Chatting About Pre-Beatlemania British Rock ‘n’ Roll with Ex-Mod Bryan Rogers

In this article, I chat with my friend Bryan Rogers, self identified ex-mod, about his time growing up in and around the music of London, England, in the late 1950’s and early 60’s, where he experienced the birth of rock ‘n roll in the UK first hand.  This was before Beatlemania, so pre-1963…

Bryan Rogers was born on the 10th December, 1940, in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England.

Here he is around age 2.

These were the pre-British Invasion days, and Bryan was there in person as bands like The Beatles, The Stones, and many more started playing small dance halls and theatres in and around London, before heading off to America to make it big.  

Venues like the Locarno Ballroom in Swindon, the Lyceum in London, McIlroys in Swindon, The Locomotive Pub, Farr’s, Gaumont State Kilburn Ballroom, and so forth…these were places that Bryan would frequent to listen to these rock ‘n roll groups, whether they played live, or a DJ was there playing records so the teens could boogie-woogie, as it were.

All this was happening around the same time that American rock legends like Bill Haley and the Comets, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and many others were coming over to the United Kingdom to find new fans in the youth of England, and influencing those British bands who would later “invade” America.

In speaking with Bryan over the years, I’d heard tell of his adventures in and around jolly old England (particularly London), seeing all of these bands and having some first hand encounters with a few of them.  

Finally, I had a chance to sit down with Bryan Rogers, and chat with him on the topic of early rock ‘n roll in England in the early 1960’s, and what all went down back then – the way it was.

Bryan is, by nature, a curious cat, and usually cats live perilous lives, but this cat has fortunately survived to relate his tale to me, who was very interested to hear about his (mis)adventures and dirty deeds over across the pond.  

Hope you all enjoy our chat, and if you have any comments or stories of your own, please leave them below!


On 50’s music and the 1960 British pop music charts

Bryan: So back in the ’50’s, it was mundane music compared to what it is today, like Doris Day and Frankie Laine …for Chrissakes!  

And then there was The Shadows, who were the back-up group for Cliff Richards…they recorded a tune on their own called “Apache”, which was a knock off of an American group.

Anthony Newly was another English film star who became a singer, and then there’s Shirley Bassey…

Who else we got here?  <scanning the pop music chart from 1960> Roy Orbison’s in there with “Only The Lonely”.  

Presley started to pop up around then too.  Lonnie Donegan, Emile Ford and the Checkmates.  Cliff Richards and the Shadows again, yeah.  The Everly Brothers…these people are slowly coming on…yeah, these are the British, not the American charts, mind you.

And then there was people like Tommy Steele, who wanted to be American, like Elvis Presley, but he never was.

YTMS: Tommy Steele, never heard of him.  Was he really famous?

Bryan: In England, he was…he was on a merchant ship, and he learned how to the play the guitar, so he sung a few songs…became a big hit.  Because people like Bob Dylan were on the go, right?

YTMS: So he was a troubadour kind of guy?

Bryan: He was a folk singer…

YTMS: Big changes in music between 1960 and 1970…

Bryan: Yeah, the whole British Invasion happened.  The Animals, Freddy and the Dreamers, The Kinks, and all those groups.  I think The Animals come from Newcastle…

Seeing Rock Bands in the Early 1960’s (Pre-Beatlemania)

YTMS: When you were growing up over there in England, you saw a lot of these groups when they first came up?

Bryan: Yes, at the local dance hall, on a Saturday, they’d come and play, and we’d dance to them.

YTMS: What was the place called?

Bryan: The Locarno Ballroom, in Swindon.

YTMS: Locarna?

Bryan: Locarno.

YTMS: How big was it?

Bryan: Probably …

YTMS: 1000 people or so?

Bryan: Yeah.  I’d also go to the Lyceum Theatre, in London, just off the Strand, in the center of London.  It was all mainly records there.

YTMS: Just records?

Bryan: DJ’s, yeah.

YTMS: Any bands there?

Bryan: No.

YTMS: Ah, it was just a dance club, not really a venue for live bands to play. 

Bryan: Right.

YTMS: So where did you start seeing actual bands play, and when?

Bryan: Most of the people from that time, most of the bands…like The Undertakers, that was one of ’em…because of the success of The Beatles and The Stones, bands started coming around to the dance halls to play.

Some of these groups found success, like Freddy and the Dreamers.. I didn’t really like them, but there you go.  Uh, who else?  There was the Dave Clarke Five.

YTMS: They were a rock group?

Bryan: Yeah. “Bits and Pieces” was one of their songs. <sings a snippit of the song> “Glad All Over” was another one of their hits.  They come from Tottenham area of London.

YTMS: So they played at the Locarno? 

Bryan: No, but I saw them play in Tottenham.

YTMS: You’d travel around to see bands play?

Bryan: Oh yeah.  When I was livin’ in London, I had a scooter, and I’d tour around to the different city halls, dance halls…

YTMS: How far would you go to see a group?

Bryan: Half way across London.

YTMS: Really?

Bryan: Yeah, and London’s a big place.

YTMS: Just scoot on over?

Bryan: Yeah, Seven Sisters Road… just down the road from the stadium, there was a pub on the corner… at the pub, they’d have these dances, play all these pop songs…

YTMS: You were big on the clubs at the time around there?  You and your friends?

Bryan: Yeah…we’d hang out at Baker Street, which is in the book about Sherlock Holmes.  22B Baker Street. 

I used to go to a club called Farr’s.  F A double R apostrophe S, Farr’s.  We were about 14 or 15 then.  So we’d go there, and we used to have tailor-made suits.

YTMS: Really?

Bryan: Ok, here’s the scoop.  My friend Dennis and me.. Dennis lived down the road from me.. and he says, “Bryan, do ya want a job?”  Paperboy…I said “Sure.”  We had to walk two miles up the road, to this place called Ellington’s.  We go straight up Carlton Vale, and if you’d continue up Carlton Vale, at the end is a T junction, and that’s Abbey Road.  THE Abbey Road. 

So, prior to coming to Abbey Road, on Carlton Vale, we turn right on Maida Vale I believe it was, and we’d walk along there, and turn left, across from Maida Vale underground, and there was Ellington’s.  So, we were paid to mark up the papers, like, everybody in England had the morning paper.  We’d get the address for some apartment building, or “mansions” as we called ’em, take a Daily Mirror paper and a Women’s Own magazine, put them together, write the address down, fold them, put them aside, and a paper boy or girl would come and take them. 

So we used to mark up the paper rounds, and we also had a round of our own.  Now, let’s put it in dollars, it’ll be easier to understand.  They were pre-paid, say, 50 cents a week to deliver papers…

YTMS:  Ok…

Bryan: Dennis and I would get, say, 3 dollars a week to mark up the papers every morning to deliver a round, and our own round as well.  A suit back then, it used to be guineas, would be, say, around about 17 dollars for a tailor made suit.  So we were makin’ 3 bucks… what do you think we’d spend our money on?  Sharp linen.  So when we’re 14, we’d save our money.  And another thing, we’d have a con game going.  We’d go around to all these different apartment buildings, or mansions, that we knew were the other paper boys’ routes… knock on the door every Christmas, tell ’em we were the paper boy…

YTMS: <snickers>

Bryan: …and they would give us a tip.  Maybe 50 cents or a dollar. 

YTMS:  That’s pretty good…

Bryan: So that used to go towards our suit fund.  Twice a year we’d have tailor-made suits!

YTMS: Wow!

Bryan: Yeah.

YTMS: You bought more than one I guess…had a whole wardrobe full of ’em?

Bryan: Yeah.  Dennis had some overcoats made, but I never got those.

On Becoming A Mod

YTMS: What were you guys like you called? 

Bryan: Mods.  We had the short hair.

YTMS: You were trying to be a mod on purpose?

Bryan: We never thought about it at the time, but yeah.  We’d pick up some shoes, they were tapered.  Pointy, tapered shoes.  Fake crocodile skin…We had flared trousers…

YTMS:  Yeah…

Bryan: …with a little slit on the side at the bottom.  And maybe 2 or 3 covered buttons going up the seam on our jackets.  Single or double breasted, covered buttons, as well.

YTMS: Hm…This is what it was like to be a mod.  Any other defining characteristics?

Bryan: We had short jackets.

YTMS: Does that mean you were cool? 

Bryan: Yeah, we were with it. 

YTMS: Tough?

Bryan: No, no, no.  We had our own little clan, and we’d gyrate together, at these dance halls.

YTMS: Yeah, yeah.

Bryan: Now, if there’s any “teddy boys” around, or “rockers”…

YTMS: Is that what the other guys were called?

Bryan:  Yes. Now, they wore jackets down to their knees…black velvet collars…and had really tight jeans on.  And they had these boots called “chukka boots”.  They used to have crimped soles about that thick <gestures>, black or dark blue.

Bryan: So imagine – big pairs of boots and long jacket <laughs> with hair down back, like Presley, you know.. a D.A. .. Tony Curtis, you know.. film star.. he had that down there, and that was called a duck’s ass.  Parted down the middle, it all come down.. <gestures> and then a quiff over here <gestures>…So they were teddy boys, yeah.  And if we ever met… it was a punch up.  Sometimes, we’d get on our scooters, and we’d drive down to Bornemouth or Brighton..south end, that’s on the coast…and we see any rockers, it them or us.. we’d go for it.. like Quadrophelia. 

YTMS: Did you go looking for ’em?

Bryan: Nah.

YTMS: Were you worried about seeing them?

Bryan: No, there was usually more of us than them.

YTMS: Were there a lot of fights? 

Bryan: Just now and again, not that often.

YTMS: People get stabbed?

Bryan: No, no. But, prior to that, the teddy boys…they used to have razor blades, put them in their collar, or in their hat.  That was their weapon of choice – a razor.

YTMS: Sounds dangerous…

Bryan. So I come in at the end of the teddy boy era, basically, and at the beginning of the mod era.  Which was good…I prefer to dress smart than scruffy with messy hair.

YTMS: Did that work better with the birds?

Bryan: The birds, yeah…

YTMS: Did the girls like rockers or mods better?

Bryan: The mod girls liked the mod boys and same with the rockers.  You could tell by looking at somebody who was who.

YTMS: Did mods and rockers ever get together.

Bryan: Probably…well… I doubt it.

YTMS: So for bands at that time, who did you see?

Bryan: Prior to going down to the town Swindon where the Locarno was, I told you before I went to the Gaumont State Kilburn.  It could hold 4000 people. 

Guy Mitchell was in that early list here <from the 1960 hit parade>.  Singin’ the blues, we went and saw him.  When I was a young kid, every time I’d go by this theatre, I’d see Louie Armstrong would be advertised, Ella Fitzgerald, all the jazz people, yeah.

YTMS: Did you check them out?

Bryan: No, we were too young.  Maybe 10 or 11.

YTMS: Not interested?

Bryan: No.  And then we went up and we saw Guy Mitchell.  We went and saw Bill Haley.  I’ve told you this in the past.

Barging In On The Platters

And then, we saw The Platters.  You’ve heard of them?

YTMS: Yeah.

Bryan: So we said, let’s see if we can get in backstage and see them. Well, lo and behold, the first door we tried – it opened.  You don’t usually… We pushed on the door and it opened.  As we walked in, The Platters were there, as close as you are…there they were!  I thought the girl was pretty.

They stood and looked at us, we stood and looked at them.  Nobody said a word.  Then somebody goes, “Hey, what the f*** you doin’ here, get the f*** out of here!  And we were gone!

But…not only did they have this little stage at the state theatre, but they had this little dance area…and Gene Vincent came in…and he sung there.  Be Bop A Lula.  And that was another person who I told you before that you are aware of…The Beatles liked him.  They all followed these guys.

YTMS: This is pre-Beatlemania?  ’62?

Bryan: Maybe a little before that.

YTMS: Did you ever end up seeing those big British bands.  The Beatles, The Who?

Seeing The Beatles

Bryan: No, never followed The Who.  I saw The Beatles and The Stones in Swindon. It was like an Eaton’s store, and they had a restaurant on the second floor…and on a Monday night, they used to have groups there.  Or lone singers…and this was prior to The Beatles becoming famous, they were there…The Rolling Stones another week.  Long John Baldry was there. He was there, he was talking to this guy, he had a woman with him, and I was there with my friend Dave…and we could hear everything they were saying, we were standing by the bar…

YTMS: Didn’t you tell me some weird story about this guy?

Bryan: Yes, I did.  So after a long conversation, this guy says to Long John Baldry, “Who’s the girl?” and Long John Baldry turns to the girl and says, “What’s your name again?”  <laughter> So, all these singers at the time, they all knew one another… they used to meet up.  Elton John got his name…it’s allegedly said… they were lovers, Elton John and Long John Baldry.  I heard this many years later, on the radio.. and…they split up, Long John Baldry dumped Elton John.. his real name was something like “Jimmy”…

YTMS: Reggie…

Bryan: Reggie something-or-other, yeah yeah…so, he changed his name, and because he liked Long John Baldry, he called himself John…this is the rumour, anyway…where he got Elton from, I don’t know…but it’s been successful for him.

YTMS: Yeah…

Long John Baldry Reuinion (Many Years Later)

Bryan: So, fast forward to a few years ago in Cambridge. There was a bar over by Soper Park and Highway 8.  There was a little blues bar in there. 

YTMS: The Cave?

Bryan: No, that little plaza with the pizza place.  Around the corner, they had a blues bar.  And Martin says to me, cause he was workin’ there…he says, “Dad, come, Long John Baldry’s here! Why don’t you come and see him?” So I went and saw him…he had this hat on, he always had this thing for a hat… and long hair now…When he was at Swindon, he wasn’t wearing a hat when he was talking to that guy and that gal, and he had short hair…blonde hair…he was a tall guy, about 6’4″, maybe taller. That’s why they called him Long John, I guess.  He was in this blues bar here and Cambridge and I went to see him…And, as he walked towards the dressing room I went to speak to him…

YTMS: He didn’t remember you, did he?

Bryan: No, no…I just wanted to say “Hey, I saw you in Swindon!”, but he just poo-poo’d me away and went into the dressing room. So Martin spoke to him after the band were done for the night. He said “Yeah, I remember Swindon, yeah” But I didn’t know he was gay ’til Martin mentioned it. 

YTMS: Really?

Bryan: I had no f***** idea. 

YTMS: He came to Cambridge (Ontario)?

Bryan: Yeah, he came and sung in that bar.

YTMS: Wow.

Bryan: To me it’s the end of the road if you’re singin’ there.  But, he was known by a lot of people. 

YTMS: Yeah, he was famous.

Bryan: Yeah…I’ve got all these books here about all these different musical groups, and now and again they’ll cross paths. 

McIlroy’s in Swindon

YTMS: So what was that place that was in Swindon, the restaurant?

Bryan: Yeah, on Monday nights it was a dance club, and during the day, a restaurant. One night, we saw Jerry and the Pacemakers.  The place was called McIlroy’s.

YTMS: Was this a cool place to play?

Bryan: Yeah, and it probably held about 500 people.  And a lot of the performers came there just when they were getting famous, or prior to.

YTMS: The Stones played there?

Bryan: Yep. This was before they were locked in a room and told not to come out before you write a f***** hit song.

Bryan: If you look up McIlroy’s in Swindon, you’ll see some of the flyers of the Beatles and the Stones.

YTMS: You were allowed in to this place, at 14, 15? 

Bryan: Yeah, there was no booze.  Actually, maybe there was.  You used to be able to drink at the Locarno.  I was 19 or 20 then.  But you could drink when you were 16…there were no drugs back then.  No one talked about them, and they didn’t even really exist to us.  The only people doing drugs were the groups – the Beatles and the Stones.  In the circle of people I moved with within London, and within Swindon, we didn’t do drugs.  We didn’t have a clue.

YTMS: Probably for the best…

Bryan: I remember…I used to hang out with a guy named Eric Heaton.  We eventually had an apartment between us, and had all the birds over.  We had a friend, Willie, who used to hang out at Locomotive pub in Swindon. 

Eric used to go there more than I did.  One time, we finished drinking in there, they closed the bar.  Willie says “Come on boys, let’s go back to my place and have some carrot wine.” “No,” i said…I’d had some of my mother’s homemade wine, knocks the s*** right outta ya. “No, no,” he says, laughing like a crazy Irishman. So we go back to his place and have some carrot wine, on top of all the beer we drank.  Then we staggered up the hill, until we got to the flat we were livin’ in.  I laid on the bed, and the f***** room was goin’ round and round.  Then I had to throw up, so I fell off the bed, got on my hands and knees, and crawled round to the bathroom.  Oh, that carrot wine!

YTMS: I never heard of carrot wine.

Bryan: Brutal.  So those groups back then, we’d watch them, and after a while we’d dance to them.  They were pretty cool.

YTMS: Were you a fan of the American bands when they came to England?

Bryan: We might have seen a few of them.

Jerry Lee Lewis – No Encore?

YTMS: Didn’t you say you saw Buddy Holly?

Bryan: Buddy Holly was when I lived in London, and went to the Gaumont State Kilburn. 

Like I said, the first guy we saw was Guy Mitchell. “Singing The Blues” – that was his big hit song.  After that, it was Bill Haley and the Comets, and then Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and then there was Jerry Lee Lewis. I checked on this – he only sung in three concerts, and that was it.

YTMS: In the UK?

Bryan: Yeah, the press gave him a hard time, cause he had married his 13-year-old cousin. But I read many years ago in about 1980, in the Penthouse or Playboy, I was reading that, and here’s an article on Jerry Lee Lewis, and then there was a paragraph about Jerry Lee singing at the State Kilburn, and it said we boo’ed him off the stage, because he married his 13-year-old cousin.  It wasn’t because of that.  We listened to him…he did his bit, and here’s the reason why we boo’ed him…

YTMS: Why?

Bryan: Why do you think?

YTMS: He sucked?

Bryan: No, he was fabulous.  It was because he left the stage, and wouldn’t come back and do an encore.  NO ENCORE.  And another guy that would not play an encore was Roy Orbison. When I used to ride my scooter around London with my pals, we’d see tour posters with Roy Orbison and the Everly Brothers…

But you know, they were the best of times, the 60’s, and all those groups.  There wasn’t 1 group, or 2 groups…we used to have parties at my house, with my parents. 

After the British Legion closed on a Saturday night, people come over and we’d play records like Little Eva “Locomotion”, The Beatles, The Stones, and whoever else was popular at the time. 

They were good parties, they really were, and then we’d sit around and play cards afterwards, drinkin’ my mothers’ home made wine.  Then I’d get up and say “Holy f***!  It’s broad daylight!” and everybody’d be gone…


And so concluded my chat with ex-mod Bryan Rogers.  Stay tuned, we may yet chat again!  

Read about Bryan Rogers’ life story – http://imnotadoctorbutillhavealook.com

Unique Guitar Picks Created by Some Dude’s Pesopicks Stuart Brady

Before I get to my talk with Some Dude’s Pesopicks creator, Stuart Brady, I want to say a few words about the humble guitar pick.

If you play guitar, you probably know there are picks of all shapes, sizes, colors, thicknesses, designs, etc. 

You might even keep several guitar picks handy, and stop by the local guitar shop regularly to re-stock.  Picks are usually kept at the front of store and sold for under a dollar, near the other relatively inexpensive musical accessories like guitar strings, capos, etc. 

For such a small object, guitar picks are certainly an important part of guitar player’s setup.  They help define the sound, even though they don’t generally get a lot of credit.  

Guitar players can get rather particular about their picks, the more they develop a certain sound.  It is at this point that guitar players start to notice the different characteristics in the picks they like or dislike, and their preferences get more particular.

Some players want picks that have a grip, others like ’em smooth.  Some want them thicker, others want them paper thin.  Some like gimmicky picks that are covered in logos and designs, others like them with no symbols on them in just one color only. 

The type of pick you use depends on your own playing style more than anything, and that can take time to develop.

It’s worth mentioning, for the sake of beginner guitar players out there, that the type of pick does contribute something significant to the sound that’s being produced by the guitar. 

That said, guitar picks, for the most part, are made of plastic and many players don’t think about them much.  You just buy 10 for a dollar as you’re making other purchases, and if you drop them on the ground and lose them, many would say “Who cares?”

But some picks you might not want to lose.  

Pesopicks

The thing is, not all picks cost $0.25 and look cheap and shoddy.  Some guitar picks are worth showing off.

Enter: the Pesopick.

These unique picks are made from actual Mexican pesos by a dude by the name of Stuart Brady, AKA Some Dude.  In fact, his business name is Some Dude’s Pesopicks.

Here is the Pesopickdude himself standing with the late great Bill Paxton.

Stuart makes a living producing these Pesopicks by hand in his home state of Texas, home of some of the greatest guitar players of all time. 

He started making Pesopicks decades ago, in an effort to create a more durable, unique type of guitar pick that creates a deeper, richer sound.  They have other benefits as well, such as outlasting the person using them.

We were lucky enough to talk with Stuart about his prized creations.  We just had to get the lowdown on them straight from the source. 

Enjoy our Q&A with the the Pesopickdude!


What are Pesopicks?

Pesopicks are authentic Mexican pesos handcrafted into guitar picks.

How durable are these things?

They will last forever…the first one I made is owned by my best friend and is over 40 yrs old.  He still uses it everyday…they are heirlooms.

What do you like about the metal on metal sound?

They make your stringed instrument a little brighter and louder, creating awesome pinch harmonics…they are super fast due to less friction than other picks.

How much does a Pesopick cost?

They start at $50.00 and go up in price depending on type of peso and the work done to it.

What’s the difference between a Pesopick and your typical $.050 plastic guitar pick?

They don’t wear out and they wont harm strings…kinda of a nickel on nickel thing.

Is it true that Billy Gibbons has a soft spot for these picks?  Also, why does he like them so much?

Yes, Billy Gibbons loves them and I am currently making him a large order of them now. I believe he likes them because of the tones they create plus the mystique of the peso as a pick.

Who’s the intended audience of these types of picks?

The intended audience is anyone that wants to improve their technique and tone.

How long does it take to make one of these babies?

It normally takes me about an hour to complete one single pesopick…but I do about 30 to 50 in stages.

Do you ever run out of stock?

Sometimes I do run out of stock…but not for long…I have a lot of contacts.

How unique is each pick, would you say?

Each pesopick is unique, but they are consistent with the shape and size of a regular fender 357 style pick…they are never the same because of dings, dents and scratches on the face of the coin.

Do you use any other coins these days besides the peso?

Sometimes I’ll make a pesopick with a lire or shilling, or any cool high quality metal coin large enough.

Are they only good for rock music?

They work excellent on any electric guitar, acoustic guitar, or bass guitar without harming the strings.

Where can people get them?

They can be had by contacting me on Facebook at this time…however, a website is in the works and should be up and running soon.

Check out the Pesopick Facebook page!

The 5 Arguably Most Important Indie Bands of the Past 50 Years

AM

Wow! That’s a tall order. How am I going to narrow done the vast sea of indie bands in the last 50 years and choose only 5? Well, I’m going to try. After giving it a lot of thought, I hope I’ve arrived at a list that mentions the most important names in indie music. 

First of all, however, I think it would be rather helpful to define “indie music”, because it is a term that is used a fair bit these days, and for a long time I had no idea what “indie” was trying to describe about the music.

The technical meaning of the term “indie band” is a band that produces music independently from large, commercial record labels. They record and publish their own music themselves, or through independent record labels.

In other words, indie artists are in complete control of their music, instead of being managed and dictated by the commercial labels that monopolize much of the music scene.

Over time, the term “indie” has been thrown around and connotations have been added to its meaning. The term often hints at a band whose sound strays from the mainstream and the overdone, experimenting instead with their own style and producing something unique and different.   

So, with that in mind, let’s start naming the 5 arguably most important indie bands the world has seen these past 50 years.

The Velvet Underground
the Velvet Underground

We’ll start things off in the 1960’s with the Velvet Underground.

The band was formed in 1964 by singer and guitarist Lou Reed, multi-instrumentalist John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Angus MacLise who was later replaced by Maureen “Moe” Tucker.  

The quartet decided to name their band after a book called “The Velvet Underground” by an author named Michael Leigh about the hidden sexual subculture in the early 60s.

In their early days, their music was relaxed, almost gentle, with rhythmic guitar and droning sounds that had been influenced by La Monte Young.

In 1965, the Velvet Underground was introduced to artist Andy Warhol, who became the band’s manager for a time.

Warhol did quite a lot for the band. Aside from his iconic yellow banana on the album cover for “The Velvet Underground and Nico”, his reputation helped the Velvet Underground to gain in popularity and to obtain a contract with Verve Records. As manager and producer of their recordings, Warhol allowed them free-reign over their sound, thereby allowing them to keep their independence.

It was also Warhol who introduced the band members to German-born singer and model Nico, and it was his suggestion that she should join the band for some songs.

Between the years of 1966 and 1967, Warhol was hosting the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a multimedia roadshow that featured performances by the Velvet Underground combined with his own films.

The band’s debut album was called “The Velvet Underground and Nico”, and featured three songs sung by Nico. It was released in 1967 through Verve Records.

The famous album cover was designed by Warhol. The front cover showed a drawing of a yellow banana that was really a sticker, and the words “Peel slowly and see” were found at the top of the banana. If you peeled off the banana sticker from the cover, an unpeeled pink banana was revealed underneath.

Album cover

Peeld banana album cover

The album brought taboo themes into the open such as drug abuse, prostitution and S&M. The song “Venus in Furs” is based off the book of the same name by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, which talks about masochism and sadism.

“Heroin” and “I’m Waiting for the Man” are both about drug use. You can listen to “Venus in Furs” below.

The album “The Velvet Underground and Nico” truly showed the full range of the Velvet Underground, with droning and intense songs mixed with quiet and tender songs, such as “Pale Blue Eyes” and “Sunday Morning”. 

Reed’s experimental avant-garde guitar along with Cale’s viola and keyboard made the album stand out.

After the release of their first album, the band decided to move on from their manager Andy Warhol, in order to try a different direction and evolve in their music and style.

They released their second album “White Light/White Heart” in 1968, followed by a few others in the ensuing years. In 1969 they toured the US and Canada; however, they were still met with very little commercial success.

Eventually, Cale left the group due to creative differences with Reed. Cale wanted to be more experimental, while Reed wanted to keep the music more accessible to the general public. Reed eventually left the band in 1970 and it fizzled out after that.

Nico went on to pursue a solo career. Her debut album was “Chelsea Girl”. 

Reed went on to a long and storied solo career, highlighted with his Bowie collaboration album, “Transformer”, which had the famous song, “Walk on the Wild Side”, another taboo breaker. 

Reed’s career (and life) ended not long after he collaborated with Metallica on a project called Lulu.


The Smiths
the Smiths

Next on the list we have the 1980s band the Smiths. Consisting of Morrissey as singer, Johnny Marr as guitarist, Andy Rourke as bassist, and Mike Joyce as drummer, the Smiths were an indie rock band that formed in Manchester in 1982.

They were only active until 1987, but in those five short years, the Smiths succeeded in making a substantial mark on indie music history, influencing many bands to come. In fact, the Smiths have been called one of the most important bands to have come out of the British indie music scene.  Ok, let’s face it – maybe even THE most.

The band began as a duo in the spring of 1982 when Johnny Marr showed up at his old friend’s doorstep, Morrissey, and proposed the idea of starting a band. According to Morrissey, “We got on famously. We were very similar in drive.”

Their first compositions were recorded in Marr’s attic on his cassette recorder, along with a cover of the song “I Want a Boy for My Birthday” by the 1960s female band the Cookies.

After a few months of composing together, Morrissey came up with the name “the Smiths” for the band, because according to him, it was an ordinary name and the band was meant to relate to ordinary people.

the smiths

The first demos they ever recorded were their songs “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” and “Suffer Little Children”, through Decibel Studio.

Their first public performance was in October, 1982, at a student music and fashion show in Manchester.

After being turned down by a few record labels, the independent label Rough Trade Records agreed to release their single “Hand in Glove” which sold fairly well.

Something I found interesting was a comment made by BBC radio presenter John Peel upon seeing the Smiths perform at a gig in London. Peel said, “I was impressed because unlike most bands…you couldn’t immediately tell which records they’d been listening to. That’s fairly unusual, very rare indeed.”

I find this interesting because nowadays, it is obvious when a band has been influenced by the Smiths, but when they started, they were truly pioneering a new sound that hadn’t been done before. 

After the singles “This Charming Man” and “What Difference Does It Make” earned spots 25 and 12 on the UK singles charts respectively, the Smiths released their debut album, “The Smiths”, in 1984. 

You can listen to the song “This Charming Man” below, (one of my favourite songs).

Morrissey’s vocals were haunting, and his lyrics were of a personal nature; he made confessions in his songs that almost everyone has felt at one time or another. The words were forlorn and depressing but rung true for many. 

Often among the morose lyrics, the band added touches of lightness, even touches of black humour, such as in the song “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”, where Morrissey lists the things that make him most miserable in life, like “I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now”.

Sometimes, tragic lyrics were sung to upbeat music, creating a curious combination, such as the lyrics “In my life, why do I smile, at people who don’t care if I, live or die?” sung to a catchy and buoyant tune.

It was this frankness and honesty in their song-writing that made them so well-loved by others. They took the everyday feelings of ordinary people and put them in the spotlight. This inspired a genre of confessional rock. The Smiths became a cult favourite and still are today.

Read our article, The History of The Smiths for even more moroseness!


Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth was formed in 1981, born from the no-wave and noise-rock movement of New York City. The band was made up of singer and guitarist Thurston Moore, guitarist, singer and bassist Kim Gordon, guitarist Lee Ranaldo, and a procession of different drummers throughout the years that basically ended with Steve Shelley to form the classic lineup.

The band had its humble beginnings in the genre of no wave, a movement that was taking place in New York City in the 70s and 80s. However, as time went on, they evolved into a more conventional indie rock and noise rock group, although we use the term “conventional” loosely.

One of the most notable things about this band was their creativity concerning the guitar – Sonic Youth revolutionized the way rock bands treated this instrument. Not only did they use non-standard guitar tunings, but they also prepared their guitars using different tools, such as screwdrivers and drumsticks, to change the timbre of the guitar.

This was a very experimental and DIY approach to guitar playing and song writing. These techniques were unheard of before Sonic Youth came about, and so the band largely shaped and inspired the indie rock movement that followed with their creativity.

Sonic Youth played at Noise Fest in 1981. Afterwards, no wave musician Glenn Branca signed the group to his independent record label, Neutral Records.

They recorded their first five songs and released them as an EP, “Sonic Youth (EP)” through the label in 1982. It went unnoticed by many, but those who heard it reviewed it positively.

Their first album, “Confusion is Sex”, released in 1983, presented more dissonance than their first EP, which featured a more traditional post-punk sound.

The band toured in Europe and gained some popularity there. Then in 1984, their fame began to rise in New York as well.

Sonic Youth are best known for their innovations in the indie rock and punk genre. They pioneered new directions that other bands later followed.

We may as well throw in this great documentary, The Year Punk Broke, for anyone who hasn’t seen it.  We found part 1 on Youtube, so good luck piecing it together (or just go find it elsewhere, it’s not hard to find).


The Strokes
the Strokes

The Strokes are a band formed in 1998 in New York City. It is made up of singer Julian Casablancas, lead guitarist Nick Valensi, rhythm guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., bassist Nikolai Fraiture and drummer Fabrizio Moretti.

The Strokes greatly contributed to the garage rock revival movement of the early 2000’s. Their debut album “Is This It”, released in 2001, ranked #2 on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Best Albums of the ‘00s, and is also one of my favourite albums.

There are two covers for this album. The one released in the UK is of a woman’s bare behind with a gloved hand resting upon it (this was actually an impromptu picture taken by photographer Colin Lane when his girlfriend came out of the shower naked). The one released in North America was a photo of particle collisions in the Big European Bubble Chamber. 

Is this it UK cover

Is this it US cover

Because of some controversy over a few of the band’s lyrics in the album, its release in North America was slightly delayed, and the song title “New York City Cops” had to be changed to “When It Started”. It was released in the US in October 2001 and was immediately well-received by critics.

The Strokes have said that they took inspiration from another of our most important indie bands, the aforementioned Velvet Underground.  That’s actually quite fair, since both bands are very much New York bands, who are both poppy and punky at once and rely on the charisma of a sort of anti-star lead singer.

After the release of “Is This It”, the band toured worldwide, and also played as music guests on some late night shows.

The band released their second album, “Room on Fire”, in October 2003. While it was slightly less successful than its predecessor, it still received great reviews. You can listen to the song “Reptilia” from their second album below.

The band continued to grow in popularity. At the end of 2005 they released a new single, “Juicebox”. They released their third album early in 2006, “First Impressions of Earth”.

The Strokes took jangling 70s punk and updated it with their own spin. They gave voice to their fellow New York punk musicians, and they also spurred a British revolution, headed by the Libertines and the Arctic Monkeys.

In fact, in the song “Star Treatment” from the Arctic Monkeys’ latest album, Alex Turner sings “I just wanted to be one of the Strokes”, showing the influence the Strokes had over many other bands who formed in the 2000s.


Arctic Monkeys
Arctic Monkeys

Speaking of Arctic Monkeys, they are the last band on my list. Arctic Monkeys have been my favourite band for a long time now. They’ve been around a while and they have definitely helped to shape the current indie rock scene.

Arctic Monkeys formed in Sheffield, England in 2002. The band is made up of Alex Turner on lead vocals, guitar and piano, Matt Helders on drums and vocals, Jamie Cook on guitar and keyboards, and Nick O’Malley on bass guitar and backup vocals.

Their debut album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” was the fastest-selling debut album in UK chart history, and the second fastest-selling indie rock album in the US.

The band started off playing small gigs in the early 2000s around their hometown, Sheffield. At their gigs, they gave away the 18-song demo that they had burned onto a CD, now called “Beneath the Boardwalk” to build a fan base in the town.

In May 2005, Arctic Monkeys released their first single, “Five Minutes with Arctic Monkeys” through their own record label. It featured the songs “From Ritz to Rubble” and “Fake Tales of San Francisco”. They were beginning to grow in popularity in Northern England around this time.

Then in June 2005, the band was signed by the record label Domino. They chose this record label because they admired the way it was run. Owner Lawrence Bell operated the label from his apartment and only signed bands he knew and liked.

Their first single with Domino was “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”, which flew straight to the #1 spot on the UK singles chart.

In September 2005, Arctic Monkeys released their debut album “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not”. The album was given wonderful praise. Here is one of my favourite songs from that album. 

In 2006 Arctic Monkeys recorded the EP “Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys”, followed by their second album in 2007, “Favourite Worst Nightmare”, which received critiques that were as positive as their first album.

Favourite Worst Nightmare cover

Their ensuing albums are as follows: Humbug (2009), Suck It and See (2011), AM (2013) and Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino (2018), as well as a live album, At the Apollo (2008).

Arctic Monkeys’ genre of music has been called indie rock, garage rock and post-punk revival. They have been highly praised for their intricate and poetic lyrics. Their early songs talk a lot about life in their town in the UK.

Their lyrics, sung in Alex Turner’s iconic deep voice and Sheffield accent, neither romanticize life nor do they deprecate it; rather, their lyrics are true, poetic, and at times sentimental.

Their songs include themes of romance (as in “505”), nostalgia (as in “Fluorescent Adolescence”), night life (as in “From Ritz to Rubble”), and personal desires and troubles (as in “I Wanna be Yours”).

The band has aggressive and upbeat songs such as “Brianstorm” and “Do Me a Favour”, danceable songs such as “Knee Socks” and “Do I Wanna Know”, and slow, sentimental songs such as “Piledriver Waltz” and “Only One Who Know”. I am always impressed by their versatility.

 Critics have also noted that some of the band’s sound has been influenced by the Smiths, number 2 on this list. Personal and thoughtful lyrics are a focus of Arctic Monkeys’ music, as well as drumming and electric guitar.

Arctic Monkeys are never afraid to try new things though; in their newest album (Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino), piano is brought into the foreground more than ever before, and the album has a totally different sound to their other albums, but still retains that Arctic Monkeys essence that makes them such an amazing band.  

Conclusion

While there are of course many other indie bands that have been influential to music over the past 50 years, these were the five that I found most note-worthy. Each band has contributed something unique and important to the indie scene.

Well, that’s it for me.  Bye!

The Different Types of Electric Guitar

When they first appeared, electric guitars were thought to be just a gimmick. However, it didn’t take long for them to completely take over the mainstream. With that said, not every guitar is the same. Knowing the difference between various electric guitars can be pretty important especially if you are looking to start playing this instrument. Since there is so much information out there which can be quite confusing, we have decided to create a short guide for your convenience. By the time you are done reading this article, you should have a firm grasp on the most important types of electric guitars and how they affect one’s tone.

Solid Body VS Semi Hollow/Hollow Body

Even though semi hollow and hollow body guitars are extremely rare these days, that wasn’t the case back in the early age of electric guitars. A hollow or semi hollow guitar is one whose body isn’t made of solid wood. Instead, you have chambers similar to that of an acoustic guitar, but much smaller. The difference between the semi hollow and hollow guitars is in the size of those chambers.

Aside from being much harder to manufacture or build by hand, these type of guitars also require a higher maintenance. In most cases they come with complicated bridges and tailpieces, all of which need to be fine tuned to perfection.

Semi hollow and hollow guitars are used mostly in Jazz these days. The reason for this is their quite unique sound which incorporates the added gain of an electric instrument with the rather delicate sound profile of an acoustic instrument. With that said, these traits are both a benefit and a flaw depending on which genre of music you are interested in playing.

Here’s a sample of the sound of a hollow body guitar, with a version of Autumn Leaves by Ryan Stewart.  Nice!

Up next – solid body guitars.  Solid body guitars represent the next level of guitar’s evolution and are the most popular choice today. The very first commercially successful solid body design is said to be Fender’s Telecaster. However that is if we disregard Rickenbacker’s Frying Pan lap steel model from 1930s.

Single Coil Or Humbucker Electronics

Now that we have that classification out of the way, lets talk about something that will actually be of consequence to you specifically. When first entering the world of electric guitars, most newcomers are blissfully unaware that there is a difference between single coil pickups and humbuckers. As a matter of fact, chances are that they don’t even know what these terms mean. Don’t worry, we are going to get that sorted out in a moment.

Single Coil Pickups

Single coils are the oldest type of magnetic pickup used on guitars. The name ‘single coil’ is pretty self explanatory. If you were to take one of these pickups apart, you would find a single coil of wire wrapped around several (depending on the number of strings) permanent magnets. When you strum a cord, or pick a string, that vibration is passes through the magnetic field of the pickup and is ‘picked up’.

There is more to this but since this is not a physics class, lets move on. The main benefit of single coil pickups is their clarity and precision. This is why you mostly see them being used for Blues, Jazz and Rock.

However, keep in mind that single coils aren’t without flaws. For starters, they aren’t too great if you are a fan of heavy distortion. That is not the worst of it either. Single coil pickups suffer from what is called ‘single coil hum’. In essence, a single coil pickup is an antenna that is prone to picking up signals it should but also shouldn’t pick up. This is especially present in affordable single coil pickups and can be extremely annoying.

Humbuckers

A humbucker was partially designed to kill the noise and be much less prone to interference than a single coil. What a humbucker does great is meaty tone, especially if you are a fan of heavy distortion.

The fact that even the cheapest humbucker will be quit compared to a mid level single coil tells a lot about why these are so popular. If you are just starting out, we definitely suggest that you look into guitars that have humbuckers on. You will have a much easier time dialing in a good sound and you won’t have to deal with too much noise.

Here’s a great video by Darrell Braun that talks about the difference between single coil vs. humbucker.  Check it out.

Active VS Passive

Last but not least, we need to mention active and passive electronics. The difference between these two comes down to whether or not a pickup is using an auxiliary source of power. Most guitars these days are still passive for a variety of reasons. Something like a Fender Stratocaster or a Gibson Les Paul still come out of the factory with passive pickups installed.

So why do active pickups exist?

Somewhere down the road we have figured out that if you infuse the signal with gain on the guitar’s end, before it reaches the amp, that you can get pretty interesting results.

In most cases, the benefits include a clearer, sharper and much more powerful tone that is simply more consistent. This is why guitarists who play metal really like to their active humbuckers. The amount of distortion and gain these can take is impressive.

On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that passive pickups are bad or inferior in any way. Passive pickups are much more expressive and delicate, thus allowing you to be more creative. On top of that, passive pickups are much cheaper, which is definitely a factor when you are just starting out. In the end, these are just different tools for different jobs.

Here’s a great video by Charlie Parra talking about the difference between active and passive pickups.  Check it out.

Final Thoughts

The categories we have listed above are the most important ones you you will run into when choosing an electric guitar. Arguably, there are many more categories and sub categories out there, but those require a much deeper discussion. Either way, with this info you should be able to figure out what to get and what not to get depending on your taste in music and your abilities.

Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, and …Norm’s Headache? – Recording at Smart Studios in the 90’s Interview with Bob Reich

Today I had a chance to talk to my friend Bob Reich, who used to play in a band called Norm’s Headache in the Wisconsin area in the mid-90’s (they were from LaCrosse).  Norm’s Headache was a typical configuration for a rock band – 4 members, with Bob on bass, Mark Sauer on guitar, Paul Milisch on vocals, and Eric Nordstrom on drums.  Here below is the band mascot – Garbice The Gargoyle.

Like many bands from the 1990’s, Norm’s Headache were fairly eclectic musically and had their sights set on stardom… until reality set in, dashing their rock dreams with more sensible things like college. 

Along the way, the band ended up recording an EP at Butch Vig and Steve Marker’s Smart Studios, the same place that was visited by many famous and infamous rock bands as Tar Babies and The Fresh Young Fellows in the 1980’s, and  Nirvana (where they recorded demos for Nevermind), the Smashing Pumpkins (who recorded Gish there) in the 1990’s.  The list of bands that passed through the doors of Smart Studios through its lifetime as a studio would make your average music hipster flip their berret. 

Smart Studios – A Quick History

Butch and Steve’s studio opened in 1983 in Madison Wisconsin and first resided in the Gisholt Machine Manufacturing Building, and a few years later in 1987 moved over to 1254 East Washington Avenue into “one damn ugly looking building”.  This “crackhouse”-esque building (as Butch has said it resembled) quickly became a local go-to destination for bands to go record and not have to pay an arm and a leg.  From the exterior, the place seemed rather unassuming during the daytime, as you can see from the picture below.

But inside of Smart Studios, as the ’80’s ended and the 1990’s began, things were beginning to shape up into a sonic environment that could help bands get a big beefy sound that so many aspiring musicians were after around this time.  With their musical history rooted in punk rock and always connected to very idiosyncratic and extremely talented music makers, Butch and Steve became adept at getting whatever sound was appropriate to the band, including the heavy rock sound du jour.  Particularly when it came to drums, which was Butch’s first musical love, Smart Studios had a wicked drum sound if that’s what you were after.  

Clearly, Smart Studios was a happening joint in the 1990’s, and this is partly why Bob and his band Norm’s Headache ventured there to record at the time, because big things were actually possible back then, and, who knows…Norm’s Headache might have been destined to be the next big thing.  Remember – this was pre-internet times being the mid-90’s, and the music industry was probably at the peak in terms of bands still having hope to become nationwide superstars. 

So yeah, Norm’s Headache heard about Smart Studios through the grapevine, and bee-lined it there to get some tracks done.  The price seemed to be just right for doing a 3-song EP, even though they tried to squeeze four songs out of the two-day 12-hours-a-day session.  Butch even popped in for a minute to sprinkle some pixie dust on their drums.  Nice!

Because Smart Studios has been the host to many of my favourite bands and records, I just had to talk to Bob to get the inside semi-fanboy perspective on how it all went down with Norm’s Headache back in the mid-90’s. 

Here is my interview with Bob Reich, talking 90’s rock and Smart Studios.  Enjoy!

YC: Hey Bob, what’s the good word my man?

Bob: Not much Dave, just sitting here getting some quite time from my 11 month old son.  It is midnight.

YC: Ah very good, glad I could barge in and start asking questions.

Bob: No, it nice to talk to adults now and then.

YC: I wanted to ask you about Smart Studios, the place in Madison, Wisconsin.

Bob: Great, I love that place!

YC: You know the place, founded by Butch Vig and Steve Marker.  And has been graced by several notable bands over the years – The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Death Cab For Cutie, L7, et al.

Bob: Yeah I sure do

YC: So yeah, you were there in the mid 90’s with your band, eh?

Bob: I was, we were in the Studio in 1996.  The band, not relevant today at all was called, Norm’s Headache.  Which was a terrible choice band name but regardless, It landed our name on the website roster of bands that have recorded at Smart Studios.  We were in between Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails!  I do have a picture of that, for times I need a good laugh.

YC: That’s really funny..How’d you end up there?

Bob: The band was from the town LaCrosse Wisconsin, which is 2 hours away from Madison on I90.  Back then the internet was still a baby, so I believe at the point in time we found an add in the Madison music magazine, Maximum ink.  The add was for 3 songs for something really dirt cheap, I can’t remember.  It was maybe $400 or 600 dollars.  Basically it was a down time for the studio, so they would book these “weekend gigs”

YC: Nice.. were you aware of the pedigree of bands who were stopping by?  Like did you go “oh shit, the Pumpkins!”  The price itself seems really good.

Bob: We were aware, and not as aware as things are today with the internet.  Back then, it was work of mouth and wen you actually bought CD’s that had printed information on it.  Like where it was recorded and by who.  But mentioning the whole, word of mouth and only knowing so much and not EVERYTHING, I think that really amped up the experience that much more.

And at that time, I was really excited about the studio owners band, Garbage.  They were brand new and had just started to do shows.  That was exciting.

But, going back to the Smashing Pumpkins,  yeah, I think that was the second album I bought from them even though that was their first album.  That’s when I started to get thoughts of why would a band come to Wisconsin of all places to record an album?

My holy shit was, Nirvana did their demos for Nevermind there.  That was probably the album that really pushed me into music.  I was a huge fan of them, I guess it crossed my mind that I sat on the same toilet as Kurt Cobain did, not, hey you are using the same  microphones and equipment, nope it was the toilet!

YC: lol incredible…maybe he even pissed on the seat who knows

Bob: Haha, yeah he probably did!

YC: So how long were you guys there? and what did you do there?

Bob: We were young and arrogant.  The ad clearly said 3 songs!  My drummer was pushy and wanted to do a fourth song and our engineer, who seemed really irritated did it anyway.  Man, I feel so bad, but also he could of said no.

The tracks were

1. Balls for all

2. God Gotten

3. 16volt

4. Time Machine

Never amounted to anything other than a home on Myspace after the fact the band had disbanded.  I guess we titled the ep, if there were one, Smart Sessions…or is it LP? I think its EP.

YC: Yeah it’s EP.  What sound were you going for?

Bob: I don’t think there was a sound in mind.  But, my bass has this over the top tone that is much louder than it should be.  It’s a very familiar tone you can hear on the Smashing Pumpkins records.  Let me clarify, thats how my bass came out on the recording.  Which also, pissed my guitar player off.  But , I think it does the tracks well.

YC: But you guys were basically a rock band.. 4 piece?

Bob: Yeah a standard 4 piece, 1 guitar, bass, drums and vocals.

YC: When you went there, were you hoping to run into Butch or anything?  did you know who your producer would be?

Bob: Oh I for sure was hoping to run into Butch, and hopefully Shirley Manson, I sort of had a crush on her back then.  We didn’t know who the engineer was when we booked. I still don’t know his name?  He wasn’t the most pleasant guy, until the session was done.  Haha, I think he was happy it over with!

YC: Were you guys obnoxious? ?  Like who would you compare your band to musically?  Are we talking the Germs, or Genesis?  Like did anyone wear a cape in the band?

Bob: Not obnoxious, stupid is a better word.  We were young and full of our selves.  Like asking for a fourth song, and for me, I think I kept taking mountain dews out of the fridge because I thought they were complimentary.  When we first arrived they treated us like we were rock stars.  So, I guess I thought I was. Another example was, the first time we met Butch, the guitar player and singer were out on the patio smoking pot like fucking dumbasses.  Butch walks out, super cool and was like, hows it going guys and then sits down and reads the paper.  We were just stupid.

YC: So you were kinda stoked because you were into Garbage at the time?  I remember liking Garbage, but not being like crazy about them.  I have a friend who was always into Shirley Manson.  Love of redheads ?

Bob: Ugh, that’s a tough question.  I think we were probably influenced my Stone temple pilots and sabbath.  Which Im not sure sounds like I would order that on a menu.  BTW, we were old.

YC: funny i don’t hear too many people say their main influences are STP. 

Bob: Yeah, I like Garbage and I think it was because, whoa Butch Vig is in a band, and with a hot chick!  So, I think it was more into her than the band.  They were super polished sounding, ya know.  I don’t either, but those brothers are amazing song writers and players!

YC: You’re saying you were old.. like how old were you guys at the time?

Bob: Yeah, i mean wasn’t it Butch and some other producer dudes and then Shirley?

YC: to me it just looked like these real adult men and this kinda hot chick

Bob: Not old, young.  Super green.  Maybe haven’t found out how to play and record the best young!  17 years old.

YC: Aha.. why’d you say “we were old” then? yeah i love STP.. that’s why even though Scott’s dead, there’s still STP but we’ll see how good their new stuff is with that new guy…it sounds ok so far to me…but anyway yeah.. Smart Studios…

Bob: I dont know man, I might of typed wrong.  Im old now!

YC: it is a bit late

Bob: Scott died about 20 miles from me, I remember when I heard that he OD’ed I nearly jumped in my car to go check out what happened because I was so close.

YC: holy fuck

Bob: Crazyness…Back to Smart

YC: i’m not editing that out btw…i hate editing

Bob: Thats fine, haha

YC: it’s all or nothing

Bob: fuck it

YC: anyway yeah, so did you use any stuff used by any of those famous bands then?  like a drum key at least? anything?? besides the toilet

Bob: It was a small enough studio, this was like a 3 bedroom condo type place.  Looks like a real shit hole from the outside.  But the inside was a $3million dollar set up.  It was beautiful.  So for the equipment, it was used by everyone, including us. I do remember we couldn’t afford to buy the tape, so we “rented” some tape, which meant we recorded over a band that had just got finished a record produced by Art Alexkakis from Everclear a few weeks prior.  Although I don’t remember the band off hand.  But I had to laugh, because even having a big name musician producer your album, you were to broke to buy the tape too!

YC: that’s really funny lol ..

Bob: To be fair, tape is expensive!

YC: yeah.. indeed

Bob: I think this was 2 inch tape

YC: i guess they didn’t want to get robbed…that’s a good technique

Bob: Yeah I suppose, I have the DAT masters, what would I do with 2 inch tape right now?

YC: i don’t know.. my buddy is getting into tape…give it to him…he’ll have a field day

Bob: I hope tape makes a come back, digital is not the same.  We all know that, im just going to say it anyway

YC: it’s true.. i know that now .. working on some tape shit here…but anyway, so there you guys were.. in Smart Studios, walking on the same carpet as my man Jimmy Chamberlin, and D’arcy, and James Iha, and Mr. Zero…did you feel any inkling that YOU might have been the next Everclear? i mean.. who knows!

Bob: yeah as you say that I get flash backs of walking around seeing all the gold records on the wall, or platinum . But, there those records I loved so much, on the wall.  Amazing!  I have a past with Everlcear, maybe that should be another interview.  But they played our local venue so often they became friends with my older musician buddies.  So, we were around them a lot.  But, I don’t know if I got the same feels from Knowing everclear made a record at smart vs. The pumpkins!

YC: yeah seems like you had some interesting bands in your area…i mean, Everclear did get pretty big at one point..they get played on the radio still

Bob: Like I mentioned we were on I90, in between Chicago and Minneapolis. and we were lucky enough to have an all ages club.

YC: what kind of studio gear did they have at Smart? ie. mixing board etc

Bob: So, big bands would play LaCrosse in between gigs in Minneapolis, Madison and Chichago.

YC: ah i get cha

Bob: The board in the main studio was a trident, had like 60 inputs and there was a harrison in the mixing studio.  It had automated faders, which I tought was amazing!  They typical mics, not sure about the preamps and effects, but there was probably 50-100 rack units.  I dont know if I felt comfortable to even get close to the board!  That alone was probably a million dollars.

YC: are you a gear guy?  you are, aren’t you?

Bob: I probably am, but I don’t remember at the time.

YC: so did you end up getting a really great sounding record out of it then? Norm’s Headache lol

Bob: It made us sound much bigger than we probably have ever sounded.  I think the sound was ok, not my favorite, I more of natural sound lover.  Mark Trombino is my guy, he has a very big, but natural sound.  I remember at one point Butch came in to give our engineer a hand on the snare.  I think what they eneded up doing was making trigger sounds, so they would sound the same for each hit.  In the end, it sounds a bit compressed.  The overall record I think sounds decent, I do love the bass sort of giving a fullness, maybe way too loud, sound!

YC: what kind of bass did you use?

Bob: I had a fender Jazz. But I used that on an ampeg SVT, which I think gives it that great sound.

YC: so that was your first record for you guys?

Bob: No, that was our 4th and last.  Smart was the best studio we recorded at.

YC: well i’d expect so with all that fancy gear…oh you guys had more material

Bob: yeah for sure!  I hope you can post a picture of what smart studios looks like from the road!

YC: i’ll google maps it

Bob: We had more tunes!

YC: so why’d you guys crash and burn? heroin?

Bob: Like most bands, 3/4 went to college and the 1/4 tried to make it work in other bands! Typical rock in roll story

YC: So it just kinda ended eh?

Bob: It totally did.  we played a few well received re-unions every year after for a few years.  There are talks about doing a reunion this next winter, maybe you should come to Wisconsin, Dave? Did I mention our van broke down on the way to Smart Studios?

YC: nope…and ya i could sing backups lol

Bob: Deal!  Yeah, this probably made us look young and stupid to them as well.  We missed our time by probably 2 hours. We were probably 30 minutes away when the drive shaft snapped off and sent us off the road.  I happened to be sleeping the bunk at the time, and man that was fucking scary.  Not at all similar to Clif Burton’s story.  We had to flag someone down, I think a cop finally showed up and called a tow truck.  He towed us to town, but would not stop at the studio first to drop off equipment.  So we had to walk our gear about a half a mile to the studio.

YC: shit…well good you didn’t roll over or anything

Bob: Yeah, I wouldve been toast

YC: so how long were you at the studio recording

Bob: I think we did two 12 hour days.

YC: so the weekend thing

Bob: It probably was a Tuesday Wednesday thing.

YC: ah. so it wasn’t the weekend dealy thing

Bob: It was for sure the deal, but I think it was a weekday?  I dont recall 23 years ago to well!

YC: that’s a pretty crazy schedule though. 

Bob: It really makes me wonder how much it cost to keep a studio going.  I mean, this buildings rent wasnt that high im guessing.  and they had major lable acts paying to record there?  So why have these cheap packages?

YC: who the hell knows eh

Bob: I can see why they are out of business now, digital sort of killed small studios.  by the way, have you seen the documentary?

YC: the Smart Studios Story? yeah actually, it’s great!

Bob: hm maybe we should post a link

YC: ya lots of studios went under around that time i suppose

Bob: I know its online somewhere

YC: i’ll find it

Bob: insert affliate link

YC: lol…yeah i’ll put it at the bottom of this post…ok kinda wrapping up here i guess…but one more potentially lengthy question / answer…what was the layout of the studio like..

Bob: The used every inch wisely.  When you walk in the door, you are in the tiny office.  There is the bathroom to the right, and short walk way to the main level control room.  There are also stairs to the second story mixing studio, lounge and kitchen. The control room connects to the isolation rooms, there was one large room for drums and such and 3 small iso booths for amps and such. Such big records were made in this small space, its kind of amazing to think about. The upstairs studio was another isolation area for mixing, it was decent size with nice cozy leather couches. They had this cool disc rack for all the albums that were recorded at the studio.  and you could listen to all them, that was cool.

YC: that is cool…so it was a house you said or like storefront or what

Bob: I believe it is a condo now.  So, it may have been before as well.  Its in a residential neighborhood., but also some small business are around as well.

YC: and it’s totally not there now you say?

Bob: Studio is gone, sadly.  But I have seen what looks like patio furniture and the looks of people living there. The building is still there.

YC: it’s been a while since those golden years

Bob: It has and im sure it makes a lot of people sad.

YC: ya.. i’m used to it around here.  pretty much every cool spot ever has closed

Bob: Oh no kidding?  That is awful, it’s a tough businesss

YC: ya for sure…well at least you got to record there…and you have the album to show for it inaccessibly locked away on a myspace account

Bob: For sure, it was a highlight of my youth…its waiting for a myspace comeback

YC: hope springs eternal

Bob: exactly

YC: ok cool, that’s a wrap!

BONUS: Watch the Smart Studios Story documentary if you get the chance.  Here’s a preview.

Or watch the whole Smart Studios Story on Amazon here

Stefano Nomakills Interview

Hey guys, Coconut here.  Today I had a chance to interview one of my guitar heroes of recent times, the genuinely talented one man thrash-a-thon, Stefano Nomakills, or N-O-M-A, who hails from Orléans, France.  He is most often seen rocking out in his room with hair flailing madly.

Nomakills, or N-O-M-A, has been posting videos on Youtube for over a decade now, and he’s someone that I came across randomly while journeying down the Youtube rabbit-hole watching guitar covers of different stuff.  Once I saw a few of his guitar covers, I was blown away.  Not only can he play, but he gets right into it.  It is something that I as a guitar player enjoy watching – authenticity.  To my knowledge, N-O-M-A is known by his fans of being kind of a no bullshit guitar rocking guy who can really tear through just about any guitar-based music he wants, from Nirvana, to Dream Theatre, to Periphery, to Meshuggah, and the list goes on and on.  

Here’s a sample of some of his playing, straight from the NOMAKILLS Youtube Channel.  This is a recent video he has posted covering Nomad by Sepultura.  Sick as usual.

Of course it is also worth noting that N-O-M-A is a musical group (with Cici Addams of Sassy) with 16 albums to its name by this point.  They are all available over on his NOMAKILLS Bandcamp page here.  Each album is fully conceived and self-produced, so that’s also something that I respect and find very inspiring.  He has appeared playing his band’s stuff on television, and for many live gigs.  I hear traces of stuff like KMFDM and Meat Beat Manifesto in his original music, but maybe that’s just my delusional mind.  Here’s a clip of his band N-O-M-A playing live in 2016.

So yeah, it is with great pleasure that I present you with my little interview with N-O-M-A.  I should mention that this interview is unedited and completely in it’s raw form.  No spelling or grammar fixes.  I just ask what I ask and he gives his answer.  Fuck editing! 🙂

Coconut:  You got a lot of albums. And the styles change sometimes, but there’s a consistency to them…the industrial edge, the electro elements, the fun nihilism.

N-O-M-A: Yes I love industrial/black and thrash things and the alternative grunge and punk things …. So depends on the mood of the day , every songs are a part of the mood I have the day I do it .

Coconut: Played any crazy live shows lately?

N-O-M-A: Sadly not , i hope to redo some gigs soon .

Coconut:  Do you have a lot of gear to get this sonic assault or is it more minimal for the making of these albums?  Like how do you go about making an album? Do you just grab a couple guitars and a few other things or do you whip out absolutely everything and use it all?

N-O-M-A: I use everything most of the time , I like changing guitars on each track , just for fun . I change my recording method in every record .

Coconut:  Where do you do your vocals? In a booth? At the edge of an active volcano with a really long extension cord?

N-O-M-A: No no , i’m my room , at home:)

Coconut:  Have your rig / recording gear changed a lot over the years? Has it grown, shrunk, been stolen, etc.? I see there’s quite a few guitars, which I can understand. Fate has chosen thee.

N-O-M-A: Yes I ve sell some guitars but still having a lot , a fender army , and some other brand these last years , story to change (musicman , ibanez, schecter, prs …) My favorite guitar are fenders

Coconut:  What was the age where you realized you must shred in the name of Jesus?

N-O-M-A: 12

Coconut:  You produce this crazy stuff yourself? Who’s your Mutt Lange (producer / hit maker)?

N-O-M-A: YES ! I do everything : audio , visual … I dont’ have a mentor concerning production , I do the best I can learning by myself

Coconut:  Do you have a favourite NOMA album?

N-O-M-A: I have hm … 16 records ? My favorite are probably the first one , as drunk as fuck, blank generation … I like my « punk » albums more than my metal ones . But in every records there are song I dig a lot . Every song is a small chapter of my life

Listen to this one on N-O-M-A’s Bandcamp

Coconut:  You’ve been on Youtube for a long time now (over 10 years). What’s new these days when it comes to Youtube? Got lots of haters?

N-O-M-A: People say nice things most of the time , I probably have 98% of nice message , no haters in general . Maybe cause I m not faking it .

Coconut:  I first discovered you through your many covers of stuff like Nirvana and Metallica. How long did it take you to learn Incesticide for instance?

N-O-M-A: Incesticide was part of the very first album I learn , all the nirvana and metallica was learned in the mid 90’s , so yes , i took many hours to learn them , dont know how many , but a lot .

Coconut:  Do you still like making Youtube videos or has the love died by this point?

N-O-M-A: I have less time for youtube , and yea … after 800 videos , quite everything is said , I want to focus more on my own music , I still do covers sometimes , but youtube becomes a too big dump

Coconut:  Are you aware of the Noma Super GT Snow Racer?

N-O-M-A: hahahaa

Coconut:  What kind of recording setup do you have for your Youtube vids? Ie. camera, mics, software,

N-O-M-A: I use a zoom Q3 HD cam (and it s dying ) , i begin with a phone that capture both image and audio , now I record the sound in the soundcard with my amp miced, or axe fx 2, in ableton live

Coconut:  You’ve got a new album, Silence. How’s that going?

N-O-M-A: Sadly , this record need more promotion I think , i have spend a lot of time doing it , but people dont really gives a fuck . With luck I do albums for myself , first .

Coconut:  What’s up with Sassy these days? (N-O-M-A’s other project with Cici Addams)

N-O-M-A: Sassy is composing a new album , i hope we will  record it soon .

Check out Sassy on Bandcamp

Coconut:  Nice logo. Who designed it?

N-O-M-A: I do the visuals

Coconut:  There is some enjoyable nihilism on your albums. Do you enjoy a good bout of nihilism?

N-O-M-A: You feel nihilism ? Maybe . I hate people since I’m born  globally , so maybe that’s it .

Coconut:  Anything else you’d like to add?

N-O-M-A: Thanks to all the people who enjoy noma and my youtube videos . And thanks to you for the « interview !

Here’s one more for the road, folks…

Interview with Sarah Jane Curran of The Violet Stones

Today I spoke with Sarah Jane Curran, an alternative rocker and lead singer for the band The Violet Stones out of Sydney, Australia.  I came across her music recently on Youtube (where she goes by Sarah Jane Music) and was impressed at all of the material on there, from original songs she’s written herself and with her band, as well as vlogs, live cuts, and a ton of cool covers of everyone’s favourite grunge rock classics (including weird B-sides and deep cuts).

Not only is Sarah a talented songwriter, but she can sing and pull off a number of different styles.  Her channel is gaining momentum as I guess people like me stumble across her looking up old and new grunge style rock and metal, and her following grows as her band The Violet Stones do more gigs across Australia.  A new album is also in the works.  Here is our conversation which touches on a number of topics from this to that (and even *that*).  Hope you dig it!

YC: Hey Sarah, how’s it going tonight?

SJM: It’s going pretty good thanks!

YC: Cool cool.  So how’s the Australian music scene these days?

SJM: I don’t really have anything to compare it to honestly but I’ve just started playing around the scene last year and I think it is struggling a bit (mostly around the Sydney area). Although with bigger artists, I think it’s pretty good but it’s harder for smaller acts to get a following around here.

YC: Who’s big there now that everyone loves from the rock world…ermm.. Jet?

SJM: haha I don’t really hear about them tbh. But there’s this one band in particular called Tired Lion and they’re probably one of my favourite bands at the moment but they’re from Perth & I watched them gain more and more people at their shows every time they come back and they have a pretty decent following in every state I think.

SJM: Other bands that are big are bands like Violent Soho & Dune Rats. I guess that’s the sort of genre that is dominating the ‘alternative’ music scene at the moment. (Heavily influenced by grunge).

YC:  Silverchair are done right? They’re like classic rock now i guess.. but they’re like a year younger than me so I remember when they came out I was like who are these little geeks?  That was the second wave of grunge… post Cobain

SJM: haha the early Silverchair albums are probably a huge influence of Australian ‘grunge’. I’ve seen soooo many bands trying to be them

YC: And meanwhile they just wanted to be Helmet

SJM: If they were still around I’m sure they’d be one of the biggest bands here

YC: I think they were always slightly misunderstood in that they were more like Helmet than Nirvana but people just saw them as a mini Nirvana in the 90s

SJM: Yeah I never thought they sounded too similar to Nirvana but that’s what they’re sort of known for (for being the Australian Nirvana). My dad calls them ‘Nirvana in Pajamas’ hahahha

YC: awww.. cute.  they’re a solid band.. I heard Daniel’s solo album and i thought it was half decent, even though it was like not rock at all as i recall.  First few albums were pretty ass kicking.  So your band.. is playing shows and such?

SJM: I actually saw Daniel Johns live! Yeah we are playing shows, and actually in the middle of recording our first album

YC: Daniel has a killer voice and rocks some mean riffs…anyway…How’s that going? I’m listening to Sheets of Denial.. pretty good for a demo…

SJM: It’s going pretty good, we’re getting our name out slowly amongst the Sydney scene. Thanks!

YC: I mean it sounds like not really a demo…how did you record that one?

SJM: We practice with an electric drum kit and plug our guitars straight into a console and it comes out into headphones that we all wear (so basically we can practice without making a lot of noise). And that demo was actually made I think the night we made the song, cause we record the songs so that we remember what we did ?

YC: Yeah. i can relate.. it’s easy to forget stuff…so wait that song has electronic drums?  nahh

SJM: yeah it was recorded on an electric kit haha

YC: so what made you want to learn like 8 million covers?

SJM: hahah I guess in my early teens when I was just getting into Nirvana I decided to learn a lot of the songs cause you know, being able to play your favourite songs is pretty cool. So I did that and my friends and family were encouraging me to post them on youtube and I eventually did and people actually wanted more! I still post them because I guess it forces me to still learn songs even if I don’t feel like it and I guess it’s good for me to listen and try out new things with the covers

YC: lol yeah that makes sense…i mean having people pay attention helps motivation

SJM: yeah definitely hahah

YC: i’ve learned a lot of covers, but i can’t seem to get up the motivation to post them on my channel…i just post originals that no one listens to ? but you probably are aware that youtube’s algorithm kind of craves the stuff you’re doing.. ie. covers of famous songs…that’s how i came across you i think.. i was randomly looking up people covering Alice in Chains songs…

SJM: hahah yeah it really sucks how no one really cares that much about originals unless you’re already known for something else. Yeah, I guess thats part of the reason I do them still.  Cause of course I don’t wanna always wanna do covers, I much rather play my own songs

YC: i’m in a band with a guy that actually despises doing covers. like, i’d be game to be in a covers band if it was cool covers.  but he’s got a real hate for covers bands. cause it pushes original bands out of venues. he has a point i think

SJM: Yeah and theres a real market for cover bands over here.

YC: but people want covers…it pays the bar’s bills and shit

SJM: Yeah guess so, but it sucks. It’s really a hard market to break through in with your original music

YC: but your channel seems to be doing really well from what i can tell

SJM: Doing better than I ever expected like I had no idea what I did right

YC: well i do internet marketing for a living, so i know what i think you’re doing right

SJM: what did I do right then? hahah

YC: well…for one, youtube likes consistency. so you keep doing the same thing in the same format and that’s something youtube likes .. or like, the robots that control youtube. most people are unbelievably retarded and inconsistent

SJM: hahah yeah i knew that consistency was important, thats why I try upload once a week

YC: google / youtube likes to see a really consistent thing happening.. same look, same room, person, blah blah

SJM: ah cool thats good to know

YC: like if you’re too scatterbrained, and everything looks crazily different, youtube will be like “sorry bro”…it’s just like a theme, and also you’re not pissing off the family friendly part of the algorithm…and you’re a girl

SJM: True

YC: so the millions of freaks out there like girls as a rule…i’m not trying to say anything sexist lol but i mean.. it’s not my fault the world is sexist ? there’s probably some marketing thing where people trust girls more or something

SJM: No I know what you mean and I totally agree like I think people can’t get over the fact that a girl is singing and playing guitar on a System of a Down song. I think like 80% of my audience are dudes as well. think thats what my youtube stats say

YC: yeah.. it makes sense. well the other thing is musicians are notorious for not understanding marketing. it’s just not part of their mentality. so for instance the fact you can even interpret youtube stats .. or even know they exist. people in bands could give a fuck about that shit and when they do look at it, they don’t know what the fuck to make of it, and musicians from older generations are double screwed cause they just don’t get technology as it is today

SJM: hahah I think I’m very on top of things and very organized. Like I keep my band in order and I used to be the only one posted anything to our facebook page (they’ve started contributing more recently). my dads one of those people who doesn’t understand how to advertise or anything. 

YC: yeah my band has a FB page but even i hate using it

 

SJM: it gets tiring but Facebooks been pretty good for my band. but I don’t think it does much for my youtube channel besides advertising and such

YC: i think it’s cool you have a really well rounded social media thing going on.. even on your youtube, you have the vlogs too, originals, covers, live shit

YC: it’s basically a sign that you and your band have your shit together

SJM: hahah I guess so

YC: so who are your biggest influences? i guess you’re big into Nirvana

SJM: yeah well I don’t really listen to them much now, but they’re basically my roots

YC: you’re covering b-sides and whatnot.. so not like.. average fan of Nevermind type thing. i notice with Nirvana you kind of sing the stuff he screams

SJM: um yeah. It’s because I can’t scream at the moment. I really want to though

YC: well you have the kind of voice that might get wrecked if you scream your lungs out

SJM: yeah I have tried and every time I do it, my throat hurts and thats not suppose to happen. But I got really into Korn recently..And other bands System of a down, Incubus, Hole, Foo Fighters, Tired Lion.

 

 

YC: how do you go about learning a korn song?

SJM: well its way more difficult since the guitarist use a 7 string so I basically find the tabs and have to transpose it into a way I can play it in standard

YC: yeah i was thinkin.. this isn’t standard. Who are some of your favourite players? like.. did you learn Korn because you’re obsessed with Fieldy? Fieldy crush?

SJM: haha nope I have a young Jonathon Davis crush. nah but I really love their songs and melodies and how its still heavy

YC: ah i see.. yeah chicks dig Jonathon

YC: I see your Cranberries cover got some traction eh

SJM: It did only after Dolores death though

YC: right.. yeah. who’s your fav guitar player at the moment?

SJM: I don’t really have favourite guitar players to be honest. I focus more on people’s ability to write songs and melodies

 

YC: yeah i feel ya on that.. it’s more about songs. so to tie it back to your album for a sec, when’s it gonna be done?

SJM: the bands album?

YC: yeah..

SJM: Should be done by the end of the year. We’re doing it diy so it doesnt really have a deadline or anything

YC: is there kind of a goal you have with this album? ie make it the heaviest fucking album of all time

SJM: We just want to get our stuff out there and have something to give to people when they ask us if we have an album or EP. Like we get asked after gigs often if we have anything released and we have to say no

YC: man.. you have nothing? for someone who records so much shit and does so much youtube, you should at least have something…….

SJM: That’s what we’re doing now hahah I guess because we didn’t know how we were gonna go about it like we’re broke and so we needed to find a cheaper option to record and we found it eventually. and we have demos and stuff out, enough to keep people somewhat interested

YC: so what do you give people? a USB? with demos? or nothing

SJM: Nah we don’t give them anything, they can just check out stuff online if they really wanted to

YC: hm well then!  one more question – what are you recording stuff with ie. software?

SJM: We’re using Sonar X1. Basically my dads helping us out a lot with this and we’re just using what he has. We recorded the drums in a church and we had to set up everything from scratch and that was very interesting haha

YC: So you’re tracking things one by one, not doing live off the floor. that’s cool though, sounds like fun

SJM: nah we don’t have the set up for that and yeah it’s kinda good not having a deadline but also we just want it done. we kinda just want this album out of the way so we can start our next one because we like the new songs a lot more. just gotta do guitars, vocals and the mixing/mastering.

YC: Awesome.  well it was cool to talk to ya.  thanks for taking the time

SJM: yeah dude, thanks for the chat!

How The Quake Soundtrack Changed Video Game Music

Early PC gamers used to get these crappy “multimedia speakers” that came as a free feature with their 486-powered systems. It was good enough for the chirrpy tunes from early graphics cards, but when Quake arrived, everyone needed an update!

John Carmack, John Romero, and other luminaries at ID Software did so much for PC gaming. They moved the entertainment bar up a notch with Wolfenstein. They ripped the graphical limits to pieces with Doom, and with Quake they unleashed proper fit-for-purpose gaming soundtracks on the world.

Sure, it wasn’t the first CD-ROM game, or the first with an impressive soundtrack, but it was the first that went above and beyond what gamers were used to. Whatever the plan was for the game’s music, 1996 saw the ID team turn to Trent Reznor to bring a gothic feel to the CD-ROM release, unleashing full fidelity digital music on the scene.

Visit NIN Vevo Channel

The artistic talent of Reznor was well-known via his Nine Inch Nails project and he took a broad brush to the game with a wide mix of dynamic guitars and ambient sounds. Describing the game and the audio content, he has said “We tried to make the most sinister, depressive, scary, frightening kind of thing… It’s been fun using textures and ambience, and whirling machine noises and stuff.”

The Quake Soundtrack

The Quake Theme starts off scary with demonic guitars, racing synths like a summoning crescendo, that rapidly fades after a minute into an ambient collection of noise that plays on your mind. What are the demons or screams you can hear in the background? They are definitely hard to pick up on those crappy speakers, but invest in a decent set, or route the music through a proper stereo or decent headphones and it becomes a whole new experience.

Then came Aftermath, all heavy bass lines, descending and repeated, encouraging players to look around and into the depths of the game with its full 3D world. The game is full of secrets, and this track almost bludgeoned people into looking for them.

There’s more scritchy-scratchy voices in Hall of Souls, hinting at the demonics going on under the game’s action-based exterior. Perfect for when devil dogs leap out of the dark and chew the unwary player into chunky flesh gibs.

While playing the game, exploring the medieval themed castle, the lumpen, lumbering enemies, soundtrack helped set the tone for the battles and shocks to come. It took a few months but soon the game was running at light speed on the PC’s first graphics accelerators like the Voodoo 3Dfx.

The rest of the soundtrack is full of Reznor signature motifs, lurching from clean and electric but menacing in Parallel Dimensions to the stereo shenanigans in Focus, but every piece is perfect in the game to highlight the dread, with the boom of the shotgun or the crack of the nail gun all fitting perfectly into the malevolent audio scheme.

Read this interview with Trent about Quake here

Holla at Lolla – Lollapalooza and How It Has Evolved

Grant Park

In 1991, the band Jane’s Addiction embarked on what would become their farewell tour.  The band was in turmoil due to inter-personal tensions, as well as lots of drugs.  They were a mess…but they sounded good!

From this tour, one of the most legendary music festivals was created as the brainchild of Jane’s frontman Perry Farrell: Lollapalooza.  

Unlike past music festivals which were more of a one-stop thing, Lollapalooza was a tour that made its way throughout the United States and Canada like a travelling circus, with different line-ups of bands and artists on different dates.  Here is a poster for 2011’s event to give you an idea of the number of acts that can be involved in such a huge event.  If you are an inexperienced concert promotor reading this, you have to wince at some of the logistics that are involved.

Currently, Lollapalooza is a popular weekend festival that takes place in Grant Park, Chicago at the beginning of August. Festival-goers enjoy four days of rock, punk, heavy metal, electronic and pop music, as well as art installations and craft booths. The festival has also branched outside of the United States, to multiple places in South America and Europe.  Here’s Marshmello playing Brazil, 2017.

What Sets It Apart?

Lollapalooza was different from other festivals of its time because the original lineup invited artists of many genres to perform, including alternative rock, metal, and even rap. A few bands from the very first lineup included Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nine Inch Nails, and Ice-T, demonstrating the variety of music at the festival. Bands that would not usually be seen together were all here, playing their music to the same crowd and eating from the same riders (unless specified not to).  That means that Al Jourgensen and Ice-T could be eating cupcakes from the SAME TRAY.

Another feature that made this festival stand out from the rest was the inclusion of non-musical performances. Some of these acts included an alternative freak show, the Shaolin monks, and visual art installations. The festival also became a platform for non-profit organizations to promote awareness of various causes. This expanded the limits of traditional rock festivals, which is why Lollapalooza has become so eminent and well-known.

History of Lolla

The word “Lollapalooza” actually comes from an idiomatic expression that appeared in the late 19th century, meaning something that is “extraordinarily impressive; an outstanding example.”

Because of its fitting definition and the pleasant ring, Perry Farrell chose this to be the festival’s name. The term also alludes to “lollipops” which is why the original logo for the festival features a lollipop. The name has become so popular that the suffix “(a)palooza” can be attached to the end of any word to mean a fun event surrounding a particular thing, such as, say, cat-a-palooza.

Lollapalooza poster 1997

Not only did Farrell choose a very suitable name for his festival, but it was here that he also coined the term “Alternative Nation”. The rising alternative rock scene of the 1990’s spurred the festival onwards and the grunge and rock music incited crowd surfing and mosh pits, which became a staple of Lollapalooza. With the growing popularity of the festival, a second stage was added, and then a third stage in 1996.

In 1994, Nirvana was scheduled to headline at the festival. The band dropped out, however, and one day later Kurt Cobain’s body was found. His widow, Courtney Love, made several appearances at the festival to sing.

In 1996, Farrell, who had been organizing the festivals, decided to focus his attention elsewhere and did not participate in the planning of Lollapalooza. As a consequence, the headliner scheduled for that year was Metallica, a choice with which festival goers disagreed, since Lollapalooza was supposed to be a festival for “non-mainstream” artists. Metallica and the crowd they attracted also went against the more peaceful atmosphere that Farrell and others had always intended for the festival. Farrell was very unhappy with the decision.

In 1998, the festival was not able to find a headliner, and Lollapalooza was thus cancelled. For the next few years Lollapalooza was M.I.A.

Revival

After a couple unsuccessful tries in 2003 and 2004, Farrell finally settled on having Lollapalooza as a two-day destination festival in Grant Park, Chicago in 2005. He included an even wider variety of performers. The event was quite successful and has been held each summer in Chicago ever since. Weekend passes as well as single-day passes sell out incredibly fast. In 2016, Lollapalooza was extended to a four-day festival in celebration of its 25th anniversary.

2017 Lineup

The 2017 Lineup was revealed in March, 2017 and featured big headliners such as Chance the Rapper, Muse, The Killers and Arcade Fire. Other artists included Blink-182, Mac DeMarco, Lorde, and a slew of other artists that I would never have time to name here. In short, it was a lineup that offered music of many genres and attracted people of all ages and walks of life.

2018 logo

Lollapalooza continues to grow in popularity, offering a wide variety of performers, art exhibits, booths, and food trucks. It is now also livestreamed online for anyone missing out. It’s a full, rich experience for music-lovers and concert-lovers.