Eddie Izzard is widely regarded as one of the top stand-up comedians of his generation, with a surreal, stream-of-consciousness style that’s a hit in Britain, America, and pretty much everywhere else in the world.
Izzard started doing comedy during his only year at the University of Sheffield in north-central England. He spent a decade in relative obscurity until a performance at a 1991 AIDS benefit lifted his profile. He went on to win a British Comedy Award for “Top Stand Up Comedian” for his 1993 show Live at the Ambassadors. His U.S. breakthrough came from his show Dress To Kill, which was shown on HBO in 1999 and for which he won two Emmy Awards. He recently became the first solo stand-up comedian to perform at the famed Hollywood Bowl.
Izzard has also acted in many movies (including Velvet Golmine, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen, and Across the Universe), starred in in the television show The Riches with Minnie Driver, and provided his voice to the animated films Igor and Cars 2.
Other notable things about Eddie Izzard are that he ran 43 marathons in 51 days for charity, he appeared briefly onstage with his heroes on Monty Python Live at Aspen (and has been referred to by John Cleese as “the lost Python”), he was a huge supporter of the London Olympics, and he is a heterosexual cross-dresser.
This interview was conducted by phone on 11/9/12 for a preview article for Izzard’s stand-up comedy performance at the University of California, Santa Barbara on 11/17/12.
Multi-instrumentalist John McEuen has been playing music professionally for over forty-five years. A key member of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for much of that time, he was the driving force behind their classic 1972 album Will The Circle Be Unbroken, which had the band collaborating with bluegrass and country-western legends like Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, and Merle Travis. McEuen has also recorded or performed with a staggering array of other artists over the years, and his production credits include the Grammy-winning Steve Martin album The Crow: New Songs for the 5-string Banjo.
John McEuen and his sons Jonathan and Nathan recently released the wonderful album For All the Good, billed as The McEuen Sessions, which has been praised as amongst the best of the elder McEuen’s career. The following was for a preview article for the performance billed as John McEuen and Sons at the Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara on 11/17/12. It was conducted by phone on 10/27/12.
The band’s first studio album, Nothing’s Shocking, was released in 1988, and consists of songs ranging from the hard rocking “Ocean Size” and “Mountain Song”, to the funk rock “Standing in the Shower… Thinking”, to the dreamy, psychedelic “Summertime Rolls”, to the disturbing “Ted, Just Admit It…” about serial killer Ted Bundy, to the delicate junkie tale “Jane Says”.
In 1990, Jane’s Addiction released the follow-up album Ritual de lo Habitual, with songs including “Stop!”, “No One’s Leaving”, “Ain’t No Right”, “Three Days”, and their biggest hit “Been Caught Stealing”. Unfortunately, tensions between band members led to their break up, but not before the first Lollapalooza, which was created by Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell as a farewell tour for the band.
After the break up, Perkins worked with Farrell in Porno for Pyros, and did guest appearances on Rage Against the Machine’s debut album and Nine Inch Nails’ album The Downward Spiral. Jane’s Addiction has reunited several times, and in 2011 released the album The Great Escape Artist.
This interview with Perkins was for a preview article for the Jane’s Addiction concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl on 10/21/12. It was done by phone on 10/11/12.
The Grandaddy album Sophtware Slump masterfully explored the relationship between technology and alienation, and it is only fitting that it came out in the yearof Y2K. This album, one of the best of the 2000′s decade in my humble opinion, was the work of Jason Lytle, a sonic architect who creates lush, vintage synthesizer-driven futuristic pop music.
Grandaddy released three other stellar studio albums and various EPs in addition to Sophtware Slump, and broke up in the mid-2000′s, although they recently reunited for a short tour. Lytle (the first syllable is pronounced “light”) went on to release the Grandaddy-esque solo album Yours Truly, The Commuter in 2009, and just released his second solo album called Dept. of Disappearance.
The following interview was for a preview article for Lytle’s concert at SOhO in Santa Barbara, California on 10/21/12. It was done by phone on 10/10/12. (Jeff Hawe photo)
Ian Anderson is the frontman / singer / songwriter / flautist / acoustic guitarist for the band Jethro Tull. Jethro Tull’s first album, the bluesy This Was, came out in 1968, and their music rapidly developed with 1969′s Stand Up incorporating elements of English folk music and 1970′s Benefit embracing hard rock.
Next up was Jethro Tull’s classic album Aqualung, released in 1971 and regarded by many to be the band’s best. This included such Jethro Tull mainstays as the title track, “Locomotive Breath”, and “Crosseyed Mary”.
Jethro Tull followed with two concept albums, both of which reached No. 1 in the U.S. concert charts: 1972′s Thick as a Brick, and 1973′s A Passion Play, the latter including the not-universally-loved Winnie-the-Pooh-on-acid piece “The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles”.
Jethro Tull released many more albums, notable ones including the compilation Living in the Past (1972), War Child (1974), Minstrel in the Gallery (1975), Songs from the Wood (1977), and Crest of a Knave (1987) which somewhat controversially beat out Metallica for the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Performance. Also well worth checking out is Nightcap (1994), which has a different take on the material that ended up in A Passion Play.
Anderson recently decided to explore different possible life trajectories for the ficticious lad Gerald Bostock who had supposedly written the lyrics to the original Thick as a Brick album, resulting in the album Thick as a Brick 2. This interview was for a preview article for Anderson’s performance of both Thick as a Brick albums at the Chumash Casino on 10/18/12. It was done by phone on 10/9/12.
The Blind Boys of Alabama started singing together in 1939, at a school for the blind in a little town in Alabama called Talladega. They had their first professional performance in 1944, and have been going strong with their heavenly Gospel music ever since, although only one original member, Jimmy Carter, still regularly tours with the group. They have received many accolades, including Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Grammys and the National Endowment for the Arts, and have performed for three Presidents.
The following interview was for a preview article for the Dr. John/Blind Boys of Alabama show called Spirituals to Funk at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 10/15/12. This was done by phone on 10/4/12. (Erika Goldring photo)
John Kadlecik (pronounced Kad-le-sik) is the lead guitarist for Furthur, the band which is keeping the music of the Grateful Dead alive thanks to original Dead band members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, and Kadlecik’s Jerry Garcia-inspired guitar explorations.
Before joining Furthur, Kadlecik played in Dark Star Orchestra, which was notable – and quite popular – for covering full Grateful Dead setlists from throughout that band’s history. And before that, Kadlecik was a member of various bands including Uncle John’s Band, Wingnut, and Hairball Willie, the latter of which I can personally attest to having put on a great show in Ames, Iowa back in the early 1990′s.
The following interview was for a preview article for Furthur’s return to the Santa Barbara Bowl on 10/7/12. It was conducted by phone on 9/18/12. (L. Paul Mann photo, from Furthur’s concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl on 9/20/10)
Bonnie Bramlett’s soulful voice has graced an amazing number of recordings and concert stages over the years, making her a true American treasure. As a teenager, she was the first white Ikette to back Ike and Tina Turner. Later, with her then-husband Delaney Bramlett they formed the band Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, which struck a chord in the late-60′s and early-70′s with its mix of rock, Gospel, soul, and blues music. The “Friends” in this band included such notables as Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Leon Russell, Duane and Gregg Allman, and others.
Bramlett has also performed and/or recorded with the likes of John Lennon, Joe Cocker, Little Feat, Stephen Stills, The Allman Brother Band (earning her the title of “Allman Sister”), Emmylou Harris, and many others. She released several solo albums in the 1970′s, and then more in the 2000′s, with her latest release being the 2008 album Beautiful.
Plus, Bramlett is a noted songwriter, having co-written “Superstar” which was a mega-hit for The Carpenters, and Eric Clapton’s single “Let It Rain”. A recent composition, “Ain’t Gonna Let You Go”, appeared on Bonnie Raitt’s latest album Slipstream.
And if that’s not enough, Bramlett is also an actress, most notably in her recurring role on the TV show Roseanne.
The following interview was for a preview article for the Bonnie & Friends performance at the Lobero Theatre on 9/28/12, as part of a fundraiser for The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP), an educational program that integrates percussion as a medium to address reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as life skills for children and adults with intellectual and developmental differences. The interview was conducted by phone on 9/4/12.
Dave Alvin first received acclaim in L.A. roots rockers The Blasters, for which has was the primary songwriter, and whose revved up take on rhythm and blues won favor in the early-80′s punk rock scene and beyond. After a short stint with country-punkers The Knitters and punk-rockers X, Alvin launched his highly-regarded solo career which continues to this day. Alvin’s latest album, Eleven Eleven, came out in 2011.
This interview was for a preview article for the show by Dave Alvin & The Guilty Ones on 9/19/12 at the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez, as part of the tenth anniversary celebration of the Tales from the Tavern series. The interview was done by phone on 8/30/12. (Brian Blouser photo)
Victor Krummenacher is a founding member and bass player for the eclectic alternative rock band Camper Van Beethoven. Their first album Telephone Free Landslide Victory came out in 1985, and includes such classic songs as “The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon”, “Where the Hell is Bill?”, the Black Flag cover “Wasted”, and “Take the Skinheads Bowling”. They released four more acclaimed albums before burning out, the independently-released II & III and self-titled Camper Van Beethoven, and the major-label albums Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and Key Lime Pie. The band reformed at the end of the end of the 1990′s, and has released several more albums, with a new one coming out in January 2013. Krummenacher has also been in the bands Monks of Doom and Cracker.
This phone interview took place on 8/24/12, and was for a preview article for Camper Van Beethoven’s 9/10/12 concert in Ventura, California.
When the Jim Kweskin Jug Band formed in 1963, they breathed new life into the jug band music genre whose heyday had been several decades earlier. In the process, they inspired many bands including the Grateful Dead and the Lovin’ Spoonful, played several times at the Newport Folk Festival, and had a helluva lot of fun.
After the Jim Kweskin Jug Band broke up in the late 1960′s, Muldaur played with Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, and contributed to recordings for a number of notable artists. Both Kweskin and Muldaur have also released various solo albums over the years, and in recent years they have resumed performing together.
The following interviews were done for a preview article for the performance by Kweskin and Muldaur at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 8/25/12. These interviews were done separately by email, with Muldaur’s reply received on 8/2/12, and Kweskin’s on 8/3/12.
Billy Duffy is the guitarist for The Cult, a renowned British hard rock band with psychedelic and punk rock influences formed in 1983. The Cult’s notable albums include Love (1985), Electric (1987), and Sonic Temple (1989), and in 2012 they released a new album called Choice of Weapon. Their songs include “She Sells Sanctuary”, “Love Removal Machine”, “Fire Woman”, and “Edie (Ciao Baby)”, all co-written by Duffy and singer Ian Astbury. Before The Cult, Duffy played in The Nosebleeds (with a pre-Smiths Morrissey, who Duffy reportedly introduced to Johnny Marr), Slaughter & The Dogs for a short time, and Theatre of Hate.
This interview was conducted by phone on 8/7/12, and served as the basis for a preview article for The Cult’s concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater on 8/18/12. (Michael Lavine photo)
Austin, Texas is rightfully known as a mecca for music, thanks largely to the city’s annual SXSW festival. And the latest band to bubble up to receive the prestigious Austin Music Award for Best New Band is the Austin-based band The Wheeler Brothers, consisting of brothers Tyler (bass guitar), Patrick (drums), and Nolan (guitar, piano and vocals), plus friends A. J. Molyneaux (lapsteel, guitar, vocals) and Danny Matthews (guitar, vocals).
The Wheeler Brothers’ “rock ‘n’ roll with a bit of twang” on their debut album Portraits has been well received in Texas and beyond, and their second album is in progress.
This interview was conducted by email, with answers received on 7/31/12.
Steve Hillage is best-known for his amazing guitar playing with Gong during its classic Radio Gnome Trilogy phase (1973-75), and for his subsequent solo career which included the albums Fish Rising (1975), L (1976), Motivation Radio (1977), Green (1978), and Rainbow Dome Musick (1979). He also played with the prog rock band Khan which released their only album Space Shanty in 1972, with Kevin Ayers on the album Bananamour (1973), and on the live performances of Tubular Bells at Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1973 and for the BBC in 1974.
In the 1980′s, Hillage worked as a producer for artists including Simple Minds, Cock Robin, and Robyn Hitchcock. Then, after meeting Dr. Alex Paterson, he co-wrote, co-produced, and recorded songs with The Orb, including the British hit song “Blue Room”. Hillage and Miquette Giraudy also formed the still-active ambient dance band System 7, which has collaborated with Paterson, Derrick May, and others.
This interview was done by phone on 7/25/12.
Not many living people have their name appear regularly as the answer to crossword puzzle clues. But if you’re looking for a five letter answer to “One-named New Age musician” or “Greek New Age keyboardist”, it doesn’t take long to come up with “Yanni”.
Of course, Yanni’s mark extends far beyond crossword puzzles. He has released fourteen studio albums, the latest of which is 2011′s Truth or Touch and two of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards, plus seven live albums including Live at the Acropolis which along with its companion video has sold over seven million copies.
His music, which he prefers to call “Contemporary Instrumental” rather than “New Age”, has also been used in television shows, televised sporting events, and commercials. Yanni was even the first Westerner to perform at the Taj Mahal and Beijing’s Forbidden City.
The following interview was done by email for a preview article for Yanni’s 7/21/12 performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl. His answers were received on 7/16/12.
Micky Dolenz is best known as the lead singer and drummer for The Monkees, a group whose music and television show offered a fun, zany, and sanitized take on the emerging youth culture in the 1960′s. Although the television show lasted only two years, it has remained popular and influential to the present day. Dolenz’ vocals can be heard on songs such as “Last Train to Clarksville”, “I’m A Believer”, “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”, “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, and “Porpoise Song”. Altogether, four of The Monkees’ albums and three of their singles hit Number 1 in the U.S. charts.
The following is from a phone interview with Dolenz on 7/5/12, for a preview article for the Happy Together Tour visit to the Chumash Casino on 7/12/12.
Rick Wilder is the frontman for The Mau Maus, a legendary late-1970′s / early 1980′s L.A. punk rock band that recently reformed and released the album Scorched Earth Policies: Then and Now, which includes songs recorded in 1983 with Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger and new recordings from 2011. This interview was conducted for a preview article for the upcoming Mau Maus show on 7/22/12 in Santa Barbara. It was done by email, with answers received on 7/3/12 – the 41st anniversary of Jim Morrison’s death. (Mila Reynaud photo)
James Stevenson (lower right) was the guitarist for the U.K. punk band Chelsea. Later, for a short time he joined Generation X with Billy Idol. He spent a longer time with goth rockers Gene Loves Jezebel, and has also played in The Alarm and The Cult.
Glen Matlock (upper right) was the original bass player for the seminal and hugely influential punk rock back the Sex Pistols. Their album Never Mind the Bollocks is widely viewed as one of the most important in the history of rock music, punk or otherwise. Matlock co-wrote nearly all of the songs on this album, including “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “God Save the Queen”, but he didn’t play on it because he had left the group. He later played in Rich Kids, and with Iggy Pop and the re-formed Faces.
Stevenson and Matlock are part of The International Swingers, which also has Clem Burke (upper left) from Blondie on drums and Gary Twinn (lower left) on vocals. The following interviews were for a preview article for their 6/26/12 show at Whiskey Richards in Santa Barbara.
Greg Lake first made his mark as a founding member of King Crimson, for which he was lead singer and bass player. During Lake’s tenure, King Crimson released their debut album In the Court of the Crimson King, which is regularly hailed as one of the pioneering works of progressive rock, and included “21st Century Schizoid Man” and the title track. When this original line-up broke up, Lake joined with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer to form the prog rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer (often abbreviated ELP), which became one of top bands in the genre. ELP’s albums included Tarkus and Brain Salad Surgery, and their best known songs include “Lucky Man”, “From The Beginning”, and “Karn Evil 9″, all of which were written or co-written by Lake. ELP broke up in 1978, but reunited in the 1990′s and beyond, most recently for a one-off 40th anniversary concert in London in 2010.
Lake is currently on a solo tour called “Songs of a Lifetime”, in which he performs songs and tells stories about his life in music. The following interview took place on 4/24/12 as Lake was on his way to a gig in Alexandria, Virginia, and served as the basis for a preview article for his 5/17/12 concert in Ventura, California.
Photo: Lee Millward
Chris Hillman has been a professional musician for nearly fifty years, starting on bluegrass mandolin before he joined The Byrds, for which he played bass guitar and contributed vocals. You can hear him on hits including “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, “Eight Miles High”, and “So You Want To Be a Rock ‘N’ Roll Star”, which he co-wrote.
Hillman left The Byrds after their landmark album Sweetheart of the Rodeo, joining up with Gram Parson (who also played on that album) to form The Flying Burrito Brothers, whose classic debut album The Gilded Palace of Sin featured many songs that he wrote or co-wrote with Parsons. Hillman was also a key member of the band Manassas with Steven Stills, and had multiple country hits with the Desert Rose Band.
This phone interview took place on 4/11/12, and formed the basis of a preview article for his 4/25/12 show with Herb Pedersen at the Maverick Saloon as part of the Tales From the Tavern series. Incidentally, this interview was transcribed approximately eight miles high, on a flight between St. Louis and San Francisco.
Seun Kuti has inherited much from his father, the Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti: musical talent, charisma, a commanding stage presence, a burning desire for a better life for his Nigerian countrymen, and even his band Egypt 80. Along with the music of his brother Femi, which Seun heartily recommends, Seun (pronounced Shay-oon) is keeping Afrobeat – a rhythm-heavy, hypnotic mix of James Brown-style funk, jazz, Cuban and traditional West African music, featuring call-and-response vocals which are often about political topics – relevant in the 21st century. Seun’s second album, From Africa With Fury: Rise, was released last year, and he is currently touring the U.S., including an appearance at Coachella.
This interview, which was the basis of a preview article for his concert at UC Santa Barbara, was done by phone on 4/2/12. (photo credit: Kelechi Amadiobi)
Steve Diggle plays guitar, writes songs, and sometimes sings for The Buzzcocks, the hugely influential band from Manchester which produced the blueprint for pop punk. The Buzzcocks also jump-started the punk do-it-yourself ethos with their 1977 self-released Spiral Scratch EP, on which Diggle played bass guitar. The Buzzcocks’ notable songs include “Orgasm Addict”, “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t've)”, “I Don’t Mind”, “Promises”, and “Harmony In The Head”. Their compilation Singles Going Steady is regularly ranked as one of the best punk rock albums of all time.
The Buzzcocks broke up in 1981, but re-united in the late 80′s and have been going strong ever since. Between performances at this year’s Coachella festival, they will be playing a few smaller gigs in California, including one in San Luis Obispo for which this interview served as the material for a preview article. I reached Diggle, who also released a solo album called Air Conditioning last year, at his home in London. The interview took place on 3/23/12. (Ian Rook photo)
Steve Reich is a pioneering composer, who along with La Monte Young, Terry Riley, and Philip Glass is viewed as one of the most important figures in minimal music.
Reich’s early compositions “It’s Gonna Rain” (1965) and “Come Out” (1966) made use of tape loops which went out of phase with each other, an idea which he extended to live instrumentation with “Piano Phase” (1967) and “Violin Phase” (1967). He also explored the concept of “music as a gradual process” in pieces such as “Pendulum Music” (1968), in which microphones as pendula swing over a speaker, causing feedback.
His music took a new turn with “Drumming” (1971), inspired by a trip to Ghana. Steady pulse and rhythm became a dominant element of his compositions, including in the acclaimed “Music For 18 Musicians” (1976), widely viewed as one of his most important pieces.
Reich’s pieces began to incorporate themes from history and from his Jewish heritage with “Tehillim” (1981), which is the original Hebrew word for Psalms. Such themes continued with “Different Trains” (1988) which uses voices including those of Holocaust survivors, “The Cave” (1993) based on The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron which uses videos developed by his wife Beryl Korot, the opera “Three Tales” (1998-2002) about The Hindenberg, the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll, and cloning, which also uses visuals by Korot, and “WTC 9/11″ (2010) which uses voices related to the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Reich’s compositions have been highly influential in the world of classical music, and he has been called “America’s greatest living composer.” In the rock music world, his influence has been cited for artists including Brian Eno, King Crimson, The Residents, and Tortoise. Reich is currently working on a piece based on the music of Radiohead.
This interview was conducted by phone on 3/28/12.
Penelope Houston fronted the San Francisco punk band Avengers, whose “Pink Album”, consisting of recordings made in 1977-8 but not released until 1983, is often hailed as one of the best punk rock albums of all time. Avengers opened for the Sex Pistols at their final show. Houston re-emerged years later as a folk singer-songwriter, still retaining much of her punk attitude. Houston just released a new solo album called On Market Street, and a new Avengers compilation is coming out soon.
This interview was conducted by email, with answers received on 4/1/12. (Photo: Ethan Hill)
Bob Bert was the drummer for two of the most notable bands from the American Underground: Sonic Youth (playing on the albums Confusion Is Sex, Sonic Death, and Bad Moon Rising) and Pussy Galore (playing on their recordings from Exile on Main St onwards). He has also drummed with Bewitched, Knoxville Girls, and The Chrome Cranks, the latter of which just released a cool new swamp/noise/punk/blues album called Ain’t No Lies In Blood. Bert answered the following questions by email, with answers received on 3/20/12.
Kim Manning is an electrifying, red-hot performer who has been singing vocals with George Clinton and Parliament / Funkadelic / The P-Funk All Stars for ten years. She has also worked with artists including The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snoop Dogg, and Sly Stone, and was “Peaches” on the first season of the reality TV show Flavor of Love. Manning just released a new album called Good People. She answered the following questions by email, with answers received on 3/12/12.
Robben Ford has been playing guitar professionally for over four decades, and was ranked one of the Greatest 100 Guitarists of the 20th Century by Musician magazine. He has released multiple solo albums, helped launch the jazz fusion band Yellowjackets, and has worked with artists ranging from Joni Mitchell to Jimmy Witherspoon to Kiss to George Harrison to Miles Davis.
This phone interview took place on 2/15/12, and was the basis of a preview article for the Robben Ford and the Yellowjackets concert at the Lobero Theatre on 2/17/12.
Larkin Grimm is a well-traveled, eclectic singer-songwriter in the “freak folk” genre. The Swans’ Michael Gira has described her as “the sound of the eternal mother and the wrath of all women”, and also said “her voice is like the passionate cry of a beast heard echoing across the mountains just after a tremendous thunder storm, when the air is alive with electricity.” Grimm’s fourth album Soul Retrieval, which was recorded with the help of famed T. Rex and David Bowie record producer Tony Visconti, will be released in February 2012.
Richie Furay is best known for co-founding two notable bands: Buffalo Springfield, which is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and for which Furay was one of the primary songwriters along with Neil Young and Stephen Stills, and Poco, which is regarded as one of the pioneering bands of the country-rock genre. After leaving Poco in the early 1970′s, Furay was in the short-lived supergroup Souther-Hillman-Furay, and has since released several solo records. His song credits include “Kind Woman”, “A Child’s Claim To Fame”, “Hurry Up”, “Keep On Believin’”, “You Are The One”, and “Let’s Dance Tonight”. Furay answered these questions by email on 1/5/12, and this interview formed the basis of a preview article for his 2/1/12 performance at the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez, California.
Murray Gershenz, aka Music Man Murray, is passionate about music, and has spent over 70 years collecting, buying, and selling records. But the time has come to sell his collection, which numbers in the hundreds of thousands. The catch – he wants his collection to stay intact. It sounds like he’d settle for half a million dollars, a bargain for a collection valued in the millions.
Murray’s story is captured in the documentary film Music Man Murray, which premieres at this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival. This film was produced and directed by Richard Parks, with music by his father Van Dyke Parks, who has had his hand in many notable music releases over the last five decades. Richard and Van Dyke responded to the following questions by email on January 20 and 21, 2012.
Paul Cotton was a songwriter, guitarist, and singer for the country rock band Poco from 1970, when he replaced Poco co-founder Jim Messina, until 2010. His compositions for Poco include “The Heart of the Night”, “Bad Weather”, “Indian Summer”, and “Ride The Country”. He has also released three solo albums, and is currently working on his fourth.
This interview was done for a preview article for Cotton’s show at SOhO in Santa Barbara on 1/14/12. He emailed his answers on 1/10/12.
Chuck D is one of the most important figures in the history of hip-hop music. He is the founder and lead rapper for the hugely influential (and controversial) band Public Enemy, which created a powerful mix of politically-charged lyrics and layered, aggressive sounds. Their second album, 1988′s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, is widely regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, and is considered to be hugely important for making rap music popular with white audiences. Other notable Public Enemy albums include Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987), Fear of a Black Planet (1990), Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black (1991), and How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul??? (2007).
Chuck D answered the following questions by email on 1/6/12 for a preview article for Public Enemy’s 1/14/12 concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater. (L. Paul Mann photo)
Jack Casady played bass guitar for the Sixties band Jefferson Airplane, which is best known for the hits “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit”. Their albums Surrealistic Pillow, After Bathing At Baxter’s, Crown of Creation, and Volunteers are amongst the best of the psychedelic rock genre. Casady also played on “Voodoo Chile” with Jimi Hendrix, and “Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves)” from David Crosby’s first solo album. As the Sixties wound down, Casady and Jefferson Airplane lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen’s attention shifted to their new band Hot Tuna, which focused on acoustic and electric folk- and blues-based music. (L. Paul Mann photo)
Wanda Jackson is often referred to as the “Queen of Rockabilly”, and for good reason. After some success as a country singer, Elvis Presley himself encouraged her to try singing rockabilly, resulting in a string of hot tracks including “Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad”, “Mean, Mean Man”, “Fujiyama Mama” (which hit No. 1 in Japan), “Funnel of Love”, and “Let’s Have a Party” (which was a Top 40 hit in the U.S.) She blazed the trail for women in rock ‘n’ roll, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Not content to rest on her laurels, earlier this year she released an album of smoking covers called The Party Ain’t Over, which was produced by and featured the guitar of Jack White. (L. Paul Mann photo)
Leo Kottke is an extraordinary acoustic guitar player, with a style that draws on folk, blues, and jazz, but comes together in a way all his own. His musical career took off with his 1969 album 6 and 12 String Guitar, and since then he has released dozens of albums and entertained countless audiences with his guitar prowess, singing, and hilarious stories between songs.
This interview was conducted by phone on 11/18/11, and was the basis for a preview article on his 12/2/11 concert at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara.
Alan Parsons has had a truly amazing career in music. His start was as an assistant engineer on the Abbey Road and Let It Be albums by The Beatles. He went on to engineer Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother and their sonic masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon. He also engineered and/or produced works by Paul McCartney (Red Rose Speedway, Wildlife), The Hollies (“The Air That I Breathe”), Pilot (“Magic”), Al Stewart (“The Year of the Cat”), and Ambrosia. He then focused his attention on The Alan Parsons Project, with classic albums including Tales of Mystery and Imagination, I Robot, Pyramid, Eve, The Turn of a Friendly Card, and Eye in the Sky, and songs including “Eye in the Sky”, “Games People Play”, “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You”, and “Sirius”, the latter of which is particularly beloved by fans of the Chicago Bulls.
This interview, conducted by phone on 11/1/11, was done for a preview article for a benefit concert by the Alan Parsons Live Project at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 11/12/11 for the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County.
Andy Shernoff was the primary songwriter for The Dictators, a seminal New York City proto-punk rock band whose huge influence was sadly never matched by huge record sales. Shernoff also played bass, keyboards, and sang many of the songs. The band’s first album The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!, released in 1975, is a brilliant mix of irreverent lyrics and youthful energy. Two more albums followed – 1977′s Manifest Destiny and 1978′s Bloodbrothers. Their last studio album was 2001′s D.F.F.D. (“Dictators Forever Forever Dictators”), which is arguably their strongest album after their debut. Shernoff also played bass on Joey Ramone’s 2002 solo album Don’t Worry About Me, and has produced and/or played with various other bands/artists. He currently is playing solo shows at Manhattan’s Lakeside Lounge.
This interview was conducted by email, with answers received on 10/18/11.
Don Fleming is a musician and producer who has had his hands in an amazing number of projects, mostly in the alt rock universe. As a musician, he was a member of the Velvet Monkeys, B.A.L.L., Gumball, and Half Japanese. As a producer, he has worked with Sonic Youth, Hole, Teenage Fanclub, Alice Cooper, The Dictators, The Posies, Screaming Trees, and more. Don recently released a cool EP called Don Fleming 4 which includes contributions from Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon.
This interview was conducted by email, with answers received on 10/10/11.
Fanny has a distinguished place in rock and roll history as the first all-female rock band to record a full-length album (the self-titled Fanny in 1970) for a major label. In this pioneering band, June Millington sang and played guitar, and her sister Jean Millington played bass guitar. Fanny released a total of five stellar albums in the 1970′s (the last without June), and toured with many of the era’s biggest artists. Both June and Jean played on albums by Ringo Starr and Barbra Streisand. June also played guitar on Cris Williamson’s classic Women’s Music album Changer And The Changed, and co-founded the Institute for the Musical Arts. Jean also performed on albums by David Bowie and Keith Moon. The sisters recently released the album Play Like A Girl.
This interview with June and Jean was conducted by phone on 8/19/11.
Tony Kaye was the keyboard player in the original line-up of Yes, and played on the albums Yes, Time And A Word, and The Yes Album. After touring with the band in support of the latter, he left Yes and played in Badger, which released two albums. He rejoined Yes for the 90125 and Big Generator albums. He also toured with David Bowie for the Station To Station tour. Kaye is currently playing keyboards in CIRCA:, which recently released the album And So On. This interview was done by phone on 8/15/11.
Nolan Gasser is an acclaimed composer, with compositions including American Festivals and two pieces written for NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. He is also the Chief Musicologist for Pandora Media, Inc., which provides the popular Pandora Radio streaming music service; he is the architect of all five Music Genomes (Pop/Rock, Jazz, Hip-Hop/Electronica, World Music, and Classical). Moreover, he is the Artistic Director of Classical Archives which is the web’s largest classical music site.
This interview was done in person on 2/25/11 at UC Santa Barbara.
Mark Volman and long-time collaborator Howard Kaylan were founding members of The Turtles, whose 1960′s hits include “Happy Together” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe”. When The Turtles disbanded, Volman and Kaylan joined Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, and due to contractual reasons adopted the names Flo & Eddie. Flo & Eddie performed on the Zappa albums Chunga’s Revenge, Fillmore East June 1971, and Just Another Band from L.A., and in the movie 200 Motels. Flo & Eddie also sang background vocals for T. Rex, including on the worldwide hit “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” and the albums Electric Warrior and The Slider. And that’s just scratching the surface. They also sang on records by notable artists including Bruce Springsteen (“Hungry Heart”), The Psychedelic Furs (“Love My Way”), Stephen Stills, Alice Cooper, Ray Manzarek, Keith Moon, The Ramones, and Blondie. Volman is also the Chair of the Entertainment Industry Studies program at Belmont University in Nashville.
This is from a phone interview with Volman on July 29, 2011.
Linnea Vedder is the drummer and one of the singers and principal songwriters for Cliffie Swan, whose new Drag City album Memories Came True is a delightful blend of pop, psychedelia, and sweet harmonies. Cliffie Swan was formerly called Lights, with two albums released under this name including the wonderful 2009 album Rites. This interview was conducted by email; Linnea’s answers were received on 8/1/11.
The legendary Van Dyke Parks is in the middle of his new vinyl singles project, which will encompass six records with gorgeous sleeve art from some of today’s most notable artists. These are available by subscription from bananastan.com, and as Parks puts it, “Downloads from iTunes insures aid to those stuck in the digital ditch.”
These singles represent the next chapter in an amazing career in music for Parks, who wrote the lyrics for the lost-Beach Boys-masterpiece Smile which is finally scheduled for release later this year. Parks also played keyboards on many albums and songs including The Byrds’ Fifth Dimension album, Tim Buckley’s self-titled debut album, and the should-have-been-a-hit “Magic Hollow” by The Beau Brummels. His production credits include the first albums by Ry Cooder and Randy Newman, both with Lenny Waronker, and he has also done arrangements for U2, Laurie Anderson, Joanna Newsom, and the song “Bare Necessities” from the Disney movie The Jungle Book. His solo albums include Song Cycle from 1968, and the Caribbean-tinged Discover America from 1972.
The following interview was conducted by email, with answers received on 7/27/11.
Neil Hagerty is a guitarist and songwriter who got his start in the uncompromising underground band Pussy Galore, which released albums including Groovy Hate F*ck and Dial ‘M’ For Motherf*cker. When that band broke up, Hagerty and girlfriend Jennifer Herrema turned their attention to Royal Trux, which recorded multiple albums during the 1990′s including Cats & Dogs and Thank You. Royal Trux’s best-known song is “The Inside Game”, which is on the soundtrack for the movie High Fidelity. After Royal Trux broke up, Hagerty released a couple of solo albums, and also recorded with The Howling Hex.
In 1997, Hagerty’s book Victory Chimp was published. An audiobook version of Victory Chimp was released on 6/21/11, which is the day that the answers to the following questions were received by email.
When “Weird Al” Yankovic was sixteen years old, he gave a home-recorded tape of original and parody songs to Dr. Demento, who broadcast them on his radio show. This was the beginning of Yankovic’s career in comedic music, which really took off in 1984 with his hit song with “Eat It”, a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” with a hilarious video which spoofed Jackson’s own. He has released many other popular parodies, including another song by Jackson (“Fat”) and songs by Madonna (“Like A Surgeon”), Queen (“Another One Rides The Bus”), Nirvana (“Smells Like Nirvana”), Coolio (“Amish Paradise”), and Chamillionaire (“White & Nerdy”). He also writes a number of original comedy songs. His new album, ALpocalypse, is being released in June, 2011.
The following interview was conducted by phone on 6/13/11.
Singer-songwriter Bill Callahan first started releasing his recordings under the alias Smog in 1988. His earliest releases were lo-fi home recordings, but as the years passed his recordings gained more polish, albeit without completely losing their grittiness. Fittingly, his song “Cold Blooded Old Times” appeared on the excellent soundtrack to the 2000 movie High Fidelity, being the type of song that the movie’s music-obsessed characters would put on a mix tape. In 2007, Callahan started releasing his music under his own name, his latest album being 2011′s Apocalypse.
The following interview was conducted by email, with answers received on 6/9/11.
Jon Anderson is, quite literally, the voice of Yes, the band whose albums The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close To The Edge are amongst the most beloved of the progressive rock genre. Songs from this era co-written by Anderson include “Roundabout”, “Yours Is No Disgrace”, “I’ve Seen All Good People”, “Heart Of The Sunrise”, and many others. His first solo album was 1976′s Olias of Sunhillow, and he sang on Yes’ 1983 runaway hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. Anderson also had a long-running collaboration with Vangelis of Chariots of Fire fame.
Anderson recovered from an episode of acute respiratory failure in 2008, returning to performing solo shows in 2009. He has a new album called Survival & Other Stories which will be released in mid-June, 2011. The following interview was conducted by email, with answers received on June 2, 2011.
(Robin Kauffman photo)
Rickie Lee Jones is an acclaimed singer-songwriter who released her first album in 1979 and won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1980. Her song “Chuck E.’s In Love” was a huge hit, as were her first two albums, both of which reached the Top 5 in the U.S. She went on to release a dozen more albums in various styles, and her 1989 duet with Dr. John, “Makin’ Whoopee!”, won her another Grammy Award.
This interview was conducted by email, with answers received on May 20, 2011.
Jason Reeves is a singer-songwriter originally from Iowa City, Iowa. Shortly after moving to California in 2005, he met Colbie Caillat and co-wrote many of the songs on her debut album, Coco, including the hit singles “Bubbly” and “Realize.” He also co-wrote songs on Caillat’s follow-up album Breakthrough, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, plus “The Show,” which was a hit in the United Kingdom and elsewhere for Lenka.
His 2007 album Magnificent Adventures of Heartache and Other Frightening Tales won acclaim for its heartfelt pop-infused folk songs, and his album The Lovesick will be released by Warner Brothers this year.