Thursday, January 30, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

Prelude to a Berserker

"...I'm pretty sure it will be totally insane in there..."

"...over time I've collected ideas from various fests that I've attended and/or performed at. Local and national, big and small. Eventually it seemed like something I could pull off..."

Shawn Knight is getting ready to helm his first Music Fest.
The singer/guitarist/keyboardist of Detroit's own preeminent metal-inspired, groove-tempered, noise-rock-maximalists curated four days of live music, hosted by the W.A.B./Loving Touch complex. 

"I'm imagining these 3 stages as a mini Majestic/Magic Stick/Garden Bowl. The venue size is proportionate to the types of bands that I wanted."

In terms of the size of the venue, the spreading of stages, he's kept things considerably small - or more so, manageable. The acts invited to play though... In terms of style, volume (and in most of the cases, performance) are nary small nor manageable. 
Wolf EyesMacabreRingworm(Yes, Child Bite, too)Terrible TwosOld GodsGolden TorsoOozing Woundmany...many...more

"I guess, over time," said Knight, "I've collected ideas from various fests that I've attended or I've performed-at, be they local, national, big or small. Eventually it seemed like something I could pull off.
BERSERKER! Feb. 5-8th 2014. All ages, 50 bands, advance passes only $20. Tickets available at the WAB, UHF, Found Sound, and Stormy Records.

"I'm hoping to fill the gap left...about 10 years Michiganfest" says Knight. "That being, a collection of national and local underground bands within the punk and metal genres (and sub-genres)."

Asked of the inevitable/unfortunate misconceptions of -or aversions towards a live music event prominently featuring acts of an "avant-garde" nature..... Knight says:
"It's definitely not for everyone. For fans of the genres that are represented, it's not a hard sell. But, for's cheap enough cover for them to take a chance on."

I'd recommend it... If my word as a blogger's worth anything: Live a little! When's the last time you went berserk? Certifiably berserk? Berzerkers have teeth, man. They are inherently exciting, savage and bracing biters, man. It is, if nothing else, an engaging format of music...

Knight said he's not going for the local-only angle, for this event, mostly because there's enough of those happening already. "I wanted to make something a bit bigger. Child Bite tours a lot, so I've met a bunch of great bands that way. I also wanted to have regional headliners that would get people excited (Old Gods, Wolf Eyes...) Obviously lots of the performing bands are from the Detroit area and I'me excited to celebrate the local scene, too."

More from Knight, as he reviews the line-up....
"Oozing Wound is a great new thrash band on Thrill Jockey records. Sean Clancy (Child Bite bassist) turned me on to them, and I'm excited to have them on board. Young Widows are buddies of Child Bite; we generally book their Detroit shows for them. This will be a one-off performance for them, and I believe they will be playing new tunes off of their upcoming full length."

"I haven't played extreme-metal since high school," says Knight (who is also an outstanding graphic artist and CCS graduate). "But, I do still listen to that stuff and I'm excited to have it well represented at this fest."

There will be ten bands consolidated into the Loving Touch on the Fest's final day (the result of a "scheduling snafu"). "This is the day Ringworm plays, as well as Beast in the Field and Child Bite," Knight points out. "So, I'm pretty sure it will be totally insane in there. I can't imagine a more appropriate climax."

More info

Wild Things: Ingenious Sub-genius

I wanted to find an image or a video that could succinctly communicate the uninhibited, unleashed hyper-evolved weirdness celebrated by the Detroit Subgenius Thing next week...

This might work...

Barefoot in the windpipe-coughed wilderness of Detroit, using your stringed scepter and ceremonial drum to do an acid-rain dance... Caveman Woodman & Bam Bam Moss - pure and raw and raw and pure - a Hulk-like flex focused into three-chord glory and stripped-kit kickers. 

But then there's the Amino Acids and there's Carjack. Behind their masks are minds keen on the inherent energy and imagination required to render a properly baffling rock-show - be it surf-punk from Saturn or spaced-out-garage-boogie from Pluto - 

While The Disinformants and All The Wild Children hold down the psychedelic-soul side of things, shredded into a metallic salad of varying grades of avant-garde indie-rock flavors.

Downtown Brown, for crying out loud!

There's a time and a place for "Johnny B. Goode" and all that poppy Beatles stuff, there's a time and a place for catchy "Born To Run" ballads...
But it is not this time.

This show is a reminder:
Rock should be...can be...and needs to be...
Almost frightening.
...........But not savage.... Not regressive... Not primitive...
Just pure.
And weird.
And loud.

FEB 1ST    SMALL'S     9PM 

CARJACK - Theme 2013 (Music Video) from Mike Rozman on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Hip In Detroit's 2-Year Bash: #MusicTalk with The Ill Itches

Tunde Olaniran / The HandGrenades / Rebel Spies / Autumn Wolf
and The Ill Itches -with Ancient Language DJ-ing between

Saturday, Feb 1st 

That's two years and counting, now, for hip in detroit ~ the hip hub of local love (and lots of Michigan music news).

That's one year and counting, now, for a band on the bill for that blog's "birthday concert" - that being The Ill Itches. The group essentially debuted at last year's Metro Times Blowout (May, 2013), having gestated with wayward focus and cranked-up amplifiers within the cacophonous confines of a basement - displaying, at their youngest stages of 9-10 months ago - proclivities toward rickety, rambunctious garage rock.

Guitarist Joshua Woodcock has been playing for music most of still-yet-young life. He's even spent considerable time living in Japan, performing music and enmeshing himself into that unique scene. But over the last two years, he went from performing in Hit Society, to, most recently, The Ill Itches (with Stephen Schmidt on vocals/guitar, Matt Mruzek on bass/vocals and Matt Livengood on drums).

Woodcock: "We just went in and said: 'Let's play loud...'"

So, it had a howl, as all punk should, but it wasn't a honed howl: its voice cracked, it shoulder-checked you as a sign of affection, it went from 0-60 from song-one. That made quite a first impression. But now the band's had time to evolve, their voluminous, raucous style, has found a synchronicity. The drums have gotten space to shimmy, the bass is given a few breaks to show some funky licks... the guitars, with those strutting hooks, and the vocals, with their curdling creaks and saliva-screamed taunts - are still as attitudinal as ever. But still...synchronicity... loud, fast (delicately dissonant) synchronicity.

And now, after a sold-out performance a couple weeks ago at the Loving Touch (and a year in which they spearheaded a live compilation titled Pathetic Sounds of Detroit, the group is looking forward with renewed confidence.

How'd Year-One go?

"We've been pretty true to what we set out to do - which was really letting everyone's own personalities mesh into whatever song we were making. We've had a lot of great people help us out along the way. The people that understood what we were doing and helped us go out and play our music in front of people are really the force behind what we do...

This hip in detroit party is ticked up near the levels (big occasion, big line up, big celebration) of some other local festivals - like last months Secret Friends Fest. Fests can be an opportunity to have a scene-check-up... To contemplate what we've got going on around here, as a music community...

"This scene's definitely more diverse than others I've seen, personally. It's a huge mix of people who've gotten past the all eyes on Detroit-phase. Everyone is doing whatever music they feel like, not caring who's watching. There's so many good musicians in Detroit and everyone's always at other people's shows to check them out and just to get into what they're listening to. It's definitely a town where you get a fast-crash-course into what you're doing right and wrong. New bands can pop out of  nowhere and surprise you - like YUM at the Secret Friends Fest as a good example."

"Hip In Detroit has a ton of awesome bands and those girls are at the shows all the time and I think they really put together a diverse line up to showcase Detroit music."

Thoughts on Hip In Detroit, then, as you've followed-them and they've followed-you (and subsequently followed almost every other around town, here...) They've established themselves as a notably positive hub of support for the scene...

"They're great. They work so hard to support this scene and they're at shows all the time. If they can't make one, you'll get messages later apologizing and asking how it went. They've helped out a lot of local bands."

"Everyone at shows, that I see, are musical in some respect. The people in this town really know their stuff. Everyone in the community definitely seems really connected to what's going on and proactive in keeping it moving forward. So we're looking forward to supporting the people that have really supported us over the last year."

The Ill Itches have a 7" coming out soon, while they continue to write and record new material.

For samples of the other bands on this bill
Tunde OlaniranAutumn WolfThe HandGrenadesRebel Spies 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Listening to: Mogwai - Rave Tapes

Yes, Mogwai's new album is dark.

But it also wants you to question: "what do you choose...(?)"

There's an entire song that pays tribute to the "subliminal messages" of certain rock recordings - given ode with a spooky spoken word performance over droning organs swelling into a banshee prayer shimmer and a metallic shuffle of guitars.

Set aside that the question above is suggestive of the very real influence of Satan upon the musical arts.

That's part of Rave Tapes MO - it's the soundtrack of a sinister entity encouraging (challenging?) you into a staring contest. The music isn't abrasive, it isn't impenetrable, it's not spazzy speed-punk mosh tempos and it's not ear-murdering, throat-saw death metal... But it's eerie.

It's groovy and eerie. And some of it is actually quite enticing. But it's dark. It's a question of whether you choose to reach for a light switch, or stay locked into their grooves.

It's all about shading. Digging into the serrated, murky forests of Rave Tapes means that with each successive track, another subtle canopy, a fog of synths or a particulate-swirling gale of buzzy bass, a reverberating-flock of guitars fluttering together like a murder of crows, riffing as the black wings beat, blocking out the light as you churn, churn, churn, sawing synthesizers and plodding bass, riffing guitar....deeper into the forest, as each song builds it becomes more and more layered, you're not descending and you, yourself, are not becoming possessed in anyway, it's just that you're being enveloped by the musical elements. The comforting sunshine (those ostensibly glimmering/comforting sunrays of pop, or indie-rock, or vocal-based, melodic rock reverent of the major-keys...) is being blocked out by a gnarlier sound, a darker sound....

But it never drones on... No, it never drones and it never drowns you... It just allows you to sort wander ever-forwards with it... Until you find a new kind of light inside their darkness.

Then you know you've been listening to long... But, then, that was your choice.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Beekeepers: Methodical Chaos

Patrick's got some demons. I don't know if these are bad demons or good demons - but I know that the music he makes is certainly good - even if it sounds wholly weird, inconsistent, freaky or insistently sardonic --to your ears. Your ears are just weird in their own way - just as my ears are weird - but my ears, damn it, respond to the certain weirdness of the music made by Patrick's band: The Beekeepers.
Jan 24th --- ---- New Dodge Lounge --- --- 

Patrick Robinson (just one bass-wielding component of this outfit) struggles with his demons and what they tell him about his music. "...The Beekeepers don't seem to fit in, which I find strange."

"We aren't that weird..."

Early rock n' roll, doo-wop, acid-jazz, post-bop, tin-pan alley, psychedelic noise-rock... My receptors flare up whenever I hear a Beekeepers song... "It's all too much..." as George Harrison once sang, "...for me to take...," as the group's songs blaze along like a montage of styles, flavors from idealized "era's" or moods from half-forgotten film soundtracks, noises from the nightmares you tuck away into the cordoned-off carnival of your childhood-memory museum. Like haunted honey, like a blackhole-sun, even! 

"I consider our songs to have a formal structure," says Robinson, who writes and performs with Patrick McGlew, Pete Steffey, Jeff Else, Jeremy Franchi and Brandon Robinson. "It's true that we have always liked to fuck-around, musically. However, in a live setting, we prefer to give the audience discrete packets of music. (It's) a little chaos here and there, but there is a method."

Beekeepers strength, their charm, is their caprice. To have one song go from a punk-tempo'ed rock vibe into a whirling waltz... "Our sound is not the result of conscious intentions." No surprise.

"We have our own unique angles, but we are also unafraid to subdue ourselves to the will of the collective spirit."

Now we're talking! Maybe it's less caprice, and more something intangible, something supernatural within the songs that weirds-people-out in good ways or bad.... Good demons...bad demons... melodic demons nonetheless!

Robinson is his own worst-judge, he admits. "I love talking to other musicians, to revel in the joy of music and to commiserate about the biz. For bands that want to maintain artistic integrity these days, the prospect of making money is grim..." Which, our point being, it can be either discouraging or encouraging for an eclectic, or weird--band - Because you truly can be as weird as you want! But what end? Maddening! But empowering! But, also, maddening!

The Beekeepers have finished up a new album that will be "very different" from last winter's release. "McGlew, our former frontman, recently left the group and moved to Finland to see what there is to see.... He is still our biggest fan. And, the new album will be full of desperation...and...madness."

Up next, the Beekeepers will release a single on local X! Records (spring) and the aforementioned album comes out in the autumn.

Sooner, rather than later: Expect a proper CD Release show celebrating their 2010 debut... (a disc that never got its proper moment to shine).

Jan 24th --- ---- New Dodge Lounge --- ---

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hollow & Akimbo: Sharp fluidity

I sent a letter to Hollow & Akimbo. 

You haven't met them yet?

They're an Ann Arbor area trio that blend exuberant synthesizers over buzzy bass lines, muscled post-punk rhythms and whipping guitars under these affable-to-agitated lyrics that go from mid-high indie croon into creaky soulful falsettos, turning on a danceable dime. (This edgy, erratic and aerodynamic delivery, vocally, actually inspired that skeletal-sounding "akimbo" part of their name.)

One part rock, one part darkly atmospheric electronica, one part weirdly soulful synth-pop... And then, I don't know what the other 25% could be... In fact, it's really only just becoming to be...

The band formed less than a year ago. Local listeners will recognize Jon Visger's voice (as well as his abstract ideas on how to approach pop-song construction) from his comparable work with Mason Proper. Brian Konicek contributed his exceptional guitar talents to that band...but now the pair are making music together as Hollow & Akimbo. Mike Higgins, meanwhile, our percussionist, fostered a creative collaboration as the talented sidemen for Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr (a.k.a. Daniel Zott and Josh Epstein).

Sidemen no longer - the trio released their debut E.P. last month (Pseudoscience).
And next week they'll have a 5-song singles package (with remixes) of their latest song, "Singularity," (streaming above).
But tomorrow - January 17th - they perform at Woodruff's in Ypsilanti (36 Cross St.) with The Cold Wave and El Dee  

If anything, I'd say that Hollow & Akimbo sound like the results of an experiment where the musical mad scientists decided they weren't going to prevaricate over how far they'd explore one genre, vibe, mood, sound or instrument... Fuck synth-rock - it's always too much one thing or the other and often failing to realize all its potential or employ all of its feasible aural reactions. Most of their first batch of songs don't hold back from any grandiosity -when it comes to synth-effects, or dynamic guitars, or keep-keep-keep-going drum clasps, or those eerie atmospheric screeches splashing across the bridge (did I just hear a whale singing?) ...wait, there's Jon's voice teased up and breathless as the hyper-techno beat...with no turning back...

So anyway... I wrote them a letter.

And they decided to each take turns writing a sentence of response...

So this, really, is the comprehensive response (encompassing Higgins/Konicek/Visger)

In what ways did this band get you out of some of your comfort zones - and what, instrumentally and in approach, has distinguished this from your past projects? 
"This band has always been about exploration within the boundaries that come along with playing traditional instruments, but...informed by the strengths of electronic-styles of arrangement. How can we make each element distinct and interesting...on its own, while still serving the whole?

"We've been working on this batch of songs for a while behind closed doors. We'd made music together for a long time before this and we were finding that we suddenly had a clearer sense than ever about what we wanted to focus on..."

That clarity of musical vision in view, what did you wind up going for? 
"Musical notations of beautiful fluidity juxtaposed with sharpness, primitive yet somehow simultaneously sophisticated percussion and...a certain airiness that everything becomes engulfed in...

Hollow...airiness. I picture arms "akimbo" with your elbows out, yet, they're framing a "hollow' viscera of a body... That looks or sounds morbid. 
"We don't think of it as morbid, but otherwise you're not far off the mark on the imagery. The "hollow" side of the equation represents the ghostly, ethereal air that envelops everything, and the general wispy lightness of (Visger)'s voice. It's also represented in the lyrics in the more introspective, lost-in-your-own head kind of disconnection from reality....having trouble connecting with other people and the world. "Akimbo" speaks to the more rigid, skeletal frame of the rhythms, drums and more jagged guitar elements."

How'd the first show go and how has the live approach improved, evolved -or what do you hope to do next? 
"All first shows are nerve-wracking, no matter how prepared or disciplined you think you may be. No catastrophes, though. It was at Mittenfest, a festival, so a soundcheck wasn't realistic. But, we channeled our nervousness into positive energy and the crowd was feeding it back to us. We have the philosophy that a live show should always be more exciting than the recorded versions of the songs; not necessarily cleaner or tighter. The studio allows a thousand chances to get a moment right, the show only allows one, you really have to be living in that moment and communicate it to the audience.

The songs sound, from the studio, to be pretty meticulously crafted... that still translates live?
"We designed the songs to have sections where we can open up and improvise a bit live, without breaking the song or getting noodly. It makes it more fun for us. It especially manifests on the drum side, we're lucky that (Higgins) intuitively makes those moments really special.

So after a few months developing it...what's this band', identity, aura, vibe...what's it come to represent for you...
" distilled subset of our musical interests. We aren't trying to make it encompass all the different things we would like to create in our lives. It's very pure in that sense. We just want to have a great time making great sounds, and are perfectly comfortable potentially being a rare bird. We're fortunate to have Quite Scientific Records, who completely gets that and sees it as a strength instead of a weakness..."

Hollow & Akimbo, that much more energized by the recent addition of Higggins, have new music coming out soon, as we mentioned. But, they're already working on the next batch of songs. The letter they'd sent signed off:
"...we just want to create, create, create..."

More info:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Haunted House EP

This is a “debut” E.P. but not really. The band members have been writing, performing (or just jamming) together, on and off, for ten years – most notably, through the late 00’s, as a live/touring back-up to singer/songwriter Randy Chabot for local dream-pop project Deastro. 

That means: no messing around – these studious gear-heads know what they like and already do it well, i.e. gloaming shoegaze with gleaming new wave. 

The vocals are low, mysterious murmurs while the bass, stoking fast, furtive grooves, goes even lower. The guitars, soaring above it all and trailing fuzzy jet streams of reverb, distortion and a dab of echo-effects, take the melodic lead on each track (evoking that nuanced middle-ground between Johnny Marr and Jonny Greenwood), while live drums nimbly kick and cymbal-tap along to a drum machine that prattles on like it’s 1980-something. 

You’d wanna hit the dancefloor, if those racing-tempo rhythms didn’t otherwise suggest some dreamy, ponderous late night burn down some endless, empty freeway. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Goal?

My goal is to find out everyone else’s goal. 

That's what I caught myself saying, outloud, just last night... Summing up my own story, so to speak. 

What does a goal like that lead to? Illumination without revelation? Do I risk tilling a swath of trends in these goals, thus cluttering the scope of my regard and obfuscating the definitive conclusion, the answer, the story?


Every gathering, show, performance, exhibition, concert, reading, every production, promotional event, festival, it all breathlessly ventilates sighs of hope, a sad hope, a sincere hope, just a hope, that something comes of this, that a wave crests, that something breaks through, that it hits, strikes a tone…leads somewhere.

Or is it just another gig.

What does it lead to? 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Congress and Green Lights - split 7" (Feb 1)

This is my 1,400 post on this blog...
...and it's about Congress and Green Lights! 

Congress' approval rating is no doubt higher than the flakes we unwittingly elected by-way-of reprehensibly gerrymandered district-lines.... ....not least of all because they continue to deliver new and intriguing songs of a weirdo-rock-variety -

When they started out a few years ago, this Ypsi-quartet threw teased and tazered vocals yowled enthusiastically over a a stormy groove of post-punk rhythms and collar-throttling guitars. Live, it was like being in the room with an eyes-shut-n'-spinning Tasmanian Devil or near a washing machine with a ruinously unbalanced load of floor was something to watch, to watch-out-for, to listen closely and then jump back, to react-to... It still is...

But "Dead Parrot" is something else...

The drums sk1itter with a slinky hook as an expressive bass gives a nice groove to go along with the guitars - switching from to a frostily focused post-rock riff and into a sunnier, shambling spill for these initial half-chorus-like statements. It's all building though... as our vocalist sing-speaks a sonnet of GBV-ishly cryptic poetry, winding to an ever creakier crash of our true chorus ("get ready for it..." he even whispers amid a clatter of hand-claps) and then it all crests into a forceful wave.

You can hear it! "Did you hear it? .... Is your parrot dead?"

Man... that mangier, monster-ier sound I'd described above?
The one to duck-for, to bump-back against? That's resonating beautifully in the riled-up stomper showcased by Green Lights, another Ypsi-area band that's been at this a bit loner than Congress, still showing their teeth, here. Green Lights are rock, you might say, but rawer, kinetic...more gnarled with their riffs and throwing some shoulders into their hooks.  ...Follow over hear their post-punk jam "Live Parent..."

...Or, just consider that both bands will perform these songs and more on February 1st -at Woodruff's. Ghostlady and Double Weirdo will open things up, after the doors open at 9pm-- More info

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Satori Circus

You might call him a freak of nature. Sure.

You might also call him a force of nature.

Nothing, it seems, can stop, can dissuade, can discourage or, for that matter, outdo... Satori Circus.

This performance artist, basically a punk-rock clown creating his own beautifully gruesome Cabaret Universe, is marking his 25th Anniversary at the Detroit Institute of Arts (in the Film Theatre) on January 24th.

That's 25 years of playing in basements, in lofts, in theatres and clubs, on streets and in living rooms, in galleries and gutters - By his drive and his dedication, he is the consummate DIY Artist - spanning from the days of cassette tapes, recording on four tracks and hoofing around town from record shop to club, club to record shop, spreading his own word from his own mouth and from the fliers grasp in his own hand, to these ever-more accessible days of the Internet, with GarageBand and viral videos and the like...

When Russell Taylor, a.k.a. Satori Circus, speaks of "...the Underground..." then you know you're hearing it from a guy who was actually there, back in 1988, when there wasn't a discernible or sizable scene for experimental vaudeville. He set up the lights for his dark, dreamy, visionary stage show (made form coffee cans and effected by hardware store-bought dimmer switches) and timed his costume changes to the fleeting seconds between tracks on the reeling magnetic tape loops of his copied cassette tape (Side 1 is the first set, Side 2 is the second).

By his style and presentation though - he's unlike any other artist you likely encountered. But, that he's been able to sustain for so long has meant that he's been able to have his act the point where it can't be accurately classified as "just an act..." any longer, but really, apart of himself.

"What I see, what I hear...what I's all molded and forged with my imagination, an imagination that was so vivid as a kid and that, now, as an adult, I can't see ever letting it go."

Taylor has worked as an art teacher for elementary aged students. Think of that... Crayon drawings, water-colors, finger-painting, crude crafts set to capture unbridled imagination and visions that defy laws of physics. The imagination of childhood is so vivid and yet they're assessment of the world, when they encounter it, can be so blunt.
AND THAT...could possibly sum up Satori Circus.

"It's's theatre, it's pantomime, it's...fucked-up-ness, it's vaudeville!"

Taylor also spend majority of the 80's performing in punk-rock bands (with his most formative experiences spent writing/performing with Fugitive Poetry). In 1988, after his main collaborator passed away from bone cancer, he set out on a new path. The  next year, Satori Circus - a blend of music and vaudeville, of punk-shredded opera and underground circus - was born.

Satori Circus isn't something that just catches on... It's not exactly a Beatles cover band or a derivative synth-pop routine for dance clubs. It doesn't really fit...

"I like a good challenge," says Taylor, chuckling lightly at himself. "If there were two people there, fine. If there were a thousand people there, fine. I just do what I do. That's what I told my professor when I went back to study art at U-M to get my masters, he asked us, deconstructing what we are and when it came to me, I just answered: I just do what I do... And everyone in the class looked at me funny."

"I thought: 'Fuck...I gotta explain myself?'"

At the show, 63 Minutes of Random Balance, Taylor will enlist aid from his talented and creative collaborators from past shows and projects, Scott Dambacher and Lushes LaMoan... He also gives credit and thanks to collaborators Dave and Brian Dambacher, along with Sarah Pearline and Sean Redenz, for their experience and sensibilities for musical arrangement, stagecraft, set-design, choreography, film, lighting and overall improvisation.

The show on January 24th reaches back "to what Satori Circus used to be..." which will be "fun, but dark..." and still be true to Satori form, which is: "low-tech atmospherics....I've always wanted to do a dystopic performance piece..." that could blend his admiration for Dante's Inferno with some of his primary literary influences like Orwell and Salinger. "Even if the sketch or the characters are comical, sometimes people don't hear what I'm singing about....a goofy character singing about something that's actually fucked up!"

Just as a child's crayon drawing might depict something will be done with a certain whimsy, with plenty of color! Back to the art class!

Some people get it and some people don't... You could be laughing at a character smoking a cigarette out of his butt....but then you could be crying for the character who hangs himself....All behind the crooked smile and arched eyebrows of that pale clown face. Russ Taylor's face.

"I am me..." says Taylor. "And, there's definitely spillover of the characters. I'm definitely a complex Venn Diagram..."

"I've been digging deep into the chasms of my soul. I realized that everything is a balancing act. Hence, 63 Minutes of Random Balance. A punky-punk song into a cross-dressing song into tinkering on a casio singing vibratto or an opera. It's playing into the randomness of what Satori shows were like..."

If he met a young artist, today, and shared any wisdom he's attained after 25 Years....

"It's a hard road, man, everything's not going to be peachy-keen all the time. You're gonna get tripped and yelled at, but you gotta follow your dreams. This is apart of who I am. You gotta follow what you feel in your gut, in your heart, in your head. We followed punk-rock, man, we're going to get in there and you can't tell me what to do, I'm doing it. Fuck you. That was part of the energy and part of the insanity of it all. Satori Circus, as a character, was a need for me to continue that...the people who give you grief are not the important's those who come to see you and tell their friends about you...But, man...25 years...I still can't believe it. I think, where did the time go, where have I been, what have I done..."

What have I done....??

"I just do what I do..."

63 MINUTES (OF RANDOM BALANCE)JANUARY 24TH - Detroit Film Theatre - FREE - 7pm show and 9pm show

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Silent Lions Interview (Part Two: The Compartments)

...Continued from our first chat with Toledo-Detroit-based Silent Lions for their performance at The Secret Friends Fest...

But now, let's talk about music.

Later this month, Silent Lions release their 2nd EP -The Compartments. This follows up last year's debut The Parliaments. Here, have a listen:

And so The Compartments -coming out Jan 14th on Nah Collective- will sound something like:

Let's talk about sound aesthetic...

Dean Tartaglia, on vocals, bass and a slew of other shadowing, muddying- electronic-effects, said that Parliaments represented an "urge to make aesthetic choices that" he wasn't "allowed" to make during past recording sessions for other groups.

"I wanted to further our sound while broadening our scope of dynamics," says the multifaceted songwriter / experimenter. When he says "our," he's referring to his drummer and backing vocalist Matt Klein.

"That first month of writing together," says Klein, "we were still figuring out our approach to the instrumentation as we went." They experimented with pedals, effected the bass and vocals extensively as well as subtly, getting it as close as could be to what they were hearing in their heads.

"The octave bass," says Klein, "and the heavy reverb on the vocals came together while recording Parliaments, and we've kept refining things since then. Now, I feel we've found a palette...for the bass and vocal sounds and we can write utilizing our set-up much better."

Bare in mind, they've only been going at this for one full year - which is notable considering they've spent a good portion of the year driving their gear around on DIY-booked tours, between two recording sessions (as well as a boat-load of Detroit-appearances).

Says Tartaglia, "(Compartments) feels like an expansion...trying some different effects that we didn't get a chance to experiment with before." He also reminds us, that despite all the psychedelic or rhythm-centric freak-blues vibes radiating from their sound - they can, yes, still just be a rock n roll band.

"I hope I was put on this earth," says Tartaglia, "to remind people that: Nirvana was really a pretty sweet band, right? And that it's okay to rock. Rock isn't dead and you shouldn't let genre dictate whether something is 'cool.' Ain't what-chya do, it's hatcha do it, ya know??"

Tartaglia would know a thing or two about rock, considering he spent a year touring and performing with Detroit's own The Sights. A tenure with those road warriors likely played some small role in assuring that SiLi would, themselves, be diligent about consistent touring. Between spurts of two-week tours, they still find time to write.

Tartaglia said that they started writing immediately after last fall's tour, working together a dozen new demos for their next potential release. "We've really hit our writing stride," said Tartaglia, "We are very excited to get back into the studio, but that's after this album cycle of course, planning on about 80 shows through the first half of 2014. As much as I just defended our rock elements earlier, we are interested in following our hip-hop/soul influences down the rabbit hole with this new batch of songs"

So, you can possibly expect less QOTSA/Nirvana drums and distortion and maybe a drier, stripped down, roomier sounding LP.

"Yes" said Tartaglia, "the next one will be our first full length." Expect it to sound like?  "... Tame Impala, current Flaming Lips, Odd Future....come to mind... something that challenges us in the studio, and maybe even challenges the listener on what the our sound is...but then, broadens our sonic and harmonic horizons further."

"I'm excited to see the friends we've made all through last year again," says Klein, looking ahead. "We want to hit some new stops on our first tour for this record. We're planning on shooting a video for the second single when we get back home. It will be similarly atmospheric to our others, but we promise it won't consist of extreme closeups of our faces this time. We plan to stay behind the camera."


Monday, January 6, 2014

MusicTalk: Nathan K.

Nathan K. wants these songs to be heard. No, he wants you to listen

Because everybody can hear everything. Everybody can hear anything, anything they want...if they know what they want to hear. 

But, if you could hear, you would care, or, could care. And, hat’s the only chance a band has to persevere…or last, even, beyond putting out just one, two, or three albums, or long enough to attempt one, or even two tours…if someone listens in, closely, to these songs, his latest songs, than they can hear how heavy they are and then they can appreciate that this would-be folksinger dude is just like them, just like you. 

The Ypsi gypsy's currently floating his residencies between Grand Rapids and St. Joe's over on the West Side. This week, he's catching his breath after an intensive three month-tour with electro-pop outfit Stepdad. For considerable portions (and during numerous stage incarnations) of Nathan Klages' seven years of writing and performing, he's been mostly an acoustic based, embracing a more singer/songwriter-styled folk aesthetic. But, beyond the dance-friendly / synth-heavy fare of Stepdad, he's also worked extensively with electronic music composer Darin Rajabian (who locals might have heard via his work with/in Nightlife). 

He’s pared back the electronic accouterments he’d dabbled with on recent works, and so, with a music shorter on loop tricks and flashy effects, he’s still hoping the barer baroque-pop approach will have an effect on be, in fact, affecting. 

Rajabian is currently mixing Klages forthcoming album - (with no set release date). It will be his third proper full length. 

Rajabian and Klages have often pondered the frustrating clutch of Catch-22's of working as a musical artist in a post 2010 world. The DIY-democratic-juicing devastation wrought upon the music business 15 years ago by, well, mostly Napster, are finally starting to strike their sobering tolls - that all too often, an artist "at the local level" (or anyone doing everything on their own, free of a label or even free of a full band) can sometimes only hope to only just put your songs, the ones you felt you toiled over throughout a span of months, up online...for free... 

"I feel like I don’t even know how to listen to new music, anymore…" says Klages, his voice weary from so much time on the road with Stepdad.

And there it is. He puts into words something eerie that I, myself, couldn't place - that not only is it awkward to listen to music realizing that there's this anti-climactic sting of...what?...defeat? actually highlighting the thought that the maker of the music you're listening to probably put this stuff out "for free" and walked away from it like a still-decent couch or fully charged electric lawn-mower, discarded on their curb... But it's something else, then, to realize that there is, in fact, so much, too much, an imperceptible-much-ness of music that you could be hearing, or....listening to...

But here's the thing, Klages says, pulling himself back from disenchantment and back into a hopeful tone - When one does find something that really hits you, warms your ears, massages your heart, whatever it does....if you find a music that does it for you - you are going to treat it somewhat akin to a four-leaf clover or a speck of gold dust. 

Diamonds in a digital rough. 

Thus, that, the album you found, by the singer you've listened to, becomes something you have that much more affection for, in a special way, say, then if a blog told you that you should like this if you want to be in ...with the cool crowds. 

Stepdad songs, for as "fun" as they seem to "sound," are often misconstrued-as-such, because revelers, cavorting lovers of dance-pop, might not be tuning into the sometimes somber, cerebral or frank intonations of the lyrics. 

Nathan K. wants to make a music that actually challenges you to listen... It will be "folk-ish" but certainly nothing like country, bluegrass or Appalachia-twang... It will be orchestra, and lovely, but not insipid or overdone. It will be baroque-inclined and poppy but not over the top or saccharine. It will be full of some heartfelt words, some scary sentiments and nothing but the truth. 

If you can hear it.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Secret Friends Fest

PART ONE of an Interview with THE SILENT LIONS

Dean talks about “…really turning up the mud on the vox” and then, when the time was right, “making (vocals) clearer.” Dean sings and plays bass -amid a shuffle of other instruments and pedals, in Silent Lions. He's talking about going “heavier and darker” on their second EP, somewhat in response “to new bands who seemed hesitant to create something heavy, or, at least, be branded as ‘rock’ music, like it’s an un-cool stigma or something.”

Stigmas are a perfect place to start, when we want to talk about the Secret Friends Fest, coming next weekend. There's the stigma of scenes getting cliquey. There's t stigma of scenes being over-glorified as clubs-for-the-cool and just fizzling out before they can realize their potential. There's the stigma that local bands, let alone "the scenes," ever get to realize their full potential...or even tour, for that matter.

The Silent Lions perform on Day Two of this mini-fest, curated by Jason Stollsteimer (of the Hounds Below, and, formerly, of the Von Bondies).

Whereas other annual fests are more about razzle-dazzle or raking in wristbands and beer tickets, Secret Friends Fest set out to put the spotlight squarely on the bands – to the point where it’s less about exciting live music as entertainment for a mass of people – and more about who is making this music and how they can relate to fellow musicians scattered across the state, based in disparate scenes like Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo or Detroit….or in the Silent Lions case, Toledo.

Will there still be revelry, live ‘rock’ music and spirits served at the bar? Sure.

But Secret Friends Fest, as some festivals in the past have attempted, aims to be more of a meeting of minds, a summit of scenes, a bridge-building affair where bands can start thinking of ways they can support each other beyond just joining in on the 2nd or 3rd another slot of a another bill for another band on some random weekend show…

"If we didn't get asked to play in so many different cities, we couldn't be on the road as much. We're truly fortunate and lucky to be this far along for a band who's been around for only a year. But sacrifice, our lifestyles at home, time, money, sometimes food...We keep things as simplistic as possible and our stage set up says it all. We've really taken on a very disciplined mentality on tour, almost monastic about it, actually (and, yes, I'm talking about Matt's newly shaved head), and, our van is like our temple. We're only one of many bands living this way..."

Living this way...

"We've found ourselves," says SiLi-drummer Matt Klein, "being lead to the DIY venues in bigger cities like Pittsburgh, D.C. and New York. Whenever we play a club-show, someone there will inform us of the best alternative and house-venues in that area." At those house shows, Klein says, they feel complimented in their performance because they can tell attendees are actually listening...

Hey, Listen! That's the tacit subheading under the banner of Secret Friends Fest.

"The people we've met," says Klein, speaking of more unconventional venues where their music can actually be heard, "remind me a lot of those we've met in Detroit and Toledo: really dedicated to bringing touring bands through and working close with us on getting the word out."

Getting the word out...

"Certainly," Klein admits, "it's a better option for a band just starting out and making connections."

Making connections...

"When you surround yourself with similarly passionate people, then all scenes feel about the same."

So you get the picture...

PART TWO of our Interview with the SILENT LIONS continues later this week:
New EP The Compartments debuts this week

Day One - Jan 10th
9 (side stage) 500 CLUB
10 (side stage) AUTUMN WOLF
12 (side stage) THE HANDGRENADES

Day Two - Jan 11th
8 (side stage) TART
9 (side stage) KICKSTAND BAND
10 (side stage) ALEXIS
10:30 FAWN
11 (side stage) YUM
12 (side stage) SILENT LIONS