Support your local record shops on April 21 (and the rest of the year)! 'Grid City' cassettes are available online at Bandcamp but also at Reckless Records Chicago (reckless.com), Euclid Records NOLA, Love Garden Sounds, Balades Sonores, Balades Sonores Brussels, and Permanent Records Los Angeles to name a few!
Happy International Women's Day! Please, consider donating to help Gina Birch's (The Raincoats) 'Stories From the She-Punks' documentary get made by buying a track or two on their Bandcamp page.
#bass #ginabirch #neverenoughbass #shepunks #lovelion #womenoftheworld #morebass
Chicago music lovers, Grid City features a varied selection of original tunes by ONO, Melina Ausikaitis & Angela Mullenhour, Matt Jencik, John Bellows, Bret Koontz, Famous Laughs, HIDE, Beau Wanzer, Quarter Mile Thunder, Wet Key, Sweet Cobra, Gula-Gila, Lilac, Alex Barnett, Brett Naucke, FACS, Justin Demus, Jeremiah Meece, Azita Youssefi, & Equip.
This love letter to the city doesn't include everything the music scene has to offer but, we hope to continue this as a series. Considering the response (20 tracks is a hefty comp!), a second volume is a possibility. Submissions or interest can be sent to emily at reckless dot com. Please, be aware this is a genre-free, curated compilation and our goal is to make it as inclusive as possible.
Pre-order your digital copy or cassette >> here <<
Very special thanks yous to the following people -
Here is a sneak peek at the Grid City compilation with a Quarter Mile Thunder song titled Rolling Two. John Bellows' video for 'Fly' is also up! Check Bandcamp or Reckless Records for copies in January.
Rolling Two Written by Ben Clarke
Performed by Ben Clarke, Vox and Guitar Jim Duffy, Drums Jason Eckerson, Bass Jim Becker, Fiddle Josh Dumas, Vibes
Recorded at Pieholden Suite Sound by Matt Dewine
John Bellows (aka John Wheatley) is a staple of the Chicago music scene(s). Pleasantly unclassifiable, Grid City would not be a Chicago compilation without him. Though now located in Washington state, he makes the journey back to the fertile grounds of Illinois to collaborate and play. This song, along with 19 others, will be featured on our forthcoming release.
Fly was shot on San Juan Island in Washington and was directed & edited by Jerzy Rose. The song yields contributions by Glenn Hendrick (flute, violin, vox), Sara Condo (omnichord), and Gavin Goodrich (piano). Mastered by Nicholas Wilbur at The Unknown, Anacortes, WA.
Other credits include video crew Halle Butler and actors John Bellows, Glenn Hendrick, and Sara Condo.
Kept it rolling this year. Toured, traveled, and protested our way through 2017. Some of these albums were constant companions during the year.
We are currently turning our sights to the next Love Lion release (due in January) titled Grid City. Featuring 20 stone cold cuts from the grittiest city, Chicago. Check back soon for artwork by Lee Relvas, how to order the cassette + download, and beautiful poster by Max Morris.
Here is the track list...
Brett Naucke - Flora Counterpoint II
FACS - In A Memory
Alex Barnett - Machine Learning
Lilac - Kiss The Corpse
Gula Gila - Power
Sweet Cobra - Coats
Wet Key - Lock Stays
Famous Laughs - Garage Mahal
Bret Koontz - Gloaming, Nightshade
Matt Jencik - One For Laird
ONO - Yam (The Mound Bayou Mix)
John Bellows - Fly
AZITA - True Believers
Quarter Mile Thunder - Rolling Two
HIDE - Black Flame
Beau Wanzer - Don't Eat The Ground
Justin Demus - Penumbra
Jeremiah Meece - Ideology
Equip - Ancient Ivy Atrium
Melina Ausikaitis & Angela Mullenhour - IMAMAN
Thank yous all around to those who participated in our interview series - Matt Jencik (Implodes), Meg Duffy (Hand Habits), Liz Harris (Grouper), and Laura Lee (Khruangbin). Look for more conversations in the new year.
Special shout out to 'coffee,' without it, none of this would be possible.
PS - Grace Jones is better at most things.
Arthur Russell - Instrumentals (Audika)
Big Thief - Capacity (Saddle Creek)
Wand - Plum (Drag City)
Blue Iverson (Dean Blunt) - Hotep (Self-Released)
Thelonious Monk - Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Sam)
Grouper - Paradise Valley 7” (Yellow Electric)
Jaimie Branch - Fly Or Die (International Anthem)
Yellow Days - Is Everything Ok In Your World? (Doobie McQueen / Good Years Music)
Power Trip - Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord)
Slowdive - Sugar For The Pill (Dead Oceans)
SZA - CTRL (TDE)
Matt Jencik - Weird Times (Hands In the Dark)
V/A - Shout Music (Love Lion)
Girl Ray - Earl Grey (Moshi Moshi)
Dominique Lawalrée - First Meeting (Catch Wave)
Steve Lacy - Steve Lacy’s Demo (Three Quarter)
The Paperhead - Chew (Trouble In Mind)
The Feelies - In Between (Bar None)
Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble - Find Me Finding You (Drag City)
Hand Habits - Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void) (Woodsist)
Daniel Caesar - Freudian (Golden Child)
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - On The Echoing Green (Mexican Summer)
Gaussian Curve - The Distance (Music From Memory)
Alvvays - Antisocialites (Polyvinyl)
Kendrick Lamar - Damn. (TDE)
Neil Young - Hitchhiker (Reprise)
Dean Blunt & Joanne Robertson - Wahalla (Textile)
Sharon Jones - Soul of a Woman (Daptone)
Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions - Son of a Lady EP (Tendril Tales)
Juana Molina - Halo (Crammed Discs)
Cleaners From Venus (Martin Newell) - Kitchen Table EP (Plastic Response)
Rev. Lonnie Farris - A Night at the House of Prayer (Buked & Scorned)
Kelly Lee Owens - s/t (Smalltown Supersound)
Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch - Blade Runner 2049 (Epic)
King Krule - The Ooz (XL)
Selena – Dreaming of You (Capitol)
Radiohead - OkNotOk (XL)
Angelo Badalamenti - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Death Waltz)
Elliott Smith - Either/Or (Kill Rock Stars)
Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See (Capitol)
Orange Juice - Coals To Newcastle (AED)
Marisa Anderson - Traditional and Public Domain Songs (MIssissippi)
Chris Cohen tour
Charlotte Day Wilson, 1306
Christian Scott, 3 Keys
Thelma & The Sleaze, Siberia
King Woman, Castillo Blanco
Bonnie Prince Billy & Bitchin Bajas, Music Box Village
Diamanda Galás, The Joy
MonoNeon & guests, Blue Nile
Khruangbin, One Eyed Jacks x 2
Grace Jones, Primavera
Rajasthan Express, Primavera
Seckou Keita, St. Mary's
Sun Ra Arkestra, Jazz Cafe
Cass McCombs, Halfway Festival
George Clinton, Pitchfork
Newport Folk Festival
Hiss Golden Messenger & guests, Jane Pickens Theater
Frank Ocean, Øya & Flow
Princess Nokia, Flow
Ariel Pink, Tipitina’s
Mojo, New Orleans
Jonas Reindl, Vienna
Coffee Collective, Copenhagen
Ritual, San Francisco
Blueprint Coffee, St. Louis
Great Lakes Coffee, Detroit
> RIP Kelan Phil Cohran <
Photo by Mary Kang
One of the most exciting and disciplined three-pieces playing right now is a band from Houston, Texas. Drawing inspiration from 60s funk, movie scores, and gospel music, Khruangbin's diverse palette is tangible on record and even more so during their live set.
The rhythm section is the glue holding things together as guitarist Mark Speer explores and shreds precisely. Laura Lee locks down the low-end with graceful melodies and anchored strength. In combination with DJ's dialed-in grooves, the foundation of Khruangbin is unshakeable.
They are currently in the middle of an extensive US tour. You can check them out here
2 Nov Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge
3 Nov Las Vegas, NV - Backstage Bar & Billiards
4 Nov Phoenix, AZ - The Van Buren
10 Nov Oakland, CA - Fox Theater
11 Nov Sacramento, CA - Harlow's
12 Nov Reno, NV - Cargo Concert Hall, Whitney Peak Hotel
14 Nov San Luis Obispo, CA - Fremont Theater
15 Nov Fresno, CA - Strummer's
16 Nov Arcata, CA - Humboldt State University
17 Nov Portland, OR - Wonder Ballroom
18 Nov Seattle, WA - The Showbox
14-17 Dec Pattaya, Thailand - Wonderfruit Festival
Without further dallying, our next installment in the Love Lion interview series with Miss Laura Lee.
What was the introduction to Thai music for you and the band?
Mark [Speer] found a blog called Monrakplengthai, which translates to "I love Thai music." The site is completely made up of uploads of old cassette tapes from Thailand. His obsession turned into a mutual one that clearly went into influencing our first recordings -- so much so, that we decided to name our band in homage to those cassettes. [Khruangbin means "engine fly"]
Khruangbin's drummer, Donald Johnson, has a background in the church. Would you say you are similar rhythm players?
I think we both appreciate similar feels. We agree on a simplicity in rhythm and compliment each other... but we aren't the same player. I respect his level of mastery too much for me to put myself in his category. DJ has been playing music his whole life, and he's an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist. He's a black belt.
I've been playing bass since just before the start of the band, and while I dabbled in piano as a kid, I still very much consider myself a white belt. But I think that's kind of the beauty of playing together. We bring out the best in each other.
Who spent time in London? What inspirations did the city offer?
I lived in London for almost 4 years, and I loved every second of it. It was my first time living outside of Texas. I was inspired in countless ways, but in terms of music, I think the biggest take away from London was being immersed in DJ culture. If I hadn't spent the majority of that time at parties, afterparties and festivals, I wouldn't have nearly as much appreciation for the flow of a set or a record, for the build ups and break downs, and how to keep a listener's attention--consciously or subconsciously. Not to mention... my music library is vastly more expansive than it was before. I have London to thank for that.
Do you think the group will remain largely instrumental?
I don't want to ever put the limit on ourselves to have to put vocals on anything. We always write the music first. After the music is all laid down, if and only if the songs feel like they want another layer, do we add a vocal layer. It's usually pretty obvious when the songs want them, and when they do, we oblige.
I also just really love instrumental music, and I'm proud to stand behind music that is universal in that context.
What can you tell us about Khruangbin's upcoming Dead Oceans release?
The new album is called Con Todo El Mundo, an expression named for and from my grandfather. It's a largely middle-eastern inspired record, with about as many vocals as the first, recorded in the barn in the dead of cold in Texas. I absolutely love it and I can't wait to put it out.
Do you feel akin to any of our contemporaries or is your inspiration for bass rooted in older music?
My inspiration for bass is definitely rooted in older music. I learned by playing along to the Roots Radics, Serge Gainsbourg, and classic Motown records. I can easily attribute my feel to that of dub reggae, my tone to the session players in Serge's records, and my love for pentatonics to [James] Jamerson.
What does growth musically look like specifically for a bass player?
Hmm... I guess growth is better understanding of my weapon, and how to use it. It's becoming more dexterous and aware of patterns that exist, while also hopefully maintaining a level of playfulness as a beginner.
How did you settle on SX basses?
Hahaha. I love my SX. I'm not going to lie, I bought it when I couldn't afford a Fender. So, that was basically how I came to have it, but my bass is a total champion. It has seen me through my entire time as a bass player and I have yet to change the first set of flat-wounds Mark strung on them for me. Also, I love love love the color.
What are some of the band's favorite venues to play or what constitutes a 'good' venue?
That's a tricky one. So much of the experience of any venue is the crew that works there and the audience that attends. It that sense, it boils down to the people and the energy as much as it does the space. I love playing a dirty basement as much as I enjoy playing an old church -- as long as the feeling is right.
I think the standout venue for Khruangbin thus far was Vega in Copenhagen. It was a beautiful space with wood paneling and a sort of Mad Men-style bar in the back. It was also probably the best reception we've ever experienced when we walked out on stage. I'll never forget it.
Slap bass, fretless, or Hofner violin bass?
Hofner. 100 times over. Mark has a knock off one that I've adopted as my second child, and I play it quite a bit on the new album. I love the tone of that thing. Plus, it's a short-scale and weighs nothing. Total winner.
If you are lucky enough to be near any of the three locations for the upcoming tour, we (highly) recommend seeing one the following live sets this fall. Sparse, restrained, and precise it is unlike nearly any other live performance we've seen."Towards the end of making RUINS I wrote a song that never made it onto the album. Though it felt aesthetically similar, something about the content and energy felt distinct in a way that didn't fit the rest of the music. I pushed it away, unsure what to do with it, and eventually forgot I'd recorded it. This year, amidst chaotic and painful political times, while working on another project, it reemerged and made more sense."
09/30 Venus Festival
Artscape Daniels Spectrum
11/09 Le Guess Who?
12/08 Unsound Dislocation
Love Lion: You release in small editions and routinely on your own. Do you have a preference in keeping your projects self-released?
Has your music appeared in movies? How do you feel about film scores?
In addition to recording music, most know you are a visual artist. Which have you been focusing on lately or do you generally do both at the same time?
Do you find you work best at a residency/away or can you be creative at home?
I’m still working my way back to enjoying casually playing at home. In 2008/9 a balance changed and for a year or more instead of recording I would add new song titles to a list. All the while more people trying to talk to me about this thing I was still denying that I was doing -- making music. It felt like a knife stab when anyone asked me about music. I was living next to a power station and forcing myself to dredge old songs in a basement studio everyday. All of this combined into a crushing weight. The songs like people, friends, and that list were a symbol of everyone I was letting down. Folks talking about my practice to me was a constant reminder that I was being watched and judged throughout. I still have this list and I would like someday to burn it. I developed a phobia of playing music casually. When there is a new song, there is such pressure to follow through and do it justice. It’s draining without management. For a long while I mostly longed to shut it off.
Residencies allow me to compartmentalize and contain it all; they’re helpful for this reason. There are the nostalgic and thought-based stimulants that travel and emotional/physical distance give. I’ve had residencies where all I did was sleep, ones where I felt too pressured to work on anything good, and four now where I recorded a release. I’m a little reticent at this point to continue to say when something was made at a residency because the physical landscape has the potential to overcrowd the story of the music, which is always so internal. At this point, the place-refrain feels a little repetitive or absurd.
What are your feelings on venues? You are primarily playing galleries this summer. How do you choose where to perform your music?
I don’t like playing in classic club venues. It’s not about a pristine environment, crowd, place -- noise can be a perfect murmur in the background almost like another layer of tape hiss. Some where with history, with windows, where one can hear the cars passing or a train roll by, with wide and reverberant acoustics, an audience who came to listen, conditions that allow the audience to listen comfortably, a graveyard, a chapel, a house or an art space, seems a kind of poetic residue that adds to this music.
What are you looking forward to working on? Projects you're excited about?
I’m excited for Nivhek, I’m excited to be home more and chill with my 16 year old dog, and I’m researching getting a small boat with bio-diesel or electric trolling motor on it.
What is your dream job outside of playing music?
My dream job is not performing music. Most of my job ideas are more non-paying adventures than careers. I took a career test in my twenties and remember “related to the spirituality or the occult/religious leader” and “sailor." I’ve followed through on “sailor” --- I love very much being on the water. I do sailing races on my friend’s boat every summer in Astoria and am looking into getting a small boat with an electric outboard to toot around the Columbia River.
SEPTEMBER 22-23, 2017
ATTIC TALENT (Lexington, KY / St. Louis, MO)
BATHROOM LAWS (Louisville, KY)
BILLINGTON / SHIPPY / WYCHE (Chicago, IL)
CIRCLE X (New York, NY)
CRAZY DOBERMAN (Lafayette, IN / East Lansing, MI)
DAVID NANCE (Omaha, NE)
DEEP STATE (Athens, GA)
EXACTA CUBE (Louisville, KY)
FEEDTIME (Sydney, AU)
FRANK HURRICANE (Brooklyn, NY)
FRIED EGG (Richmond, VA)
HEAVY DREAMS (Chicago, IL)
JOHN BENDER (Cincinnati, OH)
LE FRUIT VERT (Louiville, KY / Montreal, QC)
LIMES (Memphis, TN)
LUNG (Cincinnati, OH)
MATT JENCIK (Chicago, IL)
NEIL HAMBURGER (Los Angeles, CA)
PETER BRÖTZMANN (Wuppertal, DE)
ROYAL TRUX (Castleton, VA)
SADAT X (Bronx, NY)
SARAH SQUIRM (Chicago, IL)
SHIT AND SHINE (Austin, TX)
SHUTARO NOGUCHI (Louisville, KY)
TARA JANE ONEIL (Los Angeles, CA)
TASHI DORJI & TYLER DAMON (Asheville, NC / Bloomington, IN)
THE COWBOYS (Bloomington, IN)
THE FALL (Prestwich, EN)
THE OTHER YEARS (Louisville, KY)
THE STRANGER (St. Louis, MO)
TOMMY JAY'S LATEST FREAK SHOW (Columbus, OH)
TYVEK (Detroit, MI)
WOMBO (Louisville, KY)
PLUS: local / regional artists, artisans, food trucks, craft 'n' crap beer, vendor booths, shitty tattoos, even shittier haircuts, hunks, punks, skunks (scratching at your tent flaps), friends of all shapes, potatoes chips of all brands, basketball, bonfires, and much, much more!
EARLY BIRD PASSES: A limited quantity of discounted "Early Bird" weekend passes (good for both FRI/SAT -- with or without camping) are NOW AVAILABLE. Once the Early Bird passes are flown, the cost will go up to regular "advance ticket" price.
Early Bird worms can be gotten online via PayPal at croppedoutmusic.com
OR locally from our friends at Fat Rabbit Thrift & Vintage + Guestroom Records Louisville (PLEASE pay with CASH!)
COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT - croppedout AT gmail DOT com
The interview reveals a bit of the process that went into Wildly Idle and where in the world they are today. Look for our album about National Parks and carpentry soon.
I was playing in a band called Better Pills in Albany, NY, and we got asked to open for him. At the show, and we've both talked about this night a handful of times, I felt like I needed to introduce myself. I told him that if he ever needed another guitar player for a tour I wasn't tied to anything and would love to play with him. That was in the summer, and in the fall I was playing with him and planning my move to Los Angeles.
This is your debut full-length, how long have you been cultivating these songs?
Most of them were written during the making of the record itself, with the exception of "Demand It" which is an older song that I re-recorded for the record. Since I was simultaneously on the road with Kev while recording, the whole thing took about a year to finish. Including mixing.
Care to elaborate on the themes/title of the record?
How did you get hooked up with Woodsist?
I think Keven Lareau or John Andrews sent Jeremy (who runs the label) a demo that really initiated this new batch of songs. Jeremy wrote to me and asked if I wanted to do a full length, and he mentioned liking said demo (which was "All The While" and ended up on the record as is) and also liked some older stuff I had online.
Who helped with the record, what did they do?
I borrowed most of the gear besides my guitar and pedals and interface, somehow I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by such giving creatures. The record was mixed and mastered by Ged Gengras and Robbie Simon did the all of the lovely artwork (except the photos on the insert, I took those) and lay outs.
Are you enjoying touring the record, who is in your touring party?
What is your dream job outside of playing music? Mine, for example, would be park ranger.
Listening to anything new these days?
Clogs, moccasins, or flip flops?
Aye, none! But for the sake of the question, moccasins.
"Phil Cohran is the embodiment of spiritual jazz and a mainstay on the Chicago scene. He came up playing with Jay McShann and Sun Ra and now he’s found a perfect harmony in the cosmos." - Wax Poetics
Unknowingly, an invaluable text in preparation for this interview was the autobiography by one of jazz's largest characters, Miles Davis. Living with a larger than life persona, the self-penned Miles: The Autobiography introduced the music scenes of East St. Louis, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri, which both musicians shared around the same time. Phil has spoken about his respect for the modal master’s approach to jazz and composition.
“He [Miles Davis] was talking about putting melodic phrases in the right spot that pulls everything in the universe together and that's what a serious artist is about. He is about bringing together a center, a sphere if you will. Something that is round and that fits all size. If he can play until he reaches that spot then everything after that is alright."
These two musicians also shared similar early influences like the new big sound which fused jazz, blues, and classical arrangements that helped form the swing group Eddie Randle and the Blue Devils.
After moving to St. Louis, Missouri and, even further along his career, to Chicago, Illinois, Cohran began amassing an impressive discography that has accompaniment credits on four Sun Ra albums (including Interstellar Low Ways and Angels and Demons At Play), the formation of the Artistic Heritage Ensemble, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and a number of sound sculptures for Chicago's Adler Planetarium (see the African Skies Exhibit).
Drawn to nature and history from a very early age, Cohran reflects on his days in Oxford, MIssissippi fondly where he enjoyed a relatively simple life with family near by and plenty of small town pleasures. With a bottle of wine and a container of water to share, Mr. Phil Cohran and I sat on a bench near Lake Michigan by a playground. He began with the cosmos.
Phil Cohran: [In] ancient times [things] were designed to harmonize with the cosmos, the daily activities and whole thinking process… were aligned with… with cosmic rhythms…and conditions.
Have you always felt a certain kinship with nature, even as a child?
Yes, as a child, you know I was born in Oxford, Mississippi, and I used to go, in the morning and after school gets out, I would walk along in parks like to the railroad tracks, and with a friend... sometimes even just down to the store, birds would follow me and you know, a robin or woodpecker or something would follow me along... I just loved nature. I loved all of nature. I loved butterfly’s. I loved the grapes that used to grow on the side of the road. The muscadines and we used to go and pick the chestnuts and pecans... things like that. I always liked natural things.
When did you first become musical?
What year was that?
1936. They decided to have a band because the principal was a trumpet player. And so, he decided to try and have a band and they ordered these instruments from the music company and they had to pay twelve dollars for the trumpets. Boy, when I got my trumpet, I played it all the way home! [laughter]
I’ll never forget the excitement of that, and that’s why I teach music because I realized how much it meant to me to be able to play and I’ve seen that joy in thousand’s of others. In my life. So, my teacher was from Lincoln University and he taught me until I graduated from grade school, and he recommended my parents send me to the Lincoln University Laboratory High School which was the only equivalent of a special school for blacks.
Mhmm, ’cause we didn’t have access to all the types of finishing schools and ‘thangs so this, I lived in the dormitory, the Freshmen dormitory, and there were about fifteen of us in the men’s dormitory going to the school and I got some of the best music teachers on the planet. [laughter]
Is that how you started performing live or were you always performing from a young age?
Oh, I think in my Freshmen year we start playing for the school, you know, for the High School, we would have band things for school and then later on, God I don’t remember what year it was, I started working professionally off the campus. But, my greatest teacher, he was the band teacher F. Nathaniel Gatley, and he had taught at Oberlin for quite a number of years and he played the first chair clarinet in all the European festivals, but he couldn’t play here in America because he was black. So, every summer, when school was out, he’d head to Europe and go from one festival to another. First chair clarinetist. He could, like a, what do you call it, like a cobra snake? [He could] take a breath and play all day! [laughter]
No, No that’s a, that’s a fake. [laughter]
It's not real?
Well, it’s not, well I’ll put it like this, it’s a trick. You see? But there’s a way to breath and that’s what I’ve learned from him and my yoga teacher - that you can breath as long as you want to, you know, it’s left up to you. It’s just a matter of training. But it’s not formal, like that, I had a yoga master from India and he taught me back in ‘61 and and I turned it into my music.
and so, that’s the way I go about my rituals in the morning.
Part of your meditation?
Yeah, mhmm. So, I’ve always meditated.
While you played?
Yeah, because I use a meditative state of mind. When I learned to meditate I used incense and therefore burn incense when I play and it would take me to the meditative state.
To engage more senses?
Very sensible, yeah. Anyway, I wanted to mention some of my other teachers because they was some giants. My math teacher when I got to college was, uh Walter R. Talbert and he got his PhD from Princeton under Einstein, in math. At 22.
Is that where you were introduced to the Schilliner System?
Yeah, later on I became fascinated because I had excelled in math, and I had chemistry. I was trained as chemist also, and so my chemistry teacher who was Marty D. Taylor who had got his PhD under Enrique Furman who had just completed the sustained atomic reaction under Stago Fields in 1945. So, my Freshmen year in college was ‘45, so he had just completed this and just got his PhD in that program. He was awarded a citation by Martin Santo Chemical Company later on for sending more chemist to them than anyone else. But, I think about that, I said “If I had [pause] If I hadn’t left school when I was in my second year I would of been straight to [Mount Santo] and be responsible for all this crap that’s out here.
Yeah, not a company you want to get mixed up with. Is that why you left or was there...
No, I didn’t know anything like that then.
No No, I know, maybe you left for a reason.
[Laughter] that was... no, my parents broke up.
and so, I [pause] I was just wiped out by it so I left, come back to St. Louis but the school is in Jefferson City, MI and I had gone all my high school years there and I always excelled in my studies and things so I was working for a masters in chemistry, actually I was playing music all the time and my chemistry teacher didn’t like it, Dr. Taylor didn’t like me playing all those gigs. [laughter]
Yeah Yeah! He said I could be a good chemist if I put that horn down. [laughter] I said, you don’t know what’s happening! I’m so glad I didn’t listen to him. But yeah, I had great teachers. My vocal teacher, also [Arthur B Wise] had starred in Porgy and Bess on Broadway. So, I had a very rich cadre of teachers at Lincoln University because they couldn’t teach anywhere else. There were restrictions against positions for blacks, in those days. The minute they broke down the segregation thing, all the Lincoln University teachers [whizzing sound] went to University of Missouri. [laughter]
That’s why I think it’s part of the reason they broke it down. Mhmm, so, I had a very good education and I like to give credit to them because I couldn’t be who I am if I didn’t have the [pause] length and depth of music in its entirety. Now...
It also inspired you to teach as well.
Yeah yeah, you know when you have teachers like that you have to justify that work, because they labored on us, with us.
So, I played in East St. Louis when I quit school. And so, that was where I got down, now. This is before Ike and Tina. They played over in Brooklyn, and I played in East St. Louis and I got hooked up with a bunch of musicians who didn’t know how to play their music that well and I started rehearsing them and we became the Raja’s of Swing.
Raja's of Swing.
Mhmm, you know, Raja’s. [laughter] We wore turbans and everything.
You know Duke Ellington, Count Basie, all of ‘em... [receives phone call] ... Yeah, so anyway, getting back to...
The Raja’s of Swing...
Raja’s of Swing. Well... they was some hot shot guys, you know and we played at the Blue Flame which was an institution in East St. Louis.
What was the line-up?
Well, there were eleven of us and uh, we had uh lets see alto, tenor, and a baritone saxophone, the trombone, and three trumpets, lets see.... one, two, three, yeah, sometimes we had four trumpets but three trumpets I know and we had a rhythm section - bass, piano and guitar... not guitar but drums. Each member had a feature number so we could entertain people for an hour, just straight, they couldn’t close their mouth. ‘Cause one after the other we’d get up there and play our featured number. See? So that was our format with the Raja’s. I remember... we had two altos, we had Will Carter and Sam Spraggins, yeah there were two altos, one tenor, and a baritone, and four saxophone. I remember playin’ and it was a custom in the 60s that, in St. Louis, when name groups came to town they would work an hour and a local group would work an hour. So, they would give a local group exposure to that audience, see? We had an occasion to work with, oh what’s his name... oh boy... oh my goodness. Coltrane and Jimmy Heath were there backup saxophones and he... played alto. I’ll think of his name. Yeah, I’ll think of it of his name. But he had, there was a big show.... “Cleanhead” Vinson! Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. [laughter]
So, he came to town, you know, at the height of his popularity and ev’rbody said “Cleanhead, Cleanhead!” and so, uh, they stuck us in there with him we played the first hour and then “Cleanhead” would come on and then we’d play the third hour. That is when I first met Coltrane and he and Jimmy Heath they were “fiddlin’” what you call playin’ - “Cleanhead” would sing maybe two or three songs and then he would walk off the stage and let them play, stretch out awhile, and then come back and knock the people out again. You know, I mean it was outrageous in those days. Women would just crawl all over his legs and everything.
They were crazy for him.
They’d lay on the stage. I’d never seen anyone behave like that before. [laughter] So, he was a big act. but I got to play with several groups like that, with the Rajas. They were quite recognized in St. Louis.
What brought you to Illinois?Well, we got into a dispute. We got into a dispute over coming to Chicago to record.
Did you have a studio date?
Yeah, Joe Grazer, who was Louis Armstrong’s manager saw us and realized we didn’t have any management so, he decided to cut a record for us and see how it’d work - this was ‘49. I remember because they had that strike. He told us to come to Chicago and he’d record us, and I didn’t think it was good to come to Chicago to record because if the guy’s that big and got all that money and he couldn’t spend money for us to come to Chicago, he definitely was not going to treat us too good later on [laughter]. And that’s what I broke down to them, and they said “No, this is our chance! Take it” So we argued over it, so I said, “y'all go ahead, leave me out of the picture” but they didn’t go without me. I went to the union and said “the first guy that wants a trumpet player, call me up,” and that was McShann. Jay McShann called me up and said “Yes, we’re in Quincy, Illinois and I am sending you a ticket.” So I got on the bus, went to Quincy, Illinois and I stayed with him a whole year. Until October the 27, I got drafted.
When is it you finally made it to Chicago? I saw you were saying--
Like I said, I was with McShann and we played here once and I was really impressed. Yaw yeah, it knocked me out, you know because Chicago was liiive. St. Louis, the pace was slow [laughter], but it was live here. I mean, seven nights a week, you didn’t have no off night. St. Louis had a law that all the joints have to close at twelve o’clock... So that’s why we’d played East St. Louis ‘cause they’d open up when St. Louis closed. Alright, so here in Chicago you could play in the joint until four a.m., all the gigs were until four a.m. and then you could leave there and go to another place and sit in with somebody.
That sounds great.
You know they played all through the day, you could find gigs seven days a week, there were no weekends in Chicago then.
What were some of the clubs you were playing around that time in Chicago?
Lets see. We played at a hall, I’m trying to think, I can’t think of the name of it. It might have been Princeton Hall. We played at a Hall, and we lived in, I remember, the Crye Hotel on 55th Street and I was just totally impressed by the energy of the city. See, but we didn’t stay any time, we just come through here. We were traveling the first part when I got with McShann, then I joined them in January and we were in Quincy and we stayed there awhile and then we went to Kansas City and that was a ball. Boy, Kansas City was unbelievable. Yeah, they loved musicians in Kansas City. So it was continuous party. You had to fight to go to sleep. You know?
You were on tour, having a good time.
You know, Kansas City was his head quarters. The Street Hotel was our number one residence. And so we would work out of there all in Nebraska, in Kansas, and...
How old were you at the time?
Oh, my twenties. I don’t know twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, I don’t know. Green. [laughter]
But I knew music, see, and so I tightened the band up. I rehearsed them and they got really good. So then we went down south and wiped everybody out. We got to New Orleans and Dallas and that was like paradise, you know? Went down to Houston. Oh, it was unbelievable and he got a job at a gambling joint on the Sabine River in port Arthur, Texas. So, we stayed there the whole summer. Actually, they were there into the fall. So we played this gambling joint, uh, six nights week and we’d have Monday night off and we would play in various places for black people on those nights. And then, we got a contract to record for Peacock Records, which was a multi-millionaire guy [Don Robey]. He owned all kinds of establishments, a barbecue joint, I remember that. [laughter] and a recording studio. So we would ride from Port Arthur to Houston five days a week and record all the stars and I remember T Bone Walker and Percey Mayfield and some of them sisters, but I didn’t know them people because I hadn't been in the blues field. You know?
What were your early musical influences?
Classical. I was in the symphony when I was in High School and then I had my teacher that was playing first chair in Europe. I liked Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, yeah, ‘cause I heard Bird a long before he became famous. They used to play all the fraternity and sorority dances down there in the gym. Bird get up and turn everybody out! [laughter]
I couldn’t even imagine.
Yeah, that’s when he was really playing. After he got to New York, he was so deep into drugs and stuff that his music kept growing but, it wasn’t like it was... he was like a workman with McShann when they played in the gym. I mean, he would solo every other number.
That was his thing.
Yeaaah, that was his thing. He could play. You had to dance - you know that’s what I really thought about when you said you wanted to interview me. I wanted to point out my opinion of why the music has declined so.
Absolutely, what do you think the future of jazz is?
We lost the people who dance, see? Music was dance music. It’s always been dance music. It was dance music for Africans, ya know? So, the juke houses and places where the people would dance, that’s where the musician - that was his thing. In New Orleans they had the houses of prostitution and they hired musicians but for the black people it was always dancing. The dance halls proliferated in every city in the black community. That was a form of recreation. You’d take your children out with you and they’d sit at the table and you’d have a big 5th of something [laughter]
With the kids.
Yeah, everybody you know! Yeah, and they’d get up and do their thing. So, the music on the stage was for the dance, and therefore there was a strict rhythmic regiment involved in the music and that’s what they lost. Actually Bird and Dizzy were the two culprits [laughter] because they started playing so much that people stopped dancing and started walking up to the stage and listening to these guys.
That’s an interesting point.
Yeah, because I can remember when we stopped dancing. You know, I’d take my girl to see Bird or Miles and all of them when he first came back to St. Louis, and there was a dance hall, you know, but so much was happening on the stage we all went up to the front of the stage and were just plastered there until the end of the show.
So, instead of it being a recreational activity it became more of a spectacle?
Yeah, it was a spectacle and it was a different type of presentation. The guys, the musicians, start trying to become more, more demonstrative and some guys would do all kinds of tricks and things - gimmicks! Where as before, for the dance, you played good solid dance music and the soloist new exactly when to play, he had maybe sixteen bars that he could do his whole thing and he might not have anymore the rest of the night. So when he played those sixteen bars, it was everything he had. [laughter]
Do you have contemporary artists or musicians that you enjoy?
That’s a tough question. [pause] Because my concept is, I departed from the old traditions and went in as a musicologist I began to study the musics of other nations. I studied Lithuanian, Irish, Polish, aah, Scottish music, Greek music. I loved the Greeks. I got into Ethiopian music, African, different African cultures and so the more music I got into I realized I didn’t have a grid to measure them by. So I had to devise a rhythmic system and a melodic system to define the musics that I was listening to and then I realized it was all one thing and when I realized that then I began to write out of that one thing which I call the Melodic System. Now, you know I came here to study Schilinger’s System, which was mathematical - an extension of melodies and rhythms. It was very impressive but the thing that happened, hm... it was cold. It didn’t have any feeling to it. It was cold. When the music was played it was like, I can’t describe it really, it just didn’t have any feeling in it and I’m very sensitive to the music’s feeling.
So, I turned that loose and I started going to the library. The public library had a wealth of recordings and movies so I got me a Bell & Howell movie projector and I would go and take out as many records and as many movies as I could each week. I got an education just going through those tapes and music, then I caught performances. They always had performances of ethnic music at the Studebaker Theatre in the 50s and I saw Ravi Shankar before he became a star when he was playing with his brother Uday Shankar.
How do you feel you’ve incorporated world music into your performances?
With melodic music. Like my frankiphone doesn’t have any chords on it so I just play melody. In order to play melodies, you have to be very creative because you have to play many melodies. Thousands of melodies in one performance.
To keep it interesting?
Yeah, to keep it alive, and to send energy out to the people. That’s what I do at the Ethiopian Cafe [Diamond]. The Ethiopian is when I first started at back in ‘96, people would look at me and say, “Who is this? What is that?” and then I’d tap up my frankiphone and they’d sit there and they’d look and they never heard anything like that before, you know.
Why did you pick the frankiphone as an instrument?
Well, I made it. After I saw some in South Africa, I saw some pictures of some, and then there were some pretty tired ones down at the Field Museum. So I said, “I think I can beat that.” [laughter] So, I put together one, it wasn’t much better than what they were doin’, but then I kept goin’ ‘cause I have a way of approaching things. I just kept making them, and somewhere, maybe the fifteenth or sixteenth one was really good. I used to walk the streets of Chicago playing it. People would be lookin’ around, hearing strange music, saying “What is this?”
When was this?
1961. Mhm, I’d play all over the city, walking the Lakefront and stuff. Just playing to myself. No one had ever heard it before so they didn’t know what it was, jus’ thought it was just some crazy guy. Then I got the idea, I got a record player with a big speaker that hang up in the corner of the ceiling and I had had an auxiliary input [with a] Japanese microphone, a little lapel mic, and I stuck it to my frankiphone and put it in that auxiliary thing and bam! It came out at loud as a horn. I said, “that’s it!” Yeah, now in the meantime, the Moog guy, he was bringing his instruments to Sun Ra all the time to test, to get Sun Ra’s opinion on them. Sun Ra had a clavier and melodic instruments and he would test all this stuff for Moog. I was aware of electronic music, being a scientist, it stimulated me quite a bit, but when I got that frankiphone up to where it could be played with horns, then I had my thing together.
That was a productive time for you.
Around this time I was writing music - musicians don’t like anything new. They like to play the old stuff so they don’t wanna rehearse. [Laughter] They just want to stick up their horn and play. That wasn’t going to work for my music ‘cause it was entirely different. I had a friend I’d play gigs with, his name was Lou Whitward and he was the music teacher at Philips High School and he said, “I got some students. I can bring them over.” and he said “They read pretty good. So we can see what you’re doin’.” So he brought an alto player, a trombone player - who later turned out to be one of the Principal's at one of the local school’s... and Aaron Dodd on tuba. So I had my four voices there that I could listen to, for my compositions. That’s how I started. Then I got with my old friend Eugene Easton who had played in St. Louis with me while I was in Army. We got Brother Charles James Williams in the middle, made a sandwich out of him, and we taught him how to hear the frequency’s, because we didn’t play music like other people - we played according to the frequency relationships. So, it was a system you had to learn. We got it down pretty pat, the three of us, alto tenor and trumpet, and that was the beginning of the Artistic Heritage Ensemble... with the AACM. I have recordings of that. We played the Harper Theater in Hyde Park. That’s when it really took off. I think that’s the first time we played the Spanish Suite.
Is this the group that played on the Malcolm X Memorial album?
Yes, all of them. They were the heart of the Artistic Heritage Ensemble.
What was your role in the civil rights movement in the 60s?
My music is always about the liberation of Black people through understanding they, their eternity is the foremost thing in their lives because as slaves we were brought here and separated from all of our ancestral knowledge, at least five million years of history on this Earth and not knowing about that or even caring for it. We were taught Africans were ignorant, backwards, etc. so no one had a desire to deal with that and all the standards of dignity and intelligence were those things endemic to white people. We have been indoctrinated against ourselves. When you reject a people, they reject themselves. So, my music is about one thing only, the knowledge of who we are.
When did you get interested in space and the cosmos?
Well, Sunny, Sunny turned me on to it, but he was dealing with it in a way... his music was all cosmic and he had his own system. It turned me on greatly, you know? He turned me on with it, and on it, one of the best songs that I played on his album was "Tapestry From An Asteroid." Everyday, we rehearsed six days, six hours a day, six hours a night. Since then, I’ve found so much beauty and so much feeling... and sensitivity in the lunar cycles and cosmos.
Did you live in the house he had?
No, no. Here in Chicago he didn’t have a house. Everybody lived separately. He was just getting his thing together. And he was growing all the time, but he had problems getting musicians to play his music. Like I had when I first started, ‘cause musicians don’t want to practice. Can you imagine somebody is married, and they need to practice from twelve to six everyday? Seven days a week? That’s why I play by myself now because I don’t want to play with people that don’t rehearse.
So, I’d go play that six hours with him, and then I go play those six hours at night, and we never had a day off. We lived music. I discovered my horn for the first time after all of that training, I really didn’t know music at all. So I thank [Sun Ra], he was a blessing to me and to the whole planet Earth. ‘Cause he taught me, and anyone who was willing to learn, that music was the language of life.
Do you believe in the evolution of people’s minds in addition to natural evolution?
We were brought here to rediscover ourselves through our souls and to produce a culture that will reward us and Earth, our home. I believe in eternity. [pause] Yes, I believe that I am an eternal being, that I have been here before, and that I will be here again.
Matt Jencik - Weird Times
Cat #: HITD 032
LP Limited to 300 copies + download
Antoine of Hands in the Dark was the tour manager for the 2012 PAPA M tour that I was on. Antoine would play HITD releases in the van. I specifically remember listening to the Death & Vanilla record they put out a few times and really liking it. Once I got back to the States, I started ordering their records for Reckless. That tour was a total blast and Antoine and I have remained friends ever since. I sent them these recordings and they were very supportive right away.
When did you begin work on the album?
I was the bass player on a U.S. tour for Circuit Des Yeux in 2014. Rob Frye (also of Cave & Bitchin’ Bajas) was on the tour and he brought a Casio SK-1 sampling keyboard with him to play around with in the van. He had this game he liked playing called “cut-ups” where you would sample something from an iPod and try to make a song out of it. When you’re sampling from the iPod with the SK-1, there’s no way to actually hear what you’re sampling because you’re using the headphone jack to connect to the sampler.. It adds an element of chance to the process because you won't know what you’re sample will be until you play it on the keyboard. I’ve owned Casio samplers for years so when I got back home from tour I continued to play around with it.
How does WT differ from your previous solo work?
I haven’t released too much as a solo artist before Weird Times. I did make another solo album that was more guitar oriented but I couldn’t find a label that wanted to release it. I released part of that album for free on Bandcamp at the end of 2016 as an EP called Butch/Plink. I’d still like to try and release the whole album someday. I did work with some samples on Butch/Plink but this is the first album I’ve made entirely with samples or on a synth. Because the samples are taken from recordings of me playing guitar or playing synth, I do think it has tonal similarities to the Implodes records, especially because I took a lot of the samples from unused Implodes riffs.
Who did the artwork?
The cover was drawn by the very talented Chicago artist Chris Hefner. I’ve been a fan of Chris’ work for a few years and he was very supportive of Implodes. I knew one day I’d probably ask him to design a cover for something and this project just seemed perfect for his style. I didn’t give much guidance really, I just asked him to listen to the record and draw something that he thought matched the vibe of the music. The drawing on the cover is the first drawing he gave me. I love it.
How would you describe the music?
The music is definitely pretty dark and somewhat “woozy” sounding at times. I was listening to a lot of soundtrack music and I think some of the tracks were definitely attempts at making songs that would work in films. You’ll probably notice that for a drone album, the songs are actually pretty short. I purposely kept the songs short. The 3 minute mark was a cut-off point I used often. Most drone albums are built around lengthy, sometimes side-long tracks. I thought it would be cool to go the other way and make short vignettes, sort of like pop-song length drone tracks.
What non-musical influences did you have making this record?
I was reading a lot of horror, specifically writers in the “cosmic horror” genre. Specifically, “The Great Old One," H.P. Lovecraft, and Lovecraft devotees like Laird Barron and Ramsey Campbell. I would say the stories certainly influenced the dreary, morose vibe of some of the songs and a few titles (including the obvious one “Cosmic Horror”) are influenced by that stuff.
What equipment/instruments did you use?
I made the album with a Casio SK-5 and my laptop. There’s a heapin’ helping of reverb and other effects on the songs for sure.
As the song may suggest, do you have a doppelganger?
Some people have definitely mistaken other bespeckled long-hairs for me before.
When and where can we find the record?
The record is out now. Reckless in Chicago has them, fine online stores like Boomkat, Norman Records and the label’s site also have them.
After costs are covered, proceeds from this release will go to the BLM movement.
Buy via Bandcamp, Reckless Records in Chicago, or Sisters In Christ & Euclid in New Orleans. Thanks to Ethan D'Ercole, Kevin Hein, Gabe Holcombe and Mark Lux for help along the way.
"... a masterful new album that seamlessly fuses folk, black metal, psychedelia, shoegaze and POPUL VUH. Like a blurred half-remembered dream, 'Reverser' will haunt your waking hours. The music is warm and lush with a hint of melancholy and occasionaly blasts of fuzz that veer toward MY BLOODY VALENTINE. Features members of SLINT (live band), ANGEL OLSEN band, MAYOR DALEY and solo artist KEN CAMDEN." Reckless Records
Following their two full-length releases with Kranky Records, Black Earth in 2011 and Recurring Dream in 2013, Reverser is presented as a 45 rpm 12″ with a download code included. The album was mastered by Chicago Mastering service and pressed by Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland, OH.
It is limited to 375 copies on black, opaque purple/pink blend, and transparent gold vinyl.
$15 + shipping
send orders to emily at reckless dot com
"Gospel music has left deep impressions in soul, country, funk, blues, and Rock n Roll. These genres owe thanks to African work songs, spirituals, shout music, and, later, revivalist bands of the Church."
After costs are covered, proceeds from this release will go to the BLM movement.
Stream a track on Soundcloud and please, check our Bandcamp page soon to buy the digital album or cassette + download. $7 + shipping