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Mr. Bungle’s Trevor Dunn covers Captain Beefheart with post-hardcore duo Qui
06.14.2017
09:27 am
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Not so very long ago, in those lighthearted summer days of 2016, when our biggest worries were wondering which celebrities would be next to die young and weirdos dressing up like clowns for midnight strolls, Dangerous Minds told you all about Qui, the fascinating but underrated experimental post-hardcore duo of guitarist Matt Cronk and drummer Paul Christensen. The pair have parlayed some favorable friendships into jaw-dropping musical collaborations, even ensorcelling the Jesus Lizard’s David Yow to serve as their frontman for a spell in the ‘oughts, releasing in that trio configuration the wonderful Love’s Miracle. In an email exchange for that article last year, Cronk told us about recording their How to Get Ideas E.P. with Melvins drummer Dale Crover, and in the process he let the news slip about a future project with Mr. Bungle/Melvins Lite/Trio-Convulsant bassist Trevor Dunn.

That project—a full length album inventively titled Qui w/ Trevor Dunn—is now on the horizon, and it includes a ripping little cover of “Ashtray Heart,” a standout from the last truly great Captain Beefheart album (IMO YMMV), Doc at the Radar Station. It’s a really great cover; I won’t be so ridiculous as to say it surpasses the original, but it contemporizes the source material without shedding or shitting on everything that made the original a stunner, and it features contributions not just from Dunn, but from main Melvin King Buzzo and Cows bassist Kevin Rutmanis.
 

 
In a recent phone conversation, Cronk talked about hooking up to work with Dunn:

In 2012 we were recording our last LP, Life, Water, Living, with Toshi Kasai and Dale Crover, and Trevor was in Los Angeles during that. Dale and Toshi played him the record and he really liked it. After that, it was really Toshi pushing us to do something with Trevor, saying how we should hit him up, and he just gave me Trevor’s number. So I just hit him up, said “hello,” and asked if he would be interested in doing something. He got back right away, and I believe he actually said “fuck yeah!” So we did like a year of writing the whole record with him in mind to play on it, making practice demos and sending files back and forth—he lives in New York. And then last year we got it all together. We booked a few days in the studio, he came, and we banged it out. It was really fun, Trevor is an incredibly nice guy. It was really cool, apart from emailing I didn’t really know him from Adam, but he was charming, friendly, and easygoing. We were a little nervous, to be honest, he’s a bit of a giant to us—I’ve been listening to his stuff since I was in high school, but we all hit it off right away and had a lot of fun in the studio. It was a real honor to get to play with yet another of our musical heroes.

Cronk also talked about how Qui chose to cover “Ashtray Heart”:

That’s my favorite song. My father was a big Beefheart fan who used to rock me to sleep to that stuff when I was a baby! And Doc at the Radar Station is my favorite Beefheart record. When Paul and I first started goofing off together 20-plus years ago, the drumming on that record, the sort of broken, angular, jagged drumming was something we really liked, and something we’ve toyed with a lot over the years. We really wanted to play a Beefheart song and “Ashtray Heart” seemed like the one we could do with the instrumentation we had for this album. My dad hasn’t heard it yet, and he’s really been chomping at the bit, like “WHEN’S THAT RECORD COMING OUT?”

Well, Matt’s dad, the album isn’t going to see the light for a couple of weeks, but we can hook you up reeeaaal gooood on the Beefheart tune, after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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06.14.2017
09:27 am
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A Billy Nicholls LP recently sold for $10,000, so, um, who the hell IS this guy???
06.13.2017
03:01 pm
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I have a pretty strict rule for record shopping. Anything that catches my fancy can go in the bag for any reason, but there’s a $30 per platter limit. Not $31.99, not $30.01, $30, period. This applies to new AND used vinyl, and it’s kept me on the terra firma side of some potentially stupid financial cliffs. The specific figure was a compromise I devised to let me possess an original copy of PiL’s 3X12” Metal Box so long as I got one VG+ for $90 or less (which wasn’t so difficult—in fact I landed one on a routine dig for $75), but to keep me from impulse-spending idiotic cash on rarities I would probably barely listen to and only keep around as useless trophies of successful hunts.

Hence, I find the very idea of a record worth thousands of dollars utterly absurd and even a bit sickening, especially when the CD version can be had for a buck or two—sorry “connoisseurs,” but if you care $1,000 more about the format than the song, you’re not a music lover, you’re a baseball card collector—but the obsession still fascinates me, because I know I’m a part of the pathology. The main difference is in the degree of restraint to which I hold myself, and not because I’ve such a strong and resolute character, but because I know I don’t.

So I’m always interested to read the blog posts on discogs.com running down the highest sale prices logged in its music media marketplace. Oftentimes such sought-after items are deep obscurities of genuine archival interest, but a lot of the time it’s some asshole who unaccountably blew over $1,600 (actual recent sale price) on an O.G. copy of Earth A.D. just because he could (and it’s invariably a “he”), even though multiple subsequent pressings are plentifully available in the $5-10 ballpark. But recently a staggering $10,300 became the new going rate for Would You Believe, the 1968 debut album by a British songwriter named Billy Nicholls.

Part of this is accounted for by the particular copy’s condition (excellent), and part by extreme scarcity—it was never actually released, so only about 100 copies exist, all of them promos, and one went for £7,312 (ballpark of $9,000 USD) in 2009. Nicholls himself isn’t exactly an unknown figure, in fact his decades-long career is still going. His “I Can’t Stop Loving You (Though I Try)” had been a hit in the ‘70s, ‘80s AND ‘oughts by artists as head-swimmingly diverse as Leo Sayer, The Outlaws, Phil Collins, and Keith Urban, and Nicholls has often collaborated with Pete Townshend.
 

 
But enough about his behind-the-scenes bona fides, the story of Would You Believe is a quite captivating one. Nicholls’ talents were singled out by erstwhile Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham after his falling-out with that band, and like Chas Chandler going all in on Jimi Hendrix, Oldham devoted significant energies to making Nicholls a very big deal. From The Rising Storm:

The single [“Would You Believe”] has been described as “the most over-produced record of the sixties”, and with reason; a modest psych-pop love song, it’s swathed in overblown orchestration including baroque strings, harpsichord, banjo (!), tuba (!!), and demented answer-back vocals from Steve Marriott. A trifle late for the high tide of UK psych, it failed to trouble the charts. Unfazed, Oldham and Nicholls pressed on with the album, Nicholls providing a steady stream of similarly well-crafted ditties and a bevy of top-rated London session men providing the backings, thankfully with somewhat more subtlety than on the prototype cut. The album was ready for pressing just as the revelation of Oldham’s reckless financial overstretch brought about Immediate’s overnight demise, and only about a hundred copies ever made it to wax, most of which somehow surfaced in Sweden. The album became one of the mythical lost albums of the sixties, and original copies now fetch over a grand in GBP.

The record was intended by Oldham to be an acutely British answer to Pet Sounds—evidently nobody told him about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band—and a look at the session details confirms that Oldham was NOT fucking around. Studio musicians for the sessions included members and future members of bands like The Small Faces, Humble Pie, and Led Zeppelin, plus Stones/Kinks pianist Nicky Hopkins. But not unlike The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, its Edwardian harpsichord whimsy, sunshiney loopiness, and baroque production saw a release date just a hair too late for the initial psych moment, after rock music had moved on to harder stuff, so it’s hard to say it would have done well even if it had been released (Village Green is rightly regarded as a classic NOW, but remember, it totally tanked in its day).

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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06.13.2017
03:01 pm
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There’s a riot going on: Wayne Kramer has uploaded some ‘long lost’ footage of the MC5 to YouTube
06.13.2017
12:47 pm
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Don’t look now, but it seems that Wayne Kramer, of the legendary MC5, has suddenly discovered his YouTube account and decided to use it to showcase some killer footage of the band from its heyday. Over the last three weeks he’s uploaded a handful of videos on his Facebook presence as well as his YouTube account. It’s going to be worth keeping an eye on his account for the next weeks and months.

The earliest video from a chronological perspective is a short compilation of DASPO-CONUS footage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. DASPO was the Department of the Army Special Photographic Office, the “CONUS” bit means “Continental United States.” DASPO recorded footage from the Vietnam conflict as well. This is a true compilation—there’s no audio and it’s just a mishmash of different images, quite interesting actually even if the MC5 only pop up for a few moments. Around the 29-second mark there is a clip of a folk singer performing in the middle of a crowd of people—the singer is Phil Ochs—and then a few seconds later, there’s the MC5 in a similar setting. As I said, there’s no audio: unfortunately it seems that the Army was callously insensitive to the needs of audio bootleggers. According to Kramer, this footage has never been published before. The YouTube caption indicates that the footage has been sync’d to “Wayne Kramer’s original underscore musical compositions.”
 

Fred Smith in his Sonic Smith suit
 
The second clip, and certainly the most satisfying from the perspective of an MC5 fan who wants to rock out, was shot at Wayne State University’s Tartar Field on July 19, 1970. We actually posted a version of this footage last year. The band plays “Ramblin’ Rose,” “Kick Out the Jams,” being the first two songs off of the MC5’s first album Kick Out The Jams from 1969 and then “Looking at You” from the 1970 follow-up Back in the USA. This was the first-ever live performance of that song, it seems. This concert was recorded by multiple cameras, and it looks and sounds great.

Rounding out the trio is a fan-shot video taken at the Gibus Club in Paris in 1972. The video is pretty muddy but the audio is not so terrible. Noteworthy here is that Fred “Sonic” Smith is wearing his superhero getup—as Kramer writes, “Enjoy Fred in his Sonic Smith suit!” Only two songs here but both are a treat: “Kick Out the Jams” and “Black to Comm,” one of their perennial jams going back to when the band were all still teenagers.

Check out the newly uploaded footage after the jump…....

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.13.2017
12:47 pm
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Blood and Steel: Punk meets skateboarding at the Cedar Crest Country Club
06.13.2017
09:30 am
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The invention of the polyurethane wheel in 1972 literally reinvented the wheel for the modern skateboard. While Team Zephyr etcetera were tearing up the empty pools of the west coast, it wasn’t for another decade that underground skateboarding began to seep into the cul-de-sacs of suburban America. More than just a surfer fad, skateboarding echoed the defiant self-expression of the nation’s youth subcultures. So it was no surprise then, that the sport often gravitated toward the thriving punk movements of the era. Ever the locale for political discomfort, Washington DC under Reagan was a mecca of punk and hardcore, with bands like Minor Threat and Bad Brains setting the nation’s pulse. Obviously, the skate culture came along with it.

The only problem was, in DC there was nowhere to skate. The short-lived scene saw a demise in the mid 80s, with the closing of the city’s only parks and backyard ramps. That was, until the Cedar Crest Country Club. Located in the middle of a forest in Centreville, Virginia, the half-pipe was built in March 1986 on the property of a golf club. The property owner’s son was given free-reign on expenses, resulting in the construction of a ramp like none other. Besides its behemoth-like qualities, the most notable feature of the ramp was its steel bottom, which ensured maximum speed and higher air time. There was nothing else in the country like it at the time, and it was free to ride if you could make the hour trek outside of the District.
 

Tony Hawk skates Cedar Crest
 
Before long, people from all over the world were dropping in at CCCC. Some of the world’s greatest skaters, like Tony Hawk and Bucky Lasek, all came out to skate. Camping was allowed, and people started showing up for the punk shows they had on the ramp. Bad Brains played, along with Government Issue, GWAR, and Scream (with a young Dave Grohl on drums). Fugazi was scheduled to play CCCC for one of their earliest shows, but the cops broke it up during the opener’s set (evening skating resumed, however).
 

 

 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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06.13.2017
09:30 am
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Life after death: New posthumous release from Suicide’s Alan Vega
06.12.2017
01:27 pm
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There’s been no new music from Suicide co-founder Alan Vega since 2010’s Sniper. In the six years between that album and his death in the summer of 2016, Vega worked on a project called IT with his wife and frequent collaborator Liz Lamere. During that time he suffered a stroke, but the work continued.

Hardly surprising that the 78-year old artist would keep it going to the very end, though. After Vega and partner Martin Rev’s incredibly belligerent early ‘70s Suicide performances made the world just a little safer for countless punk, minimal electronic, noise, and industrial artists who’d follow, Vega kept up a respectable release schedule, never letting more than a few years go by without putting out new work. An absolute desert island favorite of mine is 1998’s Endless, a collaboration under the name “VVV” with the Finnish experimental duo Pan Sonic, themselves quite obviously Suicide acolytes. That trio would be revived for 2005’s Resurrection River, but sadly, Pan Sonic’s Mika Vainio himself passed away just a couple of months ago.

Though it’s sad that IT had to be a posthumous album, it will at last be available in July, its release coinciding with the anniversary of his death and a slew of commemorative “Alan Vega Week” events that will include an exhibit of Vega’s drawings at Invisible-Exports, and “Dream Baby Dream,” a collection at Deitch Projects of Vega’s sculptural work plus video projections of historic Suicide performances. Here’s the album’s lead-off track, “DTM” (it stands for “Dead to Me”). Lamere had this to say about Vega’s persistence in completing the work despite advanced age and failing health:

Alan’s life force was so strong because he believed in his vision and purpose. He understood we can’t control much of what happens to us, or in our world, but we have free will and the power to go on and stand for what we believe in.

 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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06.12.2017
01:27 pm
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Tangled up in Blue: When Stephen Colbert met Jack White
06.09.2017
03:55 pm
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The “Blue Series” started in 2009 with the simple idea of a continuing series of 7-inch singles to be released via Jack White’s Third Man Records label. Each artist/group would be given just 24 hours notice, the music would be recorded in the same studio (at Jack White’s house), the songs would all be produced by Jack and the cover photo would be the performer(s) in front of the blue wall in the Blue Room at Third Man’s Nashville offices.

From that sprung 40 releases spanning every sort of style and genre and all pressed at the same local pressing plant. The beautifully-published new book The Blue Series: The Story Behind the Color is an extensive 282-page oral history of the project presented in a hardback slipcase-clad volume featuring a series of interviews conducted with the Blue Series’ many contributors giving a lot of insight into how these spontaneous recordings came to be. This excerpt with one of the series’ more surprising participants can be read in full in the pages of The Story Behind the Color. Courtesy of editor Ben Blackwell and Third Man Books.

Ben Blackwell writes:

While his team was always assuring me otherwise, I never really thought Stephen Colbert would have the time to speak to me. The onset of our conversation was probably the only time in the writing of the book where I was legitimately nervous. But he’s so easy to talk to, so affable…he SPEAKS for a living and that’s a great asset to have in an interview. By the time we landed on Neutral Milk Hotel I’d just thrown that in there out of personal interest, yet THAT part of the interview became one of my favorite parts of the entire book. I don’t know if he’s ever explained so in-depth his appreciation for the band.

BEN BLACKWELL: This is Ben Blackwell from Third Man Records.

STEPHEN COLBERT: Hey! How are ya?

BLACKWELL: I’m good, how are you doing?

COLBERT: Doing just dandy.

BLACKWELL: That’s just great. Are you a big fan of Black Oak Arkansas and Jim Dandy the lead singer?

COLBERT: Of course I am. Of course I am.

BLACKWELL: So yeah, I’m calling to talk about the wonderful recording experience you had a couple years back when you came down here to Nashville.

COLBERT: Yeah!

BLACKWELL: So I guess where does your memory bring you in terms of how all this came about? Where did the idea spring from?

COLBERT: Well we were fans of Jack, and one of my producers, a guy named Aaron Cohen, came to me — he was also one of my writer/ producers who also was always making music recommendations to me, so he always came in with his music ideas — and he goes, “would you wanna go, would you wanna record something with Jack White at Third Man Records?” And I said “Yeah, sounds great!” And he goes, “We’d have to go to Nashville,” and I went, “I don’t know about that,” because traveling was difficult — we had to do a show every day. And he goes, “No it will be fun, please, let’s go. It’s supposed to be like a musical playground down there.” And I said, “Alright, sure, I’ll give it a shot. What are we doing?” “Oh we’ll do a sequel to ‘Charlene,’” and I said “That will be fun.” And I don’t think… I can’t remember if we had Jack on the show yet, I can’t remember if we had him on yet because I know evidently we had a show where we did something a little different, he didn’t want to be interviewed.

BLACKWELL: I don’t think you did from my recollection.

COLBERT: Ok. He’s pleasantly difficult, is how I would describe Jack. A difficult that leads to creativity because you have to find a new way to talk to him or play with him and it’s always fun, because he’s particular about the way he likes to do things, which I respect. And so, I said “sure,” that was it. Just one of my producers was a fan of Jack’s and he knew that I liked Jack and The White Stripes and I said “sure let’s give it a shot.” But I didn’t know what to expect at all.

BLACKWELL: Do you have any recollection — I remember back in, whenever it was, 2005 or so, at some point in the lead up to your show —


COLBERT
: — Oh shit, yeah! Ok so here’s the deal: Jack agreed to do our theme song, the original song, and listen, I didn’t have the original conversation with Jack. It was Ben Carlin, one of my old execs, and he goes, “Hey, Jack White said he’s up for doing our theme song.” And I’m like, “Oh that sounds fantastic! That’s great!” And the closer we got, the less it seemed like it was gonna happen so Jack finally said like, “I just don’t have time. I know you guys are coming up, I wanna do it, I just don’t have time.” And I had always thought that — I was very excited that Jack wanted to do it — but I hadn’t actually reached out to Jack because I didn’t know him. And I was always like, I kinda felt like we were gonna go with Cheap Trick and my exec was like, “Would Jack White be fine too?” And I’m like, “Yeah sure.” It was just another thing I didn’t want on my plate. And I was thrilled it was gonna be Jack, and then I found out he couldn’t do it and I was like, “Man, fuck Jack White!” And then I was like, well let’s go with what I wanted. Then we went with Cheap Trick and had a great time. But yeah, Jack was originally gonna do the theme song.

BLACKWELL: And Rick Nielsen has since made millions off of your theme song.


COLBERT: God I hope so.

BLACKWELL: I remember being with Jack at the time and him saying, “Yeah I’m gonna do the theme song for this new Stephen Colbert show.” Oh wow, that sounds pretty cool. And not hearing anything from him between when he said that and I was watching the first episode going like, “can’t wait to see what Jack did! Ehhh this doesn’t really sound like Jack.”


COLBERT: [laughs] Does not sound like him, no. And that was my original thought. Because I had totally forgotten about that. So when they said do you wanna do something with Jack White. I was like “I’d like to plan to do something with Jack White” —

BLACKWELL: So you had to travel down here, you guys— you and a bunch of your writers — kind of started sketching out the idea of the song. Was there a little bit of back and forth? You guys came up with lyrics and —

COLBERT: Yeah, what would the next version of the song be …

BLACKWELL: Right. You guys didn’t do any of the music part at all, right? You guys just only focused on lyrics?

COLBERT: Yeah, I think so we just did the lyrics and Jack came through with the music, I think that’s how it worked.

BLACKWELL: Right. And how did you feel about that, did that feel all in concert with the interview and the actual filming or did you view it as two separate, but connected, parts?


COLBERT: Well the funny thing was, the interview that I did with Jack, felt so different from almost any other interview I’ve ever done because it was all just about music and Catholicism. Those two subjects that we talked about. And he’s got an irascible nature, and it was such wonderful friction to go up against. Because you really want somebody to resist you in an interview situation. So you have some place for sparks to happen. And he’s all either flint or steel. I’m not sure which one it is. So there are so many sparks, even if — think I was like, “What’s your favorite Bob Seger song?” And he’s like, “excuse me?” I’m like “C’mon, Seeg?” And it’s time for the comeback. “What’s your favorite Seger song? Don’t tell me you don’t have one. Don’t tell me you don’t have a favorite.” And in some ways I’m fucking with him but it was kind of sincere. I ran my interview with him, but the song is totally in character. The song’s totally in character. But I was doing the interview with one of the early examples of like, this is what I would be like if I could just interview people not in character. Because yeah, I was fucking with him but just like a comedian, but it was entirely enjoyable just to spend time with someone as opinionated and as, oddly, both opinionated and reticent at the same time. Having to pry answers out of him at times and almost entirely be combative, but seeing that he would enjoy it, it was such a joy to do. So the interview was totally not the song. The process of the song was, let’s complete this character game that we created in the first months of the show when the character was very tightly wound. And the interview was the loosest one I’ve ever done up until that point. Even though I was, I had a game of just messing with him. So, yeah, they were very different.

BLACKWELL: You had said, at some point you said to someone, that Stephen Colbert, the character, and Stephen Colbert, the person, are both huge fans of Bob Seger.

COLBERT: Yeah that’s true.

BLACKWELL: And do you recall at the time that Bob Seger was actually in Nashville?

COLBERT: He was?

BLACKWELL: He was in Nashville and it seemed like we almost got him down to appear on-screen to play one of those nights you were filming here.


COLBERT: [laughs] I remember something like that. I actually ran into Seger about a month ago.

BLACKWELL: Oh nice!

COLBERT: I had never met him before, but I was at the Kennedy Center Honors and he was there to sing “Heartache Tonight” for the Eagles, which I guess he co-wrote with Don Henley. I think it was Henley he wrote it with. With Glen Frey, he co-wrote it with Glen Frey. And we were seated next to each other at the actual award ceremony at the White House. He leans forward around his wife and goes, “Heyyyy,” and I said, “Oh man! So nice to finally meet you.” And he goes, “I saw your thing with Jack. Really liked it, man. We were playing it around the office a lot.” And so that was a real joy. I’m still waiting for the re-Segerence. I know he’s never going anywhere and he’s still been around but somebody needs to do a movie with an entire soundtrack of just Seger. But let’s get back to Jack.

BLACKWELL: Well, we’ve been working on it since, at least since then to try to reissue some of that stuff. But that’s another story. So the whole Catholic throwdown thing, you talk about the interview being nothing but talking about music and Catholicism — my side question becomes, you have a — I remember preceding this Jack said it’s really hard to be interviewed by you because first of all,  it’s not a traditional interview. Second of all, you actually need to come in with an approach as maybe you dealt with a lot of people who were trying to be funny in response to you? And maybe a lot of people weren’t coming in thinking no you actually need to dial it back and Stephen’s the funny one and you need to be the straight guy. Did that feel at play with that conversation at all?

COLBERT
: No, I didn’t feel that at all. Not with Jack at all. He was very — I mean, I don’t know what he’s like to people who have known him for a long time, but he’s got a combative nature — at least when I talked to him — and he’s also got a little bit of “oh you’re not so great. You’re not so great. Why are you such a big fucking deal?” And so it’s like, “Oh you’re not the biggest Catholic, I’m the biggest Catholic.” You know? [laughs] He wouldn’t give me an inch. And my character is usually very high status. And just like having a TV show is very high status. And he wouldn’t give me the status. Which was always fun. It ended up being the status game. The status game evolved very quickly into specifically the Catholic status game. Who could stump the other person. I don’t even remember how we got to the first question about it.

BLACKWELL: He asked you how to spell your name.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.09.2017
03:55 pm
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Before ‘Dolemite,’ Rudy Ray Moore was an accomplished early rock and roll singer
06.09.2017
09:33 am
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Rudy Ray Moore is best known for his Dolemite character which appeared in a string of low-budget 1970s blaxploitation films. His jive-talking, rhyme-spitting comedian/pimp/martial artist character has become a cultural icon and has been homaged by Mad TV and in the loving blaxploitation tribute, Black Dynamite.

Moore’s best films, Dolomite, The Human Tornado, Disco Godfather, and (my personal favorite) Petey Wheatstraw have all been recently reissued in gloriously fully-loaded, ultra-deluxe Blu-ray editions by boutique label Vinegar Syndrome, and I can’t recommend them enough for fans of ‘70s so-bad-it’s-good grindhouse fare.
 

Rudy Ray Moore, straight pimpin’, in “Petey Wheatraw, The Devil’s Son in Law.”
 
Though Moore, who left this mortal coil in 2008, sold thousands of spoken-word “party records” as a comedian, he is not widely remembered for the dozens of records he released as a musician. Moore is considered by many to be “the Godfather of rap,” as his rhymed “toasting” storytelling style is often cited as one of the great inspirations on that musical genre; but Moore’s own musical recordings are, by and large, straight r&b and early rock and roll affairs, with many of the early singles demonstrating obvious Little Richard and Chuck Berry influences. 

His talent as a singer rivals his talents as a comedian and martial artist—and depending on your level of Rudy Ray Moore fandom, that is either a slight or high praise.

I’ll let you be the judge.

Have a listen after the jump you no-good, rat-soup-eatin’ motherfuckers…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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06.09.2017
09:33 am
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Michael Moorcock’s TV special on ‘positive punk,’ featuring Siouxsie, 1983
06.09.2017
09:08 am
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Positive punks in the February 1983 issue of The Face
 
In 1983, Michael Moorcock, the science fiction writer who collaborated with Hawkwind and wrote the novelization of The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, hosted an episode of London Weekend Television’s South of Watford that investigated the new phenomenon of “positive punk.” Yer tiz.

In the frame story, Moorcock visits the Tribe to take in a bill of Blood and Roses and Brigandage and meet some of these positive punks of whom he has heard tell. But it feels like the story Moorcock really wants to tell is how punk rock fell short of its revolutionary ambitions, and he interviews several ‘76 alumni about punk’s failure to bring about “permanent change.”

Jon Savage, punk’s Herodotus, says everything that followed the Sex Pistols was a disappointment:

I remember Jamie Reid telling me that they all hoped—they all thought that they would just be the start. And what in fact happened is [the Sex Pistols] were the only punk group, and most of the other ones that came out afterwards were, if not pathetic, then sort of fatally flawed. I mean, the Clash, after being initially wonderful, turned into a bunch of social workers. Very successful, very honorable social workers, but social workers nonetheless. And, you know, the Damned and all the others were just sort of hyped-up entertainment, really. I mean, I’m not putting them down for that, but it meant that the original thing was diluted, and that sort of very pure expression of energy got diluted.

Identifying Siouxsie Sioux as the main inspiration for punk’s resurgence, Moorcock meets up with her and Steven Severin in a Camden shop about halfway through the show. As they tell it, punk 1.0 collided with a music industry “full of idiots” and a sclerotic media environment.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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06.09.2017
09:08 am
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‘Terminal Drive’: Pere Ubu’s Allen Ravenstine’s legendary long lost electronic composition FOUND
06.08.2017
09:32 am
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Pere Ubu co-founder Allen Ravenstine’s “Terminal Drive,” a crucial 1975 artifact from the primordial soup of punk, has recently been rediscovered after decades of being presumed lost. It’s a 16-minute electronic composition in two movements, performed by Ravenstine on synth with contributions from bassist Albert Dennis, and it’s THE piece of music that led to Ravenstine being asked to join the fledgling Pere Ubu, whereupon his distinctive amusical synth playing became mighty damn influential.

The only excerpt available from the piece until now has been a snippet titled “Home Life” which appeared, with incorrect session info, on the 1996 5CD boxed set Datapanik in the Year Zero.
 

 
Ravenstine left Pere Ubu in the early 1990s to become an airline pilot, and hasn’t really done a whole lot of talking about music since, so Dangerous Minds was extremely pleased to be granted some time to conduct an interview with him.

Dangerous Minds: I want to ask you about your approach to synth playing generally—I know you had some musical training, so I’m curious about how you developed your style. Was it just that those EML 200 synths had no keyboards, or was there a conscious decision at some point to reject playing notes?

Allen Ravenstine: My “musical training” was an attempt at playing trombone when I was in grade school. Much later, I had some boxes that were rewired from fuzztones to make oscillators, and I picked up a thing called a “clipper box,” and I was fooling around with these things just for my own amusement, and someone, I honestly don’t remember who, told me that they had all of these kind of little things in one box and it was called a “synthesizer.” And I became aware of the company EML. They had been commissioned by a department of education in Connecticut to devise a synthesizer that could be used to teach schoolchildren about what was then being called “electron music,” and it was supposed to be something that was basically indestructible, and I got one. It suited what I had already been doing, because it didn’t have a keyboard, it was just knobs, so I already had some sense of what to do with it. I was undisciplined, really, and I didn’t want to muster the discipline to learn how to play a keyboard, so a bunch of knobs was something I knew how to fiddle with to get something satisfying to me without having to go through the rigors of learning fingering. So I guess you could chalk it up to being lazy.

DM: Were there any electronic composers you were listening to at the time or were you more just firing blindly on your own?

Ravenstine: I was firing blindly on my own. I’m not really that aware of things other people have done that are similar to what I’ve done. I’ve always kind of operated from an internal sense of what made sense to me, and with Ubu I was able to hear something and respond. It’s kind of like painting. You mix a color, so you use it, and you get a sense of another color that would go with that color, and then you use that. And so I’m not painting a scene, I hear a sound that’s interesting to me and I put that sound down, and it suggests another sound which suggests another sound which suggests another sound, and then at some point or another I feel like the thing is finished. With Ubu I would listen to what they were playing, and I would listen to what David Thomas was singing about—take “Birdies” for instance, and I would just hear a sound and do something that related to it. So it was about a visual sense in some cases, it was about a literal sense in some cases, and in some cases it was—OK, say “30 Seconds Over Tokyo,” I love the sound of a big rotary engine, like on an airplane, it’s a great sound which you don’t hear anymore, so that sound was suggested to me by the lyric, so I came up with something that was, um, not meant to duplicate that sound, I’m kind of more interested in creating the sense of that sound, not recreating the sound itself.

DM: Huh! So was there any extant music that influenced the creation of “Terminal Drive?”

Ravenstine: If there was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.

DM: So you created this piece of music that’s now regarded as a lost classic. People know it existed and it’s generally known that it’s what led Pere Ubu to ask you to join them in forming the band. But it’s been gone for so long—who DID hear it, and how did that lead Ubu to you?

Ravenstine: I had been living in a rented house in the country. My housemates all moved out so I ended up having it all to myself. I wasn’t working at the time, and I would just sit with my EML 200 and make tapes. I had a TEAC 3340 recorder, and I figured out how to record three tracks, bump it down to one, then two more, bump it down to one, and so on, whatever that amounts to. And I’d make these recordings, and a guy who was connected with the dance department at Cleveland State University heard about what I was doing, probably because people would come out to the house and jam—[Pere Ubu drummer] Scott Krause was one of them—so people were aware of what I was doing. And one piece led to another piece, and I made this one where I went far enough to get someone else involved, I asked Albert Dennis to contribute, and when it was finished I wanted somebody to hear it. I knew Peter [Laughner, founding Pere Ubu guitarist, RIP 1977] and his wife Charlotte [Pressler, poet/musician], and there was a little gathering, just me and my wife and them and I played this thing and Peter responded to it.

I guess sometime later after that I was told that David was aware of it and wanted to know if I’d be interested in playing. And the sense I had at the time was this band Pere Ubu was an experiment. I don’t know, if David was standing here maybe he’d be shaking his head saying “you’re out of your mind,” but my sense of the idea was that if you put a bunch of people together that had a similar way of looking at the world, even if they weren’t necessarily musicians, you could give them instruments and they would come together and make something of value. So it was less about being proficient at an instrument, and more about who you were as a person. So I agreed to do it.

The first thing we were going to record was “30 Seconds Over Tokyo.”

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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06.08.2017
09:32 am
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Of hippies, ducks and capitalist pigs: Jefferson Airplane’s acid-drenched Levi’s commercials
06.07.2017
03:51 pm
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In 1967, Levi’s had a new line of white jeans it wanted young folks to know about, so they sought out three groovy acts from the West Coast and had them record free-form radio spots about the new white jeans as well as the revolutionary (har) stretchy qualities that made the jeans such an impeccable fit. The bands were the Sopwith Camel, Jefferson Airplane, and a Seattle group called the West Coast Natural Gas Co.

The Airplane had been together for less than two years by this point, and their breakthrough album Surrealistic Pillow had just come out. “White Rabbit” hadn’t been released yet, but “Somebody to Love” had been. They were basically in the act of cresting, and now they were appearing on the radio selling Levi’s jeans. 
 

 
The bands were given creative control over the spots, of which there were nine in all. They’re pretty amusing—you can almost imagine the Smittys in Mad Men pridefully taking credit for the idea. Four of the tracks are by the Sopwith Camel, and four were by Jefferson Airplane.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.07.2017
03:51 pm
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