Categories
Music Reviews

Portable

Portable

Only If You Look Up

TVT

First time through, my notes read, simply, “Above average nu-alt-emo-metal.” The singer was just kinda singing in that way everyone does, the band was playing crunchy music that turned light at slightly interesting junctures, whatever. But I was kind of intrigued by the last song listed on the case (conveniently titled “Last Song”), and the way it turns from being a really long slow sadsack dirge fueled by acoustic guitars into an angular guitar epic–and from there into a delicate backwards-feedback deal. It’s nine and a half non-wasted minutes which then kicks into the bonus track, “Freaks,” which is a really really good Knack/Cheap Trick power pop song that slags off adults everywhere! Ace! Gear! Fab!

I was filled with shame for almost writing off these guys off, so I listened again, and discovered a great record. Chance is the nom de musique of the singer-songwriter guy, and he’s got an interesting thing happening. He is both a Cobainesque commentator on our bad bad world (“A man destroys! A man destroys! A man destroys! A man destroys! Take notes!“) and a heartsick balladeer (“I won’t wait till December / To get it all figured out / I won’t wait till the picture / Is all worn out“). And the band that backs Chance is a tight engine indeed: check guitarist Gus Ciceri on the chugging “Left,” the very woozy “Suffocate,” and the almost Thin Lizzy-like “Roll Over and Play Dead.”

So this is kind of a miracle, then: modern alternative rock that doesn’t suck and fails to be soulless or brainless. Celebrate the miracle.

TVT Records: http://www.TVTrecords.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Vision Of Disorder

Vision Of Disorder

From Bliss to Devastation

TVT

Armed with a new label and makeover of sorts, Vision Of Disorder unleash From Bliss to Devastation, unarguably the most-hyped mainstream metal record of the summer next to Puya’s Union. Well, it does, and it doesn’t • transcend its hype, that is. On one hand, VOD have forsaken their manic chugga-chugga burl of yore for bummed-out, open-ended groove here, dipping the intensity a couples notches and more often, allowing their songs to simmer for a bit longer, rendering them now far more headbang-friendly than moshpit-ready • and in most cases, all the better for it. Likewise, frontman Tim Williams has tempered • for the most part, anyway • his hardcore barks of old, almost overwhelmingly so, as nearly all of From Bliss to Devastation features an across-the-board clean tenor from him, one of which melodically falls rather close to Monster Magnet or Love Battery on less drugs and, most obviously, those templars of nu-metal trends, Fear Factory (i.e., people ape them): drifting, chilled, and most undeniably lonely-man-on-the-mountain. On the other hand, however, Williams’ vocal lamentations nod a bit too closely to Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell, the man’s rare screams largely lacking intent and purpose and looking more like lip service to detractors who’ll claim VOD have gone “soft,” and From Bliss to Devastation‘s material similarly seems a bit stunted, perhaps too manic depressive, the grooves piled high but hazily: in plainspeak, VOD sound uncomfortable in their new laconic skin, so perhaps the album is something of a transitional record. If such is true, their next one could be a keeper, especially if they get another driller-killer production job from the ubiquitous Machine, but in the meantime, we’re left with what half-wit publicists would promote as a “more mature effort.” Ack.

TVT Records, 23 E. 4th St., New York, NY 10003; http://www.tvtrecords.com, http://www.vod.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Wellwater Conspiracy

Wellwater Conspiracy

The Scroll and its Combinations

TVT

You never know what to expect from rock and roll supergroups. This one includes Monster Magnet member John McBain and ex-Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron. However, I’d have to say that this supergroup turned out quite nice. Every song has a sort of tripped out, psychedelic rock feel to it. A lot of it sounds like a jam session. I’d have to say that it’s a throwback to early ’90s pre-grunge rock, and a sound like that is definitely refreshing in today’s world of hard rock and emo punk. I can also hear the Soundgarden influence in the music. Other highlights include string arrangements and high pitched keyboards, which add to the whole Who vibe. Also, there are guest vocals by Eddie Vedder under a pseudonym. Real laid back and full of soul, this album makes for good cruisin’ in the car or laying around the house music.

TVT Records, 23 E. 4th St. New York, NY 10003; http://www.tvtrecords.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Traffic

Traffic

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

TVT

The opening 13 tracks of this album are the score from Traffic, a collection of pieces by Cliff Martinez largely consisting of ambient music. “You Two Don’t Like Me” and “The Police Won’t Find Your Car” (which wasn’t actually in the final version of the movie) are predominately hand drums and bass. Once the ambient is done, Wilhelm Kempff performs a Beethoven piano sonata that serves to break up the score and the electronic music that follows. The score doesn’t hold anything you don’t normally find in a movie, but the last five tracks turn it all around. The Morcheeba song is mixed directly into the Fatboy Slim piece, “Give the Po’ Man a Break.” It all comes to a close with the appropriately titled song, “An Ending (Ascent)” by Brian Eno.

Categories
Interviews

Guided By Voices

No Chicks in the Tree House: A Drinking Interview with Robert Pollard of

Guided By Voices

My smartest move in preparing to interview Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices was to stop by Gristedes Supermarket en route to our meeting and pick up a six pack of Miller Lite. It’s no secret that Pollard likes to drink, and the bargain-priced brew is his current favorite. And, being that I was his final interview of a two-day jag in NYC to promote Guided By Voices’ über-genius new album, Isolation Drills, grabbing the sixer was somewhat of a calculated effort to endear myself to the man who, for all intents and purposes, could call himself the King of Indie Rock. I mean, if there were such a thing.

At the offices of TVT Records in Manhattan, Pollard held court in an intimate conference room, where he greeted me convivially and thanked me for bringing the beer (Yes!). Robert Pollard still resembles the unassuming fourth grade school teacher he was before he did a bunk on his day job to rock out with Guided By Voices full time, but he chain smokes like a rock star and is like a living encyclopedia of rock and roll. While waxing poetic regarding the highly autobiographical Isolation Drills — an album that’s equal parts painfully heart-stopping beauty and ass-kicking rock, Bob also talked about lots of stuff that — trust me –you won’t be reading in other interviews. And (to paraphrase Johnny Cash) Bob and I killed that six pack, just to watch it die.

• •

Shall we roll?

Let•s roll!

First, I have to thank you for writing the most beautiful song, which is “Things I Will Keep.” It’s my favorite song, and it’s very personal to me.

Thank you. That song is my favorite song on Do The Collapse, and I said, “that’s the direction of the next record.” I wrote a lot of anthems for Isolation Drills because of that song.

The first couple of songs really do remind me of Do The Collapse. This is excellent beer, isn’t it?

Yeah, I love Miller Lite.

I’m a big Beatles fan from way back…

Who could not be?

…and being in the position of getting a lot of records and seeing so much crap that makes its way to CDs, not to mention — but you can see I am about to — everything on the radio that totally lacks melody, good song structure, and no one is encouraged to be excellent at their instrument, it’s really depressing for me, and I guess others like me•

That like to rock…

…Yeah! And the bar, the standard, for what is good rock music, has been lowered to the point where you can walk over it. So, when I get a new Guided By Voices record in the mail, I just have to say “Thank God for Guided By Voices, the Saviours of Rock.”

Someone once asked me, “How did you, overnight, after ten years, get a record contract?” and that kind of thing. And I was like, because music sucks so bad now. It was easy for us to get it. It took a time, a period in rock, a lull where nothing was going on, for something to happen for us. But, now that I look at it, that’s not really true, because, at that time when we broke, actually there were some pretty good things going on, like The Breeders and Nirvana and stuff.

Everybody is going to say that Isolation Drills is the album that will break Guided By Voices into the mainstream, but do you really think that’s going to happen?

I don’t know if it’s possible, really, with everything that’s going on in music right now. On this record, the label thought “Glad Girls” was a single, but they didn’t hear a second single. I was forced to go back and write a second single, which was “Chasing Heather Crazy.” I can write that kind of stuff all the time. That’s easy, pop songs, you know. But, I don’t know what a single is, that’s what I told them. I don’t know exactly what kind of music you’re looking for. I just know what I hear on the radio these days, and I don’t write that kind of music. So, I really don’t know if it’s possible. But maybe. There’s some good bands and rock is coming back a little bit, so maybe it will go the full cycle.

It seems to come back a little at a time. I mean, I don’t have any problem finding things that I can get into, but I don’t listen to the radio.

But if it does come back, all of the indie rock kids who have a problem with what we’re doing now, they’ll say that we were right. “They stuck to their guns and they played rock, so rock’s coming back.” There are some people — the lo-fi type people — who have a problem with what we’re doing right now, just a handful.

That brings me to the whole thing about Do The Collapse. When I first listened to it, I was like, “Why does anybody have a problem with this? It’s a Guided By Voices record. It’s a great record.” But then I went back and listened to Mag Earwhig or Under The Bushes…, and I did realize that it was a lot cleaner sounding. But so what? The songs are just as great, and it sounds better. Did you ever feel like you were maybe selling out, or compromising by going to work with a producer like Ric Ocasek?

We started out as lo-fi as you can get, and each album sounded better, so it’s been a gradual process. It’s not like we just dove in to high fidelity. Mag Earwhig sounded better than Under The Bushes and Under The Bushes sounded better than Alien Lanes. Gradually, the sound fidelity has gotten better. I wanted to do that anyway; I wanted to make a good-sounding record from the beginning. We just never had the resources. Then, once we started working with a four-track, and found out that we could do as many as twenty songs in a day, we kind of got addicted to it. We did three albums like that. Then there were people who said, “Well, we’re tired of this lo-fi shit, when are you going to do something that’s listenable?” Then we did, and the same people go, “Well, I like the lo-fi stuff better.” You can’t please other people, you just have to please yourself. I want to make big rock.

Why did you change the title of the CD from Broadcaster House to Isolation Drills?

Well, Broadcaster House [originated] because it was big, and we’re Guided By Voices, and [it was like] from the House of Guided By Voices comes this… new record. Plus, there was just a little snippet of [makes Devil Horns] “Horns Up” [laughs], so I thought Broadcaster House was a good title. Then, I looked at the dark nature of the record and how it was kind of personal and everything. The last song, that was deleted from the album, was a song called “Isolation Drills,” which will probably end up being a B-side or something. I just thought that was a more befitting title. You probably read the lyrics and can tell a little bit of what they’re about.

Yeah, let•s talk about that. My favorite song on Isolation Drills is “Unspirited,” and I have to ask if there is a good story behind that song.

That song’s kind of about how I felt at the time. Things were going on in my life where I kind of thought I was losing my shit a little bit. I felt like I was unspirited. The way to deal with it was just to become numb and not give a fuck about anything. It was also like a song to my son, too; sometimes I write songs to my son. That was another one of my choices for singles from this record, but my choices never happen.

On “Skills Like This,” the lyric about re-invention of the self or whatever, let•s get into that.

A lot of the songs I write, I’m talking to myself, I’m reinventing myself. [Talking about] redirection, using a stumbling block as a stepping stone, making it something positive. So, that line “I want to reinvent you” is just me [asking] myself, “What do I do now?” [Also], you have to reinvent yourself as a band to continue. We keep going [because] we’re re-inventing a little bit — gradually.

I read this quote about you, where some rock critic said that you are just “leaking music.” I thought that was a nice metaphor.

I’m leaking music, it seeps from my pores. [Thoughtful pause] I guess I do. I write a lot of songs. We have quite a catalog of songs now, quite a body of work we’ve created. So, I like that. I leak it, I guess. I don’t know. I dream it, eat it, sleep it.

It blows my mind that you can write not just so many songs, but so many great songs.

It’s telling of my age, you know. I’m 43, and I grew up, I was a kid, in the ’60s. I listened to the best music then. That’s where I learned to sing with a British accent and where I learned to write. I’ve been through all the different phases, you know, all the good phases, which, in my opinion, ended in 1980. It’s been spotty since then.

It’s disheartening to see how it’s gone downhill, and to see and hear great bands that don’t even break or get heard.

People are more concerned with image and sound, more so than songs. I don’t think people take the craft of songwriting seriously anymore, or not too many people.

The Suitcase box set shrink-wrap has a promo sticker with quotes. The one from your dad reads, “When are ya gonna stop doing this shit?” Is your father not convinced that you’re a working musician?

It’s all about money to him. You know, I never made money doing this, so it was a waste of time. He’s said other things, like, he said one time, trying to dissuade me from playing music, that he wanted me to be an athlete. He says, “Do you realize how many shitty bands are out there?” That’s actually the most profound thing he’s ever said. And I was like, “Yeah, I do, but you don’t understand what I’m trying to do. I do this because I like it… it’s fun.” That was the only reason we did it. Once we got signed to a big label and started making money, he was fine with it. He was scared at first. “When are you going to quit playing this shitty music?” My Mom said one time, I said, “Dad does not like our music,” and she said, “Well, you wouldn’t like it either if it wasn’t worth a shit,” and I was like, “Hey, fuck you, Mom!” [laughs] But it’s cool now, everything’s cool.

How do you decide which material is slated for your solo Fading Captain series and which material is best suited for GBV?

Whatever’s next. Just whatever batch of songs is next goes on the next record. Although, I think, if a song [makes me] go, “Wow, that has commercial potential,” or, “I could work on that and that could be something I think [winks] Mr. Gottlieb [Bob is referring to Steve Gottlieb, owner of TVT Records] would like,” then I hold it back for a Guided By Voices record. But for the most part, if a Guided By Voices record is finished, like it is now, the next batch of songs will go on the next record, whatever it is — whether it’s Robert Pollard or Tobin Sprout with Robert Pollard, Lexo and the Leapers, Polymorph Orchestra… I’m in five bands now!

Are you an official band whore now?

Yes! [Laughs]

Tobin Sprout makes a guest appearance on Isolation Drills, any chance of him resuming his role as a full time member?

No, he’s decided to make it kind of low profile for him. But I did just finish an album with him. We actually have a band now called Airport Five. We finished a record, which will be out in August. It’s nice; it’s a really nice record. He does everything. He lives in Michigan, about nine hours away from me. He just basically records instrumentals and sends them down to me and I sing my lyrics. It takes no time at all and it sounds really good. That’s kind of the future, I think, maybe. I don’t know how much longer Guided By Voices can exist…

Don’t scare me.

Well, I think it will be forever and ever. But I got this thing going with Toby now that’s nice. We’ll probably do two records a year.

Have you ever bought one of his paintings?

They’re too expensive. I tried to get him to come down. He said he’d cut me a break. He said he’d sell me one for $3,000. I don’t have that kind of money.

Thinking about the movie Almost Famous, at one time GBV had rock critic Jim Greer as a band member. Do you think that helped you garner a “critic’s darling” status?

No, it hurt us. We were critics’ favorites and we kind of had some backlash because of him. Spin quit writing good things about us because he was a senior editor at Spin, so it actually hurt. A lot of other people in bands were like, “Why the fuck is he in your band?” He was in my band because he lived in Dayton, I needed a bass player, he said, “Let me give it a shot.” He came and he knew all the songs, so he was in. It wasn’t because we wanted to get some different acceptance from different people. But Jim’s a good guy, he’s much happier now. He just wrote a book called Exit Flagging which is about his experience with Kim Deal and Guided By Voices. I just read it, it’s pretty cool.

I know you’re a big Who fan, ever thought of doing a Who covers album? You could resurrect gems like “Mary Ann With the Shaky Hands,” and “Glow Girl.”

Well, part of our set’s “Baba O’Reilly.” We’ve kind of gotten rid of all the covers — we were doing quite a few — and the only one left that we continue to do is “Baba O’Reilly.” It’s one of our encore songs. It sounds good, too. I think it sounds better than The Who. [Laughs]

The song “I Am a Tree” [off Mag Earwhig] reminds me most of a Who song.

Oh definitely, that’s Doug [Gillard]’s song. The thing was, it’s an old song from like ’92. Doug and Tim [Tobias] are in a band called Gem, and that song wasn’t good enough for their album for some reason. I go, “man, what the fuck? I’ll take it. I’ll make it a Guided By Voices song.” I love that song, it’s totally The Who.

One time I saw you guys play with Sleater-Kinney in Central Park…

Oh wow…

And it was this thing where, you’re waaaay over there, and between me and the stage there’s this football field of freaks, and all I can see is the freaks… so I had no idea what was going on on stage.

Do you remember when I started throwing beers? I got in trouble a little bit for it, too. I’m glad I got away with that one, I could have killed someone. But people were asking for beers, so I’d hand them off. Then there were people farther back, so I started flipping them. Then I’d toss them, and after awhile I was throwing them all the way back, as high as I could, and they were coming down… bottles of beer… I could have killed someone.

That’s so Nikki Sixx.

I thought it was a punk rock thing, but then I realized it was pretty fucking stupid. Someone from my label came out and tried to grab me, to stop me. That was a weird show, because it was really hot, and it was scary actually. There were a lot of people there. We were told by riot grrls in Portland that “Sleater-Kinney is going to burn the stage up on you guys.” Come on!

Ever consider writing a concept album? Like The Makers’ Rock Star God or something? Wasn’t Mag Earwhig meant to be a concept album of sorts?

A bunch of my albums started out as concept albums. Mag Earwhig was going to be a rock opera. I actually had names and shit off to the side of the lyrics — characters. But then I go, “man, I do not feel like going through interviews explaining the spiritual significance of this record,” you know? So, it isn’t a concept album. It doesn’t mean anything [laughs]. I heard that Makers album, I liked it. I wanted to like it better than I did. But I used to love concept albums. Sometimes before I’d play a football game in high school, I’d listen to Quadrophenia all the way through.

Speaking of Mag Earwhig, do you still talk to [Cobra Verde singer/guitarist] John Petkovic?

[Long pause] No, I don’t talk to him anymore. He’s mad at me, so, whatever. [Pause] I thought John Petkovic was the coolest guy in the world for awhile. We were great friends, and then… it’s just like, shit went down. I didn’t feel that he was into it, to tell you the truth. Not just him, but a few other guys in Cobra Verde. I felt like ulterior motives were involved with them being in my band.

I feel weird asking you about this, because John is a friend, and Cobra Verde is one of my favorite bands and so is Guided By Voices…

They’re a good band, they’re fucking great… I would like to be friends with him still.

I think John’s a great guy, but I’m not taking anyone’s side. I can love you both. I can be like that.

I would like to end whatever kind of war it is with him. I’d love to, I don’t hold grudges. It just didn’t work out, the whole Cobra Verde thing didn’t work out for whatever reasons. But he doesn’t even talk to Doug anymore, really, and they were together forever. That’s a good question, actually. No one’s asked me that question. I•ve been waiting for that.

I was feeling fearless.

[Laughs]

Well, we all remember when Yes did a reunion tour with all current and former members present…

I saw that!

…and Jethro Tull gathered their entire roster for the occasion of new recordings for a box set. Is it possible to herd all the various GBV alumni to do something ala Paul McCartney’s Rockestra Theme?

You know, we talked about that recently. It’s weird that you would ask that, because we said, on our last tour of the south, we go, “Man, we need to get everybody together and have some kind of a basketball game, where somebody gets tired and raises their hand and somebody else comes in.” We’d get all the members. I’ve also wanted to get all of the people who have been in Guided By Voices and take, like, a football team picture, in the bleachers like, you know? I’d love to do that! I don’t know how many people would be willing to do that. Let’s do it! [Laughs]

In the old days, when you stocked your homemade albums in mom and pop shops in and around Dayton, Ohio, which member of GBV was the salesman who made the deals?

Well, first of all, most record stores wouldn’t have those records. There was even a label guy who put our first record out — his label was called I Wanna Records — Rev Cool, he called himself. When we made our first record, we didn’t even have a label, so we put his label on our record. He got all pissed off about it. Then he did a compilation record of all the bands that were on his label, and he didn’t put us on there. Now he’s kicking himself in the ass, because he’d probably be getting a lot of money from those records.

But anyway, most record stores wouldn’t even put our records in the store. Then a friend of mine, Greg Demos, who was actually playing bass, not only did he take them to record stores but he actually started sending them out for review. We started getting some pretty good reviews on some of those early records. We got a good review in Spin, a “Spin Underground” thing. But I just totally said, “I’m not going to do anything with this stuff… I’m afraid” [laughs]. I was, like [whispers], “we suck.” [Laughs] I thought we did suck. Maybe we did suck. I was really afraid of big cities like New York and Cleveland, because those were the rock and roll towns. I thought if Cleveland and New York heard our stuff, we’d be laughed off the planet. I really did, that’s why I didn’t send anything out. But critics seem to like us. We have a story [laughs].

Why do you think GBV survived the collapse of the alternative rock era?

Because we’re ROCK at heart. I never considered us to be part of the lo-fi, indie rock or the alternative thing. I’ve always been in rock bands. I was in a heavy metal band in the ’70s. We’ve been here forever. You know the cockroach on the disc of Do The Collapse?

It’s funny that you would mention that, because I was looking at that today and thinking of how Tom Semioli wrote this review of Isolation Drills for Amplifier magazine where he said, “When the bomb drops, there will be two survivors: The cockroach and Guided By Voices.”

That’s what that means. That’s what that symbolizes. We’re not going away. We’re hard to kill. Our next album’s going to be called Heavy River. It’s much more prog-rock-like — without the keyboards, of course. I know some people, that idea scares them.

Well, I’m sure you get this all the time, but I hear a lot of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, especially in the older Guided By Voices records.

I love that! [Whispers] I love that. I•m a huge early Genesis fan. That might be my favorite music.

Will there ever be a female member of GBV?

No chicks in the tree house! That’s what I told Kim Deal. We were touring with The Breeders, and Kim asked me, right after Last Splash, “Why don’t you let me play bass?” And I thought for sure she was just fucking with me, so I said no. And I probably would have let her, but then I told her that we have a policy that there are no females allowed in Guided By Voices. It’s like when you’re a kid and you have your tree house and there’s no girls allowed in it. Then she did an interview in some GIRL magazine and she called me over and she goes, “Explain your philosophy to her!” And I said, “No chicks in the fuckin’ tree house, OK?”

I don’t have a problem with that, but what about a duet with a chick singer?

I did one with Kim once. We did “Love Hurts” for a movie called Love and a .45. It was pretty sweet, and it was going to be the main song, but then they didn’t put it in there. I think you can barely hear it in a bar scene or something.

If you could invite any musician from any era or band to be a member of GBV, who would that be?

Well, I used to say, you might not know who this band is, but do you remember UFO?

Yes I do, I love UFO.

Do you remember Pete Way? I want him in my band, because he kicked ass. He wore the tight, striped pants and just kicked ass. I want Pete Way to be in my band. Then Greg Demos started wearing those tight, striped pants so he kind of became that character. Pete Way on bass. Bun E. Carlos on drums. I guess he likes Guided By Voices. We did a short tour with Cheap Trick.

I saw that show, and I thought you were much better than Cheap Trick. Because they’re kind of… over.

Yeah, they’ve been over for a long time. We are totally better. Our music is more serious than Cheap Trick’s ever been. They’re just a straightforward, fun band.

Their first album was kind of heavy.

The first album is unbelievably great. But lyrically, they’ve never said anything, really. [Pause] Have they?

Check this: I saw them play at CBGB’s on the day of the Columbine shooting, and they did “The Ballad of TV Violence.” Is that scary?

Wow. Their first album is phenomenal. Thinking about it, yeah, there’s some good titles and some good lyrics on that record. That tour was weird because they were nice… to a degree. They lectured us a lot about our drinking and about different things. Like, who are you to tell me about that? [Laughs].

How did the famous Pollard drop-kick stage movement start?

Gee, I don’t know where that came from. Before we could even play our instruments, we practiced moves — just with guitars on, jumping around, but I never kicked. The first show that we played — we hadn’t played in about six years — and then we played the [CMJ] New Music Seminar at CBGB. I was really nervous and I started doing kicks for some reason, out of nervousness. So I was doing the cheerleaders’ kicks and the karate kicks and all that, and I decided to keep those in. I did a lot of things because I was inspired by Adam Ant, his moves from the Kings of the Wild Frontier days, you know? Those jumps where you kick the side of your feet? I have lot of stolen moves, but I think “the kick” is mine.

Jimmy Webb, one of your heroes, wrote a book on songwriting. Have you read it?

No, but I saw some excerpts from it in a magazine, and I disagreed with a lot of the things he said. Where you have to have true rhymes? I don•t agree with that. I don’t agree that it even has to rhyme. He’s a great songwriter, though, maybe the best. I know his sons, the Webb brothers, are Guided By Voices fans, and they tried to get me to write songs for them one time and I said no fucking way. No way could I do that. I’m intimidated by people like that. I was intimidated by Ric Ocasek a bit.

I interviewed him once, and he speaks very softly.

That’s how he was as a producer, too. [Whispers] “You can do it again.”

Berkeley School of Music, UCLA, University of Texas, and the University of Miami all offer degrees in Rock Performance and Composition. Being a former teacher, do you think you could return to teaching, perhaps at these institutions, in the autumn of your years, or do you want to just rock out on stage until you die?

I plan to rock the rest of my life. And even if I didn’t, I don’t know if I would go back to teaching. I don’t like to go…

…back?

Yeah, I don’t like to do that. I don’t know what I would do. Porn director, maybe? [Laughs]

For a student pursuing a degree in rock music, what albums, musicians, and eras would you emphasize? As a parent, would you pay the tuition for your kids to study this kind of curriculum?

Yeah, I would. I’d pay the tuition. My son’s in college now, and he•s majoring in philosophy and literature and people are asking him, “What are you going to do with that?” But the important thing is to learn and have fun. But I would tell kids to listen to the Golden era of rock, which is, in my opinion, 1967 to 1979. Focus on that classical phase, that’s what I would say. Back in the ’60s, the most popular bands were the best bands, which is not so true anymore.

Also, back then, you had to kind of… be good.

You had to be good, [laughs] you had to be able to sing, harmonize. You had to look good. I remember when, and it was maybe up to about 1980, I could go every week and I would buy four or five great albums that I couldn’t wait to come out, that I’d be excited about. I don’t even go buy records anymore.

If you ever make it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (you’ll be eligible in another six years), who would induct GBV?

Who would induct us? [Long pause] Ray Davies? How about Ray Davies, would he be good?

There’s no right answer, and it’s your band. But I think Pete Townshend would be good. Although Ray Davies is a really good answer, too.

Michael Azerrad reviewed Bee Thousand for Rolling Stone, and at the same time, he was getting ready to interview Pete Townshend. He said he was going to turn him on to Bee Thousand, but I don’t know if he ever did.

That’s kind of a thrilling thought, isn’t it?

It’s kind of scary… Pete Townshend listening to our four-track record.

It•s one of those lose your mind things. Anyway, I’ve always wanted to know, what does “Taking sips of Liquid Indian” mean?

Well, you know, I have a lot of Indian blood in me. People always said that Indians can’t handle their alcohol very well, so Liquid Indian means the spiritual value of alcohol, I think. It’s always done wonders for me, I like alcohol. This beer is what we drink all the time. We drink watered down Miller Lite. I have a temper and sometimes alcohol will bring that out in me, but for the most part, it makes me happy. It only makes me angry, and I go off, when someone’s trying to stomp on my buzz. Sometimes people don’t want to see you have a good time, do you know what I’m talking about? Then I’ll fucking lose my shit. But that song is about…. “I am the liquid Indian.” Taking sips of liquid Indian can make you feel fine.

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Music Reviews

Supa DJ Dmitry

Supa DJ Dmitry

Scream Of Consciousness

TVT

After the demise of his flagship group, club favorites/mainstream pop dabblers Dee-Lite, DJ Dmitry has pursued his continued fascination with dancefloor fodder on the word-played Scream Of Consciousness. An assemblage of synapse-rinsing bliss, the mix unfolds like an introduction to the eccentric mind of the Russian-born DJ. Combining the finest elements of dance with the hyped artists that ensconce the archetype, Dmitry attempts to display the fact that he is more than novelty.

Sure, the club-ready, pre-blow up samples are ever present, but as witnessed in the early ’90s period in which Deee-Lite thrived, this environment was more than welcome. So why not some time for a bit of thumping nostalgia? No worries, because your modern-day discotheque deities are all assembled, including Timo Maas and Luke Slater, who have both graced more compilations than Boy George and other ’80s rehashes. A straight hard-house record with little breathing room, in the vein of Carl Cox, Scream is the validated statement of a tried and true DJ who strives to main relevance in our über-judgmental 21st century.

TVT Records, 23 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003; http://www.tvtrecords.com

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Music Reviews

Guided By Voices

Guided By Voices

Isolation Drills

TVT

Dylan had Self Portrait, The Stones Satanic Majesties. It seems inevitable that once you practice your craft for as long as Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices have, you are gonna hit a lull in the level of your output. Isolation Drills is that record.

Although much grousing was heard from the faithful about the last release, the Ric Ocasek-produced Do The Collapse, that album was actually quite enjoyable, in a big rock, nifty made for radio keyboard sorta way. It added some classic tunes to the GBV cannon — “Teenage FBI” and “Surgical Focus,” to name a few. Plus the band got some much-needed recognition in the mainstream press, which should keep the wolf from the door for awhile. It was a busy year for things Pollard. Numerous solo releases, EPs, and touring kept the former Dayton, Ohio schoolteacher occupied.

Perhaps too occupied. Isolation Drills has the feel of a rushed, unfinished record to it. Relying on the power chord riffage of Doug Gillard in lieu of melodies, the record starts at one tempo, continues at one tempo, and ends the same way. Pollard has always worn his influences on his sleeve — everyone from The Who and The Kinks to bubblegum pop — but he’s always been able to add that special GBV seasoning salt to it all, so while the song might conjure up images of Pete Townshend doing a windmill, the lyrics were in Charles Bukowski-land. For this record, Bob seems to be stuck in the tour bus listening to the bland, big guitar and drum tedium that passes for “alternative rock” these days. Whatever lyrical madness he might have added to the stew is lost, mainly because Rob Schnapf (producer for Beck and Elliot Smith, among others) has the vocals mixed so damn low that Pollard’s voice is smothered. He sounds tired.

Perhaps, like many before them, Guided By Voices is just not a band that operates well in the full-on glare of public acceptance. Maybe they need to return to the quiet seclusion of underground pop and churn out classic songs like “Hot Freaks,” “The Cut-Out Witch,” and the literally hundreds of others that Robert Pollard has penned in the past. While this record is annoyingly bland, one shouldn’t assume that it spells the end of the line for GBV. Because Robert Pollard is, it can be persuasively argued, a genius — one listen to Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes and the case is made. However, like geniuses before him — Dylan, Lou Reed, and others — he’s made a crap record. Not the end of the world, of course. But a sad day, nevertheless.

TVT Records, http://www.tvtrecords.com

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Music Reviews

Ignite

Ignite

A Place Called Home

TVT

I can’t quite make up my mind on these guys. They are inspired, to say the least. This CD is a collection of aggressive rock songs, some leaning more towards punk sounding. It is a pretty easy listen, with smooth progressions and tricky, serious lyrics. It almost sounds like one of those old metal singers trying to do punk at times. Every song is a soaring, dedicated effort. I liked the first track, “Who Sold Out Now?” It didn’t really inspire me to run around yelling, but they seem to be advocates for several causes. I’d like to hear more from them.

TVT Records, 23 East 4th St., Third Floor, New York, NY 10003; http:www.tvtrecords.com

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Music Reviews

Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes

Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes

Live at the Greek

TVT

Finally, 30 years after the fact, we get to hear Led Zeppelin music live the way Jimmy Page imagines it. Backed by the world’s ultimate cover band, the Black Crowes, Page is able to lay his lead guitar over the backing of Rich Robinson and Audley Freed, which, at three guitars, is still about four shy of the normal amount of guitars on any given Zeppelin track, but the songs on these two discs have rarely sounded better. By not having to shoulder the entire load himself, Page plays better than he has in years. At the same time, the Crowes, forced to stick in some measure to an accepted song structure, are able to unite toward a common goal, saving the listener from their endless jams of years past. Chris Robinson brings a healthy dose of Steve Marriott to the table, sounding appropriately like a cat with its tail stuck in a door.

What is even better about this set is the song selection. We get live versions of “Ten Years Gone,” “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” “Sick Again,” songs not normally heard very often. No “Rock and Roll” or thank god, “Stairway.” The opening double punch of “Celebration Day” and “Custard Pie” is incredible – “Celebration,” with its furious wail of guitar, and the shuttering rhythms of “Pie” are stellar, and set the bar pretty damn high. The rest of the set exceeds it. By the end of the second disc, with the band plowing into Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” Elmore James’ “Shake Your Money Maker,” or “Mellow Down Easy,” ending it all with a massive “Out on the Tiles”/”Whole Lotta Love” medley, you get the feeling this is the band Page has been wanting since the early days of Zeppelin. He just had to wait for some of them to be born.

TVT Records, 23 East 4th St., Third Floor, New York, NY 10003; http:www.tvtrecords.com

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Music Reviews

Esham

Esham

Bootleg (From the Lost Vault) – Vol. 1

TVT

At the musical crossroads of Too Short’s gangsta flow, Alice Cooper’s theater-of-the-macabre bravado, Funkadelic’s crushing funk grooves, Zapp’s electro-funk wobble, and Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack to The Omen, Detroit’s Esham talks a perverse and disturbing game as hip hop’s Glenn Danzig, with a back catalog as deep as his legacy. Since 1990, Esham has been a pioneer in the notoriously hit-or-miss sub-genre of “horrorcore rap,” a stylistic detour birthed by Esham, perfected by the Gravediggaz, and mercilessly destroyed by the Insane Clown Posse.

Although the always-venomous Esham often fumbles inarticulately and shies from using his graphic shock tactics and violent imagery as metaphorical representations for social commentary, his intensity is unmatched in most rock circles, his revolutionary, metal-influenced production truly rocks the bells, and this collection of hits, misses, odds, and sods from all stages of Esham’s career is furiously explicit enough to expose a certain Esham-biting Insane Posse as the banal, unnecessary clowns they really are. Despite his mind-bogglingly prolific output (11 albums in 10 years!), the devilish Esham manages to accomplish hip-hop’s near-impossible feat of remaining consistently engaging over a the course of a career, creating a cohesive mix of both futurism in his old-school raps and nostalgia in new-school jams. 1990’s “Redrum” has the lo-fi swagger of shoot-straight, blunted, James Brown-induced funk-hop (pre-dating DJ Muggs) under the unorthodox influence of calliope noise, 1993’s “KKKill the Fetus” combines Bomb Squad-esque tinny noisiness with creepy understated piano runs, and 1999’s “Outcha Atmosphere” displays a vocodered “paranoid android” juxtaposing Witchdoctor bounce with frightful minor-key ambiance straight out of The Exorcist. Over this murderous mess, Esham spits angry acid-rap missives that makes funky fun out the austere.

Despite the perplexingly misleading “bootleg” title, this collection of Esham classics is a solid introduction to the bloody path this murderous MC has stabbed into the hip hop map.

TVT Records, 23 East 4th St., Third Floor, New York, NY 10003; http:www.tvtrecords.com