unheard music, and The Ripple Effect was born. Our mission statement says it all, "The Best Music You're Not Listening to." Reviews of lost classics, unheralded singer/songwriters, new bands deserving of greater attention. That's The Ripple Effect.
Initially, The Ripple Effect started out as a blog for us to rave about the music people should know about. We're not hip and trendy, we're honest. From there, it only seemed natural that we start broadcasting the music we were writing about and the Ripple Radio show was born on Blogtalkradio. Again, initially, our modest goal was to hang out, play some Ripple music, and describe to folks what we were hearing, but things started to grow and grow. Soon we started getting calls from bands wanting to be on the show, then guests like Marky Ramone, Fee Waybill, and Cy Curnin starting popping in. It's been great fun. Now our radio shows are available as podcasts on our webpage and iTunes.
Having done this for two years now, we can safely say that we're more motivated now than ever. Through the Ripple, every day, we continue to get submissions of great music that we'd never heard. Fantastic bands from around the world, all genre's. With the prominence of the internet making it possible for any band to claim a piece of cyberspace, more than ever, it's important for us to find those bands that really have something to offer and do everything we can to spread the word. Great music should never go unheard.
Q. What are some things bands can do to get your attention to be featured on your broadcast/blog? Do you ever cover a band that you are not particularly fond of musically?
A: There's only one way to get out attention; play great music. It doesn't matter what genre. We cover everything from Scandanavian Death Metal to acoustic singer/songwriter, African to Reggae and everything in between. The only common denominator is that the music moves us. That's what music is supposed to do. If you want us to dance, then write something that makes it impossible for us to stay in our chairs. If you want us to feel your pain, then do it. Music is emotion.
On top of that, it really does help if the artist is friendly. We like personal letters and have taken extra time to review an album simply because the band was friendly, nice, or some times, a riot. Letters that make us laugh are always a plus. Through the process of all the submissions and interaction with the artists, we've gone from being fans to friends with the bands. We've developed personal relationships with many artists as they've asked for our input on new material, development advice, etc. We come from a place of respect for the musician above anything else.
Having said that, we will never feature a band on the website or the radioshow that doesn't satisfy these basic requirements. We're not critics, we don't review music. We're music lovers and write/talk about the music we love. Our goal is to spread the word on the music and the bands we like -- make some ripples
Q. Will major labels ever be the gatekeepers again, or have they lost all of their power to the internet forever? Can they somehow return to prominence?
A: The impact of the internet can never be understated and it has definitely altered the playing field, but that doesn't mean the majors have lost all their power. It's true that the majors will probably never be the gatekeepers again, but they will always remain the star makers.
Any band can now record an album, sell copies, get thousands of Myspace or Youtube hits without major label support. In fact, small labels are great at being the gatekeepers. They can recognize talent, promote it, gain an audience, mold a band. But it still takes big money to make a star. Touring costs a bundle, and as music becomes exchanged more and more often for free, touring becomes where bands will make their money. Here's the problem. With fewer people buying CD's who pays for the tour? A small label can't afford to spend $200,000 to put a hot new band out on tour when they'll only sell $10,000 worth of CD's. This is where the majors come in with their publicity machines and unlimited budgets. They can create the demand, they can fill the stadium, they can make the star.
In order to do this, majors are now requiring 360 degree contracts, where the label will get a percentage of every aspect of the band's business, from CD sales, to tour revenue, to t-shirt sales. And this is fair, the label is providing a service and they deserve to get paid.
The biggest problem with the majors is the impersonal approach they take towards the music, the bands, and the fans. This is where small labels have the advantage. They have the ability to really form the relationships that can make a project a success.
Monday, September 28, 2009
The first thing that struck me about October File was how much the guitars reminded me of one of my all time favorite bands, Voivod. Kind of off time, unorthodox in approach, discordant, mysterious, almost like the tones were being transmitted from a far off planet in some alternate universe. I immediately gravitated to that sound and let the rest of the hardcore-ish noise of Die Kreuzen wash over me in due time. The vocals eventually wore me down like a rushing river carving away age old limestone, the bass chiseling at the lifetime of sedimentary build up, and the drums jack hammering the larger chunks of resistance into silt. I remember that at the time of my introduction to this band that I had no idea what to make of them. I just knew that they were weird in comparison to the rest of the music that was out there, ergo, Die Kreuzen were cool. The music had this aggressive sound, but not in the thundering, double bass drum detuned chugging guitar way. It was more cerebral. Not that I totally “got it,” I just knew that it was headier than the average punk music of the time. And then there was the look. Four disheveled figures emerging from a patch of overgrown weeds, hair flying every which way, clothes that looked like they were slept in, facial expressions of wonderment that they were still breathing, Die Kreuzen epitomized grunge before there ever was such a thing.
Cracking open the skull with the dissonant guitars on “Man in the Trees,” Die Kreuzen immediately sucked me in with the mesmerizing inner rhythms of the song. The guitars mix tight, staccato riffs, open sustained chords and pitched harmonics throughout both the verse and chorus of the song. The vocals explode in their high pitched screech, somewhat atonal and incoherent, but filled with a manic angst that’s compelling in its own right. Honestly, to this day, I have no idea what vocalist Dan Kubinski is ranting about, but I dig it. He conveys the emotion with that perfect mix of sentiment and rage that I can’t help but sit transfixed to my rumbling speakers as this song bursts out of them. And then there’s “It’s Been So Long,” up tempo and filled with a heavy bass groove. The guitar work of Brain Egeness is absolutely amazing and I’m tripping pretty hard that I’m just now noticing the intricacies of the work! Egeness almost sounds like he’s letting the guitar do its own thing while he simply steers the sound in the general direction of the song. The notes played aren’t always what’s expected, giving the impression that this guy has no idea how to play his instrument. But, on closer inspection, as the song unfolds and the textures of the notes interweave with one another, it becomes glaringly obvious that Egeness is an understated genius.
“Among the Ruins” is a blistering quasi-epic. Crisp snare drums snap the beat in time while the bass punches its precise groove, the guitars . . . need I go on about the guitars? Sheesh! While listening to this song, it’s easy to hear where the late, great Piggy of Voivod fame looked for inspiration. The spacey tones of the guitar seamlessly mix with the harder, palm muted riffs, creating a wondrous display of textural sound. The vocals, a bit more melodic, delicately dance their way through the minefield of guitar reverberation. And then there’s “Hide and Seek.” More of that rich guitar texture fills the open space between the bass and drums, unorthodox in approach, masterful in execution. Damn . . . listen to those harmonics in place of the traditional guitar solo! Such flavor!
Mixed in with the more artful-type metallic numbers, Die Kreuzen kick out the more punked out hardcore jams. “Imagine a Light” and “Conditioned” are up tempo pieces filled with manic energy. Keith Brammer’s fat bass lines fuel the piston pumping rhythms of Erik Tunison’s frantic drumming, propelling the songs with an urgency that was prevalent in the punk underground for years. Kubinski’s spazzed out, multi-layered venomous vocals work perfectly with the high octane power of the music, giving the music an edgy vitality that seems just as important today as it did in 1986. And, to keep things totally interesting, keeping their fan base guessing at what they’re gonna’ do next, Die Kreuzen break into a mid tempo acoustic guitar based tune in “Cool Breeze.” This one comes across sounding a bit like Soul Asylum or mid 90’s Goo Goo Dolls, catchy with a nice pop sensibility, accessible while staying dangerous. Gotta’ love how these guys played by their own set of rules.
Over the years, October File has become one of those albums that I reach for on those days when no other music will suffice. When I get tired of everything else that’s out there, I simply reach for it because I know that I’ll hear something that I never realized was there before. Kind of like listening to the great Thelonious Monk. It’s not something that I could listen to every day because it can get to be “too out there,” but it does recharge the musical batteries and allows me new perspective to listen to other music again. The level of diversity within the grooves of this disc makes me want to explore more of Die Kreuzen’s catalog and see what other goodies are out there that I’ve been missing. As it is, I never realized that the guitar work was so otherworldly. My God, Brian Egeness was doing things that add so many new elements to the music that I can’t help but listen to these songs over and over again. So many subtle differences within each song. So many different voices. Loved by many, Die Kreuzen’s music has influenced the sounds of a number of different bands like Sonic Youth, Voivod, and a bevy of the Seattle grunge-era bands. Does that mean you all are gonna’ love it? Odds are no. However, if you like music that’s just left of center, you like innovative guitar playing, and music that has an edge to it, October File is as good a place as any to pick up and rock out. Maybe even discover a new you! - Pope JTE
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Along those lines, we spoke recently with the main man at Dead Beat Records, today we're turning our eyes across the Atlantic to Scandinavia, the world of all things music and hockey. Specifically, we popped over to Denmark. There, we stopped by the office of Bad Afro Records and had a sit down with their resident creative force, Lars, and the legacy of indy music he's helped to create.
How did you get started running an independent record label?
One of my old friends Simon Nielsen and I started a fanzine called Moshable back in 1986. At that point I had recently discovered the wonderful world of fanzines and we wanted to make our own. In the beginning we mostly wrote about hardcore and punk but along the way our focus shifted towards the many shapes of rock'n'roll. We made the first issues on my fathers xerox machine but later on it got more and more professional and had colour frontpages etc. We made 20 issues in 14 years and ended it all with a big two-day party in 2000 where bands like The Hellacopters, The Nomads and The Flaming Sideburns played. What happened was that I knew all these upcoming bands through Moshable and we always wrote about the bands we liked. At one point I decided to try and release a 7" single just to learn how that was done. The result was the first single by a Finnish band called Trouble Bound Gospel. Second single was by The Hellacopters and after that I did a string of singles with Turbonegro, The Nomads, Gluecifer and the The Flaming Sideburns...and then the ball was rolling. I eventually discovered that it was more fun to release music that you like than to write about it. that is also why Moshable closed and I continued the label. The name and logo was inspired by blaxploitation movies from the 70's which I watched way too many of when I was a student and had time for that sort of thing. I probably also smoked too much pot back then ha ha.
What motivated you? Did you tap into a particular local scene or were you aiming to capture a sound?
Through Moshable we got all these promos from new bands at the time like The Hellacopters, The Flaming Sideburns, Cluecifer and many others. Somehow I could sense there was something on the way and in the mid-90s there came a big boom in Scandinavian rock'n'roll. The quality was surprisingly high and that was one of the reasons why I started Bad Afro - to try and document what was happening around here. From 1996 until 2009 we only released Scandinavian music with the slogan "Pushing Scandinavian Rock to the Man!" Now I have started to look for bands from around the globe and this year I have released The Mojomatics from Italy and The Dolly Rocker Movement from Australia.
Which was your first release?
Trouble Bound Gospel - Shakin' Ray 7"
Who's been your biggest selling artist to date?
That must be a split 10"/CD I did with The Hellacopters and The Flaming Sideburns. It sold around 15.000 copies - 5000 of them on vinyl which was pretty cool.
There's so much to learn about running a label, share with us some of the lessons you've learned along the way.
At least I learned that I would never start a label today. The odds that you will succeed today is simply too low. I know many quality labels who are really struggling and the conditions are just too rough. Having said that, I do believe in the future and it will be completely different from from when I started the label. I think that in the end download will save the independent labels but it also means that you really have to try and embrace the new technology. I believe that if you as a label survive the next couple of years the future will be bright.
What's been your label's high point? Low point?
The high point, especially economically, was when Lipton Tea contacted me since they were interested in using 30 seconds of a Baby Woodrose song from the first album for a commercial. They needed the master tape since they wanted to exclude the vocals but nobody knew were the mastertape was. After a lot of panic the guy who produced the album said: maybe it’s in the mystery bag in the corner of the studio along with a lot of other masters. And it was. Which earned us $200.000. Talking about Robin Hood.
The low point was probably when I was about to release vol. 2 of the compilation CD series Pushing Scandinavian Rock to the Man! I sent out 1000 promos and then went on tour in the US for 3 weeks with one of my bands. While checking mails on the tour I could see a lot of mails ticking in saying “what the hell is this CD?” The printing plant had by mistake put classical music on the CD and there was nothing I could do from Austin, Texas. That really hurt.
Who would you like to work with, but haven't yet?
That would be bands like Black Angels, The Hex Dispensers, Wooden Shjips and The Soundtrack of our Lives.
What changes do you see ahead for the music industry?
Not really sure what to expect. It changes very fast right now and I can’t say where it all ends.
What are you doing to stay on top of new and emerging technology?
Personally I have never downloaded a song in my life. But if music fans wants their music that way I should deliver it. Everything else would be arrogant. So I have spent a good deal of time getting the Bad Afro music online and it’s available on iTunes and many, many other places like Napster, Rhapsody, E-Music etc. Even though I am in love with vinyl and don’t really understand download I feel good about the fact that people all over the world and in every little town have access to the music. Something that will happen with CDs and LPs.
What's the biggest challenge facing you today as an independent label?
For me it’s to get download to work. One thing is that the music is available, another thing thing is that there is millions of songs online and how people should get the word about exactly my music? The decline in CD sales is really hurting since the CD sales used to pay the bills. Online sale is increasing all the time but still not enough to compensate for the lousy CD sale.
How is most of your product sold? Mail order? Web-based? At shows? Is this changing?
I used to have distributions in most of Europe country-wise meaning one distribution to take care of each country. It doesn’t work too well with the music I do so now most of my records are sold through mail orders. Which is ok because since mail orders attract the music fans who are really interested.
Seems that the sound of the bands you sign keeps evolving. What do you look for in your bands?
When I released bands like The Hellacopters and Turbonegro in the 90s the sound was still fresh. What later has been labeled "action rock" was cool in the beginning but later on too many copycats came along and everything became a rock’n’roll cliché with flames, tattoos and bad ass attitude and I got really sick of it. So the past 5 years I have turned towards releasing psychedelic rock. I look for bands with soul who can write real songs and have originality (well, you can't re-invent rock'n'roll but you can put it together in your own way) but most of all it's a gut feeling telling me that a certain band is really good.
How do you find your artists?
I collect records so I end up looking for artists I would buy myself. Often I get tips from friends, bands or other labels - it's very seldom that I sign bands who send me music out of the blue.
Are you a club rat, constantly searching live venues for cool acts?
Well, I used to be a club rat going out to shows at least twice a week. In that sense my hometown Copenhagen is cool because many Scandinavian bands come by here when they tour Europe so you get the chance to see them pretty early on. And many foreign bands also play here. But that changed when I became a father 3 years ago - now I don't really have the time anymore. I probably go to 3-4 shows each month nowadays.
What are you looking for now?
I really don't know - something that would surprise me and knock me off my feet. I personally like many different kinds of music so it's hard to say. In my own mind I think Bad Afro has a certain "sound" even though the bands on the label does not sound alike. But if you like one of them chances are that you would like some of the others too.
Are you involved in all the creative decisions?
When I sign a band I pretty much leave it up to them to record their album or single as they see fit. In that sense I trust the bands to come up with something cool. I get involved when it's decided which songs should be on the album and what the running order should be. I'm also involved with cover design and other decisions. But in general, if I sign a band that I think is really good I should trust them to do a good album and have as much artistic freedom as possible. I am not a musician myself (oh, I tried but I soon discovered I had no talent so I quit. Something I wish many other people would do as well ha ha) so there is certain things I should not interfere too much with. But I do believe, after being an avid music fan for more than 30 years, that I have an idea about quality music and I try to use my experience to get the best result possible.
What would you like to see happen for the future of the music industry and your label in particular?
I would love to be able to live off the label and drop my day job. Being able to release music full-time is a dream for me.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Here's another really cool contest for all you waveriders.
You can win a free concert at your house by national recording artist Hollis Brown! You provide the party and Hollis Brown will provide the free music. This is a great contest and a cool way to be the talk of your town. And all you need to do, is just tell your friends about "Show Love," the new video from Hollis Brown.
The person who gets the most friends to view the new Hollis Brown video “Show Love” will receive a free concert at their house! No purchase necessary. All participants have to do is fill out a form to email the video to their friends and whoever has the most friends watch “Show Love” will be the grand prize winner.
New York native rockers Hollis Brown posses a distinct sound uniting hook-soaked pop and blues-drenched rock & roll. Featuring infectious melodies and a live show that has attracted a devoted following.
Friday, September 25, 2009
First terrorizing comic book shows and shops in 2001, Hampton began writing and drawing the raving adventures of the intrepid rapper, Captain A-hole, while also writing and rapping all the music that comes as a free CD with each issue. Captain A-hole was originally created as an accumulation of everything Hampton wanted to say as a sarcastic response to the managers and customers at work, the people who said he shouldn't be making a certain kind of music, the people who doubted him and his talents. The Captain was a way to release all those aggravations in the form of music. Follow the raging temper and tongue-in-check humor of Captain A-hole as he leads you through the rap life, getting writer's block, battling with other rappers, and drops you into his rabbit hole of surreal hilarity in such titles as Captain A-hole's Guide to Customer Service, and Captain A-hole's Guide to Dating. Both of these book, as well as the entire 5 issue Captain A-hole series, come complete with a CD of the Captain's music, locked in step with the story.
As I write this, I'm listening to The Captain's latest single "Captain A-hole's Guide to Customer Service." and one thing that's abundantly clear is that the mad Captain knows his shit. This isn't just some crappy, throw-away pap dropped onto a CD and dumped in with a comic hoping to boost sales. Featuring some pretty damn flawless production by the Captain's partner, Lotis, the Captain has a haunting, melodic Hip-Hop sound, and a smooth rapping style for his emotional, yet taunting lyrics. Toss the whole salad together with some tasty harmony vocals, guitars, and synths, and toss in a sarcastic middle finger shoved defiantly in the air, and we got a fun ride going.
"I Hate My Job," is a slow, percolating number rapped over a gorgeous acoustic piano melody. Swirling synths, floating over the driving bass, get the head bobbing in motion, while the lyrics speak to every one who ever had to work a shitty job to make ends meet."How many people can't stand their job," the Captain cries out, pleading the case of every employee who's ever wanted to blow the head off of their manager. All told with tongue firmly in cheek, it's in the humor that the truth lies. Shades of Coolio's "Gangster's Paradise," seem to echo through the music. And that incredibly smooth beat and piano continue on.
"Customer Service," starts off with a thumping synthesized beat, instantly snapping you into the song. It's hard not to find a comparison to Eminem with the snotty tone of the vocal delivery, and that's a compliment. Cause this D.I.Y. rapper should be heard in the same playlist as Slim Shady. Shouting out the plight of everyone who's ever gotten stuck dealing with some G.E.D.-armed customer service clerk, the Captain finds the words to vent every frustration that's ever caused your arteries to bulge. "Let me tell you two words that make me nervous/ one: customer/two: service." We got a great groove here that just drives the song home. Some great beats and a uniqueness and freshness that makes it stand out above the crowd. Nice stuff.
If all that's not enough, Hampton also writes and draws another series of comics, Hot Zombie Chicks, and puts out some full-length CD's under the Captain A-hole moniker.
If you 're a comic fan and fan of some damn fine hip hop, this A-hole is worth checking out.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
A lot of people only like the Ozzy era while some prefer Dio. Then there are the freaks who love this album. I am a combination of all three. It’s probably because I love Tony Iommi’s guitar playing so much, but I really do enjoy just about everything by Sabbath from 1970 to 1983. Volume 4 might be my all time favorite, Technical Ecstasy is my least favorite and I think Never Say Die is extremely underrated. Born Again is not a classic album, or even a great one, but it does have some truly great moments. It also has some pretty lame ones, too.
Most rock fans know the story of Ronnie James Dio quitting Black Sabbath in a huff over supposed funny business regarding the mixing sessions for Live Evil. Ronnie says Tony and Geezer were always late, Tony says Ronnie was undoing the mix he was working on. Now that they’re all pals again and touring as Heaven and Hell we’ll never really know for sure. I have a feeling there may have been some alcohol and cocaine being used while all this was going on so everyone’s memories could be a little fuzzy.
Anyways, it’s 1982 and Tony needs a singer so he gets Ian Gillan from Deep Purple drunk and convinces him to join. Some people freaked out calling them Deep Sabbath or Black Purple and Ozzy had a field day making fun of his old friends. They get Bill Ward out of detox and back behind the kit so it’s ¾ of the original Sabbath line up. None of this really mattered to me when I hear that Born Again was coming out in the late summer of 1983. I was a huge Deep Purple fan and was stoked to hear his voice with Sabbath’s music.
I don’t think I bought it the day that it came out, but pretty soon after. At the time I loved the cover because it looked kinda evil. It was only slightly better than some of the stuff I was picking on Metal Blade and Neat Records. It’s actually a pretty crappy cover, but still kind of awesome in a way. The photos of the band on the back cover might actually be scarier. I remember thinking that they were all 1000 years old but it’s totally metal to be an elder with a big droopy mustache.
As far as the music goes, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. I’ve never been a big fan of the title track. It’s a pretty long and traditional sounding ballad. It would be fine on an Ian Gillan solo album but not for Black Sabbath. “Keep It Warm” is another slow one and might be the only true dud on the album. “Hot Line” is an OK rock song but never really goes anywhere. Same could be said for “Digital Bitch” but at least it’s uptempo and has bitch in the title. I used to love referring to rich girls at high school as “Digital Bitch” without even knowing what it meant. Probably had something to do with their digital watches while I was wearing a hand me down wind up. “Stonehenge” and “The Dark” are just filler tunes like “FX” from Volume 4 and “E5150” off Mob Rules. Cool intro music before the live show but kinda dull, even on headphones.
Now the good stuff. The album opens with the “Paranoid”/”Speed King” hybrid of “Trashed.” Ian Gillan was always more of a drinker than a druggy so it makes sense that the lyrics are about driving fast and tequila. Tony’s riffing is lean and mean, Bill and Geezer thud away like mad and Gillan screams his ass off. The trademark evil Gillan shriek starts off the heavy “Disturbing the Priest.” This song was written as a result of the clergy from a local church complaining about all the noise Black Sabbath was making at night.
Probably the best song on the album is the truly awesome “Zero The Hero.” This is one of Tony’s best riffs. It’s a simple, circular pattern but just has such an evil quality to it that instantly makes you want to bang your head. Slash pinched the riff for part of “Paradise City” but who doesn’t steal from Tony? This would be a great song for Heaven And Hell to do live but Dio would never go for it.
Everyone involved with the record has complained about the crappy mix due to some kind of dolby noise reduction to make it sound better on the radio. The mix is indeed murky and Tony has often said he’d love to remix it. There is an illegal download floating around of an unmixed version of the album that does sound much better. Some of the songs have slightly different lyrics and guitar parts so it’s obviously a tape of when the album was still in progress. There’s an unreleased song called “The Fallen” that has some great drumming from Bill Ward and kind of a Zeppelin feel (the main riff has a little “Celebration Day” in it). The real treat of tracking down Born Again Unmixed is the 9 minute version of “Zero The Hero.” Tony really lets rip on this.
If you find the Born Again story intriguing than check out all the gory details on it at Joe Siegler’s excellent Black Sabbath website www.black-sabbath.com/ and go to the discography page. There’s also a website dedicated exclusively to Born Again at http://home.swipnet.se/sabbath83/. You can read all the hilarious tales about Ian Gillan forgetting the lyrics to old Sabbath songs, the Stonehenge stage set that inspired Spinal Tap, and more.
Buy here: Born Again
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Personally, I tread very carefully on the frozen lake that is prog-rock. Some forms of the genre are my absolute favorite discs of all time, and I feel like I could safely cut a hole in the ice and fish to my heart’s content. Other forms . . . ach! That was the sound of me crashing through the thin layer of ice and suffering, once again, from a severe case of hypothermia. All I’ve ever asked of my music is that it have some soul, some element of spirit that flows from the musicians, through the speakers and then to me so that I’m inspired to do something . . . anything! Well, Oceansize has done just that with their latest epic outing entitled Frames. Epic outing? Yes. Absolutely. Read on, friends.
I’m not sure if Frames is a concept album or not, and honestly, I’m not sure that I care. All I know is that the songs that comprise this disc sound huge. Each song touches a nerve in a different way. Inciting a riot in my skull in one song and intoxicating me to the point of self reflection on the next. Massive movements of emotion flow throughout this recording with huge mood swings and monstrous washes of ballroom elegance unwittingly dancing into cages filled with bestial savagery. This is music for the music fan, not the casual listener. The casual listener would get bored because these compositions and performances are, quite frankly, beyond the pedestrian perspective. Though heady, the concepts aren’t beyond comprehension . . . you’ll just have to move the decimal point a place or two in either direction for it to have greater impact. For you, oh music fan, Oceansize will capture your imagination with their sprawling curiosities set to rhythm and rhyme. Frames is made up of layers of droning alt rock mix with even deeper layers of progressive flavored modern rock, and then layered again with sheets of metallic heaviness and a primer coat of punk edginess. Yeah, I know . . . there is no official category at the record store for that. The label would take up the space of an entire bin. But, that’s a good thing!
“Commemorative 9/11 T-shirt” creeps out of the speakers like a specter. Guitar notes are softly and steadily plucked in rhythm, creating a sense that the modern prog giant mastermind, Steven Wilson, was in the studio twirling knobs and adding his two cents. The drums drop into the groove with a snap and a pop, crisp sounds for like ear confection. The bass eventually meets up with the rest of the instruments and the whole song just builds to a perfectly moody epic, slowly, deliberately, and precisely. The cryptic lyrics, half whispered, half sung, act as the final piece of the mysterious puzzle of sound. The song begins to boil with power, the tempo never really increasing, but still feeling like everything just got more manic. The guitars go from crystal clear clean notes to a wall of distorted tones that fills all of the open space between the notes. Suddenly, everything the throat starts to feel constricted as all of the air from the song is removed, we watch the light fading away, our eyes begin to roll into the backs of our heads as unconsciousness starts to overtake us, then . . . BAM! The distorted guitar lines vanish and the clean toned notes return. We return to our senses as the air rushes back into the song and the space between the notes is able to breathe. What a ride, folks! Oceansize did an amazing job of crafting this song to take the listener someplace, and where that is, well . . . that’s completely up to you.
“Unfamiliar” follows up the moody build up of “Commemorative 9/11 T-shirt” with a more angst-y sounding, detuned howl of distorted instruments. Unorthodox notes or chords or tones or what have you crash against the eardrums as the song hammers away with it’s off time intro. The vocals come in smooth and melodic just as the instruments go from their disparate sound to one of air-y comfort. Like tubing down a river, this music goes from quick flowing, curving runs to placid, wide open spaces and lazy summer days adrift, then back through roiling rapids again. Amazingly beautiful in its execution, this is another song that can let your imagination simply soar to heights once thought unimaginable. Heavily progressive, yet totally edge-y, this song reminds me of the post progressive sounds of East of the Wall. Intricate as any of the finest prog-rock, but darkened and filled with a punk rock intensity.
The ten minute epic “An Old Friend of the Christies” highlights the back end of the disc. The whole tune has a haunting atmosphere to it. Heavy rhythmic pounding of the drums, softly accented by guitar arpeggios and keyboard flourishes, this song played in a darkened room will send chills up the spine. Don’t expect a fast mover. Like most of the work on Frames, “An Old Friend of the Christies” is a spark on a patch of dried kindling that eventually spread to the surrounding brush and builds into a raging wild fire. My God . . . so much emotion in the transition! Dark and filled with the turmoil, yet injected with a glimmer of hope, this instrumental ditty has grown to be one of my favorites from the disc.
Oceansize were a new name for me, but I was pretty much hooked the moment I heard the opening strains of Frames. After listening through once, I found that this was the kind of prog-rock that I could seriously get behind, and not just a ball of self gratifying musical jabberwocky. If you like Mr. Bungle, Faith No More, East of the Wall, Porcupine Tree, Isis . . . hell, if you just like musical discovery, Oceansize will rest nicely next to your pillow. Be prepared, though. This album is eight songs clocking in at exactly an hour. I’m not saying that it’s too long, just that there is a lot going on and the first listen or two may completely overwhelm you. Then again, you may be a prog- super guru and consume this kinda’ stuff as a midnight snack. I’m just saying. There are no “hit” singles on here in the sense of radio friendly music, but there are those moments of accessibility where even the most novice of music listener can sit back and appreciate what’s going on. This is my kind of prog. If you need me, I’ll be on that frozen lake over yonder enjoying the sonic bliss of Frames. -- Pope JTE
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Rammstein, the Berlin-based industrial metal sextet well known for their controversial and fiery live performances, returns with their first new album in four years, having signed a marketing and distribution deal in the US with Vagrant Records.
The 11-song album, Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da, is slated for a late fall 2009 simultaneous worldwide launch with more details to be announced shortly. Pre-production for the new release was done at Castle Beerenstedt in eastern Germany’s Halle/Saale while the bulk of the recording was done in late 2008 at Northern California’s Sonoma Mountain Studio. As with the band’s previous releases, the new album was mixed and mastered by Jacob Hellner in Stockholm.
Rammstein has sold nearly three million records in the US and over 14 million albums worldwide, and let me tell you, the Ripple was one of em. For those of you who haven't heard it, Sehnsucht is one massive attack of brilliant industrial metal.
Rammstein first stormed American shores in 1998 touring behind their Grammy-nominated breakthrough sophomore release, Sehnsucht. Band members were jailed in the US on indecency charges during the 1998 Family Values tour, due to Rammstein’s highly provocative live show.
The band’s last tour through the US was in 2001 in support of Mutter, and as they continued to sonically and visually explore societal and sexual taboos, Rammstein has found themselves embroiled in further controversies both here and abroad throughout the last decade.
Rammstein retains an aura of mystery due in part to their ambiguous lyrics (sung almost entirely in German) while their chart-topping releases and sold-out worldwide tours prove that fans can’t get enough of this enigmatic group.
Commenting on the themes addressed in LIEBE IST FÜR ALLE DA drummer Christoph Schneider said, “The overriding theme, I would say, is extreme forms of love…” Rammstein keyboard player, Flake Lorenz added, “Love can be interpreted in many different ways; for example, sometimes unreciprocated love can lead to tragic situations – mass murders, school shootings, terrible events like that. Hate is the negative form of love, like hot and cold…”
Continuing the Berlin band’s tradition of creating 11-song albums, the track listing for LIEBE IST FÜR ALLE DA is:
2. Ich Tu Dir Weh
3. Waidmanns Heil
6. Frühling in Paris
7. Wiener Blut
9. Liebe ist Für Alle Da
11. Roter Sand
As previously announced, the first single is “Pussy” with B-side “Rammlied.” The single will be available exclusively via iTunes on Sept. 22. An accompanying video, directed by Jonas Åkerlund, has been completed and will premiere at www.visit-x.net/rammstein on Oct. 16 at 4 pm eastern/1 pm pacific.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Genesis – Selling England by the Pound
It’s impossible to listen to Peter Gabriel-era Genesis without feeling like you’ve been thrust back in time and space to some whimsical Elizabethan British manor, where the mad Duke of Genesis, Gabriel flutters about in a tizzy, singing folk songs like a twisted Renaissance bard. This is prog-rock at its most theatrical, most sophisticated and aristocratic, and undeniably, Selling England by the Pound, is Genesis’s finest moment of pastoral prog.
Littered with literary allusions and fragile passages of ephemeral beauty, don’t go looking here for metallic riffs or extended periods of solo noodling. Rather, the songs on Selling England are delicate and eccentric. Led by the keyboards of Tony Banks and the impassioned singing of Peter Gabriel, Genesis plays like a band of Elizabethan intellectuals, gathered in the court before the pleasing smiles of the women in waiting. Guitars are understated, fitted into the compositions, rather than dominating them. Strains of harpsichord and flute flutter across the ballroom.
The ethereal “Dancing with the Moonlight Knight,” could have been a chamber piece composed by a lost British composer, with dramatic beauty riding across the keyboards. The extended “Firth of Fifth,” rocks about as hard as the boys can on this album and features the album’s most sublime guitar work. “The Battle of Epping Forest,” is a grand tale of myth and lore, just waiting to be passed on to future generations. “More Fool Me,” is as soft as a soap bubble and features one of Phil Collins’s earliest vocal leads. While The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, may be Genesis’s most ambitious moment, Selling England by the Pound is probably their most complete album - the finest distillation of their particular brand of intelligent, eccentric prog at it’s most literate.
buy here: Selling England by the Pound
Jethro Tull – Benefit
If Genesis was music for art school aristocrats, Yes for classical music purists and ELP for fans of pomp in all its bombastic glory, then Jethro Tull was prog rock for the everyman.
With Ian Anderson’s eccentric minstrel persona and the band’s history as a hard living British blues band, Jethro Tull’s ambiance is that of a band of revelers singing bawdy tales of legend around a burning firepit in a 14th century straw-roofed, public tavern. While any self-respecting Tull fan will also have Aqualung and Thick as a Brick in their collection, Benefit was the album that found Tull finally shedding their purist blues past for a full on integration of folk, jazz, rock and medieval imagery into one digestible whole; a venture in the deep and darkened forests of Sherwood in search of mirth and merriment.
Besides featuring the undeniable classic, “Teacher,” with it’s famous rolling bassline, Benefit is full of minor Tull classics. With “With You There to Help me,” we get the first true integration of flute, acoustics and searing electric guitars to appear in the Tull catalog, a format they’d use to great effect on "Aqualung." “Nothing to Say,” is a song of uncommon beauty that never loses its rock pulse. “Sossity; You’re a Woman,” became a key part of Tull’s stage show for years. And lest you think the boys lost themselves entirely in folk and flute, songs like “Son,” and “To Cry You a Song,” rock as hard as anything in the early Tull lexicon.
Flute solos, a bearded vocalist leaping from one foot to the other like a drunken madman, fiery blues guitar breaks and riffs that stick in your head like bubblegum on the brain, what else do you want in your prog?
buy here: Benefit
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I never went to see live concerts as a kid. I always felt it would be too strong, too emotional. I was almost afraid. But when Prince came to my town, I was convinced by my friends to go. I didn't want to be in a huge space with thousands of people screaming and watching my favorite artist. I wanted to be on stage with him! But I gave in and went. It was amazing, I was able to go from the last row to first row and take the seat of a journalist who didn't show up. The music and his presence made me so excited that I travelled on people's hands to the first row. Prince, no doubt, my favorite, a true musical epiphany.
Before that, when I was about 5 years old I would come home and ask my mom to see the 'apple' spinning. The apple was the symbol on every vinyl Beatles record. Every day after school, I asked my mom to put on the Beatles and see that apple spinning in the center of the vinyl.
Genre's are so misleading and such a way to pigeonhole bands. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?
Pop in the original sense of popular, because you can remember a melody and humm it, it's memorable. Pop means memorable to me. It is not Kelly Clarkson for example, as the USA sometimes defines. Pop is the music of the people. My sound has been influenced by many people, genres: 70's rock, 80's pop, world cultures and poetry, dance and hip hop music.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
Sometimes a beat, sometimes a sequence of chord, sometimes a poem. These days I write with my guitar. The combination of chords can evoke an entire idea and feeling and then I start writing separately a poem or a concept...and then put it together. But I do also miss having great beats and writing to them.
For you, what makes a great song?
The perfect balance between lyrics, melody, and groove. The melody has to 'mean' what the lyric say and vice versa. A song that has a message, a melody that is memorable and a beat that makes me move, is perfect. But what is more important is that it is HONEST, that it is SIMPLE without being simplistic. To me, the Beatles embrace this perfectly. I don't like contrived songs that try to impress or shock with lyrics and music. I like an honest HUMAN emotion; love, jealousy, or sadness, expressed as if by a child discovering it for the first time.
What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?
The TOUGH LOVE album, which you can listen to on iTunes, from beginning to end. Almost like a good Beatles record, it's a journey. I know this is the time for singles. I thought out of this album as a collection of singles and none of them represent the album as a whole. Each is a precious stone a special chocolate treat in a box: the hazelnut, the coffee, the cherry, you have to try them all.
Despite the success of lots of female artists, it's still a tough business for a woman slugging it out in a male-dominated world. What have you come up against and how have you handled it?
VERY HARD! I like you, you're a smart man. Nobody thinks of this anymore because we see so many girls playing now. For me it was VERY difficult. Even as a kid, I was not allowed to join the (all boys) bands in school. When my music, drummer or guitar teacher (males) would make subtle but annoying advances at me at 14 yrs old it was not particularly inviting to make me go on.
Now there is a great organization that is called 'Girls Rock Camp' I have taught there in NY, and its WOMEN teaching young girls how to put together a band and play an instrument. I wish I had that type of mentorship when I was younger, I felt very lonely. That is why I always feel like I am not a musician because I didn’t study music. I am an instinctive musician, a natural musician but not a 'trained' one. So I took several years after my first success to go back and learn from many different teachers and other great musicians.
Also, in this business women are almost required to YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL AND/ or USE SEX, or perhaps if you have money from previous sales, like so many artists in the 80's and 90's. It’s hard to be a woman and make it in the biz starting from scratch if you don’t have one of these options. The music only, unfortunately, won't do. It's still easier for men, even today. I don’t think the audience cares as much as the label people and the people in between. See the movie: "Searching for Debra Winger."
And on a practical level....not sure we will see. Any suggestions? :-)
Describe to us the ideal (realistic) record label and how you'd work with them, and they with you.
A team that has a long term plan not just a desire to make money now and then go to the next artist. A LONG TERM TEAM.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
We, at The Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. When we come to your town, what's the best record store to visit?
It's a difficult thing to find these days, as so many have been closed down. The East Village and Brooklyn still have a few good ones. You can also find some hard to find tracks on vinyl from people selling them on the street, or garage sales etc...
Any last words that you’d like to pass on to our readers?
Be free to be anything, don't ever try to fit in any genre or style, even if it's defined as 'alternative ' or 'independent' or 'original'.