New Music Round Up (El Michels Affair, Graveyard, Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics)

Suppose most folks have heard the new Mastodon and Manchester Orchestra or at the very least the single from It’s Blitz! That said, I figured I’d drop some knowledge on some fantabulous jams from around the globe.

First up
El Michels Affair – 37th Chamber. link
Yes, as the name suggests, this is directly related to Wu’s 36 Chambers however, what we’ve got here is an uber talented group of players paying direct homage instrumentally to that classic Wu epic. The concept is simple, get a bunch of great musicians together and remake 36 Chambers with live instruments. Standouts like, “Can It All Be So Simple” is transformed into a slow brooding jam replete with a clave backbeat and some seriously juicy brass work. “Cherchez La Ghost” blasts off into a strange land of analog synth and wah guitar. These geniuses take what RZA and the Clan cobbled together from old casios and ‘under the carpet’ R&B samples and made a masterpiece hip hop record. Just wait til you hear the childrens choir on that ODB classic “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” children chanting ‘Wu Tang’!

El Michels Affair pays respect then pays it forward tenfold with an entirely new and refreshed ‘remix’ in 37th Chamber. RIYL Curtis Mayfield, Wu Tang, Blacksploitation Soundtracks, Kung Fu

Graveyard – Graveyard. link
These Nordic knights of tundra metal take the formula of Captain Beyond/Blue Cheer/Black Sabbath and run with it. Yes it is derivative. Yes they mangle the english language. Yes there are a few note by note riffs from Jimi Hendrix and Tony Iommi. All that said, Graveyard is a classic album NOW.

RIYL – Sabbath, Captain Beyond, Guitars, Smoking Pot

Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics – Inspiration Information 3 link
I still haven’t really been able to get into that Flying Lotus (los angeles) record, not like it was touted as the next Introducing by DJ Shadow. I’ll call bullshit on that, only because I’m sentimentally attached to Introducing being that it was THE soundtrack of my freshman year in college (I’ve conveniently omitted Earth Crisis from all past playlists). So, this trip hop or whatever the kids are calling it these days has become more eccentric. Dangermouse upped the ante with the Grey Album. Girl Talk is the most Mashable and LCD Soundsystem is IDM for the art school/fixed gear/american apparel clique. Love them all I do, but for those of you with a bit more of a sensitive palate, you may find a lot of herbs and spices in the Heliocentrics.

This record represents the possibility of what would occur if the dudes from Don Cab were into Funkadelic and afro-funk like Fela Kuti instead of punk rock. It is a cross breeding of all the most prominent parts from Buena Vista Social Club, Ghanaian Funk, Dr. Who theme song, and surf rock. If Henry Mancini took acid he’d make music like this-wait, maybe he did take acid. Okay then this could be the off spring of Henry Mancini and that smelly frenchman Serge Gainsbourg.

That is a fairly accurate account of my favorite three new records. Check em out. They are delicious!

Oaks: Bravo! (A Review)

oaks coverOaks



This 5 song EP from San Diego band Oaks is on one of the most well produced pieces of non-label supported music I’ve heard in a long while, which leads me to believe they might be supported by a label on their next outing. It sounds good in the car, on headphones and through the home stereo.  Thick and viscous is the center flavor in each of these choice cuts, making a filling meal of fatty overdriven bass, slavering rhythm peppered by crunchy distorted guitars and expertly executed vocals.

The band is informed by their former tours of duty in bands like Spermatozoa, Flocking Eduardo and the formidable Tight Bros From Way Back When but, with respect to their former bands, seem to gel much better in this fiery incarnation.  If the Melvins and Jesus Lizard are the uncles of this hard rock family then Oaks and their kindred spirits in bands like The Long and Short of It and Big Business are the trouble making nephews.

This is the type of record you’ll want to listen to loud, not some fucking shitty MP3 either, get your hands on a disc or vinyl if they press any (fingers crossed) at their upcoming release show June 1st at the Casbah. The track “Kix 4 Free,” has been stuck in my head for weeks, popping in and out at weird times like while I’m watching CNN in the morning or riding the trolley to work thinking about what kind of crazy Bas Rutten move I’d like to pull on those officious asshole Trolley cops, using the ‘ambiance,’ while saying, “Dohnt Yu Do Dat!”

I have yet to see these guys live so I’ll reserve judgement on that aspect however they commonly play around town with some of my favorite bands like Archons, The Long and Short of It and Get Your Death On (a band that needs to seriously release that California Condor record already!). So I’ll be witnessing the shred at the Casbah this sunday, even though its technically a ‘school’ night and attempt to under indulge in PBR so Monday ain’t so rough.



Queens of the Stone Age: Disputing “They”

I had been waiting for this one for years. At first I had been scheduled to do the interview with the drummer, Joey Castillo, who I was a fan of but not that thrilled to be interviewing as a member of QOTSA. Not because I didn’t appreciate his contribution as a member of the band but, come on? Josh was the one I was most interested in speaking to. Lo-and-behold his availability cleared up and the Publicist conferenced me in. Josh was running errands with Brody when I caught up to him for this brief but insightful chat. He’s a cool motherfucker. I have fond memories of driving around in Ben’s (Under the Drone/Mantra Tattoo) 4×4 listening to “Mexicola” while scouting locations for some GFW/Loadbringer shots.


Josh Homme was born and raised in the Palm Desert area of southern California. His first band, Kyuss redefined heavy music with its nod to Black Sabbath, a band, which Homme hadn’t heard until some time after starting Kyuss with child hood friends Brant Bjork (drums), Nick Oliveri (bass) and John Garcia (vocals). Kyuss was the type of band with a large cult following and had the kind of scrutinizing fans that judged every step the band took. They influenced an entire genre of music dubbed ‘Stoner Rock,’ though their version of it was more adequately titled “Desert Rock,” which in itself was somewhat vague and identified the band merely by location.

Forming Kyuss at 13, Homme demonstrated a uniquely keen ear for sound and developed a personal style of guitar playing that had various parts Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page, Billy Gibbons and Black Flag’s Greg Ginn without ripping off one particular guitarist. Kyuss had its run in the mid-nineties, releasing several critically acclaimed albums including Wrench (1991), Blues for the Red Sun (1992), Welcome To Sky Valley (1994), and their fourth and final full-length appropriately titled The Circus Leaves Town in 1996. After Kyuss called it quits, Homme moved up to Seattle WA, a place he knew ‘music was dead,’ started going back to school and played guitar with Mark Lannegan in the band Screaming Trees. He did what he could to get kicked out of his former record contract so he decided if he sang on the next record that would nix him out of the deal and luckily it worked.

Prior to getting QOTSA up and running, Homme had always thought of what people would think of his music first. He ascribed to that thought process for most of his tenure in the music business until one day it dawned on him that the theory of what ‘They’ think is: “an incorrect theory. What will they say? What will they do? Presuppose what people you don’t know might think and it couldn’t be worse than that (for creating music), because you put yourself in a box that doesn’t exist and its one you made for yourself.

“Its one of the reasons I quit Kyuss. Because I always thought of music as a lawless territory, waking up one day realizing I’m about to be choked out by my own rules, and this sort of religious, militant following by myself and the rest of the band and lots of people that were into it. I wouldn’t change anything about Kyuss but it was just a thing that needed to be killed immediately. It stops paying allegiance to music and it pays for attention from people you don’t know. Also titled punk rock guilt.” You can practically hear the air quotes through the telephone receiver as Homme explains things. His confidence is infectious and it seems like everything he says has weight. He doesn’t spend much time chewing on what he is going to say next, but he is thoughtful. Perhaps because he’s been through the celebrity rumor bin enough times to know that his reply will have conviction.

Though Homme’s leave of absence from the music world was brief, he eventually returned to what he knew how to do best and in 1997 started recording demo’s for what would become QOTSA’s debut album. “Regular John,” the lead track on Queens of the Stone Age sets up Homme with enough room to experiment without alienating his former fan base. It’s basic four on the floor kick drum pattern, fuzzed-out-down-tuned Mosrite guitar through a bass amp, nailing that Mojave desert ‘sound’ without re-treading old ground. This record also saw Homme co-producing with long time friend Joe Baressi at the famous Rancho De la Luna studio, home to many a recording of the famed Desert Sessions.

Producing has always been a major part of where Homme’s inspiration and passion stems from and time spent in the studio is where Homme can really experiment and create to his fullest abilities. “(Producing) is my favorite part. There is a bunch of different ways to interpret what I do. I kinda think the way people (or label suits) used to interpret it is the way that I see it, which is; I don’t like to hire outsiders. When I work with an outsider my first question is ‘Why are you trying to take this (music) away from me? I really love this. You think that’s what I’m asking you to do? If you do I can tell you now that’s not what I’m asking.’ I love that (creative) process, the scratching of the framework of a song [within the studio].”

Adding, “It’s like a Rubix cube that I can actually solve. I love doing things wrong. Using the equipment incorrectly is my favorite thing. I like to leave mistakes. It’s not supposed to be perfect. That way you leave the record where it sounds great then you blow it away live too. It allows for future.”

Scalability in music is a wise approach. Visionary, control freak, guitar god, and studio genius are all terms that come to mind when referring to Homme. One thing is certain, Homme is fueled by music, and his guitar is more of an appendage and extension of his body. He still gets wide eyed and excited by new things. Of all the people Homme has worked with (Dave Grohl, Mark Lannegan, PJ Harvey, UNKLE) Billy Gibbons was a dream come true. ZZ Top’s Gibbons sat in on the track, “Burn the Witch” for QOTSA’s Lullabies to Paralyze. It also marked one of the first times Homme took a gamble. In regards to taking chances he says, “That was the first and only time I have ever shot in the dark. Because I like to ask a question I already know the answer to, I can’t help it. It doesn’t mean I need to know the answer but when it comes time for asking someone to guest, if I could avoid that, it would be killer. In this case with Billy it was like ‘F*#! It, let’s just ask.’ I NEVER see him on anyone else’s record. So (the answer) is probably ‘no’ BECAUSE I never see him on anyone’s records. When he came back and the answer was ‘yes’ I was like ‘Oh! What do I do!’ That type of thing become clear if you don’t look for them.

“I was pretty sure he had a preconceived notion of what we were about so we did this song called ‘Like a Drug’ and it totally caught him off guard and we did it live with vocals and everything all in one go. It was the first time he played with everything live in 25 years. That was great because we got to give something back to him. I probably learned 10 million things from him in the three days we recorded together.”

“Burn the Witch” is a bluesy but modern and very QOTSA sounding song that didn’t highlight Gibbons shredding abilities but complimented the track effectively. And though Homme is an accomplished musician, he is quick to point out certain things in a self-deprecating manner by saying, “That just made me so glad that I had taken those steps. (Billy) may have said ‘no’ if we had done something that we knew was lame. Or backed out at some earlier point. I can’t say we’ve never done lame, just not on purpose. That seemed to make a difference. No intentional lameness.”

Always the consummate musician and showman, Homme has amassed a large following not only as a guitarist but also as a brilliant producer. His work with The Desert Sessions, a series of recordings done at the Joshua Tree Rancho De la Luna studio has allowed him to work with some of the worlds most respected musicians. One thing is certain in Homme’s world, he is a servant to the music he creates and pays fealty to no one.

So when ‘They’ rear their head and turn their venom toward QOTSA or Homme, he diplomatically states; “Music is a device that you use to reach the goal of pleasure or elation or the understanding of something that’s gut wrenching. (Music) is not supposed to “be like this man!” When I meet people like that today, who want to control perception (or music), having been freed from that myself and evolved from that misconception, I’m always like, ‘I understand what you’re saying. You’re wrong but I totally understand you.’ Because it’s just about loving music PERIOD. Nothing else is necessary.”