Recycled Rock N Roll

Recycled Rock N Roll

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Daedelus - Music

When I first started interviewing people for Skinnie Entertainment Magazine my questions were pretty much set before I spoke to the artist. I'd do my research, talk to the press agent about what to focus on during the interview (and what to not talk about), which projects to promote, and after that I'd ask about the tour.

My interviews still follow that construct, but I've learned to shut up and just let the artist say what he or she wants to say about their work. I'll even omit my questions if what the artist says is more interesting than what I was going to ask.

I was fortunate to interview Alfred Darlington a.k.a. Daedelus, for Inland Empire Weekly. He was very cool, very friendly, and I also figured out early on in the interview that he was also very intelligent, so I tried to feature his opinions as much as the word limit would allow.

Afterwards, he mentioned hanging out at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, but I couldn't make it because of a film I was working on. I lost his number, so I can't call him. Darn. Let's hope I get to interview him again.
Modern Romanticism: Daedelus takes an 18th Century notion and creates genre-melding music. 

Alfred Darlington is the artist better known as Daedelus. Working out of his studio in Los Angeles he spins experimental electronica that can either hit hard with heavy, stomping bass, rev up the party with synthetic beats and mind-warping tones or mash up the plinking of light string instruments and harpsichords to make music so beautiful angels must dream of it when they sleep.

“My music fits anywhere between the realm of hip-hop and electronic, but those are broad terms. Today any current pop production by Britney Spears can be electronica. I think electronica and hip-hop are imperfect definitions. I’ve been styling my own music as ‘Romantic,’” he says. 

The Romantic Era was a literary movement in the last half of the 18th century that combined visual arts, raw emotion and passionate music to find spiritual inspiration in love, nature, the imagination and the exotic.

For Daedelus, the term also refers to the experience of being in an intense loving relationship. “I like to write music that symbolizes every stage of a romance: the butterflies, the anticipation, having to go up to someone and talk to them for the first time, the excitement, the long relationship, the feelings of regret...”

A romance could also symbolize life, so his music is not just about the stages of romance but life, itself. The artist understands that it’s a challenge to continually weave such a philosophy into the tapestry of his creations. “I know that such an idea is prevalent in today’s electronica music.”

Bespoke, his 12th major album (which was released on April 11th under the British independent record label Ninja Tune) is dedicated, interestingly enough, to his love of Victorian fashion. “Dressing up in Victorian clothing is something I’ve been doing at home and onstage. I find that wearing something outside of the images the audience usually gets can give me a certain freedom.”

“It goes beyond just the appearance. Part of what I admire about Victorian fashion was that a single person cut the cloth, designed the outfit and created something that was made perfectly for the customer. It was a craft. Now clothes are mass-produced. I feel like music is going that way, where it’s going to be art that can just be programmed.”

Daedelus has also performed at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. “Coachella is a celebration of all kinds of sounds. It’s the variety that gets the public to come out, so it’s also a celebration of diversity.  There’s going to be a group of kids who are there for each kind of music, electronica, rock, hip-hop, etc., so it’s a mix of different types of fans. With so many diverse kinds of music coming together it’s also a collision of cultures that hasn’t been explored before.”

Every performance the Victorian-influenced, romance electronic artist has is practice for impressing new audiences. “It does speak to a certain kind of truth when you have to win over new people. Fans want you to succeed, because they believe in the show, and trust me, once you have a great show you never want to have anything else unless it’s better than the last one.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Those Darlins - Music

I have to turn the fan side of my personality off when I interview an artist. It's not professional to interview an artist behaving like a friendly, slobbering dog.
With Those Darlins this took a lot of effort. I'm a huge fan of The Cramps, The Raveonettes and Love and Rockets. These bands all have a retro quality to their music, but possess a voodoo darkness that makes me want to turn the volume up when I'm driving down the freeway at midnight.
When I spoke to Jesse Darlin, I stayed cool and tried not to think of how truly great their album was. I had listened to Screws Get Loose from start to finish many times days before the interview, so I can't help but think that I got a little exuberant with the writing.
Rock and roll will never get away from the essential sound that came out of the ‘50s. Artists like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis made music that future musicians of the genre either parallel or build upon as a necessary foundation to create modern rock and roll, whether it’s rockabilly, heavy metal or alternative rock.

Tennessee foursome Those Darlins combine the innocent sounds of straightforward, midcentury rock and roll with dark melodies and gorgeous lyrics that sing of suicide, murder and rape. It actually sounds a lot prettier than that, which is what makes the band so compelling. The sweet vocals, rock instrumentals and honest subject matter about boys who “. . . just want to stick it in” shock and serenade like a beautiful nightmare.

The musicians that would later form Those Darlins all lived in the same town in Murfeesboro, Tenn. The local rock scene brought the four together, and after honing their unique sound they hit the road. Jesse Darlin, singer and guitarist for the band, describes the experience. “We played every night anywhere we could in town for two to three months, and then we toured all around for 5 to 6 months. We played in Memphis, Knoxville, North Carolina, Georgia . . . we were a little sloppy. Not too polished at all.”

The hard experience on the road paid off. Screws Get Loose sold so well that the band extended its U.S. tour. “I had a lot of hope for the album,” says Darlin. “We were all so excited when we finished. Sure, we kept touring because of the album’s success, but we’ve always been on the road.”

Screws Get Loose is a blast of retro rock and sweet, cynical darkness for listeners who are sick of constantly being told they are nothing but a hound dog. “Our band is a combination of personalities and influences” says Darlin. “We all grew up in different ways, and we all have interesting backgrounds. All of us have a common love for the Southern roots of rock and roll.”

Darlin admits that they’ve achieved such greatness through a lot of improvisation. “With the first album we ended up with a lot of fans, but when we made it we didn’t really know what was going to happen. With the second album we knew we were going to be even better, but it was annoying having to wait a year before fans could enjoy it.”

All of the talent, touring, working and waiting paid off. Fans won’t have to wait long for more. “We have a new album that we are working on for next year.” Darlin says. “We are also working on a full U.S. tour, and we intend to visit Australia and Europe.”

Those Darlins has generated a large following in such a brief amount of time because its music is so consistently intoxicating, live or recorded. Jesse has every right to be in a good mood about her band’s success. “A lot of people liked our second album, and we’re really enjoying the tour. I’m glad people who bought our album are just as excited as coming out to see us play live.”

Friday, August 26, 2011

John Whiteside Parsons -The Weird

John Whiteside Parsons is almost a hero of mine. There was a kind of style that existed during the 40's, 50's, and 60's that doesn't exist any more. A certain style shows like Mad Men try to express with every nostalgic shot.

This goes one step farther in drawing together strange elements like rocket fuel, witchcraft, early space exploration and the occult-industrial-complex. For some reason, pure evil is so much more wicked in the hot daylight of sun-kissed California.

For some reason I'll never understand, Skinnie Entertainment Magazine published this article back in 2004. The publisher really enjoyed conspiracy theory material at the time, so it was fun getting to be The Weird Guy at all of the big magazine release parties.

John “Jack” Whiteside Parsons (1914-1952) was a native Californian, a self-taught chemist, a brilliant rocket engineer who started the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and was so influential to America’s space program there’s a peak on the dark side of the Moon named after him. 

He was also a poet, philosopher, writer and hard-drinking swinger who died of a mysterious explosion in his garage at the age of 37. Parsons was also an occultist who just might have helped kick-start the Apocalypse.


Sunny California, 1936.  Parsons, 22, met with fellow science enthusiasts Frank Malina and Edward S. Foreman at Cal Tech University to attend a lecture on the possibility of a rocket-powered airplane. The trio convinced the lead scientist of Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory-Caltech’s department, Theodore von Karman, to let Parsons and Foreman work together with Malina to create a liquid-propellant rocket motor.

Early experiments resulted in an explosion that almost wiped out their Cal Tech lab, earning the three the title of “The Suicide Squad” and forcing them to continue in a stretch of the desert near the Devil’s Gate Dam in Pasadena.

Parsons had never been to college, but would eventually receive government grants to develop breakthroughs in solid-fuel rockets that would allow America to break the sound barrier and go all the way to the Moon.
Parsons also started the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is now a major industrial complex, decorated with a statue of Parsons in tribute.  Some of his work is still classified, to this day.


Parsons had become interested in the occult at the age of 13, and in 1941 became a member of the California lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis (an occult society with connections to Masonry) and a practitioner of Thelema, a bizarre fusion of Asian philosophy and Tantric-sex rituals.

Impressed by the young chemical engineer, Alister Crowley, the leader of the O.T.O, quickly appointed Parsons as the head of the California lodge after a single year.

Parsons’s mansion had become a haven of various personalities in an era when people didn’t say “The Occult” in polite company.  His parties frightened neighbors, who would call police that would just be turned away when the young scientist cited his government connections. 


Parsons wrote essays that reflected his inner belief that modern society quashed freedom and healthy rebellion, and that the true beliefs of Christianity had been usurped by false ones which promoted only spiritual slavery, a common theme in occult philosophy.

The rocket scientist eventually met L. Ron Hubbard, and the two decided to attempt a ritual called “The Babylon Working”, a mystic rite designed to allow “The Old Ones” (pictures of which look a lot like the “Grays” UFO people claim to have seen), end the current world, and bring about a new age of spiritual harmony.

But, before that could happen, the current world needed a potent infusion of chaos to shake things up enough for people to “evolve.”

The Babylon Working took quite some time, involving candles, chanting in Latin, summoning circles, bizarre ingredients, rituals in the desert and marathon sex with Parsons’s hot redhead girlfriend, Majorie Cameron.
Hey, it isn’t easy to bring about the Apocalypse!


Did The Babylon Working, well, work?  It depends on what you believe.  Two years after the ritual (which took place in 1946) the first atomic bomb was detonated, World War II came to an end, a UFO (supposedly) crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, and LSD was invented, resulting in the psychedelic 60’s.
Experts in the occult claim that L. Ron Hubbard and Jack Parsons opened a door, something flew in, the laws of time and space were forever altered, and that our existence was changed forever.

Later, L. Ron Hubbard and Parsons had a massive falling out, with Hubbard skipping town with both Parsons’s cash and girlfriend.  Parsons was also kicked out of the Order of Thelma, investigated by the FBI, fired from his government position, and end up having to take various special effects jobs in Hollywood to pay his bills.

A freak explosion ended his life in 1952.  The official story is that Parsons dropped a canister full of unstable chemicals while he was working on a rocket fuel experiment in his garage.  There are also claims that he was assassinated by anyone from the FBI to a vengeful saboteur he testified against in a criminal court case a decade before.

John Whiteside Parsons was an influential progenitor of a branch of our science that still exists today, who lost it all to become a permanent fixture in occult counter-culture.  He went from the top of “accepted society” to the depths of the underground, and didn’t survive the trip.

The Supervillains - Music

The Supervillains unleash positive reggae with Postcards from Paradise

The Supervillains plays reggae music with roots deep in the heart of Jamaican dancehalls, but the ability to branch out from those fundamentals to impress audiences with its bold rock hooks and ska-powered beats has earned the talented Florida band fame and respect.

Their latest album, Postcards from Paradise, demonstrates that 10 years into the scene The Supervillains are just getting started. Dominic Maresco, drummer and lead singer for the band, took a break from touring to give the magazine some honest words about life, music and America.

While some genres have crashed and burned, reggae seems to have only gained a stronger following from a wider audience. Why is that?

I don’t know. It’s a feel-good kind of music. It all comes from partying and humble people just hanging out together. You don’t ever get tired of being positive. You get tired of people pissing and moaning about something, like a lot of radio rock. 

When I was younger, I went out to meet chicks and party, and reggae was always the best music for that. Reggae music gives you a chance to chill out and dance without feeling weird. Plus, there’re always a lot of beautiful women in the scene.

Let’s talk about the upcoming Pow Wow Festival in Florida. What are you looking forward to the most about it?

To tell you the truth, the whole thing is pretty badass. It’s right in our backyard, so getting there will be easy. Plus, we get to play with 311. We’re going on right before Ozomatli. I think it’s the caliber of bands that gather in one area that makes it so successful. Plus, I get to sleep in my own bed.

It’s going to be cool to do a big show near home. Little things like having mom and dad show up to watch us play. I love the fans, though. They really keep us going on the road.

After the successes of your previous albums, Grow Yer Own and Massive, what did the band want to do differently with Postcards from Paradise?

Postcards from Paradise had a lot of different things that went into it. We really wanted continuity with this album. We want all of our albums to keep going and never stop. With this album we just wanted to say, “Thank you” to our fans all over again by giving them an album they could play over and over again, like albums by Rancid or NOFX.

We really focused on our music, but we also wanted to write a lot of rock-infused stuff. We wrote the whole thing on the road. When we first started out our music was rough, although we had a lot of spirit. Now, we take more time to polish albums to perfection.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Political Kung Fu - Comedy

     Hans Fink, who was the editor of Skinnie Entertainment Magazine forever, invited me over for a few beers to talk about comedy articles.
     My approach to pitching comedy articles is really just based on the fine art of what is called a "shotgun approach," also known as spray & pray. I threw out some lame ones, came up with some slightly interesting ones, and then described the concept of an article called "Political Kung Fu."
     After touring the Internet for an hour, he was convinced and I wrote it up.
     Here it is.
Political Kung Fu

     The Founding Fathers of the United States established our nation on several guiding principles: justice, freedom, and supreme prowess in the martial arts. The latter category is still going strong to this day. Now, explore the dangerous realm of...POLITICAL KUNG FU!

   Al Gore may have lost an election in 2000, but he hasn’t lost any of his karate skills he learned while studying under the legendary Japanese sensei, Mas Oyama. Here, he demonstrates a shuto karate chop before a stunned audience. Hiiii-ya!

     Senator Russ Feingold is not only a staunch supporter of civil liberties; he’s also a master of THE FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH. Trained in the lethal art from years spent in a Chinese Shaolin temple, Feingold can plunge his deadly digits into the chest of a man and rip out the still-beating heart!

     Senator John Kerry studied with Navy S.E.A.L.’s while fighting for freedom in Vietnam, where he learned the terrifying skill of poking an enemy in the eye with a steel-hard finger!

     Here, Kerry also demonstrates a classic move- the palm strike, taught to him by the legendary Yip Man, grandmaster of wing chun Kung Fu!

     Senator John McCain is not only a military veteran; he’s also a master of the internal kung fu style of tai chi chuan. Here is his signature maneuver, “Iron Buddha Pushes the Gong of Destiny."

     Ralph Reed isn’t just running for Lt. Governor of Georgia, he’s also able to twist a man’s head off by harnessing the internal power of his ki. This northern Mandarin wrestling style maneuver is 3,000 years old, and only known by a select few. Critics have accused him of pretending to eat an invisible cheeseburger.

     Ronald Reagan not only fought in WWII, he also brawled in Thailand steel-cage matches, where victory went to the warrior with the bloodiest hands. Here, Reagan demonstrates the windpipe-crushing Eagle Claw!

     But the awesome Ronald Reagan was also the undisputed authority of the most esoteric of the Canadian Martial Arts…a fighting style that took head butting to whole new level, and could cave in the torso of an opponent with gut-churning efficiency. Behold, the MIGHTY MOOSE TECHNIQUE!

Dom Kennedy - Music

I only interview artists who impress me with their talent. My goal with any interview is to help readers know more about the artist, hear what's up about their latest tour, album or artistic creation, and get them to want more of what that artist has to offer.  

What's impressive about Dom Kennedy is how street he really is. I don't think he really cares too much about this industry bullshit because he's DIY.

I have no musical talent whatsoever, so if I can do my part to help a talented musician get more of a following, that's cool enough for me.
Dom Kennedy is an independent hip-hop musician from Leimert Park, Los Angeles. While larger record labels mass-produce hip-hop artists so generic you can’t remember a single song they wrote a month after the album drops, Kennedy’s music possesses integrity so real it could only come from the street.

When his fourth album, 2010’s From the Westside with Love, reached 100,000 downloads and won positive reviews from every angle, Kennedy didn’t rest. His later albums, The Original Dom Kennedy and 2011’s From the Westside with Love II, featured music set to the same high standard, and as a result his fan base grew deeper and wider. 

“When From the Westside with Love came out, I didn’t really expect it to be a big hit. I knew people would like it, but I expected it to be a slow burn,” Kennedy says. “I was so busy touring I didn’t notice it had reached 100,000 downloads because I was busy performing in Atlanta.” 

You can’t manufacture street credentials, especially with a machine like hip-hop, oiled as it is by reputation and respect. Kennedy’s street credentials came from entertaining legions of local fans starting with 1998’s underground tour de force, 25th Hour. More than a decade later, has Kennedy found a formula for his success?

“I just think it comes from working hard and keeping up the quality of the music,” Kennedy says. “A lot of my fans are the only person on their campus, their street or their work who know about me for giving them consistent music that has grown in the right areas and matured with the times.”

The maturity of Kennedy’s music derives from his willingness to break the mold with every album. Despite the title, From the Westside with Love II is uniquely inspired. Was it a challenge following up after that success of 2010’s From the Westside with Love?

“No, not really,” Kennedy says. “I wasn’t trying to re-create the first album. When I made the first album I already knew I wanted to do a second one. Before I have to prove anything to anyone I have to prove it to myself. It wasn’t a challenge, unless it was just a challenge to have fun—to keep my heart in it and have fun. I never want to treat my art like a job.”

“Having fun” is a phrase typically used by the best artists to describe how they make their magic. You have to work and play to make a successful album in hip-hop, which is why Kennedy has such an understanding of what makes the scene bump and jump. He knows that to survive an artist has to adapt and grow.

“Every day hip-hop is changing. It’s always a new day with hip-hop. People might do something well, and then years later they do it and it’s useless. Something might be right today, but tomorrow it won’t work. What I’ve done well it just been around and withstood the changes. I kept the quality consistent and adapted, so my stock has matured over time. I guess you could say my music is a sound investment.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Flying Saucers of Washington, D.C. - The Weird

For whatever damn reason I've studied a lot of different conspiracy theories all my life. Reading a lot of wacky material like that hasn't helped me too much. For all the material my brain has been exposed to about the Kennedy Assassination, I still can't honestly tell you who I think shot JFK.

The publisher of Skinnie Entertainment Magazine was a big fan of the weird, so he told the editor to ask me if I wanted to write a column for them called "Conspiracy Corner." All I'd have to do is write about a new theory every month. We even had a rating system, where every theory got between one to five tin foil hats.

I've often been asked, "Do you believe in conspiracy theories?" Well, you really can't. It's just a theory. You can believe in Jesus, a brick wall, the computer you're staring at or that you are going to have lunch with your mother on Sunday. Belief is just that, or, as Ice Cube might say, "It is what it is."

This theory isn't really a theory. It all actually happened. This was 1952, people. The government was still honest, Americans trusted their leaders, and stories about flying saucers weren't taboo.

Personally, I prefer the wacky conspiracy theories. Roswell is such a cosmic bore for me (pun intended) because it's just a crash in the desert. Who cares?

I want to hear about Bigfoot walking out of a flying saucer that's landed in a crop circle shaped like Scarlett Johansson's right boob. If he's a neon green or purple color, that's bonus points. I'd give that three tin foil hats, at least.

My theory? It was the surviving Nazi's that fled Germany after WWII to hide out in the North and South Poles. They got tired of the U.S. trying to explore those regions, and displayed a show of force in order to create a secret peace treaty between their new country and the U.S. government.

Either that, or it was those kooky hollow-earth Vril people Helena Blavatsky and the Thule Society were always talking about. You know, the evolved descendants of the dinosaurs that are intelligent, walk upright, utilize crazy gravity-based zero-point energy as a resource and probably influenced ancient civilizations, like the Olmecs or the Toltecs? Yeah, it was totally them.

Like I said, I prefer the wacky conspiracy theories. I give this one three tin foil hats.


When was the last time you heard about a really paradigm-altering UFO sighting? Not some farmer in a pickup truck in Iowa seeing bright lights while he was pouring a jug of moonshine down his throat. I’m talking about a serious appearance of an unknown, possible alien craft, in a major metropolitan area, with the air force having kittens over the whole affair while the press flips the funk out, and fighter planes are dispatched to bring E.T. down…have you heard about anything like that, lately?

Probably not.

We just don’t get them, today. Most of our news media is consumed with the task of finding the next O.J. trial, like corporations marketing some hot new product, while the UFO stories get regulated to The National Enquirer, not The Washington Post.

But 54 years ago during the month of July flying saucers streaked across the US capitol, pursued by our air force and military officials did their utmost to figure out what was going on in the face of widespread civilian panic, while newspaper headlines reported nothing else but the growing threat of UFO’s.


Just after WWII, during the height of the freezing cold standoff between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., when there was a commie under every coffee table. The situation was set for some serious out-of-this-world paranoia.

Near midnight on July 19, 1952, radar operators at both the Washington National Airport and Andrews Air Force Base noticed the radar signatures of unknown aircraft over Washington, D.C. The mysterious objects were traveling at 100 m.p.h., but would suddenly accelerate to nearly 7,200 m.p.h., a technological feat completely impossible for anything on the planet at the time.

After confirming that the objects were not the result of a glitch in the radar, Andrews Air Force Base notified U.S. Air Force Defense Command, who dispatched two F-94 fighter planes.


The F-94’s finally arrived only to find that as they came in sight of the objects (which eyewitnesses describes as glowing white-blue disks, surrounded by red and orange lights) the UFO’s would vanish, simultaneously disappearing from the view of the radar operators on the ground.

Meanwhile, the strange disks were not only seen by eyewitnesses on the streets below, but also by traveling commercial flights, as well as the crews of B-29’s in the skies above.

The UFO’s returned on July 26, when they buzzed the airspace above the nations capitol, again. Fighters were dispatched, but the saucers easily evaded the F-94’s once again, even going so far as to surround a terrified pilot before once again vanishing from view.


Hundreds of people saw the UFO’s, including many reliable military personnel. Front page newspaper headlines covering the sightings were legion: “’Saucer’ Outran Jet, Pilot Reveals, “ The Washington Post. “JETS CHASE D.C. SKY GHOSTS,” The New York Daily News. “AERIAL WHATZITS BUZZ D.C. AGAIN!” The Washington Daily News. “SAUCERS SWARM OVER CAPITOL,” Iowa’s The Cedar Rapids Gazette.

The headlines included many pictures of the mysterious bright lights, including one of a ring of the UFO’s surrounding the dome of the capitol building like a halo. As you could imagine, the newspapers did little to help people feel safe, so they began to pressure their politicians for answers.


President Harry S Truman was as baffled as everyone else. There were many rumors of what the lights might be, but nothing substantial. One rumor was that the objects were top-secret aircraft manufactured by the Air Force. Another was that the aircraft were the flying saucers of aliens who had crashed on Earth, which were later repaired by the military.

Another was that the lights were beings not from this planet, testing the reactions of humanity by appearing over the capitol of the most powerful nation on the planet.

President Truman was advised by one of his aides, Robert L. Farnsworth, who was the leader of the U.S. Rocket Society, to not attack the U.F.O.’s. “Should they be extra-terrestrial, such actions might result in the gravest consequences, as well as possibly alienating us from beings of far superior powers,”            Farnsworth said. “Friendly contact should be sought as long as possible.

Finally, Truman ordered Brigadier General Robert B. Laudry, his Air Force aide, to come up with some answers. A press conference was scheduled.


Hundreds of reporters from across the country showed up for the event, which was to be given by Major General John Samford, the Air Force’s director of intelligence. Samford performed a political tap dance of such extreme bureaucratic B.S. that would make our own obfuscating G.O.P. ashamed.

Samford gave a long, disjointed description of the sightings of U.F.O.’s since the dawn of history. He never once discussed the current-day sightings, however. He thwarted the attempts of reporters to discover the facts by reiterating talking points, dissecting the meaning of words like, “simultaneous,” or, “material object,” or, “qualified observer.” He finally blamed the lights on “temperature inversions,” which radar operators later dismissed as an improbable excuse.

Finally, the Air Force director of intelligence concluded the press conference with a stream of psychobabble so profoundly confusing that it can only go down in history as the best example of complete garbage.

“That very likely is one that sits apart and says insufficient measurement, insufficient association with other things, insufficient association with other probabilities for it to do any more than to join that group of sightings that we still hold in front of us as saying no.”

I’m not making it up. That’s what he said. Totally confused, reporters seized on the one phrase they could make out during the whole affair, “temperature inversions,” and blamed the sightings on that. When the U.F.O.’s did not appear again, the whole event subsided from public memory, or at least from discussion by the major news media.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Henchman - Music

     When I interviewed Henchman I was fortunate to see them play at The Vault in Pomona. It was my first gig, with a live band that I admire, so I got carried away with the writing.
     Skinnie Entertainment Magazine published the article, and Henchman became the first band I ever interviewed.

     The Vault in Pomona. It’s a bank someone turned into a musical venue. The inside is what shows are all about. A stage you can fight your way to. A grim and gritty interior, one notch up from amateur community theatre, with bare minimum lights and electronics. It’s rough and primal, which served Henchman, a metal band straight outta Zurich, Switzerland, perfectly.
     Henchman had spent all week performing at the Roxy in Hollywood, and then Anarchy Library in Downey a week before.
     They opened up with “Right or Wrong," which had a Helmet/Tool/Godflesh clashing, crushing, big-metal-machine drone to it. Roger, with his lead vocals, alternated between sultry croons and throaty sonic howls. Deniz, who handles the bass and back up vocals, punctuated the chorus, while Jerome, who did the drums, kept it all together with a backbeat that could pace itself or just beat you to the finish line.    
     At one point Roger, who could sing as brilliantly as he could play, turned around and brought his guitar up to the amplifier in a theatrical tour-de-force, using the feedback, controlling it, hitting a note and then playing the sonic wail like a theremin.
     I couldn’t decide what aspect of the band I liked the most, but the bass guitar became my favorite. It could bump and drive the music, or it could just thrum in an underwater way, where the notes come warbling from beyond, before all the music screams into a caterwaul that brings you to the next level, only to let you down onto your feet, until they hit you right between the eyes with their next song. 
     The last song, “Viva L.V.”, typified the band’s sound, personifying Henchman completely. It had a grinding, powerful, dominating, runaway locomotive, quality to it. 
     Afterwards, the band gave me some words. I asked for a demo and bought a shirt while the distant sounds of downtown Pomona honked, wailed around us.
     They all grew up in the same area, were each friends long before the band, practiced and played for a while, until their old singer had to quit to go to college in 1996. The other members came back together after 3 years, and now here they are, on a 2nd tour in America, still proud and independent, with the with a full-length recorded album coming out this summer.
     The album, Unmistaken, will be brought to you by Sylvia Massy-Shivy, who has also produced albums from Tool and Powerman 5000. Henchman pointed out that they were stoked to work with such a legend in music. When she asked if she could record their album, they agreed.
     The band was cool, on and off the stage. They spoke freely, listing their influences (Helmet, Tool) and the music they listen to when not performing, which proved to be as varied and interesting as their own sounds-D.J. Shadow, Jack Johnson, Slayer, Ween, Moby and Queen. 
     While they classify themselves as heavy metal, they also admit to going beyond the category, and they do. Check them out when they go on tour this summer, and get your claws on their album. You can also hit up their website at

The Black Lips - Music

I interviewed the Black Lips for Inland Empire Weekly in the early summer of this year. I always enjoy talking to the bands that have a punk streak. I feel like we all went to the same high school, since I ran around in the Southern California punk scene back in the day.
Don’t Be Afraid of a Kiss from the Black Lips

The Black Lips are famous for their high-octane brew of hardcore, country and American rock. The band is also infamous for their shocking live performances where onstage nudity, urination and vomit are all possibilities.

Their music is often called “flower punk.” Cole Alexander, rhythm guitarist for the Black Lips, admits it’s a label the band created because they believe people like labels. “It’s just a tag word. I think to sell products you have to have labels. A lot of non-musical people need analogies. We just write what we like and they can call our music whatever they want.”

With their latest tour, the Black Lips are delivering the provocative power of their unique sound to fans all over the planet from the U.S. to countries as far off as Japan, Norway and Croatia. “We were trying to get to the Middle East. We were told we could visit the Kurdish region of Iraq, and we also want to hit up Lebanon.”

The chaotic essence of original rock and punk music that energizes the style of the Black Lips has entertained fans all over the world for good reason. “We are really into 60’s garage rock, early 70’s punk, that sort of thing. We try to find those roots and just explore. We really like the screaming and yelling you can find in early punk music.”

Many critics and fans of punk music feel that the scene has devolved. “Punks not dead, it’s exploited,” is a claim that's often heard by people who still love the music. Cole understands. “A lot of it is pretty watered down. There are only a handful of legitimate punk bands, there are certainly always good bands in little towns, but they don’t get heard enough.”

The Black Lips reputation for their rather graphic onstage performance is well known. For Cole, that’s just part of the show. “When we play we want it to seem like the circus came into town. We’re into entertainment. We grew up on James Brown and just watching him perform inspires us. We study performances by Prince, Jerry Lee Lewis and even Jimmy Hendrix. Alice Cooper is also a huge inspiration.”

The band doesn’t plan the craziness, though. “We’ll plan a few things, but we don’t really plan any of it. We don’t want to cater to expectations. I’m not going to pee or vomit if I don’t have to. Sometimes we just stand there and play, without doing anything crazy, and it shocks the audience more.”

The Black Lips are playing at The Glass House in Pomona  on the 25th, and Cole is looking forward to the show. “That’s our all ages, suburban L.A. show. All the skater kids come out. The audience has a lot more energy at The Glass House.”

The latest tour is going to be a showcase for their new album, Arabia Mountain. Already a critical success, Cole admits the band engineered the album for a wider appeal. “We wanted to reach more people, so this album is more accessible.”

Arabia Mountain has been praised by fans and critics for it’s original sound and retro rock roots. To Cole, the formula is simple: “It’s just a rock and roll album. It incorporates hip-hop, country, blues, psychedelic. There’s so many different facets. Sometimes you record a song one way and it comes out better, so we spent a lot of time on it. We felt like we didn’t really grow up enough after our last album.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blog or Die - Commentary

     I used to look down on the whole concept of blogs. It just seemed like a person was just keeping a diary and then publishing it on the Internet. "Look at me! I'm self-absorbed!"
     I was wrong. A good blog about the right subject can be more appealing than a pile of magazines worth $2.50 each. The blogs that are self-absorbed don't survive. The ones that speak honestly about any number of subjects thrive. The law of the Internet blogosphere.
     It's all about the Internet. If you are a serious writer, you must have a blog. It's just the way the business is.