DAVE RAYBURN: The new album is titled WESLEY STACE’S JOHN WESLEY HARDING, and is your second record under your given name that you’ve reverted back to. I understand that, among several factors involved in choosing the title, there was a bit of a nod to Jeff Lynne in the mix. Can you elaborate?
WESLEY STACE: I can. My last album, SELF-TITLED, was the first released under my real name, Wesley Stace, but I felt the word didn’t quite get out, so I thought it was worth clarifying. Secondly, I happened to see the new version of ELO. For whatever legal reason, they are billed as “Jeff Lynne’s ELO”, presumably partly to differentiate it from any other rogue version of ELO. This reminded me that, though I had, in a sense, broken up John Wesley Harding, I didn’t want any interlopers touring under that name, playing my songs and pretending to be me, when I was elsewhere being me too, playing those same songs (better). With WESLEY STACE’S JOHN WESLEY HARDING, I am reminding you that this version of John Wesley Harding is the only version that counts. And finally, I wanted to differentiate myself, once and for all, from the Bob Dylan album of the same name. I have many times been mistaken for this album, due to a certain similarities between the name of this artifact, an LP from 1967 made of vinyl and cardboard, JOHN WESLEY HARDING, and my erstwhile performing name, John Wesley Harding. Obviously, it’s a ridiculous mistake, but still. So this isn’t Bob Dylan’s JOHN WESLEY HARDING; it’s Wesley Stace’s JOHN WESLEY HARDING.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: STITCH OF THE WORLD is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the journey you took to make it?
TIFT MERRITT: I’m feeling really proud of this writing, these performances. I feel really, really lucky to have worked with this cast of characters. Marc Ribot is my favorite musician and one of my favorite human beings. He’s plugged into the sun. And I am forever grateful to Sam Beam for his input and generosity. To be in conversation with him about songwriting gave me a new eye on lyrics, on what to look for in third verses, on countermelody. But honestly, I don’t know that I ever truly have perspective on my work. I just have the sense of having had a creative experience that hopefully opened me more and will inform my next creative experience. I think that is what it is all about.
On her debut effort, REVIVAL, Gillian Welch and her long-term sideman David Rawlings entered the recording studio under the production wing of trusted musicologist T-Bone Burnett. The album that would emerge in 1996 would go on to be nominated for a GRAMMY as the Best Contemporary Folk Album. Welch has since solidified her role as a steadfast champion of the modern day folk/rock scene. Gillian recently took time to answer questions regarding her latest release, BOOTS NO.1: THE OFFICIAL REVIVAL BOOTLEG, an archival set that documents the making of the very collection that put her on the map.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: PEACEFUL GHOSTS is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the journey to make the album and the way it turned out?
MATTHEW CAWS: It feels like a wonderful gift. An orchestral album is something we never would have imagined doing. When the offer came, we were right in the middle of finishing our most recent studio album, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, and didn’t have the bandwidth to focus on it. We learned that Calexico had been asked the year before, which led us immediately to asking our friend Martin Wenk – one of Calexico’s two trumpetists and a Nada Surf collaborator who has played on some of our songs and joined us on many tours – to produce the album for us. That entailed choosing the songs, choosing a composer/arranger and supervising the project’s development. It felt like a distant concept and then, all of a sudden, there we were in Vienna playing these songs for the conductor. Hours later the orchestra arrived. Two rehearsals after that the audience walked in!
The self-titled debut from the Jazz supergroup featuring Dave Holland
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: The self-titled Aziza album is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the journey to make this album and the reaction to it so far?
DAVE HOLLAND: The whole process of putting together the music on this recording with these three great musicians has been a pleasure and truly inspiring. We’ve received an enthusiastic response from the audiences at our concerts and a very positive reaction from people who have heard the album.
TELL ME WHAT I DON’T KNOW:
“All rap music sounds the same.”
That is a statement uttered by the non-believers – those who don’t connect with the music and the messages found on the plethora of rap and hip hop releases that hit the streets throughout any given year. However, one listen to Danny Brown’s fourth album, ATROCITY EXHIBITION, will obliterate any notion that all rap/hip hop “sounds the same.” Released on the legendary Warp Records label and featuring guest appearances by Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt, Petite Noir and B-Real (amongst others), this is one of the most original full-lengths of the year. While it may not sound like albums by acts like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, ATROCITY EXHIBITION is just as groundbreaking – an album that will appeal to all music lovers who like to live on the edge. On the surface, it will intrigue the listener but as they dig a little deeper, the depths of this album will lead to amazement. Peel away the layers and you’ll discover a cornucopia of musical ideas fighting for a chance to be noticed. This is an album to explore. It is a listening adventure. This is emotion in motion. It is hard-hitting yet loving and embracing at the same time. ATROCITY EXHIBITION – named after a Joy Division song! – is art for art’s sake.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to gather a few questions together and send them Danny Brown’s way. Danny was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer them…
An EXCLUSIVE interview with CHRIS COLLINGWOOD
When an artist attempts to alter their musical direction in even the slightest way, the final results are scrutinized by critics and hardcore fans alike. One of the few bands that were able to expand their artistic vision without losing their fan base was The Beatles. Since then, very few artists have been able to mature and grow without being lambasted on the internet by fans who felt betrayed by their beloved musical idols. Remember when Bob Dylan went electric in late 1965? One man yelled “Judas!” and the world spun off its axis. By the way, Dylan’s career recovered quite nicely, thank you! Even The Stranglers, one of the UK’s most popular Punk bands, was skewered once they became a bona-fide Pop/Rock outfit by the middle of the ‘80s. It would seem that their fan base wanted them to remain the scruffy, crabby crew they grew to loathe a decade before. So, what is an artist to do? Stay the same and lose fans because they don’t alter the formula, or alter the formula and lose fans because they didn’t stay the same? Chris Collingwood, he of Fountains Of Wayne (“Stacy’s Mom”) fame, has decided to do both – but with his new project, Look Park, he’s not in any danger of losing fans. At all.
Although it has been five years since Fountains Of Wayne released their last album, 2011’s SKY FULL OF HOLES, Collingwood has been working hard on mixing up his proven songwriting ‘formula’ and approaching the songs in new and more intimate ways. FOW bandmate Adam Schesinger has been busy with various projects, including the fab new Monkees album, but Chris has surprisingly kept a very low profile. One of the few times we’ve heard from him since 2011 was when he covered The Dream Academy’s “Life In A Northern Town” for the excellent ‘80s ‘tribute’ album HERE COMES THE REIGN AGAIN released in 2014. All the while, he has been working on new material and finally went into the studio with producer Mitchell Froom and recorded the most excellent LOOK PARK album. This ‘debut’ album is a collection of well-crafted songs that retain the melodic charm of FOW but takes Chris in new and exciting directions. One of producer Froom’s earliest claims to fame was his work with Crowded House, and Look Park travels a similar musical path as those albums from the Kiwi band led by Neil Finn. The album is filled with great melodic hooks, yes, but the album is warm and intimate. These are songs you fall in love with, and like true love, the album only gets better with time. The production is lush yet intimate and Collingwood approaches each track with a tenderness that was not as apparent as on his work with FOW. “Stars Of New York,” “Breezy,” “Minor Is The Lonely Key,” “You Can Come Round If You Want To,” and “Crash That Piano” are absolutely lovely without being maudlin or too mellow (not that either of those are bad things). Surprisingly, there is very little electric guitar on the album – acoustic guitar, piano and mellotron create an atmosphere that is inviting and melancholic. In essence, LOOK PARK is a beautiful piece of work. It is Pop and it is powerful – it’s just not Power Pop. Don’t fear, FOW fans, Chris has delivered the goods and they are glorious.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat to Chris Collingwood about the making of the LOOK PARK album and much more…
ALICE IN HOLLYWOODLAND:
Although she is forever associated with the late ‘70s Los Angeles Punk scene, Alice Bag’s journey over the last forty years has taken her everywhere from East L.A. to Nicaragua and back again. To some, she remains the lead vocalist of The Bags, but there is far more to Alice Bag than a rare Punk single and an appearance in the documentary The Decline Of Western Civilization (as The Alice Bag Band). Her status as a legendary Punk pioneer led to a career as a highly respected educator, feminist activist, and author. Her critically acclaimed books Violence Girl (2011) and Pipe Bomb For The Soul (2015) have been warmly embraced by her longtime fans and those who were previously unfamiliar with her musical career. She has inspired generations of young girls and women with her outspoken and thoughtful views on feminism. While largely absent from the music scene over the years, Alice has taken the Punk esthetic and made a real difference in the lives of those she has inspired. She may not have sold millions of records over the years, but she has remained true to her cause, and in turn, made an impact that is still being felt.
Surprisingly, nearly forty years after she started her musical career, Alice Bag is finally releasing her very first full-length album. Anyone expecting Alice to dip back into the past and relive her glory days with The Bags will be sorely disappointed. Instead, Alice incorporates many of her musical influences into a cohesive collection of songs that range from edgy Garage/Punk nuggets to instantly hummable ‘60s pop gems. The raw, straightforward production adds a tense atmosphere to the recordings, allowing Alice’s emotions to run free. There is some darkness in her lyrics although they are far from hopeless – she allows the listener to fill in some of the blanks and react accordingly. However, the album is filled with wonderful melodies and inventive arrangements. At its core it is Punk, but only in spirit. Musically, it is a potpourri of influences reaching back to the ‘60s. Like any good album, Punk or not, it turns expectations into revelations. The album Alice Bag is a superb look at the modern world by someone who has seen it all. It is intelligent without being preachy and raw without losing its playful charm – a simple, heartfelt triumph that sounds better with each spin.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with Alice Bag about her album and her music career…