dinsdag 28 februari 2017

A Wizard A True Star. Todd Rundgren + Meat Loaf/The Beatles/Jimi Hendrix/The Analogues

On a day in February an email arrived. From it a wide ranging discussion developed that is more than interesting to follow. It all started with an album by Todd Rundgren that I personally had never heard of, but that had made a lasting impression on two British, then late teenagers. A digital conversation started under the title "Hot Todd-y"

8 February, Mark
Guess what is No.1 on Uncut magazine's list of "101 weirdest albums of all time"!  A Wizard, a True Star! Described as "....whimsical and depraved, polished and crude, lush and abrasive, hard rock and showtunes" which pretty much captures its tremendous scope I guess!

This prompted me to pull out my copy which I see I noted on the lyric insert I bought on the last day of my teenage years on 25 October 1974 - after its merits had been extolled by a fellow student at University College London who was studying............psychology! 25 October is the date on the watch illustrated on the insert. AWATS has been, um, periodically exhumed over the last 42 years. Some of it predicts Purple Rain Prince in its dense echo-y fearsome ballads and guitar histrionics. Have to play these loud. He got a bit carried away with the synth histrionics. I didn't realise "Cool Jerk" is in 7/4 time: maybe you did if you tried to air-drum along to it.

Copying to Wout in case he is a fan of classic Runt and also wishes to celebrate AWATS. 

"We were on our way to a better day
And the spirit was in us all....."*

* From "Sons of 1984" on the other Runt masterpiece "Todd" - it all makes sense now

8 February, Gary 
Thanks Mark,

As you know I am a huge Rundgren fan, the man was/is a genius and albums like AWATS will seem weird in the same sense Dali or Piccaso  were first perceived by Jo Public, like them it takes just a little effort to see what Todd is trying convey.

I get AWATS out to play at least once a month either on vinyl or digital.... Todd can write or cover many styles with supreme mastery, I really believe he does not differentiate between styles of music, he just plays what he likes and what inspires him.

I read an interview with TR many years ago where the interviewer praised his amazing guitar technique and just how fast he was, his reply was so typically thoughtful. "Making a reputation as a heavy guitarist is too much of a hassle, like being a gunfighter in the Old West, everybody always trying to cut you. I envision myself developing into … something else."

TR is of course a multi instrumentalist, composer, song writer, lead and backing vocalist (amazing harmony skills) and producer. He is also one of the first innovators of digital art, both musical, visual and performance.

Always searching for spiritual meanings in his life, he doesn't suffer fools easily! Always principled and looking for the good in everyone. He adopted the baby Liv Tyler when her mother broke up with Steve Tyler, in a TV interview Liv Tyler said that she always thinks of TR as being her real dad even if Steve Tyler was biologically her father. Touchingly she said that a cuddle with TR when she was unhappy always made her feel safe again. I think that gives some insight into the humanity of the man.

Listen to his albums over the years, they are always striving for something new and innovative, sometimes they do not work (at least for me), eg 'With a Twist' and 'Disco Jets', but most are just pure genius.....

A new TR album is like getting a present at Christmas time, so exciting to open, but just a tiny worry that it just might be a ghastly pair of socks!

9 February, Gary

Wo.: I do not want to withhold this sub-text in the email: "Sent from a manifestation of Steve Jobs' vision!"

10 February, Wo.
Hello Gentlemen,

Unfortunately I have to totally abstain here, as the phenomenon Todd Rundgren has totally passed me by. I will go to Spotify and try the album out soon. I have never even heard of it I'm afraid. Something to catch up on.

10 February, Gary provides Wo. with a lesson in late 70s rock 
If you know Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell, then you would have heard him as he not only produced the album but he also played all the best guitar parts and took part in the backing vocals!


Also checkout TR's band Utopia:

I envy you, you have some great times ahead listening for the first time to the 'Runt'!


12 February, Wo.
I had forgotten that, actually, that Rundgren produced Meat Loaf. In those days I wasn't really a fan of the most famous song from the album, but from the 80s in my student days, we sang and danced to it right up to today. Loads of fun. Of the guitar parts I was totally unaware though. 

12 February, Gary
I forgot to mention that the original by the Capitols and other covers were in 4:4   TR decide to give the "Jerk" a 'jerkier' feel by playing it in 7:4! 

12 February, Mark, who also sidetracks the discussion to an exhibition he visited in in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London

As for checking out Todd's own albums, I don't recommend starting with "A Wizard A True Star". It is a non-stop 50 minute assault on the brain: an unrelenting, at times heavily synthed, wall of sound, roller-coaster ride through many genres of music: that is why it is no.1 in the weirdness stakes, a notch ahead even of Captain Beefheart (but I hasten to add more melodic). The record's more sublime, subtle and soulful moments do not start to shine through until after a few plays.

So it's better to start with the next album he did which is a double l.p. meisterwerk called simply "Todd." This has a more conventional approach to song sequencing and the slower ballads like "The Last Ride" and the anthemic "Sons of 1984"  take your breath away - and they haven't dated in the 40 odd years since they were recorded . Like the dyed hair sported on the cover, he was quite ahead of his time and inspired Bowie and Prince who both sought him out at that time before they hit the big time. However, while diehard fans like Gary have rightly stood by him, he rarely reached that mid-70s peak again and was later written-off by many as an irascible American prog ego-maniac who did not really understand new wave, was no longer bankable on the global concert circuit and fell out with the younger artists he was asked by the record labels to produce.

That reminds me that Todd Rundgren had a much publicised spat with John Lennon via correspondence in the Melody Maker who he accused of trying to change the world "with an elpee's worth of toons" as the song on "Todd" goes. This at a time when Lennon was getting a lot of flak for singing "Imagine no possessions" while living at his Ascot mansion in (which he left for a very modest Bank Street apartment on south Manhattan during his pre-Dakota agit-prop "Some Time in New York" days).  Lennon called him Sodd Runtlestuntle - that was funny, but the exchange is grim reading about and losing trust  in heroes and the crash-landing of dreams of youth. (If you want the dirt, read  http://trconnection.com/trconn.php/article=lennon.arte ).

Yesterday at an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum I saw the jacket that Lennon wore when singing All You Need Is Love on what I think was the first (and only?) global satellite-linked up TV show called "Our World"  Each country had to produce a cultural highlight: Spain offered Picasso, and for us well, J, P, G & R were up for it - and, amazingly after only one rehearsal of the song, stole the show. They were told to come up with something positive: a pity not enough people around the world listened hard enough to the lyrics. The Soviet bloc pulled out of the show at the last moment of course otherwise the Fabs might have had the Red Army Choir for competition. I don't know what the Dutch came up with: hope it wasn't Father Abraham.

Intermission by Wo.
(According to this source (http://www.fransmensonides.nl/fhm162.html) the answer is none. NL broadcasted the show between 20.00 and 22.00 hours on 25 June 1967, without its own submission. Father Abraham scored his first hit in 1971 with his Seven Sons (Zeven Zonen), after having penned/produced a few for others before that.)

The V&A  exhibition was "You say you want a revolution?" (from another Beatles lyric you'll instantly recognise of course) which was an intense trip though sixties culture and counter-culture via Carnaby Street, Haight-Ashbury, Itchycoo Park and Expo 67, hand-in-hand with Sgt.Pepper (John and George's suits for the album photo shoot were also on show), Godard, Ginsberg, Greer, Quant, Twiggy, early Scorcese, and assorted draft dodging, merry pranksters, listening to pirate radio, clutching well-worn copies of Tolkien and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and ending up sprawled out on fake grass (green variety) with Jimi at Woodstock on a giant screen (yes, we're still in the museum). They also had on show a couple of Jimi's guitars (and what was left of one), Jagger's jumpsuit, Keith Moon's much-bashed drum-kit and Roger Daltrey's tasseled top. You can now visit Hendrix's London apartment by the way: now restored as a time capsule of an era when musicians dreamed they could change the world - which brings me back to another quite poignant song on "Todd:" actually:

"A million old soldiers will fade away 
But a dream goes on forever
I'm left standing here, I've got nothing to say
All is silent within my dream".

So I'll shut up for now, except to say: best regards

It did not stop here. The discussion continued under the title "Revolutionary photographs".

12 February, Mark
Photo: Mark Carvell
Photo: Mark Carvell

A couple of photos I took (furtively) at the V&A exhibition yesterday : Jimi's jacket and 2.5 of his guitars; and......"it was fifty years ago today"..... 

12 February, Gary
I note that the Les Paul is not stringed up for a left hander (unlike the Fender Stratocaster)! 

12 February, Mark
Very sharp-eyed! The Gibson is definitely Hendrix's which you can check from this article:
http://uniqueguitar.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/the-many-guitars-of-jimi-hendrix.html  - he had at least two Les Paul's and you'll see it's the 1955 model: click on the link for a photo of of him playing it, upside down of course. Though he was "mix-handed" using his right hand for some things like the phone, he always played guitar left-handed. Maybe this Gibson is played by the current right-handed owner so it is not always a static museum piece strung as Jimi would have had it.

Have you been to his flat in Brook Street (near Bond St tube)? Quite an experience (ahem....). Everybody who was anybody would come round to hang out with him. There is a story George Harrison crashed out on the stairs one night. There are a couple of his guitars on display - and his records: lots of Dylan and blues stuff - Elmore James, Muddy Waters, - and jazz and classical: he used to buy his records at HMV in Oxford Street. The main room is all refurbished exactly as you see it in the original photos of him there. 

12 February, Gary
No I haven't been, maybe we should meet up in London a visit it later in the year? Maybe Wout can join us if he is London? And of course the same building was inhabited by Fredrick Handel a few hundred years before!

Regarding Jimi playing right hand guitars upside down, I understand he used to play right hand bass as was made! 

13 February, Mark
I went last year: I was recommending it to you guys really. 

13 February, Wo.
The Jimi flat is certainly on my list for when I'm in London (long enough). I did have the chance to go to ESP in Seattle, a sci-fi building that houses what remained of the plan to build a Jimi museum there, in 2003. It became a part of a history of pop music for north western U.S. Dresses of the Wilson sisters of Heart, that sort of thing. The highlight was a letter by J. Edgar Hoover asking his people to find out what the lyrics to Louie Louie by The Kingsman were, as he couldn't understand the singer and the message just had to be subversive.

I was walking around in my The Walkabouts t-shirt of a tour a few years previous, now over 20 years. One of the stewards spoke to me that he used to be a musician to and had lost in a local contest to The Walkabouts somewhere mid 80s. Great little, irrelevant stories.

Jimi's grave in Renton is a hideous monument paid for by the family after they finally got hold of the rights to his music.

So far my small contribution on things Jimi.

@Mark, thank you for your advice. I think I'm going of the deep end anyway, as that is where this conversation started. 

Comment Wo.:
That left me with only one thing to do really, jump off the deep end and listen to 'A Wizard A True Star'. Man, there isn't a lot that prepares a person for an aural trip like this album. Zappian madness taken to the extremes, soul, strange musical experiments and beautiful music. It all come by and more, much, much more. Impossible to take in in one listen session. Does the album deserve more sessions, definitely. Does it invite to do so? That question is a lot harder to answer.

13 February, Wo.
As to The Beatles.

Two weeks ago I went to see The Analogues again. Doing 'Sgt. Peppers...' integrally in a phenomenal way. They talked about touring England in the near future. Believe me, a must see. My review is on the blog ca. 4 February, should you need convincing. http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2017/02/the-analogues-plays-sgt-pepper.html 

They also mentioned that on 1 June there is worldwide "it was 50 years ago today" fest planned. The Analogues will play in Amsterdam they said, although there's nothing announced formally yet. Something to keep an eye out for also.

And so a fascinating conversation ended. With interesting tips for exhibitions, albums, live shows and a great love for music in general.

I thought. Two P.S.s arrived:

22 February, Mark 
Back to the music: for the one stop shop CD fans in your audience there is a 2cd anthology provocatively entitled following his meteoric decline "Go Ahead Ignore Me" which I bought in 1999 when I was still curious about how cds sounded. It does the business and seems to be still available: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Best-Todd-Rundgren-Ignore-Anthology/dp/B00000IBEK .

23 February, Gary
Enjoy listening to TR…. Coincidently I am playing every TR/Utopia album via Spotify whilst I do my housework chores… a much more pleasurable experience! 

Gary Hunt
Mark Carvell

For those who can't wait to learn what started all this: AWATS is on Spotify.

maandag 27 februari 2017

Little Seeds. Shovels & Rope

Michael Trent en Cary Ann Hearst uit Charleston, South Carolina, zijn niet alleen een paar, maar vormen sinds 2008 ook het duo Shovels & Rope. Dat heeft inmiddels een aantal platen opgeleverd, waaronder het onlangs verschenen Little Seeds.
Little Seeds werd me meerdere keren zeer enthousiast aanbevolen, maar de plaat is nog veel beter dan ik op basis van deze aanbevelingen kon vermoeden.
Er zijn binnen de Americana momenteel heel wat man-vrouw duo’s, maar geen van deze duo’s klinkt als Shovels & Rope.
Michael Trent en Cary Ann Hearst overtuigen op Little Seeds met een enorme hoeveelheid passie en energie. Deze wordt in een deel van de tracks ondersteund door opvallend rauw gitaarwerk. Met name in de wat stevigere songs zijn invloeden uit de punk net zo belangrijk als invloeden uit de folk en de country, maar Shovels & Rope kan ook diep onder de huid kruipen met ingetogen en indringende rootssongs vol melancholie. De sprong van garagerock stampers naar countryballads lijkt op het eerste gehoor wat groot, maar het voorziet Little Seeds uiteindelijk van veel energie en dynamiek.
Shovels & Rope moet het op haar vijfde plaat niet hebben van muzikale hoogstandjes. De instrumentatie op Little Seeds is rauw en meedogenloos of sober en intiem en in beide gevallen klinkt het lekker, maar worden vooral de stemmen van Michael Trent en Cary Ann Hearst fraai en trefzeker ondersteund.
Het zijn stemmen die in hun uppie waarschijnlijk niet zo heel bijzonder zijn, maar wanneer de twee muzikanten uit South Carolina samen zingen gebeurt er iets. In de ingetogen songs grijpt de emotie in de stemmen je bij de keel, terwijl de stevigere songs zoveel energie uitstralen dat alle vermoeidheid als sneeuw voor de zon is verdwenen.
In eerste instantie heb ik vooral genoten van de energieke, aanstekelijke en indringende songs van Shovels & Rope, maar omdat ik steeds meer gevoel hoorde in de vocalen, heb ik me uiteindelijk ook wat in de achtergronden van de plaat verdiept.
We maken allemaal wel eens wat mee, maar de verhalen die de basis vormden voor Little Seeds grenzen aan het ongelooflijke. Michael Trent en Cary Ann Hearst werden voor de opnamen van de plaat geconfronteerd met de geboorte van hun kind op de achterbank van een auto, de Alzheimer van de vader van Michael die vervolgens bij hen introk en de moord op een gezamenlijke vriend. Het verklaart de intensiteit van de plaat, die door deze achtergrond nog mooier en indrukwekkender is geworden.
Het heeft er voor gezorgd dat ik inmiddels compleet stuk ben van deze mooie en bijzondere plaat, die het echt verdiend om beluisterd en vervolgens gekoesterd te worden.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'I Know':


zondag 26 februari 2017

The Kik live met The Stangs. Patronaat, Haarlem vrijdag 24 februari 2017

Zoals ik al schreef in mijn recensie van 'Stad En Land' vorige maand, was ik heel erg benieuwd hoe dit deels veel rustigere reportoire zich zou vertalen naar het prodium en vooral zich zou verhouden tot de rest van het meer beat gerichte repertoire. De loftrompet die ik afstak op het derde The Kik album is overigens nog niet ingetrokken. Overrompelend mooi, subtiel en goed. Deze vrijdagavond was het zo ver. Het uur van de waarheid was daar. Met zoon trok ik voor de zesde keer richting The Kik, vol verwachting en vertrouwen in een prima avond.

Maar geduld werd gevraagd, want tussen The Kik en mij stond nog een nieuw Haags bandje zijn ding te doen. Hartstikke jonge gastjes die de jeugd van hun grootouders even dunnetjes overdeden. Een wat oudere vriend van mij praat vaak nostalgisch over de tijd dat in de Leidse binnenstad overal beatbandjes optraden waar hij en zijn tienervrienden naar toe gingen. De Kjoe, The Shoes, The Zipps, Cuby, de Earrings, The Haigs en heel
veel waar nooit meer iemand van gehoord heeft. Hij heeft het allemaal in de krochten van de binnenstad zien spelen. The Stangs spelen muziek zoals het toen gespeeld werd. Ruig, stoer, een beetje vies. Met een oude elektrische piano, een ruige gitaar en veel samenzang. Ik had de indruk dat The Stangs wat onrustig waren. Dat ze zoveel mogelijk wilden laten horen, dus nummers wat versneld afbliezen om het volgende in te kunnen zetten. Dat nam niet weg dat ze mij op een gegeven moment wel te pakken hadden met hun authentieke 60s, Nederbeat rockgeluid. Geen enkele reden tot onrust met andere woorden. Wat ik hoorde klonk niet alleen authentiek, maar ook zeer overtuigend. Als ik dat vergelijk met het vorige voorprogramma van The Kik, The Black Marble Selection, dan valt de keuze 100% op The Stangs. Zowel qua sfeer als qua nummers. Het enige wat dan jammer is, is dat als cover 'For Your Love' van The Yardbirds werd ingezet. Geweldig nummer, daar niet van, maar eer dan onze eigen helden als Haags bandje. Wie doet dat anders nog? The Stangs hebben een mini album uit, 'Parables'. Ik ben heel benieuwd.

Gordijn dicht, gordijn open en daar kwam The Kik op. Naast Dave von Raven stond een raar kastje. Tot mijn verbazing werd 'Telstar' ingezet en dat typische geluid van dat nummer kwam uit dat kastje! Uitleg volgde later. En zo werd Von Raven ook solist bij zijn bandje. Het was de opmaat naar meerdere instrumentals uit een ver rockverleden. Nu heb ik de tweede theatershow van The Kik, helaas, gemist, maar mijn indruk is dat deze instrumentale intermezzo's zijn overgebleven uit deze show. Inclusief de eerste synthesizer uit 1947, met al die bekende melodieën uit het begin van de jaren 60, zoals 'Telstar' en 'Runaway'. Lead gitarist Arjan Spies mocht zich geregeld heerlijk uitleven in deze The Shadows en surf gitaar wereld, want hoe deze, verder redelijk inwisselbare, nummers heten? Ik heb geen idee zodra 'Apache' voorbij gekomen is. Dat hier ontbrak, omdat het tempo er wel goed in zat.

Verder leidde The Kik ons geroutineerd door hun drie cds heen. (De vierde met Armand is een project apart, al werd het Armand nummer van hun eerste plaat, 'Want Er Is Niemand', voor het eerst live gespeeld in mijn bijzijn. Eindelijk!) Pas drie cds onderweg en er staat een ijzersterk repertoire. De nieuwe nummers passen er als hand in een nieuwe leren handschoen tussen. Het 60s pop en beat gevoel komt volledig tot leven. De rol van toetsenist Paul Zoontjes is door de synthesizer hobby van Von Raven en de gitaarantics van Spies iets kleiner geworden deze tour, maar zijn orgeltje/piano zit er altijd heel fijn onder. Bassist Marcel Groenewegen is zoals alle bassisten dienend en op de achtergrond, maar wie goed oplet hoort hem, zodra er een gaatje valt dat met een heerlijk melodietje opvullen en lekker meedansen met de door hem zelf gemaakte muziek. Drummer Ries Doms kan prima ingetogen drummen en gaat loos zodra het kan. Dave von Raven trekt heel veel aandacht met zijn praatjes, maar ondertussen staat er een enorm goede en strakke band achter hem die dat allemaal mogelijk maakt. Hij weet ook heel goed dat zij het zijn die dit mogelijk maken. Zoals de allerbeste teamsporters ook begrijpen dat het zonder de rest uiteindelijk niets wordt.

Hoogtepunten? Eigenlijk bestond het optreden uit een groot hoogtepunt. Wel werd ik heel erg verrast door dat nummer over die gitaarspelende kat, dat ik nogal afkraakte in mijn recensie van '2'. Dat eindigde in een enorm stuk gitaargeweld in de beste 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)' traditie. Ook dat nummer hoorde ik volgens mij voor het eerst live. Er was een nummer dat ik niet herkende, maar dat om me heen direct mee werd gezongen. WTF? In het refrein werd het duidelijk. In Haarlem werd Chefs' Special, wier bus wij bij toeval zagen staan langs de Leidsevaartweg op weg naar het optreden, nog eens geëerd. Ook in de versie van The Kik blijf ik het een draak vinden, sorry. Er kwam zelfs een intermezzo voor twee akoestische gitaren voorbij. Prijsnummer blijft 'Verliefd Op Een Plaatje', steevast het laaste nummer van de set. Ditmaal vooraf gegaan door vele beroemde intro's van andere nummers. Waar het intro van 'Verliefd Op Een Plaatje', naadloos inpaste. Een van de beste Nederlandse rock en roll nummers allertijden.

De kleine zaal van het Patronaat was vol of anders nagenoeg. Daarmee consolideert The Kik haar positie. Helaas blijft de stap naar de grote zaal uit. Een stap die overigens terecht zou zijn, want de band heeft de uitstraling, de muziek en de bezieling. Kennelijk is de muziek net teveel nostalgisch en op een ouder publiek gericht. Er waren  ouders met hun kinderen, maar bijna geen "kinderen" zonder hun ouders en dat is het verschil tussen die twee formaten. Mij hebben ze, mijn zoon ook, maar ik heb de toekomst niet meer.

Voor nu heb ik enorm staan genieten. Alles klopt aan The Kik, De verbreding die met 'Stad En Land' is gemaakt met andere jaren 60 invloeden dan beat werkt live en geeft een stuk authenticiteit. The Kik is iets meer een band met een eigen geluid geworden. Afgewisseld met de prima nummers van 'Springlevend' en in iets mindere mate '2', staat er een set van zeer hoogwaardige kwaliteir. The Kik live is een feest (der herkenning), een stukje muziekgeschiedenis, onderhoudend gekeuvel, prima muzikanten en zangers en geweldige muziek.

(Alle foto's van) Wo.

zaterdag 25 februari 2017

Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express live. Q-Bus Leiden, 23 February 2017, with Max Gomez

Was it the third or fourth time Chuck Prophet played the Q-Bus and if so when was the first time? Band and audience discussed for quite some time. From the first time I remember it was the first show of the tour, after picking up gear in Rotterdam's harbour and band members being really bothered by jetlag. There was the show that the band played too loud so that the mics were cut off from the sound system. Then there was a perfect show after 'Let Freedom Ring' and a mysterious email correspondence with my son in 2012 on a Q-Bus show that apparently never came off. Otherwise it would have been five. Fact is, I was present at all four. And again, Chuck Prophet and The Mission Express treated us to a true gift in the celebration of rock and roll in the widest sense possible.

Of course the show opened with the title song of the new album, that delightfully named 'Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins'. Sweet irony. Especially in combination with that other great title on the album 'Jesus Was A Social Drinker'. It wasn't hard to spot the fun Chuck Prophet had singing these lyrics. Prophet is one of the songwriters in rock today who still has an eye out for society in general and the unfortunate circumstances of his fellow man in particular. Like in 'Barely Exist': "When you barely exist, who's gonna miss you when you're gone". At the end of the show, the encore opened with a song by Bobby Fuller, closing the circle for the evening. Time to check the guy out!

Chuck Prophet and his band know every rock and roll trick in the book. His work is full of famous licks and turns. And then come all his own. Some great riffs, fantastic little melodies in between a chord change, some great guitar solos alternated between himself and co-guitarist James DePrato, who plays some mean and subtle slide guitar as well. At this point into his music it all seems to be without effort. As if these songs have always been there. In perfection laid on his doorstep. Probably the sign that a lot of work and effort went into the conception and especially the arranging of the songs.

Perfection. I'm touching on a word here that describes best what was going on in Q-Bus. This band is so good and the songs so right. The recurring feedback problem, was the only mishap of the evening, beyond the band's control. Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express played a perfect set and from my audience perspective flawless. The sound mix was perfectly balanced. As they say the band was steaming and the audience, very and beyond middle age, enthusiastic. Which clearly went both ways, inspiring both time and again.

Again 'You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)' was one of the absolute highlights of the show. Where on record, already from 2004, years older than I thought, it isn't even a very special song, on stage it becomes a beast. With its lazy rhythm, audience participation in the "You did" part, great solos and the bluesy "I got a letter this morning" switch. It goes on for hours it seems and not one second overstays its welcome. One big smile and moving of body parts to the rhythm.

This is one way in which Chuck Prophet honours his inspirations. The second is in 'Bad Year For Rock And Roll' in which he commemorates some of the departures from life in 2016. Through a cover by Leonard Cohen he made it even more tangible. Drummer Vicente Rodriquez switched to keyboards and got to make a nice introduction, if his mike had not been stolen away from him. Nice joke. My face as well as Chuck's is starting to show why we are losing the heroes we grew up with and inspired us to listen to music and make music. The kind of music that comes out so well in his own.

There seems to be no occasion any more where an American artist does not feel to have to apologise about the politics in his country. Whether on the building of walls, emigration, the big, white, very angry man in the White House, Chuck Prophet was no exception. During 'Wish Me Luck' I thought for a minute that he has the right family name after all. "Amen", praise the free spirit and decency. Wish us all luck. Yes, we live in interesting times. Time will tell what is up next.

The show that lasted for about two hours was preceded by an artist from Taos, New Mexico called Max Gomez. One man, one guitar and a lot of technical problems on the stage itself. Although it's been a while that I visited Q-Bus, it wasn't the first time that a solo, acoustic guitar has sound problems. So what is the cause? Gomez treated us to some fine singer-songwriter tunes and stories. The highlight was a song that no producer he worked with wanted to record, but he thinks is his finest. The bluesy song, I can't recall the title, sparkled, sizzled and was played with a great attack. Indeed the one that stood out. It is hard to stand out against what is to come up next. "Who has ever seen me before?", Gomez asked rightly. One hand went up somewhere in the back. Still, it wasn't hard to notice that a lot of people gave Max Gomez their attention in a well-willing way. The right thing to do, as he played a few fine tunes and had some nice stories in between. Let's hope Trump does know his geography for the sake of you New Mexicans. And Taos? Well, Max, there's this song by R. Dean Taylor. Perhaps a reason to cover it?

Coming back to Chuck Prophet. Veni, vidi, vici, those famous three Latin words cover it all. The rest is just me not resisting to write some more.

(All pictures by) Wo.

vrijdag 24 februari 2017

The World Is A Broken Toy. MJT

And thus the world has become. The good news is of course that most toys can be repaired or patched up and given a second lease on life. Let's hope that the same goes for the world.

About a year ago I reviewed the debut EP of MJT, 'Nightmares And Daydreams', a great rocking EP by a trio from NYC, that begged for more and that more is finally here.

On The World Is A Broken Toy, MJT takes the listener on a rocking trip once again. With the energy of Lenny Kravitz as I haven't heard from that artist since his single 'Are You Gonna Go My Way'. With Kravitz one of the main influences on MJT is mentioned if we look at the rock side of the equation. The soul and funk of Kravitz is less obviously within sight. The tempo is up until we reach the second half of this EP when MJT presents us with ballads.

It's a strong sound and rock song with which The World Is A Broken Toy opens. 'Revolution', rocks out with loud, overdubbed guitars and a fiery Hammond organ, The drums pound on in the background with some strong fills. Whether the world needs a revolution right now or that it may be better if some level-headed people were more in control is matter of debate and preference. We might be watching a revolution of some sort in the U.S. on a daily basis after all. Fact is that 'Revolution' is the kind of song that every rockband dreams of to open its record with. A loud riff, with great accents, with the drum hitting all sorts of accents of its own, playing off the guitar riff. When the organ kicks in screaming, rockers know that this will not go wrong. And it doesn't. What a great rock song. DeWolff, Living Colour, Lenny Kravitz, Deep Purple it's all here and much more.

The rock feel is kept up when we progress into the EP. Now MJT once upon a time stood for Michael Jazz Trio, when the Godfrey brothers, Matt, David and Jo Jo, started out playing on Long Island. Is there nothing left from the band's starting days. Well, a little. Listen to 'Something Like Us'. It has a strong rock background, yet all sorts of influences shine through when I start listening beyond the obvious. First I notice a psychedelic vibe floating around. Beyond that the song has a very difficult texture. It is not as if every band in town will play this song in one go. Complex rhythm changes, stops and starts, lots of dynamics. Lenny Kravitz is there, certainly, but so is Living Colour, elements of progrock, Yes, all mixed into 4"39. The drumming has things I remember from Bill Bruford's solo record of circa 1980. MJT is rolling some musical muscle here and gets away with it easily. Where the famous progrock bands took 20 minutes to make their point, here it is in just over four and a half. Point made. Just wow.

'Broken Toys' is also a rock song, but much more dreamy. The pedal is of the gas. The urgency left behind, for part of the song. It has a great build up though. The music comes closer to Linkin Park, without the rap parts and keeps the prog elements without the near endless elaborations and explorations. Parts of the songs just seem to be floating. The mesmerising is rudely interrupted by the loud guitars and the pounding on the drums when MJT returns to its rock basis.

Not all is totally good on the EP though. The ballad, 'Tonight', feels somewhat strained I have to say. It seems not to have that assured delivery the other songs have. It is more on effect than an original idea is my impression. This is mostly in the vocal melody as I notice what is going on underneath is nice and varied. When the organ comes in e.g. is a part I really like. In 'Those Were The Days' the energy goes down does even more. An acoustic guitar takes over. The name Kravitz comes to mind again but also Yes in one of that bands ballads like 'Yesterday And Today', e.g. I am glad to return to the loud riffing at the start though when 'Those Were The Days' is over. That is where MJT is at its best, I have to mention.

MJT has come up with a second EP that I only could hope for. It's time for a full length album and a first sort of breakthrough. What I'm hearing holds everything rock lovers crave for. So go out and listen, now!


You can listen to the promo here:


donderdag 23 februari 2017

Blue Ceilings. The Franklin Electric

In the past weeks Blue Ceilings came by on one or another of my devices several times. Despite the fact that the music on the album is full of associations to other acts that have come and gone over the past decade and a half, I felt myself warming to the album more and more. So why does an album that is far from irregular attract me?

The easy answer is that it tickles my fancy and relates to things that I know and like. Fact is that it's not necessarily true. I have come to dislike Coldplay almost with a vengeance. Bands like The Boxer Rebellion hardly touch me at all. On the other hand I really like Half Moon Run. So it takes more than just tickling my ears here or there.

The Franklin Electric has a name that fits the bill for the music it makes. It could mean most anything, yet it has a dreamy quality to it and that fits the dream music, with a beat, long soundscapes in sound and a light form of tormented singing, that is its trademark. The second song on the album tells it all. 'Someone Just Like You' is the single as far as I'm concerned. It ought to appeal to all loving this sort of music. The tempo just propels the song forward. The drums are very dominant, while all around is aimed at melody. The bed where singer Jon Matte can sing his heart out over. It is also the odd one out on Blue Ceilings.

Promo photo
The Franklin Electric is a band from Montreal, Canada, that released its new album first in Australia. In a globalised world everything is possible and that undeniably has its advantages. The band toured there first, so it's a logical choice to profit from being there.

There actually is a company called Franklin Electric. It's from Indiana in the U.S. and sells water pumps around the globe. The man behind The Franklin Electric is singer and songwriter Jon Matte. Blue Ceilings is the band's second album after 2014's 'This Is How I Let You Down', an album that passed me by, like most albums invariably do.

In the past the band toured as support for acts like Ben Howard, City and Colour and Half Moon Run. So I'm not surprised at all that these acts are also references for the music on Blue Ceilings. Without touching that quality, imho. For that Blue Ceilings misses more than one song that really distinguishes itself from the pack. The indie-folk (rock) is mostly in the mid-tempo and has a filled, overfull mix. The feel of the album doesn't change a lot, which makes it uniform in sound.

Promo photo
This doesn't mean that Blue Ceilings isn't a pleasant album to listen to. It is however just that. It is safe, colours neatly within each and every line. On the other hand the music convinces me that The Franklin Electric stands for its music. It is sincere and has the quality to build its songs into little monuments. On top of that the voice of Jon Matte is laid out as the centrepiece of The Franklin Electric, which is a big plus. Finally I have to point out the keen eye for details the band has. It adds all these little extras like a rough sounding guitar in 'Burning Flame' or the oohs in the intro of 'Save Yourself'. Search for them and each song has these fine details to enjoy. More time spent with Blue Ceilings takes away from the perceived uniformity.

In short, Blue Ceilings is a nice album. Although it is far from original, there's enough here to enjoy for lovers of indie-folk (rock), who like their albums with a full, serious sound.


You can listen to 'I Know The Feeling' here:


woensdag 22 februari 2017

Happenings And Killings. Joe Volk

Joe Volk, now that is a name for these populist times. If there's one artist that ought to be extremely popular in this day and age just because of his name....

I just found out that Volk is around for quite some time, although this is his first solo effort. He has released six records with the band Crippled Black Phoenix and worked on film scores, TV work, etc. And as far as I know, all that music passed me by. Happenings And Killings hasn't thanks to the good people at Glitterhouse Records. This month the album is a year old. To me it is only a few weeks and I haven't stopped playing it since.

Joe Volk is from Bristol in the U.K., although he lives in Bern, Switzerland, nowadays. People familiar with the Bristol scene of the past circa 15 years will find several familiar names cooperating with Volk on Happenings And Killings. Now I'm not really a triphop fan so you won't catch me cheering loudly for that. I'm cheering the louder for what is going on on this album.

All going on on Happenings And Killings is of a subdued nature. Soft styled guitar playing and just as muted singing is the basis of things Joe Volk. Behind that basis a lot may be going on. Strong drumming, dark synths, more guitars, horns or woodwinds and above all a lot of atmosphere clinging to the sound of the individual instruments. This music has that little extra that the instruments and voice as such do not explain. As if the recording studio is an extra presence.

Promo Photo
This is where the story of Happenings And Killings starts. People who like to truly listen to an album, this is one that is designed to do just that. A singer-songwriter who doesn't need loads of extras to make his songs attractive to listen to. The songs are not bare, but there is not a lot of instruments involved. Things are kept to a minimum of sorts. A few sparse notes on a piano, may be all it takes to make it beautiful.

The name that comes to mind most is Midlake (and behind that always The Moody Blues) and I Am Oak, e.g. in 'The Thief Of Ideals'. Joe Volk is able to conjure up that same dreamy atmosphere where I can submerge myself in. The David Gilmour led Pink Floyd also is a reference. Let me finally name Fink. That ought to be enough references for this fairly unique album.

Promo Photo
The opening song, with a strange title, 'Bampfylde Moore Carew' is an example of how things work on Happenings And Killings. It's just an acoustic guitar I hear, I think, but somehow it's as if other things are leaking in through my walls. The guitar plays a strong repetitive melody, the basis of what's going on. The drums come in, providing a strong backbone to the song, before Joe Volk joins with his soft, dreamy voice. Slowly moody notes are sprinkled over the song, making it a little ominous. "She was fine", Volk sings. So, is she still?, I ask myself. The music seems to say something different. What an extremely beautiful song. Slowly it is sprouting in all sorts of directions, without losing the riff and that drums. That firm basis is never wavered from.

Happenings And Killings keeps up this level of making music easily. It's a soft album, that begs being played louder. That's when the details come out and makes the album come totally alive. There is so much to discover in what seems like a stern and moody album. The sparse, yet strongly noticeable use of electronics and synthesizers, gives the album something extra, accents the subdued, serious mood, sets it in bloom. Even if it is with the dark roses of funerals and decay, in bloom it is.

The moment that all changes is when that fabulously muted guitar part in 'These Feathers Count' kicks in. It comes with a lot of rhythm and Volk sings much more direct. The drums go into double time and a distorted guitar joins as well, making 'These Feathers Count' one of the most direct songs on the album. 'Is Pyramid' is another one. A great rock song amid a sea of tranquillity, at least musically.

With that basically all is told. How an artist that I had never heard of before, who is around as an artist for most of this century, surprised and hooked me to his album. A year late, but better late than never. Joe Volk is in my book alright. Happenings, killings and all.


You can listen to 'Soliloquy' here:


or buy the album at the lable here:


dinsdag 21 februari 2017

Dark Rosie live. Café Hart, Haarlem 19 Februari 2017

Photo: Wo.
Gluren Bij De Buren. Wat een leuk concept. Alleen in Haarlem al 275 concerten op 92 locaties. Dus hoeveel zijn dat er door het hele land heen? Het idee is een band of artiest neer te zetten in een huiskamer of bescheiden locatie, zoals het café van Hart, het cultuur centrum van Haarlem. Daar speelde Dark Rosie, een band met contra-bas, klassieke gitaar, accordeon en een snaren wonder. De zangeres leidt de muziek vocaal, ondersteund door twee heren voor de harmonieën.

Het valt, voor mij, niet mee om een label te plakken op de muziek van Dark Rosie. Het is veel van alles. Aanvankelijk dacht ik een Franse chanson te horen, associërend aan Grace Jones' 'I've Seen That Face Before' dan, maar dat bleek in het tweede nummer al niet meer te kloppen. Misschien dat Europees de lading dan het beste dekt. Ingetogen zigeuner muziek in een jazzy badje waarin voldoende pop elementen zijn geroerd om het water geurend te laten schuimen. Zoiets. Maar Spaanse invloeden zijn ook niet te ontkennen en, en, ....

De teksten, de meeste nummers waren aangekondigd als nieuw, waren op één nummer na in het Nederlands. Verhalend, vaak met een humoristische achtergrond of basis gegeven. Dat kan een roze hotel of de avonturen met een rot kat zijn.

Photo: Wo.
Muzikaal ligt de lat hoog. Twee oren en een luisterbeurt waren niet altijd genoeg om alles te duiden wat er plaatsvond. Een brug in een nummer die de zwoele flow ernstig onderbrak om daar toch weer moeiteloos in uit te komen was geen uitzondering. Een solo tegelijk op gitaar en accordeon gespeeld, dat het beste van Zappa in herinnering oproept. Subtiele dobro noten op een stevige achtergrond. Een uitzonderlijk dwars in het gehoor liggend intro, dat uitmondde in een prachtige, vloeiende melodie.

Voor een openbare oefensessie, zoals de set werd aangekondigd, niet helemaal serieus, klonk het fantastisch. Dark Rosie maakt geen muziek die tot direct inhaken leidt, maar wie zich laat meevoeren, maakt een muzikaal avontuur mee. De luisteraar scheert langs randen heen, waar een enkele doorn verstopt zit tussen de weelderigheid van rozen, zo rood als de jurk van de zangeres. Ja, geprikt worden is niet fijn, maar het avontuur is des te spannender. Dark Rosie biedt precies dat.

Wil je meer weten over de band en waar ze de komende maanden spelen, check dan hun website:



maandag 20 februari 2017

Vagabond Saint. Angelina

Angelina is een jonge Britse singer-songwriter die geboren en getogen is op het Britse eiland The Isle of Wight.
Het is een eiland dat bij de muziekliefhebber vooral bekend zal zijn vanwege popfestival dat er in 1968, 1969 en 1970 werd georganiseerd (en dat de laatste jaren nieuw leven is ingeblazen).
Vooral de 1970 editie van het festival met onder andere Procol Harum, The Doors, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Sly & The Family Stone, Joni Mitchell, Emerson, Lake & Palmer en Leonard Cohen op de poster, heeft vrijwel dezelfde status als het fameuze Woodstock festival in de Verenigde Staten een jaar eerder.
Vagabond Saint neemt je deels mee terug naar de fameuze editie van het festival op het Britse Kanaaleiland (die de platenkast van de ouders van Angelina vast heeft gekleurd) en heeft ook absoluut een link met de Verenigde Staten. Bij beluistering van de plaat waan je je af en toe op het Woodstock festival, maar veel vaker verschijnen beelden uit het diepe Zuiden van de Verenigde Staten op het netvlies.
Angelina beschikt immers over een donkere en doorleefde stem, die gemaakt lijkt voor het vertolken van donkere blues op een veranda aan de oevers van de Mississippi. Invloeden uit de blues, soul, gospel en country uit deze regio spelen een belangrijke rol op Vagabond Saint, maar de plaat van Angelina is ook zeker beïnvloedt door Britse folk en 60s psychedelica.
Het levert een opvallend geluid op, dat aan de ene kant refereert naar muziek uit een ver verleden, maar aan de andere kant ook kan aansluiten bij de Britse soulzangeressen van dit moment.
Vagabond Saint is door de veelheid van invloeden en het achterwege laten van de polijstborstel een stuk interessanter dan de platen van de populaire Britse soulzangeressen van het moment, maar is na enige gewenning zeker even aangenaam.
Bij eerste beluistering van Vagabond Saint had ik vooral associaties met de platen van Karen Dalton en Jefferson Airplaine, maar via zwarte blueszangeressen van de Mississippi Delta sluipt de plaat van Angelina na verloop van tijd het heden in. Dit groeiproces maakt van Vagabond Saint een buitengewoon boeiende plaat.
Angelina heeft een plaat gemaakt met muziek die aan van alles en nog wat herinnert, maar op een of andere manier ook volkomen uniek klinkt. Het is een plaat die het moet doen met betrekkelijk weinig aandacht, maar wat mij betreft mogen de spotlights op deze Angelina worden gericht en mag Vagabond Saint worden geschaard onder de bijzondere debuten van 2016.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar het album:


zondag 19 februari 2017

Blindfaller. Mandolin Orange

Meestal kan ik maar heel moeilijk kiezen uit de flinke stapel recente platen die wacht op beluistering, maar op de avond dat ik deze recensie schrijf kon eigenlijk niets me boeien. Zeker 30 platen kwamen voorbij, maar niets hield het langer dan een paar minuten vol.
Ik was inmiddels terecht gekomen bij de al bijna afgeschreven platen van een maand of twee geleden en wilde er eigenlijk mee gaan stoppen, toen er opeens toch een plaat voorbij kwam die me wel wist te raken.
Het was een plaat die me, ondanks de mooie cover, eigenlijk nog nooit was opgevallen, maar inmiddels vind ik hem prachtig en weet ik zeker dat ik er nog heel vaak naar ga luisteren.
Het gaat om Blindfaller van Mandolin Orange. Het was een naam die me helemaal niets zei, maar het blijkt een duo uit Chapel Hill, North Carolina, dat bestaat uit Andrew Marlin en Emily Frantz. Blindfaller is zeker niet hun eerste plaat, maar wel de eerste die mijn aandacht weet te trekken.
Beiden muzikanten kunnen op meerdere instrumenten uit de voeten en beiden beschikken bovendien over een bijzonder fraaie stem. Andrew Marlin en Emily Frantz kunnen waarschijnlijk prima in hun uppie uit de voeten, maar als ze samen muziek maken gebeurt er iets. Dat heeft vooral te maken met hun prachtig bij elkaar kleurende en elkaar versterkende stemmen, maar ook in muzikaal opzicht stuwen de twee elkaar naar grote hoogten.
Mandolin Orange maakt Amerikaanse rootsmuziek die meerdere richtingen op kan schieten. Een aantal tracks past uitstekend in het hokje bluegrass, maar de twee maken ook pure folk en country, muziek met invloeden uit de gospel of juist net wat lichtvoetigere songs met een vleugje pop.
Het is muziek die opvalt door een prachtige instrumentatie, met een hoofdrol voor akoestische en elektrische gitaren, de mandoline (uiteraard) en prachtig en zeer trefzeker vioolwerk. Andrew Marlin en Emily Frantz kunnen uitstekend uit de voeten in songs met een behoorlijk ingetogen instrumentatie, waarin hun stemmen voor het vuurwerk moeten zorgen, maar als je een instrument virtuoos kunt bespelen mag je dat natuurlijk ook best laten horen en dat doen ze dan ook. 

Blindfaller van Mandolin Orange doet me afwisselend denken aan de platen van Alison Kraus, Nickel Creek, Gillian Welch en Dave Rawlings en hier en daar ook aan het al weer vergeten duo The Civil Wars, maar heeft ook een bijzonder eigen geluid, dat in iedere song weer net wat anders klinkt. Het levert een plaat op die iets met me doet en die dat bovendien in steeds sterkere mate doet.
Waaraan het precies ligt weet ik niet, maar vanavond weten alleen Andrew Marlin en Emily Frantz uit North Carolina me te raken met hun mooie en gloedvolle songs vol fraaie accenten en met stemmen die overlopen van emotie. Op een avond waarop eigenlijk geen enkele plaat me weet te boeien, vind ik Blindfaller van Mandolin Orange van de eerste tot de laatste noot prachtig; ik ben benieuwd wat ik er over een paar dagen van vind. Grote kans echter dat deze nieuwe plaat van Mandolin Orange een blijvertje is.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Hey Stranger':


zaterdag 18 februari 2017

Interview with Aura Blaze’s Rhode Rachel

Interview: Wout de Natris

© WoNo Magazine 2017

Somewhere after the last summer Wo. ran into the music of Aura Blaze. After listening to the record, it's better to write taking that rollercoaster of experiences, several times it came to a review. At the same time so many questions popped up into his mind that he reached out to Aura Blaze's Rhode Rachel to find out more. All that and more is now before you.

As not all readers will be familiar with you how would you like to introduce yourself?
I am infinite Consciousness having an experience as Rhode Rachel, 29 year old musician, writer, poet, philosopher, and frontman of the US psychedelic rock act Aura Blaze.

The bandname Aura Blaze is as much a statement as a name. What is the idea behind the bandname?
The name came to me while I was walking through a field.
It was a sunny afternoon sometime around the Spring of 2013 when I was strolling about the countryside near my home, as I often do in an attempt to revive some semblance of peace and tranquillity when life takes a turn for the dark. I had recently become aware of the neo-psychedelic movement with the discovery of Tame Impala and was planning my escape from the increasingly boring and tiresome electronic dance music scene. I was entertaining the notion of taking my musical creativity in the direction of psychedelic rock and when the term “aura blaze” emerged from the chasms of my introspection in the field that day, I knew immediately that this was to be the moniker under which I would carry forth this musical and equally spiritual vision.
The most powerful band names, in my opinion, are those that evoke emotion by their formlessness; names that imply a notion or essence help to pry open the imagination and I believe that quality creates a subconscious bond between the artist and listener. As you have so aptly pointed out, “Aura Blaze” is a statement in and of itself, evoking colorful imagery that cannot necessarily be pinned down to anything dense and earthly. It is amorphous and evocative.

On the album you play all instruments there, with only one exception. This seems like a very conscious choice to do? Can you tell us something about how you came about to do it all by yourself?
The idea to pursue Aura Blaze as a solo venture was born from equal parts necessity and personal preference. My unconventional production workflow often proves to be at odds with the traditional collaborative writing process that usually features a formal structure as to the order in which tracks are recorded and production techniques and embellishments are implemented. My approach is conversely free-form, answering to the spirit of spontaneity and the guidance of my intuition. Communicating my train of thought to a group of people without losing the spark of the moment is quite a challenge, and an unnecessary challenge when I can rely on myself for the performance of all instrumental and vocal duties during the recording process.
That is not to say that collaborative efforts are not without merit, for indeed they offer their own unique benefits, but in terms of writing and recording for Aura Blaze I prefer to see my vision through without having to compromise. The material I write for Aura Blaze resonates at a more deep and personal level than any other musical project I have been involved with in the past.
Save for the occasional guest appearance, Aura Blaze will continue on as a solo studio project. A live lineup, however, is certainly not out of the question.

How long did it take you to make the album start to finish?
The earliest iterations of the melodies and grooves that found their way onto the Aura Blaze debut began to take shape toward the latter portion of 2013, going into the Winter of 2014 when “A Glass of Tears Half Empty” was released as a prelude of sorts, along with the B-side of the Doors cover, “The Crystal Ship.” Throughout that period the ideas flowed quickly and continued to do so well into the winter of the following year when the last production tweaks and edits were performed and the final versions were sent out to the mastering house in March of 2015.
On a related note, I would strongly suggest to any band looking for a mastering engineer to contact Heba Kadry of Timeless Mastering. She has worked with such esteemed acts as Neon Indian, Wooden Shjips, Moon Duo, and White Hills, and her skills, attention to detail, and overall professionalism are surpassed by none.

Aura Blaze holds so many ideas and little extras. How did you make sure not to lose yourself in the details and return to the bigger picture?
When the macrocosmic essence of a song drives it’s creation, the details and nuances will orbit around that core essence rather than pull it apart. The secret is to have cemented in one’s head the clearest vision of the prevailing atmosphere that he wishes to create while avoiding the pitfalls of becoming overly concerned with a particular section or passage, or even the structure of the song as a whole. Let the atmosphere navigate and the rest will fall into place accordingly.
Although production and mixing can be quite methodical, time-intensive, and rigorous, music itself should never be seen as having to be created from a clinical approach. Essentially, the primary function of a musician is to conduct the flow of energy. He is the ambassador of freedom.

Your father Carl plays the solo in ‘Sub-Earthen Patchwork Torus’. It seems safe to assume that you come from a musical family?
Had it not been for my father introducing me to the piano at a very early age and the concept of multi-track recording a bit later on, I would not be doing what I do today. Music is hard-wired into my genes. While I was in utero, he would drive to work with my mother and they would listen to Mozart and Beethoven cassettes — I am convinced that those elevated vibrations were absorbed into my developing spirit, forever altering the structure of my being in favor of all things creative and colorfully expressive, and engraving into the bedrock of my existence the divine plan to take music as far as I can possibly go with it. Music has ignited my soul and it is my purpose.

Promo photo
What was the music you listened to in your youth and did that find its way into you current work or is there a distinct difference there?
It has always been a belief of mine that the experiences of our youth leave indelible impressions upon us and that these impressions will, in varying forms and degrees, manifest at later points in our lives. Music is no exception. I have, across the years, sallied forth into the rushing river networks of all manners of musical genres and have only recently come to realize that the shores I had originally pushed off from are again appearing on the horizon of my interests.
I distinctly recall a memory of the soundtrack to A Bronx Tale blasting from my portable cassette player while I vacationed at my grandparents’ cottage on Lake Ontario in upstate New York when I could have been no older than seven.
It was the Oldies station I used to fall asleep to at night during my childhood and it is the catchy, timeless melodies inherent in such that have shined out to me like a beacon throughout my voyages through metal, industrial, goth, and electronica, ultimately consummating in my unbounded exploration of their essences in the realm of retro-psychedelia. I have always been fascinated by the catchy and uplifting vibes of Motown, classic rock, and Oldies, but have been impacted equally by the experimental aggression and avant-garde aesthetic of extreme metal and its derivatives. Thus, both of these otherwise opposing elements of harmony and dissonance are seamlessly blended and fused in my current work.

The music on Aura Blaze ranges from 60s psychedelic rock, (symphonic) rock of the 70s but also church choirs and modern pop as played by e.g. The New Pornographers have a role on Aura Blaze. How do you go about creating a song? E.g. is there an idea or concept at the start of a song?
The creative processes of my songs are completely independent of one another. In most cases a melody idea for a verse or chorus will randomly pop into my head and I will, by whatever means possible, endeavor to capture that idea so as to pursue it when time and situation permit, as it is not uncommon to conceive of an idea in the most unlikely places outside of the studio.
I cannot put a number to how often the earliest glimmerings of a song manifest while I am involved with such mundane tasks as driving or doing chores around the house. A difficulty I frequently reckon with occurs when I am out and about, without any means of recording a quick play-through of an idea, and must resort to the repeated humming to myself of said idea so as to engrain it into my memory with the hope of pulling it up from the depths of my subconscious when the opportunity avails me to nail down a basic recording of it. It is those initial ideas that drive the creation of the rest of the song, where the original atmosphere is expounded upon and explored in greater depth.
There has never been a time when I had to sit down at a piano and ask, “What ideas can I come up with today?” I have not, and never will have, any shortage of ideas. On the contrary, my greatest challenge lies in procuring the requisite time to bring them all to life.

The titles to several of the songs are long but nearly all hint at eastern religion and philosophy.  That implies that it has a role in your life. How does this influence your work?
I hold spirituality in the highest regard. It is from God — the Divine Source — which all music flows. Regardless of any sectarian perspective through which an individual views the world, the truth of our universal Oneness prevails and it is this divine spirit that permeates all things and excludes no one.
I believe that one’s allegiance to any particular religion is circumstantial and that, more times than not, the core values that serve as the foundation of the individual teachings of these religions share a common thread of benevolence and brotherhood.
Some might be quick to argue that religion is in fact the root cause of war and intolerance, and they would not, in many cases, be incorrect in assuming so based on surface-level observation, but the deeper truth is that these turmoils have less to do with conflicting ideologies than they do with the clandestine group of bloodline elites who have centuries ago hijacked the world’s religious institutions (along the institutions of government, media, industry, science, education and so forth) for the purpose of implementing the social manipulation necessary in their plan for global domination.
As for my references to Eastern religion and philosophy, I consider these a nod to the emphasis of the importance of spirituality in pertinence to the individual rather than blanket doctrine — a theme I find to be most prevalent in the Eastern tradition. The nature of reality lies in the fact that the Universe is a holographic representation of the frequencies that it is comprised of — a sea of vibratory information — and I find it fascinating that Eastern philosophies take this into account concerning the flow of Kundalini energy through the body and the importance of deep states of meditation as a means of reconnecting to the Source — to God, essentially — to the Christ energy — as all of these terms are describing the same divine force.

Recently you released ‘Sweet Talking Woman’, the ELO single from the mid-70s, what is the story about this cover and why specifically this one?
The idea to cover “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” originated from my desire to reverse-engineer Jeff Lynne’s production genius. It was intended to be a personal learning experiment in which I reconstructed this classic in as close to the original tonality as possible so as to glean insight into how he was able to achieve the masterful sonic and atmospheric quality that he did with this iconic work.
The chorus melody has long ago claimed permanent residence in my head and I thought it to be a duty of respect and of catharsis to record an Aura Blaze version. I felt as though to simply admire the song as a listener was not enough — surely, I felt, there was a deeper way to connect with these euphoric, uplifting energies. I found that connection in re-creating them.

Is taking this music on the road even possible to do? Do you have this ambition?
Assembling a live lineup for touring is something I often consider but my main priority will always be my studio work. I have, however, expressed this interest to friends and former bandmates and there is certainly a mutual feeling of intrigue at the notion of taking Aura Blaze to the stage. I have a few people in mind that would fit the bill perfectly — close friends who I have been jamming with for years and who share my affinity for groove and atmosphere.
Doing live Aura Blaze shows will not be without an element of difficulty, as it were, seeing that I would not only be required to teach the other band members the songs but I would have to allot time to relearn them myself. Such is often the case when spontaneity holds the flashlight in the studio — the nuances that shine forth during recording are of a fleeting spirit that is captured in that present moment and then shortly left to fade into the distance of our attention as other bursts of inspiration steer the course. There are certain guitar riffs and keyboard melodies, for instance, that are featured on the album that were thought of on the spot. These will need to be re-examined and perfected in terms of their ability to be performed before the time comes to draw back the curtain.
Though it will be a uniquely cumbersome undertaking to achieve the level of quality that I envision for a live Aura Blaze show including all of the layers and textures that adorn the album, the end result will indeed be worth it.

The cover of the album graphically really shows what to expect. What is the story behind the cover?
The cover artwork features the 1529 Albrecht Altdorfer painting, The Battle of Alexander at Issus, enhanced by slight color adjustments and filtering edits that I performed so as to lend a hallucinogenically ethereal feel to its appearance. I wanted the image to visually portray the ambiance of the music, taking into account the vibrant swirls of color and dream-like landscape as representations of the many musical textures of the psychedelic journey that lies ahead for the listener. The rays of sunlight spilling out from the clouds not only references the notion of a blazing aura but also serves as a symbol of the dawning of a new era in my personal exploration of the psychedelic arts.

What can we expect from you in the near future?

Over the course of the past year I have been vigilant in putting forth tremendous effort towards the writing, recording, and production of the new Aura Blaze album. A change in life circumstance has recently accommodated me with an enhanced supply of this temporal necessity and I am pleased that I can now tighten my focus on my craft and bring this album to life sooner than I had originally thought would be possible under the conditions of the way things were structured before.
I plan to keep listeners informed on my progress through regular studio updates on the Aura Blaze website/blog and to become more active on Youtube with a variety of content including solo instrument improv videos, studio vlogs, and a podcast/talk show series exploring a wide range of philosophical, spiritual, and political-based subject matter as well as original poetry recitations.
2017 is a year for hope, new beginnings, and an unwavering tenacity in the pursuit of the achievement of dreams. There is much to be done but the future is blazing with positivity. We are off to a great start.