Thursday, February 26, 2015

RECORD REVIEWS - FEBRUARY 2015

I'll post the reviews a couple days early this month as I'm out of town for a bit. A ton of music has come in and it is tougher and tougher to keep up (remember, I also review for Folkworld), but it's fun to get a lot of diverse music and there are some gems as always.

ANAMAI “SALLOWS”
When an ambient band establishes as strength in sound as Anamai does, it works well with me throughout a full album length. The musical patterns are there, particularly in the vocals, which although they do not vary much, they add a distinction to the sound which is a great focal point. They remind me quite a bit of an excellent Brooklyn band, Silver Summit, if you stretched their music out like taffy.

THE BLACK RYDER “THE DOOR BEHIND THE DOOR”
This is a familiar ryde along the psychedelic shoe gaze highway. It is a fine album that trends more toward lush than daring, although there is some variety among the songs. Maybe not enough to excite me as much as the average shoe gazer, but enough to enjoy the music. I will keep spinning and see what more it brings to the table after a few listens.

Songs to try first:

The Going Up was Worth the Coming Down - Quality psyche-folk, especially in the acoustic guitar.

Santaria Pts 1&2 - A fine droning guitar allows the drums to be more expressive along with the vocals.

BOUQUET “IN A DREAM”
This five song EP is accurately named. It is a mix of pop music and contemplative music all encased in a dreamy production. While I sometimes may slight this style of music as it does not often work with me in general, when a band nails it, it gets high marks. And Bouquet has written lovely flowing songs that I would be happy to hear many times over or sandwiched in a hits radio station in a David Lynch film. This is a successful record and a band I would be happy to see some time in DC.

WILL BUTLER “POLICY”
This might be the second most famous Arcade Fire ‘Butler’, but often I prefer the lesser known members of the star bands anyway (e.g.… S.Carey from Bon Iver’s band, Skip Spence from J.Airplane/Moby Grape). I think I would enjoy this more than if the other Arcade Fire members did albums, as it is quite playful and fun. He mixes styles almost too much for cohesion’s sake, but while the garage pop sitting next to the thoughtful ballads doesn’t always add up, they do show steady quality. Ultimately, this is a gutsy little feel good pop record that has more innocence than you would ever expect from someone in Arcade Fire. It’s only eight songs, so it goes by a bit quickly, but it is a fine showcase of songs.

Songs to try first:

Take My Side - The opener shows off a sturdy garage rock with pop flair and bold confidence.

Finish What I Started - A laid back Bill Fay type song, well sung, and arranged carefully.

What I Want - Part Richard Hell, part Leonard Graves Phillips (Dickies) in vocal style and song approach.

CATSCAN! “CHALLENGER DEEP”
Try to grab on to this DC duo while you can. It may tough as they appear pretty slippery on this long player. Just when you enjoy one song and have their style down, they do a juke and a shimmy and are off in another direction. Since it is all playful, smart, and fun, it works very well. When you have humor and thoughtful sonic approaches working, that is your identity more than something genre specific. They kind of have a Dead Milkmen meets Couch Flambeau approach working, as best as I can describe. It is spirited and rocks with pop hooks bouncing around in most songs, so it is well worth your time and exploration.

Songs to try first:

Marine Biologist - Strange almost glam-progressive rock song with unique vocals and sounds abounding.

Voodoo Dollhouse - Really fun garage pop rocker that can work in any of the past six decades.

Meathook Fanclub - Metal meets electronica with quirky humor still intact somehow.

CHAMPS “VAMALA”
Although the quirkiness and gentle approach to pop music may be something we all hear regularly enough, Champs takes it to a thicker more powerful place. Power is a tricky word as things are subtle, but there is such strength and conviction in every note and hook working its way into the listener’s body and psyche. There are even some psyche folk moves in some songs. This one may not be for everybody, but they hit a lot of my buttons and did so with a sense of class and grace that I don’t see often enough.

Songs to try first:

Desire - Strange harmonies evolve into soaring majestic pop.

Running - A smooth sing song melody should stay with you for some time.

Forever Be Upstanding at the Door - A great psyche folk song worthy of the masters.

DTCV “UPTIME!”
This band combines a fine array of sounds into their brand of pop music. The hooks are there with the vocal delivery is more rich and expressive than most. The guitars, bass, and drums can rock with the best of them and show plenty of strength and conviction throughout the 12 songs here. But everything is so bright and sunny on the high end, that a sense of balance remains. There is nothing spectacular here, just smart and hearty and extremely listenable tunes.

Songs to try first:

Astros - Great opener with a wide range between heavenly vocals and down to earth guitar chords.

Early Alone - Lovely quivering vocal with more gutsy guitars.

Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame Induction Song - Yeah, the song is almost as good as the title.

DELTA ROUTINE “YOU AND YOUR LION”
Although from Milwaukee, this band draws plenty of inspiration from the biggest delta in this country. They have extreme roots at every turn, although the songs show a bit of that New Orleans style hybrid of blues, rock, jazz, and folk. I particularly like the nasal and expressive vocals. The band has some swing to it in many of the arrangements which keeps the album fresh and lively. There are some exceptional songs here that are worth exploring. And they are quite a kick in the pants when they come to town. Put them on your calendar and maybe consider a date with this album, too.

Songs to try first:

Chains of Me - The opener establishes the depths of the Louisiana sound this band can concoct.

On a Saturday Night - A real rocker that is worthy of Saturday night.

Home with You - Love the snappy melody, even as they take striking breaks.

DUTCH UNCLES “O SHUDDER”
Not without its charm, this record sticks to an electronic pop format with compelling lead vocals. The vocals were the best part as the music had a rather numbing effect on me rather quickly. “I Should Have Read” had better music with spritely piano passages, but for the most part, I would only recommend this to electro-pop fans, and there are a sustainable number of those in the universe.

EVANS THE DEATH “EXPECT DELAYS”

I like this band. They do interesting things. Expect the unexpected and all that. Familiar, yet odd. The female vocals have a beauty with a bit of an edge at times. The guitars go soft or hard at the blink of an eye. The songs have a languid quality, but show off enough intensity to remind one of their presence. Although based in London, they sound good enough to warrant a tour on this side of the Atlantic. Everything just has that certain sheen on it here and it is hard to explain further. Maybe a few more listens, maybe not, but I will be listening.

Songs to try first:

Intrinsic Grey - The opener scared me at first with a overplayed neu folky beginning, but then it got nice and noisy.

Idiot Button - Great dreamy backing with jabbing guitars and loopy attractive vocals.

Waste of Sunshine - Wonderfully dreary tone in music with great spacey vocal.

GAZER “FAKE BULBS - PHONE COMMERCIAL”
This eight song record (long EP, short LP) is an intense but steady ride. There is an earnest punk feeling at times, but the music is far darker in a Savage Republic vein. There is plenty of percussion, some jagged guitar runs, rumbling bass, all the components of a solid post hardcore effort. It is a bit hit/miss as song structures could be more interesting, but the energy levels are excellent and the sonic blast is fun. Try ‘I Passed the Bar’ for something particularly interesting from this Cincinnati band.

GENGAHR “SHE’S A WITCH”
This four song ep offers a taste of a nice little pop outfit from the United Kingdom. The title track is quirky pop that is smooth enough for mass consumption. I preferred ‘Haunter’ with its folky guitar line and airy pop vocals. There’s some stronger electric guitar and popsike vibes as well (very much UK these days). These are all fairly subtle moves as the overall dreamy pop feeling particularly in the vocals keeps it all together. This sounds like an interesting band that could do well if they can continue to write well and keep the variety lively.

HOPE GRIFFIN “SAY WHAT YOU WILL”
In only six songs on this EP, Hope Griffin makes a successful presentation of her skills as a singer songwriter. The songs are fine, but the warm intensity behind them is present in the instrumentation and the singing. The basic root might be blues, but the roots spread wide and deep. Take a listen to ’Subtle Riddles’ with the trade off lead vocals and strong melody and see if you are imaging hearing one of your favorite singer songwriters, That is just what Asheville, North Carolina’s Hope Griffin may become. Here’s hoping for a live show some time this year, as well.

IN TALL BUILDINGS “DRIVER”
While I was afraid this album was going to sound like every other light minded indie rock album I have heard, I am glad I stayed with it. It is akin to reading a mannered literary novel as a break from the hardboiled crime fiction I normally tear into. It is good to balance things out and In Tall Buildings has done that here, at least for me. They do it with quality and the care of their delivery. They have a sense of drama, but it is so subtle, it is easy to miss. If you want smart, yet accessible, take a careful listen here. Perhaps you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was, or maybe you were a lot sharper from the get go.

Songs to try first:

Bawl Cry Wall - The opener sets the tone and the quality level for the album.

Exiled - A lovely song with just enough in the sound of the guitar and the push from the rhythm section to elevate it.

Unmistakable - A song that starts out simply and builds great tension and even rock volume by its close.

CHRISTIAN LOPEZ BAND “PILOT”
This five song EP is a classy little appetizer from this fine teenage West Virginia singer songwriter. And this does have class, both in production and songwriting for starters. These are warm engaging melodies with polished instrumentation played with heart and arranged with a variety of approaches. It all unifies into roots based music that is good enough to broaden its appeal to non-roots music fans who like good hooks and energized pace. All five songs flow together well, but have you time for one, check out ‘Amiss’. Nothing amiss here from this recording and I already know his live show is solid.

KEATH MEAD “SUNDAY DINNER”
When I was young and we traded records with friends to sample other artists that we could not afford to spend $3.99 to buy their record, it was a good way to get a full listening of some people you knew about or knew one song on the radio. There were a couple of artists that I borrowed and spent some time with, but then never went on to buy. I find many records like this these days, and like this one, they often fit in between that ‘Dan Fogelberg and Kenny Rankin’ category that I created so long ago. Keath Mead has many of the attributes of these older albums, although the style is fully modern indie rock singer songwriter based. The songs just don’t quite grab me like albums that would have fit the ‘Shawn Phillips to Bob Dylan’ category that I created (where I went on to buy). Not that this is bad, far from it (Try out ‘Change’ for a catchy cut), just that this a little less interesting for me to invest further time in. But if you like fine songs on the lighter side, arrangement wise, give this a try.

NEW MADRID “SUNSWIMMER”
These guys blew me away at the DC9 a couple weeks back. But the album is merely good by comparison. It is a more subtle exercise in dreamy psyche pop and rock music with a couple of tracks that go for more than 23 minutes combined to finish off the album. It covers the variations that this band can produce from quiet to loud and frantic to passive, so it represents them well. I just wish it had that more unpredictable cutting edge of the live set. Still, this will be listened to again many times in this household, until next the band returns.

Songs to try first:

All Around the Locust - The song starts slow and simple but builds into an impressive array of guitar moves.

Forest Gum - Pixie-esque melody with trippy guitar and throbbing bass.

And She Smiles - Long dreamy drones work for me, but they are not for everyone.

A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS “TRANSFIXIATION”

Sometimes I forget how good the core music is from this band, when I spend time thinking of their overall light how and stage presentation. But of course, the sound, light, and fury all come together on stage into a strong live event. But the music is thick, strong, and daring all by itself even as you sit back in the couch. Don’t get too comfortable, as the jarring vocals and stabbing fuzzed out guitars are not designed to let you rest easy. Although some of the songs have a more contemplative sonic intensity, rather than the cuts that slash and burn. It is all melodic and moody, so it works quite well with a diverse audience, as long as they like intense music of some sort. Well, they better enjoy loud intensity in the tons with this lot.

Songs to try first:

Straight - Anything but… well, the vocal line is a rather normal melody, but everything rages all around it at strange angles.

Love High - Sounds like a warmer Big Black.

Now it’s Over - Like a Joy Division song at 45rpm.

PRIMA DONNA “ALBUM”
This one kind of began like an LA glam-punk-metal hybrid on the light side, but there were a couple of sparkling moments along the way. Just not enough of them to warrant more relistening in this household. I go way back, but I didn’t have any fond memories of REO Speedwagon in high school, and little has changed by now. At their best, maybe Hanoi Rocks? If you like rock music loose and sleazy with a catchy pop component, give it a try.

RICKED WICKY (Robert Pollard) “I SELL THE CIRCUS”
I thought this was going to be a Robert Pollard solo album and it is, although they released it under the band name ‘Ricked Wicky’ which has an inside meaning tracing back to his youth. And after a listen, that makes perfect sense as this has a unique full band feeling to it, compared to the last solo LP. The songs are a bit longer and feel fully formed with beginnings, middles, and ends. There are still loose and fun moments with plenty of shifting around various rock styles. But it all pulls together with a full album feeling more than usual, at least based on my off and on listening to Pollard’s output. There is so much here to like with every style shift succeeding. This is a fine job from a guy who went to many of the shows I went to (and even promoted) in Dayton, Ohio way, way back in the day. And is that a mellotron I hear on ‘Rotten Blackboards’? That even takes me further back.

Songs to try first:

Death Metal Kid - Almost a death metal riff done indie rock style with extra chunk—different for sure.

Even Today and Tomorrow - A lovely acoustic guitar weaves around a fine vocal line. Lovely song.

Mobility - An even keeled deep little rocker—so slight, yet strong.

SONNY & THE SUNSETS “TALENT NIGHT AT THE ASHRAM”
This album is an interesting personal take on pop rock music. It does not always work for me, but I appreciate the unique approach they take. It is almost a blending of disconnected parts, but the quiet audacity of this band makes it work. I hope I have time to give this a few more spins as I think there is even more respect to be gained with subsequent listening. It takes guts to keep things at a deliberate pace with space enough in the music to hear the vocals clearly as well as the strange instrumental choices.

Songs to try first:

Talent Night at the Ashram - Easy going California-esque light and easy jangle rock.

Happy Carrot Health Food Store - A low key popsike going on in this fascinating cut.

Secret Plot - Some prog sounds mixed in with this bouncy pop oddity.

THE STONE HILL ALL-STARS “AWAY”

It is always a pleasure to hear a record from this veteran Baltimore bunch. They feature the usual folk-rock roots band instruments along with a brisk chirpy accordion (no surprise that a previous band from the two core members was called the Polkats). There songs are snappy with great little hooks and playful instrumentation. The lyrics offer some fun stories to chew on as well. This is simply classy roots music that can appeal to all ages along with music lovers who appreciate song craft. There are some jazzy moves, heartland folk moves, some world touches, lots of good stuff melding together into tasty songs. Try them out!

Songs to try first:

Away - The title cut is a sharp number that tells you plenty about the makings and the quality of this band.

Jones et al v Petrie - Great storytelling in this long and fulfilling song.

Despite the Current Mess - Superb flowing duels of piano and guitar with a story on top.

TWERPS “RANGE ANXIETY”
After a delightful psychedelic opening, the Twerps head into quirky pop range. There is some anxiety present in the range as they have a subtle post punk undercurrent, although the hooks are more playful than not. There are some nice variations between the songs with male and female vocal leads, different guitar textures, whimsy versus intensity…. This is a smart little band here that is well worth your attention if you want to keep up with clever pop moves. Great name, too.

Songs to try first:

Back to You - A finely honed edge on this catchy song.

Stranger - Great vocal work and one of the more infectious melodies here.

Simple Feelings - Great ringing guitar sound fades in to set up this moving pop rocker.

VISION FORTUNE “COUNTRY MUSIC”

A guy came up to me and said I got some good news and some bad news about the new Vision Fortune album, ‘Country Music’. I said ‘what’s that, then?’ He says, the good news is that it is NOT country music. I says, ‘great, so what’s the bad news?’ It’s electronic music! OK, not ready for the Henny Youngman joke book, but it was ironic to find my second to last favorite genre entitled with my least favorite genre. I am fully capable of liking the best of either genres and unfortunately this is not close enough to rank up there. But it is not too bad either, as this duo experiments more than most, particularly with interesting drones and some intriguing sounds. The percussion drove me a little batty at times, but that may be part of the intent. If you like your music experimental, but still with decent patterns, you may want to check this album out. They try harder than most.

JANNE WESTURLUND “MARSHLAND”
I recall enjoyed Helsinki’s Janne Westerlund’s previous album quite a bit, so it was great pleasure to receive this in the mail. And within one song, I knew I had another album that would make it to the top of my replay pile. Westerlund has a spiritual style that mixes folk, blues, and Scandinavian styles into a compelling blend that reminds me of Woven Hand. I can’t pay much more of a compliment than that, as I think David Eugene Edwards of Woven Hand (and 16HP) is one of the best songwriters out there. And there is definitely a link between simple arrangements with a droning style on some of the songs here. But there is a fairly broad mix of songs here with enough style variation in the tone of the song and arrangement to make for an engaging listen all the way through. Grab onto this one, psyche-folk fans.

Songs to try first:

It Takes a Strong Jesus to Carry Me Home - Powerful blues, folky, spiritual opener.

Stranger’s Row - Second cut retains the magic while showing off even more versatility in style.

Marshland - Epic title cut is a droning powerhouse that I know DEE of Woven Hand would enjoy.

YOUNG GUV “RIPE 4 LUV”

Much of the time, this has simply too much of a sugary modern pop sound to it for me to digest. The electronics are all there behind vocals that sometimes deliver something fun, other times not so much. ‘Crawling Back to You’ and ‘Kelly I’m not a Creep’ have a Nuggets rock style that works better. This band does play around with form enough to show potential, but I am kind of scratching my head at present.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Leisure Cruise - Tigers are Bad for Horses -- DC9 - Feb 22 2015

Tigers are Bad for Horses - This local pop duo had a third member working some subtle backing on a Macbook. The main moves stood out more prominently as the female member handles vocal duties, while the fellow works keyboards an synthesizer. His playing is quite meaty, which I find so helpful for this style of music. His synthesizer runs were strong and offset the controlled lounge/R&B style singing. They even had a guest trumpet on a couple of songs, which offered a nice change of pace. I find so much to like in lounge music now that I'm older, as long as there is some heart or heft to the sound. This outfit offered just enough to make this a pleasant opening.
Leisure Cruise - This NYC quartet may offer the fun of a leisure cruise, but their music won't have you leaning back in your deck chair. They have a hard classic rocking sound with modern touches of shoegaze and even some progressive feeling in there. The drums and keyboards (or bass when he switches over) are the strong components along with the female vocals. Interestingly, the guitarist aims for interesting textures and subtle stylistic backing. The crowd seemed to be having fun and it is nice to see such turnouts in recent days. I suppose the winter is stoking the flames of desire to get out and have some fun. This band delivered.

Quote of the Night: From the headliners... "Thanks for choosing us over Hollywood." ... Not a thought to the contrary. Just call me George C. Scott or Sacheen Little Feather.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Place to Bury Strangers - Ed Schrader's Music Beat - Multicult -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Feb 20 2015

Multicult - A Baltimore trio kicks off this evening with some mighty thunder. They have a powerful post-hardcore sound with a great throaty bass, busy drumming, and gnarled guitar. Good ripping aggression here, but the song writing seems in between something old and something new and never quite builds the level I hoped for. Still, a sound opening sound in this 25 minute set.

Ed Schrader's Music Beat - This band is so unique, that it took only seconds before I realized I have seen them before, although it has been a while. You just don't forget the crazed talk and wild songs of these guys. It is simply distorted bass and stand-up drumming/lead vocals for 30 minutes where they blast away their short funny songs, with even funnier interludes. The sound is Screamers meets Chrome meets Shellac. This is primal punk that most people grow out of, if they ever had it all. Thankfully these guys have locked in to a brand of craziness that is still fresh and invigorating anywhere, anytime. If they could only bottle this.
A Place to Bury Strangers - I have always been impressed with this ferociously noisy New York trio, so I am shocked that I am so blown away, yet again. I should be ready for it by now, but just listening to their albums and seeing other bands for the year or two in between shows just doesn't prepare you for the sonic and visual bursts of power these guys deliver. Not only do they bring a sound man, but they have a lighting guy who both work with the local club specialist, who set the stage for the musicians to just focus on their intensity levels. The world stopped for me as I just fell back into this music, as non relaxing as it is. I particularly liked their noisy take on a gimmick that a lot of Americana bands do. In those cases, the band may come out into the crowd for a singalong with just acoustic instruments. Here, the three guys work their way over to the soundboard where there is a small kit set up with bass, guitar, electronics, and a small PA cabinet. Somehow they keep the volume and intensity up with this lo-fi rig. A few more songs there to the finish and the large crowd paid homage before drifting away into the night. Quite a night.

Quote of the Night: from ESMB... "If you want to pay $30 for a bottle of booze and a biscuit that has been in a plastic bag for a loooong time, go to Amtrak.com"

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bud's Collective - Christian Lopez Band - Cabin Creek -- Tree House Lounge - Feb 19 2015

Cabin Creek - This area band is playing when I arrive and thankfully their music is warming the room on this cold, cold night. They have a stand-up bass with three guys encircling him on a variety of guitars, banjos, pianos, and drums. The variety of sounds shapes the songs into more Americana country or folk-rock. Overall, there is an Appalachian country feeling throughout with more twang in the vocals than that of the guitars. Good solid set of music, at least what I heard of it here tonight in front of a surprisingly large crowd who braved the weather to take in some live music.
Christian Lopez Band - Christian Lopez is a young West Virginian singer songwriter armed with acoustic guitar and a fine band behind him consisting of drums, bass, and banjo/backing female vocals. The rhythm section is excellent as it keeps things brisk and on the edge of the seat. The guitar and banjo are up for the challenge as most of these songs flow by with energy and grit. The vocals are warm yet strong enough to stay on top of it all and deliver the song with the requisite passion and inspiration. The songs all flow together well into a full set of music, nearly an hour's worth, and show off enough textures to hold interest. They cut back to guitar and vocals to break things up nicely, before covering a rousing Johnny Cash number with the band in full rock mode. This was an excellent set of music that went over well with the crowd who deserves extra credit for coming out tonight.

Bud's Collective - I'm a bit wimpier than most tonight as I cut out early, although that has more to do with my schedule as being a weather wimp. But I'll be back for more at the Tree House Lounge, which has some nice new things happening there.

Quote of the Night: from the crowd... "...that sausage making moment..."

And speaking of crowds, great job DC at filling the clubs on nights where it is so easy to stay home and bundle up. This is two nights in a row with large and involved crowds.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New Madrid - Go Cozy - Witch Coast -- DC9 - Feb 18 2015

Witch Coast - Echoey guitar, steady bass, standing drums sans cymbals, and distorted voice... generally a decent psychedelic formula, but in this case it did not work as well as I had hoped. The basic riffs were decent and they churned out some fine rock, but it really did not assemble itself into anything gripping. The vocals were so distorted to a point that a synthesizer would have been more effective. It was also a really late start tonight, so they only played 17 minutes, although without more effective songwriting, I am not sure a longer set would have mattered. So nothing terribly wrong, more of a case I was hoping for better from this local trio. It could happen and I hope to report back within a year. There's a good chance, this could develop into a strong act.

Go Cozy - This area band combines lush sounds with jagged guitar thrusts into something that ultimately comes together quite well. It depends on the song, as a few had me drifting away from them. But when they clicked, they nailed a great sound and had a hearty melody to latch on to. They did a great psyche-jam toward the end of the set that was impressive. The combination of female and male vocals gave a nice variety to the set as well. Good job and a fun band to have on a number of bills.
New Madrid - I never would have thought that I would look to Georgia for a plethora of my favorite bands working in the 2010s, but with Kylesa, Mastodon, Baroness, Black Lips, Coathangers, etc. I was not sure if this Athens band would move high on that impressive list as the noise they were making before and after their first song was more interesting than the song itself. But from song two onward, these guys blasted out some wild and wonderful psychedelic rock reminiscent of Wooden Shjips, Hawkwind, and even Comets on Fire. They just had a couple of guitars and a rhythm section, but they cooked up all kinds of interesting noise and fascinating patterns that worked off of each other. A good crowd had braved the cold and late start and looked quite thrilled to be a part of this tonight. If you like it heavy, wild, and unpredictable (yet with songs you can latch on to), look into this band. You may be wearing a smile as wide as mine after 40 minutes.

Photo grab of the night:  My friend Don Habil is posting some great music photos he took in years. back. He has got punk rock well documented in the 1970s and here's a couple shots from 1979. This is what punk rock looked like in Dayton, Ohio with the great Toxic Reasons. I'm in the crowd with my friend Jeff, along with Victoria, long time Toxic roadie Bob Kramer, and the late Gyn Cameron hiding down low. This was our music.



Monday, February 16, 2015

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS - Late February 2015

Lots of great shows headed our way to DC. Take a look and listen below and you can now follow me on Twitter, where you can find out where I'm headed that evening. I can't tell you how excited I am about that... I really can't.

Depending on snowfall, you may want to head to the DC9 to see Emmy the Great tomorrow, Feb 17th.


And New Madrid is bringing a Spanish flair to the DC9 on Wednesday, Feb 18th. Or are they? Come and find out.


Thursday the 19th is loaded with great shows at the Velvet Lounge, 6th+I Synagogue and DC9. But I may try to double up for St. James and the Apostles at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel and Christian Lopez at the nearby Tree House Lounge. We shall see...


A Place to Bury Strangers is always exciting live and you should experience this yourself at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Friday, February 20th.


Join me on a Leisure Cruise going asea at the DC9 on Sunday, February 22th.


Ariel Pink and Jack Name make for a great double bill at the 9:30 Club on Monday, February 23rd.


Running After Ganymede from S Wadsworth Adams on Vimeo.

Springtime Carnivore rips some flesh, opening for the DoDos at the Black Cat on Tuesday, February 24th.


And you can finish off the month on Saturday the 28th at DC9 with performances by 2:54 and Honeyblood.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dead Professional - Rathborne - New Boss -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Feb 14 2015

New Boss - Same as the old boss? Maybe. This Charlottesville band has a couple of guitars, a couple of keyboards, and a rhythm section, yet the sound is pretty basic garage pop rock. The organ creates a mysterious backing for the guitars to crunch out some chords. It is not bad, but the vocal melodies and overall songwriting may need more time to develop. The stage patter could use some rethinking as well. But hey, the small crowd was enjoying it as we all braved a windy snowstorm to get here tonight. So it was great to have the music pouring out this evening.

Rathborne - From Brunswick Maine, comes Luke Rathborne with acoustic guitar and voice. Normally, Saturday nights this and many other clubs is certain death for lone folkies. Yet Luke Rathborne has the right approach for the live setting. He plucks the guitar with rock force and has a powerful voice that he can send over the conversation to reach all of us in the back of the club. And the snow has subsided (the cold has set in), so a surprisingly large and vibrant crowd is here to enjoy. He won them over with his energetic playing and quirky humor in between songs. His playing reminded me of Dave Pirner crossed with Jerry Porter. It worked tonight and likely works at most shows he would be a part of. Well done.
Dead Professional - This local trio finished fourth in the Deli Magazine poll of emerging artists of 2014. And it is with good reason, for while they have been around for a while as a one-man band, they have now morphed into a tight pop rock trio that is working Americana into the mix of their pop rock sound. With whatever style they choose, they have the songs that show a high level of maturity and touch that many bands take years to strive for. I enjoyed the foot tapping opener, which was the first of several songs that showed off the Americana vibe they worked in smoothly. The backing vocals help achieve this as much as the basic songs. Other times, they have a rock style that has a light Wipers feeling with a steady rhythm and heartfelt melody with fine vocals and guitar work. They drew a sizable crowd on a night that many people would have done better by staying in. But the effort was worth it and the vibe in the Rock'n'Roll Hotel was great. It appears this band is headed for a long and healthy life.

Quote of the Night: From the opener describing a new song... "It may sound like Blue Oyster Cult."

I wish... it was more like Great Plains, but that works for me.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

JMSN - Rochelle Jordan - Abhi/Dijon -- U Street Music Hall - Feb 13 2015

Abhi/Dijon - One guy sings, the other guy works electronics, beats, samples, or whatever. Songs just kind of faded in and disappeared. When there was a pause, I guess it was over. Sound was kind of murky, singing ok, but the crowd wasn't terribly involved. It is an early start, but the crowd is here, I can hear them talking. All set long, I could not get my mind of the fact that the Mekons first album is called 'The Quality of Mercy is Not Strnen'.

Rochelle Jordan - This time, it is a woman from Toronto in front of the electronics guy. She has a fine voice and the songs seem more complete than previously. Still, the sound is murky with the bass knocking my head back into the wall, while I struggle to hear her singing. Best sound system in the city, so some say. I enjoyed this much more, but the crowd was still flat and the overall sound was lacking enough, that I could see why.
JMSN - Ah, live musicians--what a difference they make. JMSN is here on vocals with a bass player and a drummer who are filling the hall with a powerful undercurrent to light electronica and soaring vocals. He is a fine soul singer who has got the crowd dancing more, as they are enjoying the live excitement of the approach, as well as the familiarity with the songs. I thought JMSN's recent album was a little too steady, but the talent was there as shown tonight. And the musicians gave it a more vibrant edge in the live setting, making this a fine set of modern soul.

Quote of the Night: insight from the opening band... "If you were deployed in Afghanistan for 5 years, it's tough man."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Phox - Field Report -- 9:30 Club - Feb 12 2015

Field Report - An all-Wisconsin bill tonight, reported by someone whose roots extend deep into that state. This trio is from Milwaukee and feature a rather light approach with a classic singer songwriter style. They really did well when they worked in an intricate drone reminiscent of the lighter side of the Velvet Underground into some of these songs. I would have liked just a bit more tempo or volume shifts to really underscore these fine songs (I am sure they watch what the headliners do in this regard). Otherwise, it is a fine set of some very good songs that effectively warmed up the audience tonight. I look forward to bigger and brighter things from this outfit. And speaking of bigger and brighter things...
Phox - It is great to see a band I thoroughly enjoyed in an opening slot at the Black Cat in September 2013 rise to these heights so quickly. In between these shows, they have played at DAR Constitution Hall and twice at the Hamilton including a headlining slot. And despite the active touring schedule, they are working in some new material and some new approaches to their 'older' songs. Monica Martin is still the focal point with her exquisite vocals and presence. Yet it is the full band of Baraboo friends that works the full magic here. They employ some choppy rhythmic breaks and intricate melodic shifts that play off the silky vocals in an unusual but wholly natural way. At times it even reminds me of the Incredible String Band duo working with Sandy Denny and her Fotheringay rhythm section--whimsy offsetting beauty and strength. They pulled back to acoustic songs where they all played around a condenser mic before pushing it back up with a screaming fuzz guitar solo. Monica Martin does some solo cuts with ukulele at the end to take the diversity even further. Normally such extensive touring will either tighten a band up or possibly get them overexposed. For Phox, I think it is more of opening some new creative paths and getting them the further exposure that is taking them to great heights. I am happy to see it happen and hope to keep seeing it for a long time to come.

Quote of the Night - Monica Martin pretty much apologizes for talking too much every time through, and I'm not sure I agree as she tells a story about pants that she had told a few DC shows back that I remembered. So it all makes sense. But I was happy to see Jordan Dache take her up on her challenge for a carefully cropped photo including some of the PHOX lighting...

MM - "I hope that someone will take a photo when only the H and O lighting is on (with me in the middle)."


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Chris Robinson Brotherhood -- 9:30 Club - Feb 11 2015

Chris Robinson Brotherhood - If you like your flying burritos covered in nitty gritty dirt and cooked over canned heat, you will be grateful that Chris Robinson is far from dead as the Black Crowes lay dormant in recent years. For the past few years, the Crowes front man has assembled a fine old school hippie rock band, complete with second guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard. They probably have a lot of fun with this, as they set the tone tonight with an oldie, 'Shake, Rattle, and Roll' before heading off into the psychedelic sixties with more original jamming songs. If you like jam bands, they fit the bill with plenty of extended passages. But if you are more song oriented, the vocal melodies and composed song structures are there as well. Robinson is in fine voice, which is good to hear. The rhythm section has a laconic style and the guitar work is tasty as you would expect. The keyboards are the highlight for me as I love the old synthesizer sounds and his soloing had a lot of variety and was heavily psychedelic at times. He mostly spent the rest of his time on organ with a bit of piano in there, too. I will let true Deadheads and Black Crowes fans judge this band, as I am not fully comfortable in this arena. But there were enough good songs, solos, and overall style for me to have a good time tonight. And I was far from alone in that assessment.
 photo - Matt Mendenhall

Quote of the Night: While standing by the soundboard a fan came up first to me, before showing support to the soundman and the lighting technician... "Wow! Money in the bank, right there and there. YOU GUYS ARE WIZARDS!"

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater -- Kennedy Center - Feb 7 2015

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - Although this is not the sort of live music event I write about here, I wanted to use this excellent show as a discussion point for something I have thought about a lot the last year. First, this 57-year old dance New York based dance company did an excellent job with the three programs they presented here during their week-long run in DC. The first act was a recent choreography by Matthew Rushing to the songs of Odetta. I loved the music and the dancing was vibrant and well integrated into the songs, including a powerful version of Dylan's 'Masters of War'. The second piece was more muscular and modern and was done to the music of Laurie Anderson and Peter Gabriel. The third piece had a large company showing great energy interpreting various classic spirituals in a choreography from Alvin Ailey, first performed in 1960. This was an uplifting show where one could marvel at the skilled dancers, while deeply reflecting on the music. Their run ends today, but I highly recommend them when they next come to town.
 
The point of writing this up was something I have been thinking about as I have become more selective in choosing musical events to cover. Last year, my top show was an outstanding Chinese band, Second Hand Rose, who were extremely skilled as players, but had a theatrical presentation with costumes and some spoken word parts offsetting the music. I have also seen great shows in the past such as Presto Bando putting on a 'soccer musical' with all new music telling a full story song by song. It was not exactly Broadway bound, but it was dazzling with the way it stood out from the usual shows around town. I also saw a 12 foot puppet show acting out a song cycle as well from a now defunct local band. These types of shows really work the senses so much more than four guys in jeans standing around with their guitars and drums.

I realize not everyone is capable of doing full-out theatrical presentations. Also, there will always be a spot in my world for musicians that just enjoy sitting around on the porch or hanging out in the garage and playing songs and occasionally bringing that to a small stage or house show. But I hope to see more creativity in future shows involving a visual approach. I don't always need the extraordinary skill of the Alvin Ailey dancers to enliven recorded music. Talented people creating a thoughtful presentation of recorded or original music will be something I will enjoy so much more than someone taking the stage, standing at his computer presenting his original music.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

White Arrows - Chappo -- DC9 - Feb 6 2015

Chappo - The atmosphere is quite exciting even for this early show at the DC9. And Chappo hits the ground running with an interesting blend of old school synthesizer sounds and twisted pop vocals. There is some heavy guitar at times, steady drumming with bass only coming from keyboards, so the poptones are more on the high end. There were a couple flat songs in the middle, but most had enough sparkle and quirkiness to keep the energy levels high. The crowd really dug the band and was engaged throughout the 48 minute set. Chappo have not been around too long and should be poised to have a successful career if this show is any indication.
White Arrows - This LA band can be broadly placed in the burgeoning popsike scene, which normally is golden ticket to my heart. But this time, I found the band a little too brittle in cooler post-punk pop style. The psyche is there, even if it is quite subtle for the most part. There is even a touch of soul in the vocals, which is nice when the warmth comes out. There are dance oriented songs and they remind me of the Midge Ure Ultravox, which was the version the masses like, while people like me strongly preferred the John Foxx Ultravox. I did not get to stay the whole set (due to illness, which also kept me from heading to the Drew Gibson Iota show). I wish I could have caught more because I have a feeling this is one of those bands which will get better over time and multiple listens.

Quote of the Night: From Chappo singer... "Nice, nice. You look good, smell good, too."

Thursday, February 5, 2015

INTERVIEW with MERRELL FANKHAUSER

Interview conducted by phone on January 22nd, 2015

Merrell Fankhauser is not nearly as known as he should be for a lot of reasons. But he has continually gained a major cult following of rock fans who seek out highly creative musicians that never quite grabbed the charts or media attention. Merrell's music is simply some of the coolest music around, whether his songs are classic surf tunes, California rock music, mystical psychedelic rock, folk and blues, and even more creative combinations that go beyond simple genres. His book 'Calling from a Star' is a great read and is available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. He has a ton of music out, much of which available at his web site. He is a great guy and has lots of great stories that he shared with me as documented below.
Merrell Fankhauser: Hello David, you’re right on time!

David Hintz: Hello, yes, well that’s pretty much me. I don’t know quite why, but I get a lot of nervous energy waiting around before doing an interview.

MF: I know what you mean, I’ve got so much going on now with music, TV shows, editing and the book promotion and I’ve been doing all these radio interviews, so I get rather nerve wracked myself (laughter).

DH: Oh yeah, I was try to remember that, too, when I start to complain about my stress and work levels. The musicians I am covering are doing so much more of it themselves these days. There is so much to take care of, so my stress isn’t much. You have the harder job.

MF: Yeah, but you are calling from Washington DC?

DH: Yes… (going on about background, DC ROCK LIVE, and Folkworld, etc.).

MF: Very good. I am doing everything I can, David, to get the book out there. So far, the publisher hasn’t done press yet, but it seems to be selling well because seventeen people have sent me books to sign and send back to them.

DH: Well—that’s amazing. It has to be doing well as a lot of people must be buying are not going to go that far.

MF: Yeah and people are emailing me that they have bought the book and posting it on Facebook and everything, so I am hoping next month to start doing some press on it. So you will be one of the first ones to do an interview on the book. A guy did an interview with me for Shindig magazine in the UK, but that won’t be out until March, maybe.
DH: OK, well it will take me a while to write up, so let’s get to the book then… Merrell Fankhauser’s Calling from a Star. Did you enjoy writing it? And how long did it take during the process?

MF: Yeah, I started out in 1990 because in the late seventies even, people were saying ‘man, you’ve had such an adventure, I mean, living on Maui, exploring pre-Hawaiian ruins and all the other people I’ve played with and they said you should write a book. So I came back from Hawaii in 1987—I had moved there in 1973, and started playing concert and recording. Then around 1990, my Mom said you should get started on that book. So I sat down at the typewriter (laughs)—no computer yet, and tried to remember stories. I had a lot of the Fankhauser history, where we came from in Switzerland and ancestors and all of that. Then I got up in to the music that started around 1960 or 61 and I couldn’t pin down dates exactly. She would say go in the hall closet and bring down that box. It was full of old newspaper clippings and magazine clippings and that really saved me as far as getting dates and things. So I wrote on pretty well from about ’91 until oh, around ’93 or ’94 and then I was so busy playing and started doing a TV show called ‘California Music’ and it ended up on a satellite coming out of New York going to 15 million viewers for about four years. So the book went back on the back burner for a while and then I would write on it for a few years and I just finished it about three years ago and so much has happened since I finished it, I wish that some of that had gotten in the book. But I had it finished and started sending it to publishers and got a deal and got it out. There it is at Amazon.com at the best price and it seems to be selling the most.

DH: Yeah, it’s awfully convenient to buy there. They even link other sellers to them, so it’s a source people start with often.

MF: Yeah.

DH: You mentioned your Mom which hits a topic I wanted to begin with. You have had a very adventurous life, which I have known about for some time now. But your parents sounded more supportive than most like your Mom and Dad who was a race car builder and driver, and a pilot, so were you more open to adventure at early ages because of that?

MF: Oh yeah, he taught me to fly when I was only 14 years old. I could take off and land a Piper Cub. You know I was always living on airports that he was managing or running a flight school. He was a very adventurous guy like you said—he raced at Indianapolis, he was in a couple of old race car movies, one called ‘To Please a Lady’ with Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck. He was driving in that and another one called ‘The Big Wheel’ with Mickey Rooney. He also in his younger days played in a dixieland band, he played guitar. My Mom sang in big bands, so there was always music in the house. It rubbed off on me, so they got me a ukulele when I was about ten or eleven. I immediately started making up my own little tunes. That’s kind of where it started off, but yeah, my Mom and Dad were just so supportive of my music career, although my Dad did want me to be an aeronautical engineer

DH: well, yeah (laughs)

MF: And I went to college for a year and half. But then I had a good selling album, The Impacts ‘Wipe-Out’ album on Del-Fi Records and we ended up going out on the road with that. And after that I was severely bitten by the bug and I just kept going.

DH: Now you also had some days in your youth where you were backing various rock’’n’roll acts that came to town like the Righteous Brothers and Brenda Lee. What was that experience like?

MF: Oh yeah, that was really something, David, because we were all young, either high school students or just out of high school and we were playing here in Pizmo Beach—it was the biggest dancehall between Los Angeles and San Francisco at that time here in Central California Coast. It was called the Rosegarden Ballroom. Everybody you can think of came through here. It held about 1,500 people. I remember backing up the Isley Brothers, the Drifters I really remember because we backed them several times. Little Anthony and the Imperials and just a lot of groups from that era and they kind of scared us to death because they would have these intricate arrangements they wanted us to do and would put sheet music in front of us.

DH: Oh, that can be a challenge.

MF: And I read and you know at least they had the chord signatures for the guys that didn’t read could at least tell the chords that things were going to. But most of the stuff back then was fairly simple as it was based on 12-bar blues and didn’t have a lot of chords. But every once in a while there would be some minors. That was really something. We got to meet a lot of people and I became friends with the Ventures, a band that I loved. Their lead guitar player at the time, Nokie Edwards, even showed me the chords that I could not figure out in the dressing room before they went on and played. So it was a wonderful experience that helped give me a foundation for performing that carried on later in life.

DH: Yes, as I would think. And now back to your book. I read a lot of rock music biographies and autobiographies and there are two themes that seem to come into play. Things are good, but then go bad either to drugs/alcohol or the rip-off music business. I think you had much more of the latter than the former, but on the drugs/alcohol issue, it seemed like it was more peripheral rather than an undoing of a band (although I know some of you former members eventually had some serious problems)…

MF: Yeah, I never got in to any of the heavy drugs. I smoked Maui Wowee when I moved to Maui, but I was never a big drinker and I never abused anything. That’s why I’m still alive and going and a lot of my pals are gone now. Now the ripoffs in the music business, David, well we got a lesson early on because when we recorded that ‘Wipe-Out’ album in one day, as it was just songs that since I was a surfer, I just started putting surfing terms to these instrumentals we would write and we went in the studio where a talent scout heard us and took us down to LA. In one day, we recorded the album and we had no idea about copyrights or what kind of contract you needed.

DH: Oh yes…

MF: So we just recorded all of these songs and the producer just ran with them and sold them to Del-Fi Records and got an undisclosed amount of money up front in royalties and we had no idea at that time how long the contract was for. Then there was a younger guy who was a drummer for a band called the Challengers who was in our recording session and he was learning the publishing and the music production business from the two guys that were producing us, Tony Hilder and Norman Knowles. And he was in there when we recorded all our songs and heard everything we did. He later went on to produce and publish The Surfaris about 8 or 9 months later. There has always been this controversy about which version of ‘Wipe-Out’ came first. Well ours was recorded in September of ’62 and was copyrighted by… well, I have to call him a song shark—Tony Hilder because he put it all in his name, writer credits and everything, so he got all of that writer money from the record company and for the airplay from ASCAP. Then this Richard Delvy, he made a deal for the Surfaris to record ‘Wipe-Out’ and there are similarities in the song. People don’t know that in January of ’63, they took us back down to the studio to record another version. Our version had only one drum solo and a yell of ‘Wipe-Out’ at the beginning. And my guitar part which was very similar to the Surfaris and the chord progression is like a blueprint was kind of dipped down in the mix in the background. Well they pulled that up and had us do these drum solos. We thought that was going to be boring—that will never work, but anyway the Surfaris recorded a version with drum solos all the way through and Richard Delvy made a deal with Dot Records along with another song they had recorded, called ‘Surfer Joe’. They put that out and as you know, it was a big hit. So they said we need an album now. He went into a studio with his band and some studio musicians, recorded the rest of the songs needed for an album and then recorded a cover version of ‘Blue Surf’, one of the Impacts songs, took it to Dot records and said here’s the Surfaris album and took the money and ran. And the Surfaris didn’t even know because they had been recording an album and had given the tape to Richard Delvy. But he never played that tape for Dot. He put his own stuff out and they didn’t know that they only had two songs on their own album until it came out. I don’t know if it’s a widely known fact, but Bob Dalley did cover that story in his ‘Surfin’ Guitars of the Sixties’ book that has been out a long time. So, it’s just a strange thing, David, if the song sharks don’t get you, some guy in your own band may rip you off. It really hurt our band the Impacts and I think it helped our other guitar player become an alcoholic because he was just crying in his beer for getting ripped off for the whole album, we never got any royalties for that album until 1994 because of the movie ‘Pulp Fiction’. Del-Fi went back and put our album out on CD. Well I noticed that the copyright had expired, so I got the few remaining guys from the Impacts back together and we made a new copyright, so we got some money after that. But all the way from 1962 to 1994, we never saw a penny for anything. So we learned a lesson real quick.

DH: You did, and unfortunately it is a lesson that is repeated at various times to lesser degrees from that at least.

MF: Yeah.

DH: I was reading about Tony Hilder… have you even followed his career? I mean, he’s on the conspiracy filmmaking circuit.

MF: Now I don’t know that. In ’94, when the Pulp Fiction thing came out, I heard he was doing a radio conspiracy radio show somewhere up in Alaska and he came back in town because several of his tunes that Del-Fi owned ended up in Pulp Fiction. I don’t know if you know this, but he was threatening to sue Del-Fi and trying to get money out of this movie and he was staying somewhere in Venice, California and he got shot by somebody.

DH: Huh, no.

MF: And he was involved with a band called Cannibal and the Headhunters, a Mexican band and someone else. No one ever knew who shot him, but he survived, but disappeared. But he had called me up before that incident happened and found out that I had re-copyrighted the songs and he wanted me to give him half of it (laughter). I said you have got to be kidding—you have got a lot of nerve to call me up and tell me you want half after you stole all of it from me and from countless number of bands who had similar stories I heard. So he could have had someone with a grievance against him that shot him. Is this recently that he’s doing these?

DH: it’s been over quite some time. Initially, he even shares something with you on the UFO issue like Area 51, but he’s more in the paranoid area like Illumiati and the behind the scenes groups that run the world. He made a film denying 911 with interviews of Lyndon Larouche and others…

MF: Uh-huh, you said he did something about UFOs and mentioned me in it?

DH: No, I don’t believe he mentioned you (although I haven’t seen it), but his Wikipedia page has a film list and one of them is a UFO film with the focus on Area 51 and there are a lot of other films.

MF: I’ll be darned. Do you think he still lives in the Los Angeles area?

DH: He just might

MF: He probably doesn’t let people know where he’s at.

DH: He looks to be on the paranoid fringe of sorts. Strange character

MF: Yeah.

DH: Speaking of strange, I was glad that your book adds to some of the stories I had heard regarding Jeff Cotton and Captain Beefheart. Because I have also read Bill Harkleroad’s book on that time (during the creation of Trout Mask Replica) and your descriptions mirror that and carry the story further even.

MF: Yeah and John French the drummer wrote one too that got into it. But the Captain, he was a master manipulator, a real control freak and had his girlfriend dosing all the guys in the band with LSD and they really didn’t know. They all thought he had some sort of strange mystical powers because things would happen in the room and they didn’t know they were on LSD. But the story you read (in the book) was after Jeff left them and had gone with me, they kidnapped him and I had to go and have a battle of the brains with Don for four hours to get Jeff out of there. And the only thing too, about Harkleroad that I do have to say as I read that book also; he kind of tries to take credit for a lot of Jeff Cotton’s guitar work. Jeff was actually a much better guitar player then Harkleroad. Harkleroad was kind of stiff and not as fluid and his parts were... eh, kind of soulless where Jeff had more soul to it. I know that he and John French had both tried to interview Jeff Cotton about Beefheart’s band and Jeff wouldn’t do an interview with them. I can understand why, because at one time Don had them all beat him up and like it says in the book and every other day it was a different guy that was ‘fucking the band up’ to use Don’s words. Yeah, he was almost like a Manson character, but he didn’t kill anybody.

DH: Yeah, he kept it short of criminal, but borderline at times. One thing that Harkleroad mentioned, too… and you played with John French, but he at least gave French some credit for bringing some of Beefheart’s musical visions out. Did French show any of these musical skills to you as well as his drumming?

MF: Yeah, yeah John was a fairly decent guy. He played with me in my band the Exiles for a while. Different people would come through the band, in fact I think I wrote how Don (van Vliet) would go over and sit outside of the house in the garage where we rehearsed and had people sneak in and see who was playing what, so he would try to recruit my musicians. Most of the musicians that ended up in Beefheart’s band had played with me before. But John, yeah he was a creative guy. He’s a good drummer, he’s ok, I wouldn’t say he’s outstanding. But his musical ideas and arrangement ideas are really good. He could have probably gone on to become some kind of musical arranger if he wanted to.

DH: Yeah, it sounded that way.

MF: I still communicate with him once in a while. He’ll call me or send and email… he still lives over there in the desert. I’ve tried to get him over here, but it is about 225 miles to the coast where I am at, so I could interview him on my Tiki Lounge TV show.

DH: That would be good. How about another interesting group… Did you ever have any contact with Father Yod and Ya Ho Wa 13? They also ran the Source restaurant, an early vegetarian restaurant in Los Angeles.

MF: Yeah, his real name was Jim Baker.

DH: Right!

MF: I would go into that restaurant occasionally. I remember seeing him, but was never introduced to him. But when I moved to Maui, a lot of those people had actually moved to Maui and Sky Saxon of the Seeds was one of the people who was in with them. They all had strange names like Liberation T. Aquarius. They were always talking about Father YaHoWa and they even did as you probably know, an obscure album called ‘Ya Ho Wa 13’ and I met a lot more of those people on Maui. But Sky and I had met in 1965 when he was just starting his career. But he ended up on Maui and he told me the story of how they had this flying saucer house in a valley on Oahu. And as you probably know, Jim Baker decided he wanted to go hang gliding, but he didn’t have enough lessons and he crashed and he was all busted up. But rather than take him to a hospital, they took him to the house and put him in a lotus position because they believed he was going to cure himself and he didn’t. He died.

DH: Exactly, You know, three of the band members actually did a tour in recent years and played in Washington DC, maybe six years ago.

MF: No kidding! Do you remember who?
DH: The guitarist was blonde-gray, I believe one of the Aquarians (Djin Aquarian) and then there was a bass player and a drummer. And they were good, they had their chops down. I never expected in my life to see that.

MF: No, no.

DH: I think it was a one shot deal.

MF: Yeah, I never even knew they did that.

DH: I was surprised. I kind of expected you would have some contact with them in LA, especially since you knew Sky Saxon. Was he kind of the classic 1960s character? He seems that way to many of us who didn’t know him.
MF: Oh, totally. I met him in ’65 and he was telling us he had just recorded this song that was going to knock the Beatles and the Stones off the charts and Jeff Cotton was with me at that time, pre-Beefheart, and Jeff was just snickering and laughing, thinking this guy was crazy. Because with him, everything was just ‘Wooooowwww, oh man, far out! Heavy maan, heavy! (Sky) had all the hippie lingo down, Then I didn’t see him again—well we played with him one time at Pandora’s Box, a club no longer there, on the strip. Then I didn’t see him again until ’77 when he moved to Maui and he would pop up and sit in with me, just amble on stage and start singing in kind of a Bob Dylanesque voice (laughter) making up lyrics as he went along. Then I lost track of him, but then it was ’91 when I was doing the California Music show, he heard about that and he surfaced, so I had him on the show.

DH: Great.

MF: And he was still like he was in the sixties, you know, smoking pot… After that show as I talk about in the book, he was in his hotel room and his gall bladder ruptured. He didn’t know what happened, but his girlfriend took him to the hospital in San Luis Obispo which is just about 18 miles up the coast here. He almost died and they put him on a ventilator, which he stayed on for ten days. I was up there visiting him and he recovered from that. The rest is in the book with the strange things he did in the hospital. I’m surprised because he was very thin and still doing a lot of things. I think he smoked cigarettes a while, but I guess he succumbed I guess it has been a year or two now.

DH: That’s right, And speaking of people that are no longer with us, I recall you told me in an email about running into Harry Nilsson when he was with John Lennon, but you did not catch them at their worst, which was a stroke of luck.

MF: I caught them right at the beginning of the whole thing. It says in the book how I first met Harry through George Tipton and we both wrote at a little publishing company on Selma and Vine and had to write so many songs a week to get our salary of $75. We would go to coffee shops and do anything we could to get inspiration to write songs. He was sure I was going to have a big gigantic hit way before him and then he ended up getting a job writing for RCA Victor’s publishing company on the 7th floor in the building at Dunbar Publishing. I remember I could look out the window from the second story I was on up where he was in the building and I would go up and visit him every once in a while. He told George and I this story about the Beatles calling him up and he thought it was a prank and he hung up on them (laughter). Every once in a while, I would bump into him when I was over here recording from Maui and I remember one time we exchange phone numbers and George Tipton and I kept in contact quite a bit—his arranger who did ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ and he knew I was going to be in town and he called and said he was giving a party and that was when I was working on ‘Calling from a Star’ with Joe Klein. I went over there and walked in the room and to my surprise there was John Lennon sitting there amongst the people.
DH: You definitely have covered so much ground and met so many interesting people. I wanted to ask you about Ed Cassidy, the drummer from Spirit and a favorite of mine.

MF: Oh yeah, Ed was just a sweetheart. We were such good friends, we met in 1969… I think it was the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. It was one of those things where there were five or six bands on the bill. We said hi and nothing ever happened until 1991 again. He heard that I was doing California Music (TV show) and got in touch through an agent we both had. I had him on the show and then I had Randy (California) on the show and Cass said hey, why don’t we record something together, since Spirit wasn’t playing a whole lot then. It had slowed down, so he and I did a few concerts together. And I had a studio in my house and so we started to work on something—he wanted to do something in a blues rock vein, so it took us 4-5 months or maybe a little more and we cranked out ‘On the Blue Road’ which had a few standards that he wanted to do and some other songs I wrote. And D-Town Records picked that up right away and put it out. Then much later, oh gosh, around ’98 I think it was, we decided to record another album and it had more original songs. A label in Italy picked that up, Comet Records. They even put it out on vinyl with a beautiful gatefold cover and lots of pictures. Cass and I had been playing all that time. And I played on some stuff that Randy was doing on a label called Evangeline. I think the album was called ‘California Blues’ and I even recorded some of Cass’s drums for that album and did some slide and bass on it. By the time it came out, I never got any credit, but that’s ok. They had sent me tapes and I recorded parts on them and sent them back, but they probably forgot. We were all supposed to go to Paris and do a tour as we were all on the same label, Legend Music. And that was when Randy (California) went on a vacation to Hawaii and drowned, so we never went.

DH: That was definitely a shocker. I remember that when it happened.

MF: It was a big shock when Cass died, too, which has been just a couple of years ago. He was still playing up until he was about 88. He would do a session with me—he’s even on a surf album I did ‘Rockin and Surfing’, I think it is Volume 3. I have done 4 volumes because DJs kept wanting me to do instrumental surf. I think it was a song called ‘Out on the Town’ that he and I wrote and I think that was the last thing he recorded. Then he actually got prostrate cancer, which is what he died of.

DH: How about other guitarists you played with? You mentioned Jeff Cotton earlier and are any other names of those that were extremely talented or unique?

MF: Well I think John Cipollina of Quicksilver was very talented and very different.

DH: Oh, yes.

MF; And he and he and Jeff Cotton had a similar style, although Jeff Cotton’s slide playing is really unique. He learned the style of the old blues players and the finger picking style of slide and put his own thing into it. You know, he was my guitar student—I met him when he was 14 and started teaching him chords and lead parts to my surf tunes when I moved over to the desert where he was living around the end of 1963. Yeah, he and Cipollina were two guys that I would consider to be great guitar players and very unique. It is a shame that John is gone now—he died. And Jeff went into this sort of religious thing where he felt that the music business was the devil’s workshop and wouldn’t play anymore. I kept trying to tell him it is a God-given talent and you should at least keep playing in some form, but of all things he moved to Bellingham, Washington which is so different than Hawaii and he met his wife in Hawaii. For a while, he was a window cleaner and then he started repairing and installing ATM machines. And that is the last I heard of what he is doing.

DH: Ahh, yes, well even if you can’t make a major business out of it, there are plenty of Christians and people of all religions using music to better everybody.

MF: Exactly. And there have been various other guitarists that I have jammed with, but David, I can’t even remember them all. In fact, when I read the book, through proofreading, it is like someone else wrote the book and I’m like, ‘my God, I did all this!’

DH: Yeah, and don’t worry too much about the mistakes. I’ve had friends write books and they didn’t get the small facts exactly right on some things I was personally a part of, but it didn’t hurt the story any.

MF: The guy who was doing the editing at the publishers in the UK was dropping sentences, he was dropping paragraphs, and even in a few places he put things in that never happened. So someone said he was probably just losing things in the computer because I sent him a disc, you know. I had to do a lot of correcting and taking a month for the last correction. Sometimes my description of where it should go in the book was put in (laughter). But it’s fairly accurate now, with just a couple of misspellings, one spot where they misspelled Nilsson’s last name and Cipollina and more.

DH: Easy to do. Now…. Hawaii. I am not sure any band can ‘make it’ as a very hard working professional band based out of Hawaii, but you were there so long, so am I right that it was more of a spiritual journey or better for you as a person? What was the interaction between music and life?

MF: Yeah, well I do feel it was a spiritual journey and I do feel that the music I wrote was really purely inspired. My 1976 Maui album that I did after MU broke up and some people have said it was the purest inspiration of the hippie dream of peace of love. It just changed the whole feeling of everything because when you are living in LA, you are into like psychedelic blues and things and when we got there, it just went into a whole other dimension. I’m glad that I did experience that. But you are right—there are not even that many clubs to play on Maui and it is even worse now, with DJs taking over. Mick Fleetwood owns a restaurant there and once a month, he’ll have someone play in there or he’ll even sit in with somebody. MU was lucky to do a few concerts, but when we moved there, there had only been a few concerts on the whole island. Jimi Hendrix filmed the movie ‘Rainbow Bridge’ there in 1970.  We went back a few years ago and interviewed a lot of people that were in the movie as ‘Rainbow Bridge Revisited’ and we did a soundtrack. That was interesting. But up until that point, the only other band that had played there was Crazy Horse without Neil Young. So when MU did that concert, it was a sell-out. We filled a 3,000 seat auditorium that was newly built. Then we played with Mary Lee, the violinist in my band, an outdoor concert in a little amphitheater there with Toots and the Maytals, a reggae group. So to try to support yourself by music there, unless you play Hawaiian music and you play in a hotel on a regular basis, is very difficult. We actually played more as a duo with me and Mary—we got a job at a restaurant in town and had a weekly gig in the seventies which was good. Maybe every 3-4 months, some name band would come to the islands and every little band on the island would try to get the opening spot, you know.

DH: Of course.

MF:  But it was good for song writing and I’m glad I went there and lived there for as long as I did.

DH: I can kind of hear that in listening to MU and the Maui album, although it helps to hear or read the story. Also, as you went on from that, at maybe about the time of Dr. Fankhauser, you found you had become a collector’s item with older albums selling for thousands of dollars. Was this more frustrating for you or amusing?

MF: Well, I think it was amusing. It wasn’t frustrating as I was glad that someone valued my music that highly and it was close to the end of the seventies when two German record collectors and a guy that owns a record store in Germany who is fairly well known, Hans Kesteloo, came over and found me in my little two-story jungle cabin (on Maui) I built and they were the first ones and said yeah, we bought your Fapardokly album for only $600 at a record fair in Berlin and I went, What, say that again. He was the first one that told me of the value of that album. It was an album recorded in a little Glenn record studio that had John French and a lot of those musicians that went on to play with Beefheart and other bands in the desert. I went back to California and asked for my Mother as I knew she had a few of those albums left. There were six of them in the closet and they were all sealed. I sold every one of them for a thousand dollars a copy and a guy from Norway even gave me $1,200 for one. I said you sent me too much and he said oh no, I’m very glad to pay it and have this. So I could not believe it, David, I never made any royalties off of that album and then years later, I ended up getting $6,200 from some I had stashed in a closet.

DH: Geeze, you are lucky you had that. I have talked to some band members who had nothing and I then felt guilty because I had one or two copies of their early works. That’s good and now on to a question I ask everyone I talk to. Is there an artist either now or when you were younger who is NOT involved with music, but from movies, literature, or the arts to be a very big influence or someone important to you?

MF: Oh boy… artist or literature, well gosh, that’s a good question (laughs). Well, there’s movie producer, William E. McEuen who discovered Steve Martin and produced a bunch of his movies.

DH: Ooooh, right—related to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band McEuen?

MF: Yes, that is his brother John. And Bill managed the Dirt Band and recorded them. Well, I met him around 1981 and he wanted to do an album with me then and I was still living in Maui and he was living way up in Aspen. Finally, we got together around 1991 and started to working on my ‘Return to MU’ album which I consider to be one of the best I have done. I told him the whole story of the lost continent of MU and the lost ruins I found on the island that no one seemed to know what they were, so he produced the whole album and wanted to go for a trilogy of three albums. He had so many million sellers with Warner Brothers and he was selling it in 1992 when it was done, but everybody he knew at Warner Brothers had left the label including Mo Austin, the head of the label. So we didn’t get that deal but we got a deal with Sundazed, a big independent label in New York , along with a German label and a Japanese label. And now Gonzo Multi-Media, the label I am on in the UK, just put it out about a year ago with the one hour documentary on a DVD.

DH: OK.

MF: What I’m trying to say is Bill McEuen has inspired me and influenced me a lot by just his way of doing things and his artistic eye of shooting things-both stills and videos, is really good. I mean there are so many actors that I like that I met. I was friends with Gary Busey before he really got big, in a band called Carp from Oklahoma. I met him when he moved out to California in the sixties, before he got any acting jobs. So there has been so many people. Interestingly enough, the author Thomas Pynchon who wrote the book ‘Inherent Vice’ and he mentions my band Fapordokly with one of the songs in the book. This detective is driving back to LA and he talks about the song coming over the radio and I still haven’t seen the movie and I’m wondering if they kept that part of the scene and if my song is in it, but also more intersting than that, is that in the middle of the book this guy is interviewing surfers along the beach as he’s trying to find out about this land developer that was kidnapped—I don’t know if you’ve read any of this or seen the movie.

DH: Not this particular Pynchon book, no.

MF: Well, he’s talking to people on the beach and he’s talking about this ship called the Golden Fang that was seen coming in and out of the fog at night, thinking that has something to do with what happened to this guy. So this one surfer says you need to go talk to that guy that looks like Jesus. So he says as I’m walking over there, I out of my left ear, hear two surfers arguing which version of Wipe-Out came first, the one with the giggle or the one without. The one without was our version.

DH: That’s right, yeah!

MF: I’m going what the heck, who is this guy? And how does he know all this? And my drummer first found the book and also someone New York called me and said I was in the New Yorker magazine, it was a review. So that completely threw me. Then when he talks to this surfer, he’s explaining that he goes out there surfing, then about the Golden Fang thing and then he says I’ve found the ruins to the lost continent of MU, they are under the water there and I just went WHAT the HECK. Then the detective is talking about his girlfriend that has gone missing and moved to Maui and she’s living in the town of Pukalani, which is where my ex, the fiddle player lives now. And he’s talking about some surfer musician who found ruins over there. Well, I ended up finding two film guys, one a producer and the other a cinematographer, who visited with Thomas Pynchon in San Francisco, and he’s a record collector and loves vinyl and he has a bunch of my records and he’s obviously looked me up. One of the guys said he had seen me play in a club called Itchy-Foot Moe’s in Redondo Beach in 1968, so that kind of solved it all in my mind. But the other odd thing is a friend of mine found there was a reproduction of the book cover on sale at a place where they can print them on canvas. So he ordered me one for my birthday a few years ago and he had to send his order to Kula, Maui (laughs). So I don’t know all this stuff is connected, you know, but it is.

DH: Yes, I enjoy connections, and you probably have more than most.

MF: And then the latest, you’ve probably heard, this Signals from Malibu thing that I recorded.

DH: Oh yeah, I have.
MF: That’s another wild one. This old army guy started getting these weird radio signals when he was talking on his ham radio and he lives up the hills in Malibu. He had no idea there was some kind of anomaly, they call it. It looks like a dome shaped building with pillars a few miles off and under the ocean. And he started trying to find out what these signals were and he got in touch with the author Michael Luckman who does extra terrestrial research in New York. He sent the radio signals to him and they ended up sending them to me. When I heard them, I immediately hear a Sci-fi type, sixties, almost-James Bond type instrumental guitar song. Then I wrote that and put the signals in it and I started writing more songs and ended up with a whole album. The label in London is going to try to put that out in a month or so. And I was down here in an Indian Casino, Chumash, where a lot of people play and there was an older Indian guy there who knew a lot about me. As I was taking a break, he said what are you working now. So I told him about it and he says that our tribe has known about that building—he called it a building, for hundreds of years. When the ocean level was lower, they used to use the roof like a pier to fish off of. Then he looks at me and says, you know that is part of the lost civilization of MU (laughs). And I’m going ‘what?’ I’m just amazed at all, David.

DH: Connections are amazing and it helps if you get out like you do and experience so many different people. So how do we follow you beyond the web site and book… how about the TV shows, is that Los Angeles only?

MF: I was on in Ann Arbor and Battle Creek, Michigan for a number of years, but I think they shut that station down. That is what is happening to a lot of public broadcasting stations are losing their government funding. But I’m on from Salinas to Santa Barbara on two channels covering the central California coast. And I’m on all over Hawaii and there are select shows on Youtube, maybe three or four. I will put more up there. And Gonzo Multimedia put 50 shows up on the Internet for PPV. I’ve been doing the show for 14 years now.

DH: Great.

MF: I am getting ready in April to do the 100th show. I’ve had everyone from Canned Heat to guys from Jefferson Starship, Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean, Willie Nelson, Mary Ramsey from 10,000 Maniacs, all of Spirit, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, quite a list.

DH: I will make sure to include links because anyone who has not followed your career, ought to. There are different eras, but your style whether it be surf, spacey folk, or rock music is all pretty recognizably yours.

MF: That’s what happened in the late sixties and beyond, various labels released things in Europe and in various places… I thought I had about 40 releases, but this Dutch musicologist tracking 45s and bootleg CDs, it is way over a hundred recordings. He’s done a discography book on me now.

DH: Wow, I know quite a few European record collectors, and of course some here too, who do an amazing job at compiling information like that. It is amazing the detail they come up with. And with he web, you can track things down so much more easily.

MF: Yeah really. Negotiating record deals—I used to have to send it in the mail in two week and get contracts back and send parts, masters, art work…. it used to take months, now I can do it in a couple of weeks.

DH: Good, good. And you’re still healthy as a guitar player and whatnot?

MF: Yeah, I still play and I have a stage here that I built at the Tiki Lounge and the backyard is all very tropical looking. In fact when I was on Maui in March, a guy came up and thought I was still doing the show out in the jungle by Hana. I said no, I do it on the mainland in California. And he said noon, man you’re poooshing my leg, brahh (laughter). I even have met people here that see the show and they think it’s coming from Hawaii. And I’m having a lot of fun doing that. The weather is pretty good much of the time and in April it gets really warm, so just about every month we have someone on the stage and we film them.

DH: Well great. Thanks for all the great information here.

MF: Well I am glad to talk to you, David.