Super dreamy and almost trippy shoegaze, make out to Living Hour

Shoegaze. The term is one of many that recently has me thinking whoever names marijuana strains must also name music genres. Lately, it seems like music genres and sub-categories surface by the minute, whether they are new experimentations or nostalgic resurrections.
Coined after slow paced indie-rock bands that spend much of their set ‘gazing’ at their effects pedals, shoegaze is closely related to the sounds of dream pop, chill wave and psychedelia… see what I mean?

“When it comes down to genres those are all somewhat fitting but I think there are a few unique elements that wouldn’t necessarily fall under a specific genre,” said Living Hour’s Gil Carroll, before their set at Detroit’s Marble Bar on Sept. 20.

Winnipeg, Manitoba’s Living Hour released their debut full length earlier this year on Lefse Records (Portland, OR). The self-titled record featured songs that began as ideas in Carroll’s notebooks six years ago, as well as tunes that the quintet approached more collaboratively since forming two years ago.

“I think there’s new (genres) just because there’s so many different sounds you can make now with digital equipment and different instruments that there’s so many influences coming together that it forms different sounds that haven’t been heard before,” said guitarist/back up vocals Adam Soloway.
“It’s super hard to characterize that under indie-rock for example, but were also super dreamy and almost trippy at times so you kind of have to tell people that because they might think that we’re like Pavement but we’re more like Slowdive,” said Soloway.

Living Hour’s first ever tour was two years ago last week and with little time to showcase their comfortably noisy debut, their current tour includes dates in the states, Canada and Europe and the U.K.
Aside from their non-stop self promotion on Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlets, the band attributes their respective niche style for garnering geographically widespread audience in such little time.

“I think we also need to credit the shoegaze community,” said Soloway.
“Just because it’s so tightly knit across the world that if one person hears something and they post something in an online forum or shoegaze facebook page, tons of people will listen to it and it doesn’t matter how big you are because people get super into it because its… shoegaze.

Living Hour’s Marble Bar set included slow outros that felt like sun-set glistening ocean waves crashing at your feet.
Female vocalist Sam Sarty’s soothing vocals filled the room like a cool September night’s window breeze. Her nurturing melodies directed the rest of the members as they swayed with eyes closed, joining the audience.
“We want people to make out to it… If they want to,” said Sarty.
“Sex music,” added Sarty.

And just like that… another genre floats to the surface.


The Dream Is Over, PUP begins touring for their second album in Pontiac

The life of a contemporary touring musician includes an abundance of grueling hurdles. Obstacles that paint life on the road differently than the lavished fame and fortuned experience that music striving millennials may have dreamed of.  A more realistic example of the experience is meticulously chronicled through the perspective of Canadian punk quintet Pup in the music video for their song, “Dark Days,” released last July.

The video is an animated glimpse of the band’s touring life. While tirelessly driving a tattered van through snowstorms and flashing passports, the late-twenties Torontonian buddies Facetime significant others on shattered phone screens and puke in empty dive bars from too much boozing between playing gigs and sleeping upright. Their journey has high moments as well, though it is hard to overlook the rock star dream’s inevitable “disillusionment,” as singer and rhythm guitarist Stefan Babcock would call it.

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“I started realizing in my mid twenties that you’re faced with some sort of disillusionment at a certain point where you’ve grown up being told you can do anything you want and you think that, ‘when I grow up this is what I’m going to do,’ and at a certain point you face up to the fact that… man… you’re pretty much grown up!” said Babcock.

“And maybe those dreams were not realistic or not compatible with your lifestyle or your skill set,” he added, “but you just have to learn to adapt and it can be a pretty cold, hard reality check but that’s called growing up ya know?”
In hindsight, the video for Pup’s “Dark Days,” which is an uplifting, catchy punk anthem and highlight of their self-titled first full length, accurately depicts their last two years of perpetual globetrotting. That record earned plenty of critical praise including Rolling Stone’s Break Out Acts of 2014.
“Part of the success of that record probably was us just writing for ourselves,” said Babcock. “We didn’t expect the first record to be anything.”
On May 27, Pup will release their sophomore LP, which has many similar themes of “disillusionment and disappointment and frustration.”
It is theoretically titled, The Dream Is Over.
Babcock, who suffered a band—threatening vocal injury last July, titled the new record after a conversation he had with the doctor who diagnosed his hemorrhaging. His screaming style is one of the factors that forced Pup to drop out of several tour dates with Modern Baseball, Jeff Rosenstock and Tiny Moving Parts.
“I don’t think there’s a technical way to do what I do,” said Babcock.
“The way I sing is technically incorrect but it sounds the way it does because I do it and I’m not really willing to forfeit that,” he added.
The band’s constant gigging was the contributing factor.
“There were times when we did thirty some shows in a row, which is a lot for your voice without a day off and then there would be days during those thirty days where we’d play a show and someone would ask if we could play their house party after the show and we’d say sure, fine, why not?” said Babcock.
After two weeks of vocal rest, Babcock was offered the option of surgery, which would have cost him have six months to a year.
“I kind of got this once in a lifetime opportunity and I don’t know if it’s still going to be around in a year,” said Babcock.
Recently, Babcock has been exercising his voice to rehabilitate it and is looking forward to getting back on the road after just a handful of stationary months.
“I’m a little nervous but I feel a lot healthier than I did going into our last tour,” said Babcock.

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He added, “And it’s always nerve racking after spending so much time off but you just gotta get back on the horse and do it and I’m confident. I’ve been working hard on recovering so I’m confident that everything is cool.”
In June Babcock and friends Steve Sladkowski (lead guitar), Nestor Chumak (bass guitar) and Zack Mykula (drums) will be back in their element, their van. They’ll be headlining the “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” tour with Rozwell Kid. Charly Bliss and Pkew Pkew Pkew will be splitting the opening duties.
The tour opens at the Pikeroom in Pontiac.
“We’ve never played in Pontiac so I’m not exactly sure what to expect but I’m looking forward to it,” said Babcock.

“From what I know there’s a pretty solid punk rock scene out there and we’ve always had pretty good luck going to new towns and Michigan and our Ontario stomping grounds are pretty similar so hopefully it will be good,” he added.
“Our last Detroit show was a lot of fun so hopefully this one will pick it up a notch.”


King Eddie Expands His Kingdom

For his recent self-titled album, King Eddie frontman Justin Maike had the goal of creating something “as D.I.Y. as possible, while still sounding polished and nice.” So he made the album using the resources he had in front of him, from recording in a haunted house in Detroit to hanging blankets on the walls so he could record in his basement in Iowa.

The sound for the album itself was D.I.Y. as well, because it involved Justin doing the writing and then seeking help from his “et al,” as he refers to them on Facebook, to create his totally rocking final project.  Justin’s girlfriend Aurora contributed her angelic, but sassy vocals, her sister Velvet played her funky bass, and their friend Angela added the dreamy keyboard. Justin’s friend Jake helped him with the intricate guitar parts, and Justin came all the way back to his hometown of Detroit to record Joe Myers’ groovy drums. “It was a group of people who had never played together all on one album, so it was hugely collaborative,” Justin explained.  He said that while he loves doing the song-writing, he also really likes getting his friends involved in what he called “coloring the picture.” And with Adam Cox, the producer for Mexican Knives and The Muggs, there to help Justin with production via email, what a picture it all became.  The album’s creation spanned three different states, many months, and tons of great friends.

“King Eddie” is an absolutely beautiful and poignant ride from start to finish. It combines new and insightful sounds with more old-fashioned psychedelic rock motifs from the 60’s and 70’s. So it will have you both jiving with your friends at house parties one minute and dusting off your old Jefferson Airplane albums the next.

Justin says his main influences for the album were the Doors and other bands from the days of yore, mixed with many elements from Latin and Hip-Hop music. Justin also retains his Detroit roots with a somewhat Detroit garage rock sound, especially in “Daddy (Was No Powder Keg Man).”

What separates King Eddie from other Detroit-based sounds? Well, in my opinion, two things: First, the guitar parts, and second, the vocals. The guitar sound is a unique one because it stands as what makes the album move from feel-good sounds to more profound emotional ones without making either seem out-of-place. Justin states that, “I know it’s not cool anymore to be the guitar guy,” but explains that his music relies heavily on strong guitar parts, with fluid melodies and powerful harmonies. I would even go so far as to say that the guitar carries the entire sound from start to finish and makes us feel present in each track. That presence then allows for that second element, the vocals, to shine through and make their mark on listeners. It’s clear that Justin and Aurora are dedicated vocalists and have not only perfected their own voices, but also the way in which their voices work together on the tracks. You can especially hear their lovely harmonies on my favorite track on the album, “Annie Social.” These voices add soul and character to the album and will make the songs stick in your head all day, but not at the expense of their complexity and quality. I am especially obsessed with Aurora’s voice, which I’m sure won’t offend Justin, as I will wager that he is quite obsessed himself. Her sassy and effortlessly powerful pipes are what you’re looking for, and more. Trust me. She’ll have you really grooving on track eight of the album, “Flyin.’”

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So where did the idea for such a memorable work of musical art come from? Well, Justin wrote the songs while Aurora was pregnant with their daughter, Jette. So that experience alone inspired most of the songs. As Justin explains, “the pregnancy was very surreal, because from a male perspective, it doesn’t feel like much is changing.” But his lyrics reflect on more than just the pregnancy, also cataloging his pre-baby travels as well as how he and Aurora met. Finally, Justin mixed in a good amount of politics and current news, which he presents in “a purposely non-preaching way.” Moreover the album presents itself as a reflection on the most important aspects of his life inspired by an excitement in the future he had before him with his two wonderful girls.

Now that Jette is here, Justin feels that he has become a much better musician. As he explains, “you need to plan your free time out much more because you know you only have a certain amount of time.” He continues, “I considered myself to already be self-driven, but Jette really cranked up the dial on that.” And of course being able to share his gift with his girlfriend and daughter makes it all the more special.

Justin and his family are now very focused on getting settled in Denver, where he will continue to grow musically, Aurora will help with music and work on her videography, and Jette will continue being an adorable little baby girl.

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Check out King Eddie’s bandcamp to download these incredible tunes!


Ryan and His Abundance of Arms

“If I’m given the chance to eat at McDonald’s or eat a healthy balanced meal, I’ll choose the healthy one even if it takes longer to eat,” Ryan Allen describes to me as I quickly type up his words next to a broken tape recorder. I do a double take as I realize what I just typed. “Is this guy talking to me about food right now?” I ask myself. Then I realize that Ryan Allen isn’t just telling me what he had for lunch, but is instead making one of the most significant analogies to the way people listen to music that I have heard in a long time as a music journalist. So I laugh out loud.

See, Ryan Allen is trying to explain to me that he believes people don’t really savor music like they used to.

Most people just want their fast food sort of music just served to them in an easily digestible way

– he says, and explains that he would prefer for the music he makes to require several listens in order to gain approval form his listeners. He will later compare his music to “a good book,” which one “wouldn’t want to finish in one sitting.”

Metaphors aside, Ryan Allen does exactly what he came to do with his new recording project, Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms. After participating in many different bands so far, such as Thunderbirds Are Now!, Destroy This Place, and Friendly Foes, Ryan decided to step away from his collaborative arts and do something altogether individual. In creating the solo albums for Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms, Allen was able to use all of his experience in bands to his advantage, because, as he says, “the longer you spend doing it, the more honed in you can become on how you want the sound to get across.” But he wanted to produce something completely different from anything that his bands would put out. He describes his band Destroy This Place as loud and somewhat aggressive, and says that with his solo music he wanted to “dial that back.”   That sound ended up being what he calls “smart, personal, and emotional lyrics [coupled] with melodic pop music.” Don’t let the term ‘pop’ turn you away from the album, though, because he uses it in more of an old-fashioned, British invasion, sort of way. This sound comes naturally to him, and his listeners will not be disappointed by its execution.

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I listened to “Heart String Soul” for the first time on one of those snowpocalypse mornings in which one is able to relax for lack of obligations, but pretty quickly feels the sting of cabin fever. This album is much like that feeling, because while it is extremely catchy (I mean take-up-arms-against-this-melody catchy), it also exudes such strong emotions that it is somewhat cabin-fever-like in its desperation to be heard. Allen explains this idea, saying that he wanted to go for something that is “power pop like Fountains of Wayne,” but veers away from that music in that it is not “very surface level.” He wanted to create songs that would “combine something that’s very unique to listen to with lyrics that are maybe not shiny happy people songs, but songs about being jealous of your friends who are more successful than you and stuff like that.”

I dug this album because it reminded me of the soundtrack to one of those 90’s films with very little plot, met with actual real life adult issues. It struck me as sort of Motion City Soundtrack meets early New Pornographers meets The Who. Is that a thing? If it is a thing, it’s this thing for sure. And for all of you who were saying to yourself, “Hey, this sounds a little like Big Star to me,” not to worry! Because Allen himself declares that they were one of the biggest influences on the album. He also adds in a little Teenage Fanclub and Tom Petty to the mix of inspirations for good measure. So I suppose, not for lacking of trying to narrow it down, we will have to call it a hybrid of all six, but not in a too-many-cooks sort of way. Phew. I’m exhausted.

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And where did such goodness come from? Ah, well, in this case, “Heart String Soul” was inspired by the past few years of Ryan Allen’s life, including stories about his wife and his three-and-a-half-year-old son, Emitt. He loved playing in bands for years, but was inspired to go solo on this project because of these stories and their extremely personal nature. He explains that this does not mean that he felt himself unable to write passionate songs in a band setting. In fact, he says, “I don’t think I could make music and call it solo music without the experiences that I’ve had playing in bands.” He just means that when he writes songs he is able to see whether they would best be created with others or alone. Furthermore, because Allen has actual adult stuff on his plate, he doesn’t want to just “go to band practice and sit there and bullshit and get nothing done.” He says, “If you’re twenty-three that’s awesome because it’s not a waste of time,” but if you are thirty-five, “you better do something productive.” This combination of planning and focus behind “Heart String Soul” place each track on the pedestal of being carefully considered and deliberately crafted for this specific purpose over many years. These qualities are not as common as one would hope in the music industry.

The honesty of the album doesn’t necessarily separate it from albums being released by other Detroit artists today. But the stories themselves do. Years ago, Allen would have told his simple tales over loud speakers, wanting only for flannel-clad hipsters to bounce around on creaky wooden floors in response. But Allen has realized that his stories have expanded a great deal over the past few years. And when his three-and-a-half-year-old son looked up at him upon seeing the album cover appear on the computer screen and said, “Dad that’s your CD! We should listen to that!” he realized his target audience had expanded quite a bit as well.

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Ryan Allen will perform songs from his album live at the album’s release show, which will take place on March 28, 2015 at the Berkley Front. He will play with Sean Sommer on drums and Michael Majewski on bass, and the band will follow two others, Love Axe and Javelins.

 


Vonneguts, Vonneglory

“Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something,” screams Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. to a world where desolation and pain rule over artistic endeavors. So too scream his namesakes as they sit quietly in a room, surrounded by empty packs of Camels, flower wall paper, and a looming Detroit winter. The Vonneguts have just released their first full-length album, which reveals itself to be just what Kurt Vonnegut demands: a collection of songs, dances, stories, and poems (though certainly not lousy ones). And as it was self-produced and written over the span of a year by only the band’s four dedicated members, Miles Hubbell, Mike O’Brien, Joe Myers, and Phill Dage, it is truly something which they have created for creation’s sake.

The recently completed, “Urban Paradise” was the result of both shared time and shared ideas. “We had released singles and EPs before that, and put up songs online,” says guitarist, Phill Dage. “But it’s different to release them in a physical copy.” I had the pleasure of sitting down and listening to that physical copy with three of the band’s members, Miles, Joe, and Phill, along with Miles’ girlfriend Kate. Mike (who is presently living in California) was sorely missed, of course.

 

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Phill reveals that one of the main reasons this album worked out for the band as well as it did lies in the fact that they “were all living together and devoting [their] money to it, so it was a communal effort.” The guys explain that being physically together during the album’s creation helped the music to flow more easily because they were not constrained by the need to plan specific times to work on it. “It doesn’t always work out so easily that bands can just move into a house together and play like that,” says guitarist Joe Myers. “It was pretty cool to come home when we were all done with our days and just make music together.” Phill agrees, saying, “the moment of spontaneity was much more available.” The blessings of living under the same roof seem to have shaped much of the album’s collaborative qualities.

But what about the general idea behind it? Though it would seem like four guys with this much individual intellect couldn’t possibly agree on an idea behind an entire album, they surprised listeners by doing just that.

It all began one day in December of 2013, when the band got together and created something of a storyboard for the album. Their plan organized every aspect of the album, down to instrumentation and key themes on which the songs would focus. “We got our heads together on an idea,” Phill explains. “It was the story of this wandering urban traveler who has these highs and lows.” He reveals that the album dives into many different aspects of the traveler’s life, detailing “different events, like love and hardship.” The band members then showed this blueprint to their producer, Steve Sholtes. They were incredibly grateful to him for being “welcoming to their ideas,” as Phill describes, because “they felt like they could try something new or kind of crazy.” The band had a framework, a place to focus on that framework, and the freedom to expand upon its foundation. They were ready to make their masterpiece.

Because of the collective space and the shared idea behind the project, the album has become “more of a conceptual album,” says Miles, the deep, golden voice behind The Vonneguts. He points out that the second track of the album is essentially three separate songs with soundscapes in between that serve as connective tissue. The song that follows, “Travelogue,” though completely different musically, is similarly a collection of different concepts. The song is a poem read by Phill on top of one of the band’s innumerable jam sessions. It is unique because the music was recorded long before Phill added the poem to it and each member played a role in the lyrics. “I remember one day I decided I wanted to encapsulate what this record is in words on a page and just try to do something I could speak to. The day before we went down to the studio I was asking Miles and Joe what words they would want to have spoken and I was just kind of able to incorporate them into it. I did it a couple of times in the studio to try and get the phrasing right on the music, but I didn’t revise it at all. That song serves the purpose of adding depth to the story.” Joe also notes that “Travelogue” is the song which “kind of brings it all together.”

The nine minute opus and the spoken word poem that follows it both unfold much of the urban traveler’s story in small clips of what the album strives for throughout: connectivity. Each track on the album is meant to lead into the next as the traveler’s story becomes more complex. Joe tells that the band even decided to put the lyrics on their bandcamp page in an effort to help listeners more closely follow this story.

Beyond just creating the theme of the album together, the band also formed its parts as a team. As Joe explains, “

My favorite part about the album, I think, was that it was always changing as to who was playing what instrument.”

When they created each song individually, each member had a mastery of his own instrument, and was also able to take on other roles in order to add something new to the sound. The drummer also reveals that “there were some songs in which Phill would write all of the lyrics and he wouldn’t sing any of the song, or I would write the lyrics, or someone else would. It was very interchangeable. I thought in that way it was much more of a team effort.” This malleable quality of the album’s creation is very present in its substance because the sound is very apparently unconfined by tempos or keys. It also speaks to the album’s subject, as the urban traveler, while devoted to his home, refuses to be limited by it.

While the idea for the album was created from each of the band member’s individual and collective efforts, it is certainly not without musical influences. They name Stevie Wonder’s “Innervisions” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” as the top two. While the influence of these records may not be obvious at first, “Urban Paradise” does carry a more antique sound overall. “I personally don’t listen to much modern music at all,” says Miles. Not only does this show in his deep, almost Jim-Morrison-esque vocals that weave between retro guitar riffs, but the lyrics also reveal something more simple from the past. “I’m more inclined to be singing words that are kind of traditional as opposed to the modernization of lyrics,” he declares. But it must be noted that, while the lyrics may be somewhat old-fashioned, they are anything but predictable. Their subjects are intended to live outside of time and thus be meaningful for all listeners, not just other millennials.

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But surely, though “Urban Paradise” is not meant to live in a specific time period, it must be what most would call a “Detroit album,” yes? “Ultimately, I think there is definitely Detroit pride in the album,” says Phill. “It was conceived here, but nothing about it is specifically Detroit.” The guys describe that their idea of the Urban traveler is meant to transcend space and time, offering a universal idea of what it’s like to live in any city.

The sound of “Urban Paradise” is distinctly different from the Vonneguts’ previous albums. Miles Hubbell declares the main reason behind this to be that “the harmonies are much more thought-out in this album.” Phill adds that, overall, it seems like the band put more of their collective musical knowledge into this album than they had previously. “We know what’s going on going into the songs. I mean, Joe wrote scores for the string parts,” Phill continues. He says that the album just reveals “more musical knowledge and a more technical understanding of what we’re actually doing.” The band also mixed the album themselves, with some assistance from their beloved producer, Steve Sholtes. Steve allowed the band to be free to make any changes they wanted to, which was something they really enjoyed. Of course, this task put the band’s ability to analyze the minute details of its own songs to the test. “It was tough listening to a song one hundred times,” Joe explains, “but on the hundred-and-first time it was like, ‘that’s the one!’” The sound is altogether new for the band, and they are pleased to present it as such.

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Of course, “People with new ideas, people with the faintest capacity for saying something new, are extremely few in number, extraordinarily so, in fact,” says Rodion Raskolnikov, of Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” (who happens to be the fictional character with whom Miles Hubbell most closely associates himself). I think he would agree that each member of the Vonneguts have proven themselves some of those lucky few. Phill’s fictional likeness, Siddhartha of Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha,” grounds himself in his own freedom of mind, a role which Phill certainly played in the band during the creation of the album and continues to play as the band moves forward. When asked which fictional character Joe most closely associates himself, he chose someone quite different: Dumbo, the little elephant who could fly. “Do you know why?” he asks me.

Because everybody doubted that guy, man. Every doubted him and he came back and he flew!

If you ask me, every band would be so lucky to have this cast of characters in its ranks. This combination of personalities is what makes “Urban Paradise” something worth lending both ears to as soon as possible.

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Now that the band has released its pride and joy for the world to hear, they plan to enjoy their achievement to its full extent. They obviously feel their songs need to be heard, but not just on dusty record players. Indeed, they have already begun performing some of these songs, playing Dally in the Alley on September 6th. They also plan to play at a show on October 19th at the New Dodge, one on the 22nd at PJ’s Lager House, and one on the 28th at the Magic Stick. In an effort to preserve the Vonneguts’ unity while Mike is away in California, the guys have decided to take on a new name for some of their shows, calling themselves the Motor City Golden Boys. They miss Mike dearly and await his impending return with bated breath. In the meantime, the band is also running its own DIY venue, called Elijah’s. Right now that venue lives on East Grand Boulevard, where it hosts many well-known local bands. The Vonneguts are incredibly dedicated to maintaining this Detroit venue, and Joe even notes that they are hoping to one day purchase a more permanent location for shows. Clearly the guys are not only dedicated to being able to perform their music in their home, but also giving other up-and-coming bands the opportunity to be heard. After all, even after having travelled and performed in places like Boston, New York City, and Chicago, the band still loves the Detroit music scene most of all. “I just like playing in the Motor City, man,” says Miles. And we couldn’t be happier to have you, Vonneguts.


Monty Luke and Black Catalogue

Monty Luke and Black Catalogue

Recently we got together with Monty Luke, owner and curator of Detroit-based electronic music label Black Catalogue. Originally from San Francisco, Monty moved here several years ago to work with Carl Craig and Planet E Communications.

We talked weather for a minute, winter’s like this can easily make someone think about goin’ back to Cali’. As I asked Monty if this was the most eff’d up winter he’s seen out here, he laughingly asked me (Michigander my whole life) the same question.
Yes. Yes it is.

Let’s get to the music.


How do you try to get your sound and message to the people? Does the music curation and artistic duties take up most of your time, or is it the marketing and everyday responsibilities of a running business?

“It could be a general music industry thing, it’s tough man. The whole game of PR and trying to get that publicity and awareness. There are so many other labels, and so many people making music, you got to get above the fold. It can be really tough, especially when so much of your day is trying to run the label, doing day-to-day stuff and talking to artists, especially when you’re an artist yourself, it’s a grind…”

“I have to set time aside for each aspect, otherwise it’ll never get done. If I have a remix that’s due, I have to focus on that. If I have a deadline for a release, I have to schedule studio time and finish that track. I have to set separate office hours aside to meet with designers, and production related stuff. If I don’t do that, something is going to fall by the wayside. It’s some of the hardest work I’ve ever done but also some of the most gratifying.”

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What’s going to be happening for you and Black Catalogue in the next couple years?

“As an artist myself, I want to push myself beyond my current boundaries. I want to help push the boundaries of Detroit electronic music. I’m really happy with what I’m doing with the label right now, but I want to focus on finding underground artists, not only from Detroit, but from all over the place. Finding someone really dope that you’ve never heard of before and makes you say “Damn! Who the fuck is this?” is something I want to continue to do. But in general, I really want to push myself to get better at music production, push what is known as Detroit techno, and house, further.

To me it’s all about progress. I think the history is amazing and great, and really rich, but it’s time to push this to the next level. I think the time to rely on the history of Detroit techno is over, it’s time to push this shit forward.

That’s what I like to focus on. If you come to my house, I have all the Detroit classics, all the hot shit, and I love all that stuff to death. But, it’s time to make some new classics.”


You recently released some tracks vinyl only, and digital releases weren’t released for several months. Was that by design?

“Yes. I believe in that format really strongly. From a practical standpoint it’s more expensive, so I have to focus more on selling that more. The bottom line is I’m dedicated to that format, it’s a labor of love. They’re both beneficial; I’m not one of these people that don’t believe in the digital realm. Tangible art to me is real important.”


By the sound of your music, I can tell your heavily inspired by science-fiction. Just how deep does that run?

“This is gonna sound crazy. There is this Dutch organization called Mars 1. They want to send 4 people to Mars in 2022. Last year they had an open application process, you had to submit a 70 second video. I entered this, and out of 200,000 applicants I made it to the second cut of about 1,058 people. At the end of this year they select the next round, then it’s a seven-year training process. “I want to be the first brother to go to another planet” I actually put that in the video haha. It’s not a trip, it’s like a one way ticket, which is kinda wild. I haven’t told my mom yet, I don’t know how that conversation is going to go.”

Yea, Detroit was probably hard enough…


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Keri Lynn Roche: American Idol’s Sweetest Detroiter

Ever since Kelly Clarkson was named the very first winner of the television contest on September 4, 2002, American Idol has brought millions of skilled vocalists out of their showers and onto the big screen.  And, as Americans, it has since become our job to use all of the basic knowledge of vocalism we’ve gained from artists like Jessica Simpson and N*SYNC to decide the fate of these up-and-coming singers.  And, as humans, we will continue to get excited about these new potential stars as long as they continue putting the fate of their careers in the thumbs of our texting hands.

That being said, my thumbs are already sold on one of the phenomenal singers this year who received a golden ticket at the Detroit auditions on January 15th.  Her name is Keri Lynn Roche, and her achievements as a local artist so far have already encouraged Detroiters to tune into this season of the show unceasingly.

The very first to audition in Detroit for this season of American Idol, Roche proceeded to 1. admit she was nervous (displaying her knack for honesty on all occasions), 2. offered her adorable laugh at least thrice, and 3. tell J-Lo she was “so pretty”.  So, the audience immediately fell in love with her in this little-orphan-Annie way, which is great because that’s legitimately exactly how she is in real life.  But then, just to force everyones’ hands, she also sang outrageously well and had all three judges saying “absolutely yes” within seconds.  She chose to combine her interest in current musical trends (though a lot of current music is what she describes as “not something I would spend 99 cents on”) with her devotion to tradition and vocal power, by singing Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” and Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.”  Her song choices revealed something imperative to her nature: she is not entirely ready to forget the past, but she is always prepared for the unpredictable future.  The judges promptly complimented her on this decision, and then continued to praise her unique style, her confidence, and her artistry.  Keri Lynn Roche was officially in the game.

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But for Roche, the game had begun long ago.  “I tried last year for American Idol on Season Twelve, and I was turned down,” Roche tells.  “But,” she continues, “I knew that I sang my ass off and I knew that I gave what I could.”  Instead of feeling discouraged by the negative feedback she received, Roche says, “I took the challenge and I went back.”  She explains that this persistence for taking the challenge is what makes her different from the other singers in the running right now.  “I just don’t want to settle.  My motivation is not ‘I want to be a millionaire.’  I want to inspire people and I want to feel good by making music.  And if I can do that on a larger scale, then why not?  Why stay in a dive bar when there are many other people who might want to hear what I have to say?”

 

So, while Roche has been served “no’s” on several occasions, she hardly even seems to notice them.  And this attitude started at a very young age.  Roche often attended performances of her older brother’s band, a group which always inspired her own musical fortitude.  Furthermore, she explains, “I went to Liz Phair, Jewel, and James Taylor really young and I would just start crying at the shows.   It wasn’t because I was upset, but because I wanted to be where they were.”  She was encouraged to explore her own musical side after asking “how in the hell can I possibly get up on that stage and do what that person is doing right now?”  “I was just so determined by it,” Roche says.  Others showed her what was possible at a very young age, and she was not going to give up on that possibility for herself.

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Growing up in Detroit has made an even greater musical impact on her.  “Ever since I started singing, I always loved older singers. One of the first CDs my mom got me was a Motown CD, so from a young age it was always powerhouse singing.”  As she grew up, she began to fall in love with the women of the era, including Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.  “I was a pop princess.”  But, with both passions in mind, Detroit made a great home for her.  “This area is music city: so many people that are interested in hearing new music and that has been a really vital part of being an artist in this city.”  And as soon as she got her own guitar, she was thankful for that open-mindedness.  “A lot of people want to hear local talent and know what’s happening here.  It’s a great place to develop a fanbase.”

Playing her first show at the Blind Pig (a Johnny Cash tribute) when she was a mere sixteen, Roche was just beginning to gain a following..  She would later play at places like AJ’s Cafe (at that time, Xhedos), The Black Lotus, the Magic Stick, and the Crofoot.  People almost immediately fell in love with her sound.  “I started very folk-rock-acoustic,” she explains.  But, she admits, “the sound has changed as I’ve grown.”  Over the past few years, the singer and musician has switched from guitar to piano, which has been what she calls “a drastic change as far as intimacy goes,” and she has begun experimenting with electronic music by working with different musicians.  But what else happened between the café shows and the big screen?

“A lot of change in my personal life,” the singer explains.  “What has mostly inspired me is life struggle and the change that’s come in music has been made by that.”  Though she by no means wants it to be a focal point for her fans, Roche wants to be honest with the world about her struggles, especially since she feels that if she hadn’t overcome them, she definitely wouldn’t be where she is now.  “Being sober and writing has been a huge transformation for me,” she declares.  “In regards to alcohol and drugs, they went hand-in-hand with music for me for a long time.  It completely changed my entire perspective and artistry and I was super bummed thinking I didn’t make it anywhere.  I had been in a bad place.  I had no idea I was slowly drinking poison; it was really holding me back but I didn’t even know that.  As opposed to the young destructive [person I was], I’m now cultivating a completely different side of myself.”  Roche reveals that there is “a lot of heartache and things that happen along the way, and you don’t understand why its happening at the time.  But then you have a beautiful song and you say ‘oh, that makes sense!’”  Indeed, she explains that all of the hardships she has experienced over her eight years of performing have made her who she is.  “I started to really transform over the last couple of years,” she says.  “Music was the only thing I had left to hold onto.  There’s no reason why I shouldn’t talk about my struggle because without the music I never would have come out of that.”

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So, Roche’s attitude as a musician was built upon a combination of the good and the bad, with a firm trust in her own capabilities all the while.  Her music was her foundation and everything else followed.  But the singer and songwriter will admit that there is an enormous difference between devotion to music and devotion to the music industry.  “There are definitely parts of me that have felt tainted by the business: not about creating but about the motive behind it.  There are a lot of days where you think ‘I don’t think I can survive in this industry.’”  And since she is in the very heart of the industry right now, she is experiencing a great deal of apprehension.  “I definitely felt nervous, but I tried to be as authentic as I could possibly be and try to disregard cameras.  I tried to be myself and its very intimidating when you’re sitting with three of the biggest names in the industry and wondering if they’re going to validate you.”

The nerves were definitely a struggle, but America hardly noticed them.  Her strength on the screen was enormous and continues to be because she doesn’t allow the thoughts of others to cloud her own.  It’s what Harry Connick Jr. would later describe to his wife at dinner as “that grit.”  And boy, did he and the other judges “dig that.”  Roche knows she has the confidence to make it as a singer/songwriter today, but she also knows she has something else far more important and far less common: “remaining humble and grateful.  That’s the key to who I am.  That has helped me survive in this industry.”

Now, as one of the singers on her way to Hollywood, Roche is loving every second of it.  “I have been enjoying the experience.  I see that everyone involved has something spectacular and really incredible.”  Beyond just living it up, Roche is fulfilling her goal of creating a bigger audience in which to share her message, and she says she is very honored to be able to do so.  “You don’t really realize how a three minute clip of you on TV can affect someone’s life.”  And being on the big screen, while trying in many ways, has encouraged her in her musical life at home as well.  “TV is like an anabolic steroid for a local musician,” she explains.  “Last year I didn’t really get any airtime and it still had a huge effect for me as far as exposure goes. People are coming to me more than I am usually going to them,” she says.  And rightly so.

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Roche is thus moving up in every way possible at once, and Detroiters are undyingly supportive of her.  I encourage everyone to tune into American Idol this season, because this girl deserves your attention.  Watch this Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm to see her perform on Hollywood Week.  she will also be playing a show at the Ark in Ann Arbor this Wednesday, which promises greatness.  Finally, check her out on 1071’s Acoustic Brunch on February 9th.  Oh, and like her on Facebook and go buy her incredible new single, called “Scar on My Heart” ASAP because it’s beauty incarnate.  Guys, I love this girl.  I can’t wait for the days when I drive downtown Detroit and see her face more often than Joumana Kayrouz’s.


Detroit Bass Player interview “Ralphe Armstrong” interview

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Big Ive sits down with the legendary Ralphe Armstrong for an up-close and personal chat. For those that know or have seen Ralphe know when he talks, you should listen!

In 1973, Ralphe Armstrong – a 17-year-old Detroit kid just out of high school tried out for a gig with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. “The other person who auditioned at the same time was Jaco Pastorius,” he says. “Jaco had a different sound then. He had an old, beat-up fretted Fender Precision, as I recall. I got the job because I played fretless.”

Armstrong was classically trained during his four years at Michigan’s Interlochen School of Fine Arts, where he studied the Josef Harvey method; later, he transferred his acoustic technique to electric while also putting up some ferocious funk on a trio of powerful mid-’70s Mahavishnu recordings: Apocalypse, Visions of the Emerald Beyond, and Inner Worlds (all on Columbia and reissued in the ’90s as part of the label’s Legacy series).

Following his three-year Mahavishnu stint, Armstrong joined a stellar fusion group led by violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, a former Mahavishnu bandmate who had also appeared on Apocalypse and Visions of the Emerald Beyond. Ralphe can be heard ripping it up alongside guitarists Allan Holdsworth and Daryl Stuermer and drummer Steve Smith on Ponty’s 1977 landmark Enigmatic Ocean [Atlantic] as well as the 1978 follow-up Live [Rhino], which Ralphe calls the “best example of my electric bass playing on record.”


DBP INTERVIEW WITH JAZZ GREAT ‘ROBERT HURST’

Robert Hurst

While not exactly sure how big the Bass-Mint is, this summit of upright bass players is impressive. Ivan “Big Ive” Williams chats with Jazz Great Robert Hurst, and friends.

Robert Hurst has been one of the most in-demand bass players in jazz for the past quarter century and has done extensive stints in the bands of Wynton Marsalis, Tony Williams, Branford Marsalis, Charles Lloyd, Chris Botti, and Diana Krall.

Hurst is an Associate Professor of Music at The University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance, Dept. of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation, Ann Arbor, MI.


A Fireside Chat with “The Jet Rodriguez” frontman, Cameron Navetta

Thursday, October 10th, 2013.  Raining innumerable domestic animals.  Inside the New Way Bar, loners, lovers, childhood friends, and withered businessmen merge with a love of two sacred things in common: music and baseball.  The Jet Rodriguez gets the crowd on their feet just in time for the Detroit Tigers to trample the Oakland Athletics with theirs.

Cut to today, when I, after months of virtual stalking, am permitted by the fairies of music journalism to converse with the man who essentially made this all possible.


  • BB: “Ok, first of all, where in the world did the name Jet Rodriguez come from? Is there a story there? If so, how many jigs would I have to perform in exchange for it?”
  • CN: “Well, protocol is that the one who’s asking us about our name must perform up to three jigs before we enlighten them.  But for you, I’ll do it for one really solid jig (I’ll take you up on that later).  Jet Rodriguez is a reference to the classic 90’s childrens’ movie “The Sandlot,” in which the hero is named Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez.  Which I think is actually yet another reference to the Elton John song, “Benny and the Jets.”  So it’s a reference within a reference.  Which basically just amounts to double the royalties.  Not really worth it, actually.”
  • BB: “That’s SO META. Well, with a name like that, your band will definitely be a hit FOR-EV-ER. (I make stupid jokes when I’m nervous around famous people).  So, uh… How long have you guys been a band?”
  • CN: “This is a hard question for me, incidentally.  It seems as though we’ve been a band of four co-expressive men for approximately two years.  However, Jet Rodriguez has been a thing for about five or six years now, as it merely started out as my solo endeavor.  Naturally, Danny Bowron (the drummer) was the first additional member, whose original role was to help me play the solo material.  Then we added a guitar player (Mike ‘”Effing” Daniele) under the same pretense.  Then we added a bass player (The Lance Corporal of Darkness, Steve Krycia) still under that same pretense.  Finally, my plans to have the guys help me with the solo material all went to hell, because that was a stupid idea anyway, and we became a band, in the real sense of the word.  We all contribute to the overall puzzle that is Jet Rodriguez.  And I’m confident that that’s the way it should be.  We don’t actually call Mike, “Mike ‘Effing’ Daniele.”  I just thought that was funny.”
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  • BB:  “So, Are you guys from Detroit, originally?”
  • CN: “I’ll let you in on our little secret.  We just like to walk around pretending like we’re a true Detroit band.  It feels cool to do that.  But alas, we are not truly “from Detroit,” as far as Southeast Michigan is concerned.  We all went to a high school about 30 minutes northeast of Detroit in a magical place called Anchor Bay.  Only one of us has ever lived within city limits.  Not to blow the lid on national rock and roll icons, Against the Grain, but they were bred from Anchor Bay as well.  We grew up with all of them and,  in fact, are good friends with them.  But from a regional perspective, we are from Detroit, because that’s easy.  However, I will say that the vast majority of our shows are in Detroit and the outlying close suburbs like Ferndale.”
  • BB: “What’s Anchor Bay like?”
  • CN: “It depends on who you ask.  Some people totally hated it.  Me, I’m grateful for being raised in Anchor Bay.  I consider it a sort of microcosm of suburban America.  It’s really diverse for one thing.  Part hick, part ghetto, part upper-middle class, part dirt poor.  It also supplied a sufficient amount of suburban angst to the artistic kind.  It’s right on the water, which was nice growing up.  It’s a neat place.  Don’t ever go out of your way to visit, though.”
  • BB: “But you met your band mates there, though. So that must have made it worth it?”
  • CN: “It did make it worth it.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
  • BB: “Well, I’m sure I speak for many locals when I say this, but Detroit is definitely lucky to have you here now.  What has it been like performing in Detroit since you started?”
  • CN: “The music community has really welcomed us with open arms.  I haven’t yet figured out if that’s just because they don’t realize we’re imports, or if they’re just a generally welcoming community.  I hope it’s the latter, but it’s probably a bit of both.  We’ve considered attempting to crash the circuit of other local scenes, but art as a concept in Detroit is just so great, and I’ve always admired the local music associated with Detroit.  It’s where the artists go, plain and simple.  It’s just an attractive place to express oneself.  Playing in Detroit is beautiful.  It’s insane to play on a stage like the Magic Stick and think about all the Detroit acts that have stepped foot and sweat and bled on that stage.  And it’s exciting to see new and innovative things pop up too, like the Loving Touch.  So whether you’re considering what has come before you, or what is to come, Detroit is an incredible place to simply be, let alone have an opportunity to play music.  Honestly, we do view Detroit as a home for us.”
  • BB: “What genre would you say you fall into?  And what are the advantages or disadvantages of playing this genre in Detroit right now?”
  • CN: “I would say that we at least fall under the general umbrella of rock.  And the true advantage/disadvantage of being a rock band in Detroit is simply that Detroit is rock.  I tend to look at it like this: you can either rise above in this town (but only the crème de la crème does that), OR you can fall through the cracks and be completely overlooked (because a lot of other folks are seemingly doing what you’re doing). My hope is that Jet Rodriguez would one day have the honor of being in the former group.  The neat thing about rock, especially in this city, is that it really doesn’t have so much to do with the style of music as it has to do with the attitude of it.  I think there would be some (clearly uneducated) people out there that would listen to George Morris and not really understand it as rock music.  To us Detroit people, we get it.  It’s rock.  But some dumb folks might not be as quick to call it that.  My point is, George and his Gypsy chorus play the most rocking music I’ve ever heard.  I mean, he is straight up Detroit rock n’ frigging roll.  To me, he’s the difference between someone who plays rock, and someone who is rock.  You know?  Anyway… That’s not to suggest that I think there’s any shame in trying to classify and pinpoint artists into specific genres.  That totally has it’s place.  Like right now, I think Jet Rodriguez is maybe a throwback, stylistically. We might have a Woodstock-ish aura, expressed through a 21st century lens though, of course.  We’re a lot of 60’s-70’s rock, with a dash folk mixed in, perhaps.  I made up a genre to help put it into words: “psychedelicate,” is what I call it, which is something I think effectively captures what we’re projecting.”
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  • BB: “I could definitely see the psychedelicate aspects during your performance at the New Way.  I also loved the way you and your drummer interpreted some of the covers you played that night.  A lot of times I despise covers of songs I really like, but you guys did an amazing job with those songs.  I was floored when you played ‘Moondance.'”
  • CN: “I’m totally ecstatic that you dug our covers that much.  In truth, we as “Jet Rodriguez,” do not play covers at all.  The only exception being one time last year, when we did Marvin Gaye for Det x Det.  The whole covering songs business is really a side thing that Danny and I do under the name Damn Uncanny.  Get it? Like Cam and Danny? Damn Uncanny?  Well, we’re trying to take it seriously and play out more as a completely separate, more cover-ey duo-ey entity.  It’s kind of entertaining for me.  I suspect that it’s ultimately an extension of my deeply engrained need to always try to be the center of attention.  On stage.  Performing.  Lights.  That kind of thing.  It’s all about me.  I’m “that guy,” I guess.  No, but for real, Danny and I love to sing together.  We’ve been doing that since we were 12.  And we figured, if it helps pay the bills, then why not, you know?  Why not explore that avenue?  It’s fun, and people seem to like it.  It’s taken me a long time to get to that point, creatively, but I’m here now, with the encouragement of Danny.  The idea of doing covers used to piss me off.  In the name of Art and Expression, I felt icky about doing something other than my own stuff.  But I tried real hard and now I’m a lot more comfortable with the idea.  Playing covers wouldn’t ever do anything but help promote my true art in the end, I’m inclined to believe.”
  • BB: “And how do you choose which songs to cover?”
  • CN: “It’s a very crowd conscious thing.  We do a lot of pop songs, 80’s, 90’s, whatever.  Some well known classic tunes as well.  Anything we think a general audience of all ages could potentially appreciate.  Granted, we have to like the song as a prerequisite.  We try not do stuff we don’t like.  Sometimes a stupid song works it’s way into the set list, but in general, we try to exclude that.  We also pepper in the stuff that might not be as well known, but that we really enjoy, like Fleet Foxes or Sufjan Stevens.  We try to limit the more obscure stuff.  Just enough to make it pleasant for us.”
  • BB: “Well, it was definitely pleasant for the crowd as well.  Ok, Cameron. Let’s get down to the real stuff here, shall we?”
  • CN: “Totally.”
  • BB: “Are you left or right handed?”
  • CN: “Lefties rule. Righties drool.”
  • BB: “Ok, ok. I’ll withhold judgement on that one.  Now, describe to me the happiest time of your life. Please.”
  • CN: “I would be doing an injustice to the present if I did not say that right now is totally the happiest time of my life.  It truly is.  I’m playing my music.  I’m in love with a beautiful woman who is also my best friend.  I have a supportive family, both biological and musical.  And I live in (the suburbs of) America’s #1 rising city.  Right now is when it is.”
  • BB: “That all sounds so fantastic.  And any goals for the upcoming months?”
  • CN: “We do have some awesome goals!  We’re going to be continuing to record our first full length record together.  There isn’t yet a release date on that, but it won’t be too long.  Really, we’re just laying low and tightening up.  Making sure we sound the best we can.”
  • BB: “Wonderful!  And just a few more things, here, then.  What are the top 5 items on your Christmas List this year?”
  • CN: “5. Snuggie, 4. Recording equipment, 3. HD camcorder, 2. Snuggie, 1. A new guitar/amp rig!? (Plzzz Santa??)”
  • BB: “And what about if you got the chance to meet 5 musicians this year for Christmas?”
  • CN: “Oh, good one! Let me think… Ok, 1. Sufjan Stevens (easy answer for me), 2. Neil Young, 3. Van Morrison, 4. Robin Pecknold,  5. George Harrison.  Well, in retrospect I think I would have switched Van Morrison and George Harrison.”

Well, there you have it, guys.  Not only is Cameron Navetta a brilliant composer, singer, and musician, but he also has great taste in Beatles.  Listen to the band now at thejetrodriguezmusic.com, and look for their record, “Day of the Dead” on vinyl, CD, or available for download on their website in the upcoming months!

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Saving R&B with B Williams

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While only in his early thirties, Grammy Award nominee Brandon “B” Williams has been sharing music with us for a while. As a direct protégé of super producer Michael J. Powell, Brandon has lent his production skills to many artists: Janet Jackson, Pharoahe Monch, Bobby Creekwater, Vickie Winans, Jadakiss, Lin Rountree, Anita Baker, Jay Electronica, Jeymes Samuel, Ryan Leslie, and Amp Fiddler to name a few.

As an artist, Brandon stays busy touring and gigging locally with his group, The B Williams Experiment. But the next big thing for Brandon is his upcoming debut solo project, titled XII. We just saw the first single released, “Stronger”, which has been climbing the charts and acquiring accolades. With the album  slated to drop in 2014, we caught up with the hard-to-catch musician/producer for an in-depth conversation:


  • Brandon, you’ve worked with producer Michael Powell and have been touching various artists albums throughout the past few years, accumulating Grammy nominations and other production awards. How have these building blocks been essential for producing your upcoming solo album XII ?
  • It’s been an absolute blessing to work with and be mentored by him. I’ve been listening to his music literally all my life, so I jumped at the chance when he asked me to collaborate with him on some music. I was actually very surprised. In my mind, I’m thinking… this is Michael J. Powell. The man who produced all of Anita Baker’s hits. He wants me to work with him? It’s been a great relationship ever since. Working with him taught me how to make records versus just making songs.
  • “is on a mission to bring back Classic R&B by any means necessary”. In your opinion what happened to Classic R&B? Why does it need saving and how are you planning on doing it?
  • I’m not exactly sure what happened, but it’s on life-support right now for sure!!

    Most of the artists people are calling R&B (Chris Brown, Trey Songz) are really Pop. You have Frank Ocean and The Weeknd around, but that’s a very different kind of R&B. I’m not a big Miguel fan, but he’s definitely doing it right now. Brandy, Usher, Brian McKnight, Tank, and some others are still around, but you hear much from them.

    Robert Glasper has a new album out that’s VERY R&B!! Brandy and Faith Evans are on there killin’. It needs saving because people miss that 80’s and 90’s R&B sound. People are longing for it. We miss groups like Blackstreet, SWV, Jodeci, Janet (Jackson), etc. I’m just going to continue to do music that “feels “ like that.

  • You do a great job of blending genres, like you do with your band , the B. Williams Experiment, citing influences from Coltrane, Dilla and Radio Head. Is XII going to showcase this side of you, or is XII going to be more strictly a classic R&B project?
  • Thanks!! XII is definitely not an R&B album. I don’t quite know what to call it because there are so many different genres on it. I’m a student of all music, and I’m influenced by it all. Soul, R&B, Jazz, Pop… it’s a wide range of music on the album, but it all still works together. If I had to categorize it, I would simply call it a “soul” album, because that’s where the music is coming from.
  • Tell me about your songwriting process. What do you start with? An idea, guitar lick, bass line? What’s the creative process like and when do you start thinking about which artists to include in your music?
  • Man, I start with any and everything. I remember one time hearing a succession of cars horns and that became a melody. Lol! I play multiple instruments, so I can write on them all. Sometimes I’ll be out and a melody will pop into my head so I’ll just record it into my phone until I can get back in the studio. Normally though, I start with either some chords on piano or a drum pattern.

    I just finished the last song idea for XII, and for that one, I had my keyboard player and good friend Tony Gordon over. I told him to just play some chords. I picked out what I want, then picked up the guitar and started going around those. Came up with a drum pattern, and BOOM! A song was born. It’s feels heavenly too.

    When it comes to picking artists for song, I normally just go with who would work best on the song. Like, for the new single “Stronger”, it’s has a stronger 90’s R&B feel, so, who better to pair with on that than Jean (Baylor). Her group Zhane was huge in the 90’s. All of their music felt great. I’m so honored to have worked with her on that song. Shout out to Marcus Baylor as well, who had a huge part to play in that song. He did her vocal production, and played live drums. It’s a great tune!!

The Big 3:
Detroit musicians that have inspired you, past or present:

• Stevie Wonder,  Karriem Riggins, Charles Wilson III

Other musicians that have inspired you, national or international, past or present:

• Joe Sample, George Duke, Ivan Lins

Ways Detroit has influenced you as a musician:

• Detroit has such a rich musical history. I’m simply inspired to do what I do from that. Lots of greatness has come before me, and I’m planning on continuing with that.

If I had to categorize it, I would simply call XII a “soul” album, because that’s where the music is coming from.


Stay connected with B Williams,

http://www.bwilliamsmusic.com/


Funk Night Preview: A Day with Frank Raines & Rickey Calloway

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Halloween morning started as bleak, gloomy and grey as Detroit Sounds Like This got ready to spend the day with Funk Night Records DJ and Owner Frank Raines and headliner for tonight’s return of Funk Night: Rickey Calloway. Rickey, having only arrived in Detroit a couple hours before, was up and ready for a mini Detroit tour and a photo shoot.  We packed into the car and headed downtown.  Our first stop was Greektown to catch the People Mover (free parking of course doesn’t hurt either).  We proceeded to hop on and head towards the Renaissance Center. We snapped a few shots, explored the buildings, and then rode the People Mover to loop back to Greektown.  As we explored and talked about how invigorating and significant the places in the city we were venturing to made us feel, our day really started to awaken some magical vibes.

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We headed down West Grand Boulevard to Hitsville USA, the heart of the Motown Sound.  All of us, myself included, had never set foot in there until just yesterday.  We walked around, heard the tour guide sing Motown classics into the ceiling to demonstrate the echo and re-verb, observed the gold and platinum records on the walls, and really just soaked in the importance of what the place we were standing in has contributed to Detroit and to cities of musicians all over the world .  The end of the tour was the cherry on top of the sundae — energy in the recording studio was unbelievable. Just decades ago some of the greatest songs we know and love today were created inside the detached garage we were standing in.  We could tell that Rickey was overwhelmed with inspiration and excited; about 4 hours later he was going to a studio with Will Sessions and Frank to record a new song.

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Once we were finished up at Hitsville U.S.A., we headed over to Woodbridge Pub to grab some food and began a Q & A interview with DJ Frank Raines & Rickey Calloway.

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INTERVIEW

C: Funk Night recently went on a year and a half, almost two year halt, was there a reason behind this?

F: I was trying to bring it back to the warehouse vibe, because the Majestic Theater every weekend was having a huge party, it was becoming played out, they were having parties every weekend and it was just getting repatative. Then we found another spot and we got permits and there was some back tax issues, and that kind of set Funk Night back.

C: Meanwhile Detroiters have seen Funk Night Records releases as far as Russia. Funk Night Records has become a very well known name throughout the world, how did you achieve all of this?

F: I have really amazing artists that I work with, I try to make sure everything is top-notch quality, and that the music will speak for itself. I also make sure to get the records in the right DJ’s hands, so certain people would be playing the records and people would want them.

C: How did you sign the The Soul Surfers from Russia to Funk Night Records?

F: A guy named Misha in Russia, hes a record collector and hosts a Funk Night style party in Russia and he sent me a few demos, and I thought they were sweet and said ‘Yes lets do this.’

C: Back in 2008 Funk Night received the award for ‘Best Party in America,’ by PaperMag in NY. How were you guys nominated and what was it like receiving the award?

F: I dont even know how that happened. Someone told me one day that we were nominated and then we won. So we went to NYC with a small crew and our award was presented to us by Andrew W.K., it was a pretty good time.

C: Frank you have one of the largest funk and soul 45 collections, when did you start collecting and listening to funk? Where is your favorite place to crate dig?

F: I started collecting in the late 90’s, I was really into collecting 45’s especially. I dont have a specific place that I go, I go to yard sales, and random spots that are selling vinyl.

C: Funk night has gone through many venues over the years, stretching to the CAID, Hoban Foods, The Russell, St. Andrews with it more recently settling at the Majestic Theater, where was your favorite place to host Funk Night?

F: I think my favorite was probably Hoban Foods, it was the first night we introduced Rickey Calloway to Funk Night. I just love the warehouse vibe for funk night.

C: Moving forward 2013 and beyond, where do you see Funk Night and Funk Night Records heading?

F: Putting out some sweet records, go on a worldwide tour with the band from Russia, and possibly bring the Soul Surfers to Detroit.

C: A few months back I was on the web and saw a post that featured a neck tattoo of your logo from a fan in Russia — sounds like you have some seriously dedicated fans, what was your reaction when you first saw that photograph? Do you know anything else about that tattoo, like who it was or when he got it?

F: It was awesome, I realized then how seriously Russia is taking to the funk. I’m actually friends with the guy now, he was super cool and of course since he has the Funk Night Records logo on his body I send him huge packages with all of our latest vinyl releases.

Rickey

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C: When did you begin your career in music, and what made you decide on the funk genre?

R: 1968, I watched the T.A.M.I show which showed Motown artists like The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, and my favorite James Brown.  When I saw that I had never seen anything like that before, I was mesmerized.  I went to school, and we would be coming out of rest periods, and I was a guy who would like to joke around and laugh a lot, so I would pull my pants up, spin around and say ‘I’m doing the James Brown.’  Then guys started taking me seriously, and they would tell people to ‘watch Rickey do the James Brown,’ and the crowd would get bigger and bigger.  I then realized ‘This was nice,’ which made me enter the schools talent show.  There was about 1000 people there, and that was it.  I was about 13 years old when I did this talent show, 1000 people screaming and dancing in the crowd.  It was great.

C: Being from Florida, how did you and Frank meet each other?

R: I was on the internet one night, I think I was on MySpace, I was kind of just searching along and typed the keyword ‘Funk.’  That is when I found Frank’s Funk Night page.  I saw all this cool stuff about Funk Night, and said ‘This is cool,’  so I sent Frank a video, and he corresponded back and he liked it, and then Frank said ‘I gotta get you up here.’  My first reaction was ‘This guy is nuts, its not gonna happen.’  Then after a few more emails he sent for me and I did Funk Night at Hoban Foods.  I had such a good time in that warehouse.

C: You have quite the stage presence, how do you keep so active through your performances?

R: The music, The Will Sessions Band just has that magic that energizes me, when I am with those guys I don’t think about time, I’m just having fun.  I feed from them, I can’t really explain it.  Funk Night is one of my better venues, I have so much fun in Detroit, I cant explain it.

Ricky stops in the RenCen to take a photo with a fan:

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FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT FUNK NIGHT:

Funk Night Records
Funk Night

Below is the latest Funk Night Records release:
Soul Motivators “Until The Sun Goes Down.”


An Interview With Saxappeal

Saxappeal

When Detroit Sounds Like This sat down with LaDarrel Johnson for an interview, one of the first things to happen was a show-and-tell about his instrument, custom made and engraved with his ‘Saxappeal’ emblem.  A wealth of pride was evident on his face as he carefully handled his saxophone with loving attention and beamed with happiness as he talked about how it was made just for him.  Johnson handles his alto saxophone in the same fashion in which he plays his music — with attention, pride, and a graceful passion.

Saxappeal does not exclusively work alone; his part in the local Detroit music group Collective Peace allows for him a place to collaborate with like-minded musicians to produce spirited jazz and soul as a multifaceted unit.  Describing Collective Peace in our interview as “a nucleus . . . [members] can go out, record a solo project, then come back home and do a group project.”  Saxappeal  has received international recognition in the contemporary jazz world for his brand of “SaxSoul,” a mix of jazz, soul, hip-hop, and R&B.

You play it…and you can feel it [soul music].

Get to know more about Saxappeal and how Detroit, his experiences, and Lisa Simpson influenced him to produce the experimental, up-tempo style of sound you will hear in his performance at our Detroit Sounds Like This studio.


George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus

One minute and forty-eight seconds into a video for George Morris’ song, “Fuck It,” directed by Jesse Shepherd-Bates, the singer can be spotted standing in front of a wall, staring intently at the camera, and holding a baby in his arms.  I have seen this video probably 6,000 times and I have always been overwhelmed with confusion about this paternal scene.  That is, until I saw Morris perform at The Magic Stick on Saturday, September 28, 2013.

George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus drape themselves across the stage and let their sound follow suit by unraveling its delicate fabric upon our ears.  I hear everything at once and am at a loss for words.  The band performs such stellar songs as “Nine Lives” and “Girls on Parade” with such vocal crispness and rhythmic perfection that they seem too good to be live.

Even for a band with a stated “leader,” as it were, this group contains members who could very easily be making their own agendas.  AJ Nelson, the bassist, carries the pulse on each track, adding passionate motion to stage right.  The keyboardist extraordinaire Helena Kirby pours her entire being into the keys before her with grace and diligence on stage left.  Behind them, Zach Pliska casually puts every drum to use with intense precision that is simultaneously impressive as all get-out and super annoying (because it’s as frustrating as someone beating you at a videogame while eating Cheetos and petting their dog at the same time).  I imagine each of these three could be performing alone on this stage right now and doing a bang-up job at entertaining the audience.  But instead, they choose to fulfill a greater musical role by supporting one another and the man behind the words.

choose to fulfill a greater musical role by supporting one another and the man behind the words.

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And there he is, of course, standing firmly at the front of it all.  Morris moves about in subtle surges, proving himself to be one of those singers whose voice comes from his toes and rises up out of his pores without asking.  But the surges are less forceful than they are gentle.  Morris’ voice is uniquely angelic and as serene as a lullaby, even at its most outraged.  All of that is to say, snaps for Jesse’s video production.  I would love to have George Morris hold my baby.*

Periodically on stage the bandmates will look at each other whimsically.  Kirby will flash her dazzling smile to Pliska and Nelson intermittently, and they will smile back.  Then, after “Girls on Parade” she will look to the crowd and yell, “We love love! Don’t you love love?”  Finally, a few songs later Morris will walk up to Nelson and hug him in front of us all without saying a word.  While at this point it appears as if the crew has spent their entire childhoods on the same couch watching “One Saturday Morning” before playing laser tag, it turns out that they didn’t all know each other that well before uniting musically.  Morris sits me down after the show (not really, but I like to think this is actually how the story went) and tells me that this band is only three or four months old (which is astounding to me), and that before that he had only worked with Nelson and Pliska on other musical endeavors.  Prior to creating the Gypsy Chorus, Morris was, in fact, going solo much of the time and exploring his own musical identity.

“I’ve been trying to write music since I was probably ten years old,” Morris explains.  The musician grew up in the Waterford and Commerce areas, where he explored music at a young age by trying to collaborate with cafeteria mates as early as his middle school years.  “My first real band was in high school,” Morris declares upon noting my obvious awe.  Morris is modest.

Though he says he hopes his music style has changed a great deal since the cafeteria days, there is one sentiment that will forever thrive in his music: “My philosophy has always been just to try and concentrate on writing good melodies.”  From the complex phrases of “Call Girl,” to the more calming predictability of “Old Friends,” Morris’ Magic Stick set shows this auditory foundation.  The artist makes these varying melodies the basis of his work, and, as he further states, “I’ve always tried to do that no matter what type of music I’m trying to make.”

geroge4Morris’ writing process thus begins with a prominent tonal expression.  But how does this melody come to life?  “It’s spontaneous,” Morris reveals.  I imagine the singer/songwriter kneeling on a knoll somewhere in England (in proper poetic fashion), feeling the wind upon his cheeks and the grass between his toes.  Suddenly, Mufasa appears (this is where it gets less clear, as I’m not sure why Mufasa would need to urgently speak with Morris) and says, “Look inside yourself, George,” and then suddenly Morris’ pen is on the staff paper and he can’t stop writing.  Within minutes, the page is filled with notes that traveled to his soul because they wanted to.  I could be wrong about this scene, but it does seem plausible.  “After that moment, though,” he continues, “then I sit down and just flesh it out.”

“My philosophy has always been just to try and concentrate on writing good melodies.”

But once one has found one’s melody, one must always consider one’s television.  What does television have to do with music, you ask?  Well, everything.  Duh.

“Honestly, I’ll write to TV shows, or, I don’t know… Romantic Comedies.  Like, the end of [them], you know, when either everything’s going horribly or everything’s coming back together.”  Yes, that’s correct, readers: George Morris is inspired by the movies you hope no one finds out you watched in your bed while eating Ben & Jerry’s by yourself.  Not only that, he pairs these with his essential ethereal tones to make you regret ever having been embarrassed by your TV-based feelings in the first place!

Morris then turns to me seconds later and says very frankly, “There’s a CSI song.”  And I suddenly get really nervous for the world because I realize that none of us are as awesome as this guy is.  “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” as Dante would say.

Before forming George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus, our fearless leader had actually been doing solo shows for a year or so with these same wonderful tracks.  When asked why he chose to integrate his phenomenal music makers, Morris smirks slightly and says, “Well, I got tired of playing by myself.”  He chuckles a bit, and adds, “And I wanted more energy.”  To me, the word ‘energy’ kind of encompasses the entire idea of Morris and his Gypsy Chorus because it very clearly reveals a mission for the band as a whole to be a living organism.  If the singer had said that he collaborated with these artists in an effort to add more volume, strength, or power to his music, the music itself would be less significant.  He would then be using this band to demand that his message be heard by his audience without any possibility of them misunderstanding.  But Morris’ message is one whose foundation is, and only needs to be, itself.  The band is there to make the message mean something to each listener individually.  “And,” he adds, “they do their own thing; they’re all putting their own twists on it.”  This energy toward the audience and between each other is what makes George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus the jubilant band family that I saw on stage earlier.

Nelson saunters up near the end of our conversation and chimes in to help Morris further explain to me the band’s sound.  “It’s tough because I feel like the definitions of genres are always changing,” he explains.  The friendly bassist goes on to illustrate how vastly different the word “indie” is now than it was when he first got into “indie” music.  Morris agrees and the two try to explain how much they don’t understand about music labels anymore and how they would almost always rather listen to The Walkmen than MGMT.  We talk for probably fifteen minutes about this until Nelson finally looks up at me and asks, “What was the question?”

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These guys know exactly what they’re talking about when it comes to the musical world, and for that, I believe they have the upper hand over their “indie” competition.  But they finally agree that their sound is based on a combination of very different musical acts: The Beatles, Radiohead/Thom Yorke, The Walkmen, Jack White, and The Velvet Underground.  “For me it was Beatles, Beatles, Beatles,” explains Morris.  “Then I got really discouraged because I couldn’t write a song as good as any of those songs.  Then I heard The Velvet Underground and that showed me a different way to make music.”  As for their other influences, Nelson declares, “Radiohead is almost like The Beatles, where you just can’t even attempt to do anything like that, and you’re always going to be let down.  But ‘The Eraser’ (Thom Yorke’s solo album) had obtainable melodies.”  Morris and Nelson quite obviously treasure the musicians who came before them immensely and eternally.

The singer takes a break from explaining how the past has affected his cherished Gypsy Chorus to give me some sneak peeks into their very bright future.   “We are putting an EP together that will come out at some point and in some form,” he explains.  “That will all be leading up to a record eventually.  I’m not sure how it’s going to come out or what, but sometime next year.”  Furthermore, the band is also playing one of their tunes at the TEDx Detroit event on Wednesday, October 2 (guys, that’s tomorrow!).  Finally, they plan to open for Jessica Hernandez at St. Andrew’s Hall on November 27, 2013, so you should probably go to this show if you have a brain.

Beyond just musically, the band has been progressing artistically in many ways, as well.  Morris has recently given good friend Jesse Shepherd-Bates the reigns to make another music video for the band’s awesome tune, “Girls on Parade.”  “Jesse just chose it,” he explains.  “He just showed up at my house one day and said he bought a camera and was shooting a video for the song.”  So, of course, Morris simply said, “okay,” and since then the singer explains, “it’s all Jesse.”

Morris did have his doubts about the videos at times, simply because he felt he wasn’t knowledgeable enough to assist with such tasks.  “But,” he continues, “I’m really impressed with how Jesse has just kind of jumped into it.  He learned on the fly and is turning out some really impressive stuff.  All of his videos look spectacular, and this is the first time he’s ever really done it.”  So, with a director like that, Morris feels confident that his creation will be preserved and admired.  Jesse’s video for the band’s catchiest track, “Fuck It,” is a superb example of the director’s mastery.  If I lived in the smart house of the Disney Channel Original Film “Smart House,” I would definitely opt to have this video play on my bedroom walls instead of that one B*Witched video.

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Going back and forth between solo work and close-knit bands with hit videos, Morris’ musical career has certainly been an exceptional, and consequently wild, ride.  He admits that much of the wonder he has experienced as a musician has to do with his place of residence.  While he feels that, at times, “Detroit can be a hard place to make any art,” as, “it’s very critical,” he explains that musicians just need to have a little more confidence here than they might in other places.  “I think the talent in Detroit is incredible.”  He declares, however, that, “because of that, it’s a hard place to play sometimes.  Because even if there are so many musicians around here, at a lot of the shows everybody is standing still.”  While the audience can sometimes seem uninterested, Morris explains, “You have to understand that that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and that they’re just listening to you.”

“It’s when they leave that it’s bad,” he laughs.

Detroit then proves itself not only a teacher of self-worth, but a place where that worth can easily flourish.  “Detroit is unlike the majority of cities,” Morris continues, “and I think everybody takes it for granted because they just assume that it’s like this everywhere.”  Morris explains that “In a lot of places, if you want to see a rock show, you go to one venue.  Then a metal venue, maybe.  And maybe a folk venue, or something.  That’s all you get to choose from.  Here there are tons of places that constantly host different kinds of bands.”  Being in a band whose genre he and Nelson will later agree to call “alternative indie pop rock (with a little electro),” Morris would feel slightly unappreciated in lands of black and white.  Having this realization, Morris talks about his city with an overarching sense of love and sanctity.  He is grateful for this often-dreary place because it has given him a chance to be himself and feel valued as such.

If you are not yet entirely amazed by George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus I must inform you of the two most important facts about them: 1. George Morris plays sports with adults at the YMCA as his day job, and 2. Bassist, AJ Nelson helps his dad make granite ping-pong tables that are worth a lot of money.  Enough said.

Listen to their music on bandcamp and don’t be afraid to give them ye olde thumbs-up on Facebook!

*If I had a baby, of course.  Which is not the case.


Forward, Deep + Sleaze: An Introduction to Disco in Detroit Part 1

When Detroit Sounds Like This sat down with DJ Jerry Downey Jr. (Sexual Tension Detroit & Bathroom Culture) we asked him to describe his parties and the music he spins in three words. His response:

Forward, Deep & Sleaze

Ever since my favorite monthly DJ party has come to a halt (Funk Night) I have been looking and keeping my ears open to any scene or party to fill my monthly party void. This is when I stumbled upon the parties that have been happening on a monthly basis at Temple Bar. Are they playing more funk? Is it a hip hop scene? Is a Detroit DJ playing free parties that no one knows about?

Wrong! It’s DISCO! Yes Detroit, we may have our roots in Motown, we have punk-rock, and our hip hop and electronic music are at the forefront of their scenes, but what about Disco? You can now put a check mark next to that genre too.  From its early rumblings in dimly-lit cretin-filled warehouses, Detroit Disco Collectives and their parties have been forming and moving from warehouses to residencies at local venues.

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The Beginnings of Sexual Tension Detroit

(CP – Carlos Padilla, J – Jerry)

CP: Where did the idea of “Sexual Tension Detroit” come from?

J: STD came to life when I had the opportunity to have a party at a warehouse (Warehouse 1018) in the Islandview neighborhood that I would shortly after help manage.  My idea was to provide the party crowd an atmosphere unrivaled to that which clubs/bars can contain, give the community an opportunity to release all the tension they’ve built up all week by cutting loose in a laid back; anything goes type of environment.

CP: What was your inspiration to even throw warehouse parties?  As most Detroiters have experienced, our police seem to care a bit to much for no reason.

J: My inspiration came heavily from the way Funk Night parties were thrown. They were in warehouses, BYOB and thousands of people would show up and you just danced. I wanted everything about that experience to be part of Sexual Tension Detroit.

CP: It seems easy to most, but I know myself that warehouse parties take a lot of planning and strategy, what was your draw to even get people to come downtown for Sexual Tension?

J:  These parties were late night free-for-all’s with myself and friends DJing. Ladies would also be free with a minimal cover for the fellas to cover whatever sound system we had rented.  For the most part I was organizing these events without a steady team, but I really loved the idea of always working with a rotating cast of people which really helped me understand the logistics of how things work with events.

CP: Warehouse parties dont last forever? What was your next step?

J: Around the time the warehouse space fizzled out I was offered a monthly residency at the Temple Bar in Cass Corridor and Sexual Tension Detroit eventually found its new home here. About 4 months ago I started playing back to back with Dustin Alexander (Dayda) and took him on board as a resident DJ.  A lot of things are about to change with Sexual Tension Detroit as we grow; the next move is going to be my 2 year anniversary party this November – keep your ear to the ground.

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Moving the party out of the bathroom: The beginnings of Bathroom Culture

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(Photographs from Facebook Page of Bathroom Culture)

CP: The name alone draws a lot of responses, Bathroom Culture?

J: Bathroom Culture itself is a nod to what goes down in the bathroom (wink) at parties and even though the bathroom of a club makes people feel secure, people need to spend less time in it and more time on the dance floor. So the idea of the name was to get people out of the bathroom and to the dance floor.

CP: Who are the DJ’s that make Bathroom Culture?

J: My main crew consisted of John Ryan (Dr. Disko Dust) and Griffin Scillian (Carlo Rambaldi). John was the first person to actually book me to play a club and we all eventually got together and established ourselves as Bathroom Culture along with Griffin’s roommate James Droze who would be paramount in helping expose our aesthetics visually.

CP: Besides warehouses where else can someone in Detroit catch Bathroom Culture?

J: Our parties are at some pretty random locations, we’ve played huge packed nightclubs/warehouses and even tiny restaurants like Small Plates on Broadway.  Every part of our aesthetic is rebellious and provocative; we don’t fit in with the other party crews and use some really over the top imagery.  Look out soon for our forthcoming series of web videos.

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At the end of our interview I asked Jerry to play some vinyl to give us at Detroit Sounds Like This a taste of what he plays during his sets.   Jerry concluded the interview by telling us about an upcoming Sexual Tension Detroit party at Temple Bar…THIS FRIDAY!

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Thats right Detroit, Friday night, September 6, 2013 come on down to Temple Bar for “BAD PARTY NAME: LUV BOXX,” which should be a great party to start off the weekend.

——

Well Detroit, because we have so much to offer I will have to end here.  But dont worry there will be a part 2 in the coming weeks!  Yes, we actually have another group of disco aficionados who go by Gary Springs Hunting Club, but they are an article all in their own, and you will see why very soon.   Until then, find out where the GSHC party is this weekend.  I heard their is free coffee at midnight.
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Below article is a soundcloud set by Jerry Downey Jr.  Enjoy.

 


Tony Ollivierra

Tony Ollivierra

Tony Ollivierra is a Detroit area electronic musician and dj who got started in the late eighties. He was influenced by the Detroit club scene in the 80’s and 90’s in venues like The Shelter with Richie Hawtin, The Music Institute with Derrick May and Alton Miller, and The Majestic with Blake Baxter. He’s currently producing music under his label “Northside District”. We recently asked him a few questions:

I usually start with choosing the right kick drum. If I choose the wrong kick or eq it wrong it seems the track is destined to fail miserably.

  • You’ve been making music for quite some time. How has your style changed throughout your career? What about production and tools, has the way you start and compose tracks undergone any changes?
  • I started producing in the late 80’s with Alesis and Yamaha drum machines, an Akai s-900 sampler and a Yamaha DX-100 keyboard. I continued using hardware until 2006 when I went fully in the box with Propellerhead Reason which I used until last year. Since then I’ve been a Logic user recently upgrading to version X. I usually start with choosing the right kick drum. If I choose the wrong kick or eq it wrong it seems the track is destined to fail miserably. It many times can be the driving force in techno and house.
  • You have been on a roll lately and seem to have a new EP every month, what’s your inspirational secret?
  • My inspiration comes from God through Jesus Christ. I owe it all to him.
  • Recently you kicked off your record label Northside District. What were some hurdles you overcame and what was learned in this process?
  • I had to start a new label when others started using the Ibex name. It took months of pondering a label name as pretty much everything is being used. One day someone came into my job wearing a company shirt with Northside something or other on it and something clicked. It seemed marketable so I went with it. I think I learned that branding is crucial in this business.
  • What was your main reason and focus on starting the label?
  • I needed a platform to release my music pretty much. It started off with two vinyl releases which didn’t do well at all. So it was disappointing realizing vinyl may no longer be conducive to getting the material out there. I had to figure out how to market digital releases which is even more challenging.
  • What’s on the horizon for you and what can we expect musically?
  • I’m currently at work on the next release with one track finished. The track is called Good vs Evil and it really summarizes the theme. It starts out like a Detroit techno track and then gets full on angry progressive about three minutes in. You can really hear that there is a battle taking place which is just what I wanted to exemplify. I’m excited to get working on the other tracks, I think this ep will make some noise for sure. It will be called The Regeneration.
  • How would you describe your sound?
  • My sound is constantly changing based on what I’m feeling. I try to keep it as real as possible by only releasing what truly sounds good and provocative to my ears. It’s not easy because your ears can fool you! The tracks that stand the test of time, when you can come back three weeks later and still appreciate the track you know you have something.

http://www.tonyollivierra.com/


Damon Warmack On Bass And Beyond

Damon Warmack

Chatting with born and raised Detroiter – “east side by the grace of God” – bass player Damon Warmack is always a good time. We get in depth with Damon about his musical journey.

Unsurprisingly, Damon had aspirations to be a jazz musician. So the Fender Precision bass he first received just wouldn’t cut it. Most of his heroes were playing the Jazz Bass, so making that exchange was the first step.

The humble beginnings, mentors and inspirations that paved the path along the way are far from forgotten.

Detroit is one of the bass player towns… so there’s always competition here… There’s always a ton of guys who can play, and play really well.

Detroit is this huge proving ground, as far as musicians are concerned. Playing with musicians from around the states and the world is only half the story. Check out the video for more…


Discussion with Rocket McFlyy

I’ll be honest with you, the last time I wrote an interview was for my riveting high school journal. Therefore, I approached this “interview” as more of a discussion. Before this discussion happened, I had a chance to hear the band live, and have a listening session of their recorded music. Because of this, I skipped all the introductory excess and got right to their music.

Before they were Rocket McFlyy and The Free Radicals, they were Organized Khaos, and before that, well, I’ll let them explain. The first time I saw or heard of Rocket McFlyy and the Free Radicals was May 2013 at a battle of the bands here in Detroit. Rocket McFlyy includes Rocket (piano/vocals) and McFlyy (rapping/vocals). The Free Radicals, also known as their live band of brethren, consists of Michael Moore (guitar), B (drums), and JAWZ (bass guitar). It should be noted that Rocket McFlyy not only produce their own music, but also write and produce for other Detroit musicians. Unfortunately, B wasn’t able to attend the interview, but his bandmates were sure to acknowledge his importance to the whole.

One thing you will see if you visit the band’s website (http://smcflyy.wix.com/rocketmcflyy) or twitter (https://twitter.com/rocketmcflyy) and read the bio, is a large illustration of Rocket and McFlyy standing atop a pile of alien robot carcasses, and holding space weapons. There’s a visual element to Rocket McFlyy and the Free Radicals that should not be overlooked; It was clear that some visual art work was necessary. I refer to my “art box” in the interview, which is essentially a place where I keep art supplies ready to go. You can see all of their visual representations of their music below.

For me, Rocket McFlyy and the Free Radicals’ music is a complete experience. There’s a lot of sound, concepts, emotion, and energy behind their work, and I can only hope that this discussion captured a small part of that.

So let’s get started. Turns out all you need is a little beer for a band to be comfortable around a crazy little gal from Detroit. Cheers.

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[In speaking order]

CL (Camille Langston), MM (Michael Moore), J (JAWZ), R (Rocket), MF (McFlyy)

CL: One of the things I’m confused about is your studio versus your live show life.

MM: We’re actually doing a full recording right now that will resemble more of the dynamic and sound of the live performances.

CL: I know on your website it says your sound is a combination of hip-hop, Motown, and rock and roll. However, I also heard your music conceptually. I heard a lot of outer-space. I heard a lot of deep sound. I heard a lot of full sound.

MM: On the recording or live?

CL: Both. I think you guys are a totally different entity live.

MM: Which is a good thing. I think when Rocket showed us his recordings individually we all thought, “Well this guy has his act together.” And then we started playing live and things quickly progressed into what they are now. We added the drummer that we have now (B) which has really pushed things forward.

J: B brings a little bit of the soul and a little bit more complex rhythmic sound.

R: B is very classic, but contemporary. As far back as the African dance element, he can nail it. We did a show last week and it was hot. We were about to do this song and he didn’t wanna do it because he didn’t have his tom-toms. “I need my Toms man! I need my Toms!” Like, he gets DOWN.

CL: Yeah he does get down, I remember that. I have a very vivid memory of the first time I heard you all live. Which was an experience. I do agree that B brings a whole other rhythmic energy to your music. It’s different than the energy in your studio music.

MF: Yeah I think everybody in the band does that with everything, in relation to the studio versus live stuff. When we play live, JAWZ’s bass is gonna be way more dynamic. Michael’s guitar is gonna be legendary, as opposed to just awesome.

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CL: I want to ask, in a general sense, how you all got together.

MF: That’s like 5 stories.

R: That’s at least 10 years of talking.

MF: Me and Rocket met in high school. We were in an a cappella singing group, which I hated, but Rocket made it awesome. Rocket came to me one day and was like, “Dude, I wanna do rock music with hip-hop drums.” and I was like “Bro. I can’t sing that shit, man.” So when we started this rock shit I was like, “Dude, I gotta rap.” So I started rapping.

R: And I was like noo noooo!

MF: Everybody laughed at me and then we did a bunch of studying and shit and I got better at it. And then JAWZ came in once we hit Organized Khaos, which is when we decided to do rock music.

CL: You guys are like a whole three course meal of music. There’s so much to hear and experience. That’s why I bought my art box because there’s a visual component, there’s the music, there are the concepts behind the music, and the whole website is a whole other thing. Everything there made me curious about your inspiration. Besides music, what are your influences?

R: You mean what influences us as entities existing at all? God, love, sex, rock and roll, superheroes, outer space, DREAMWEAVER, video games, inner peace, outer freedom, positive growth, keep moving forward.

MM: It’s ironic because for me there is no God, but I have beer.

J: That’s really close enough.

CL: Explain to the people what DREAMWEAVER is.

R: Uhhh Cannabis. Marijuana.

J: It’s a good plant.

R: It’s an entity and an idea for us. It’s so much more than what it is. We live in a country where there are so many drugs that are just dangerous for you that you can get over the counter.

CL: Since the blog is called Detroit Sounds Like This, tell me about your Detroit musical influences, your favorite Detroit sound, anything. Expand as much as you want.

R: So this is like the what Detroit sounds like to us section?

CL: Yeah, that’s a great way to put it.

MF: RenCen CoolBeanz is one of my personal heroes, locally.

R: I don’t know. Detroit sounds like world music to me.

MM: That’s actually really well put. That’s what I loved about Detroit growing up. It was mostly Motown but it was also really great hard rock. Really great rock and roll that you couldn’t hear anywhere else. It also had a special groove and a special anger.

J: Yeah a special anger, absolutely.

MM: There’s a certain anger to Detroit rock that I love to this day, and I still think that per capita, there are just better musicians here. I was just talking the other day about traveling to cities that are “economically healthier,” but the music scenes just don’t seem vibrant, or they don’t pull you in. There’s nothing there, you know? It’s a Saturday night at 10pm where’s the jaw dropping show? In Detroit you can find a couple of those things going on, and it’s like, where else would you see this?

CL: Nowhere.

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MM: One thing I’m really proud of Detroit for is even with all the economic turmoil and chaos, it really kept a strong sense of artistic creativity.

R: Detroit has a heartbeat, and it’s growing, and I really believe that. It’s an irregular heartbeat, too. It’s funny that Michael would talk about the musical demographic, especially as it pertains to live performances, because everywhere I’ve been, they don’t do it like they do it here.

J: We invent the world’s greatest music. Techno came from here first. Even the more obscure shit like second wave punk came from Detroit first before it came from Seattle.

MM: In the late 90’s there were three of the world’s biggest indie-prog bands from here. I was in House Of Usher. Discipline was also out of Detroit, and Tiles was big in Germany and is still going strong.

R: In Detroit, generally speaking, it’s nooks and crannies with huge amounts of energy coming from them. At this one SPOT in a vacant warehouse, or artsy loft, or you know, some dope after-hours joint, there’s just space around it. But the inside is exploding.

CL: Self realization is so important, and until one gets to know oneself it kind of floats. I remember Rocket telling me that before you had the Groove Theory (which is essentially a theory for creating the sound of Rocket McFlyy and the Free Radicals), you had a spectrum of “yes” and “no.” Until you focused it, and until you realized your musical signature, you didn’t get the constant “yes.” I’m asking if you’re aware of your musical signature, and if you could describe it.

MM: Well I actually think I have a very Buddhist relationship with my guitar playing. It’s just something that I do. It just happens. Sometimes I feel very connected to it, but sometimes it just happens and I’m just an observer. It’s a very dissociative type of act.

CL: It’s without the ego of it all.

MM: Yeah, and in terms of individuality; I’m standing on the shoulders of multiple generations of people whom I’ve simply studied and struggled to incorporate, and it would take a really really fine ear to hear that, and I don’t think most people do. But maybe I’m underestimating their intelligence.

CL: You don’t think most people hear what?

MM: Anything identifiably me. I think they hear a big loud guitar. I don’t think they really get it, to be quite honest with you. I think I can be very flashy and very showy and it looks good. I don’t know if they really…

J: Get what you’re doing.

MM: Get what I’m doing. And it really doesn’t matter if they do or they don’t on that level to which I aspire. It’s okay that they just find it entertaining.

CL: That’s a really interesting point, because I don’t know you. I don’t know any of you, and you don’t know me. But when I listened to you (Michael), maybe I didn’t hear you or your musical signature, but I did hear something that you expressed.

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MM: That’s totally valid. My experience of it is actually quite Equalist. I play notes, I’m listening, I’m reacting, I’m kind of thinking of my job as more of a craftsman.

J: Michael puts a lot of color into the band.

MF: When I’m starting off cool, I follow JAWZ or B, because I know they’re gonna give me that beat. But to turn it up, I’ve gotta follow Michael to catch the intensity. Rocket is my opposite on stage in a lot of ways, and my equal. Rocket is pulling as much emotion out of the rhythm as possible and I have to pull as much rhythm out of the emotion as possible (laughs) and that’s where we landed.

J: We all definitely have a very concrete roll in the band, and almost a totally different perspective of what’s going on. Especially during the live performances. I have a very different approach than Michael.

CL: What is your approach?

J: I like to sit back, listen, and have a conversation musically with B. Really listen to what he’s doing, and what his groove is, and just feel the bottom line of the song. Where should I be? What is the most supportive note? Should I do something different to support what Rocket is doing? But I have to keep everything super solid, and it’s all about the groove and making it feel good. My influences as a player: Bootsy Collins, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooton…

CL: Is there anything I’ve not asked or we haven’t talked about that you view as essential to your musical expression?

MF: I want to over emphasize Marijuana.

CL: That’s going on the website.

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Interview with Mexican Knives

Mexican Knives are a band based out of the city with a groove, a presence, and a fast-paced aggression that is infectious to the ear.  Zach, Ruth, John, and Blair have given their genre of “surf goth” a fan base within the city, and will surely grab the attention and the eardrums of many more fans as they plan to release their first 6-song EP, along with a split-45 with fellow Detroiters Ritual Howls.

I had a completely different band . . . I asked Ruth to come back, and everything is happening organically, the way it’s supposed to be…guitarist Zach Weedon

Beginning with Zach and Blair playing together, the band evolved with Ruth taking over on vocals, and John (having a change of heart) accepting a second offer to play bass.   With recent shows in Brooklyn and Chicago and plans to hit even more cities after their EP has been released, Mexican Knives are right on track to turn their intriguing genre of rock into a more widely recognized and appreciated sound in this city.  In this video interview, the band discusses how their sound came to be through an influence of musical stylings ranging from the Staple Sisters to Guns N’ Roses, how they made Wavves green with envy, and why more people should go to the library.

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At the end of the video please enjoy an exclusive performance of the track “Nightmare,” performed live at the Detroit Sounds Like This Studio in Eastern Market.