Archive for March, 2012

Back To Black: Headphone LPs

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , on March 29, 2012 by 30daysout

Koss headphones and a porn star mustache got the chicks every time.

Way back in the dark ages (the 1970s) I’d heard that a few albums sounded really great on headphones. Well, my parents had a stereo but we didn’t have headphones. They cost about $12 apiece then, which in today’s dollars would likely be a monthly mortgage payment.

So I borrowed a couple of albums from my good friend Randy Fuller and took ‘em home to experience “true stereo.” My homemade headphones substitute was putting two stereo speakers on the floor facing each other then turning them out at about a 45 degree angle, just enough to slip a pillow and my stupid head in between.

With the volume set real low, it was a great substitute – until a little brother sneaked into the room and jacked it up to threshold of pain level. I still hate those guys.

Back in the day, one used to see magazine ads like this.

Anyway, with Record Store Day approaching, I thought I’d pull out a handful of my favorite “headphone” LPs and give ‘em a spin. These records were best listened to on those big clunky headphones, like the kind the Koss company used to make. You really got good spatial separation and a sense of true depth by listening to rock albums over headphones, and they were great soundtracks to some, ah, chemical stimulation. Or so I have been told.

For me, the granddaddy of all headphone LPs was Fragile by Yes (1971), which was one of the albums I borrowed from Randy back then. It was the group’s fourth album and the first with new keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and these prog-rockers really explored the studio space. “Long Distance Runaround” and “Roundabout” got a lot of radio airplay, but hearing those songs on AM radio really didn’t do them justice. The extended jam “Heart of the Sunrise” would usually send me into space or more accurately, a deep sleep.

The progressive rockers were great for headphone music: Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (1973), Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues (1967) and In The Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson (1969) are classics. Randy likes Pink Floyd’s Animals (1977) for its crossing, slashing guitars and in 1976 I went for Rush and 2112, considered by many a headphones classic.

Randy remembers Quadrophenia by the Who (1973) as a nice headphone experience, and I always used to go for Electric Warrior by T. Rex (1971). And for some reason: Phoenix by Grand Funk Railroad (1972) got a lot of headphone mileage, but maybe I was just too lazy to take it off the turntable. And let’s not forget: Abbey Road by the Beatles (1969), Ram by Paul and Linda McCartney (1971) and Best of Spirit (1973), all favorites of mine.

Our memory wavelengths converge on one act who always sounded great in stereo: The Firesign Theatre. Not musicians, this was a comedy troupe whose medium was the stereo album. Their stuff is multi-tracked and brilliant, and you can listen to their setpieces over and over again just like a great rock song. Their very best albums – Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers (1970) and Everything You Know Is Wrong (1974) are rich experiences on headphones, but hands down their best for special effects and stereo is the futuristic I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus (1971).

Look at me, going on about all this stuff. I could talk about old records and music all day. And there’s a perfect day to do just that: Record Store Day, April 21 this year. Go out to your independent music store, grab up some special vinyl and see how many people are music freaks just like you and me.

MP3: “Long Distance Runaround” by Yes (from Fragile)

MP3: “Planet Queen” by T. Rex (from Electric Warrior)

MP3: “Flight Of The Phoenix” by Grand Funk Railroad (from Phoenix)

MP3: “A Passage To Bangkok” by Rush (from 2112)

MP3: “Sheep” by Pink Floyd (from Animals)

MP3: “The Breaking Of The President” by the Firesign Theatre (from I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus)

Video Du Jour: Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , on March 29, 2012 by 30daysout

We like this band – Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, from Appleton, Wis. They play a fine blend of rock with country, gospel and blues influences. Here’s “Over Jordan,” which they played at SXSW recently.

Cory Chisel Facebook page

Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons official website

Video Du Jour: Brendan Benson with Eric Burdon

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , on March 28, 2012 by 30daysout

Eric Burdon performing at South by San Jose/Gram Parsons Foundation party.

Sorry we keep bringing up our recent trip to Austin, but … you gotta see this. It’s Brendan Benson, the excellent rock singer/songwriter, performing at a party for the Gram Parsons Foundation. Suddenly he introduces Eric Burdon, former lead singer of the Animals – and away they go, on “When I Was Young.” It was one of those performances that literally makes your hair stand up if you are lucky enough to witness it in person. Sorry we couldn’t embed the video, but you can see it at this link:

Video: Eric Burdon and Brendan Benson at Gram Parsons Foundation party, SXSan Jose Austin (corrected link)

Go to the VenueOne home page to see more information about the Gram Parsons Foundation event, which was an unofficial part of SXSW. The entire lineup of acts, including Blitzen Trapper and Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, will be streamed on April 5.

Eric Burdon home page

30 Days Out Interview: Chuck Prophet

Posted in News with tags , , on March 26, 2012 by 30daysout

Chuck Prophet is a great guitarist and an excellent songwriter.

Chuck Prophet is one of those musicians that opens your ears the first time you hear him. He’s a blistering guitarist and a singer who is rock and roll rough but tender when he needs to be. And he is a great songwriter.

Old-timers will remember Prophet as the guitarist and songwriter who teamed up with Dan Stuart for Green On Red in the 1980s, or they will remember him as the guy who co-wrote Alejandro Escovedo’s breakthrough record Real Animal. Entry-level fans looking for fresh rock should pick up Prophet’s newest album, Temple Beautiful, which has been described as a love letter to his hometown of San Francisco.

Playing multiple gigs at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Prophet sat briefly and shot the breeze with us. He said he didn’t set out to create a “theme” record with Temple Beautiful, the songs just shook out that way.

Chuck's wife Stephanie Finch, left, plays in his band.

“It was just kind of aimless, at one point we realized we had a batch of songs and it started to be a record about San Francisco,” Prophet says. Once he realized that was the direction it was taking, Prophet aimed to give it some true local flavor. He wrote one song, “Willie Mays Is Up At Bat” about the Giants Hall of Famer.

“Every good tragedy has to have a hero, so we got Willie Mays in there,” he explains. “It’s kind of fun for me as a songwriter, if I’m excited about what I’m doing then it’s no effort.”

Another song, “The Left Hand and the Right Hand” has a couple more colorful characters. “It’s about Jim and Artie Mitchell, they had a strip club and a theater in San Francisco, they were kind of pioneers in the pornography business. They made Behind the Green Door, and they owned the O’Farrell Theatre, which was one of the most notorious adult establishments,” Prophet says. “They knew how to party, and one day the party got out of hand and Jim wound up killing his brother Artie. So it’s a Cain and Abel story, and we got to thinking about Phil and Don (Everly) and Phil and Dave (Alvin) and all these brothers.”

Colorful storytelling aside, Temple Beautiful is getting kudos for its back-to-basics rock sound and for its vocals. Some have compared it to a “lost Kinks record,” an observation that Prophet accepts gladly. “This record is the one where everyone is saying that,” he adds. “I do listen to a lot of 1970s and 1980s Kinks, so yeah, I’ll take that.”

Austinites who know and love Texas rocker Alejandro Escovedo know Prophet well, because the two are great friends and easy collaborators. They’ve written together for years, penning all of the songs for Escovedo’s Real Animal in 2008, and they wrote together for Street Songs Of Love in 2010.

“Above and beyond the songs, Al is easy company,” Prophet says. “When we’re in the room, it’s like touching two jumper cables together. Sometimes we just fall into songwriting, other times it’s too hard and we just turn out the lights and listen to Mott the Hoople records. But it’s great working with him, we both speak the secret language.”

So we should thank Chuck Prophet, for continuing to make real rock and roll for grown up adults. Temple Beautiful is some of the best work of his career, and the songs flat out rock. So when he comes to a city near you, check ‘em out live. You won’t be disappointed.

Chuck Prophet official website

YouTube: “Temple Beautiful” Live on KEXP (Seattle)

YouTube: “The Left Hand and the Right Hand” Live on KEXP

YouTube: “Willie Mays Is Up At Bat” Live on KEXP

30 Days Out Interview: Pujol

Posted in News with tags , , , , on March 24, 2012 by 30daysout

Pujol plays at the Spider House during SXSW. Daniel Pujol is at far right.

Editor’s Note: This was written by our Austin correspondent Lily Angelle.

Nashville Tennessee’s Daniel Pujol, whose singles “Black Rabbit” and “Too Safe” were produced by Jack White’s prominent Third Man Records, is not letting all the attention get to his head. Rolling into SXSW with a bundle of shows to play, including the official Third Man Records Texas Stand-Off showcase as an opener for Jack White in the flesh, Pujol and his band, that sometimes varies depending on who’s available, graced small Austin venues like Spider House and Austin Symphony Square ever so humbly.

With a southern edge to his garage punk, Pujol sings about things like vampires, Batman and his own pet bunny, as well as big-picture concepts influenced by his truth-seeking writing and time in grad school, seeking a degree in Global Affairs. His debut EP, Nasty, Brutish, Short via Saddle Creek Records proved to be a success, with scruffy guitar riffs beneath Pujol’s grating rock and roll voice and peevish demeanor.

With his first ever LP, The United States of Being out June 5th, Pujol used SXSW as a time to showcase his adrenalized guitar sound, mixed with unassuming charm and loud, fast tempo that drives it all home. We caught up with him on his last leg of SXSW shows, and although it was evident that he and his bandmates had been burning the candle at both ends the last few days, Daniel still ever so kindly took our questions.

30 Days Out: What bands have influenced your music?

Pujol: I like Louis Armstrong, and I like The Beatles. I like a lot of melodic stuff.

30 Days Out: We really like how you give a brief summary of the stories behind your music before you play each song. Why do you do that?

Pujol: I used to work at a venue in Nashville and it got a little boring just watching set starts, like ‘ this is me doing my thing’ and then it’s over. There’s a level of alienation that’s constructed in that and it’s possibly no longer affective. And, this is my shtick. It makes me comfortable.

30 Days Out: You’re affiliated with Jack White’s Third Man Records. Are you signed to them now?

Pujol plays an amphitheater during SXSW.

Pujol: We did some work with them in the past and I played their [SXSW] showcase with Daniel and Stewart last night, and they continue to be very supportive and help me get the resources I need to make records.

30 Days Out: Is this your first time at SXSW? What’s it like, for you?

Pujol: No, second time. Last year I played thirteen shows, and it’s not that bad. I don’t really party at all, so it’s kind of athletic. It was harder this year because I was a little sick with some allergy stuff. It’s not that bad, you just have to pace yourself and do work.

30 Days Out: How is the Tennessee music scene different from Austin?

Pujol: There’s a very good dialogue between both of them. Austin’s kind of like a really big, sprawled Nashville. Nashville’s metropolitan area is pretty small, and Austin reminds me a lot of the city of Nashville, but way bigger.

30 Days Out: We closely follow not only you, but other Nashville artists like JEFF The Brotherhood and Those Darlins, and it seems like a closely knit music community. Do you guys hang out, or throw ideas around?

Pujol: When we were younger we did, before we started touring. We’ll see each other when we’re all in town. I saw Jake from JEFF – he picked up Daniel from outside our practice a while ago. I ran into the bass player for Those Darlins not too long ago. We’ve all known each other for about 5 years.

30 Days Out: So, you’re pursuing your Masters Degree. What are you majoring in?

Pujol: Global Affairs, political science, international relations kind of stuff.

30 Days Out: Do you get homesick for your bunny?

Pujol: Yes, I do. His name is Spooky.

Pujol official Facebook page

Signs That The World May Actually End in 2012 (Part 2)

Posted in News with tags , on March 23, 2012 by 30daysout

Dubstep DJ Skrillex has teamed up with the surviving members of the Doors – Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore – to produce a new song, “Breakn’ A Sweat.” Hoo boy, the Mayans may be right after all.

This is part of the Re:Generation music project, which teams unlikely artists to make unusual music. A film with some of these teamups and other stuff premiered at the SXSW film festival, but you can watch the movie and get a free download of the music at the Re:Generation website.

Signs That The World May Actually End in 2012 (Part 1)

Posted in News with tags , on March 22, 2012 by 30daysout