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Interview With Andrew Rieger of Elf Power


This interview was conducted by my friend and brilliant musician Patrick Tape-Fleming. He’s been my go-to interview guy anytime I get a request that I think he may be interested in doing. His knowledge of and passion for music is second to none and I always love reading his questions because they come from a very enthusiastic place that only a real fan could muster.

Enjoy the interview below and check out Elf Power when they hit Chicago next Tuesday, July 18th at Beat Kitchen!

Hey Andrew, It’s Poison ControlCenter/Gloom Balloon Patrick your old pal from Iowa. How are you? I hope great! Josh from Music.Defined. was kind enough to let me ask the questions for this interview! 

You now have been putting out albums for 22 years as Elf Power. That’s twice the lifetime of the Beatles, and half the lifetime of the Stones if you were going to compare Twitching In Time to an album in each of the bands catalogs what would they be and why?

Revolver for its’ mix of folk rock and psychedelia, and Beggar’s Banquet for its’ demonic and Satanic undertones. 

I bought my first Elf Power record in 1998 and saw you for the first time in Oct. of 1999 in Minneapolis with the Minders and Fable Factory, I met you before the show at Let It Be Records, (My Favorite Record Store Ever.. the record store i bought When the Red King Comes, Dusk At Cubist Castle, In the Areoplane Over the Sea) anyway you were so sweet to a 19 year old kid who was such a fan. You guys put on one of my favorite rock shows ever that night! playing tunes from Red King, A Dream In Sound and even played “Embrace the Crimson Tide” off A Winter Is Coming before that album was released.. Those 3 albums are all perfect combinations of psych pop and were so influential to me as a musician. That was also the high point for your fellow E6 buddy bands, can you tell us a little bit about the vibe in Athens at the time? Was it a friendly competitive vibe, everybody playing on each other songs, inspiring each other…

Thanks! It was a very collaborative time, with lots of spontaneous recording sessions, and all of our friends playing on each others’ records, and touring around the world together. We still manage to collaborate with one another a good bit, though it gets harder as you get older and people are naturally evolving into their own more separate lives.
You and Wilco are the bands I have seen most over the years, I feel there is a kindred spirit between your two bands, always a changing cast behind the main songwriter and different albums take different shapes! The first time I saw Wilco in 1999 they were opening for R.E.M and I saw you on stage that night working for R.E.M how did that come about?
I never worked for R.E.M. in a live setting, though i used to work for their fanclub from time to time. We opened for R.E.M., and played a tribute show to them at Carnegie Hall a few years ago. They’re one of my favorite bands, since high school. We also did 2 tours opening for Wilco, who are also great!

I have always loved your songs, but I also think Elf Power is one of my favorite interpreters of other people’s tunes! Your cover of “Needles in the Camel’s Eye” off Red King has found it’s way on to so many mix cd’s of mine over the years! I also think Nothing’s Going To Happen is one of the greatest covers records ever, I also got a tour only covers cd you did with the Byrds Feel A Whole Lot Better on it that… I loved it. What have been your favorite covers to do over the years and how have they helped you develop your own songwriting?
The Brian Eno cover is always a fun one to play live, also “20th Century Boy” by T. Rex, “Queen Bitch” by David Bowie, “Jumping Fences” by Olivia Tremor Control, “Pay to Cum” by Bad Brains, “I Wanna Destroy You” by Soft Boys, “Nothing’s Going to Happen” by Tall Dwarfs…figuring out songs you love are a great way to learn different songwriting tricks, new chords, arrangement techniques, etc.
You backed Vic Chestnut on a record/tour and were also Neutral Milk Hotel’s backing band on tours, what makes Elf Power the go to backing band and if you could back anybody who would it be?
We never backed Neutral Milk Hotel on tours. There was a period in 1996 or 1997 i think when we backed Jeff Mangum on some NMH songs at some local shows around Athens, before his other bandmembers were living in Athens. I would just love the chance to play with Vic Chesnutt again; that collaboration with him, recording a record together and touring around the world together , was one of the highlights of my musical career thus far.
If you could have anybody produce a record for Elf Power who would it be.. Brian Eno, Brian Wilson, Brian Helium…Other?
Brian Eno has produced so many great records, he’d be fun to work with of course!…his solo “rock” albums like “Here Come the Warm Jets” , “Taking Tiger Mountain(by Strategy)” and “Another Green World” are some of my favorite albums ever, not only for the inventive production and arrangement techniques but also for the amazing and sublime songwriting
I have always loved the production of your records whether they are made on 4-track cassette recorders or with big time producers! You have taught me so much about how to make interesting sounding albums. On every record I have ever worked on I have wanted direct input guitar on something.. Mostly cause the sound you created on records with that effect on guitar solos. After over 20 years of recording what gets you excited when working on music these days?
Just writing songs, trying to come up with new and different ideas , and trying to remain creative and seek new methods in recording as well. I think we acheived some new sounds like never before on our latest record (“Watery Shreds”/”Halloween Out Walking” particularly) and i’m very proud of that
The new record has the perfect combo of slower and rocking tunes.. It’s really a powerful, dark record, and it sounds like the most confident record you have ever made to me. Tell us a bit about how this one came to be.  
Thanks! We just took our time and recorded a bunch of different songs over the course of a year and a half, and sometimes multiple versions of the same songs with vastly different arrangements, and picked our favorites when we were finished. We didn’t really have a deadline, so it just evolved naturally and we took our time with it, which i think is reflected in the songs.
With over 20 years of killer songs, how do you sculpt an hour long set list on tour these days! And just for us die hard and since you are on tour with Tobin Sprout if you have to play a 3 hour GBV style set and had to play 56 songs.. What would they be and in what order? 
We have 13 albums to choose from so coming up with an hour long set is no problem! Touring with Tobin Sprout has been amazing, his band is great and he’s one of my favorite songwriters of all time , so it’s a joy to see him play every night and hang out with him. I don’t think that i could play a 3 hour set every night, that’s simply too long, i wouldn’t subject any audience to that! but if i was forced to do so i think i would cheat and play 56 covers of Napalm Death’s 2 second song “You Suffer” in a row, having the set clock in at a whopping 112 seconds!

Thanks for making so much amazing music over the past 20 years Andrew… next time I see you, I’m going to give you a big hug and thank you in person! 

Patrick posted this picture of meeting Elf Power at that show in Minnesota back in ’99


Interview With The Zombies’ Colin Blunstone

March 14, 2017 Leave a comment
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A few weeks ago I was asked if I’d be interested in interviewing one of the members of The Zombies ahead of their Oracle & Odyssey show coming up at Thalia Hall in April. Of course I would be foolish to not take the opportunity to interview one of the creators of an album as great as Oracle. But how much do I really know about the band?
It turns out the answer to that question is: Not very much. So I enlisted the help of my good friend and musical encyclopaedia, Patrick Tape Fleming (Gloom Balloon, The Poison Control Center). His questions for lead singer Colin Blunstone were spot on and I ended up learning a lot.
Hi, my name is Patrick Tape Fleming. I’m a musician from Iowa, who just happens to be a huge fan of the Zombies, and Josh from Music Defined. was kind enough to let me ask you a few questions! I have seen you guys play a few shows over the past 12 years and I hope to see the tour this year as well! I was voting for you everyday to get into the Rock Hall as well.. So sorry it did not happen this year.. It will!
 
I drove 14 hours to see you guys on Valentines day in 2004 in Lexington, KY. It was so monumental for me to see one of my favorite bands from the 60’s. I even met (Colin and Rod) at a restaurant before the show. I said I had driven 14 hours and you were so surprised! And played, “This Will Be Our Year,” for me that night! It was one of my life’s highlights! Thank You!
 
 
Ok so some questions! 
 
1. Years ago I was in a bar talking to a guy who said he saw the Zombies play in Iowa in the late 60’s and I thought, “no way!” Then I found out about the fake Zombies band traveling around the US playing shows as you guys? When did you first become aware of this? And how many people who have seen you play over the past 12 years, think they saw you in the 60’s as well but never actually did?  

I first became aware of this in the 60’s. I suppose it was too tempting for some people to realize that The Zombies had a big hit record and there was no longer a band to go out and play live. Every now and then someone will tell us they saw The Zombies after 1967 and before 1999 and of course we know they really saw a different band. There was another band touring as The Zombies in the 90s and so the story goes because of their poor performance an irate fan pulled a gun on them in their dressing room. They stopped using our name immediately.

 
2. I saw you play at Park West in Chicago in 2004 with the band Love opening! Who have been some of your favorite bands to tour with over the years?

I will always remember that tour …..Love were great and Arthur was brilliant!! We’ve toured a lot with The Yardbirds who are great fun. Thinking about it though I usually keep myself to myself when we’re backstage as I want to stay focused on the show.

 
3. It’s well know that the Zombies recorded Odessey and Oracle in Abbey Road, right after the Beatles finished up Sgt. Pepper. Did you get to hear any of Pepper before it was released? And what did you think when you did hear it?

The Beatles had left a few days before we went into Abbey Road so we didn’t hear any old Sgt. Pepper before it was released but I haughty all The Beatles albums were fantastic!!!

Luckily John Lennon had left his Mellotron behind and we used it extensively on O&O.

 
4. Did you guys consider the Beatles more inspiration or competitors at the time? 

In my opinion The Beatles were and are the best British band ever and I never considered us to be in competition with them!

 
5. Odessey and Oracle has become so legendary over the years to music fans, and I say it’s just as good if not better than both Pepper and Pet Sounds. Rolling Stone ranks it at number 100 of the greatest albums ever! When you were making it, legend has it that tempers flared in the studio. Was it the pressures of a tight budget or knowing that you were working on something truly brilliant that made the sessions so tense?

It did get a bit tense towards the end but it was down to our tight budget and lack of studio time. In particular when we were recording the last track Time Of The Season which had only been finished that day, I was struggling with some of the phrasing. Rod was trying to coach me from the control room and I shouted back ” if you’re so bloody good you come in here and sing it” he replied ” you’re the lead singer, you stay there until you get it right” …..so we were having this great argument while I was singing ” it’s the time of the season for loving” which always makes me smile!!

6. The Mono and Stereo Mixes of Odessey and Oracle are vastly different. Do you prefer one over the other? And is it true you guys delivered the Mono version but the label wanted a Stereo version and the band paid for it with their own money? 

I rarely listen to our/my records once they are finished but from memory I prefer the mono version. Rod and Chris paid for the stereo mixes but I think we all agree they weren’t a complete success.


7. My band (Poison Control Center) was asked to play Zombies songs at a wedding, and It was so fun to learn the song  “You Make Me Feel Good,”! So soulful and catchy. With such a plethora of great songs how are you deciding what to play on this current tour, besides Odessey and Oracle?

We are a very democratic band ……Rod tells us what we’re playing and we play it!!

8. I really love the song, from your solo years, called “I Don’t Believe In Miracles.” How did that song come about and why is it not a huge hit in the USA? Were you getting much promotion in the US at the time? It seems like you continued to have chart success in the UK but never here? 

This song was written by Russ Ballard a wonderful writer who at the time was playing in Argent.

It was a big hit in the UK and Europe but I’ve never had a solo hit in the U.S. It always intrigues me how one song can be a hit in one territory’ and not in another. It’s one of life’s mysteries!!

9. I was so sad that the Zombies will not be inducted into the Rock Hall this year, especially after touring so much and putting out the fantastic new album Still Got That Hunger. Have all of your rock n roll dreams come true or is there anything left you want to do or prove, since you Still Got That Hunger?

We were just thrilled to be nominated for a second time!! I am eternally grateful to still be playing at this time in my life. All I want is to write and perform to the maximum of my ability for as long as I can. 

Thanks so much for all the wonderful music you have given to me and the rest of the world!  

Cheers!!!

Colin B.

Tickets for The Zombies Oracle & Odyssey tour are available now.  You can purchase them here.

Willis Earl Beal Interview At The Empty Bottle 2/27/2017

March 6, 2017 1 comment

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I went to a free show at The Empty Bottle last Monday to see Willis Earl Beal. I’ve been a fan of his work since he blew up in the Chicago scene at the beginning of the decade, but this was my first time seeing him live. There was no talk of doing an interview beforehand, but my friend August Forte, who works in the industry, was able to facilitate and get me some time in the green room after the show through his connections at The Minimal Beat (who put out a limited edition 7″ single of “Flying So Low” b/w “12 Midnight”).

Willis played a whole set of new material, mostly in the dark and always behind a mask. The performance was lively and unnerving, like he had demons that needed exorcising, forcing him to work them out on stage. The audience sat on the floor (a first for me at the Bottle) and hung on every sound. CD’s of the music were for sale afterward, so I bought one and a few minutes later I was downstairs with Willis, August, my friend Sam, and Willis’s sound guy Matt DeWine, who now runs sound at Tonic Room. For a few minutes Leor Galil was there-the writer who first discovered Willis and got his name known around Chicago.

We talked for a while, without recording, about touring in Poland. The biggest show he’s done to date was in France, where he played a set between the xx and Mark Lanegan. It was a fun chat, and then some other people joined us, including Chicago rapper Sharkula. Once we were all settled in I hit record and delved into the psyche of one of the most interesting guys in the music industry.

 

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(Josh): August touched on some good points already. Uh, upstairs while you were performing I was kind of wondering about the creative freedom you have because of where you are as an artist, but also the pressure you’re under to try to make a living doing what you do…

(Willis Earl Beal): Yeah I do feel a lot of pressure.

 (Josh): So I wondered how you balance that (group of people walk in and Willis graciously invites them to join us if they’d like)

(WEB): My girlfriend, I guess we could say she’s tolerant of it. She’s had a difficult time with it because she’s come out on several tours with me and she had a hard time dealing with crowd reactions. She enjoyed it, but she simultaneously…I try not to talk about her, but I need her as a form of context. But she just had a really difficult time with that. My career has been kind of a double-edged sword the whole way. It’s not even a career. It started out that way, they tried to get me on some kind of fast track to stardom or whatever, and I was never born to be a star. I’m an anti-star, if anything. I was still figuring things out. I think people are always figuring things out. And the industry, or whatever it is, does not cater to people who are constantly evolving. Especially if you’re evolving in a non-linear, or perceivably non-linear way.

I had a show [in Chicago], and I was still figuring things out. The first time they really enjoyed it, and they invited me back. They paid me six or seven hundred dollars the first time, they paid me the same amount the second time. And it was very similar to the last performance. It was the same, really. Very free flowing, very free consciousness. Then the guy tried to walk out on me, he didn’t wanna pay me. His guys tried to beat me up. And then when I contacted them about this craziness that was happening, they said it was because I had a shitty performance. And I had people come up to me after that show and they all liked the performance. They all thought it was something they related to. So, whatever I’m doing, I don’t know if it’s extraordinary or not extraordinary, it’s very simple.

I started doing this for lack of being able to do it another way. And now I see there are nuances to even the most simple things. So I discovered different nuances of crowd manipulation. Mind control, just, within the context of the situation, not necessarily long term. So I can get people to focus on me for a while. More than just my voice, there are other elements. Pathos. I’m a clown. And that’s what I like people to see. People are interested in pathos. People are interested in failure. People enjoy seeing a personality, it’s voyeuristic, and that’s what I play into. I want to make it seem like I could almost be in a room by myself and you’re looking in.

Certain easily categorizable ways of thinking of things can marginalize my message. I’m not trying to be a soul guy. I wanna be, like, a shaman. It’s not even about the quality of my voice, even though I try to sing really well. I’m trying to channel a universal feeling of isolation. A universal isolation. That’s what I’m channeling in my music. And I think through understanding that isolation and connecting to the universality of it, then we can come together.

I’m affirmatively declaring nothing. Declaring a total separation from the politics of what’s governing our society and I say “Break the walls down.” That’s why my performances are anti-experiences. Because it’s all about deconstruction, that’s all I do is deconstruct everything.

 (Josh): During the show tonight you looked out at the audience and said that when you look in the mirror, you see them. Is that what you think about when you’re alone thinking about your music or is it all the time?

(WEB): When I’m by myself, I’m either masturbating or I’m thinking about the fact that I don’t have enough weed or that I love my girlfriend and I want to know how she feels, you know what I mean? I don’t think about music at all. And if I am thinking about music, I’m just listening to my own words. It’s a sickness. It’s all a sickness, you know? The idea of doing the same thing over and over again every day, and for the purpose of molding it and perfecting it to present it in this way. It’s like doing your hair like this (ruffles hand through hair) and saying you have bed head. That’s what I do. I have a lot of problems in my real life, so I figure out “How can I make this just contrived enough to be beautiful?” So I give them that. A contrived version of my actual neuroses. I’m trying to capitalize monetarily off that.

 (August): Just monetarily?

(WEB): I want redemption. But,

 (August): Do you want people to have a good time?

 (WEB): I have no interest in that.

 (August): Do you want people to have a good time during your set?

(WEB): I have a good time by looking at things that I find disturbing.

 (August): If you see someone smiling in the audience…

(WEB): If I see someone smiling then I know that they understand some of my idiosyncrasies. But I’m saying, I present what it is I would look at. You know, I’d be more likely to watch a Lars Von Trier film than a Michael Bay film. That’s too big of a contrast…

 (August): No I get it, man. Your stuff reminds me of [Lars Von Trier’s film] Dancer In The Dark.

 (WEB): I mean, maybe that’s a bit arrogant

 (August): No it’s not, man. It’s where your art’s coming from. I think it’s brilliant. It’s some dark shit. It’s some sad shit. I like the Bjork thing, I like the Cat Power thing. You have a lot of female antecedents in your work.

 (WEB): [surprised] You are so weird to say that, cuz that’s true and no one’s ever noticed that.

 (August): Yeah like Cat Power [who appeared on Willis’s album Nobody Knows], Bjork, Sinead O’Connor.

 (WEB): Sometimes I dance a lot. I dance more than I did tonight. And I always wanted to be in the ballet and do classical music. I can’t do either one, I don’t play the cello and I ain’t a ballet dancer. But I didn’t do any ballet moves tonight. But I try to be as feminine as possible most of the time on stage. That’s my whole philosophy on stage is to be feminine. I got a girlfriend ya know, but I just, I don’t know how you can perform when you’re not thinking feminine.

 (Josh): Like your masculinity hinders your ability

 (WEB): Masculinity is like some weird mutation or something. Even when I’m screaming, that’s a woman, too.

 (Josh): Like the frustrations…

 (WEB): I’ve never seen a man experience that kind of frustration. Except me, in that way.

 (Josh): Do you feel like when you’re writing music you write in a female voice?

 (WEB): Oh yeah. That’s why I hate “Too Dry To Cry” so much. It sounds like a man with a cock. Which is not a problem, I have a cock. But why do I HAVE a cock, why can’t I just have it. Why do you have to HAVE it all the time. Why do you have to walk around with it. You know, ok, I happen to possess a penis. In this country, you know [puffs out chest] “I’m a man with a penis and the way I walk is an indication of that and the way I talk is an indication of that and the fact that my neck is stiff is an indication of that.” So, I don’t know. I feel like women are more comfortable than men, but I don’t know I’m not a woman. I can’t say that. But as a performer, I take a feminine perspective.

 (Josh): So then does it bother you that “Too Dry To Cry” is the song that most people equate you with?

 (WEB): Oh my God, I hate it. I hate that song. Performing and music is so meta, everyone should do it. It’s like being on acid. Because you realize why you hate yourself based on what you write and what you sing and how it manifests itself and how they react to it. You’re learning so much just by exposing yourself. I expose myself through concealing myself. It’s all lies. It’s truth, but it’s also lies. I’m presenting an exaggerated version of myself on the stage for the entertainment and amusement, and hopefully the inspiration of people. But it is contrived, it’s a performance.

 (Sharkula): That’s deep.

(WEB): I’m only a frail person. I am not that, that’s just a projection, you know. So all these dualities, all these juxtapositions are in my mind when I’m doing what I’m doing. And I’m thinking all high about it, but your average person is like “Hmmm…he needs a band.” You know, that’s just how it is. People aren’t going to see you as deeply as you see yourself. That’s the struggle.

 (Josh): Do you feel like when you travel you see less of that mindset outside of the U.S.?

(WEB): I gotta say, based on what I’ve seen, it seems to me Europeans have more patience most of the time. I’m not saying they’re better, they just have more patience. Tonight’s crowd was really good, but American crowds don’t have a lot of patience with me. They either have patience or they absolutely do not and they’ll walk out. Or rage against it. I’ll tell people to be quiet and they’ll outright yell. I elicit reactions or compliance. They seem reverent to their own emotions and that’s why they’re watching the show. They expect to engage in some way and when they’re told the can not engage, they react to that.

(Josh): Does it help when you’re on stage to get that kind of reaction?

(WEB): Yeah. [pounds fist] Cuz it’s like I’m fighting against something. I like it. Then it’s the show. Is this guy losing his mind or this kind of thing.

 (Sharkula): Could you ever live somewhere else?

(WEB): I could live in Manchester. [Stands up] I sang “Dance To The Radio” [“Transmission” by Joy Division] in Manchester. I just did it and everyone went nuts. I was like the black Ian Curtis for the night.

(August): You kinda have his mojo

(WEB): Don’t say that!

(August): The way he danced on stage, and that poetry behind his lyrics. I think you totally have that.

(WEB): I just don’t wanna hang myself from a ceiling fan. I wanna explode like he did, just now how he did.

Get To Know Benny Bassett

October 4, 2016 Leave a comment


A while back Kari had the opportunity to set up a feature with Stitched Sound about our friend, singer/songwriter Benny Bassett. His album These Dreams, which also features a cover artwork by Kari, came out earlier this year. You can check it out on Spotify right now.

Band Name:Benny Bassett

Hometown:
Chicago, IL

Genre:
Acoustic Rock, Singer-Songwriter

How and when did the band form/ when did the artist get their start?
I became a solo artist in April of last year after serving as a co-frontman and lead guitarist for Chicago band Vintage Blue. My former band Vintage Blue had the good fortune to play some great shows, with a ton of great musicians, from Fitz & the Tantrums, to Sister Hazel and Lifehouse. With the band I was able to build a ton of goodwill with regard to not only my performance, but my personality and my care for the art form of songwriting. I have used the foundation of the band to immediately expand my touring and fan reach, from the Midwest, to both coasts and even Canada. I started the solo project by doing a home show tour, playing in living rooms, backyards and house parties. Those opportunities gave me some time to build my chops as an entertainer and player, but also to grow as a touring musician.

Has your local music scene influenced you in any way?
The Chicago music scene is unique in many ways. It doesn’t get the notoriety of New York or Los Angeles, and many of the talented writers are fighting the harsh winters to flock to Nashville in hopes of becoming the next Chris Stapleton or Taylor Swift. But Chicago has some seriously dedicated and talented writers and performers. When I first decided to pursue a solo career I spent time going out to solo shows of other Chicago musicians, like my friend Edmer Abante, Jay Langston, Jess Godwin, Sam Wahl, Micheal McDermott, and many others. I wanted to see how they handled the stage, the pace and their performances. I learned a lot from watching them perform.

As a band/artist, what is the biggest challenge you have faced?
The biggest challenge for all of us that create, is to find a platform to connect with people. For musicians, stages are our primary source of exposure, but beyond that, it is incumbent on us to find unique ways to promote our brands, our music and our personalities. In 2016, there are so many ways to do this, but the space is crowded. Musicians at my level constantly struggle with finding a “right place” to exist. We hire publicists, marketing folks, managers, promoters, etc, but there is never a guarantee. I have found that nothing replaces playing. The stage will always be the best place for you to make your name.

Are there particular artists that have influenced the music you make?
I think that everyone starts with a base of influence that you have no control over … the artists your parents, siblings and friends listen to, all become part of your story. Those bands for me were, Billy Joel, The Police, Average White Band, Steely Dan and the Beatles. Then, as you get a little older and start developing your own musical tastes, you wander through phases, in sync with your own life. In my teens I listened to Nirvana, The Doors, Mystic Roots, Aerosmith, Mudhoney, Pixies, and Metallica. Then, as my music tastes refined and I started playing instruments and writing, I listened to more of the kind of music I was writing, The Eagles, The Band, Dave Matthews, as well as more R&B and Rap, like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, TLC, SWV, Joe Public, and Arrested Development.

Today, as I have ventured more into the Singer-Songwriter realm, I have really focused on learning from those that have gone before me. Matt Nathanson, Tony Lucca, Erick Baker, Shawn Mullins, Will Hoge, Stephen Kellogg, and many others who have carved their own career out of sincere, deep and meaningful lyrics and stories. Those are the kinds of things that I strive to write and sing about, so they are my new torches on this journey.
What are your plans for 2016?

 2016 is a HUGE year for me in my still fresh solo career. Last year I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants. My band had unexpectedly split up after having the most exposure we had ever had … debuting on commercial radio and playing alongside international superstars on the Rock Boat. I took the momentum and just started playing everywhere and anywhere. In 2016 I will finally be releasing my debut solo EP, titled These Dreams. I could not be more excited. There will be much touring for sure and I will also be participating in as many industry conferences and events as I can to introduce my new project to the world. I have already showcased at the Folk Alliance Conference in Kansas City, and look forward to performing at RedGorilla Fest in Austin, Texas and participating in NACA regional meetings later in the year. I will also be creating two new music videos and look forward to finding new artists and cool new venues around the world!
-Ben

A Giant Dog at Bottom Lounge 9/28/2016

September 29, 2016 Leave a comment

Last fall I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with A Giant Dog at a festival in Austin. They had just signed their deal with Merge Records and finished recording their album, Pile. I found them to be quite pleasant and laid back-not at all like their stage presence, which gets your head banging and heart racing as well as any rock band in the business. They were a great choice to open for Titus Andronicus, one of the greatest live bands of the 21st century.

You can listen to our interview from last October below, and check out the pics from their set last night:

Q and A With Guitarist Doug Gillard of Guided By Voices

August 23, 2016 Leave a comment

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When I was offered the opportunity to interview a member of Bob Pollard’s Guided By Voices, I knew I wasn’t the person to do it. I have a very basic knowledge of the band, so my questions would be stupid softball questions you hear on shows like “Good Morning America” during their fluff pieces about dogs that can dial a telephone or something of that ilk. So I enlisted the person I know with the greatest Guided By Voices knowledge, Layne Montgomery, to ask questions of guitarist Doug Gillard. Some of you will remember Layne from The Great American Novel, and may have already heard he has a new band called The Romantic Comedy. His questions were very good indeed.

Guided By Voices will be performing with the “CLASSIC” lineup at Metro on September 3rd with openers Broncho and Split Single. Tickets are available here.

What were the circumstances that led you to rejoining GBV? I remember seeing you open for them at the Bowery Ballroom two years ago and joining for a couple songs, with Bob lamenting that you couldn’t join this reunion because you weren’t in the “classic lineup.” Did he always want you back in the band? Did you feel after “The Electrifying Conclusion” that the band would ever come back?

   I didn’t foresee anything happening re: the band coming back in 2010. My solo band opened up the first classic lineup reunion shows in TX, by the way.
 Bob & I had remained friends all along the way, & collaborated on the second Lifeguards LP in
2011. I was never trying to “get back in” the band as some have put it. They needed a guitarist for the Cincinnati show, & i happily went as a fill-in. Talks evolved from there.
 
 

Will there be more GBV dates on the horizon? Perhaps coming back to New York?

  Yes, we’re touring through the US. There will be a NYC show in December- check our website for tour dates.
 

How did ESP Ohio come about? Is there a record (or knowing Bob, two records) on the horizon? 

  It was a project idea of Bob’s. He wrote the songs and enlisted my solo band, essentially, to record the music in New York. The finished and mixed music was sent to Bob, who then recorded the vocals in Dayton with Nick Mitchell engineering. Sure, they may be another ESP Ohio lp.
 

Can you tell us anything about the upcoming GBV album with the new lineup?

It will be a double album with lots of songs. That’s all I can tell you right now.

Although not a GBV-album, Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department is regarded as one of the classic Bob albums (and one of my favorite albums ever), how did that record come together? And how did that experience compare to the Lifeguards or upcoming ESP Ohio records? I know the band has been playing “Do Something Real” but any chance “Pop Zeus” or “Tight Globes” will come back into GBV-setlists now that you’re back in the fold?
 Possibly. We’ve already added T. FBI, I Am A Tree, Subspace and others on the fly while on the road. Anything’s possible with the live setlists, now.
To answer your first question here regarding Speak Kindly, Robert wrote a batch of demos with the request I record all the music. He had no stylistic instructions, just said do it up however you want to. I value that kind of implicit trust. I also wrote & recorded 4 songs instrumentally for Bob to sing over (“Pop Zeus”, “Larger Massachussetts”, “Messiahs”, and “Port Authority”).  Sure, all the music was done on 4-track cassette, but I sent the mixed music down to Bob, who recorded vocals at Cro-Mag using ADAT, so its not a complete 4-track master, if you will.
Parade On is another fantastic solo record. I know your schedule is about to be extra-packed with both GBV and Nada Surf, but any chance of new solo material soon?
Thank you so much. I’ve been writing a lot and will definitely record another album soon. Surplus of material, just need to find time to finally record it.
 

Both Nada Surf and Guided By Voices are bands that have amassed dedicated, almost cult-y audiences, do you see a lot of crossover in the audience, or type of fan of both bands? 

  I’ve seen a bit of crossover in Nada Surf crowds, and some GbV fans have definitely started listening to NS whereas they hadn’t quite kept up with them before I joined.
    I am also seeing some friends from NS fan world coming to GbV shows. Otherwise, sometimes there’s not much crossover there. It depends on how people first came to know each band & how they first connected with their respective musics in their lives.

How did you get involved with the Sons and Heirs?  

  My good friend Dave Hill invited me to a show where he opened for them, & Ravi’s wife Julie saw me in the audience & brought me backstage to meet them. We all got along swimmingly and they invited me to sit in with them occasionally. I’ve always been a huge Johnny Marr fan anyway.

 

I outsourced some questions to a GBV fanpage on facebook, and everyone’s asking about your rig. Can you tell us a little about your set up?

 Right now its Les Paul, SG or ES 330 into my Mesa head. Pedals used include TC Electronics Alter Ego delay, Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive, a Boss Harmonist lent to me by friend Hank Campbell, TC Elec. Corona nano-sized chorus, Electro Harmonix Holy Grail reverb, Boss EQ, TC Elec Polytune tuner, and my fave, a handmade Landgraff Dynamic Overdrive made by Florida’s John Landgraff (r.i.p.).
 

Thanks for everything Doug! See you on the road soon!

Thanks a lot, Layne, and appreciate the thoughful questions!

Interview With Christopher The Conquered

April 26, 2016 Leave a comment

 

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Last week I had the great privilege to speak with Christopher The Conquered. The brilliant singer/songwriter is on the verge of releasing the unmistakably great album I’m Giving Up On Rock And Roll. It’s already been hailed by critics (and is my currently my #1 album of 2016), and none other than Ryan Adams himself praised the record as “crazy and incredible.” In the past few months Christopher has played in Europe, been featured in Billboard, and most recently took part in a short tour with Sofar Sounds.

I caught up with the Iowa native after his Sofar show in Chicago. We spoke a bit about the Des Moines music scene, his musical influences, and making an album in Memphis, TN. Take a listen below, and pre-order I’m Giving Up On Rock And Roll here.

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