Tag Archives: interviews

Interview: Les Claypool gave me swine flu, whooping frog cough

Discussion topic after reading: does Les Claypool think of himself this generation’s Frank Zappa?

Les is more: Bass-master Claypool on his animal fetish, ‘South Park’ and real guitars

(The Guide, 5/21) First things first, Les Claypool, because we need to clear up a very important safety matter: Is swine flu transferable by someone wearing a pig mask?

“That’s a very good question. I think if you put on a pig mask after (someone) flu-ridden, there’s a good chance,” Claypool said by phone from his home in Northern California last week, ruminating on one of his trademark stage-costume pieces. “There’s a lot of condensation that comes when you wear a pig mask. The inside of a pig masks is generally a horrible place. It’s kind of like a free facial. It clears the pores.”
Les Claypool, O’Death

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Shoreline Ballroom, Ocean Center, 40 Folly Field Road, Hilton Head Island

Tickets: $23 in advance, $25 day of show

Information: 843-842-0358, www.shorelineballroom.com
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Interview: Elan Atias of The Wailers

The Wailers stage an ‘Exodus’ on the island

(The Guide, 5/15) There are still a few recession-proof jobs out there these days: grocery store worker, tax lawyer and, apparently, membership in legendary reggae band the Wailers.

“I really did not think that all our shows would be sold out,” lead singer Elan Atias said about the band’s current tour by phone from Los Angeles this week. “I can count on one hand (the ones) that didn’t.”

The most recent tour by the Wailers — which still contains some of the original members who served as backing band to Bob Marley and other reggae kings — has traveled, as is customary, throughout American and Europe. Atias thinks that’s because even in a recession, people turn to reggae music to escape their worries.

The Wailers, performing the album “Exodus,” Passafire

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Shoreline Ballroom, Ocean Center, 40 Folly Field Road, Hilton Head Island

Tickets: $20 in advance, $23 day of show

Information: 843-842-0358, www.shorelineballroom.com

“The message in the music is to stand up for you rights, to be the voice for the oppressed,” Atias said. “All the wars, all the environmental problems, all the economic problems, it’s so much. It’s so much more than in the ’70s.”

What his band provides, he said, is escape. “We are the out. People still need their entertainment. People still need to have that getaway from the worries and problems and dealings of every day.”

The Wailers, frequent visitors to the area, will make another stop on Hilton Head Island on Tuesday for a show at the Shoreline Ballroom. Marley’s music is played year-round on the island, of course, but this concert will feature some of the actual hands that helped craft it, namely Aston “Family Man” Barrett, one of the original Wailers. Other members signed on the band as the group went on to other projects before and after Marley’s 1981 death, including playing with Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Burning Spear.

Atias was recruited to join the band 10 years ago while still a young Wailers fan. Since joining, he said, he’s brought his own style to the words of Marley. But his strained, raspy voice is so close to Marley’s that fans tell him they can close their eyes and still see Marley on stage.

“I’m not trying to be him,” Atias said. “I’m trying to do the music justice, to have people hear it the way I would have wanted to hear it. I’m a fan, first and foremost. I’m not trying to fill his shoes, I am myself. I think that’s what people respect.”

Chevelle are ‘doozh’ers

[update: proper credit to Barry Schwartz for the term “doozh”]

Hard-rock outfit Chevelle keeps it simple, with riffs, energy and, of course, doozh

(The Guide, 4/24) The hard-rock band Chevelle has maintained a solid following and steady success over the past decade while other bands of its genre have faded away, and they’ve managed to do so without changing their sound much from album to album. So don’t expect to see, say, any duets with Kanye West.

“Although I wouldn’t be against it if he called me,” lead singer and guitarist Pete Loeffler said in a recent interview. “But I’m not going to be calling him anytime soon.”
Chevelle, 10 Years, Fighting with Wire

When: 8 p.m. April 24

Where: Shoreline Ballroom, Ocean Center, 40 Folly Field Road, Hilton Head Island.

Tickets: $25 at the door, $22.50 in advance

Information: 843-842-0358, www.shorelineballroom.com

That is, in brief, the reason the band has continued to tour, release albums and draw fans even as their peers in the hard-rock resurgence of the ’90s lost momentum (Remember Trapt? No, of course you don’t). The band knew its formula, heard it resonate with radio listeners and stuck to it. They created spacious riff-driven songs, such as hits “The Red” and “Send the Pain Below,” that specialized in sonic resonance best described as “doozh,” which sounds exactly like it’s spelled. The sustained, building strain of Loeffler’s voice stretched across the tracks earned the band comparisons to Tool, the masters of the genre.

“With this band, it’s just a hard-rock band. We don’t go that far off our original idea, which is just to write good hard rock music,” Loeffler said. “Every record has a different vibe. But we’re still doing what we’re doing.”

That means no rap-rock crossovers, no overemotive neo-power ballads, no experimental noise rock.
“We’ve never gone to mainstream radio,” he said. “That’s one thing that could be do or die: You put out a song that could be alienating to some of your fans.”

When the band first started in Chicago in the mid ’90s, they were the ones facing alienation. There were a lot of pop-oriented bands out at the time, but not many from a hard-rock background. The band members came up watching fellow Chicagoans the Smashing Pumpkins hit it big — a band Loeffler fantasized about someday being successful enough to work with.

The band went to Las Vegas to record its last album, 2007’s “Vena Sera,” to feed off the city’s energy. But for the follow-up they’re currently working on, they took the opposite approach, recording in the quiet woods outside Nashville. That process is creating a product that was much more intrinsic, Loeffler said.

“When you’re out in the country and you sort of need to get that excitement, you have to create it from nowhere,” he said.  “There’s nothing around you that you can get hyped up about. I love all our records but this one happened to be a lot more work for me. It was a good thing, a lot more

That album could be ready by June, he said.

A love letter to Neko Case

what you have to write when you don’t get to interview Neko Case. With a hat tip to Nubs Remsberg for his mentioned contribution.

Red-headed woman: A love letter to Neko Case

(From The Guide, 4/3/09)

In describing Neko Case, her soulful twang-tinged tunes, her rise to the top of the modern world of alt-country and her membership in the Canadian ultra-supergroup the New Pornographers, I’m drawn, of course, to Greek mythology. A friend and devoted Neko fan describes it like this: “Neko is Circe, or maybe one of the Sirens. We’re all Odysseus tied to the mast of the ship while Neko stands on the shore, singing lovely, gentle songs to lure us back to her island, where we will all be shipwrecked and die. But what a great death it would be.”

You can judge for yourself tonight when Case stops at Savannah’s Trustees Theater as part of the Savannah Music Festival.

Neko Case, Crooked Fingers

When: 7 p.m. April 3

Where: Trustees Theatre, 216 E. Broughton St., Savannah

Tickets: $20-$30

Information: 912-525-5050, savannahmusicfestival.org
Case’s voice asserts her place in that vaunted sorority of indie-rock musicians whose vocals are the important weapons in their arsenal (see also Cat Power). And it’s that voice that lets Case break out of the pack as a member of the New Pornographers, the Canadian maximalist indie-popsters, a group that specializes in big, catchy choruses, competing instrument hooks and back-and-forth alternating vocalists.

But Case’s solo career stands in contrast. She has produced a handful of albums over the past decade that brim with throwbacks to rock-infused country romps (I’m talking Loretta Lynn and Whiskeytown, not Gretchen Wilson and Kenny Chesney). Her tones are reserved and measured, her songs deep and personal, sometimes spacious. Occasionally she picks up a clip-clop energetic pace, boosted by warbling mandolins and banjos.

Her latest album, “Middle Cyclone,” released earlier this month, is a windstorm of Case’s interior monologue and personal causes — usually animal rights and environmentalism. “People Got a Lotta Nerve,” with its chorus, “I’m a man-eater, and still you’re surprised when I eat you,” sounds like a self-reprobation over destructive tendencies, but in reality, it’s a defense of caged animals. “I’m An Animal,” conversely, defends her own mammalian instincts.

Case is at her best when she rides the line between rock and traditional folk and country. Her live album, 2004’s “The Tigers Have Spoken,” is the best example of this; high-energy tracks such as “Loretta” and “Soulful Shade of Blue” would sound equally at home in a Texas county fair as they would in a cramped Brooklyn club, and the slower-paced cover of “Wayfaring Stranger” shows her dexterity in recalling bluegrass roots. In all instances, though, she draws the listener into comfortable anachronisms that even Odysseus couldn’t resist.

Interview: Vic Wooten’s music lesson

Victor Wooten on Hilton Head: Home bass

(The Guide, 3/20/09)
Early in Victor Wooten’s novel “The Music Lesson,” the main character turns to the mysterious skateboard-riding teacher who has suddenly appeared in his home and asks, “What instrument do you play?”

The teacher responds, “I play music, not instruments.”

Wooten decided to write the novel a few years ago after overtures from friends that he finally put his legendary and innovative bass skills in print. Wooten knew they were looking for an instruction book, but he didn’t want to create a strict “method” for others to follow. A novel was more in line with his playing style, something that could be rhythmic and spiritual but also free-flowing and open for interpretation. It’s similar to why he incorporates musical thinking into other aspects of his life, from his martial arts lessons to the music and nature camp he holds every year.

Victor Wooten, J.D. Blair

When: 7 p.m. March 21

Where: Shoreline Ballroom, Ocean Center, 40 Folly Field Road, Hilton Head Island

Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 at the door.

Information: 843-842-0358. www.shorelineballroom.com

That approach is what has made Wooten’s career stand out. His virtuosity has earned him acclaim as one of the best bassists of all time, and his time playing as a member of Bela Fleck’s Grammy-winning bluegrass-jazz band the Flecktones has brought his electric bass sounds into millions of ears over the years.

His latest album, 2008’s “Palmystery,” features fresh twists on jazz, gospel and afro-rhythms, which he’ll bring to the Shoreline Ballroom on Hilton Head Island on Saturday.

Like his book, Wooten’s music always has focused on getting a message across by embracing a holistic approach, sometimes forgoing lyrics.

“Moreso than tell stories, I like to create moods,” he said. “I like to create feelings in people. The moods make you reminisce and think, rather than tell you what to think. It’s just like scoring a movie: there’s certain types of things you can create with music, certain types of chords. For the most part I like to make people feel good.”

“I was the smallest”
Wooten grew up the youngest member of the family band. When Wooten was three, his brother took two strings off a guitar and put the instrument in his lap to begin teaching him to play. By the time he was five, he was touring with the band. “I always got the spotlight because I was the smallest,” he said.

The brothers’ band, even though young, always was a hit with crowds. “They were looking for a tape recorder because they don’t think we’re really playing,” Wooten said.

Wooten would quickly grow up to be one of the most respected bass players of all time. But it didn’t happen immediately. “Kids don’t like to practice,” he said. “Sometimes my friends would be outside playing and I’d be in a room learning bass parts. I could remember those days not wanting to do it. But when a song got together, it was worth it.”

With such high acclaim throughout his career, Wooten said he still feels pressure to innovate on his albums. But the biggest pressure, he said, is that which he puts on himself to keep the music and shows interesting for fans.

“I’ve made it a point to make each record I put out different from the last so the public doesn’t know what’s coming. I like that,” he said.

Wooten and the other members of the Flecktones have been performing fewer shows lately as each of their side projects becomes bigger (though the Flecktones will appear in Charleston in December). The band just passed its 20th anniversary, so Wooten said it can withstand a little downtime.

“It was such a different type of band that people had a thirst for it. For us musicians, it was just a blast.”

Ani DiFranco: “political songs and happy songs don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”

Sigh. Another cool show near Hilton Head scheduled after I left the place. At least I got my lifetime allotment of Eagles cover bands out of the way.

Change has come to Ani DiFranco

By Tim Donnelly • Special to the Guide

Change is in the air in Washington, D.C.

Yes, there’s the skinny guy in the big house making decisions now. But two miles down the road, Ani DiFranco also is feeling a lot different these days.

Her first daughter turned two on Inauguration Day, and her songs are now channeling positive themes after years of frustration — and occasionally outright anger — at the government, cultural conformity and struggles over love and identity. The feminist icon, neo-folk hero and owner of her own label, Righteous Babe Records, has released more than 20 albums over two decades, and her fan base has stuck with her even as her music has evolved and grown up.

“I was already on a personal mission to write my joy into music more,” DiFranco said by phone from the back room of Washington’s 9:30 Club, where she performed last weekend. “Now, as it turns out, political songs and happy songs don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”

Ani DiFranco

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Where: Trustees Theatre, 216 E. Broughton St., Savannah

Tickets: $36

Information: 912-525-5050, tickets.scadboxoffice.com
Q. You’ve been successful for a long time. Have you seen your fans change over the years as you have?

A. It’s hard to articulate specifically, but it’s just parallel to me. Having spent so much of my evolutionary years on stage, I sort of play the role of reflecting those lessons we learn along the way, the changes that befall us. I think there is always a new contingent of mostly young women who come along and connect with all these songs written by a young woman with those experiences, that experience of becoming yourself and sort of elbowing out a room for yourself in this world.

Q With having your daughter (in 2007), you spent a lot more time than usual between your previous album and last year’s “Red Letter Year.” Did that allow you to do anything different with the final product?

A. Yeah — time, the final frontier. Who knew (laughs)? I’ve always made records really quickly because I’ve always done everything really quickly. ‘Go, go, go,’ that’s my scene. The baby has slowed me down quite a bit. It’s just what the doctor ordered for me — having more time to develop more perspective. It’s more kind of ambitious production than I usually have on a record. I feel more solid about it — having not plowed through in the moment.

Q. Does that mean you’ll be taking more time with future albums?

A. Yeah – it’s definitely a lesson to be learned, one of the many my kid has taught me so far. Slow down, look before you leap.

Q. Do you think the new era of leadership in the country will affect your song writing?

A. Oh man, it feels so different. It’s a total atmospheric change if you ask me. It’s a great atmosphere, all over the world. I just got back from tour of Australia, and, you know, people everywhere are psyched. Obama’s election was a victory for democracy, the very concept. It was a victory for the people versus the corporate elite, the oil tycoons.

There’s nothing more that I want to do than support those who are doing good in the world. I think we get caught in sort of trying to fight the great evil, slay the great dragon. That’s kind of beating your head against the wall. For the left, it’s more important to lift each other up, support each other with our causes. It’s great these days to have sort of momentum to contribute to, momentum in a positive direction.

This interview makes me feel kinda sleazy

Hinder brings “dirty, fun” rock back to the Shoreline

FYI: They said sleazy, not me

FYI: They said "sleazy," not me

The Guide, Feb. 26, 2009

Two things about Hinder that make them sound like every other hard rock party band of the past two decades: They drink Jagermeister, and they love Motley Crue.

Two things that prove they’ve broken out of the pack and found success: They are sponsored by Jagermeister, and they’re on tour with Motley Crue.

For a band that started out playing bars in their hometown of Oklahoma City, that’s about as close to living the dream as you can get (and don’t forget to throw in the videos full of scantily clad women dripping off the band members, a Web site that solicits “catfight” pictures from female fans and a hit song advising fans to “Get Stoned.” And when you’re a band like that, you get license to scream lyrics such as “She always leaves and makes me feel kind of sleazy / It’s kind of cool because she already pleased me” in front of writhing festival crowds.

Hinder, Theory of a Deadman, Framing Hanley

When: 7 p.m. March 3

Where: Shoreline Ballroom, Ocean Center, 40 Folly Field Road, Hilton Head Island

Tickets: $25 in advance, $28 day of show

Information: 843-842-0358, http://www.shorelineballroom.com

“For us, we actually have a real rock ‘n’ roll band,” said Cody Hanson, Hinder’s drummer, who co-founded the band in 2001. “It’s dirty, fun, sleazy rock. And we were doing it coming up at a time when emo was big.”

The love of the archetypal ’80s big, loud party band (see: the Crue, Guns N’ Roses) was what first drove the band into making music, Hanson said, to try to reclaim music from the arty, sad types ushered in by Nirvana in the ’90s and echoed in a million emo-oriented MySpace pages today.

“We want music to be fun again, we want music to have big sing-along choruses and hooks and things,” he said. “We want people to come to the show and we want them to have fun, not be angry or cry. When emo came out, then everybody was crying about everything.”

As it turned out, quite a lot of fans were ready to welcome that big, party band experience again.

Hinder’s 2005 album, “Extreme Behavior,” sold three million copies and led the band to tours with Buckcherry, Papa Roach and 3 Doors Down. But it was the single “Lips of an Angel” — one of the band’s relatively quieter songs — that saw huge success, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Pop 100 chart.

Hanson said the band wasn’t surprised that the softer song became such a success. “Everybody likes a guitar ballad,” he said. “Even guys, they won’t admit it but they like it.”

Being from Oklahoma City — not exactly the epicenter of the music scene — allowed the band to create its own niche, Hanson added. “It’s cool because you get the chance to kind of be who you are,” he said. “There’s not pressure to follow what’s going on in the coasts.”

Their 2008 album, “Take it to the Limit,” features guitar work by Motley Crue guitarist Mick Mars, and the band currently is on a 29-city tour with the music legends as well as fellow rockers Theory of a Deadman.

It’s been, as you can imagine, a good time. “Anytime you get to tour with people you look up to and people that influence you, it’s great,” Hanson said.