The Future is Unwritten: Joe Strummer

So I started out the morning, barely able to scrape myself out of bed, ran a brush over my teeth, had some cereal and tea then got in the car (new site launching/testing at work plus show tonight so I couldn’t peddle to work) and listened to London Calling on the way in. Man that record is amazing. I’d say its my favorite of the Clash discography but there are a lot of songs I like on Sandinista! and a few noteworthy tunes on Super Black Market Clash (how bout’ “Pressure Drop” in that new Nissan Rogue commersh, makes you want to puke don’t it?). I like the Toots version a lot, just like I like the Toots version of “54-46” more than the Sublime version, though Brads voice is really amazing. The Future Is Unwritten is a new film/doc about Joe Strummer by Filth and Fury director Julien Temple. The review from EW gave it an A and said it was more intimate than the Pistols doc. That’s not hard for me to believe. Not sure anything about the Pistols could ever be ‘intimate.’ The Pistols represented everything about ‘punk’ that I’ve grown to despise. Elitism, fascism, scene-ism, genre-superiority-ism, nihilism, mall punks, ass-flaps, and spitting on performers. Oh and dumb-shit junkie fuck heads being lionized for being pieces of shit (Hey Babyshambles eat a grenade!).

It plays tonight at the Ken Cinema in Kensington. I’m hoping to catch it another day since Cabron is playing a SD Fire Victims Benefit at the Alibi Tonight!!! ($5 suggested donation, come on down!) Their website is pretty amazing. Check it out at

Its a bit fancier than the Control website. Good use of flash. Nice little rich media features. I can’t wait to see it.

Favorite Clash song of all time, “Lost in the Supermarket” from London Calling.

Whats yours?

Radiohead: In Rainbows [a review]


I got a prompt from Radiohead’s W.A.S.T.E. this morning with a link to the downloadable version of their 7th studio LP and felt this was a benchmark in my life as a music consumer. ‘Pay whatever you want,’ is a concept I could get used to. I’m just crossing my fingers hoping that this is the end times for major record labels and all their vile, exhausted schemes.

Nothings stuck out immediately, well, not truthfully. “Bodysnatchers” completely destroys in all it’s ripping guitar awesomeness. It’s going to be really hard to find any fault on this gem of rock beauty. Like their best records, Radiohead get into your heart by surgically removing your skepticism. Radiohead make records, unlike popular music artists, who make singles, which is why the release of In Rainbows is so exciting to an audiophile like myself. Though with some scrutiny this particular album seems more song oriented than their past bouts.

Looking forward to December when the ‘Disc Box’ ships, almost like I’ll have a new opportunity to rediscover In Rainbows on vinyl. I love vinyl, its warmth, that hiss, some day my children will listen to old records on my Benjamin Miracord (once owned by their Grandfather) and scratch their heads in wonder asking; ‘why does it sound so scratchy?’ I’ll laugh, as I put the needle down on my 180 gram copy of In Rainbows and say, ‘that’s the sound of authenticity kids! Listen to how amazing “Nude” sounds, the music is practically naked! And by the way, side 2 is always better.’

The reverb drenched effects of ‘All I Need’ fortifies this ethereal track, anchoring it once the drums kick in, washed out crash cymbals punctuate Thom’s melancholy warble. The folkiness of “Faust Arp” with orchestral accents and flat picked acoustic guitar break up what would seem like side 1 from side 2, (if this was vinyl) quite nicely.

Track 7, “Reckoner” comes through the speakers like some lost child, clapping hands, shaking tambourine, stomping bells, grinning solemnly. Johnny Greenwoods got that whole arpeggio clarity thing nailed. And Thom. He who spells his name with a silent ‘H’ wails beautifully along a syncopated beat. This song is the centerpiece, one that ties past efforts together with the current effort. You can hear bits of Pablo/Kid A/OK Computer and Hail to the Thief in this song.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m of the type that has enjoyed all of their releases and has relished each for the unique way each was composed and released. My initial, immediate impression is that I like the second half of the record better. The second half doesn’t seem quite as esoteric as the first. Thom’s lyrics are more informed; at least they seem so on “House of Cards.” Where it seems the last 8 years of a nightmare world where Bush is the president twice over and Iran could be the next target of a ‘coalition of the willing’ could be coming to an end. A hopeful tune on a Radiohead album? Yes! But it is a song that is hopeful in that dreary, sweater wearing British way. A real house of cards can’t stand up to strong winds, maybe collective outrage fatigue has hit its tipping point and people are ready to actually put their foot down and say ‘enough!’

“Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” is a driving tune. That acoustic guitar leads the rhythm, pushes the beat, its percussive tonality compliments the eeriness of Thom’s ghostly backup vocal track. A song with a million layers. A song with a dozen implications. The lyrics, like black suited paramilitary troops, invading the urban squalor of the mind through the canals of the ears to whisper answers in the form of questions. Its nice to know Radiohead can inspire creative thinking without bludgeoning listeners with concepts such as global warming, er…while singing about climate change.

I’m anxious for the vinyl to ship. It is annoying listening to this band without some sort of visual guide for the songs. I hate not being able to sit down and open a gatefold read lyrics to every song and get totally immersed in the world they’ve created. I’m happy to report that I will be receiving the ‘Disc box’ with its book, art and two vinyl’s (one In Rainbows and the other is just ‘other’ they didn’t fit on the album). I like the way Radiohead define their art and appreciate the way they defy consumer culture by delivering a product worth every penny.

So as you wade through the static of the ever present TV Eye, ignore the man behind the curtain and take a listen to In Rainbows. [fuck, sorry, I just wrote that then realized how lame a reference Oz was] My biggest complaint about this record, or rather digital release – no cover art! WTF?



Mike Watt and Missingmen at Adams Ave St. Fair

You Should plan accordingly and go and see Mike Watt.

If you haven’t seen We Jam Econo: The story of the Minute Men doc yet, do yourself a favor and stop watching Top Chef, go put it on your netflix queue or steal it from Sun Video, it totally fucking rules.

On that note, if you haven’t read Our Band Could Be Your Life go out and buy it right now. Michael Azerrad gives a detailed account of a dozen of the most influential bands of our generation; Black Flag, Fugazi, Minor Threat, Butthole Surfers, Minute Men (saddest story in that book), and more.

saturday, september 29 at 6:30 pm
at the adam’s avenue street fair

Planes Mistaken For Stars: The Best Band You Never Heard Of

I wrote this in 2003. Gared was my fourth interview for the music edge. In celebration of them coming to San Diego to play Cullens 30th B Day bash I thought I’d put this up. There is a funny anecdote of an experience I had when they played the Black Box in 05′. Gared and I were in Cullens Kitchen along with Mikey looking for ice cubes for our Jack and Cokes. Cullen, being a vegan, had a tray of frozen vegetable bullion in his freezer and if you’re outside of CA or not a vegan, that is just bit strange. Well Mikey and Gared both got regular ice cubes and in my drunken state I put what i thought was frozen cola cubes in my drink. It was a very healthy Jack and Coke to say the least. I also sustained a pretty good head wound that night as well. Enjoy!

When the boys from Planes decided it was time they leave their hometown of Peoria Illinois to seek their fortunes, they weren’t alone, “a mass exodus” ensued (thirteen of their closest friends) and they transplanted themselves to Denver, CO. Gared O’Donnell (vocals, guitar) says that, “We all moved out here. It’s sort of the ‘grass is always’ greener type thing. There really are a lot of downsides to Peoria but once you get away you realize that happiness is what you make it. I think at that time in our life when we left we needed to do something. It was a time in our lives when we all knew we wanted to do something. It was an awakening. When you realize that you are you and its sort of a cleansing, learning, teaching experience.”

The kind folks of Denver would have never been the wiser except for the fact that Planes is one of the standout bands as far as music is concerned in that little big city on the eastern side of the continental divide. They even made the number one slot on the Denver Post’s best underground band vote, a place often reserved for indie rock neophytes like Dressy Bessy or veteran indie outfits like The Apples In Stereo, both are great bands, albeit light years away from the hard edged sound of Planes Mistaken For Stars (and without the same amount of distortion).

Matt Bellinger (guitar, vocals), Gared O’Donnell (vocals, guitar), Mikey Ricketts (drums) and Chuck French (bass, formerly of the band Peralta and currently Git Some) comprise this powerful combination of post hardcore music and straight from the gut honesty that has left bystanders speechless and made a fan out of many a skeptic in a commercialized state of “the next new thing.” Eschewing references to the genre known as emo, Planes nosedives into a burning cornucopia of hard rock balladry that hasn’t had the fire of idealistic panache since the second Hot Water Music record or Bukowski’s Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument, Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit. This cadre of road warriors are hell-bent on making music, playing it for themselves and their fans without any apprehension of whether they will be “signed” or cash in, which they wouldn’t complain about on either scenario.

At 26, Gared and his band mates (all roughly around the same age) have been on a dozen tours, both regional and national, and have shared the stage with some amazing bands. As far as his age is concerned, he says that, “Days go by slow but years just zip by, especially looking back and thinking about what you have done or haven’t done.” Yet just this past spring they shared the stage with metal moguls, Motorhead in their hometown of Denver. Aside from playing with some amazing bands, Gared muses with a laugh about performing, saying, “You feel like you’re really alive for like five minutes.”

Thankfully that kind of attitude translates itself well to the crowds that have gathered at their shows. They don’t take themselves too seriously, nor do they demonstrate that upper crust nescience when they rock the club (but are often intoxicated to the point of falling down). When they first moved to Denver, thirteen people shared the same house in a somewhat dilapidated neighborhood in North East Denver. It became more than just a place to throw parties, it became a place to sleep for touring bands and a place to play for bands in Denver that otherwise would have to wait until the legal drinking age to play bars or hope that some promoter would let them grace an all ages venue (as long as they could draw a crowd). In essence it became an extended community of like-minded individuals that loved playing music and loved each other’s company.

Gared’s first recollection of music was family inspired; “I was always around music, my Mom was never a music fanatic but she was always into music. She always had the radio on. She had a moderate sized record collection. I can remember times when I was young, but going further back, of course I remember my grandmother and mother singing to me, thinking that was neat. I don’t know, I guess the first time I remember it (music) making an impact on me I was in second grade and my mom worked third shift so she would sleep most of the day. And this was during the summertime. I figured out how to use her record player, and I remember listening to Simon and Garfunkle’s, Greatest Hits and Bruce Springsteen’s, Born in the USA, over and over again until she woke up that day.

I really remember the Simon and Garfunkle record being important because it was the first time I realized that there was more to songs than just a tune. I remember it painting pictures for me, and in second grade you know, you can’t really grasp the gravity of what the songs really mean but that’s what I remember being meaningful. I also remember being in daycare before school and I remember having a crush on one of the ladies that took care of me, as much of a crush as a four or five year old can have. I remember hearing some love song on the radio and connecting her face with the song.”

It’s those kind of dramatic connections that make Gared such a benevolent and imposing figure, on stage. His strong ties with his family have made him into an insightful person, which is something that communicates itself through the music of Planes. Although there is an underlying excitement that permeates his calm demeanor Gared has world-weariness about him. Soft spoken and thoughtful the guitarist and lyric maestro is a stay at home father who lights up at the topic of being a father and the difficulty of being away from home so much.

A modest upbringing in the town of Peoria contributed to the Zen-like outlook he has on life a childlike wonder that has been with him forever. “I came from a single parent home. Me and brother were raised by my mother. We came from a very loving fostering environment. We lived very close to my grandparents. My Grandmother is the one that got me into comic books. My very first memory of my grand parents house was that it seemed as big as a castle but it was just a regular sized suburban home. I always liked exploring and looking for things and finding things and one time I found this box that was over my head but it was within reach and I kept wondering, “What’s in the box, what’s in the box?”

And I pulled at it and the whole box fell on top of me but as it did it opened up, it literally knocked me over, but I was covered in comic books and at that moment I could have died the happiest little boy in the world. I sat down there for what seemed like hours just reading comic books. She came down and told me that, ‘oh yeah, I was going to give those to you at some point.’ So I just have a real big appreciation for that kind of, well, pop art, I guess? That sounds kind of cliché or something but my childhood was filled with that kind of wonder.”

Gared’s influences as a musician is actually simple, citing one band in particular, The Police. “I was always into them [The Police]. I’ve got a lot of younger memories from them. Once I started to put together what songs meant, even on top of the whole Simon and Garfunkle experience, I started to understand that songs could change your moods at the time. You can hear something and it can trigger sadness or happiness or elation or whatnot, it’s The Police. They have always been a huge influence on me.

Adding, “I just wish I could follow suit more and know my instrument better to play at that caliber. But even with the stuff that we write, I’ve always got Police songs in the back of my head.”

Getting signed for Planes Mistaken For Stars was, according to Gared, a bit of a fluke but an interesting story nonetheless.

“We’ve never really been into shopping stuff around or sending stuff out. We had never really done that. But I guess business wise or career wise it just never occurred to us. We didn’t even start making shirts until we had been together for like three years. It never occurred to us, I don’t know why and we might have been a lot better off had we thought of those things. Anyway, when we first started out, we sent out that first copy of our record, we sent two out, one went to Deep Elm, because we played with a band that was on Deep Elm and they were like, ‘You have to make Deep Elm a copy, and you should send this to Deep Elm. I think he’d really like what you’re doing.’

Sending out the record wasn’t really with the intention of trying to be on Deep Elm, cause I’d never really heard of the label. When I did hear stuff from Deep Elm it wasn’t really our thing, anything on that label, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t what we were going for. And then we sent one to Crank Records, well actually we didn’t send it, our old bass players roommate sent one to them. And it was weird because we decided to go out on our first tour and it was a big deal but on our way to our second show our engine blew. It ended up being this big fucking ordeal because half of us ended up getting stuck. Well actually it was me and two other guys but we had a car following us with a bunch of our friends because we’ve always been kind of communal in that sense. We always roll ‘mob deep.’ We always have a bunch of friends us with and it was a good excuse for all of us to get out of town.

We had a carpool following us, so we were lucky enough to have this car behind us so everyone went ahead to the next show and this was somewhere on the border between Oregon and Idaho. Me and the other two guys stayed back, and I called home to my Grandma to check in because I was living with her at the time, to see if she was ok, and she was like, ‘You want to check the messages?’ And the first message was the dude from Crank and the second one was the guy from Deep Elm. Both were like, ‘Whoa, we really liked the tape that you sent us, give us a call, we’d like to talk about doing something.’ We never even thought about being on a label, and that was such a shock and it was so foreign to us because we were such huge fans of music anyway that we just didn’t think that could happen to us. It’s totally a fluke that we’re doing this anyway.”

Adding, (at length) “We ended up calling Crank and we couldn’t get a hold of him then we called John from Deep Elm and he was like, ‘I got your tape, lets sign a deal.’ And I was like ‘wait we’ve never even met you man, this is our first tour and we’ve only been together for six months. ‘ Then I told him our plight with the van, he was like, ‘I’ll tell you what, I can take care of the engine for you and we’ll work on doing this record deal.’

And you know what? As much as I wanted to I could’ve been like, ‘hey send us some money for the engine,’ because we should’ve been completely ecstatic about this label wanting to sign us, but I guess we’ve always been pretty leery about labels, skeptical about labels in general. So I told him, ‘let us finish this tour and we’ll talk to you down the line.’ We were lucky enough that Mikey had a credit card with a pretty big limit on it. We fixed the engine, but the only thing was that it took them (mechanics) a week to do it so we had to rent a minivan to finish the tour, and only three of us could fit in it with all of our gear. Then our last show was in Arizona, for some reason we couldn’t find shows for the way back to Peoria, so everyone cruised home from Arizona, except for me and a couple of other guys, we had to go up to Idaho to get the van and return the rental. John from Deep Elm flew in to Arizona to check out our last show there and he was still really trying to sign us.”

In an age of computers, bands are being grown in the digital world, utilizing things like Sound Scan, a system that tracks album sales. Bands use this software so they can proposition labels and promoters while booking for tours or trying to get signed. It legitimizes them as a ‘crowd-pulling’ act in the eyes of the promoters. “I bet if you checked Sound Scan we’ve only sold about a thousand records. We never pay attention to things like that. A lot of people have heard of our band, they might have heard our records but a lot of people don’t think we actually exist. I know we’ve sold more than that though,” Gared explains.

Planes is a grass roots operation, built from the ground up, with friends for fans and fans for friends, its no wonder their support system is so loyal and protective. Gared continues; “He (John) still really wanted to do the record and one thing led to another and he wanted to sign us, but we were like, ‘we’re not sure how long we’re going to be a band, we don’t know how much we’ve got going now.’ It was such a pivotal point in all our lives but we told him that if he wanted to license this record and put it out then that would be cool. Because we were going to put it out ourselves in the states and he was going to take care of the rest of the distribution. He was going to do it overseas and we were going to take over the domestic distribution because we wanted to start our own label but he ended up doing it here anyway of his own accord. It all worked out anyway though. We didn’t really have the time or resources at the time to push the record and give it recognition. On our tour the printing company didn’t send us the covers for the pressings we had done ourselves so we hand made a thousand covers from stock board paper and used duct tape and a bunch of pictures. It was kind of ghetto but it looked really cool. I don’t even have one anymore, I wish I did though they looked nice.

We didn’t sign an exclusive deal with him, but he ended up doing the Knife in the Marathon EP, (and the self titled full length) which was great but we have always been just sort of passing through (when it comes to labels). That’s kind of how our whole take on it is, I’d love to work with as many labels as possible because its that much more of a stamp on your history to be involved with that many people. Each release is exciting because you know you have that different aesthetic

Gared’s love for the art of music takes interesting thematic approaches when it comes to label support. The band has released both Spearheading the Sin Movement (EP) and F*#k with Fire on No Idea Records, which is currently their home. Knife in the Marathon and the first full length as well as starring roles on Deep Elm’s famous, Emo Diaries, found Planes on their first now famous compilation.

As an after thought, in regards to their old label, Gared says that, “We love Deep Elm and we never really signed an exclusive deal with them. But I think that it’s crucial for the survival of a band to not feel backed into a corner. I’ve seen it happen to a lot of bands where they’re like, ‘we owe this label four more records.’ But for us it’s stifling to feel like you have to write a bunch of crap. We’re pretty sporadic as far as writing goes, we don’t release anything for two years and I mean I could sit down and write a whole record today but it would be crap. It’s never felt like a commodity to us so we take our time. I guess we have fits of creativity.”

Planes Mistaken for Stars is not a good band; in fact they aren’t even that cool. In actuality Planes Mistaken For Stars is a great band. A band made of dreamers and musicians that care for one another as much as they care for their fans and the work they put into their music. If there is one band you should see in your life time, it would be Planes, but remember, those aren’t rock stars on that stage, they are people you will be toasting drinks to and laughing with later.

Tori Amos’ covers “Smells Like Teen Spirit” GVOD

A friend sent me this link. It is a video of Tory Amos doing a cringe-worthy cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It reminded me of my slightly irrational dislike for all things TORI!!! I’ve got a wide taste in music. I like just about everything. Even the Oscar Meyer Weiner song gets my toes tapping but I’ll never get the whole Tori Amos thing. My opinion is that she does schlock high school coffee shop poetry music, while using a piano like a bludgeon. Her fans always struck me as the type who read and relish every Anne Rice novel and think that vampires are totally ‘sensual’ creatures, collect crystals, have Nightmare Before X-Mas theme parties and are most likely clove smokers.

This Place Smells Like Shit: Pratice Space

Most civilians [read: ‘people with real goals’] aren’t familiar with the general maladies of rehearsal space availability and quality in this town, or any other for that matter (Denver being the only other town I’ve had practice spaces in). Bands in San Diego don’t have the option of using a basement like bands in Denver luckily do. Though the spaces in Denver were bigger, they were a lot more sketchy. The space(s) I used in Denver could have been used as locations for raves, paintball, fight clubs and as headquarters for serial killers and satanic book clubs. Dark and dingy and usually in really bad neighborhoods or formerly bad neighborhoods like Five Points (gentrification anyone?).

This is essentially a mash up of actual conversations and comments I’ve heard or uttered as a person who has been in bands – in essay form.

Guys, this place seriously smells like shit. Yeah. Human fecal matter. I’m not sure what it is about this place but every time I walk through the door I gag with every breath. Its disgusting. You’d think the property manager would at the very least take out the trash. Its full of puke and cases of empty beer bottles. There are more flies inside our 8×8 room than by the dumpster near the tattoo shop across the alley. That homeless guy doesn’t even ask us for change anymore. How is that possible?

It smells like someone murdered an Indian man (dot, not feather) stuffed him with curry and cabbage then hid him in the wall right next to the managers office.

Hey dude, beer me that flesh turd, we’ll use it to mask the carrion-anus scent wafting through the rap metal bands door. Wait. A flesh turd is a baby right? You guys are drunk…But a baby would smell better than this hallway.

We pay our rent on time (sort of) but then of course the motherfucking air conditioning has been broken for the entire summer. Man the heat and the flies.

Is this like what those kids in Schindlers List smelled when they hid in the latrine? I mean I know it was a movie but I’m talking about the real kids that that story was based on. This is like walking across the bridge to get to Revolution in Tijuana when your drunk from Boones farm and MD 20/20 from the trolley ride and you’re on the way to the donkey show and you get that San Diego river smell. You know – that is where you can actually ‘smell the border’ like some wine aficionado’s can smell what time of year the grapes of their wine were grown or whatever. But instead of autumn and grapes it smells like burnt fetus and the inside of a Taun Taun.

This place smells worse than Scolari’s when Cattle Decap plays with all those crust punks there.

There’s some B.O. from that fucking hippie band that practices down the hall. Someone smokes cigarettes in their fucking room. Patchuli and GPC cigarettes. Are we practicing in fucking Berkely or Boulder. What the fuck? No consideration at all.

There is that amazingly lame 90’s alternashit band. I swear those guys are smoking crystal meth in there. And how many times do they have to play that fucking song? Theres no way they’ll win that opening slot for Godsmack. That alternashit band plays for hours, drinking beer. So where does their girl bassplayer piss? I never see her come out of that room. That may explain the piss smell. Maybe they have a bucket in their room for pee pee and poo poo.

These shit eating rooms don’t even have ventilation. Someone should hang that troglodyte manager from razor wire and shoot his dick with a paintball gun and those paint balls should be filled with lime juice or something super painful.

There’s some ass in here too. Smells kind of like that dive bar ass. Like a lot of old men farting and sweating on cushioned seats, seats that absorb ass and chode sweat. Theres some rancid foot dipped in sick in here too. So I suppose this place doesn’t just smell like shit. It smells like a bunch of other things too. Wow!

Andrew W.K.: The Wolf Howls!

One of my more memorable interviews was with Andrew WK. Sometimes writers get those interviews that are like pulling teeth (Fefe Dobson, your interview was as bad as your music!) where subjects are so despondent that they can’t even handle talking about themselves, which is hilarious because most ‘artists’ love to talk about their accomplishments. Then there are those interviews that only come around once in a great while. The type that pretty much write their own story. The amount of material from these interviews is overwhelming but well worth documenting. Andrew blessed me with one of those interviews I’ve only been able to get from certain people like Gared O’Donnell from Planes, Chad Smith from RCHP and Ian Mackaye. Andrew’s ability to navigate communication mediums such as TV with Your Friend, Andrew WK, a sort of Dear Abbey for todays youth that aired briefly on MTV2, as well as music and spoken word engagements, give Andrew’s message plenty of avenues to be disseminated to all regions of the world. His positive outlook on life and his music are endless and inspiring, and his dedication to his fans is astounding.

In fact, the dedication his fans have to him is even more colossal. The first-ever “Andrew W.K. Fan Convention” was a sweeping success in the city of brotherly love (Philadelphia) and made Andrew realize how important his music is to the people who make it possible for him to continue.

“It is continuous for as long as it is going … and it will keep going always—while I’m alive, and it will keep going as long as you are alive, because that’s what this is made of. THIS IS MADE OF YOU AND ME AND EVERYONE ELSE WHO BELIEVES IN IT, AND EVERYONE ELSE TOO. And we can keep it going, and we can keep it moving and spreading,” says Andrew W.K., in reference to the music and community of which he has become an integral part.

Andrew was born in California and raised in Michigan. He began playing piano at 4 years old and hasn’t stopped since. By the age of 18, he was living in New York City, soaking up the sights and sounds of the Big Apple, writing and recording his own material and playing small venues and coffee houses up and down the Eastern seaboard. As with most artists, the arrival is second mostly to the journey—and how Andrew got to where he is today is best explained in his own words. An eloquent and well-spoken man of 25, Andrew took time out of his busy schedule to speak with about his origins and his strong belief in music education.

On Music Education
“From what I understand, the topic is something I’m very excited about and believe in. I was talking to my mom about this interview just five minutes ago. We were discussing this very problem and other problems that schools face with their funding and how school boards don’t have the means to get anywhere near the funds they would need to keep the schools in shape, let alone school music. And it’s because people don’t want to pay taxes. People’s priorities on what they should spend money on become very skewed, and at the end of the day, there is no money left to pay taxes to schools for arts programs.

“What’s even more frustrating is that the federal government won’t step in because it’s not important to them either, and what is important to them is never music or art, which, in my opinion, are the most important things. I don’t remember much of what I learned in junior high and elementary, in terms of the actual academics. At that age, it’s a chance for you to find out what you like about life. To not even have that chance to discover something like that is just terrible. I feel people should be ashamed of themselves for being so confused when it comes to funding for what it all can ultimately be good for. School is capable of so much, even if it is to introduce someone to music and have them say, ‘You know what, now I know I don’t ever want to play music.’ At least you’ve learned something.

“There are people out there—geniuses out there—virtuosos probably who never even knew they could create music. Like the great composer/pianist Charles Ives (a more modern composer), who is considered to be one of the greatest of all time. What’s interesting about this guy is, he had been a millionaire through his own means, just an incredibly successful man who had amassed this fortune. Then, in his 50s, he retired and got into music and ended up being this genius, and I don’t think he ever knew it. So think of all the young people who just don’t even know about music and never got into it or never sat down to play an instrument—it just kills me.

“To me, the pursuit of music, the pursuit of writing, the pursuit of painting, anything for the creative mind, is the best thing that humans have that sets them apart from animals. We can create things simply for the enjoyment of doing so, something that no other animal can do. I think it is our saving grace. It’s what keeps us sane. I cannot imagine a world where music doesn’t exist. I probably wouldn’t be able to exist. I talk about it with my friends all the time, that if we had a choice to go deaf or blind we would chose to go blind, simply because at this point we’ve seen enough to have a memory and a database in our brains that we could visualize and apply to any situation and visualize what we are not seeing. But to not hear those tones again or hear that chorus again or feel that drum beat, it would be devastating. I can’t imagine what that would be like. It’s really a fantastic thing to think about. It makes me very excited that I have been able to have had so much music in such a concentrated dose, and I hope it just continues exponentially.”

Those First Few Steps
“I started taking piano lessons right after my family moved to Michigan when I was 5 years old. I was born in California and lived there the first four years of my life; my dad was a professor at UCLA and got an offer from the University of Michigan. I never really asked them why they wanted to move, I think they were just tired of L.A. and wanted to set up a new life in a different climate in a different town with different sensibilities. Ann Arbor has a more Northeastern vibe, and it’s a fantastic place to grow up, in my opinion. Southeast Michigan is a great place to grow up and talk about music! I mean, this town is ridiculous. For the population that the town has, you’d never guess … Providence, Rhode Island, is the only other town I can think of that has a similar concentration of creativity going on. And I was so lucky to be around that. I feel pretty strongly that if I hadn’t grown up in Ann Arbor, I wouldn’t be where I am today or talking to you about music at all.

“So anyway, I took piano lessons at a program that was offered through the University of Michigan Music School, which is a great music school from what I understand. And my experience was fantastic. They had a program called the Pedagogy Program, which the very premise of it is fantastic. It wasn’t until recently that I understood what the program was and why it was so cool. The basic idea was that anyone can teach young people piano, but what they did was they had graduate students—they’re very advanced piano students who chose to pursue music education—[who] could in fact teach kids how to play piano while they were students themselves. There is probably no better way to learn something from someone who is actively involved in it for his or her own passion. The president of the program was an older woman named Mrs. Smith, who, as far as I know, wasn’t a student at that point, but she had the spirit of a young person an over-the-top character.”

There is a pause during this time because someone has rung Andrew’s doorbell. He says, “[This] is very unusual because I live in this bizarre, amazing place, which is more or less an apartment building, but I’m the only one that lives in it. There aren’t any walls in it. I live right in the heart of Manhattan, but at night, I’m pretty much the only one on the entire block. It’s a one-in-a-million find. I can make as much noise as I want.”

Andrew continues, “Anyway, [Mrs. Smith] was very unique. She was very exciting to me. She was kind of the grandmaster of the whole thing, and, for all I know, she was the one who came up with the program in the first place. She was definitely a strong supporter of the program and having people in their 20s passionately teaching piano to kids. There was nothing better or [more] thrilling than having a teacher sit down and play me the piece they were rehearsing for a recital or even going to see the teacher at the recital. I would go and get all dressed up, and it would have a tremendous effect on me. It would be a very intense event. One of the women who had the greatest impact on me was a Japanese-American woman named Tamoko, who was a strikingly beautiful and confident woman and probably had an impact on me as far as what I would think of as attractive. The other woman was a very tall, almost Annie Lennox-looking woman who had this exaggerated style of playing that was amazing to watch.

“For example, if you watch someone like Horowitz, he sort of just sits there looking at his hands like, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ and that is what makes him so fantastic is his ability to be removed from the whole emotion of it while playing. But this woman would lean real close to the keyboard, almost so that her nose was touching and then sway way back so that she was arched up towards the ceiling. I remember several lessons where she brought me to tears out of my own frustration and anger and feeling disgraced and discouraged, because they were intense lessons. It wasn’t just someone being like, ‘Oh, it’s okay Andrew.” She would say, ‘Andrew, why haven’t you done this? Why didn’t you practice this? You should have done this!’”

The Beginning of the ‘Feeling’
“It was my favorite thing and least favorite thing to do at the same time. The first time I remember ‘feeling’ music, Tamoko (after a few years of taking lessons) played some piece she had been working on, but I remember sitting and watching her and having complete physical sensations running through my body. These chills, these Goosebumps, this electricity and butterflies in the stomach, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s cool,’ and I didn’t really know what to make of it at the time. But then it happened again when I saw her or someone else play or listened to music that was that emotional, and I said, ‘I think that feeling happens to me from listening to music; I think it happens when I hear music that I really like.’

“There were a couple of times where we took school trips to see orchestras play that I noticed I would get that feeling again. At that point, it was definitely more noticeable at live performances. I mean, I would have hints of that feeling from recorded music, but there was something about seeing people play, seeing their efforts and the emotion they put into playing—especially an orchestra, to see a group of people making a concentrated effort to make this music was amazing. It became very clear to me at that early age that this was something I wanted to do. It seemed very important, and, in fact, nothing else seemed as important as pursuing that feeling as much as possible and eventually trying to make something that would make other people feel the same way. To give you a physical reaction like that that is completely uncontrollable by something that isn’t based on a thought or idea. This is before I was ever listening to rock songs that were based on a thought or a lyric or songs with stories or [a song that] had a video to accompany it or had some visual stimuli—it was just tones, it was melody, on the most simple and pure terms, it was just music for the sake of music. With no message, no story and just the thought of, ‘Do you like the way this makes you feel?’ And the answer was, ‘Yes!’ And that’s all I needed from music.

“As the years went by, I would get into rock music and all different kinds of music. The lyrics and the meaning were just an added bonus, and it didn’t really matter to me what they were about or who they were coming from, as long as I liked the melody and the music itself. That has always been the priority of the music I make—not necessarily in a literal way, but quite often a literal way. To make songs about how great music is. In fact … I am always striving to make a song about how great the song that you’re listening to itself is. To sing words about the melody and how it makes you feel. I always write the music first and then try to find words.”

Writing Lyrics
“After writing and playing and recording a song for days and days, if not weeks or months, by the time I need to write words, I have so much inspiration simply due to the melody that I’ve played so much and fallen in love with, and I’ll just sing words about that or things that that melody makes me feel one way or another. Or a lyrical theme that would deserve to be in the presence of such a powerful melody and use it to amplify, picking a very powerful topic and use the two together to make it very powerful. That is when rock music is the most powerful, when you can have a lyric that is very strong on its own and a melody that is very strong on its own, and you put them together where they don’t fight against each other but join up as one to really drive the point home.”

Andrew is the very representation of the music fan that became a famous musician. It is a well-known fact that Andrew stays late after every show to sign every autograph of every person who waits for him. An interesting fact about Andrew is that after moving to New York at the age of 17, he traveled the city, wide-eyed and excited to be living on his own in a giant metropolis, finding inspiration in each thing he encountered and person he met.

At the age of 21, Andrew released his first EP, played several one-man shows (armed only with a CD player, keyboard and microphone) supporting the Foo Fighters and played the Belgian Arts festival. Upon returning to New York, Andrew formed his band that consists of five like-minded, positive individuals; Donald “D.T.” Sardy (drums), Jimmy Coup (guitar), Gregg R (bass), E Payne (guitar) and Sergeant Frank (guitar). That same year, Andrew signed to Island Records!

Though his most basic inspiration came from classical piano, he was a devout fan of metal, especially the band Obituary. Through the randomness and pure luck that has blessed Andrew over the past eight years, a friend of a friend had a contact with the drummer of Obituary. Taking a chance and a page from the book of positive thinking, Andrew sent drummer Donald “D.T.” Tardy of Obituary a letter and a demo with the intent of seeing if the metal mogul would be interested in joining Andrew. Lo and behold, two weeks later, D.T. called Andrew on the phone and said he’d be interested—and from there, the rest is pretty much history.

As always, Andrew’s drive and passion for music can be translated into the way he lives his life. He plans on taking some time to try and go back to school to study more piano.

“Recently I had the pleasure of meeting some music students from Boston’s Berklee School of Music, and it made me think about going back to school. But I’d have to get a private teacher to get my audition up to par. I’ve got a good grasp on the fundamentals, and playing live has helped me improve tremendously. I understand music more and more every day, and it keeps getting more exciting. I just think what I can learn if someone could tell me things and teach me new things. Hanging out with the students at Berklee was so exciting—they could answer every question, and they reveled with me in my enthusiasm for Bach and the way his music works. It’s as great as music gets, as great as any human accomplishments.”

If you have an opportunity to see Andrew W.K. live, please do so—it’s a non-stop party, and he always invites everyone to join in the fun while he’s on stage!

PT II; The Wolf Howls

The first time anyone steps on a stage it can be an exhilarating and altogether horrifying experience at one time. Though Andrew has done his time by touring the world and supporting two full-length records, I Get Wet (2002) and The Wolf (2003), the ease of stepping on a stage hasn’t always been a walk in the park. He still gets nervous before every show – even now.

The First Piano Recital
“We had a yearly recital. There were two big things I would dread every year with these piano lessons because I took them from the time I was 5 until I was fourteen. One was practicing every single day for hours and a group lesson twice a week and a private lesson twice a week. The private lessons would sometimes be at the music school or at the teachers houses. Its funny because most of these teachers lived at the student housing and most of these teachers would jam a piano into their tiny apartment. It was there whole focus, it is very beautiful to think about and I get emotional just thinking about it now.

“Like I said before I recently had the pleasure of meeting with some students from a music school (not a day goes by where I don’t think about going back to school for music) and what was interesting was that I never went to college and I graduated a year early from high school because I worked very hard to get out early so I could be done. After a year of sort of just doing various things in Michigan I moved to New York and visited NYU and I was also accepted into the Chicago Institute of Art but decided not to go there against some better judgement and against my parents better judgement – to not go to school and see what I could do on my own. What I was talking about with this student was how exciting he must be to be going to school there especially for piano and what he said was, ‘its funny that you say that because everything we are working for and learning – you know most of our goals are to do what you are already doing.’ So that was very interesting and I never thought of it that way. Its cool that we both want to do it all. Clearly we were both satisfied and felt very fortunate and lucky, very lucky to be doing what I am doing. I’ve been lucky to have opportunities. No one can make anything happen one way or the other really, I mean I guess it does happen, but that’s not what has happened here, ultimately I’ve been incredibly lucky and have found my way into amazing opportunities and have been afforded the chance to prove myself.

Trying is Succeeding
“Some people will go their entire lives without ever having a chance to prove themselves. Like if they have a dead end job or if they have a life that doesn’t allow them an opportunity or if they don’t have a chance to grow or change or a chance to express themselves or show themselves or let alone the rest of the world that they’re capable of great things or are capable of trying at least. [Not sure how to word the previous, kind of stream of consciousness-y]That’s all I want to do is try. Succeeding is trying. I feel so blessed (in the most basic universal sense of the word) to have opportunities given to me where someone says, ‘okay Andrew you want to do this, try it,’ and not only did I try it but I said, ‘not only am I going to do the best job I possibly can, but I’m going to do it in honor of all those people who don’t get the chance, in honor of all those people who have worked at this ten times longer than I’ve even been alive (well twice as long). To say watch what I can do. And it goes beyond music, ‘To really have a chance to live while you are alive,’ as Bon Jovi and Max Martin wrote in that song “Its My Life.” So I feel I still have enough time to go back to school and do all those things I really want to do.”

The Two Things Most Dreaded
“I want to go back to the recital thing we were talking about earlier, I never finished my thoughts. There were two things I dreaded every year; one was the end of the year recital which took place spring and the other was a state wide music competence test. I can’t remember what it was called – the SCT’s or something like that but it was just dreadful. It was a two day event in Ypsilanti Michigan (which is right next to Ann Arbor) at Eastern Michigan University’s Music School. You would go in and they’d have all these pianos set up in a room and you’d play for strangers – these judges and they were usually these crochetty old women and men and they wouldn’t say anything. They’d just write your scores down on these sheets of paper and say, ‘Thank you,’ and you move on to the next one. You’d go and play scales for someone and do this and that and then you’d take a written test and oh my god the night before I would be laying in bed wishing that it would be canceled. I was so miserable afterwards. Usually I would do pretty awful. The one scale I always had trouble with was b flat minor scale they’d have me play. But I really credit all of those recitals and experiences where I would just practice myself into a frenzy of tears and frustration where I would slam the piano closed and swear to never play again – I must have really terrified my parents. But I refused to stop at that point, it had become like a battle. In the front of my mind I hated it but obviously in the back of my mind I wanted to do it I wanted that feeling of excitement once it was done no matter how badly I had done.

“That is what I got hooked on was the whole rush of the experience. It ended up going and turning into less of a fear and more of an excitement. I strongly strongly credit those early recitals for giving me confidence for performing or being in front of crowds in general. Again, that is what I think is so fantastic about music is that it enriches your life and your personality and your education in ways that are far far beyond music itself.

Playing Live Now
“I still feel a lot of the same ways now when its time to play a concert but I’m so familiar with them that I use them and embrace them. There is a part of me that can’t imagine we have to go play a concert for the 400th time and there is part of me that says, ‘maybe we won’t have to play.’ Every moment of the day is building up with anticipation – not dread – but the strongest anticipation you could have before it becomes dread, and at the same time someone could say, ‘you could cancel it,’ I would never in a million years do that. That’s how I get myself psyched up. The day that I’m not nervous before a concert is the day I know I’ve lost my passion for it. I’m not scared, I’m excited and I’m trying to prepare my mind for the show. Especially this music, its not casual where we just go up there and jam, I envy those types of bands. It would be so amazing to just go up there and stand behind a bass or a keyboard but the thing about this music and what makes it so incredibly amazing and rewarding is the challenge and adversity. I talk about that with the band and everyone is just dead at the end of the show and we really thrive on that. I judge myself by the way I feel at the end of the show. If I don’t collapse at the end of the show then I know I’ve done something wrong and I get frustrated with myself. It all comes from taking each concert on its own as treating it as one opportunity. If I don’t give my all for one then what is the point? Why did I put myself through all that? If you don’t come to go full out why do you come at all? Having that early recital experience and dealing with that kind of intensity and pressure makes this all seem a lot easier.”

The Future
Andrew and the gang are playing several festival dates this summer and are currently planning on a headlining tour in the fall. He is busy working on material for the third installment of his discography, a follow up to 2003’s The Wolf. Keep an eye out for Andrew in the months to come and if you have any questions for the Wolf that weren’t answered here, feel free to write to him at his website, he answers fan mail regularly and always takes the time and special care to make sure his answers are sincere.

The Morgue Called, They Want To Use Your Cadaver “For Study”

The first time I met Justin Pearson I was just getting started with a project, a website called The intention of it was to be this hub of youth culture that the music products industry could dip its marketing muscle [read:balls] into and reap the benefits of kids going out and buying truckloads of instruments and products – a hilarious and immeasurable goal – perpetrated by a bunch of business suit attired has-beens and wannabees who thought that an asshole such as myself with some experience in music journalism could bring some gravitas to the fledgling site. They were right. To an extent. We hovered at 30K visitors a month and were an official Webby Award Honoree for 2006 (woo hoo…). Of course those accolades fell on deaf ears, or rather ears that wouldn’t know that the web would surpass radio for ad spend in 2007. Does hindsight count if you were blind behind?

At first I was enthusiastic about it. To endeavor to bring the beauty of making music to a generation whose art and music programs were being cut by an administration obsessed with war was enticing. I took the pill. I jumped right in. I wanted to make things change. That was the optimism of a post 9/11 job out of college (not right out of college, more like 2 years later) for me. I must stress that there were more good things that came from that experience than negative, one of them being my growing friendship with Justin Pearson of The Locust. He was the first “Big Interview” I did for the site. He believed in the propaganda that I believed in, but part of me thought he believed in the fact that artists that don’t chart and don’t move units should have an opportunity to be heard. Sort of an “I like their aesthetic. So I want to share it with everyone,” thing, right?

The last interview I did with Justin marked another benchmark. It was the first for A project basically run by two dudes and supplemented by about 20 of the most amazing and loyal writers and friends a hack editor could ever ask for. Below is a link to the last lengthy post post from a guy that was probably born ten years too late into a world that is as unforgiving as it is beautiful and absurd.

You will get an inkling of what the ‘music business’ is all about – from the Graveyard of the Arousal Industry couldn’t be a more apt title for Justin Pearson’s tour diary. Part of me wishes he’d have continued in the face of all the terrible things he is going through (gone through), and part of me is glad he’s done writing for now. He’s incredibly prolific. If anything just to continue to document what it is REALLY like. The pieces themselves were quite amazing and honest. These paragraph-less musings on life on the road where a bit of a bitch to get through when editing. Nevertheless an amazing account.

Not traveling in a giant fucking tour bus, staying in 3 and 4 star hotels, having everything and everyone tell you that you matter. Fuck that. Its the real deal.

Here is an awesome picture taken by Robin Locust.

Armchair Martian, Fluf, and Local

Buckfast Superbee, Armchair Martian, Fluf @ Casbah Sat. Sept. 2nd

It was a weekend of reunions of bands from the 90’s that I used to listen to or watch every chance I got. While my good friends from the North Atlantic were playing their swan song(s), closing the 3rd annual Denverfest (why the fuck wasn’t there one of these when I lived in Denver?) drinking and cavorting with mutual friends and my brother in law, I was not landlocked but instead walking distance from the Harbor at San Diego’s premier 21+ club, The Casbah. I met Borracho Bob there, another old Denverite and we said our hellos to Jon Snodgrass, Bob proceeded to tell Jon the story behind Chris Sharry’s album art for “Good Guys…Bad Band.” Which translated well to the image of the album cover to the right. Another example of barehanded drunks wielding instruments instead of weapons, playing for 10 people, two of which were Bobrob and Chris. So. Yeah.

We were patient with the mid-90’s bro-rock of Buckfast Superbee and became intrigued when their drummer had a hissy fit and threw his high hat over his head in a fit of frustration. I wish more bands would do that. It was the highlight of their set. Though TJ has a pretty awesome voice their songs sort of blended into one another, however a lot of people seemed to be into them and it was nice to see our rehearsal space mates draw some attention from the sometimes skeptical Casbah crowd.

Armchair was up next. Watching Jon run through songs I heard over 10 years ago was pretty remarkable. Especially since the last time I saw them was when they played with Samiam at the Aztlan Theater on Kalamath when that one dude Dan Steinberg used to price gouge all the Denver scene kids. That show was consistent with my memory of the band – inconsistent. Some shows they ruled the stage without fucking up any songs and other times they were fall down drunk. The art on the inside of “Good Guys…” is telling with Dracula, The Wolfman and the Mummy as the band members trying to decide if they should go set up for the show. This time around they played incredibly well. Jon has honed his country sneer from moonlighting in Drag The River for the past decade or so and sounded amazing. While it was nice to see some familiar Denver (via Ft Collins) band it wasn’t quite like seeing Crestfallen and Christie Front Drive play with Planes Mistaken for Stars. Essentially my three favorite Denver bands minus Acrobat Down (what you guys couldn’t get your shit together for a one off show?). They went through the hits and even tossed in a Gary Nuwman cover expertly sung/mimicked by bassplayer Paul.

I like the idea of seeing Armchair Martian as drunk as Drag the River but with more Jawbreaker and less Lucero ya know? It was a good show. Fluf played all their hits and all the bros sung along happily while chicks pretended to sing along but just sort of mouthed ‘watermelon/c a n d y b a r/ ooh’ while expertly sipping their gin and tonics or whatever the fuck they were drinking. I left early. Better to have the memory of a decent show than a show that I stayed too long at and might’ve been mildly impressed with.

Synthesis of Classic Form

you enjoy this!An air raid siren echoing off of glass and concrete as dust and debris filter from between the buildings to the streets below. So much skin. So much skin. Where does the mind end and the body begin? You are on perpetual display my dear. Your white skin and your blond hair and your long legs and trim figure are attractively relative. But not because you are the best choice for breeding. Your hips are much too small. You don’t eat enough. Or you must eat just enough to get by. What are you drinking? Vodka Tonic? No way! Vodka Cranberry. I can see from here when the tender lips touch the reddish-purple concentrate of the glass, filled with ice, garnish with lime. That guy over there is leering at your breasts. You’d call him a ‘creepy bastard’ if you caught him but you don’t notice and he zero’s in on another couple. I believe he enjoys their shape. But those aren’t real are they? They could pass but they don’t move quite right and your 5’4″ frame wouldn’t naturally support those shapes: that weight and its implications of alterations. Those strange looking objects that bring men pleasure because of their shape and their muscle memory in meaning. You can feed a child. But not really. Cause they’re full of saline and not the apparatus to sustain the life of your offspring.

Is this merely observation?

Is this social commentary?

Does it affect me?

Is it effective?

Grinderman Says, “I must above all things love myself.”