Gaz for President

Supergrass @ The Roxy (Los Angeles, CA) 02.13.03

The last time I saw Supergrass I was among thousands drenched at a soggy field on a pre-9/11 summer day in Oxford, England. I stood miles away from my usual front and center home. What blew me away the most from that concert (besides Radiohead playing “Creep”) was wandering around forever and failing to find a garbage can. Eventually a native gently informed me: “Bins could hide bombs.” Cheers.

But seriously, how kick-ass is it to be a naïve American, but able to enjoy Supergrass in a small, comfortably packed, smoke-free club with crystal-clear sound on a mild L.A. night in February? The show was complete with a celebrity sighting: Rick Rubin, who produced the opening band Palo Alto?s new record. Palo Alto was pleasant, but Supergrass was taking names (and money. An autographed promo/tour poster was yours with purchase of their new CD, Life on Other Planets).

At 10:30 sharp, Supergrass, with the addition of Gaz’s brother, keyboardist Rob Coombes, to the familiar trio of Gaz on guitar and lead vocals, Danny Goffey on drums and bassist Mickey Quinn, opened with a string of tight, well-received material from the new album, including “Rush Hour Soul” and “Can?t Get Up.”

They soon shifted to the nuggets with “Mansize Rooster” from I Should Coco, sparking a sing-a-long with the crowd shouting “Why you look-in’ soo crazy? Why you look-in’ soo lonely, for love?” The choir continued with the timeless punk rock and innocent lyrics of “Lose It” ? “I won’t come home, ’cause you never hold my hand.”

The remainder of the evening was pure brilliance. Soaked in sweat, drummer shirtless, the band rocked on with the mesmerizing “Mary” from Supergrass. Gaz’s vocals on MTV2 favorite “Pumping On Your Stereo” were shamelessly spot-on Bowie. If you closed your eyes it could?ve been ?76 and the Station to Station tour. “Sun Hits the Sky” from In It For The Money was the epic, wailing guitar apex of the too-short 60 minute set.

Returning for encores, “Moving” was otherworldly, followed by a cover of Neil Young?s “The Loner,” quite fitting since Neil was the premier act at the Roxy 30 years ago. Crowning the evening with “Caught By the Fuzz,” the audience was all smiles. Supergrass reminded us why we love Great Britain; not only because they are (hopefully) our No. 1 ally, but for its fantastic rock ?n? roll.

Whip It Good

“Whip it on” is the debut EP from The Raveonettes. They are a two piece act from Denmark that many people expect to be the next big thing. Having said this, I expected to hate this album. But it’s very clear to me that it is truly something special and different.

Their sound is unique and distinctive. Listening to this EP, some of their influences become instantly obvious, while others are surprisingly subtle. They list among their influences, The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Cramps. The similarity to Sonic Youth is perhaps the first thing that sticks out. And while they remind me of Sonic Youth in many ways, I feel they have more mainstream appeal. They bring punk and pop to the cacophonous symphony of feedback and electric guitars. Only 3 songs on this EP break the 3 minute mark, and that works very well for me. They combine the short attention span of punk with the crazy experimentalism of art rock.

Sune Rose Wagner provides the lead male vocals which are somber, haunting, and methodical, like a steady drumbeat. All of the vocals are accompanied step for step by the female vocalist, Sharin Foo. They don’t sing the type of harmony you might be accustomed to; they sing what they call a “boy-girl” vocal technique. It’s essentially the two of them singing the exact same lyrics and melody in different octaves. This dual vocal technique gives it a creepy quality that is dark and sexy and sure to be their trademark.

This album transports you to a Mad Max sort of dystopia. The guitars sound like 60’s surf rock from an alternate universe, the vocals are restrained and haunting, and all of this is backed by swells of feedback and a hissing, screeching symphony of industrial noises and sound effects. This voyage to another world ends like a B movie with the final track, “Beat City” conjuring images of a beat-up old Cadillac driving across the desert. Sune’s professed inspiration, the drive through the deserts outside L.A. shines through crystal clear.

This is an amazing EP. They were on a mission to bring us something different and they did it masterfully. With 8 tracks, it seems long for an EP. At 21:39, it goes by much too quickly. The Raveonettes are an amazing new band and this EP will barely be enough to hold you over until they release their full length album.

Best tracks: “Attack Of The Ghost Riders”, “Veronica Fever”, “Chains” and “Beat City.”

Watch the video for “Attack Of The Ghost Riders,” along with some live performances from The Mercury Lounge in NYC in their video section.

Introducing Vikter Duplaix

You’ll thank me later for introducing you to Vikter Duplaix. The music is awesome. I’ll just go ahead and agree with his site, when I say that he falls somewhere between Sade, Peter Gabriel and Sting.

[NOTE: If you have pop-up blocking enabled, you may not see anything. Disable it, go to the site and then re-enable it. Thanks to MCF for bringing it to our attention.]

More About My Job

One of the problems with working (on average) 11-hour days is that I don’t get much of a chance to find out about new music anymore. And it’s the damnedest thing because prior to my new job I did a lot of paying attention to what was going on in the world of music. Whether it was visiting sites, reading magazines or just listening to a bunch of CDs at Amoeba, I felt like I was at least making a valiant effort to stay up with what’s going on in music. That’s just not so easy anymore. I even stopped TiVo-ing Brand Spankin’ New on MTV2. I just don’t have time to watch anymore, not that I ever discovered much watching that show. I listen to music a lot during the day, sometimes it’s my iPod, but a lot of times I’m listening and compiling music that I would just assume do without. That’s not to say the music in some of the films that we’re working on doesn’t serve the film well, because it does. The thing is, every film is not a Cameron Crowe film. Yeah, I was shocked too!

I barely have a damn thing to complain about, really. I mean if it weren’t for my job, I would have had to wait until April to listen to the new Lucinda WIlliams album and find out for myself that The Exies suck really bad. I’d been hearing things about them, but since I don’t listen to commercial radio or watch MTV, somehow I was lead to believe the band was good. They aren’t. Not even in the ballpark of good. Lucinda is another story.

I Haven’t Forgotten

I know it’s been a while since I updated the site. Having a job that demands 10+ hours a day just doesn’t allow much time for other things. I’m trying to find the right balance to keep the site going, but until I figure things out, updates will be sporadic. I know the Monthly Mix is missed, but needless to say, if I haven’t had time to make simple updates to the site, I also haven’t had time to compile a new monthly mix. Again, I’m trying to work this balancing act. It’s just not the easiest thing to do on your own. If there’s anyone out there that wants to help out, I could certainly use the help. Also, thanks for all the kind emails.

Spare Us All

I just came back from seeing Michael Miller and company put on a really nice (albeit short) set at The Derby. It was part of the DIY Music Festival, for which Michael took Best Song honors. I got there a little too early and had to endure a terrible band. The good part about it was that I was with a couple of friends who were equally annoyed at the tasteless display. I mean, look, there are a lot of really bad bands out there, and I’m not trying to pick on this one band at all, but they brought something to the front of my mind that I wanted to put down on paper.

It’s no secret that I fancy myself a music snob. I’m prone to whining about music that sucks, maybe even a little more than I rave about music that doesn’t. In any event, the band that I saw this evening made me think about what actually goes on when they practice. Do they *really* think they are good? Just because their girlfriends and some people that went to high school with them show up for their gigs, they think they’ve got something compelling going on? Please. I’ll cheer anyone on for getting up and doing their thang. It’s not like I’m up there with my guitar singing to people. I know I suck! I have nothing to share in that area. Where do these people get off thinking they are good at what they do? I’m baffled.

There was a part of one of their songs where the lead singer did this annoying thing with his voice to make it sound like it was a record being scratched by a DJ. I just had to wonder how he brought that one to practice.

‘I know we don’t have a DJ in the band (yet), but what do you think about this… [insert human voice trying to mimic a DJ scratching a record]’


‘Ya think?’

‘Dude, we don’t need a DJ. Just do that. No one is doing that.’

Yeah, and you know why? BECAUSE IT’S STUPID AND IT SUCKS! Again, I don’t mean to single out this defenseless band, but they represent everything I don’t like about music. Everything from the stuffed-up nose vocals to the “keyboardist” standing in the front acting like he knew what he was doing, who also harmonized on every single chorus of every single song, to the fact that they all had almost the same facial hair. Oh, and don’t get me started on lead singers that don’t play an instrument. Sure, there are exceptions, but the guy was no Bono.

A New Home

Because of the hosting costs involved with Jeans And A T-Shirt, I figured it would be smarter to consolidate, so consolidate I have done. Truth be told, not many people really read, so I figured moving it wasn’t that big of a deal. I mean, you found it, right? And yeah, since it’s not anymore, I’ve changed the name to something a little more appropriate. There are still a few kinks to work out, but I’ll fix them as I hear about or come across them. The domain still exists, but it’s basically just to hold the domain at this point, in case you were wondering.

I’ve been a lot more inspired lately, so hopefully more frequent updates will happen (or not). This job thing takes up a hell of a lot of time and budgeting [time or anything else] is still something I am learning about. Speaking of budgeting, I had absolutely no business purchasing one of the new Apple 20″ Cinema Displays, but I did. It sure is purdy. Having good credit will get you such things. My older CRT display has been flickering and popping and being otherwise annoying, so it was time for a new monitor and I have been drooling over the Cinema Displays for a while.

The Michael Miller Interview

Local troubadour, Michael Miller has just released his second album to the public. He’s been making quite a bit of noise in his backyard, but it’s high time that the entire world knows and sings along to Michael Miller. I had a chance to email him a few questions, which he answered sometime in the early hours of the morning.

Brad: State your name and occupation.

Michael: Michael Miller. Songwriter/Artist.

B: This album sounds like a lot more time was spent on production. That’s not to say the last one didn’t sound well-produced, but what were the major differences between the recording of your debut record and this one?

M: Indeed, we spent much more time mixing and mastering than the last one. But I think the biggest difference was in the amount of time spent in the recording. Partly, due to some unavoidable circumstances and partly due to my obsessive, fickle perfectionism. Something with which I had to eventually come to terms was dealing with things not always turning out just so. The engineer would constantly throw at me ‘Michael, you need to embrace the imperfection.’

B: Where did you find all of the talented players on this album? You just don’t hear a tuba on many records these days.

M: My regular bandmates have been playing with me for several years. Everybody else on the album came from my pool of friends, guys I have known for years and years. In fact, I had a tough time limiting the number of players on the record. I had so many choices and it really just came down to timing – who happened to be in town on a given day for a particular session.

The tuba first came as a suggestion from Joe Ongie (co-producer). There was an amazing bass part already on the song by Mark Harmon (the 77s) and it took a little convincing for me to take it out of the song completely. Once I bought into Joe’s idea to try it, it became a matter of finding a tuba player. Debbie (our cellist) had several friends who actually played tuba with her in the orchestra world. So it was surprisingly easy to find. A guy named Roger Keast was our first choice. He also plays a ton of other instruments and that really appeals to me – someone who is a multi-instrumentalist, rightly or wrongly, I expect them to be more “musical” in their approach to playing.

B: How long did the actual process take, from start to finish?

M: The majority of the album was recorded this past year. But a couple songs were actually completed a couple years ago. There were some problems recovering the master tapes (a real rock cliché drama) and potential legal disputes that eventually got resolved. Sometimes good things just take time, I guess.

B: I’ve noticed, going through your site, that you seem to be quite the well-traveled gentleman, not to mention a good photographer. How have your world travels impacted your music?

M: Meeting so many different people from around the world has expanded my universe, certainly, and altered my viewpoint of humanity. Just getting to have lengthy conversations with strangers or exchange opinions, biases, stereotypes in random, chance meetings has had an impact. Getting to live amongst people in their own environment/world (albeit a short time), of course colors everything you do or say or think or dream. Hearing so many different kinds of music first-hand in other cultures has definitely flavored my own sound as well (overtly and sub-consciously). I’ve gotten to imbibe the jigs and jams in the pubs of Doolin, Ireland, flamenco and tangos in Seville, Spain, fado in Portugal, opera in Vienna, sufi chants in Cairo, Egypt, folkloric music in Tunisia and the Muslim call to prayer in Morocco and Jerusalem. Having a carefree, wanderlust and HOPE of getting lost (literally getting lost) in other countries sort of extends and pervades into all areas of life…not being afraid to explore the unknown…not worried of losing track of time…

B: Speaking of being a good photographer, what are some of your other talents?

M: I love to draw. When I am not writing or playing music, I am usually doodling and drawing for my greeting card company. I have been doing it for years, but since it is seasonal – Christmas cards only – I am free to play music and travel the rest of the year. My greatest talent of all, I think, is just being a producer or director. I really enjoy having the final say in everything. I also have a real talent for assembling a great band, or “team” as they say in the business world. Putting people with MORE talent all around you is the key to success. I guess my eye for microscopic detail and design aesthetics is also a talent (or a curse). I’ve put a lot of friendships (and business relationships) to the test with that little talent.

B: What are you listening to these days?

M: Iron & Wine, Ethiopiques vol 4 (charming Ethiopian jazz from the 70’s), Astor Piazzolla, Wes Cunningham, Miles Davis (man with the horn), the latest Coldplay and Tori [Amos] albums (my guilty pop pleasures).

B: Is there a particular artist or group of artists that you listen to for inspiration? I’d venture to say you like Grant Lee Phillips a lot.

M: Yes, I like Grant Lee Phillips very much. I think it was Grant and Jeff Buckley that first let me know that singing in falsetto was really cool or okay (besides listening to the Stylistics when I was very young). The usual suspects, as trite or boring as it sounds, I’m such a sucker for anything Thom Yorke/Radiohead, Elliott Smith, the Innocence Mission. Aimee Mann. I’ve always been inspired by the guys who play almost everything themselves and still make cohesive, brilliant records: Karl Wallinger, Jason Falkner and Jon Brion, to name a few.

B: What’s a day in the life of Michael Miller?

M: Hmm…um, usually I wake up around noon or so after working the night before til 5 or 6am, get my mail, email, make phone calls, whatever, then work on the day’s chores. I have come to finally realize how easily distracted I get and I will work on several jobs at once (whether it is an art project or music project) usually on whichever one is least pressing, putting off what is really important or more urgent for “later.” I always wait until the last minute for any deadline…I think I have been like that my whole life – if there isn’t a flame under me, I won’t feel the urgency to get something done. Before the afternoon is over, as a general rule, I try to walk out on the beach at least once a day – just to get sunlight, if nothing else. Sunsets are so neglected or taken for granted these days. It’s super corny, but I really try to go watch the sunset as often as I can, like a favorite TV show or something. At night, if we are not rehearsing or recording, I am usually working again until the wee hours on songs or art stuff. My days seem so fractured, but in the end, I always feel like I didn’t get enough done or that there weren’t enough hours in the day.

B: Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing songs? Do you go someplace in particular to write or just carry around paper and write when the feeling strikes?

M: I don’t really have a scheduled “writing time” of the day or dedicated place of inspiration. I wish I did. My best songs have come while traveling, I think. Quite often without any instrument in hand. I try to carry a notepad with me or a little pocket tape recorder to grab the melodies or words that float by in my head. I have a lousy memory. If I don’t write it down or sing it into a recorder, I forget it immediately. In the middle of the night, coming out of a dream or the moment I am just about to fade out to sleep, I hear things. I have literally heard melodies or songs IN THE DREAM itself (sometimes it sounds SO amazing in the dream but I can’t recall it when I wake up. Maybe that’s why they call it a dream). I even keep a separate notebook and recorder by my bedside. If I don’t force myself to scribble an idea in the dark, or turn the light on to write something down or record it, I lose it by the next morning.

B: What’s your take on the state of the music industry?

M: There needs to be another revolution or something. I think the pressure from downloads and free music is definitely kicking it in the butt to change its ways. But rest assured, where there is money to be made, they (industry profiteers) will follow. Greed has a way of inspiring innovation. It seems to be in such a flux right now. They’re all scrambling because they don’t know what to do to hold onto their share of the pie.

B: Do you think music downloads hurt or help the industry?

M: On one hand, it is exciting to hear that the supposed “downloads” are hurting major record chains and putting them under or forcing labels to re-think how they do things. I’m just glad that something is happening to change the corporate structure and the little guys voices are collectively making a difference. I love the idea that real music is getting out without the corporate filters telling people what they are supposed to like and that the “playing field” is somehow more equal for indie artists. Downloads definitely make indie music more available to be heard.

I have many friends who really do buy albums after they hear a downloaded sample or MP3. That is the way it is supposed to work. The thrill of making tapes for friends and turning them onto new music is what it’s all about. There just needs to be a way to publicly, brutally punish the abusers.

B: You’re close enough to Los Angeles. How come you don’t play here? Do you have something against us?

M: With the new record out, I think there is now a good reason to play there. Up til now, I have been somewhat hibernating to just finish this [When We Come To] and now I really want to let it be heard. I suspect I will be playing there soon.

B:What are your plans, if any, for a tour on this album?

M: Right now, a tour is in the works for the West coast in late spring. Maybe even as far north as Vancouver. I am really excited to have people hear the whole band because they are so amazing. Seriously, I am so proud to be playing with them. It has always been important to me to have a band that sounded as good as the record and vice-a-versa. I may also be going out solo for some dates in the summer. We’ll see.

An Update

I sure have thought of a lot of things that I should have been doing during the year that I wasn’t really working. Now, I have little to no life, which is a little unfortunate. My free time, what very little of it I have, I spend with a few people and maybe venture out for a show every once in a while. Leaving work at 8pm doesn’t make it easy to get to shows on time to snap some photos and stuff that I used to do. There really is a lot that I miss. I mean, fuck, it’s 1am and I am struggling to keep my eyes open just so I can write a little bit.

I’ve taken to getting up a little more early in the morning to give me some extra time to get a few things done in the morning that I just couldn’t find time to do during the day or evening. If I go out after work, I literally come home, feed Holly, feed myself, take Holly on a walk and then I am out the door. I feel bad for Holly. She doesn’t get to see much of me anymore, but the good news is, she has someone wonderful taking care of her during the day.

I took her to the vet this weekend and the vet wasn’t very hopeful on her condition. She continues to lose weight and the atrophy has become quite dramatic, especially in her face. Watching someone you love wasting away isn’t very easy, and anyone that knows a thing about me, knows that Holly is the center of my universe. I hate to think about it, but it;s inevitable that her death is looming, but I’ll make sure she goes before the pain sets in. I asked the vet when a good time to do it would be and she just said I would know. She’s probably right. I can’t bring myself to take photos of her anymore. It;s just not how I want to remember her.

So yeah, this new job is tough, but I’m enjoying the work, even if a lot of it is some of the most mindless work I have done since alphabetizing albums in a record store when I was 16. Actually though, the majority of the work, while being somewhat mindless, is at least teaching me things I didn’t know. There’s something about it that makes me feel proud and excited. Right now though, I’m tired. There’s so much more to talk about and say, but my eyes just will not allow. I cant wait until I can just think about something and it gets put here. That’ll be the day…

I have a friend that’s going through a rough time. She is in my thoughts. Let that be known.