Archive for December, 2014

Happy New Year everybody. Thanks for checking out MUSIC-SURCIVAL-GUIDE over the last couple of months. I hope to be able to bring you a lot more musings in 2015! For my last post for the last day of 2014 I want to leave you with 2 songs…

One, appropriately enough is “New Year’s Eve” from Nina Gordon (Veruca Salt). This is from her first solo record, Tonight and the Rest Of My Life. This was the first we got from Nina after her departure from Veruca Salt in 1998. It is a fantastic record. Every song is punchy and sweet with really great lyrics.

The second, would have to be the obvious choice. The classic “New Year’s Day” by U2. They just don’t write ’em like this anymore! (Below is the video version and album version)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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I wasn’t quite sure I’d have time for a post this week. Things have been super hectic and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with a post on Christmas Eve. But I got it! So, here I go, no draft, no hours of re-reading or rewriting and mowing over ideas for the week…

My post is simple. I just want to share one of my most favorite Christmas songs with all of you. We hear the standards over and over. And then there are current pop artists that take their stab at Christmas music. But there is really no feeling behind a lot of it. With a Christmas song, there’s a certain vibe I want from it. For example, The Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. Whenever I hear any of those cuts I think of Winter, hot cocoa, ice skates, sweaters. I mean, as far as Holiday music goes, he nailed it.

In the mid 90’s I watched My So-Called Life. Hell, I LIVED My So-Called Life. It’s a brilliant show, was and still is. There is an episode called So-Called Angels. I cry every time I see it. In that episode Juliana Hatfield had a bit part as a homeless girl. She is overheard playing this beautifully sweet and painfully precious song in the music room of the school which she had snuck into for a break from the cold. The first time I heard the sweet melody in which she hums in this song I was whisked away. I was so drawn to this song. I had searched for it after the show and came up with nothing. Even as a young kid I loved to dig for music. A few years after I had discovered it on a great compilation called “You Sleigh Me!” which features Christmas songs by Collective Soul, Jill Sobule, Tori Amos and more. But right in the center of the disc sits this Juliana Hatfield song, “Make It Home.” The crowning piece.

This may be one of my favorite songs, and definitely one of my favorites from Juliana. So here, I am sharing it with you. The odds are good you may have never heard it before. If it is your first time take it in, close your eyes. This beautiful gift is here for you. If you know the song, then ya know what I mean. Would most consider this a “proper” Christmas song? Probably not, but like I mentioned earlier about the whole vibe thing, it’s here. It’s here in spades.

So, Happy Holidays. Be safe, have fun and enjoy the rest of the year however you may celebrate and add this song to one of your Holiday playlists.

(I’ve included the video portion from the MSCL episode above and below is the full recording. Enjoy.)

Last Tuesday The Smashing Pumpkins released a new record, Monuments to an Elegy. Did you know? Do you care? One of the biggest bands on the planet in the 90’s and you’re telling me you didn’t know? Perhaps you were once a fan and just got over it? Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie was all you invested in and felt after that things started to get a bit shaky…

No more D’Arcy, no more James, and even no more Jimmy. A few more bass girls later and then a little boy who flipped burgers winds up on drums and you had it, eh?

Well, I for one never gave up on the great pumpkin, Mr. Billy Corgan. I feel that he has still put out a lot of great music since that CherubRockBulletWithButterflyWings heyday. I’m often confused at how people “listen” to music. These once rock heroes are so easily abandoned. What was once relevant is no longer and vice versa. But who really has say in that? Granted Billy has said and done a lot of stupid and completely bizarre things over the years, including putting an ad in the Chicago Sun-Times years ago to get the Pumpkins back together after a few years dormant and a pretty unsuccessful solo venture to boot. In fact, the week of the release of this new SP record he was all over the net bitching and complaining about Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam, saying, “They just don’t have the songs…” Of course the backlash from fans on either side of the argument were less than flattering. But will something like this push Billy farther into obscurity? Who can ever tell…

Anyway, MY point is, that given sane or not, Billy still makes real good music, really. You gotta give it a chance. Things change, people change, life is tough man. These artists are under a microscope and scrutinized for everything. One wrong move, one weird chord…and you can be yesterday’s news. Boil it all down and he’s only human. WE ALL say and do stupid things, it’s just harder to take it back when you are a “former icon” and if you fart, that news makes the internet and next thing you know you are “trending”, and not in the good way, (even typing that word makes my skin crawl.)

Monuments to an Elegy cover

Monuments to an Elegy cover

But let’s cut to it. The new record, Monuments to an Elegy is great, great, great. It is absolutely the most digestible SP music in quite some time. The longest track on the LP clocks in at just 4:09 and the rest reside in the 3 some odd minute realm and boasts only 9 tracks. There is no 11-12 some odd minute epic. No bizarre lyrical journeys into madness. The songs are sweet and punchy and super well written. No reason at all that this cannot be another hugely successful Smashing Pumpkins record. Is it in the name at this point? Is that the cross that Billy will have to bear for the rest of his time as an artist because he still wants the band, his band, to exist being the only original member. Jeff Schroeder who has now been with Billy since 2007 continues to fill his role as guitarist. Hell, even Tommy Lee plays drums on this record, (yes, that Tommy Lee). So you know the musicianship is solid. You’ve got songs like “Being Beige” which is in the classic Pumpkins ballad vein with a kick. You’ve got “Run2Me” which to me can honestly be a top 40 pop song. Maybe he should have sold that one to One Direction or something and it could have been huge. Every song on Monuments is great. It’s an easy listen and quite frankly I’m sure you’ll let it spin back around for another. Maybe “Run2Me” was your fave first time round but then you get pumped over the 70’s tinged “Anaise!” giving a bit of a nod to Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” with its punctuated bass line being the star of the show.

Billy Corgan & Jeff Schroeder

Billy Corgan & Jeff Schroeder

Love him or hate him. Billy is great at what he does. His voice may be an acquired taste, yup, absolutely. His imaginative song titles may leave one to think he’s too high on himself. But every true artist is just a bit, right? I really hope that people will give this and new Smashing Pumpkins music a fair shot. All you Gish and Siamese babies are missing out. It’s true. I’m still in your corner Billy!

SP Logo

SP Logo

XTRMST

Posted: December 10, 2014 in Blog, Music, Xtrmst
Tags: , , , , , ,

So, to have to “introduce” you to AFI would be something that sounds pretty silly being that they have been around since 1991 give or take and have had a few huge records in the past decade, specifically Decemberunderground which debuted at number 1 on Billboard in 2006…I say this because I want to get into a side project of Davey Havok and Jade Puget’s. Davey as you know has become an iconic singer and Jade, guitarist for AFI has proven over the last 8 years or so that he has become quite a force to tangle with both as a musician and producer.

The duo has ventured into another side project called XTRMST, different than AFI and the exact opposite of the duo’s other outing Blaqk Audio which is a dancey electronic venture.

Xtrmst album cover

Xtrmst album cover

XTRMST will go to show you that Davey still “has it” so to speak. People have complained for years how AFI left their punk roots, sold out, etc…I for one prefer what AFI has turned into, starting with the masterpiece Sing the Sorrow (2003) and onward.

XTRMST is an exercise in straight-edge hardcore turned up to 11. Mr. Havok has never sounded so full of rage, and it’s absolutely refreshing. Spitting “I fire on all five senses” in song “Extremist” and just letting us have it throughout the entire 14 tracks clocking in at 33 some odd minutes. Jade Puget’s guitar work has become something that really stands on its own, brilliant, subtle and complex at the same time. He has taken the horse by the reigns here, writing all the music, producing, recording and engineering. Same as he does with the Blaqk Audio records, Davey handling all the vocal and lyrical abilities. (Jade even wrote all the music for AFI’s latest offering, Burials)

Lyrically, XTRMST is absolutely letting you know that this is a certain kind of record if you will. Touting the straight-edge lifestyle to the nth degree, Davey and Jade both being as such and also vegans. “This is who I am!” screamed with conviction in opening track “Words for the Unwanted”. This is not an album made to draw in AFI fans; it’s specific in nature and in fact may even alienate some listeners. I myself am also straight edge and vegetarian and feel that a record like this is both appropriate and needed. Let’s face it, these guys don’t need to try and sell you a record. Here they are flaunting their art and expression and something they feel very strongly about.

The album was released a few weeks ago only on vinyl with a CD being included, but being very much an after thought. A small zine was also created to coincide with the record showcasing straight edge culture and people, artists, musicians that live this lifestyle. A video for “Conformist” was also released around the same time. The band will also be performing its first show this January in California. I’m hoping more dates will be announced…

XTRMST is dirty and dark, loud and powerful, running its nails down the backs of non believers and big talkers everywhere. “Raise the X!”

http://www.xtrmst.com

Honored again I am to present to you another Interview with yet another Musical Monster, Mr. Andee Blacksugar. In conjunction with the interview (below) I also had the luxury of hearing the forthcoming Black Sugar Transmission record, Violent Muses. At first, I wasn’t quite sure of the statement Andee was trying to make, but 2 or 3 listens in I realize more than ever that BST is a place where ghosts and glitter truly collide. A gloomy, uber pop delivered with snot-nosed integrity at its finest. There is nothing subtle about what Andee does and it becomes more evident with every musical offering.

“Muses” is buried in juicy synths, fuzzy guitar and layered vocals, with tidbits of sonic assaults throughout and blasts of guitar wizardry cutting through the wall of sound. It is not however a guitar record by any means, and Andee does not overdue his prowess, however, he also does not neglect to let you know that it’s very much there with tricky solos thrown into precise pieces of the songs.

A few standout tracks are, “Taboo”, “God Loves War” and “Watch The Windows” which drips with a futuristic romanticism. I almost wish it was the last track on the record rather than second to last.

All in all Violent Muses delivers what the cover suggests. It’s dangerous and provocative. In this world there is no “safe word”.

Black Sugar Transmission - Violent Muses Cover

Black Sugar Transmission – Violent Muses Cover

MSG – Hey Andee, thanks for taking the time out to share some words! Let’s take a quick history lesson here. Back in the late 90’s you really started to make your imprint in a band called pOp stAr kiDs, pounding the NYC pavement and slowly building a name for yourself. Tell us a bit about that band as it has become a little bit of a cult thing all these years later.

AB – P*S*K was a solo project (despite the plurality of the “band” name) that I was able to turn into a proper live group just in time for a first gig at the 2000 CMJ music conference. The debut album was a CMJ-charting college radio hit that year, so it was easy to get the showcase gig at the conference that fall. All I had to do was find a band! Which, luckily I did: JB, G$ and Pete Angel came on board and a year later Pete left and was replaced by Clancy. By that time I’d made the second album, again essentially a solo record, and in 2003 we made our best record, The Revenge Of P*S*K, as a band.

In 2006 we split up – which was sad, because we were a great band and great friends, but morale had started to wane and it felt like the right time to bow out.

MSG – After that you linked up with Acey Slade (Muderdolls/Joan Jett) and worked in his project called The Dark Party. Can you tell us how you came to work with Acey?

AB – I met him at P*S*K shows; at the time he was playing in Dope and he and Andre (aka Virus) came out to see us a few times, including a great CBGB gig. Anyway, Acey and I stayed in touch over the years and in 2008 he emailed to ask if I’d play on a new solo track. I said “sure”, then ended up playing on pretty much the whole album. He and producer Shaun Morris had come up with some catchy electro-rock tunes and I did my parts in my apartment during an unbelievable heat wave. So there’s some real sweat on that album! Anyway, later that year the Dark Party became a live band with Percy Trayanov and Chris Kling joining Acey and I.

MSG – During this time you also focused on your own writing with your somewhat solo outing Black Sugar Transmission. At first it seemed like a bit of a side project and now more of a focus. Within BST you do just about everything yourself from the writing, to producing, to mixing and all mostly out of your own apartment. Tell us about your songwriting approach and how you manage to do most everything on your own. Let us inside that brain a bit.

AB – BST was something I started immediately after P*S*K broke up and the idea was that it would be a solo project of sorts with the option of involving any number of other musicians. Kind of like a collective rather than a “band”. But it’s always been my absolute #1 creative priority/outlet. It’s where I get to make the music I hear in my head.

It’s nice because I can work at my own pace (which is fast) and on my own time, in my pyjamas if I want, and then bring outside performers in later if I see fit.

The writing process itself varies: sometimes an idea falls out of the sky and hits me on the head while I’m walking down the street; other times a song comes from picking up a guitar, but mostly these days I start building ideas in the computer and developing them instrumentally. The ones that end up the most sonically, harmonically and melodically compelling get picked for further development (vocals and lyrics). Bringing in other players/singers is always the last piece in the puzzle.

MSG – The last year and a half has been pretty amazing for you. From releasing your own awesome Black Sugar Transmission records and putting together a live BST band to becoming the guitarist for the legendary Peter Murphy (Bauhaus) and touring the world with him. How did the opportunity with Peter come about? What’s it like working with him and what were some of the initial challenges?

AB – Acey had gotten wind of the guitar slot in Peter’s band opening up, and he recommended that they contact me. Peter went on Youtube, watched some of my videos and offered me the gig. No audition, just “can you fly to LA and start this tour in one week?” The initial challenge was to learn 30 Bauhaus songs in three days. And it was certainly a challenge which I took very seriously because that’s very iconic guitar work on those records and the fans of that music are religious about it. So I worked really hard to capture the “Daniel Vibe”.

I did the remaining 20 shows of the “35 Years Of Bauhaus” tour in California, Russia, China, Australia and NZ last year, and this year in June we started the LION tour and a set list that comprised tunes from Peter’s solo catalog. So far it’s been a lot of fun and Peter’s been easy to work with. He allows me to play guitar the way I play guitar and gives plenty of praise, onstage and off.

MSG – Back to your own music, you’ve done everything from Remixes to TV/Movie soundtracks. Do artists contact you for Remixes? How about TV? Tell us some of your favorite experiences doing that kind of work. And some other musical projects you kick about, (Sheer Velocity, Sword Fight, iGOD.)

AB – As for remixes, sometimes the artist comes to me – dUg Pinnick has asked me to remix a couple of his solo tunes, for instance. And a gal named Chrissy Shefts, who played guitar on Seal’s massive debut album and now is in a band with Tony Sales (Iggy Pop, Bowie) had me do my thing with her new single, which will be out soon. Other remixes I do strictly for fun, like the GusGus and TV On The Radio ones.

As for TV, I have an agency that pimps my music to the networks. It’s a nice way to make money because I can let the songs do the work for me.

Sheer Velocity is my all-instrumental, guitar-centric, self-indulgent, musically absurdist alter-ego. It’s a musical letting-off-of-steam, sort of like hitting a punching bag or going to a shooting range. It’s all about getting my ya-yas out on the guitar. I make a ridiculous amount of that music, and put one or two albums’ worth on Bandcamp each year.

MSG – 2015 seems to already be a cool year for you starting with the release of another Black Sugar Transmission record, Violent Muses. How do you feel about this record? What are your plans for it and how do you juggle that and working with Peter now?

AB – I’m really excited about Violent Muses! I came off the road in early September and found myself with several months of essentially free time, so I immediately started working on an album. With the exception of two songs, I wrote and recorded the whole thing between September and November. My plan is to release it in early 2015 along with a record release gig with the band, which now consists of Ava Farber, John Clancy (from P*S*K!) and me.

I have no idea when more Peter Murphy touring will happen, but I am essentially on call. There are plans to do Europe next year but nothing’s been booked yet.

MSG – You’ve made quite the name for yourself as a guitar genius over the years. Anyone that has seen you play knows the skill that you bring to the table. Not only can you shred, BUT you are an excellent songwriter as well. How long have you been playing? Are you self taught? And how long did it take you to become the speed demon you are today?

AB – Thanks! I’ve been playing for more than half my life, but I hit my ceiling, speed-wise, fairly early on. What takes a long time to achieve is your own voice on the instrument. I’ve come leaps and bounds in that department over the last decade by getting deeply into exotic scales, atonality and unusual effects. And yes I’m self-taught.

Andee Blacksugar

Andee Blacksugar

MSG – Tell us a bit about your gear, from guitars to pedals to software. What are your weapons of choice? And do you consider yourself a gear head like so many people out there today.

AB – I am so NOT a gear head! Talking about speakers, tubes and potentiometers bores me to tears. That said, my main guitar is a custom job, which has essentially replaced my trusty old workhorse Stratocaster as my Number One. My good friend Tom King (Atomic Amps) helped me pick out the parts and he designed the headstock, too.

Pedal-wise, I am a big Eventide user. They make phenomenal sonic tools and they’ve been very good to me. Pedals are my favorite aspect of guitar gear. It’s where the ear candy really happens. I also must mention Fractal Audio’s AxeFX2, a world-class digital amp modeller/effects unit which I have used for every stitch of guitar I’ve recorded since 2008 or so. They also take great care of me, as do the folks at DiMarzio pickups.

I use Cubase 5 for my DAW and have an AKG mic. That’s about it, no fancy pre-amps or anything.

MSG – What else do you have planned for the coming year Andee? Share some stuff that’s on the horizon for you, BST, Peter Murphy and whatever other adventures are set to unravel.

AB – My only plans for 2015 are to get Violent Muses out there, play some shows with BST and whatever touring Peter Murphy has in store.

MSG – And, like me, you are a music lover first and foremost. Hit us with some bands/records that we should check out. Throw some of your favorites our way!

AB – Recent faves: Niki & the Dove, Dum Dum Girls, Phantogram, Sunn O))), Fantomas, Little Boots, Little Dragon, MIA, Roisin Murphy, Santigold, Autechre, The Sea & Cake, The Knife, Squarepusher, The Netherlands, Actress, Bassnectar, GusGus, Deerhoof, DFA1979

To experience some of Andee’s music please visit his bandcamp site:

http://blacksugartransmission.bandcamp.com/

(END TRANSMISSION)