Quite literally, a one question interview. Also known as 1QIs, we post these first to our social media on a near-daily basis, with the archival piece here. Check 'em out.
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An in-depth discussion with a band or artist, generally in the form of a straight Q&A – no editorializing.
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Album streams, our Set List "top five..." features, our year-end "best of" lists and other music-related miscellany.
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Contributions on a range of topics from a range of industry figures: musicians, filmmakers, editors and more.
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A melting pot of mixed content: movie, book and even video game reviews. Updated sporadically, but eclectically.
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A semi-regular column exploring new and rising local bands and artists deserving of attention.
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We post a variety of features in recurring series – click below to browse them.
One-question interviews with artists where we find out about the gear and equipment they use to achieve their sound. Browse 92 features
A collection of items grouped by topic, eg. "Top 5 Worst Beatles Songs" or "Top 10 best '77 punk releases". Browse 21 features
A wide-ranging guest column written by BJ from Ancient Shores, mainly covering film but extending into philosophy and aesthetics too. Check out BJ's work on the A389 podcast. Browse 15 features
Guest column by T of Vegas Browse 13 features
There’s so much music released, whether physically or digitally, that keeping up with what’s going on becomes almost like a full time job. With Only Death Is Real, the aim is to bring you something new. Browse 10 features
How an artist spends their time by day will influence the creative process at night. In Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Scene Point Blank looks at how musicians split their time, and how their careers influence their music – or, alternately &ndash Browse 6 features
Discussing the state of the music business at the kitchen table Browse 5 features
Our annual round-up of the best music of the year 2015. Browse 4 features
Our annual round-up of the best music of the year 2016. Browse 4 features
A roundup of coverage of the annual punk rock festival held in Gainesville, Florida Browse 4 features
A life lived and lessons learned by Eddie Spaghetti of Supersuckers. Browse 4 features
Our annual roundup from Gainesville, FL's famous Fest. Browse 4 features
It's the end of 2013, so here's our best-of roundup for the last twelve months. Browse 4 features
SPB's coverage of the annual festival in Gainesville, Florida. Browse 4 features
Our annual round-up of the best music of the year 2014. Browse 4 features
A brief but englightening chat with an artist who reveals an interesting or unexpected story from their career Browse 4 features
Our summary of the best music (and more) of 2018. Browse 3 features
Our wrap-up of the best music and more from 2019 Browse 3 features
A collection of coverage rounding up the year 2012, covering our favorite albums, shows, bands, and more, as well as asking record labels and bands about their past twelve months in music Browse 3 features
A cookery column by Nick, vocalist with metal band The Famine. Veggie/vegan friendly! Browse 3 features
Our wrap-up of the best music and more for the year we'll all want to otherwise forget, 2020. Browse 3 features
Our annual round-up of the best music of the year 2017. Browse 2 features
A regular series by Robert F. Browse 2 features
We survey some of the other music releases out there. Results may vary...may get weird, but hopefully something covered here piques your interest. Browse 2 features
Welcome to Running on Nothing, the latest addition to our stable of columns at Scene Point Blank. Running on Nothing offers a look at the world through the eyes of Kole, bassist of The Lippies, who have been working on a new LP for Red Scare Industries Browse 2 features
Our coverage of the annual Fest extravaganza. Browse 1 features
A semi-regular column where we choose a specific area and give a local scene report. Browse 1 features
Rob Huddleston (Ann Beretta, solo, Foundation) SPB: Do you still get nervous before you play a show? Huddleston: I do, depending on the show. I think I've surprised people in the past with this answer but when it comes to playing in front of large audiences I don't get nervous at all but, when it’s a small crowd, I absolutely do. It's a bit backwards I guess, but in front of larger audiences it all just becomes a blur past the first 10 feet or so. You have to work harder to make a connection to ...
Quite literally, a one question interview. Also known as 1QIs, we post these first to our social media on a near-daily basis, with the archival piece here. Check 'em out.
Bob (I Against I – bass)
SPB: (In non-COVID times) What do you like to do on a tour off date?
Bob: On a tour off date I like to walk around town with people who live there. They know where to find the best record stores, bars and places to sleep in the sunshine. We did a night-tour through Vienna once and ended up in a bar where people did some crazy German standup comedy at five in the morning.
On your own you do not find the cool places.
Walking around town is a nice and refreshing thing to do on tour. You probably visit a lot of places only one time in your life so you don’t want to miss out.
I once brought my running shoes on tour but the nights playing shows and party on ‘til the next morning made me forget about them the whole tour!
SPB: What was the first concert you all attended (together)?
Sandré: We went to the Idles show together two years ago. It was incredible. Stefi and Rosa ended up on stage. Marc lost his glasses. Nothing happened to Carles but he enjoyed it very much.
Scott Turner (Black Sheep Wall)
SPB: What’s the most MacGyver-esque workaround you’ve made to connect different bits of equipment?
Turner: Using a $5 1/8” splitter cable and a few 1/8” to 1/4” adapters from Radio Shack to link up two live rigs at once.
Igor Starshinov (Ploho)
SPB: What make/model of synth did you primarily use on the new record? How did you choose this model?
Starshinov: We used Moog minimoog model d, Nord lead 2x, Quasimidi the Raven, Roland Vp550, Casio VL 1, Roland sh 101 and Roland juno 60. We chose these synthesizers because they are the best for these songs. The Moog d mini, Casio VL 1, Roland sh 101 and Roland juno 60 are classics of synth pop, disco, etc. The Roland Vp550 is a fantastic strings-and-chorus synth, really cool. The Nord Lead is our working synth. It's a good choice when we can't take more synths on tour.
Buy the new album here.
Ian MacDougall (Nice Surprise – guitar/vocals/bass)
SPB: Is Nice Surprise primarily a two-person project? What is the origin story?
MacDougall: Nice Surprise is myself, Ian MacDougall on Vocals/Guitar/Bass and Stuart Sikes doing the recording and drums. It was pretty much born out of quarantine boredom and our love of fuzzed out punk/garage music. I’ve recorded and interned in the studio with Stuart Sikes (Grammy award winning! producer of bands such as Cat Power, The Walkmen, White Stripes, Loretta Lynn, Rocket From the Crypt, as well as my bands the Riverboat Gamblers and Broken Gold) We’ve worked on several projects together and hang out quite a bit outside of toiling on music things. After last year was basically put on halt for both of us work-wise -- me touring with my other band Band of Horses and his recording schedule -- He hit me up one day asking if I had any songs laying around that we could put down to check out the drum sounds in a new studio space he built out at his house. I had quite a few that I’ve accumulated over the years and we landed on the two that became this first 7”. I emailed him some guitar and bass tracks, he laid down the drums and then I re-recorded everything and sang on it and there you go! We were really stoked with how it turned out and figured we’d share it with the world.
Going forward we plan on throwing some more things together and just releasing short run 7” EPs. It’s low pressure and super fun to work with Stuart in a different configuration. Usually he’s behind the board making things sound good but now he’s behind the kit as well. I’m really excited about what we could put together going forward. Its super fun to bash away without overthinking every little detail and just have a good time with playing songs.
You can check out our first 2 song 7” here.
Lindsay DeGroot (Fox Face - lead guitar, vocals)
SPB: How old were you when you first learned an instrument?
DeGroot: I started playing guitar when I was 25 years-old. A few years before that, I played drums for the first time for "All Messed Up." All Messed Up is a yearly "randomized musical experiment" in Milwaukee, WI, where total novices (that was me!) and experienced musicians alike are randomly put into bands, given time to come up with a short set of songs (and, often, learn new instruments), and then play their sets at a showcase. After All Messed Up was over, my band stayed together for a while, and I continued to play drums. Around the same time, I joined another band with a bunch of friends, all trying out new instruments as well. I wanted to learn bass to help write songs, and from there gave guitar a try. I think a lot of women tend to think they shouldn't or can't try stuff out, especially if they're not young and dumb anymore. Totally, wrong! Give it a shot! You may screw up and sound horrible when you start out, but it's worth it to get to do something you've always wanted to do.
Sean Arenas (Pinned in Place – guitar)
SPB: What guitar do you play (and how did you choose it)?
Arenas: I've only ever owned one electric guitar: my purple Fender Standard Telecaster, a Mexican model. I purchased it when I was nineteen from a sixteen-year-old kid in Temple City, Calif. His mom forced him to sell it because he was flunking high school. To punish the kid, the mom sold me the guitar right in front of him for next to nothing. It's been a decade, and I've never considered buying another guitar. A few years ago I had custom pickups installed. I know so little about gear that I couldn't even tell you what they're called, but the lady who installed them said, "These are the hottest pickups I've ever installed in a Tele." So, there's that. I plug into a vintage Peavey Classic 20 head which runs into a custom Avatar cab with two greenbacks and two vintage 30s. I've been told a number of times that I have excellent gear for someone that knows jackshit about gear.
Gene Woolfolk III (Vincas - guitar)
SPB: What type of guitar do you play for live gigs and how/why did you choose it?
Woolfolk: I have a plethora of large, heavy tube amps but none of them fit in a minivan. Chris lets me use his Musicman HD-130 2x10 combo for Vincas because I need something loud, clean, fits in a minivan, and most importantly, backbreakingly heavy. Scotty uses an HD-130 as well. We call ourselves the “Music Men” because we think we’re clever.
To be honest, I think I’m going to switch over to a Roland JC-120 whenever we start playing shows again because maybe I’ll want something lighter in the future. Who knows how old and decrepit I’ll be when shows happen again. The JC-120 is cold and lifeless, like my soul. It fits the bill. Plus, I like to run some of my modulation, delays, and reverbs in stereo and it’s the amp I’ll be using for my synthpop band, Dream Tent. Another bonus of having a solid state amp is that I don’t have to worry about those pesky lightbulbs failing on me.
Tommy Plural (The Plurals)
SPB: What do you remember about the first Plurals live show?
Tommy: The Plurals -- from the beginning, and to this day, Tommy, Nich, and Hattie -- started playing together when we were all still in high school, largely jamming on Pixies covers in the spring of 2004. We cycled through a lot of joke band names and were using "The Plurals" largely to sort of make fun of the common trend of "The" band names, as was the style of the time (The Strokes, The Hives, The White Stripes, The Vines, et al). The point of us becoming a "real" band happened gradually and didn't really coalesce until closer to 2007, but what we typically feel was our "first show" was in the unassuming confines of a house party double wide trailer "venue" in the Michigan countryside that was mostly referred to as "Dan's." The titular Dan was a guy in his mid-20s that owned the trailer and, in retrospect, was kind of creepily encouraging high schoolers to party at his place while hosting shows primarily for local hardcore bands. "Hardcore" at this time and place was the stuff of metalcore breakdowns, pig squeal vocals, and dangerous levels of testosterone. It was on the cusp of becoming the mid-2000s eyeliner, diagonal haircut, MySpace-based "scene" thing but wasn't quite there yet. If you were underage in the middle of Michigan in 2004, basically the only options for all ages shows were populated by these bands so while The Plurals were pretty far outside of this scene it was where we ended up performing in the early days. We had invited friends over to hang out at our band practices and we had played for Hattie's family as we practiced at her house, but the invitation to play in Dan's living room in August of 2004 was the first time we were going to be playing a set on a bill with other bands, and possibly for unfriendly strangers. This was also probably when we committed to the name "The Plurals" for the handmade flyer and line of text on someone's Geocities website.
Summertime parties in the Midwest countryside are usually pretty pleasant, so even though we were maybe vaguely afraid of some of these older kids that wanted to slam dance to bands that were, at best, trying to sound like Dillinger Escape Plan without the required musicianship, there were plenty of comfortable corners by the cars outside to keep to ourselves. Besides, this was small town Michigan so all sorts of folks came out to these shows as there was little competition for activities. So, finally, we played a handful of garage rock originals, some Pixies songs, a noisy cover of the Beatles "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey" (which got a hearty cheer from this barefoot guy that I recognized as having graduated with my brothers a few years before) and a completely unrehearsed cover of Nirvana's "Aneurysm" that someone called out as a request. We all knew how to play the song but had never once played it together, but as teenagers slammed into each other a few feet in front of us in the living room of a double wide trailer, we went for it with the kind of naive abandon that's easy to conjure as a new, young band that's excited about the music we had started to make. The microphone barely stayed in place, alternating between the floor and shrieking with feedback, but the song sounded just like it was supposed to.
We left before the cops inevitably came; I'm pretty sure I had to work at 6 in the morning the next day at my dad's grocery store and never went to sleep. While it would be unrealistic to say that this show, essentially a small town excuse to get drunk, solidified our band, we all had felt energy we never had before and this feeling is probably what keeps us playing together nearly 17 years later. I'd say we should maybe see if we can play in Dan's living room again, but I'm pretty sure that guy's in jail.
Derek (Old Ghosts)
SPB: What is the best TV theme song?
Derek: It would have to the Cheers theme (I know I’m showing my age). Some of the lyrics hit me & I find them quite relatable. Also, the piano is quite catchy.
Here’s some lyrics with my comments:
“Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.”
(Hell yeah it does)
“Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. “
(we all need an escape. For me it’s music & being around friends)
“Wouldn't you like to get away? “
“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same.
You wanna be where everybody knows
(Not everyone needs to know my name but I sure am missing live music & the scene that surrounds it. Though, our troubles aren’t all the same but we all have them.)
Listen to Old Ghosts' Crow here.
Read some of SPB's favorite theme songs here.
Ossa Humiliata (City of Industry)
SPB: Who is your favorite lyricist?
Humiliata: Damian Abraham and Mike Haliechuk from Fucked Up. Collectively, their word play, storytelling, and creativity are always operating at 100 in my opinion.
Matt P. (Bummer)
What is your amp setup and how did you choose to pair that with your guitar?
Kenny Feinstein (Water Tower)
SPB: You’ve been through a lot and your songs reflect that. Can you tell us the symbolism or how you landed on the Water Tower name?
Feinstein: Thank you for asking. Thank you for taking the time to listen to and understand my songs. I think it takes someone who has been through a lot to discern that I have been through a lot, upon inspection of my songs.
Water Tower symbolizes clean water. It means that there are no additives in the water. It means that we can all drink from the clean water in order to heal and rejuvenate ourselves. Body and mind. Water is the source of life, it is the thing that we are made of. Music has always been the driving force behind my actions, and Water has always been the driving force behind my life. Combining the two made sense.
We named the band Water Tower Bucket Boys in 2005. The reason behind this is that our first bass player (we are on the 28th bass player now) played a gut-bucket bass AKA a wash-tub bass. The Water Tower was in my parents' backyard, deep in the woods of a small Oregon town outside of Portland. There also was a rad water tower in John's Landing which many people associate with the iconic image of an old-timey water tower.
The one we started playing music at was in the woods though, and it was grey and plopped right on a little grassy hill, surrounded by barbed wire and a little set of wooden steps. All I had to do was walk out of the house, and up the driveway through some woods to get to the tower, and many other kids from around the area had discovered the gravel road as well. One of the punk bands (Black Cohosh) I was in just before WTBB wrote a song about the time we spent at the tower. The spot became a place to meet up and do anything that wasn't accepted or legal in society. The spot became a hotbed of activity. Many times, the cops would show up and break up the party. Sometimes when we would see headlights on the wall in my high school bedroom, we knew it was time for a show: meaning someone had shown up to do something at the tower. That meant it was time to walk up and share with the people at the tower what exactly we were up to, which was generally playing old-timey psychedelic punk rock fiddle music. Some people were not as lucky, depending on what we had been consuming that night. We would get freaky ideas about wearing masks and would even tear through the woods with bags over our heads and fake shotguns that made loud and strange sounds. Sounds that are not the usual human sounds. We weren't normal redneck types either, we were tripped out freaky skateboarding woods creatures with fiddles and banjos. We were nice though, we just liked to get our kicks through music however we could. One time we showed up with the gut bucket bass and a guitar and just played on innocent porches down the street from the tower at 11 on a school night, just to do it. The rush was unparalleled. I remember the patriarch of one family yelling from his bedroom window with all his might "SHUT THE F##@ UP".... if any of our victims of late night old-timey tripper music are reading this, I am sorry. We were addicted to playing our music, whether you wanted to hear it or not.
I utilized the spot to walk my dog, contemplate life, smoke, drink, live, laugh, and love. Many others used it for the same thing. On our senior graduation in 2005, a group of students all agreed to meet at the tower after school to celebrate. That was the biggest circle I remember at the tower. Maybe 20 kids, maybe more. But soon after, there were security cameras added, and the stairs were ripped out. Someone found out what was going on. But I still visited the tower, because it was always there.
The tower was the place where the power seemed to come from.
It was domineering over my house for the 12 years that it was in our family.
It reminded me daily of my connection to water.
The water tasted cold and pure. Drinking from the faucet in the bathroom I always felt so connected to the tower. It reminded me of that scene in Sesame Street where it shows the kid using the water, and the water draining out of the fish reservoir.
For whatever reason, we always met back up at the tower.
But then later, I used that very same water for nefarious purposes.
I used that water to help numb my pain.
I combined the water with chemicals that I put into my body.
I adulterated the water as it came straight from the source.
Searching for more experience, yearning for less pain I hurled myself and anyone who showed any interest to follow directly towards pleasure and away from pain (or so I thought).
I drew up directly from the purest water that had given me and my friends our purpose.
Alone in the woods, I had my "Under the Bridge" moments right there in solemn silence of the grey tower.
The only time I put a knife to my heart it seemed in a vain attempt to scare my parents (if you read this I'm sorry Mom and Dad I Love you) and as a last ditch effort to buy just a couple more hours to have one more chance to get high.
One more chance to control myself, the only way I knew how at that point, as I had cornered myself.
Who knows if I really wanted to end my life that day, I surely knew that I had alienated everyone that I cared about in my life to the point of what I thought was "no return."
The band seemed non-existent.
Therefore, nothing much mattered other than my relationship to my behavior that made me feel like I had control.
Towards the tower.
As I crouched in the woods, under the shade of the tower, I heard the sirens and ran deeper into the woods.
I took solace for two weeks after this (before I went to rehab) at the neighbor's house next to the other side of the tower, always hearing it's eternal silence: stoic, proud, life-giving, full of opportunity, outside this new bedroom window, but on the opposite side of the tower that I had always slept. The water still came from the same source, but now I was looking at it from the other side.
I finally got some help after that, as I needed it badly. My life began to change.
I started chasing my recovery, and we decided to kick the bucket.
We became Water Tower.
It took us seven years and the help of crowdfunding AND a label (Dutch Records) to finally release Fly Around on April 24, 2020 in the middle of a pandemic.
Initially I had told Don Bolles it would take us three weeks, tops.
But apparently I had other plans.
That is a whole other story though...
I spent so long building an empire of dirt, that I learned how to build a large reservoir of water in my soul that I can share through the music.
The music is a vehicle for my experience of bliss to overflow into your cup.
When you join me onstage, whether you are a fan, a friend, or a musician, we share in the water of our souls and when we combine we are like captain planet only more rad.
I want to break down the fan/band wall and to encourage everyone to join in the experience. I encourage our fans to bring instruments and art and poetry to our shows so that we can combine it as one, and use it as our weapons.
There is a bit of good in the worst of us, and a bit of bad in the best of us, but Water Tower symbolizes the idea that we can all live together as one as long as there is music. We all heal in music.
I have dived deep into the depths and brought with me a plentiful bounty of clean water to share.
The water is shared through music and the sharing of that music.
We are constantly inspired by our fans (The Owls) who fight to become better people with us. They help me become a better person and inspire me to do my very best. I am forever grateful for every person who listens to and shares in our music. Every soul is one more reason to keep shining as bright of a light as I possibly can, and each soul adds to the wattage of our collective light.
Thank you for such a rad question.
Jason Fusco (Shehehe)
SPB: What drummer (not your own band) stand out to you the most?
My faFusco: vorite drummer is Michael Gonzalez of the local Athens, GA band Deep State. I just really dig his driving style of playing. It's aggresive, but fluid, reminds me of why I play drums in the first place, to really feel the music with your entire body, so much so that it is more like dancing on the kit rather than playing it!
Great band, check ‘em out if they ever hit your neck of the woods for sure.
Vincent (Faux Depart)
SPB: Which records do you consider essential for the development of Faux Depart's music?
Vincent: Well, we're big music nerds but if I have to name 3 albums that are key influences in our music, I'd say WIPERS "Is this real", WIRE "pink flag" and FEELIES "crazy rhythms."
They all have both punk and indie vibes.There's a lot of variety in those album too; they're full of energy and melodic at the same time.
Those are classics, but we listen to modern DIY/Indie music too and recent records like CONEHEADS "LP.1" and URANIUM CLUB "all of them natural" brought us together at first. They're hectic and playful; they drives us nuts. The MARKED MEN too: "On the outside"
is cool, even if not so modern.
We love international punk too, I'm huge early Finnish punk lover (RATSIA,KOLLAA KESTÄÄ...), they have that Ramones beat that makes the world better; records like ABWARTS "Computerstaat" too, it's nervous and full of ideas.
stream of the latest album : https://disquesmutant.bandcamp.com/album/faux-depart-vie-ordinaire
Free download/stream of everything we've done on our blog : https://fauxdepart.noblogs.org/
Fun fact: FAUX DEPART means "FALSE START"
SPB: Is there a particular album or artist that inspired you to start writing your own music when you were younger?
Boyd: No particular album or artist but I was really into ‘90s grunge when that hit. My neighbor who had learned to play guitar showed me some chords and really inspired me. He definitely played some Nirvana on his acoustic guitar...also some of his own songs--he was in a band.
Songwriting was such a mystery to me at that time and I really wanted to understand it better. I'm still trying. He just revealed a little bit of the mystery to me with basic chords and his own style. I was hooked.
SJC (Mycelium Cloak – drums/lyrics/vocals)
SPB: Has being on a stage regularly changed how you interact with strangers? Are you more/less social because of your stage experience?
SJC: When I first started playing music, it definitely made me more social. Simply playing with other bands extended my network of friends. As I became an ancient head in punk years, I still made new friends, but not in the same volume.
The aspect of Mycelium Cloak I like the best is that most of our business is conducted in-house. It doesn't require many people, or any type of network. That's to the detriment of awareness of the "band," but as far as efficiency goes, being self-contained is tops. We write, record, and mix the music ourselves, with songs being essentially completed before getting together, so the writing process is fast. The art, packaging, and lyrics are also conceptualized long before the music is finished. Beyond writing the music, everything else is a solitary pursuit--with some outsourcing for packaging and mastering.
This is all very satisfying until we release our music, when the absence of a network or fanbase becomes glaringly apparent. Unfortunately, I've become less social as I attend fewer shows and grumpily refuse to engage in social media. That's where my partner is so valuable, not just for his musical acumen, but because he engages with the virtual world to a certain extent. In the end, while I'd like the validation, the process itself is pretty rewarding, as is the solitude.
Matt Muffin (Lollygagger)
SPB: Have you ever forgotten lyrics or the music for a song while playing live? How did you recover?
Muffin: The best story I have is....
A few years ago, Mike and I played in a band called The Peekaboos, which later pretty much became rebranded as "Lollygagger" when Kinsey joined. One of our favorite places to play was D.Z. Records, which would throw a yearly fest called, you guessed it, "D.Z. fest". One year in particular during the height of our debaucherous years, our friends in another headlining act was eating a big bag of mushrooms after they played and offered us some...a little scary considering the turnout, but in our youth and inexperience we figured, "Fuck it, what's the worst that could happen?"
Flash forward about an hour: we're onstage in front of a few hundred people, eyeballs dilated to the size of dinner plates, and it begins. We're actually playing a pretty screaming set but then the mushrooms really start to kick in and during the first verse of "Door Prizes Rule" I start singing the second verse...usually a problem like this wouldn't be that bad except for the fact that it's EXACTLY ONE MEASURE LONGER than the first verse.
Second guitar doesn't catch it, bass does, the drums probably ate more mushrooms than me, so long story short it becomes a strange trainwreck on stage, each instrument just hardly out of step with the other...This horrible sonic spaghetti also exacerbated by the fact that my mesh shirt and pigtails made me look like an insane person, the psychedelic dissonance notwithstanding..
Worse than that, Ben Arguelles, the respectable straight-laced producer (and totally awesome dude) had probably heard that song 100 times while mixing it, and was in the audience. The disapproving, yet fatherly looks he gave me after the set will follow me to my grave as a reminder, so from time to time I'll sing myself this little ditty;
"Stick to San Pedro cactus dust. You'll be able to remember all the lyrics."
SPB: For Misinterpretations, you used a grand piano that was (as I understand it) modified with something called Putty Kit, which leads to a unique sound. What is your experience using this and what inspired this project?
Kaada: Putty-Kit goes under many different names : Heftemasse/Klebemasse, Tack-it, Multi-Tac to name a few. It’s that thing you use to hang up posters on the wall, without using tape. To prepare piano with different kinds of objects on the strings can give unpredictable results. The advantage with Putty-Kit is that it sticks in place, and is easy to remove without leaving gut on the strings when you remove it. Normally preparing strings on piano is done with metal, plastic or wood objects. But if you put a dash of putty-kit on a perfectly tuned spot on the strings, new overtones will arise at the same time as the sound is dampened. A journalist referred to it as cello pizzicato, which is a description with I love.
Classical piano music can be so incredible boring to listen to. From my perspective, I think it is because I have played classical piano all my life, and it’s a long time between I am actually interested in what I hear. The great masters are out there but, usually, I feel fed up with traditional piano. With prepared piano, you get a non-linear disturbance in the music. The strings are suddenly struggling to make the beautiful sounds that they are supposed to be making. And the pianist -- in this case me -- has to listen more closely to what actually comes out of the instrument. The piano becomes more equal in producing the direction of the music. You have to listen to each given moment, and play the individual sounds, more than the instrument. If that makes sense to say?
I bought a piano, a fantastic 1930 Bechstein some years ago. I sent it off to Germany for a major brush up. Got it back, ready to practice. But somehow I was a bit disappointed, because I felt I wasn’t able to transfer my style of music onto it. All of a sudden, it sounds like everything else. The putty-kit preparation was an instant love. The quirkiness and the energy that came out of it inspired me to jump into the piano-literature, and to seek out old masterpieces that would work with this kind of sound. The pieces were played over and over, hundreds of times, and slowly, they melted together with this strange piano-sound.
I picked out compositions by Grieg, Debussy, Schubert and some others -- From a great span in music-history, actually. And I organically played my way into them., often just the parts of the compositions that connected to me emotionally. Since my piano is in my studio, and I already have microphones rigged up, I started the process of making an album. To record stuff is the best way to learn and practice, because you are so confronted with what and how you are actually playing. So through recording each song probably hundreds of times, I formed this album.
Fred Gunn (Hiram-Maxim – vocals)
SPB: From when you were starting out to now, what parts of your setup have really helped voice your sound over the years?
Gunn: Prior to forming HIRAM-MAXIM, I performed exclusively in punk bands. The extent of my gear was nothing of my own. I’d just show up and use the club’s microphone. Aside from being able to hear my vocal in the monitor, I never knew to ask for anything else. Full disclosure, I never knew there was anything else I could have done or asked for.
Lisa had an Earthquaker Devices Disaster Transport SR on her table that she ran a microphone through. After playing with it a few times I knew I needed one of my own. I was able to acquire the regular version of the Disaster Transport from my buddy, James. For those not familiar, the Disaster Transport is a delay and reverb pedal meant for guitar. I had also learned to request a ton of reverb be put on my vocals through the mixing board. The reverb from the DT is great but I only like to use the delay sparingly for the right moments and songs.
As time went on, I was starting to feel good about my new setup. That was until we played an outdoor gig at an art museum and I requested reverb and was informed by the sound guy that he was not able to do that with this particular soundboard. Well...shit! I was able to power through but after that show I decided I wasn’t going to rely on the soundboard for the reverb that I had grown accustom to. I searched and read good things about the Boss VE-20 Vocal Effects Processor. This thing is fucking rad, has tons of presets, has the ability to build your own, and it can also be used as a looper. However, mostly I use it for the reverb the I built and saved as my own preset. So after all that, I’m able to just make sure I can hear myself in the monitors again.
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