Monthly Archives: April 2013

Elder Statesmen

This has been an excellent month of music for me, performance-wise (thanks Bowery Electric (Christina LaRocca), No Malice Palace (Kipp Elbaum)) and show-wise. I saw three different performances, Hugh Masakela, Wynton Marsalis and his band performing Duke Ellington, and Iggy Pop and the Stooges. What, if anything, do these different types of music and performances have in common? A lot.

Hugh Masakela is a 74 year old trumpeter from South Africa. He was playing with an arrangement of electric guitar, bass, percussion, drums, and piano. The show was at the historic Tarrytown Music Hall. A real theatre space, the sound was great. He is an excellent showman, he genuinely wanted to communicate with the entire audience whether through a story he told of his upbringing or through his dancing or singing or playing. The things he did with his voice were as effective as sounds found in nature, his trills and high pitched wails were very moving. He roused the audience calling upon our basic humanity, to look to ourselves, the nature of modern life, what were we ever hiding from? It’s hard to articulate how he did this… he was not preachy, he was telling his story. He had a great time up there and wanted us to do the same. We did.

Wynton Marsalis guided us through various Duke Ellington tunes with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra sometimes with personal accompanying stories, sometimes with the facts of the recordings. I love Ellington but had never heard these songs performed live. It was wild. Very loud at times, like a rock show…..but with brass. The arrangement was piano, drums, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, guitar, banjo, and slide trombones. Wynton was humble, always deferring to the material and its composer. He let the flow of solos and tempo of the whole evening unfold organically.

Iggy and The Stooges played a free show at Le Poisson Rouge yesterday at 5PM, NPR streamed the show live. Electric anticipation in the room before they hit the stage. Guitar, bass, drums, saxophone and 64 year old Iggy. He shimmied shirtless and shaked like a man possessed. He had some go-to gestures and dance moves, this was theatre of his own devising fine-tuned throughout 40 years or so. He played to every corner of the room. At times he’d make a face or stick his tongue out despite the heavy material, a reminder that we’re in it for kicks. During one talking moment he likened our times to the Vietnam era. He handed his microphone off a couple of times to audience members encouraging them to partake of the performance, say whatever! Yell your name! And he was always supportive. He had as many as could fit up onstage with him for the last song. Whether folks are staid or depressed or too cool nowadays to shake it I don’t know but in the face of this mans antics everybody moved.

Two of the the most important common things I came away with from these shows is that setting the historical context for what you’re sharing is crucial to the telling of your story also if the performer commits totally to what he or she is doing and enjoys it, we will too. All three of these performances were transcendent for me in that they were rich, expressive, accepting, questioning, challenging and ultimately cathartic. On top of it all, totally professional which some may scoff at as just a technicality but we couldn’t get to the meat unless it had some bones supporting it.

Go see live music, support your scene and have a great week humans!! -p

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Record Store Day Recap

“Excuse me but what are you all in line for?” is a common question in NYC. The responses are varied, “audition”, “sample sale”, “job fair”…but this Saturday was the exultant cry of “Record Store Day!” (pause) “Oh.” (pause) “What’s that?” According to Wikipedia:
Record Store Day was officially founded in 2007[1] by Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Carrie Colliton, Amy Dorfman, Don Van Cleave and Brian Poehner and is now celebrated globally[1] with hundreds of recording and other artists participating in the day by making special appearances, performances, meet and greets with their fans, the holding of art exhibits, and the issuing of special vinyl and CD releases along with other promotional products to mark the occasion.
I don’t know who any of those folks are but I can vouch for the goodies, having attended the last 4 or 5 years. Here’s a list of this years releases if you’re curious: http://www.recordstoreday.com/SpecialReleases
This list of aforementioned goodies is posted on the internet usually about a week or so prior to the actual day, building your base’s anticipation is, I’m sure we all recognize, a standard marketing ploy. Personally, I have a musical-lazer in my head which seemingly errantly chooses it’s targets until I sit down to reap the rewards of THE LISTEN and realize I have a direction, subconscious or whatever. There are some artists I’ll follow almost no matter what because I’m a fan. There are particular record labels which tend to produce the music I like too. There are distinct differences between collectors, consumers, aficionados, and hoarders. I consider myself a melange of these types as far as consumerism is concerned when it comes to what matters to me (music, art, food)…otherwise I’m pretty spartan. Okay so from this years list I was interested in the Elliott Smith 7″ (7inch has more space than a 45) with alternate versions of 4 songs from one of his great albums “Either/Or”, Black Keys/Stooges- No Fun 7″ split(split meaning one band has one side the other has the other) because in spite of all the Varvatos sell-out accusations I’m still an Iggy/Stooges fan, Husker Du’s -Amusement 2×7″ beautiful gatefold packaging, Big Star-Nothing Can Hurt Me 2×12″ I’m a fan, Built to Spill- Live, re-release, because that’s their one album I don’t have, Pink Floyd – See Emily Play 7″ excellent song. I recognize these bands and details may not mean much to all of you, but stick with me here, these are the details of the ‘collector’ mind.
So the day began with a plan. First I was going to hit Generation Records (210 Thompson St.) I saw part of a Cymbals Eat Guitars set there in 2010 then head East to Other Music (15 East 4th St.) then on to Kim’s (124 First Ave.) and then finish the day at J&R (23 Park Row across from City Hall Park). The reason for going to many stores is because nobody knows which store will get which special releases, adds to the fun, mystique and well, let’s face it, the industry folks want you to go to as many record stores as possible, spending money willy nilly like you’re a tycoon. Now in previous years there’s always been a plethora of free CD’s, compilations put out by record labels trying to get the populous interested in their artists, independent artists themselves etc. but for some reason this year (and maybe because I got a late start) not so much. So at Generation there was a 20 minute line but I scored the Elliott Smith 7″, a free Subpop compilation and the Built To Spill Live CD plus they were spinning cool punk discs. At Other Music there was a 40 minute line but I was sure there’d be great stuff once I got in there plus they kept the number of people in the store at one time low and comfortable. Picked up Kurt Viles new album, CD, at a slight discount, 2 Guided By Voices 7″s, Bombino CD (Nigerian guitarist produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys), Joe Bussard (a connoisseur collector/player himself) on 10″ (plays at 78rpm), Shihtaro Sakamoto 7″, Adventures From Afropea-Telling Stories to The Sea 12″ (African Portuguese). I asked on of the helpful staff about the Black Keys/Stooges, no dice. Then about the Husker Du, no dice. Online while checking out record dude brought me the Husker, niiiice. Cruised over to Kim’s and nothing tickled my fancy. Asked about compilations from labels and he said not so much this year. Headed down to J&R not only to cap the day off but my mother, an avid opera buff inquired about a Domenico Modugno (Italian pop, he wrote Volare) album, an unusual request!! Some collector/hunters love those. Got there, no dice. I did find a Chet Atkins 7″ and a Songs for Slim 7″ because Chris Mars of The Replacements did the cover art….
WHAT IS INTERESTING ABOUT ANY OF THIS MINUTIAE? What drives us to pursue anything? Is it Love? Obsession? Intrigue? Diversion? Passion? Yeah it is. The punchline….I currently don’t own a record player. Have a great week all, thanks for reading!! -p
p.s. Trading/sharing records is a great way to keep the clutter down and (if you’re responsible and return ’em) the social skills up!!

Rob McMahon responds to Patti Smith (Art and Location)

Facebook is a funny, fickle creature. Some like the easy social platform, some see it as an infringement on ones privacy or a place of rampant frivolous oversharing…I haven’t made up my mind yet. All I know is that it serves as a bulletin board when I have a gig or a political, artistic, astronomical tidbit I think others might enjoy. The inherent problem being that damnable ‘Like’ button (a button one can press which registers as a thumbs up, for my readers who don’t use facebook)…it’s a really lazy way to concur without having to elaborate as to how or why you might “Like” the same thing as the person posting and also when you’ve posted something you think the world should embrace whole-heartedly and you only get 1 or 2 “Like”s it’s a letdown. The “Like” button is like a highschool trap, who is popular? Whose post is most clever or hilarious and are we all more secure about ourselves because a whole slew of us agree on the same thing? Now, I’m no better, I enjoy “Liking” posts and having my posts “Liked” but I do wonder about these cavalier connections. That said, I posted or rather re-posted something Patti Smith had said about NYC and a friend, fellow open micer, musician, Rob McMahon had a strong, insightful, reaction which I’d like to share. It went down like this:

Patti Smith’s advice to young artists: Don’t Go To New York

A couple of years ago, rocker, Patti Smith was asked if it was possible for young artists to go to NYC and find the path to stardom that she did.

Smith responded, “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie. New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city.

Rob McMahon: Fuck this! I moved to Portland in 2001 and stayed for 4 years cause I thought NY was over. Then I lived in Brooklyn for 4 years under the pretense that that’s where shit was happening. Right here, right now I’m indicting both of those places, Patti Smith, and myself on 4 counts of aggravated bullshit!!! Artists should make art where ever the fuck they are, and stop buying into the hype that it’ll be easier to make art somewhere else. Making art asks a lot of us who make it. To really do it demands a strong commitment to a process of repeated ripping your own heart out and holding it up in front of a bunch of strangers who may or may not give a shit about your latest parlor trick. Not everyone has the stomach for that, but that’s not the place’s fault. Do what you do where you are, or shut the fuck up. Make art. No excuses.

Rob McMahon: I know I’m preaching to the choir here Lynch. Not sure who this angry tirade is directed at but certainly not you. And with that the prosecution rests.
Saturday at 10:52pm · Like

Philip Lynch: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH excellent Rob !! Couldn’t agree more man. I do dig and respect Patti though and NYC is super expensive I think that may be all….hm mayhaps I’ll “blog” about this heh
Yesterday at 7:50am · Like · 1

Rob McMahon: Word. I was just reading some of your blog yesterday. Yeah I’m not down on Patti and NY is expensive but last time I checked Frank Sinatra hadn’t recorded any songs about Poughkeepsie!! But seriously, I think this line of thinking is a trap. And it underestimates the effect of changing location on art making. I went out to Portland to write a novel. While I was there I wrote very little, did lots of ensemble theater, stacked a bunch of rocks, and came up with a bunch of conceptual art pieces. I wasn’t even able to work in the same medium. And when I left I dropped all that and started writing songs. It’s naive to think that you can just pick up your whole life, move it somewhere else, and finish the chorus of the song you started 3,000 miles from here. Or it was for me in the past. But maybe i just hadn’t found my medium. Now i think I have…Alright, Fuck it!! I’m goin’ to Nashville!!!

As Stan Lee (Marvel Comics) says: ’nuff said!
Thanks for tuning in this week, thanks Rob for your candor and participation. Here’s his excellent tune, The Mariner (Shores of the Heart) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A29JmAeU2Bo

What’s In a Name?

Spring has sprung people! Hence the Shakespearean title of today’s post. heh. Welcome.

I went through a phase in my younger days, back in the answering machine days, of saying this is Philip just Philip. Perhaps it was some sub-conscious tear away from Pee and Em (father and mother). Maybe I dug that ‘just’ works as ‘only’ and ‘fair’? I don’t know what motivated that little weird quirk but it did feel somehow defiant and defining. Naming things is very important as we form our language, our identity partly based on how we reflect upon the things which surround us…like an echo or a mirror. Where do we stand in relation to everything else? I was fascinated with self-portraits in highschool…do I see myself accurately? Do I look to me the way others see me? Am I imposing how I feel about myself upon how I look? In at least one of the early self portraits my eyes are huge in another I’m wrapped up unto myself and I entitled it “Morbid Self Attention” hahahahaha. Anyway, in recent years I’ve had a bit of a struggle naming songs. Maybe titles are less important to me now than the subject, the meat, the melody of the tune. In the role of song-namer I feel like a puppeteer, a third party describing the interaction between the two characters interacting. How does one do it? (please feel free to respond to this post, chime in!) I went through a stretch there with the subject and then the word ‘song’ attached…widowsong, clownsong and popsong. Popsong was kind of an exception though as the subject of the tune was not pop but it was a pop song heh. I have a song which still has a vacillating title at shows and open mics….it’s either ‘Vagabonds on The Lam’ or ‘Beesting Baby’. The first was the imagined overall circumstance in the song and the latter was a character in it. Often it seems that artists just use what’s in the chorus of their song as the title ….which makes for easy recognition. I certainly don’t want to drive folks off with obscure titles but I do want the titles to be a part of the song. Some of my lyrics (the better ones) are a mystery to me, where they came from and how they work well within the construct of the overall tune…a lot of my stuff simply rhymes. I have a new instrumental called 4AM because that’s how the music feels to me so I like it. It’s problematic though because everybody has a different sense of how 4AM feels. A title is what draws the eye like hm I wonder what that’s all about? So I’ve got to get better at this heh. Well spring has me all distracted today so I’ll leave you with this well-named tune and good bit of advice (Jimmy Durante too!!) from The Grass Roots!! Have a great week all, thanks for reading!! -p

p.s. I’m playing Wednesday April 10th, 8PM at No Malice Palace, 197 East 3rd Street

Lo Presento Il Produttore!

James Beaudreau is a New York City guitarist & composer. Since ’06 he has released 3 albums of experimental music on Workbench Recordings. From ’98 to ’03 James was with The Billy Nayer Show, a band described as “like co-productions of Kurt Weill and Neil Young” by The Village Voice. His albums have been reviewed in WIRE, AMG (by Eugene Chadbourne) & other publications. Not only an accomplished musician and a great friend but now Producer.

James when did we meet? 1997?

I think that’s about right.

Did working on your albums inform production decisions of the pfl project and how?

Hm, I don’t think so… except for that fact that the more I’ve worked on recording the more able I’ve been able to attempt creative stuff. The Java St Bagatelles album was recorded on cassettes and mindiscs — I got Pro Tools only at the end of that process — in late 2005 maybe — so I haven’t been at it that long. Music and recording studios, yes. But recording beyond the 4-track cassette model, not long. I’m actually not naturally technically minded… that is, I don’t geek out on gear or recording technique or mic placement like every good engineer I know does. It frazzles my brain a little. I do really love the recording process though — what to me feels like the ‘creative’ part of it — though that’s not to say that for other people mic placement isn’t a very creative art. My own first three albums were experimental in many ways, including the way they were recorded. For your stuff, I really wanted to hear things a certain way. Over the course of the years we’ve been working on this, it has always been important to me to present the songs in the best light possible. But over time, as my “technique” and abilities have increased, I’ve also been raising my standards. And although many of the earlier tunes are still some of my favorites, I think your writing has gone up a few notches too… so it’s been a long process of both of us raising the bar as we’ve gone along. The bar is at a good height now — meaning, we’ve got the tunes, and I THINK I am able to present them in a way that will do them some justice.

Are there particular producers you’ve taken cues from? Which contemporary producer intrigues you and which old school producer fascinates you?

Since I was a kid, the album sleeve text that meant the most to me — the magical seal of approval — was ‘PRODUCED BY JIMMY PAGE.’ In my own attempts to produce music, I don’t pretend to emulate the SOUNDS of those old recordings. As I said, I don’t have the gear, the space, the technique or the patience to approach that. But in terms of the way that music is mixed, and the arrangements and orchestration; and the chaotic elements (ambient noise, count-offs, weird tape effects, choppy edits) sitting alongside pristine craft… all that is magic to me.

It’s a hard question to answer in any kind of depth because when looking at record producers over time it’s clear that there are different kinds of producers, and that the role has changed over time, too. Before the classic rock era, producers were more like line producers in the film industry. Getting things organized, booked, done on time and on budget. Then by the 70s they became more like movie editors; getting their hands dirty, cutting film, cutting tape, mixing the music, recording it, even. Then, in the 80s and 90s, they’re more like movie directors or producers; responsible for an overarching vision or concept, but further distanced from the hands-on approach of the 60s and 70s, and also from the practical parts of the job, which now belong to the “Executive Producer”.

There are still those auteur types of music producers out there, but in today’s music business the role is more like the 60s / 70s model. I have favorites from each type, and they occupy my thinking for lots of different reasons. When I think of ‘producers’ the first names that come to mind, aside from Jimmy Page, are Teo Macero (Miles Davis) and Holger Czukay (of Can, though he technically wasn’t listed as the producer on their records).

In terms of current guys… I think more about mix engineers that I like rather than producers for the most part. It’s funny though, the names that come to mind all have a “thing” they do. Like a very particular sound, — a specific SOUND more than a sensibility. A strong thumbprint. So there are mix engineers I like as a fan, but I can’t think about their work in the same way I think about the older guys. It’s still a kind of inspiration, but you can’t get up too close to it without falling into their “thing.”

Here’s another two-parter, do you think people care about production nowadays and do you think they even know what “production” is? What is production to you?

People definitely care about production, but they don’t know it. In terms of what production IS to me… the way I think about it is that the producer is responsible for presenting the music in the best possible light. It can mean a lot of different things, and a lot depends on resources. You use all the tools at your disposal to pull it off. It helps, I think, if you can have an overall vision in mind, some kind of sense of where the music could go.

Have you enjoyed working on this pfl project?

Yeah man, I’ve enjoyed it a ton! It’s also pushed me to the absolute limits of my ability, especially lately as we’ve been approaching the finish line. We both want to do everything we possibly can to get this stuff right.

Is pfl difficult to work with?

Not at all, except that it was a challenge to get the rare Moroccan incense, brass whale oil-burning lamps, tapestries, oxygen tanks and the troupe of contortionists necessary to get a “keeper” vocal take.

hahahahaha What do you hope happens with Workbench Recordings and the 3 albums of your own you’ve written, recorded, and produced?

I’d like to do something more with the Workbench Recordings site — it’s been just sitting there for a while. Don’t have the time or the idea yet though. In terms of my three albums — I hope people listen to them.

Do you plan to jump back into your material after the pfl project?

I do, but I don’t know what precisely yet. It’s nice not knowing; I’m collecting ideas.

Would you produce other artists and would it be dependent upon liking their material?

I would — I enjoy the process. It would probably only work if I had some kind of connection to the music. Though I will entertain all inquiries 🙂

I’ve been enjoying the A/B listens (cousins) on your tumblr, have you been using particular A/B listen touchstones on the pfl project?

That’s totally just letting my obsessive music brain goof off!

and lastly, which came first the chicken or the egg?

If you want it to be any good, either way I’d recommend butter or olive oil first.

My thanks to James, he’s been as intuitive, tireless and careful on this project as he is on his own excellent recordings, highly recommended listens!

Have a great week humans and thanks for checking in! -p

http://jamesbeaudreau.bandcamp.com
http://www.workbenchrecordings.com
https://twitter.com/jamesbeaudreau