Friday, June 27, 2008

There's a Wood-Man, waiting in the sky


So, the quasi-family band of folk and indie-rock: Woodman will be adopting alter egos for their set at the Blue Moon In June...essentially, think of them as 'The Bowie's.' Inspired by the poignant, stripped down earnesty of actor/singer Seu Jorge's acoustic renditions of the indelible glam-rock-space-god in the film, Life Aquatic (the band admitting to be equally inspired by the work of director Wes Anderson) the band will interpret upwards to 8 Bowie ballads.

"I've been the band through Bowie boot camp," said guitarist/singer (and father of singer Hillary and guitarist Derek) Frank Woodman. "1 1/2 weeks for 8 songs. I think we're ready though. We love Bowie, but we were equally inspired by Wes Anderson's Life Aquatic. So expect songs from that soundtrack. Although, we will sing them in english. We will also do a few of our own, time permitting."


The show starts at the CAID at 5:30, with Woodman's Blue Moon-Age-Daydream, going on around 11:45pm.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blue Moon: The Oscillating Fan Club - Interview

Over here at Deep Cutz, we're sending out passive-aggressively threatening prayers to the almighty Voodoo God that he keeps the g'damned raindrops from falling this weekend - as the Blue Moon In June Part II is still on for this Saturday at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit.

The show (with 12 performing bands, Mick Bassett and the Marthas, Deastro, Duende, Pinkeye, Wildcatting, Woodman's Blue-Moonage Daydream, Red China, Dutch Pink, Stare Into The Sun, Drew Bardo, Satori Circus, Silverghost....) starts at 5:30 p.m., and--if you read the fliers--might only require a $2 donation at the door. It's all brought to you by Loco Gnosis productions, and a considerable helping hand from guitarist Ray Thompson-from one of Deep Cutz's favorites (and performing at the Blue Moon this year) The Oscillating Fan Club.

Here's an Un-Cutz interview with that surfy-60's-baroque-pop-lovin' quartet's guitarist, Pierce Reynolds:

DC: what's new for the oscillating fan club?

PR/OFC: Well, Oscillating has definitely been growing in anticipation and scope in terms of readying it's first self released LP and accumulating songs all the while. Summers here and with any luck, we'll be playing new tunes and sounds in new venues with cold beverages for all.

(photo: Mike Milo)

DC: what can you say about the upcoming LP, "Feverish Dreams as told by..."?

PR/OFC: The album has been a work in progress for quite some time but I think it was certainly worth the the wait. Quite a few numbers didn't make the cut and some were recorded, re-recorded and changed drastically, but in the end, at 16 tracks and 40 minutes I think we really distilled the essence of what we've been going after and all our best material on one piece of vynil. I'm quite pleased and I'm excited to watch it take its first steps.

(photo: Megan Lang)

DC: what can you say about the last year for the band--in terms of favorite shows, what's changed-in approach, in writing, in live shows, in philosophy?

PR/OFC: This year has been a blast for the band including but not limited to : touchdowns, playing with many new bands and ever increasingly familiar faces, acquiring forbidden and taboo equipment and licensing new forms of voodoo in conjunction with old school sorcery. I feel as though the exponentially growing new material is somehow keeping with the original sound yet simpler and more direct in structure while being more varied and dare I say experimental in execution.

DC/MILO: how would you describe the essence of the blue moon in june festival?

PR/OFC: I think the blue moon in june is best described as a mysterious concoction of incredible music and bands and friends old and new celebrating Detroit and Summer the way it should be, with loud, psychedelic, garage-informed and just plain garage poppy rock. If you can dance and you like caterpillar-like fuzzy melodies, I think you could do a lot worse then check out the 12 great bands we have on display this year

DIY STREET FAIR in Ferndale, this September

The folks behind the inaugural DIY Street Fair, (in conjuncture with the Ferndale Art Fair) want to get the word out early: all DIY-focused artists, crafters, singers, players, painters, filmmakers, business owners, recorders, writers, tv producers, anyone DOing-IT-YOURSELF - is invited to this event to celebrate it's obvious theme.

Vendors looking to participate can find applications at

The Fair will be held on the south east area of Woodward and Nine Mile (behind the Woodward Avenue Brewery and spilling into the Library parking lot) on September 20th and 21st and will feature live performances from locals:
The Nice Device, Silverghost, Woodman, Charlie Slick, Paul Green's Michigan-based School Of Rock, The Pop Project, Aran Ruth and The Muggs. (With, more than likely, more to be added!)

Something to look forward to...


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Blue Moon in June returns with Silverghost, Deastro and Mick Bassett & the Marthas and many MORE!!

Free Press keeps the Caid discussion alive

in the meantime, here's an inspiring quote from The Questions' Drew Bardo, who opined these poetic musings as we were heading into last year's inaugural Blue Moon In June festival:

This dilapidated jungle of concrete and industrial red-brick neon factory dust is extremely fertile territory for those with over active imaginations. To be a person born and raised here, there is a sense of gratitude for the laborious insights and cruel lessons this city has to offer. Without its violence, without its brutality, without its impurity, my poetry, my writing, has no balance of muse. That is why I feel it necessary to try and create a balance with the savage for the people of the community. We are really in control of the future perception of what our mystical times will bestow upon the generations of poor children who will have to clean up this human disaster. The least I can do is bring the creative souls, the historians, together for a cognizant brain storm of spirit cleansing."

This Saturday, Loco Gnosis brings Blue Moon In June 2, to the recently embattled (but now, more unified than ever) Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit.

8 hours of non-stop live described from my own field notes from last year:
This was it, this was something special, something magical that our generation could finally put its stamp on. Our own Monterrey Pop Fest, perhaps? Perhaps the spirit of free love, free music, free thinking, understanding and camaraderie, the spirit of the 60s…perhaps it was more alive in us that night than it was even forty years ago. We'd all been raised on those dreamy ideals, we'd been obsessed with them, studied them, listened to the music of them, and they've been fermenting inside each of us individually for all our lives. Put us all together for one night and you're bound to have the true, final and magnificent realization of those dreams. It was like seeing some sort of mythological creature finally escape from the woods and take its first steps among us. I was just glad to be there. Absolute insanity… …yet as quaint and relaxed as a Sunday barbecue.

The Line up:
5:00pm doors open
5:30pm out PINKEYE w/Drew Bardo
6:00pm in Satori Circus
6:20pm out Dutch Pink
7:00pm in Red China
7:40pm out Mick Basset & the Marthas
8:20pm in Stare Into The Sun
9:00pm out Wildcatting
9:40pm in Silverghost
10:20pm out DUENDE!
11:00pm in The Oscillating Fan Club
11:40pm in Woodman
12:10pm in Deastro
12:50pm in Satori Circus
1:10pm in Pinkeye

(poster: Robin Veresh)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Listening Beyond the Surface: Jon Mueller - Interview

Jon Mueller's his own staggering institution of hallowed avant-post-rock and ambio-orchestral-jazz. A drummer, at heart, who organically expands outwards into thick and heavenly odysseys with his quintet Collections of Colonies of Bees, but also a true defiant esoteric as a solo artist and constant collaborator, truly galvanizing the Om of sound - be it engaging, rousing, haunting, beautiful or alienating.

Mueller is well known for his tenure with Pele, a Milwaukee based post-rock band whirling around the same Great Lakes scene as Tortoise, The Sea & Cake and The Chicago Pop Underground.

This month alone he's had 3 separate releases: through the Table of the Elements label, Collections of Colonies of Bees has released Six Guitars, an enchanting and swirling ballet of chiming strings and humming reverb that builds and churns and recedes again, meditative and musing. On his own label, Crouton Music he released the solo effort, the chilling and spastic Strung. Then, again, on Table of the Elements, he paired with fellow multi-instrumentalist, Switzerland-based Jason Khan, they've released the insular Topography, a patient and moving take on wispy noise and minimalist/avant-garde percussion style, as told through 5 chapters named for cities, including "Milwaukee."

From the tubular wind chime guitars of Colonies that slalom gracefully over brash pounding percussions, to the storm of shiny fuzz colisions that writhe and expand in grand stratospheric soundscapes with Topography, to the disorienting, jittery experimetnal pieces of his solo work, Mueller creates music so thick and daunting that it ameliorates the physical artist, disentegrating himself into the music.

Here's an exclusive Deep Cutz interview:

DC: conscious are you of the emotionality of your this a cathartic release--something personal, or are you trying to percolate something psychologically or emotionally?

JM: It really involves all of that. It is personal, but I'm trying to make a connection with others. I never intend to alienate. It requires listening beyond the surface of what you might initially perceive.

DC: how do you approach songwriting? is it different for each song?

JM: It is different for each piece based on the idea, but essentially I use percussion. That can reveal many different kinds of sounds, and I'm constantly exploring those possibilities, so those discoveries change the approach too. However, the feeling of when something is completed is often familiar; when the piece has said what it can say.

DC: I was listening to 'strung' and as the blurts and roars started churning, my roomate from down the hall jogged in and wanted to know 'what that sound' my computer was dying and rhythmically moaning electric death rattles...for some people - this music, the heavy experimental, thick trip-outs are hard to digest...what draws you to this as opposed to poppy hooks and vocals and choruses....are you able to track what may have lead you from past projects of post/rock and avant/jazz to Pianobread? a song like Milwaukee--

JM: Something curious is what attracts me. The sound has to make me think about something interesting from listening to it. A lot of music doesn't do this for me, but I'm certainly not against conventional music. All sound can serve a function and it just depends what I find interesting. I think that's the case with everyone.

DC: For Topography, with your connection to the city - did the song 'Milwaukee' hold any special meaning?

JM: Each of the tracks from the 'Topography' were titled after the cities they were recorded in. That's the reason for 'Milwaukee.' There's no special meaning beyond that, really.

DC: ...often you go from an extreme drum style to a soft ambience....(homeostatic vs. six guiars), is there a middle ground your intereted in? or a reason you bounce betwee poles?

JM: It's mostly how I described before - it's really about what idea I have, and then finding ways to fill that idea out, and let the sounds have their own voice in the music. Sometimes that ends up being subtle, and other times more direct. It really depends on the situation, and is a testimony to the range of sound that percussion can produce.

DC: are their contemporary influences you can point to?

JM: There are many. Too many to list, in fact. I love a lot of drummers, but feel that mentioning them wouldn't necessarily seem relevant to my work. I'm influenced more by people working in sound that don't look so much at the instrument, but all the possibilities with sound itself, and how that interacts with people. That's connection is more important to me now that the idea of developing a specific musical technique.

DC: what are you working on now, or currently experimenting with...or what are you looking forward to?

JM: Right now I'm preparing a new set that I'll be touring the midwest with in August. My focus is really on that right now, and I won't be recording any more for awhile.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fiberglass Freakout aftermath

Another great, spilled-out, muddy parking lot, creaky-stairs, hallow sound-assault of a good and glorious Fiberglass Freakout - compliments of 12 bands and the organizing hands of Tony Thrush, from The Friends of Dennis Wilson, as well as that gutted broken down haunted school, the Bohemian National Home.

I arrived at 9pm sharp on that fair mid-June evening, just in time to see what would become one of the highlights of the night, a performance from local psyche-drone-post-punk quartet Oblisk. I was told that was the third set of the night...which meant I'd missed the glorious, blistering musicianship of the quintessential surf-shredding Volcanos...and perhaps Qualia, or perhaps Toronto's Speaking Tongues.

After Oblisk came the reemergence and renegerized Heroes & Villains, leading into the stalwart Electric Lions (another highlight.) Lead singer/guitarist Rabeah Ltief essentially approached the live set like a boxing match and you could feel the pulsing confidence and gaunt strength of their resolve in their astounding performance. The Questions followed on the main stage and started off strong, having been under the radar through Spring. They opened up with some of their more heavier rockers from their latest release, Karma Tsunami, but they wound up being the first victim of the unfortunate (but debatably necessary) tight time schedule. When the Questions had some instrument trouble and needed a few minutes to re-tune or re-adjust, they ran out of time. Tony and perhaps the Bohemian National Home also, wanted to get things wrapped up by 2 a.m., to avoid any CAID-RAID type recurrences, as the Bohemian is, similar to the CAID, more of an 'unconventional' venue.

If Bad Faces Clan went on, I missed them - which is unfortunate. In the meantime, The Questions transitioned over to the floor-stage-based Carjack, newly energized from a stint at North By Northeast in Toronto, Carjack came out with all guns, lazers and freak phasers set to destroy - not being bound by the stage and barely being bound by the building, he even brought out his own pyrotechnics, (setting his guitar on fire, momentarily) as well as a few new tunes.

The BirdDogs continued to prove that they are one of the most underrated, most astounding bands in the city with their own flavor of psyche-blues and Hendrix-ian rockabilly. The Ruiners and Beggars handily closed out the night with their unique spectacle, capping off a night of warm celebration for a pack of humble, down-to-earth, blazingly talented, somewhat misfit-ed bands, be they up-and-coming or long-time-rockers.

(photos by Mike Milo)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Girl Talk - Feed The Animals


Feed The Animals A -
You’re in the thick of the undulating mass, dizzy from either psychedelic drugs or perhaps just the swell of body-heat and intake of two much carbon dioxide from the huffing fellow ravers surrounding you; you close your eyes, shake your head from side to side and start feeling the urge to either hug, hump or drink – and, wait, is that Nirvana put to a techno beat? Wait, what the fuck? Roy Orbison at 190 bpm? Did Tag Team’s preposterous “Whomp There It Is” just collide with The Cranberries?

Welcome to the new dance age – where we rush the stage and cavort around the shirtless scarecrow-skater-punk hunched over his glowing lab top. The rave as morphed by the iTunes Generation, where any given dancer is armed with a personal iPod of untold gigabyte capacities.
The quick and dirty take on GirlTalk is that he is a “mash-up-artist”/DJ who pieces together 4-minute intensely layered dance tracks with downright delicious beats, piecing together clip after clip after clip of Top 40 tunes: classic rock, hip/hop, techno, dance, electronica, folk – nothing is off limits, even the most cheesiest of $1 used-bin record store pap, all maddeningly and pleasurably swathed together into forceful, flying tunes of irresistible rages where choruses rise and fall, mere measures of masterpieces pirouette like this bug-eyed New Jersey computer composer (with staggering scope of musical taste) has a history-spanning collection of mp3’s, pointing at Missy Elliott to sing 2 measures, then swinging over to The Band, or to Outkast, or to Sly and the Family Stone or Public Enemy or, yes, Nirvana. All over, all around, up and down, left right, a-b-a-start-select. Dance! Wait, Cheap Trick? Hendrix? Beats!
Often, the inclusion of some of the more embarrassing ditties serves as a somewhat painful reminder of the growing-pains-development of the listener’s musical taste. But it’s an intense and carefree ‘we can laugh about it now’ type situation, pulsed by the pounding beats and a cunning construction.
A Girl Talk release is fascinating on many levels because of the debate it causes: do these storming crowds really heed all of the songs washing over them, are they able to digest it or is it too overwhelming? Will they have clipboards out to check off Elvis Costello, or will they shrug off dancing over 20 seconds of Ghetto Superstar over Yo La Tengo. Secondly, Girl Talk’s Greg Gillis inevitably raises contempt from “real” musicians or even fellow DJ’s (who prefer vinyl) for relying on the ease and power of a lab top. Thirdly, how does a critic approach this?
Only you can answer the first. But the second—understand that Gillis is a DJ at heart and his ability as a “maximal-ist” in cramming such an intricately laid, eclectic blend of styles and sounds into one palatable dance track is commendable. Like any DJ, he is controlling emotion, just punching it up to the most hyper level, way beyond the minimalist break. Thirdly, critics…well, there comes a time when we have to consider how fun an album is…how rewarding of an experience the artist creates. This is mostly a continuation of 06’s Night Ripper, only things feel even more heart-racing demonstrated by the accelerated playbacks of vocals from the more standard entries of slower ballads. Mostly, damned if it isn’t just fun. Of Montreal? Hot Chip? Tone Loc? Ice Cube? All here together.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fiberglass Freakout preview part 3: The Volcanos


Deep Cutz:
6/21 Bohemian National Home
The sweet shimmy-shake surf rock of the Volcanos will be on the opening-side of the 10-band line up at the Fiberglass Freakout. To even skim the history of the Volcanos is to just view the tip iceberg for the Rick Mills/Chris Flanagan legacy – not so easily summarized as many band profiles, hell, these guys could have an entire book written about them at this point. The cool, driving pipeline grooves and jittery sun-soaked tones of their invigorating surf-project, which started in 1994 (with bass player Dave Fragale), is just the latest in a line of collaborations between the two musicians, who have been playing/working together since 1980.

The indelible 3-D Invisibles were started in 1981 brewing a lightly grimed punk and early 60’s garage pop. Shortly after, they started a band called the Zombie Surfers, which, expectedly, planted the seed for the Volcanos. “The Zombie Surfers did a mix of surf instrumental covers and horror novelty records,” said Rick Mills (aka Creepy Rick.) “The Volcanos is kind of an upgrade of that, with more focus on original material and the guitar interplay.” The line up includes: Mills (guitar), Flanagan (guitar), Bill Bowen (drums), and Mark Brainerd (current bass.) "We've done other spin-off bands over the years with basically the personnel, each with a different niche genre: The KAOS Killer (60s spy), Screamin' Savage & the Cavemen (50s & 60s trash rock & roll), the Hellbenders (spaghetti western flavored instros and gunfighter songs), and our most recent venture, the Meltdowns (British beat meets garage). The Volcanos is just part of our history of projects."

Mills has been playing guitar for 40 years and has been in bands since the late 70’s, starting on the Detroit punk scene. His resume includes: The Seat Belts, R.U.R. and the Crayon Killers.

The Volanos, meanwhile, have released 2 albums, Surf Quake and Finish Line Fever, scorching side-swiping cruisers and beach side swingers filled with that enthralling and golden 60’s surf vibe. They’ve played shows throughout the country, on the Surfari USA tour, the Las Vegas Rockaround and the Chicago Exotica show (with Rick’s idols, the Trashmen.)

Asked what drew him surf in the mid-80’s…Rick said, “That's hard to pin down. Probably in part due to my punk days of stripping things down to basics. It's more tasteful, more of a "band" sound, as opposed to a bunch of guys wacking off on their instruments. Plus, it represents an era that's appealing to me. Having fun in the sun in the 60s. I don't know, it's just COOL!

The Volanos play second, at the Bohemian National Home, Saturday, 6/21.

Fiberglass Freakout preview part 2: OBLISK

OBLISK - atmospheric space rockers have released their new full length, and join the line-up at the Fiberglass Freakout.

(photo by: Matt Iannuzzi)

Born from the dark and disaffected haunt-grooves of late 70’s/early 80’s post-punk, blended into the unhinged cloudy cerebral dissertations of late 60’s head jams, and stretched back again into late 80’s indie-noise scorched soul feedback; the sounds are insular and chilling, with an effecting intimation of propulsive longing – an endless search through the bleary and bewitching warp tunnels of an obliterating black hole – electro howls warble into subtle surf tone guitar reflections and coaxing 60’s drug-pop snake-charmer vocals and distinct percussions bearing unique takes that always facilitate the scene. Words like atmospheric, foggy, disorienting, hypnotic, shimmering and beautiful come to mind, a shunting, psychedelic sound.

The local quartet includes Asim Akhtar, Roy Elturk, Nick Baran and Kyle Babcock. Their debut full length, Tune In/Tune Out was recently released. Listen/learn.

The mesmeric sounds of Oblisk will be filling the stage at Fiberglass Freakout, at the Bohemian National Home, Saturday, 6/21, with sounds conjuring as much 13th Floor Elevators as it is My Bloody Valentine as it is Brian Jonestown Massacre as it is Joy Division.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Office (playing 6/21 at the Magic Bag) - Interview


American Gothic: Scott Masson and Office find theirleaverage

Jeff Milo
(photos by John Sturdy)

"We're human and we're artists," Office singer Scott Masson says, "and we almost fell apart." He's recounting the Chicago pop quintet's woeful yet exciting year of hope and deception, romanticism smudged with sobering bullshit, member rotations and the deflating promises of labels. Now the stalwart songwriter is a bit more hardened, a bit darker or at least warier in his reflective discourse on music. Most importantly, the newly reenergized quintet has learned a lot and is now confidently forging its own path in this mad mp3 music world.

Masson hails from Milford, MI, growing up with members from other popular locals such as Jeremy Freer ("the closest thing to Chopin around,") Drew Bardo from the Questions and Sean Lynch ("one of the best lyricists and engineers in this country") from 800beloved, (who plays with Office Saturday at the Magic Bag, also with Star.)

He's always been a dynamic songwriter: mastering the realm of propulsive, lush pop with a subtle r&b vibe sliding under a shimmery new-wave/disco-dance sheen, delivered with baffling 60's-pop-hooks in manner of stately chamber-pop; guided by the glorified heart-melting euphoria of big, brash and catchy pop gentries such as Motown, Beach Boys, Zombies and all of that dizzying exuberance exuded by those sweet sounds, taken and transmogrified into “the big bang jump” of a fashionably apocalyptic milieu of an already seasick 21st century culture.

In July, they'll leak out The Silent Parade (on the internet – for free “for a few weeks in July before we settle in with an indie label that suits us,”) their quasi-follow-up to A Night at the Ritz, (a ambivalently regarded album from a brief stint with New Line/Scratchie records which ended a bit turbulently.) "It's a reaction to the way things are going," said Masson, "a gift to our audience, redemption after a weird year, and a reminder to people that we seriously don't care about status."

When Masson moved out to Chicago, he was still struggling with shit day jobs to support his songwriting; until he decided to leave that all behind; to forget all the draining drone office jobs, the vicious soul sucking snipes of food service, or the literal shit of janitorial work. Masson is flushed with melodies. And, damn it, these must come out. He quit his day job, took out a $10,000 loan and devoted himself to music 24/7, pushing himself to write, to record, non-stop in his apartment, without a weekly check, without a time-card to punch.

He's been playing music since 2nd grade and got into sculpting in college, eventually developing "office"-themed shows where he'd cover galleries in Xerox paper, dangle cell-phones from the ceiling and engage in performance art of drinking/displaying bottled water. His penchant for electronic music and dance-friendly sensibilities was inspired by living in London and observing/partaking of the dance and club-culture there in the late 90's.

Crafting pop ballads in the bedroom of his apartment eventually bore the minor masterpiece of Q & A, the fateful collection of escapist-pop, lush post-modernist love songs and jilted joie de vivre that would, after touring the album through 06 and playing at Lollapalooza, help get the attention of the Scratchie/New Line label.

The strange thing was that the label wanted the band to rerecord some of Q&A's material and combine it as a 50-50 old-new combo for a new album (which would become A Night at the Ritz.) Apparently the label liked Q&A well enough, but found it "were too "lo-fi" for grand, mainstream consumption."

"We are so over it all, and ready to move on, and focus on our new music," said Scott. " We're like drama-free in 2008, after the most Shakespearian-mind-numbing 2006-2007 you can possibly imagine. Everybody has forgiven everybody. We're all in our late 20s now, and everybody who is in the band now is here because they want to be playing this music. That's what it's all about. We hold little regard for anything outside the music or artistic part of what we do."

Guitarist Tom Smith contributed to writing; Colin DeKuiper has joined on bass with Sara Jean Stevens and Justin Peteril (keys) with original drummer Erica Corniel.

Sophisticated and ironic, full of energy and jumped-up poppy alacrity, yet still well aware that people can be complete shit to each other; so romantic and starry-eyed in glaze and melody, yet healthily doubtful that anyone knows what love is in the internet age.

Here’s the Un-Cutz interview with Masson (see Office live, Saturday at the Magic Bag.)


what's the latest news with the band? in terms of writing/recording? how has the songwriting been going lately and what kind of influences/styles have you been riffing off?

SM: Creatively, we haven't been this inspired in years, and after being held back by outside forces for so long, we're very grateful to be making music in the studio / onstage that represents where we're at now as a creative entity. It's been so much fun to just set up a bunch of microphones and know that nobody is going to mess with our sound, nor is anybody going to fight us on any artistic decision we make visually or sonically. Tom Smith, our guitar player, has brought his song-writing into the picture, which takes away some of the predictability for me. His song-writing also makes things a little more difficult to pin-point with the band, which is very refreshing, since I pretty much like to confuse the notion of what a typical "frontman" type of guy is. We've removed that ideology, and it creates an interesting dialogue with the audience, who are very used to focusing on one guy in the front. It's like everybody is the main attraction in OFFICE.

Our new bass player, Colin DeKuiper, is a road warrior, a brilliant bass player, and came from a background of more progressive styles of music. He brings a melodic edge to his bass playing that compliments the vocal melodies quite nicely. Erica Corniel, our drummer, has been holding it down like she always has, and never fails to keep the songs from trailing off into outer space. She's the best. We have been working with other friends too. This all works out very well for us, since the melodic and structural aspects of our music have been getting so much more involved in the past year. I've been the chief decision-maker in OFFICE for 8 years, so it's been nice to balance everybody else's melodic ideas with my own. I guess you can say we've had our "hits" in the past that have made it onto the radio, or the parking lots of TGIFridays, and even the dressing rooms of Forever 21, so it's been brilliant to just mess with that equation and jerk our audience and detractors around into something kinda bizarre for pop music. It keeps everybody guessing and uncomfortable.

So what happened? Leaving the label and the confusion over A Night at the Ritz?

Our label experience was just super weird on a lot of levels. I call it our "bad teenage slasher film" period. With all due respect to James Iha and the staff at New Line Cinema, whom we love very much on a personal level, I can't reveal too much information about what happened. It's not that big of a deal anyway, since there are earthquakes and cyclones happening in other parts of the world right now. I'm also not going to sit here and let things fester in my mind, because I feel that holding back the truth can be a counter-productive way of living and communicating with people interested in our music. It's important to move on, and not remain too emotional about any business that went astray. I will say that our experience with that label was not what we wanted it to be, and all of us are better off not working together. Our artistic process was compromised multiple times against our own wishes, and this is something that none of us ever wanted when we signed the contract. I realized throughout our experience of being on Scratchie / New Line Records, that we will never let outsiders into the creative process ever again. We tried to remain open-minded about ideas, and it got super hairy. Whack engineers, deaf mastering people, executive producers, rock stars, trendy mixers, cheese-ball marketing folks, etc. There's a false sense of leverage that goes on in this business. Being on that type of label just confused us. They did do some cool things for us, like our video for "Oh My".

My feeling is that if you fail to listen to what the artists want to achieve within their work, and not let them have 100% control over every decision, then everybody loses in the end. You should sign an artist because you like their work and have faith in it, and trust that the artist will grow and make their own decisions because they love their craft and know what is right for the work at hand. We were young, stupid, and got sucked in. It could have been a lot worse though. I'm really grateful for how cool James and the staff were with handling everything in the end, and getting us out of the deal. We're all still friends.

We feel great these days, empowered, free, confident about our current music. We're like drama-free in 2008, after the most Shakespearian-mind-numbing 2006-2007 you can possibly imagine. Everybody has forgiven everybody. We're all in our late 20s now, and everybody who is in the band now is here because they want to be playing this music. That's what it's all about. We hold little regard for anything outside the music or artistic part of what we do.

What have you learned from your forays into the belly of the dark beast: the ‘biz’?

- I've learned that you should just keep creating, no matter what. You should turn your phone off, and avoid people with bad coke habits. Never let the business take over, or ruin the fun. Say "no" as often as possible, be diplomatic, think before you act upon something, and if your gut tells you a deal is slightly off, stay far away from it. Let your audience come to you, and don't let anybody shove it down the throat of the public. Most importantly, the band should never shove their music down the throat of the public.

There are so many leeches in this business, and all of them will attempt to take credit for any success you have, and those same people will blame you for the failures you encounter as a so-called "team". Great song-writing and cool production are becoming a lesser concern for most of the people in the biz, and it seems to be heading in a direction of neon handkerchiefs, tight black pants, creepy mustaches, bad vector design, ultra-digital culture, and yacht rock.....or should I say, "yuppy rock"?. All fashion, and no substance. Fashion, by definition, means some kind of conformity or uniformed display that other people can agree on. Fashion can be a "sound" too. It's all a uniform these days. It feels as though people are afraid of something they can't put into a box, or sculpt to their own scene's needs.

Contracts are for chumps, and if somebody ever approaches you with a contract in this MP3 age, you should expect that you will be bending over later on. Count on it.....even if they say they're your best friend at that moment! The internet can be your greatest tool, so learn everything you can about technology, and become friends with computer geniuses. My feeling is that if a person really wants your talent, they will work on a hand-shake agreement, and pay you your share equally, and promptly.

We were in our middle-20s when we entered this business. We looked good, and people focussed on that first. We wore the suits, did the whole OFFICE thing as a visual trip for awhile, kept our faces clean, and our eyes and minds wide open. The music was always our focus though. The visual trip was us poking fun at the whole spectacle, and very few got the joke. Man, people in the indie rock community take themselves way too seriously. Our musical hooks were superior in our community, and that's just a fact. We took that seriously. That is why we achieved our success, and I simply will never let any manager, lawyer, marketing person, or large group of similar folks take credit for the hooks that we write. Once you've spent a few nights in the desert, with the vultures picking at your bones, you come out a slightly weathered person. You're wiser, and you don't necessarily have a lot of time for political schmooze, half-assed melodies, or childish lyrics about the party life. The music gets deeper, I think. You can still have fun while saying something, but the dirt of life has to be included. The important thing is to never become jaded in this process either, because that is the kiss of death for all great art.

What did you think about Q&A becoming A Night at the Ritz, are you re-releasing Q&A as it was?

We had been forced to go backwards and revisit old music at the request of our label, and this was when we were ready to work on something new. We were also led to believe that we had "complete artistic control" during this process. This was our main mistake from the beginning. I should have known better that you never go backwards. We were just nervous about the whole thing, and excited at the possibility of sharing our music with people in other countries. We're all to blame for it. Our plan was to simply re-master Q&A and release it quickly to the public. 2 weeks, tops. It became a year-long process. People started making us re-record everything because our old tracks were too "lo-fi" for grand, mainstream consumption. Ugh!

Q&A was always our little lo-fi baby. Legally, we won't be able to re-release Q&A for another nine years, so I encourage everybody to steal it if they can find it out there, along with the other records we've made in the past.None of us liked A Night At The Ritz in the end, even though those songs are super special to us. Any record that is a frankenstein production hodge-podge, put together by other opinions, is not an OFFICE record.

Q&A was the last record we made, and this summer's "The Silent Parade" is the follow-up to that album. We're really excited about the current results. The musicianship is really wild, freaky, and tight, and the song-writing makes a lot of bands look like hacks. Hey-yo! I think people are going to question our sanity when they hear the record though. When have they not?
Line up changes?

- Our old bass player, Alissa, quit our band because she wanted to pursue other things. Justin has been a collaborator with OFFICE since 2001, when we were both in college back in Kalamazoo, so he's technically the most old-school member. Colin DeKuiper joined us after Alissa left, and we still work with Justin on a lot of things. They are both great musicians, and super nice people, so it's wonderful to be able to have people you can count on like that. I let Jessica, our keyboard player, and our manager go quite recently because there were some old perspectives from last year that weren't working anymore. We know this girl, Sara Jean Stevens, who's an amazing musician, and can sing opera. She's gonna be working with us as well in the future. OFFICE has always been a development project. Nobody is replaceable, but if a member decides they want to leave because they are no longer inspired, or are holding the project back, then the development will have to continue, I guess. That's art.

What are some artists you always return to...

Motown. All of it. I also think "Sexual Eruption" by Snoop Dog is probably the best song I've heard in five years. Everything else besides that song is pretty much rubbish. haha. Ironically, I look to quite a few artists in Michigan for inspiration. Sean Lynch of 800beloved is easily one of the best lyricists and engineers in this country, and I dare anybody to come up with something better on a conceptual level. Jeremy Freer of FREER is the closest thing to Chopin around, and he's been blending the lines between classical, R&B, and pop since the 90s. Casimer Pascal is in his cubistic pop period right now, and I like the fact that his music is so off the wall that I have to rewind it, when I'm usually fast-forwarding other people. Those three artists alone are super powerful, and have made a huge impact. DJ Assault is a huge influence on OFFICE, even though we are completely different. Though I live in Chicago now, I grew up in Detroit music has always been really important to me.

I’m curious about one song on Silent Parade, “The Sleep of Reason,” and if it’s inspired by Francisco Goya’s haunting painting, The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters?

(Guiarist) Tom Smith: Francisco Goya has always been a favorite of mine, and that phrase and image provided a nice framework for reflecting on the current caprices of the American empire. After years of an executive philosophy based on deception, monstrous results are bound to follow. The new material seems to all stem from particular images or moments that have somehow effected us, whether it be from life, love or art.

Masson: There is this impending doom and hope involved with a lot of these new songs, which is normal for the climate these days. "The Silent Parade" is an American gothic, but it's one that will hopefully inspire and make you dance at times. None of us write political music at all though. We feel every song is about love, life, pain, and maybe even dreams. There's a fine line between taking yourself too seriously, and not seriously enough. I think that might be the flaw of this generation. Everything's a party, but then the next day, everything's a blog....a blurry critique of life around party lines (no puns!). We're all confused because we're spoiled, so therefore, we muddy up that confusion with flashy lights, iToys, clothes, food, computers, cars, money, party songs, Paris Hilton, American Idol, too many drugs, and material to take our mind off reality. Cultural criticism is impossible for us to ignore as a band. We'll also never leave out the wonderful aspects of the human experience either. Duality is a must! Even our critical songs are at least kinda humorous. On this new record, there's a song about The Olsen Twins, a song about sleep-walking, a song about hanging in Venice Beach, a song about lies, some songs about girls, and a song about the residue that is left on our flesh after intense love-making. American gothic.

what are your future plans?
- To release "The Silent Parade" in July, play some rock and roll shows, vote for Obama, play Lollapalooza, tour when it makes sense, write some hits, and keep our significant others happy in the process. I want to be a part of an era where mediocrity and banality aren't left unchecked either, so I guess that's why I'm a little more blunt in interviews than I used to be. Nobody makes a ton of money at this anymore. With all this technology, however, you can seriously do a lot by yourself in the music business. The leverage is coming back to the artists. I guess we're just going to keep doing our thing, and progress as writers, musicians, and people

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fiberglass Freakout: The Ruiners


This coming Saturday – it’s the fifth annual Fiberglass Freakout. Featured bands this year include: Qualia, The Questions, The Beggars, Speaking Tongues (from Toronto), the Birddogs and Carjack. Also, the sweet surf sounds of The Vocanos, a Deep-Cutz current favorite: Oblisk, the newly reenergized psyche-folk of Electric Lions (formerly Charlie Don’t Surf), and returning for the first time in a while, The Bad Faces Clan and Heroes and Villains.

It goes down Saturday at the The Bohemian National Home.

Featured here is an un-cutz interview with Rick Lappin (Rick Ruiner) from the infamous Ruiners.

Deep Cutz
Jeff Milo
photos by: Amanda Zee

The 800-pound flaming motorcycle in the room: The Ruiners

"The kind of people who join a band like this are often misfits or cast-offs."

The Ruiners are a wild and fantastic beast; pure white lightning; a sexy car barreling through a crumbling tunnel surging sparks in the direction of what looks like self-destruction, yet the car handles hellacious commotion ever so gracefully, as the driver grins through the melting windshield and decides to stomp on the gas.

"This is the only band I've been in where we had to bail someone out of jail on the way to a gig, break up a balcony fight in a foreign country, or get a restraining order on a member."

Rick Ruiner has been working at this for more than 10 years. Countless are the nights where he's willingly, enthusiastically tumbled into fits of wanton chaos and self-sacrificing mayhem – be it lighting himself on fire, smashing television sets or handing out baseball bats to those in attendance.

"In addition to typical band problems, all bands deal with, we had our share of set backs most bands don't seem to have; club bannings, beatings, court enforced restraining orders, jail terms, cat fights, pregnancies, bankruptcies, heart attacks, overdoses, emergency room visits, fire, lost passports, occasional nudity, and a Christmas day death threat-its all been part of this 10 year ride with the people I have played with in The Ruiners. I love this band, and there are always people wanting to get in it. Even the flakes who talk shit about us, still use us on their music resume'. It takes something this special to bring out such hatred, energy and raw emotion."

It’s a wavy beat-heavy side-to-side spin-out, chugging and belching black smoke and roaring a vicious buzz; flavors of psychobilly/bubble-gum/motorcycle-rock/metal and simple blatant disregard for…anything, be it safety or grace.

“Originally The Ruiners was a two piece band out of Lincoln Park,” said lead singer Rick Ruiner. “It all started when I ran into high school friend Rob Moon, while working at Chrysler. We wanted to do something primitive. He played drums, I sang and "played" guitar. We eventually inherited a full band, because there were so many people partying, sleeping and jamming at that house-people would just sit in and become members. At last count there have been 23 members in this band. The full line ups never quite changed at once. It was more like 2-3 members leaving/disappearing at the same time (usually after a tour) and the remaining members, grafting new people on.”

“When the band went into more of a performance art based, appliance- smashing fiasco, Rob bailed. We used to go out on garbage day and find van loads of unusual things to smash at the weekend gigs-vacuums, washer machines, toys, or we would just grab random bags of trash and it was a big surprise when the crowd started tearing into them. One bag had egg shells, coffee grounds, and porn-a hardy American breakfast. I rode a 400cc dirt bike around inside venues, including the upstairs of the magic stick, filled the room with smoke, and burned rubber around the pool tables. And there has been some fire over the years-lets just say a lot of fire.”

“The band was never stuck on any particular sound. There are a few gems as well as some real garbage on all the records until "More Tongue less Lip"-which was never actually released. That was a perfect rock record. It has a psychedelic piece Jim Diamond hand mixed-which is just amazing. Everything recorded prior to more tongue less lip, was problematic for one reason or another.”

Often, in the frenzied stomping mad jubilance of an invigorating and somewhat frightening Ruiners set, Rick will douse his leather pants in lighter fluid and controllably, but still riskily, set himself on fire. “I always wanted to be a stunt man. I used to light my BMX bike on fire and jump ramps in from of my house for the neighborhood kids-lets face it, mostly for the sake of the girls. I would jump off the second story roof of the neighbor's house into their pool when they were gone. In high school we did some dangerous car stunts on dirt roads. I rolled a friend's mother's car on its side once. We were all in our pajamas and had to knock on doors at 2 am to get someone to help us roll it back over, then sneak it back to the house before her boyfriend dropped her off. It was kind of like that growing up down river. We were all being raised by our single mothers, made our own bikes and wore latchkeys around our necks.”

In the near future, the Ruiners will complete a new record, which Rick has high hopes for: “This will be the first Ruiners collaborative record and should be our best effort to date. Over the years I wrote 95% of everything-including drum parts. Now, its fun to show up and just sing for a change with a competent and creative group of loyal people.”

Rick notes that there is renewed stability – in the current line up: (Justin Ruiner-guitar, Liz Ruiner-Bass, Erik Ruiner-Organ, Rob Ruiner-Drums, Trixi Turner-back-ups (part time), Russian Ruiner(Nina Friday)-Back ups (Full time)) and in the recording process (as their past recordings were cluttered either by a lack of momentum or miscues by labels.)

“Our next record is in the works,” concluded Rick, “-it's a great party record with a lot of fuzzed out sounds, primitive drums, plenty of sex appeal, and greasy bar room grit-that is what we do best.”

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Detour: Aftermath - What Do We Take Away...

The lines are blurred and the field is flat and everyone knows someone and everyone is in a band.

It was a perfect moment. Nights of pure sunshine whimsicality and hypnotic displays. Already a worn overplayed memory, a knowing nod and an exuberant hug.

Detroit is not Manchester and it is not Portland and it is not Berlin. Detroit is not Austin and it is not Baltimore and it is not New York. But, it should be noted with pride, that none of those places are Detroit. We have something here that other communities could aspire to - hidden between shadowy side streets and crumbling curbs and smoking sewers and abandoned houses - a veritable army of artists and musicians - a force to be reckoned with.

Here we are, dimming the lights on another massive local music festival, (Detour's second since september 07, and two more to add onto the history of 11 MetroTimes/Hamtramck Blowouts.) There are no profound cultural epiphanies, no life altering experiences and no stars were necessarily born. There's no free love movement, no acid kool aid test or Hendrix-ian freak outs. There's not even Jack White. There's just us. And each other's company. And the maddeningly invigorating realization that we live in an artistic community so forceful, so expressive, that you are in the minority if you aren't in a band. (Or if you're not a blogger.)

Organic and homegrown. Not shipped in for a SXSW.

On the first night of the Detour Rock City festival, a conflagration of sorted emotions floating around the exceptional turn-out, from tense to loving to jubilant to judgmental, this unique and awkward event began feeling much like a ceremony, or at least like the informal ease of a backyard barbecue. With many of the bands on the first night's roster, The Hard Lessons, Prussia, Wildcatting, Champions of Breakfast, Deastro, Javelins, Thunderbirds Are Now, being bands that have been playing a lot of shows throughout the Spring, the excitement level was not gaged to anticipation, but closer to casual celebration - more of an acknowledgement to how many unique and talented musicians we have running around this smokey concrete slab of a city.

There will be, as always, those who stayed away out of something resembling an adversarial rejection of younger bands, or bitterness toward "the scene"; or many may have come out simply to judge - to people-watch the crowd or to criticize the bands.

These cold and merciless entities floating around the acrimonious playground of the internet live for instances like the Detour Rock City Fest, where there's all this sputtering attention poured upon one location at one time, they strike, ruthless and callous, cold and precise, like snipers anonymous comments posted upon the gossip-mills of blogs.

Or, as a friend put it to me as we stood in the shadowed and more spacious back area of the Majestic Theatre main floor as we surveyed the expanding crowd at much-anticipated Von Bondies set, that "half of these people are just here to judge" the Von Bondies, most likely already making their mind up before the first note.

Watch stoically, with your arms crossed and eyes thin. Take it all in. Then write about it tomorrow. Tear it to shreds. The energy should be focused positively, intead. Not that you can't call a band out when they suck...certainly that is vital. There are hits and misses here, just as there are in any scene. But, man,...what a least in scope. Detroit is spoiled. Spoiled with bands. But, inevitably, upon the worthless and invisible pages of the human death rattle known as the internet, local blogs are brimming with baffling amounts of often viscious diatribes from sometimes-anonymous-posters who bring out long-knives-rants condemning the validity, the talent, the coolness, or the relevancy of any and all of those who were “on the scene” the night before.

I'll certainly remember all the great sounds and performances of the weekend. But what I'll remember most is the warm vibe of support and camaraderie amongst all those in attendance. This is ours. No city is Detroit.

And that's what we take away from Rock City. That we are overwhelmingly potent, disgustingly healthy,...spoiled...with music, bands and art (-indeed, there was even a Wolfman rally a block north of the Majestic on the last night, at the stalwart MOCAD building.)

With such varying styles and so much pure, visceral emotion, poured out upon these stages - we are living history. A glut of bands, like em or hate em, should never be taken for granted. Let us go mad with this boundless excess of art, be it from the most primitive to the most precise. We are all musicians, we are all historians.

So here's to Detour - and here's to the fans - and here's to all the performers.

(pictures by Mike Milo)