Entitlement Issues: Coming to terms…ahem

Hijacking Myspace for a coat of red paint!

So as some of you may or may not be aware of I have been the editor of two websites. The first was called themusicedge.com and the second was called hypezine.com. The demise of the former occurred because of corporate shortsightedness and a general misconception and understanding of web communications. The site, though it was a teen friendly music magazine, was a marketing initiative by a trade organization to help stimulate instrument sales in the youth demographic. Not a bad mission right? Not exactly transparent either but it wasn’t like I was shilling for some Astroturf front group or some PR Firm working a campaign for D.C. lobbyists. Or was I? Dun, dun, dun! [I did almost get to go to dinner with Gov. Mike Huckabee once at a trade show while he was a spokesperson for the company because he played bass.]  

I took what I knew of the DIY ethos and my experience in music journalism in print and applied it to the web format. I have to admit it was nice having a modest budget of about 30K annually. We could afford swag, some of which won a design award in the Marketing Communications world. I tried to get a copy of the award certificate, but this was after the decision was made to cut the program so those budget strings got choked off. We were a ‘Webby Award Honoree’ for content! Themusicedge was made up of about 25-30 young writers, spread throughout the country, covering national acts and keeping us up to date on their local up and comers. It was a good example of crowd sourcing for the web savvy generation.

We commanded consistent 40K unique visitors a month and had a site time averaging 5 minutes per visit. Pretty good for engagement metrics! However, after 4 years of successful organic and grassroots marketing and countless partnerships with folks like Teen People, Warped Tour, and the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus the suits made it known that it was time to move on. No amount of explaining that this whole ‘Internets’ thing wasn’t just some fancy fad or that someday, every company, including those they represented, would be selling directly to consumers online OR proof of web statistics generated from an expensive local and world renown web metrics firm could assuage their determination to remove the only viable URL from the quiver of a half dozen others. Going so far as putting up an ‘Under Construction’ landing page on all the corresponding URL’s, essentially killing thousands of feature articles, record reviews, and show reviews and the sites linking in. This was the reactionary, illogical knee jerk attitude of an ill informed corporate entity.

Taking all the equity from themusicedge we built hypezine.com, a website that had a similar purpose but zero budget, so after a professional title and job change—I became a part time editor with hardly enough time to keep up with his own editing, much less overseeing the two dozen writers who jumped ship with me as well as my new responsibilities at a new job (yes the new job is awesome). Hypezine started out strong and we had some amazing feature stories but time is a Nazi in jack boots with a rubber hose and I realized I had less of it than when I was doing it 9-5 with themusicedge.

The purpose of HZ was to engage readers and to massage them into another venture called hypescene.com, a property that has yet to bear fruit, (though not due to lack of passion on the part of myself and my business partner, who is a successful web developer by day and avid WWC player at night) but essentially would have become an aggregate for bands online marketing properties. We’d promote from within, using the zine to highlight up and coming talent, pairing them next to well known national acts like we had done with our ‘feature’ and ‘spotlight’ sections on themusicedge. However, hiring 10 programmers and getting seed money from an Angel is a full time gig in itself and in the web world, Moore’s law works on ideas too.

Back to the blog.

Blogging got easier, made even simpler. Companies like Microsoft were using it for corporate ‘transparency,’ MS employees were dishing on personal blogs about the ins and outs of one of the worlds most famous companies and (gasp!) it wasn’t always favorable. Then it entered the pop lexicon with ample references in Juno allowing for more amateur writers and journalist to document their lives, as boring or interesting as they can be. The great thing is, someone out there will likely be interested in the same thing you are and instead of never meeting them now you can just type in a key word of interest and hundreds of links pop up.

The art of the blog, if there is such a thing, is that anyone can do it and it can veer off topic at any time, like I’ve been known to do on some posts, this one included. I am able to rant at length about whatever pops in my head but coming from print, I usually try and keep things as relevant as possible. The convergence of web technology fascinates me, and like robotics, it is constantly evolving and getting better, easier for the average person to utilize and market their product or in my case, words.

I’m reviewing records of bands I think everyone should know about, or doing interviews with artists I think you may be interested in. The concept is the same. Push the envelope, but not just across the table, across the globe on the web to engage blokes and birds in Manchester to pick up the latest Made Out of Babies or Oakes record or using semantic search to find more bands from Japan like Envy, Boris and Flower Travelin’ Band. I even go so far as commenting on things that piss me off, like Unilever’s ad campaigns for Axe and Dove—two amazingly genius and manipulative efforts to appeal to males 18-34 and females 18-44.

With all this in mind I have had to contemplate what it is I am selling using this blog. I’ve yet to monetize my posts or get a check from AdSense, I can’t even remember if I enabled AdSense on this wordpress account. I had it when I was using Blogger. I write about things I think are cool in the world and in San Diego. Sometimes other people think those things are cool too and have the kindness to leave a post. Sometimes folks don’t agree with what I have to say, and they leave comments and I really value that aspect of blogging. Anonymity has begun to erode the ‘wild west’ era of the web in its infancy. As Mike Watt would say, ‘If you’re not playin’, yer payin,’ though he means money and music, deriving value from interaction isn’t an entirely new kind of currency nor are those concepts mutually exclusive.

Okay, nice circuitous way of explaining that I’ve recently hijacked the hypezine.com myspace page for acoatofredpaintinhell, as I had hijacked the musicedge myspace account before for hypezine. This time it is different in that I’m the sole proprietor of acoatofredpaintinhell—so with respect to full disclosure, if you sent a message to hypezine letting me know how much we’ve been sold as pets for or you’ve left comments informing hypezine that ‘what she really wants is a big one’ then on behalf of all involved, we’re still deleting you. And you’re welcome to comment any time here.

And you can add me to your ‘friends’ list too. myspace.com/acoatofredpaintinhell


Made Out of Babies: An Interview w/ Julie Xmas


Made Out of Babies are the kind of band that continue to get better with each subsequent release and how stoked was I to hear their latest song “Cooker” from their forthcoming album, The Ruiner, out June 24! I think the fact they keep getting weirder and more complex in their sound is what fascinates me. Vocalist Julie Xmas seems to be utilizing her considerable talents in more ways than just saying words–using her voice to add another element of suspense to the juggernaut rhythm section of bassist Cooper and drummer Matt, while Brendan’s buzz saw and effects laden guitar dances around the chaos.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting a new release from MOOB and so I decided to send Julie some Q’s in advance of their release date. If you haven’t seen this band live, do yourself a favor and go check it out


Who is producing the new MOOB record?

The record would not have become what it is without the help of Andrew Schneider of Translator Audio in Brooklyn. Andrew is amazing. For anyone who isn’t too familiar with how records are made, the producer is as important as any member of the band, and Andrew is definitely a rising star in the audio engineering world.


Do you have a title for it yet?

The Ruiner.


You had mentioned in our interview a while back that your writing process as a singer you often think of the words last and use sounds more than actual lyrics, but Coward seemed more focused lyrically than Trophy did (as a result the vocals sounded more passionate, subject matter was more overt). Is that still the case?

Thanks for saying the vocals sound more passionate with more highly developed subject matter. I can’t tell if I’m more lyrically focused. Sometimes the words do seem to be coming to me faster, but other times it’s like squeezing blood from a stone. I think the key is always the music. If the music is really “for me”, I can usually respond to it fluidly without too many tears and grunts. Abstract vocals are very easy to hide behind. Then again, maybe I haven’t changed at all and it’s you has changed as a listener.


Has your process changed since you started MOOB? Do you utilize different writing/vocal techniques when working with different people like Battle of Mice and do you ‘save’ some things for your main project MOOB?

I respond to different music in different ways. I’m not a good saver. Every time I scream till I almost black out, I know I shouldn’t be doing it. I am weak that way. I tend to do whatever I want despite the cost. Saving ideas has recently come into play with my own solo work, because the music is generally not originating from other people.


How have things been working with your new label The End? What was the reason to work with them and not Neurot for your forthcoming 3rd album?

 Neurot is great, but we wanted to try a new partnership for this record. The End is a growing label with great ideas and we have high hopes for working with them – they seem really driven to make things work and they are committed to the new record, which is by far our best work.


What like-minded loonies are you working with in 08′?

My other personality, My lovely men from Made Out of Babies, the guys from Mouth Of the Architect, the guys from Spylacopa (Greg from Dillinger Escape Plan, Jeff from Isis and John from Candiria), A French Director and French Producer David Blin and Renaud Behar (I’m scoring their first feature length film), Andrew Schneider, Mel Liederman from Victory at Sea/Thalia Zadek, and a few other special surprises that I can’t name at the moment. It is a very busy time!


What can you tell me about the solo record and can what folks can expect? will it be heavy, electronic, ambient, combination of both, anyone producing? is if full band? is it just you and an acoustic guitar?

I would never try to play an instrument and sing. I have great musicians helping me out. The music is big and open, songs I want to sing or have always wanted to sing that most people probably will not like too much. I don’t think I could finish an entire album without expressing very dark feelings, but I also express a sense of hope and amazement at small things in the world.


Whats the possibility of a Jarboe/Julie Xmas collab?

I’ve never thought about it. I wonder if it would work.


When is the next tour scheduled for MOOB?

Summer 08’, we’ll be in Europe & the US. We’ve been taking time off to write and record.


Will there ever be a followup to the Battle of Mice record?

A BOM split with Jesu is coming out on Robotic Empire in a few months.


Did you guys work with Joel Hamilton again on the new MOOB record?

No, but we love Joel. I think we knew before we started to write that Andrew was the right person for this album. When you hear it, you’ll know why. The best – kept secret in Brooklyn.


Thanks Julie. Happy 08. looking forward to seeing you guys sometime this year.

Thank You! This was fun – thanks so much for thinking of me.  Let me know if you need anything else at all!


Made Out of Babies: An Interview with the Band

UPDATE: I’ve got an entire update/lowdown from Julie Xmas on her new solo record as well as what has been going on in the MOOB camp including info on their new record, new producer!, new loads of noisy AWESOME. I saw Brendan last Friday night at the Casbah, looks like he is doing some tour dates with Red Sparrowes. Hopefully we’ll see a spring release for the new record. The following interview took place on their first West Coast tour with Blackfire Revelation and Unsane in person at the Casbah. They had just released their Neurot debut, Trophy and I think I was the first person to interview the band. I’ll be adding the update/interview with Julie later this week so check back. Live they are magnificent, like a wolf pack in a cage covered in caribou parts, Julie as Asena stalking the stage, tearing through the crowd with her howl.

made out of babies


It’d be easy to do a bunch of metaphors using their name, but I’ll do my best to refrain from that lowest common denominator of writing gimmickry and provide a tale of my sordid encounter with Brooklyn’s fiercest “heavy” music act.

When Charles (musicedge.com photographer) and I made it to San Diego’s Casbah, much to our chagrin Made Out of Babies was three songs into its set. We got our wrists stamped and entered the venue with a spring in our step. Noticing the lack of people standing near the stage, we took it upon ourselves to show support by getting close—close enough to see the veins pop out of vocalist Julie X-Mas’ forehead as she spit the chorus of “Gut Shoveler” into her white-knuckled fist that was strangling the microphone.

Fans started to trickle in as MOoB went deeper into its set; most of the gathered masses were there to see noise core progenitors Unsane, who are touring in support of their latest Relapse Records release, Bloodrun. Yet those lucky enough early birds in attendance got a taste of what can only be described as awe-inspiring. MOoB combines the best of The Jesus Lizard chain-saw guitar effect (Brendan) with gut churning bass lines (Cooper) and bombastic, Keith Moon-like percussion (Matt). The apex of MOoB (aside from the talented instrument players) comes in the form of an auburn-haired Siren named Julie X-Mas, whose tortured, rage-filled screams are punctuated by moments of melodic beauty, enchanting listeners and raising obligatory devil horns from even the most cynical scenesters.

Their debut record, Trophy (Neurot Records), has a dozen gems that range in feel from manic chaos to schizophrenic surrealism. Their live set had the same feel of controlled chaos as their album with Julie caterwauling, spinning like a winged airliner in a final dive to the beckoning earth below.  Brendan and Cooper wield their instruments like weapons and their bodies act as if in the midst of some transcendental aboriginal dance, swaying back and forth to Matt’s maple splitting drum beat. This is a band that demands your attention while simultaneously command a sound with a passion and fury more than worthy of the barbaric applause and exalted screams from the crowd.
My only complaint was that the band didn’t play my favorite song, “Sugar,” which guitarist Brendan explained “is in a different tuning.”

With their set finished, we gathered in the Atari Lounge in the rear of the Casbah. The Lounge is a room filled with games like Gallaga, Ms. Pacman and Centipede. With the cacophony of video game music and the second act, Blackfire Revelation for ambiance, we sit at a table with an inlaid map of the U.S. and make jokes about Red and Blue states.  I’m impressed with the bands generosity as I attempt to conduct a very intimate interview.

SR: How did you all meet?
Julie: I dated him and him (pointing to Matt and Brendan). Brendan and I started playing together first about two or three years ago. Cooper’s been with us for over a year.

They proceed to argue benevolently on the precise time when Cooper joined the band.

Brendan: We drafted him about a year and a half ago.
Cooper: Here’s how it went. I played in my other band that’s called Players Club, and they opened for us on their first show and they weren’t good
Brendan: We were terrible.
Cooper: But I loved them. Anyway, a year later they recorded some stuff with the guitar player from Players Club, Joel Hamilton, and they recorded a bunch of songs with him, three of which are still on the record [Trophy]. I was at a party with these guys and said, “If you guys need a rhythm guitarist I’ll totally play rhythm guitar.” So a week later Brendan called me up and said “Why don’t you play bass guitar with us instead?” So I said, “Doesn’t Matt’s sister play bass guitar?” and they said, “Not anymore.” Then we immediately wrote the rest of the record.
Brendan: We were already in the process of recording but we weren’t happy with it, and we knew we could do better so we decided to scrap most of it and start all over.
Cooper: They had about five songs and we kept three.
Brendan: We had written bits of other songs then Cooper came along and …
Cooper (mockingly): Then we gelled, man.
Matt: Like a three-cheese quesadilla.
Brendan: Four.

SR: How did the writing change with the addition of Cooper, and how does the process work in the band? Is there one person writing songs or is it collaborative?
Brendan: It’s pretty much everyone. Different songs have started from different places. Some start with a guitar riff. “Sugar” started with a drumbeat and I wanted to do something “jerky” sounding, and Matt said, “Well I have this drum beat.” And it kind of went from there.
Cooper: I try and bring in like two parts that go together and let it go from there.
Matt: Lyrics come together once the skeleton of the song is in place.
Brendan: The great thing about Julie is that the lyrics come fairly easy to her. We’ll be figuring something out and she’ll say, “I want to try something right here.”
Julie: I always think of things as a singer. In writing, these guys have their own specific job. But thinking of things as a singer … that changes the writing too.
Cooper: That’s the great thing ’cause she can say; “I only have words for half of that.” So we’ll shorten that. Or “I have more than that” and we’ll double it.
Brendan: And most of the time it works ’cause it will break the cadence of the song up in a way that we wouldn’t have written it. The vocals and the melody will lend itself better to the song.

At this point we are interrupted by Dave from Unsane, bringing friendly shots to his friends and band mate, Cooper, who moonlights as a guitarist and vocalist for Players Club.

SR: As a writer, do you have things that you’ve already set down on paper prior to hitting the rehearsal or is it more spontaneous, creating words on the spot?

Julie: Well, sometimes I’ll use stuff that I already have, but most of the time I don’t even think about the words. Even some songs now I don’t have lyric sheets for because I use more sounds than actual lyrics. But I definitely take influences from things that I’m reading or something that strikes me when I hear their music.
Brendan: Like “Gut Shoveler”; what was that book you were reading?
Julie: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.
Brendan: She said to me, “We should do something that sounds like a machine” and that’s when I did that thing with the slide that makes it sound like something is churning over and over again.
Cooper: The other great thing about the recording process is all the stuff we had written together as a band had changed quite a bit.  The vocals were still pretty loose but when we went into the studio there was such a format and so many different ways to do it that Julie was really receptive.  We were in the control room and she was laying down tracks and we could say, ‘try the other one.’  She’s awesome because she can do the songs a million different ways.
Brendan: In some ways, Joel Hamilton who produced the record is in a lot of ways another member of the band because he came up with a lot of ideas that we ended up really liking.  Getting back to the song ‘Sugar’ Julie had a basic melody and when we recorded it she had a couple of different things she would do.  She would improvise a lot of things when we were in the studio and she would change something or do something different and we’d be like, ‘that, do that again!’  Joe sat down with that song over the course of an hour and came up with the melody in the chorus.
Matt: At that point it was nice to have an objective pair of ears cause we had been in the studio for a while and doing the same thing over and over and he’d suggest something and the light bulb would go off, ‘Bing!’
Julie: The song and lyrics are based on my sister and me. When I wrote that song I was thinking of a character so I took certain traits of my sister and I (who’s at every show that we play) and put it into one person.
Brendan: All right, enough about that song. [He says laughing]

SR: how did you get started playing guitar?
Brendan: Some friends of mine were starting a band right as I was finishing high school, and I was always going to the shows and I just wanted to be in the band with them. The guitar player was a really good friend of mine and he showed me how to play a few of the songs, and in about six months I was playing in that band. I played with them for about four or five years but it never went anywhere. I didn’t play for years and years and then Julie and I went out for a while, then split up.
Julie: Like a hundred and seven years.
Brendan: It lasted for years. It lasted forever! But then we didn’t talk for a year, and she called me and it was her sister’s birthday, and she was already playing music with Matt and they needed a guitar player. So I went and practiced with them for about four days and played the show for her birthday with Cooper’s other band, Players Club.
Cooper: I love ’em but they played awful.
Brendan: Matt hadn’t played drums for a number of years and I hadn’t played guitar for six or seven years so it was terrible.

SR: Did you just start playing bass for this band?
Brendan: He’s our celebrity.
Matt: Lets stick with bass; who’ve you played bass for?
Cooper: Sweet Diesel and this band. On guitar, I played for Thursday. Their first tour they were all 21 and I was 28. They are my best buddies in the whole world. They’re a bunch of dirt bags and I love them. Their first tour was a series of house shows from here to Florida for two weeks and back. I have great photos of that tour.
Cooper: They’re my boys. I love those guys. I went on tour with them and only had one practice with them. Jeff, aside from singing, is a really good guitar player and he’d tack up these teachings for me that were in guitarist speak that said things like, First chug-chug part, eighteen times—into second light emo part into second light emo part— two times.

SR: Matt, when did you start playing?
Matt: I started playing drums in the sixth grade, because there was a girl in band that I had a crush on. ’Course she dropped out of band the day that I started. I stayed in there and ended up loving it. So I was a band geek from sixth grade through junior high and high school. I played in marching band: bass, cymbals, triangle, snare, I played the roto toms. It was cool. I had a blast during that time.
Cooper: You played bass in the marching band?
Matt: Yeah. The bass drum.
Cooper: I pictured you walking down the street playing a bass guitar.
(Laughs all around)
Matt: I stayed all the way through school, learned how to read music.

SR: Julie, how did you get your start?
Brendan: Julie has the most formal training out of all of us.
Julie: I come from a big Irish family and everyone plays music. My dad still plays music. He started a local prison band in a minimum-security prison upstate—in his spare time. I started very young … and I can sing so I went to Julliard for six months and dropped out. [It was] all vocal training.
(Dave from Unsane interrupts again)
Dave: You’re still here?
Julie: We played with Neurosis last night. We didn’t play as well as we did tonight. It was scary. We’ve never played for that many people before.

SR: And how did the relationship with Neurot Records come about?
Julie: We sent our demo in to them on a gamble and they called us like a few months later. It was a joke that we sent it to them and we are constantly reminded that we are the only band that they’ve picked up from a demo submission. We were sitting there and talking about where and who we should send it to, and Brendan is a huge Neurosis fan so we sent it. It was out of nowhere.
Cooper: I’m on tour in California with Players Club and Brendan thinks I’m calling to [mess] with him.
Brendan: But then I called Steve [Von Till, owner of Neurot Records, lead man in sludge-core giant Neurosis] back and was like yelling, “Who is this?” And he’s like “Steve Von Till” and I was like, “Yeah, whatever.” And after I talked to him (and realized it wasn’t a joke), he said that he really liked the record and asked if we would want Neurot to put it out. And I had to think about for 2 seconds. I hung up the phone because I would start telling him how much I love him. Then I called every person in the band and blubbered it out.
Cooper: The funny thing is that we really like them, but they really like Red Sparowes, who we hate (he says smiling while wearing a Red Sparowes T-shirt).
Brendan: They’re knob-twiddling hacks.
Matt: Shoe-gazing long hairs.
Brendan: Please add into the interview Greg’s proclivity for hair products.


Click here to listen to the track “Swarm” from their album, Trophy