Bitch all you want about the commercialization of Christmas; your soft-cheese sentimentality is just as bitch-worthy. Especially when it’s set to music.
Each season, wherever you go—the office, the mall, your own home—there’s always some cheer-drunk yutz with a cheap boombox and a stack of torturous Christmas CDs. Johnny Mathis’ Merry Christmas. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s Once Upon A Christmas. Harry Connick Jr.’s When My Heart Finds Christmas. Or that god-awful Barbra Streisand thing. And that hideous Forgotten Carols record. They all have that slick, feel-good warmth, the kind that doesn’t soothe so much as it causes your spine to shimmy in terror/discomfort.
I’ll say it for you: Scrooge! Bah! Humbug! Christmas music is banal and illusive; nobody really feels that cheery during the season. And if they do, it’s only fleeting, induced by your brother’s monster eggnog made with lighter fluid or a party dose of Prozac. Come Jan. 1, and the reality-inducing hangover it brings, all that false cheer leaks out like morning pee.
And yet, as people start hanging Advent calendars and mistletoe, they fester to pump squeaky-clean rehashings of Christmas standards by the likes of Mathis, Streisand, Jerry Vale—even that damn “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”—into our lives through loudspeakers, perhaps to give Scrooges like me the Manuel Noriega treatment. Surely, these songs will make us see the error of our crotchety ways! At the very least, it will drive us to the same point of insanity, where it’s always 1955 and sugarplums not only dance, but hold 9-to-5 jobs and vote (Republican, natch). Ah, common ground.
So why get grouchy about seemingly harmless music? Well, at about the same time, Christmas music came to mean only the cheesiest, most sentimental tripe you could find. We no longer live in a world where the Cleaver Family Christmas seems normal. This is a time of war! And corporate crime! And it’s a more me-oriented society—bad, yes, but not yet horrific.
We still want to be good, love our neighbors and all that, but there should be a better reflection of people who celebrate Christmas now. über-wholesome, sweater-clad Johnny Mathis doesn’t cut it. Neither does Johnny Cash or Gene Autry. We need new Christmas music for a new world, something cooler and infinitely less schmaltzy, that conveys cheer and good will without the canned warmth and GGG rating.
Actually, there’s no need to go forth and create new music; people have been making alternative Christmas music for years. Way back when, English glam rockers Slade and power-pop progenitors The Kinks created their own carols; the former’s “Merry Xmas, Everybody” and the latter’s “Father Christmas” conveyed the same merry vibe, and in the Kinks’ case—imbued it with playful late-20th- century greed: “Father Christmas, gives us some money/ don’t mess around with those silly toys/but remember the kids who have nothin’/when you’re drinkin’ down your wine.”
Since then, folks like Hamburglar-Satan metal maniac King Diamond weighed in with the creepy-campy “No Presents for Christmas.” And years later, Fountains of Wayne’s “I Want An Alien for Christmas” bottled the essence of a 21st-century child’s Christmas wish: “I want a little green guy about 3 feet high with 17 eyes that knows how to fly.”
Even the traditional tunes are being presented in new contextual glory. Mannheim Steamroller gave ’em new-agey makeover some 15-or-more years ago. Then, enter guitar hero/surfer dude Gary Hoey, whose Ho, Ho Hoey compilations of instrumental guitar carol/solos are much easier to swallow than another staidly bombastic Utah Symphony performance. But bombast works with a tune-up: Try the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the increasingly popular Christmas-metal orchestra led by Paul O’Neill, erstwhile producer of epic ’80s metalheads Savatage. You’ll get your Steamroller and Ho-Ho-Hoey in one shot.
But it’s the new, original songs that are the real gems, new classics-in-waiting for new generations. Geffen’s 1996 compilation, Just Say Nel saw a bunch of new twists: The Roots told how “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa,” Sonic Youth asserted that “Santa Doesn’t Cop Out on Dope,” Beck sang of “The Little Drum Machine Boy,” and Southern Culture on the Skids’ renewal of Chuch Berry’s “Merry Christmas, Baby,” counts for sheer spirit.
The recently released Toys for Tots benefit album Maybe This Christmas Too? (Nettwerk) has a few of those. Rilo Kiley’s brooding indie-roots “Xmas Cake” examines love in the holidays—a new “Blue Christmas,” if you will. The Be Good Tanyas’ do goodwill-to-all-men on their ode to homeless “Rudy.” Badly Drawn Boy’s “Donna & Blitzen” updates the lush ’60s ballad sound sure to please any Mathis fan.
Even the infamous South Park carol “Merry Fucking Christmas” expresses sentiments that are more congruent with what we’re feeling now. “Merry Fucking Christmas” is actually a hell of a cheery way to put it, assuming your heart and emphasis are in the right place.
So ... Merry fucking Christmas. Music ... and Christmas music laid an egg. Jingle Bells, Batman Smells 1CD9D91D-2BF4-55D0-F1FE9CCA82090828 2007-06-11 16:14:05.0 1 1 0 2003-11-27 00:00:00.0 0 0
Steve Turner has never heard Todd Snider’s “Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Blues,” but the irony of the song isn’t lost on him. He’s been playing guitar in punk bands—not just Mudhoney but The Monkeywrench with M’honey frontguy Mark Arm and unsung guitarist/producer Tim Kerr—long enough to be leashed to the loud-fast-rules philosophy. Thus, his folksy debut solo record, Searching for Melody (Roslyn Recordings), which smacks of Dylan, was unexpected. By everyone but him, anyway.
“I have to remind myself that other people might look at it weird,” Turner says. He talks about growing up in a rock-less home—Dori Previn and Leadbelly were early influences. He discovered punk before rock, and as a kid was more likely to buy albums by folkies on the Folkways, Vanguard and Elektra labels. Not that he can’t put it in perspective:
“If you would have told me 10 years ago that the guitarist from Iron Maiden would [make a singer-songwriter record], I would have laughed.” Yet, despite this understanding, the perception of him as a rocker-turned-folkie is moot.
“I don’t make a living playing music anymore, so I don’t give a shit. I’m a gardener.”
Come again? Like those guys who create giant scuplted hedges in rich people’s yards? “Not so much that kind of stuff,” he says. “I work on my own, smaller jobs, and with landscape architects. I tear down bushes for new ones.” It’s only a part-time gig, because Mudhoney money still trickles in. It is, however, a compromise so he can make music when and how he wants even if, he jokes, it keeps him just above the poverty level in a second starving-artist phase.
So is Searching for Melody his poor-boy blues? Not really. Turner observes the usual twangy, introspective slant of the singer-songwriter genre—wishing he was smarter and the years were shorter on “Living Through the Mistakes,” or lamenting personal problems (“The bar is beautiful tonight/200 bottles bathed in Christmas lights/and the reflection in the mirror behind/is the place I’ve been spendin’ too much of my time”) on “Smart Operator”—but keeps it fun (read: rock & roll), too.
Turner rawks acoustic with punk panache while lead guitarist and producer Johnny Sangster (Dear John Letters, Boss Martians) layers über-cool leads over the top. Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters and bassist Stone Gossard craft a loose-like-Sunday-afternoon stomp on “Searching for Melody,” and shepherd a slow Stones-y blues on “I Want You In My Arms.” It’s the sort of great singer-songwriter record only an erstwhile rocker, worn out from hard livin’ and ass-deep in perspective, can produce (see Paul Westerberg, Peter Case, Jesse Malin).
Turner gently differs. “I’m older,” he says, “but I’m not the guy that writes songs romanticizing wild, crazy youth. And I never was that wild; nothing much has changed about my lifestyle through the years, so I’m not a 12-stepper yet or anything. Give me a couple more years.”
To ruin his liver? Sure, but despite his protests, Searching for Melody is exactly the inspired turn that we’ve seen from Westerberg (14 Songs), Case (The Man with the Blue Post Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar) and Malin (The Fine Art of Self-Destruction). It’s reflective, personal and told from the point-of-view of a guy that has at least seen a lot. That much is evident on his stirring album-closer, an “a cappella” cover of the late Dave Van Ronk’s “Last Call.”
Perhaps his difference lies in his simple approach. The songs are simple verse-chorus concoctions without bells and whistles, voiced by guitar-bass-drums. “I like small songs,” he says. “Most of my songs are really little tiny songs, weird, fleeting—not epic, with little odd moments.”
STEVE TURNER, Kilby Court, 741 S. 330 West, Saturday, Nov. 22, 7:30pm Music Mudhoney guitarist Steve Turner talks about his “small songs.” Tiny Tunes 1CD9D95B-2BF4-55D0-F1FB4AB50EDB931F 2007-06-11 16:14:05.0 1 1 0 2003-11-20 00:00:00.0 0 0
We didn’t break up,” says Dada singer-guitarist Michael Gurley, relaxing pre-show at Iowa State University. “We just needed a little time off. And it turned into a little longer than we thought.”
You know Dada best for their semi-hit of 1992, “DizzKneeLand” (from Puzzle, the band’s gold-certified debut on IRS Records). That unavoidable fact is a blessing and a curse for the band, whose mastery of pop structure and poetic storytelling, not to mention their own instruments, earned them critical acclaim in bushels and devout fans; that’s the sunny side. The dark side of the boon was scant commercial success. After three subsequent albums (1994’s American Highway Flower and 1996’s El Subliminoso on IRS, 1998’s Dada on MCA) failed to take the band beyond cult status and MCA was gobbled up by the Vivendi-Universal binge, Dada was purged.
Gurley says the band was “deflated” by the machinery of the music business, and took a hiatus to determine a next step. But according to brief and infrequent Website updates, singer-bassist Joie Calio moved to Seattle and retreated into a solo project, leaving no word—not even with Gurley and drummer Phil Leavitt—of when Dada might resume. Gurley and Leavitt turned to other projects (their band Butterfly Jones, which released Napalm Springs on Vanguard Records in 2001; Leavitt did time in the Las Vegas edition of Blue Man Group) to keep busy and alive. Get into semantics or don’t; Dada ceased to exist for three years. Dadaland.com vanished and fans, without even that tenuous connection to the band, assumed the worst.
But December 2002 turned out to be the “right time” for the band. They re-emerged for a desert gig in California, which spawned a summer tour this year, and another fall jaunt that will wrap this Saturday at DV8. There has been little reunion fanfare, aside from online-message-board buzz (at their new Website, www.DadatheBand.com), and the shows have been stocked with fans whose welcome is as warm as the theme to “Welcome Back Kotter.”
“Our fans are really dedicated,” Gurley marvels. “They’ve all come back, which shows you what kinda of fans we have. ... We had one hit but put out lots of music over the last 10 years, and our fans [stuck around]. They’re not fair-weather fans.”
They’re also scarfing up Dada’s first live album, simply titled Dada Live: Official Bootleg, on Coach House Records. The record shows exactly why Dada’s fans have stuck around: Lucid, visceral songs played with dazzling skill. Sticky-sweet hooky harmonies, terrifying guitar solos. And this isn’t a leftover show from the band’s heyday, or even some half-assed reunion going through the motions—it was recorded live this past July and shows that Dada is alive again, the music is fresh, and the band’s next step, however late, was the right one.
“It’s better, this time around,” Gurley enthuses. “There’s no record company calling the shots, and it’s not about radio this and radio that. Music, to me, has always been an organic, cottage industry. Now we make our own merchandise and decide how long the shows are.”
Dada is having fun being Dada again. The shows routinely pass the two-and-a-half-hour mark, so most fans get to hear their favorite song played note-perfect with the lively, relevant embellishments only Dada can create. And the band has a new studio album due early next year, composed of unreleased, unpolished tracks from the Dada sessions and new material.
“I feel sorry for a lot of bands that get caught up in the music business and spit out, then feel like failures and give up,” Gurley says. “We were down when MCA dropped us, but I can’t help but feel we’re kinda just getting our confidence back.”
It must certainly help to know that Dada has outlasted both of their labels.
“Yeah, we were kind of sitting around talking the other day. IRS is out of business, MCA is out of business. ... Dada is on tour, on a bus, playing to the people.”
DADA, DV8, 115 S. West Temple, Saturday, Nov. 8, 8pm, 800-888-8499 Music Dada survive the ’90s and the dark side of the boon. Here, Today 1CD9D99A-2BF4-55D0-F1F7ACAFCA0FE087 2007-06-11 16:14:05.0 1 1 0 2003-11-06 00:00:00.0 0 0
Let me start,” says Stiletto singer Carri Wakefield, “by saying that, generally, I think band interviews are silly because they rarely have anything to do with the music.”
Band interviews are silly. You can blah, blah, blah till you’re cyanotic; all that matters is the music. But, then, maybe interviews serve a purpose? It’s only natural that people, after a good and thorough rocking, would want to know more about those who administered the dose. Not Metal Edge-caliber crap queries like “What brand of smokes do you like?,” but perhaps insight into the personalities and ideology behind the music—oh, wait. That’s blah, blah, blah-ing, isn’t it?
Stiletto (Wakefield, guitarist Julie Styer, bassist Leena Rinne, drummer Rebecca Vernon) formed a year ago for kicks. Wakefield, bassist for The Wolfs and late of Tarn and Cobra, had never fronted a band. Styer had always fronted (Lovesucker, Power Tools for Girls) and wanted to try guitar. Rinne hadn’t even been in a band much less played bass. Vernon, a City Weekly contributor, is the only one wielding her main ax, which she has done with Violet Run, The Highrollers and Phono.
The idea was to play about once a month to blow off steam through simple, psychotic punk rock in the spirit of the Ramones and the Runaways, with influence also stemming from the Plasmatics, the Cramps, the Gun Club and a slew of others. Their shows, alleged grand mal fiestas, have garnered the band a bit of notoriety not only as a hell of a band but also Salt Lake’s finest and, barring Chubby Bunny, only all-girl rock & roll group.
Flipping through The Big Book of Salt Lake Bands, you’ll find several great bands with female members and certainly many notable female solo acts, but hardly any actual all-girl outfits, save Gearl Jam. Why is that? What kept all our great female musicians from banding together until now? From a sociological standpoint, it’s at least worth chewing on.
“Sociological ... blah, blah, blah,” says Styer; Wakefield echoes separately. Stiletto, they’d like to point out, transcends gender. The noteworthy point is that Stiletto is the first instance of estro-only rock-banding in Salt Lake City—and they’re just damn good. Wakefield’s focused/unfocused petulance imbues songs like “Bitch” and “Tease” (available for a listen at Rest30.com) with a killer, catty quality; likewise, Styer’s off-the-cuff guitar. Rinne’s neophytic bottom end is loose and inquisitive, crazy like a fox. Vernon’s drumming is the chassis. In sum, they craft a vehemently fun vibe that few Salt Lake City bands, male or female, can muster. That’s something to be proud of, isn’t it?
Vernon and Rinne agree. “There are few all-girl bands in general, in the entire world music scene,” Vernon says. “Locally, again, there aren’t that many girls involved in music. And to find four girls with similar goals and music tastes in Salt Lake who are into playing loud punk rock is even more rare, I think.”
“Women in music,” reckons Rinne, “are rarely portrayed as creative and capable musicians, if they are being portrayed as musicians at all.”
They hit the snare on the head (and probably nail the reason for Styer’s and Wakefield’s resistance to the “all-girl” tag). It’s a man’s world, albeit to an increasingly smaller degree. This much is true in Salt Lake City, where perceived powers-that-be ensure our society skews as such. “In Stiletto,” Rinne furthers, “We’ve taken a lot of flack for using our looks and/or image to play the local scene. We’ve been told that we’re not ‘real musicians.’ This is not only insulting, but sexist as well.”
Damn straight. Stiletto are fine musicians, and one of Salt Lake City’s best bands, although they purport to exist only for fun. Examining such an ostensibly irrelevant issue as gender only augments their uniqueness, illuminating an underlying passion that informs their music. Their identity as female musicians who just want to—and can—rock is incidental fuel for the fire. As for breaking down the music, that’s what CD reviews are for.
STILLETTO, Girlz Garage Tour, DV8, 115 S. West Temple, Thursday Nov. 13, 8pm, 800-888-8499 Music Salt Lake lady punks Stiletto submit to a little blah, blah, blah. Stiletto Libretto 1CD9D9F8-2BF4-55D0-F1F7E08EDC26746B 2007-06-11 16:14:05.0 1 1 0 2003-11-06 00:00:00.0 1 0
Two years ago, it looked like Aimee Echo had finally bedded her dream of becoming a rock star. After years of slugging it out in clubs and living through a failed metal band (Human Waste Project), her new group, The Start, had just released their debut, Shakedown. Critics gushed over the band’s ’80s flashback. The group’s single, “Gorgeous”—basically Blondie gone SoCal—had sneaked its way onto MTV2 and college radio. Alternative Press named the album one of the best of the year. Opening slots on tours with the likes of Weezer and Incubus were scoring the quartet mucho exposure. Everything had finally stacked up right for Echo.
And then it all just vanished. The band’s backer, an Interscope Records subsidiary called The Label, imploded and dumped its entire roster. In one quick business move, Echo’s dream popped like a cheerleader’s gum right as it was all coming into focus. She was pissed—storm-the-board-meeting pissed.
The anger ultimately saved her. She could have just rolled over and taken a bank-teller job or turned into Annie Potts in Pretty in Pink. Instead, she got motivated. She bought a van and a trailer. She hit the road like a wronged trucker looking for revenge.
“We just decided not to give up,” Echo says. “We did what we know to do, which is make music and go on tour. Not a lot of people expected that. A lot of bands when they lose their outside support lay down and die, but we just kept going.”
Echo’s favorite photo from one of the group’s recent tours, a jaunt earlier this year with the Alkaline Trio, has her and guitarist Jamie Miller on their backs at 3 a.m. in a parking lot. Both are stuffed under the van trying to figure out how to fix the suspension. “It’s moments like that when you realize, ‘Wow, this is really what it’s all about,’” she says. “When you’re working for yourself you’ll do anything to make it happen.”
And now, after two years of struggling for every fan, things are finally starting to happen for The Start—again. The group’s new self-titled and self-financed EP has been picked up by the tiny indie Small Stone. The band scored a slot on the first Girlz Garage Tour, a package put together by Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman. And The Start just inked a deal with punk stalwart Nitro Records, with plans for a new full-length in the spring.
“It’s absolutely satisfying,” Echo says with pride. “No one can take what we’ve accomplished away from us. I probably worked harder in the last year and a half than I have in my entire life. But no matter how hard it got, I could always just dig down and do it. And there was always something worse. But I learned that no matter what, nothing can knock me down. And now we did this.”
In a way, it’s surprising things didn’t happen sooner. With groups like The Faint, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Hot Hot Heat mining new-wave nostalgia, it would have been natural for The Start, a group that beat everyone else out of the blocks, to be managing the dig. Shakedown played like a steroid-enhanced John Hughes soundtrack, complete with gurgling synth lines and Echo’s best Siouxsie Sioux posturing. A song like “Communion” easily could have been a discarded Depeche Mode hit if it weren’t for the occasional slabs of distorted thunder. And the band’s EP is stuffed with more than enough bouncing beats and trashy riffs to make Molly Ringwald dance all funny.
But strangely, the new-wave tag seemed to be more of a hindrance than help for The Start. “It worked for those other bands, and it’s making a big impact for them. But for us, the tag seemed to drag us down. It just all depends on people’s definition of ‘new wave.’ If people think A-Ha rather than Blondie, we’re in trouble. And sometimes that’s the case.” Music Aimee Echo and The Start bounce back, new wave or not. Starting Over 1CD9DA36-2BF4-55D0-F1F13190AE84BD39 2007-06-11 16:14:05.0 1 1 0 2003-11-13 00:00:00.0 0 0
It was one of those cheap thrills of being a kid—standing in front of the soda machine at 7-Eleven, mixing up flavors like some 4-foot bartender in need of a sugar rush. Squirt in a little cola, mix in some Mountain Dew, maybe a touch of root beer. Taste. Repeat. The end result could either be a blissful amalgam that’s as unique as a hand-painted Hot Wheel, or a 64-ounce cup of crap soup, all depending on whether there’s too much Sprite in the mix. It was like Russian cola roulette, and going after the right blend was a personal dare. If it came out a winner, everything tasted just that much sweeter.
Wil-dog Abers probably spent a lot of time in front of the soda machine when he was a kid—pouring, testing, re-testing. It’s the only way to explain the Ozomatli bassist’s willingness to stir up seemingly diametrically opposed flavors—hip-hop, pop, ska, soul, Latin jazz—with all the glee of a toddler at Disneyland. He can add in a bit of funk to get things rolling. He can snap off rhythmic hits like he’s an amplified Tito Puente. He can let it boom to test the sub in the trunk. No matter what, he always finds the right flavor, boosting the L.A. collective’s potency like a few extra packets of raw sugar in the Big Gulp.
The end result is unlike anything else around. It’s Santana if he teamed up with the Invisibl Skratch Piklz instead of Rob Thomas. It’s Dr. Dre if he spent more time in Tijuana than Compton. It’s like standing in the middle of a traffic jam on the 110, soaking in everything that leaks out of all those idle cars. “It’s everything that we all grew up with as a collective,” Abers says. “This is what we were always surrounded by as kids.”
And that’s been both Ozomatli’s defining element and its chief problem since it first formed out of L.A.’s Unity Committee hip-hop underground in 1993. While the group has always managed to manifest SoCal’s diversity, it surprisingly hasn’t been what people necessarily wanted to hear. Something as thick as its brew takes a little more brainpower than typical O.C. punk or Sunset rock. A classic Ozo peace anthem like “Coming War” might have hit you at gut level, but behind it was a doctorate’s worth of thought splicing together barrio beats and funk grooves with the scratches of future Jurassic 5 turntablist Cut Chemist and rapper Chali 2na.
Because of that, Abers and the rest of Ozomatli had to sit and wait until people were willing to put in a little effort. Though the band quickly built up a cult following based on the collective’s protest-as-party live shows, Abers had to watch as other groups quickly passed Ozo by. At first, it left him pissed.
“I used to wonder why our albums didn’t sell the same as other bands,” he says. “We’d see all these bands get a big hit and be doing it. But now that we’ve been around the block a few times, those bands are gone and we’re still here doing what we’ve always done.”
It’s a testament to the band’s determination to survive. Nothing has ever gotten them down: The friends that buzzed by the group to stardom; the two critically acclaimed albums, 1998’s self-titled affair and 2001’s Embrace the Chaos, that never made an impact on the charts; the subsequent dismissal by their former label, Interscope, last year. “They just didn’t believe in the project enough to keep the relationship going,” Abers says.
For most bands, all that would have been enough to just lie down and disappear. Instead, Ozo did what they’ve always done: Hit the road, playing to anyone who will listen. The band has been on punk tours, hardcore tours, hip-hop tours and eclectic radio shows. “We’re used to winning over people every night,” Abers says proudly. “It’s part of the challenge of being in a band like this.”
The group has already won over a new label, fledgling indie Concord Records, which has just released Ozomatli’s new EP, Coming Up, and will ship the band’s third full-length, Street Signs, come spring. For Abers, it’s the final bit of Orange Crush in Ozomatli’s soda suicide. The label is willing to back what the band does best—plays like there are hostages involved—as well as try to spread the word about the collective’s NAFTA rock.
“They’re letting us be who we are, which is all we’ve ever really wanted from a label,” Abers says. “There’s no pressure to produce some mass-marketed hit. Not that every label doesn’t want a hit. It’s not like Concord is going to let us go do some free jazz album. But they’ve given us an opportunity to keep pushing things and keep bringing things together. That’s all we’ve ever wanted.”
OZOMATLI, Harry O’s, 427 Main, Park City, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 9pm, 800-888-8499
Music L.A.’s Ozomatli take the sound of the 110 and turn it into rock majesty. Mixology 1CD9DB11-2BF4-55D0-F1FD481D0E12019B 2007-06-11 16:14:05.0 1 1 0 2003-11-06 00:00:00.0 0 0
January 2003: Locals Flatline Syndicate are performing in the South by Southwest semifinals at The Element. Up front, three of the wiggiest wiggas doing their best as-seen-on-MTV Rapper’s Prowl™, pacing and holding down their backward caps as if they might rocket off from the mad pressure beneath. So much to sizay, but how to sizay it? What would DMX do? Hell wit dat—what would Durst do? The heckling came in a torrent, drowning out the loutish output. Five songs equaled a root canal; the exit sign glowed benevolently.
It’s easy to rag on rap-rock—and Flatline Syndicate—now that the sound has been beaten to death. But its proliferation occurred because rap-rock joined two sonic superpowers—hip-hop and heavy metal—into a temporarily tasty musical juggernaut.
Nobody complained with Ice-T’s Body Count came out cop killin’ and soundtracking the decline of the neighborhood. It was loud ‘n’ proud, strong music for strong words; no better use was exhibited than by super-platinum rap-rock stumpers Rage Against the Machine. But like any hot new thing, rap-rock outgrew its parachute britches. Everywhere, skinny, white, disenfranchised mall-crawlers rotated their caps 180 degrees, grabbed a mic and commenced the ripest joke on the planet.
Does that mean there’s not a way, beyond the Linkin Parks and Limp Bizkits, for rap-rock to innovate and find new relevance? To escape the gnashing, drool-lubed maw of The Uncool? Josh Coy, one-third of Flatline’s front line, thinks so. Despite his own origins with Salt Lake scene Hall-of-Shamers Pulse (whom he claims were doing rap-rock before any of the Linkin Parks of the world), he rejects any connection between Flatline Syndicate and mainstream rap-rock.
“The whole rap-rock bullshit is killing what we were trying to do,” Coy says. “I have never referred Flatline as a rap-rock band. We’re not rappers and we’re sure as shit not rockers.”
And yet, that’s what Flatline do on their debut CD, Dead on Arrival (FlatlineSyndicate.com). It’s riffin’ and rhymin’ like any other homie-rock band, but with slight differences. Flatline has a keener sense of metal; they know how to throw heavy. Where they rap, or affect the not-quite-singing vocal nuances you might hear from Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath, they also possess a feral growl.
But the rhymes, which Coy says come from a deep East Coast hip-hop influence (he cites Wu-Tang Clan, Def Squad, Big L) are perfectly sub-par, angry boasts—a hallmark of bad rap-rock bands. The music, while spirited, is the hodgepodge of monster riffs and skittering, muted arpeggios and recycled, rejection-fueled dirge rhythms.
But, says Coy, this is Flatline Syndicate past—even though Dead on Arrival was released just this year. The band is moving forward, with new guitarists with new energy. It was never metal, per se, that informed their rock side, but hardcore; thus, the denial (“not rappers ... sure as shit not rockers”) and a distinction: “We’re MCs, and we’re into hardcore music.”
Hardcore, he says, like From Autumn to Ashes, Every Time I Die, Evergreen Terrace and Thrice. Bands that employ hardcore elements (speed, brutality, screaming) in a broader context rooted in punk and metal. In the grand scheme, they comprise the cusp of a next wave of rock & roll and metal, the hopeful—perhaps likely—new Metallicas and Panteras and (shudder) Korns. And Flatline still plan to rhyme, if less frequently. So the distinction, then, amounts to hair-splitting.
Coy says Flatline Syndicate has six new songs in the spirit of the new style—“more complex, better writing”—with more coming. They’ve immersed themselves in the local “hardcore” scene and feel a respect vibe. And now, more than ever, it feels right to Coy.
“We definitely don’t expect everyone to like our music, obviously,” he concedes. “Everyone has their different tastes.” Flatline Syndicate’s business, he says, is to “just evolve, put in work, stay together and move on. Progression makes perfect.”
FLATLINE SYNDICATE, DV8, 115 S. West Temple, Friday, Oct. 31, 8pm, 800-888-8499 Music Flatline Syndicate: Not rappers, not rockers, justnprogressing to perfection. Hard Corps 1CD9DB4F-2BF4-55D0-F1F49375F11EDCFE 2007-06-11 16:14:05.0 1 1 0 2003-10-30 00:00:00.0 0 0
Rosie Thomas knows it probably would have been easier if she never mentioned it. The 25 year-old folk singer has plenty of quaint moments in her life and more than a few scars to show off. She could have written about more palatable and accepted things like her childhood or how her heart was broken—and more than occasionally she does, laying her life bare for people to poke and prod. But she just couldn’t show off a few parts of her life and exclude others. She just doesn’t work that way. “I don’t know how to pretend to be someone else,” she says matter-of-factly.
So, Thomas decided that, if she were going to be honest, her songs had to reflect her faith. Not every track. She’s never wanted to be Amy Grant or anything. But she opted not to shy away from her beliefs if it felt natural, no matter if it was questioning or flat out declaring that she was down with the big man. And she knew that would cause trouble.
“I was reading this response to the record from this girl and she said that she heard this great voice, loved the music, and then heard the word ‘God’ and just stopped,” Thomas says. “I was like, ‘Have you never picked up a Bob Dylan record?’
“Maybe I’m naïve about it,” she continues. “If I thought about it more, maybe I wouldn’t have put that in. But that’s not me. This is the most important thing for me. This is how I feel. I don’t want to push it down people’s throats and say you’re going to burn in hell. I try to do it in a delicate way. I don’t condone one way of thinking over another. It’s just me. And sadly, it probably will close off some people.”
Thomas is doubtlessly right. But give her credit. She could have skated easily on her burgeoning indie cred. Since hooking up with Seattle mope troubadour Damien Jurado in 2000, when the two did a version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Wages of Sin” for Sub Pop’s tribute to the Boss’ Nebraska album, the Michigan-born Thomas has been quietly amassing an audience of hushed hipsters looking for a little more soul—and a little less distortion—in their music. Her debut record, When We Were Small, was as vivid as a storybook, Thomas creating cinematic and nostalgic odes out of little more than her guitar and a piano. And her alter ego, Sheila, a neck-brace sporting pizza-delivery girl who borders on an Andy Kaufman creation, started getting Thomas noticed outside the normal coffeehouse crowd. So, for the second go-round she could have just knocked out a few delicate and crushing hunks of folk-pop and let the adulation roll in.
Instead, Only With Laughter Can You Win (Sub Pop) is an album full of questions and admissions. While there are several tracks like the soaring “Sell All My Things” and “Red Rover,” a fragile ballad full of whispered harmonies and slowly plucked guitars, there are also those that get right to the heart of Thomas’ problem. “All My Life” could have been just an easy love song until the last verse makes it obvious who Thomas is really snuggling up with. And “Tell Me How,” a song built on a series of questions that run from the serious to the silly, ends with “How am I to tell them if they never follow Christ/That heaven doesn’t hold a place for them?” As Grandma used to say, not exactly something you ask when company is over.
“My hope is that by being human, with all my doubts and problems and beliefs, [it] will hopefully make a connection with people,” Thomas says. “This record is tougher because I deal with tougher things in the lyrics. And things are being taken out of context, like ‘Tell Me How.’ It’s me struggling with my faith and asking questions, but some people are taking it as me telling them they’re going to hell or something. But that’s me just being confused.”
All that seriousness, though, is partly why Thomas created Sheila. Originally done as a one-off to challenge herself, the character has now become a staple of her shows, Thomas pulling out the neck brace whenever she thinks an audience can handle it. It’s provides the right kind of bizarre comic relief to not only shock audiences at Thomas’s duality, but also show there’s more to her than a woman caught in her own reflections.
“I just wanted to present something completely opposite of my music,” she says. “I didn’t think it would be really accepted at all. But now it’s become really an opportunity to show both sides of me, of what I’m capable of. My music comes from this sincere place, but everyday I’m laughing and enjoying life. This way I can give the audience both. And that’s the best thing you can do: Show them who you really are.”
ROSIE THOMAS, with Damien Jurado, Kilby Court, 741 S. 330 W., Sunday, Nov. 2, 7:30pm Music Rosie Thomas tries to show both sides of herself, nonmatter what the cost. Split Personality 1CD9DB8E-2BF4-55D0-F1F7AAD80F5D3D84 2007-06-11 16:14:05.0 1 1 0 2003-10-30 00:00:00.0 0 0
It’s not enough for Sons of Nothing to be one band; they have to be two. First, you have Sons of Nothing, a four-member group who play original, thought-provoking, technically precise rock and/or roll. Then, there’s Sons of Nothing, the eight-headed purveyor of the increasingly popular FloydShow, tributizing prog-adelic stoner legends Pink Floyd.
Singer-bassist Thom Bowers, singer-guitarist Tim Hollinger and keyboardist/jack-of-all-axes Matt Meldrum and drummer Greg Thomas hesitate to differentiate. They represent three-quarters of the core Sons of Nothing, so even when they’re joined by vocalist Juli Mueller, keyboardist Eric Livotsky and local jazzer John Flanders (sax, flute), they’re “pretty much the same since we started combining the two [band’s] shows,” Bowers says. “This past summer, we began opening for ourselves, doing a short set of original tunes, then launching into the FloydShow.”
Hey, that’s a hell of an idea. Clubs are hot to book the FloydShow, because Sons of Nothing weave note-perfect versions of some 60 Pink Floyd tunes (spanning Piper at the Gates of Dawn to The Division Bell, and including the entire Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall), nailing the warm, alienated guitar tone and vocal nuances and including all the ambience (cash registers, ticking clocks, light show, et al). Those who’ve taken the Pepsi Challenge say it’s as good as—some have said better than—the real thing.
“We’ve experienced a bump in our general name recognition,” Bowers says. “And it also gives us an incredible opportunity to play our own music to big crowds in big-name venues that otherwise would never hear of us.”
Sons of Nothing germinated with Bowers as a solo project. While putting together a backing band, he found Hollinger; the two “instantly clicked because of our mutual Floyd fandom.” FloydShow was born when Sons of Nothing were recruited for something called the Flyin’ Zion Easter Party 2002. “When the organizers found out that we knew a lot of Floyd tunes,” says Bowers, “they asked if we would play a full set.”
Rather than casually jam the songs, as they did at their regular gigs, SoN resolved to put on a “real show.” To that end, they hired extra musicians, cut some sound effects together, and “really polished it all up.” They wound up playing both nights of the festival and afterward, word spread—the FloydShow has been a hot ticket since. “It was only supposed to be a couple of gigs for fun, then right back to the original plan.”
But while the “original” plan has been altered, you’ll hear no complaints from SoN. Bowers says the realization that the FloydShow was “maybe verging on starting to possibly make something vaguely approaching the semblance of a tiny profit,” provided the impetus to hit the studio and track some originals. This produced One Left Turn (SonsofNothing.com), a versatile five-track prog-pop EP which was deemed good enough on its own original merits to be named one of City Weekly’s Top 50 local CDs earlier this year.
Not a bad result stemming from an idea that went wild. Perhaps adopting a tribute band alter ego would solve our local bands’ ubiquitous carp about club owners shunning original music in favor of cover shows? Do SoN give this method their unconditional endorsement? Will they sell the secret on late-night infomercials after Super Dell’s Homestyle Psychosis Hour? Could other bands benefit from such a measure?
“Should an ostensibly original band to start learning the complete catalog of some other random classic rock artist?” Bowers counters. “I wouldn’t recommend it as a surefire career move. We just happened upon this thing that turned out to be a really popular idea. What we do is also a tremendous amount of work, and is not the sort of thing you can just knock together quickly or arbitrarily. You gots to love it. ...” Music Salt Lake City’s Sons of Nothing turn Floyd tunes into a great gig in the sky. Think Pink 1CD9DBCC-2BF4-55D0-F1F1A62B26EBF2D3 2007-06-11 16:14:06.0 1 1 0 2003-10-23 00:00:00.0 5 0
You oughta see the Supersuckers’ van. It’s jacked up. Nope, not ratcheted up while guitarist Ron “Rontrose” Heathman holds the lugs for singer-bassist-tire-changer Eddie Spaghetti. It’s crumpled like a foil burger wrapper after it has been licked clean of cheese, maybe used for toilet tissue by Robosaurus.
“Oh, man,” said Spaghetti. “That wasn’t our van, either.”
The van—and its driver/owner—were rentals. The rig was meant to shuttle the Supersuckers around on a tour of Spain. But when the band decided to make the entire drive from Madrid to Zaragoza (Mileage? This isn’t Rand McNally) in one day so they could “wake up in the town that the show is in,” it was like taking the ominous shortcut in a horror flick: Little did they know, danger was afoot. Record rainfall (this also isn’t the Farmers’ Almanac) helped the van hydroplane, flip a 180, go ass-first into a ditch, tip on its side and spill Supersuckers, roadies and gear.
It was bad, could have been worse, over now. But Spaghetti gives an interesting injury inventory: “A few broken bones here and there, a couple broken ribs. I have bruised lungs, bruised ribs and a gash on my hand that they must’ve used shoelaces to stitch; it’s really badly done. We really got off lucky.”
If Spaghetti seems cavalier, it’s because the ’Suckers have seen their share of danger and drama in 13 years of being “The Greatest Rock & Roll Band In the World.” Since their late-’80s beginnings in Tucson through their ’90s Seattle heyday recording for the storied Sub Pop label, the Supersuckers have seen and done the menu—thrice. They’ve shared stages (and in some cases, even recorded with) the likes of Steve Earle, Willie Nelson, Motorhead and the Ramones.
They’ve also been through all the “typical band stuff”: label problems, industry woes, infighting/personnel changes. Not much left to impress ’em, not even a van wreck. Hell, they are a van wreck.
Supersuckers shows are legendary drunken-yet-focused escapades—cheery-surly seminars on The Rock and How It Rolls. Spaghetti acts as emcee, handily inciting a crowd to rowdiness between the band’s three-to-four-minute discourses on wild style. This has been the method since 1990, unchanged but for the refinements that come with doing it for so long. Drummer Dancing Eagle’s recent exit might affect that, but Spaghetti maintains, as bands are wont to do, that it’s better than ever.
“As far as the spirit of band goes, it was a really good move,” he asserts. “Morale is high; we’ve got a gung-ho guy [Mike Murderburger, he of little résumé] playing drums. It’s crazy to hear the songs—they’re brand new again. It’s pretty fun.”
So there is renewal in the Supersuckers camp. It seems weird to discuss them in rejuvenated terms, since they’ve been around forever-but-not-really, constantly rockin’ with little flux in quality. Their new album, Motherfuckers Be Trippin’ (on their own Mid-Fi label) is evidence enough. It’s an elephantine dose of straight-up, smart-assed, steer-with-your-knees-so-you-can-use-both-hands-to-drink rock & roll. Which is exactly what the ’Suckers intend to dish out for a few more decades. They’re one of few current bands who seem like they could do it.
“We’re holdin’ up pretty well,” Spaghetti said without awe. “I figure we’ll get to 65 or 70 before we start thinking about packin’ it up.” He points to the Rolling Stones and other rockin’ geezers like Kiss. “It will become even less uncommon to be older. The rock fans are older; rock & roll is an older art form, now.”
But does he really think the Supersuckers can stand up to their own abuse, and incidental accidents, much less deliver such a raucous show, for another 30 years?
“Stayin’ in shape is probably a good idea for anybody, rocker or not, but especially for people out touring and abusing themselves in other ways. But guys like Lemmy continue to kick out the jams. Sure, he stands there, but the music speaks for itself.”
Damn straight, the music speaks. But even Eddie Spaghetti allows that the Supersuckers’ 30-year plan to keep on ’Suckin’ is fallible, dependent. It comes back to cartilage: “We’re gonna do what we do as long as our bones will let us.” Music Eddie Spaghetti and the Supersuckers take a lickin’ and keep on ‘Suckin.’ Bruises to Prove It 1CD9DC59-2BF4-55D0-F1F566A1E0A2D6CB 2007-06-11 16:14:06.0 1 1 0 2003-10-23 00:00:00.0 0 0
We forgot about Numbs. In all the exultation that has gone on in this column about local hip-hop artists like Foek and Self Expression Music and The Flowbots being so awesome, yadda yadda yadda ... Numbs got dissed. To their credit, unlike some other local hip-hop artists, Numbs never complained. It must be weird, though, since they were once upon a time the biggest thing the Utah hip-hop scene had to offer.
“Sometimes, when we do shows,” grants Rooster, one of the group’s three MCs (his partners are Mark Dago and Gunnar McKell), “we forget about Numbs ourselves.”
It shouldn’t be so easy, though. Numbs have history; they may be Utah’s oldest hip-hop band (barring the existence of any retired Sugarhill Gangs in Rose Park), with roots reaching back to 1988, when Rooster, Dago, McKell and DJs Shanty and Rick One, met while attending high school in Provo. They shared a common bond—grooving to EPMD, Gang Starr, Slick Rick and Run-DMC when their classmates were jamming to butt rock and shitkicker country. They spent six years “scheming and rehearsing,” and “fast-talked” their way onto a local bill in 1994. Their live shows became somewhat legendary and they released Metaphonic in 1996, to acclaim from all sides.
In 2000, they signed with local indie label Guapo Records, releasing The Word in 2001. Soon, Numbs were being courted by venerable, if beleaguered and now defunct hip-hop label Tommy Boy (once home to De La Soul, Digital Underground, Coolio). The label, sources said, was positively turgid over Numbs’ nod-to-the-old-school style—punkish, Beastie Boy-eee attitude, a free, peaceful, jazzy vibe (and just enough bad-boy edge to make it interesting), as were folks like Public Enemy’s Chuck D, who banged The Word on his Internet radio shows for RapStation.com and BringTheNoise.com. Rumors also abounded that Numbs had piqued the interest of Island/Def Jam, as hip-hop mag Urb slobbered over The Word. They wrote: “Numbs shouldn’t remain a secret much longer. Be first on your block to go under.”
And then, it got quiet. Dago says Tommy Boy, not long after flying an A& rep out to see Numbs play, went under; that was the end of that. Chuck D has continued to spin Numbs music, but they’re not actively talking to other labels. And none of the other label rumors are true—except that former A& guys, one from Island and one from Columbia Records, took an interest. The Columbia guy, Dago says, now runs Position Music in Los Angeles and has hooked them up with “a lot of licensing endeavors,” namely two songs featured on the Xbox game Amped 2 (due Oct. 29) and NBA Jam by Acclaim, which drops soon.
“This videogame stuff we got going on is pretty crazy,” Dago muses. “I wasted a ton of quarters on NBA Jam as a youth, so it feels like bittersweet revenge in a way.”
Revenge for quarters spent? Or a small victory after promise petered out? Dago figures it’s “a step in the right direction.” They’re making money from their music, which enables them to further Numbs. To wit, Numbs have no less than three projects on the burner: two EPs, and a full-length live album, which they’ll release independently, having parted company with Guapo this year. Ambition has taken a backseat to a love for what they do, so they really have forgotten themselves—or at least, they’ve put Numbs in perspective. Everybody has their own life—day jobs, families, school—and they’re richer for that.
Dago: “I have my 9-to-5, a 3-year-old daughter I look after—big ups to Elektra—and my rap life. It’s hard to balance the day-to-day activities, but when you have something as good as this music to indulge in, it makes it all worthwhile.” Music Utah’s hottest hip-hop act makes the move from beat-boxes to Xboxes. Numbs School 1CD9DCB7-2BF4-55D0-F1F41B8F4D8F0DFC 2007-06-11 16:14:06.0 1 1 0 2003-10-09 00:00:00.0 4 0
Paul Stanley, calling from the Kiss jet en route to San Francisco, isn’t the least bit jazzed to be doing another phone interview. He’s not gonna punctuate any of his comments with his trademark oh-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-ooooo! There will be no exuberance. He’s a businessman conducting business—professional, haughty, bored. Let’s get the show on the road, he seems to say.
I love Kiss, at least what they were from 1973 to 1980, and on and off henceforth. They were the ultimate cartoon superheroes (the Demon, the Starchild, the Spaceman, the Cat) juxtaposed with the ultimate three-chord arena rock; no self-respecting male was immune (never mind the females). When Gene Simmons blew fire, the eyebrows on my soul were singed. When Peter Criss sang “Beth,” I vividly heard her sweet, sweet nagging. When Ace Frehley said, “Ack!” I knew exactly where the spaced-out brutha was comin’ from. And when Paul took command of the stage, dancing like a chick and getting away with it, I shook my ass right along with him (albeit behind closed doors). Somewhat naively, I was hoping this phone call would be a party, when all signs since 1980 have hinted to the contrary.
It was in 1980 that Peter split. Ace followed soon after. The makeup came off. Members were replaced as fast and efficiently as bald tires. Kiss continued, even thrived, as a hair band sans the makeup through the ’80s. Rumors abounded that Gene and Paul were tyrants, money-grubbing businessmen who treated Ace, Peter and their replacements like inferiors. And regardless, Kiss was still Kiss. Wasn’t it?
I wept—profusely—when Peter and Ace joined Paul and Gene on Kiss Unplugged, more when it bloomed into full-fledged reunion. But when the merchandise appeared, not in the semi-reasonable amounts seen in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but in full-on, new millennial, egregious excess (sure, excess was Kiss’ middle name, but a Kiss Visa card?!), the luster began to fade.
The Farewell Tour failed to end. Peter was unceremoniously cast aside for an Australian tour; Eric Singer (Kiss drummer No. 3) donned the Catman get-up. Then Ace was gone—ex-Black ‘n’ Blue guitarist (and Kiss guitar tech) Tommy Thayer suited up and stepped in—and Peter was back. With each development, it was increasingly evident this wasn’t the beautiful Peaches & Herb feels-so-good reunion, ripe with significance. Kiss was cashing in, plain and simple.
Not to begrudge them continued employment, even piles of cash. Kiss is essential to popular culture and rock & roll and is infinitely special to millions of fans. It’s beautiful, what they accomplished, so give ’em a windfall, even though they squandered the first one. But how much? How many times can they be allowed to double-dip with the back catalog (Kiss has coughed up no less than seven variations of Greatest Hits albums, three since reuniting) and swap-out members? What’s next? A cadre of Kiss Klones to play simultaneous shows in Las Vegas, Chicago, Berlin, London and New York like a black-and-silver Blue Man Group?
Stanley says they just don’t feel like quitting, that there are things left for Kiss to do—for instance, the Kiss Symphony concert in Melbourne, Australia, and the ongoing tour with slightly more credible contemporaries Aerosmith. Not only that, but “part of the joy of life is being able to do something and change your mind later. Ask Michael Jordan. And if it pleases the greatest amount of people that still have love for what we do ...”
But then, he seems to imply we should be happy they’re still around.
“It’s funny, you know, for the few people who ask questions about the Farewell Tour, there are millions of people that are happy to have us. Why does Scrooge get more coverage than the joy Santa brings?”
Sigh ... point taken; there is nothing like Kiss. No rush like the exhilarating, build-to-burst intro of “Detroit Rock City.” No national rock anthem like “Rock & Roll All Nite.” No iconography. No show.
But Kiss is petering out. Watching Thayer—let’s get on the bandwagon and plug the new Kiss Symphony: Alive IV DVD and album—in Ace’s costume, almost but not quite hitting Ace’s wonderfully shitfaced solos, isn’t cutting it. Peter seems to be smiling at his mere inclusion. Paul and Gene don’t even seem to be into it—where they used to nail every nuance in every song, they’re delivering lines like pizzas. That’ll be a minimum of $65. Thank you and goodnight.
Nevertheless, when the Kiss/Aerosmith tour pulls up to the Delta Center on Wednesday, I’ll be there with my 5-year-old daughter so she can experience a reasonable facsimile of a real rock & roll show. After all, Paul has a good point when he says many of today’s platinum-selling bands “haven’t had time to learn their craft ... how to entertain audiences.” Kiss can, and still does, for the most part.
So, let’s get the show on the road. Music Is a reasonable facsimile of Kiss still better than nothing at all? Kiss, My Ass 1CD9DCF5-2BF4-55D0-F1F21569CF6A6417 2007-06-11 16:14:06.0 1 1 0 2003-10-16 00:00:00.0 0 0
When I was a kid,” says rapper Ebay Jamil Hamilton, “I thought music would be a quick and easy way out. But really, there are so many people making music, good music, it’s hard not to get lost in the crowd.”
The 25-year-old Salt Lake City rapper and radio host (you hear him Friday nights on KRCL, spinning hip-hop and acid jazz on The Rhythm Kitchen) shouldn’t have trouble standing out; he has experience and talent in bushels. He’s been writing rhymes since he was 12 years old, putting original words to instrumental B-sides on cassette singles. By 13, he was ghostwriting rhymes for other local MCs, and by 14 he was socking away lunch money for “studio time” on a friend’s antiquated four-track. Now, as a solo artist recording for Net Weight Records (for whom he also toils as head sales rep) and a member of the acid jazz/hip-hop group RealEyes, he’s working to restore hip-hop as a viable art form and a valid means of self-expression.
“Self-expression in any form [doesn’t] need to be defined and confined to a genre,” he points out—it’s all communication and there are so many contexts in which to speak. Hip-hop works so well in that respect, he continues, “because it started out very basic.” Basic, in that it came from the streets, and can be as simple as two turntables and a microphone. “R-A-P is rhythm and poetry,” he says simply, letting it go unsaid, but not really, that this is all it should be.
A self-described “shy kid,” Hamilton was a loner and wrote “just to pass time. It was just something I was interested in doing. I wrote for myself, and I still do ... Just like anyone who keeps a journal, but my entries go better with beats.” He says his early songs weren’t about anything meaningful, and points sheepishly to “Train of Thought,” a cool, 13-minute number on RealEyes’ debut EP The External Perspective, as an example. He wrote the words when he was 17, and left them alone; now, he’s a bit embarrassed at what he views as naïve thoughts (“I see the same ol’ faces/the same ol’ places”).
But simple wisdom is what makes Hamilton’s rhymes profound; he forgets his own words. It’s just rhythm and poetry—on the surface, there was nothing sage about the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” or Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines,” but then again, there was.
Hamilton played his first “big show” in ’95, but was rhyming on street corners and at bus stops long before. He released his debut, The Sugarhouse Chronicles, on Net Weight in 1998. He calls his sound “straightforward hip-hop” or “elevator music,” depending on production quality, but the reality is his hip-hop is just plain musical. He plays guitar, trombone and piano, and prides himself in composing real music to color his words.
In RealEyes, which he formed in 2000 with bassist Andy “Shaymos” Erickson and drummer Scott Osborne Hacker (guitarist Willis Clow, leader of the Salt Lake Alternative Jazz Orchestra, came later), Hamilton goes beyond basic. The emphasis is trance-inducing acid-jazz under thought-provoking rhymes, completely far-out but still on the level, which has quickly made the band a decent draw, headlining Monk’s, the Zephyr, the Urban Lounge and Park City’s Harry O’s, where the band officially releases The External Perspective this Friday.
After that, Hamilton will focus on his next solo hip-hop release for Net Weight, produced by label-mate Brick One of the 1,200 Hobos Crew. He’s come a long way from being a kid with a notebook, and has aspirations to impact the Salt Lake City scene and the hip-hop community at large. “I don’t want 15 minutes—I want longevity. I will always make music,” he says. “I just need someone to listen.” Music Ebay Jamil Hamilton and RealEyes spin simple wisdom with complex hip-hop/jazz beats. Beyond Basics 1CD9DD53-2BF4-55D0-F1FCF039E315C9E8 2007-06-11 16:14:06.0 1 1 0 2003-10-16 00:00:00.0 2 0
Since its inception, the jazz-funk supergroup Garage a Trois has been clouded in mystery, and apparently that mystery is made of something called grundle. Unfortunately though, only a few people know what grundle actually is, and they’re clearly not talking. In fact, one member of the band has said that GaT has done wonders for his grundle, although he didn’t even know he had one. So, for now, mum’s the word.
The beginnings of the whole venture found its roots in a side project spun from a side project. During the recording of his first solo album, Galactic drummer Stanton Moore stayed after with saxophone-freakazoids Skerik of Critters Buggin’ and eight-string guitar wonderboy Charlie Hunter to lay down some jams. Out of those late-night sessions came GaT’s first recorded release, a limited-edition vinyl EP, Mysteryfunk, four tracks of space-dub experiments.
Afterwards, GaT hardly ever played live, except, of course, for club gigs and riverboat stints during the New Orleans Jazz Fest, and when they did it was often under the name Moore & More. Moore recently shed some light on all the confusion, although he wouldn’t even begin to discuss his grundle.
“Right after my first solo project All Kooked Out came out we started playing gigs,” explained Moore. “At first we were playing under Moore & More. But I was also calling a group of guys I was playing with in New Orleans Moore & More. So people would show up to a show and not quite know who or what they were in for.”
In 2000, things began to clear up, although nothing could be done for the grundle. Moore, Skerik and Hunter were asked to open for the musical oddity Oysterhead