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Entries on the topic of “Interview” 15 results

Erik Roldan writesA Coach House Sounds Conversation with Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc has been a steady fixture in Chicago for many years, forming after the dissolution of famed emo band Cap’n Jazz. Tim Kinsella has been the only permanent member of the group and has maintained steady out put under the Joan of Arc name.

The band recently recorded a session at Coach House Sounds, and you can listen to CHIRP for preview tracks of the session. Starting April 25th, you’ll be able to stream the entire performance at coachhousesounds.com!

What the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in a basement?

Basements have probably been more formative to me than kitchens – I can’t cook – or living rooms – TV bores me – or bedrooms – my dreams aren’t very vivid. High school was of course spent in friends’ basements with malt liquor and bongs and a record playing while a movie is on and someone is playing guitar or bass along to the record. I once played a basement show naked. That was pretty weird, but not dumb.

I guess the dumbest thing might’ve been feeling bad this one time when that Led Zeppelin song “Thank You” came on while I was watching the girl that had just dumped me go to third base with this guy in front of everyone hanging out. Or we all got in the habit of pissing in this one drain in this guy’s basement so we wouldn’t have to go upstairs and face his parents while all fucked up and after awhile the drain started to reek of piss. But that was collective stupidity, not as stupid as feeling bad while that hokey song played.

Joan of Arc has a long history in Chicago. Can you tell me about one time when you realized this was YOUR city?

Eh, I’ve never thought of moving. My family and friends are all here. Everything’s simple. We travel enough and I have a terrible sense of direction, so it’s nice to come home and know where everything is. And when we were without a practice space for awhile a couple years ago, we moved everything into my gramma’s basement on Belmont for a couple weeks. Couldn’t do that anywhere else.

I guess one time, on a rare visit to a 4 a.m. bar, this Chad-dork-creep put his arm around my ex-wife and I instinctually grabbed him in an aggressive way. When he started to push me and threaten me, the bouncers, who I’d never seen before, kicked that guy out instead of me, even though I kinda started it. They pointed at me and said, “he’s cool.” Maybe that’s a perk of living in the same neighborhood for years and years?

Describe a scenario where Joan of Arc could be someone’s life coach and the top 2 life lessons you’d teach them.

It’s not so far-fetched really. The band has such longevity because of its “always open, revolving door” membership policy. We are quite a crew of misfits. Organizing it keeps me occupied, less likely to fall wayward. Whenever someone has better things to do or something going for them, they drop out for awhile. Then they lose a job or a girlfriend or whatever and the band is there to give a little structure to a wayward period.

So, lesson #1 – Entertain no pre-conceived expectations. Collaboration will only come from listening and being open to other people’s ideas, and with trusted collaborators, the unified vision will often surpass the depth and expressiveness of imposing one’s view.

And #2 – Remain conscious, alert and engaged. The world is an endless and inexhaustible splendor of wonders. The sublime strangeness of the world is endlessly inspiring if you are awake to it. The only true challenge is the stamina, so you have to fight off the oppressive war-mongers and feudal overlords that wanna drain you of imagination and fighting spirit. This battle is in itself endlessly inspiring as the capitalist pigs are gonna clamp down even harder before they inevitably die.

The future of the earth, not to mention our species, depends on this battle. What could be more inspiring than a battle for one’s life? And remaining conscious, alert and engaged is the necessary first step. Those pigs we’re fighting have all the power in the world at their disposal to hide the fact that there’s even a battle being waged! Fuck those pigs. Love will prevail!

Tell me about your CHS session—what did you like about it? Was there anything that surprised you or was spontaneous that came out in the recording?

Man, it was on St. Patrick’s Day, blah! The worst. We hadn’t rehearsed in a couple weeks, so we were very unprepared, but it went well. We played fine anyways. Lovely place Matt has there and everyone involved was real friendly and easy to work with. Good coffee. Cool set-up in concept and execution. Yeah, it was fun.

What’s happening? What are your current/upcoming shows or releases?

We are currently buried in writing a score for the Dreyer film The Passion of Joan of Arc to perform live. It’s been thrilling to work on. Totally stretching us to work in new ways, very exciting for us. And our new record comes out in May and then we go on tour through most of May through September, which is exciting, get to see our friends everywhere. Steady is the course.

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Topics: interview

Erik Roldan writesA Conversation With The Arts of Life Band

Arts of Life Band is a creative collaborative project between disabled and non-disabled artists in the Chicago area, based out of the Arts of Life community of artists. Guided by Artistic Director Ryan Shuquem, the band makes call-and-response, energetic rock music that combines the eccentricity of Wesley Willis and the community aspect of School of Rock.

Housed in the Arts of Life space in West Town, Chicago, the band has been keeping busy with recording, performing and over-all good vibes. They found time to record a session at Coach House Sounds, capturing the spirit of their live show and energy of the band – here the session on CHIRPradio.org and stream it over at http://www.coachhousesounds.com/">coachhousesounds.com.

What the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in a basement?

Matt – I threw a chair at my brother. I was watching TV and he changed the channel in the middle of the show. I was only 12, so I didn’t know what I was doing. Ha.
Mike – I pushed my cousin and locked him in the tool closet.
Ryan – I was playing with a broken light bulb and shocking myself in a basement.
David – We used to have a basement, but I don’t live in there any more.

Arts of Life Band seems to have a humanitarian mission, can you talk about that aspect of the project and how you’ve accomplished those goals?

Matt – I think we show people with disabilities that they have lots of options in life
Ryan- I agree, and I think we introduce people to each other who might have never met otherwise, help bridge the gaps between disabled rockers and non-disabled rockers.

Describe a scenario where Arts of Life Band could be someone’s life coach and the top 2 life lessons you’d teach them.

David – We’d say “You can have a band too. You can play music too. Don’t be afraid.”

What do you like about Chicago, and what makes it special to you?

Matt – I like the hot dogs, I like the meat, I like the White Sox
David – I like the police, they rescue lives
Ryan – I like the friendly people. Coach House Sounds, Mucca Pazza, CPE Sound where we rehearse. We get to meet lots of nice people that are interested in supporting our hard work.
Mike – I like my housing association and my staff.
Kelly – Hamburgers. I just do.

Tell me about your CHS session—what did you like about it? Was there anything that surprised you or was spontaneous that came out in the recording?

Ryan – I think they made us feel comfortable and really showcased our fabulous energy!
David – I liked the spotlights and the peoples
Andrew – Yeah, Matt was great. He sat in while we were waiting for our drummer and helped us warm up. He played well!

What’s happening? What are your current/upcoming shows or releases?

Ryan- We’re excited about our release show on March 10th at the Hide Out of course and we’re doing a couple high schools this month. Should be fun to rock a high school.

Also, we’ve got a great art studio with lots of beautiful art work to look at and the best tour guide in the business (David). Come check us out in West Town at 2010 W. Carroll Ave. or in the virtual world at artsoflife.org.

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Topics: interview

DJ Betynka - It's 12 O'Clock Somewhere writesCookies, Comedy, and an Engagement With Shaun Michael Paul of Chaperone

 

CHIRP DJ Elizabeth Ramborger recently caught up with Shaun Paul of Chaperone as he was finishing a batch of ice cream at his day job at Bobtail ice cream. It was a white chocolate peanut butter cup. He admitted it wasn’t the best of his flavors, but good, noting the season St. Paddy’s Day Guinness batch.

It was a good start for a conversation with the lead singer of a band known for bringing cookies to its shows—and not just your standard chocolate chip. Salted caramel is likely to pop up as an ingredient. As it turns out, this level of hospitality is emblematic of one of the nicest local bands around.

Between recipes and putting out their self-released EP Cripple King in 2010, Chaperone has already recorded a yet-to-be-released 7-inch, played a ton of shows, and is getting ready for SXSW. You can see them on their home turf when they headline a CHIRP Practice Space series on Monday, February 28 at Schubas.

Elizabeth spoke with Shaun about desert, why Chicago is Milwaukee’s second city, and some post Valentine’s Day news.

Elizabeth: So the first time I saw you guys was your show at Quenchers. I was with two other people and we were in a post-holiday malaise and then we saw cookies and thought…this is going to be alright. Imagine our surprise when there were three different gourmet flavors to choose from. So what’s with the cookies?

Shaun: Well Miles [Chaperone’s bassist] does the baking—he’s the Betty Crocker of the group, mixed with January Jones from Mad Men.

Elizabeth: Does he wear an apron and everything?

Shaun: Of course. He’s pro! He’s gotta wear an apron. But yea, we made cookies for a show and people ate them up and he made them for the next show, and then it just became a thing. We’re thinking of moving into other deserts, like fudge. In fact, Miles is moving into the kettlecorn realm. [We have a certain] down homeness as a band and cookies are just a part of it.

Elizabeth: You’re a Chicago transplant. The Midwest certainly has a “down homeness.” Is that what drew you to the city, coming from North Carolina?

Shaun: Oh definitely. In fact, I was looking at several cities before I settled on Chicago. People have the same mentality here as the people at home [in North Carolina]. Chicago is kind and open as a people.

Elizabeth: Does that translate to the music scene?

Shaun: It’s contradictory. [The music scene is] definitely kind of cutthroat. Bands don’t support one another enough. Although we are close with some bands—we’re real close with Dastardly.

Elizabeth: Why do you think that is? Competitiveness? Laziness? The winter?

Shaun: The winter definitely factors in…

Elizabeth: How did you get your start in music and how did Chaperone come together?

Shaun: I played music down in North Carolina. I was in a couple of high school punk bands like everybody. I actually came up for Second City to pursue comedy. A couple of buddies came up from North Carolina and I started playing with them. It got to the point that I had to decide between the two of my interests, music and comedy, just from a time standpoint, and I love music. It’s just fun.

Elizabeth: What are the good aspects of the Chicago music scene?

Shaun: The clubs are great and the people that schedule bands, the bookers, are good people. It’s nice dealing with people that are kind and remember you. We really love Schubas.

Elizabeth: What local bands are you excited about?

Shaun: Gold Motel. Greta [Morgan] is real nice, we played with them in Milwaukee. I also love Catfish Haven but alas they’re not doing anything anymore. I see George Hunter on the street and he keeps telling me he’s got something in the works.

Elizabeth: Milwaukee is a pretty down home place itself.

Shaun: Oh yea. The thing about Milwaukee is that people are willing to go out and see who’s playing, whether they know anything about the band or not. In Chicago people have to know who the band is before they go out.

Also, in Milwaukee people will dance at a show in a way that they won’t in Chicago. Sure, sometimes one person in the [Chicago] audience will cut a rug, but we’re a bouncy, happy band. When we’re on a stage we dance around and we like the audience to enjoy it and dance around too. We love Milwaukee.

Elizabeth: You’ve been compared to Los Campesinos! A CHIRP reviewer compared Chaperone to Girls and Neutral Milk Hotel. How do you react to those comparisons?

Shaun: I never really got into the Girls albums. But there is a certain do-it-yourselfness about Girls that applies to Chaperone. We recorded our own EP without any outside help. We were real happy to say we did it ourselves.

Neutral Milk Hotel is my favorite band ever, so that makes me really happy to hear. They have a certain lo-finess that I relate to. There’s also an honesty to Neutral Milk Hotel that I strive for in Chaperone. Whatever I write, even if its fiction (people always ask whether the songs are true, did I run away with someone to the Everglades?), I try to make my songs feel honest and authentic.

Elizabeth: Who influences you?

Shaun: I love Okerville River. I’m real excited about their new album. Bright Eyes is the reason I started writing music in the first place. I thought if he can do it and put stuff out by himself, I could. Ryan Adams was an influence—he’s definitely influenced the country aspects of Chaperone! Of course, you can’t go full country…

Elizabeth: Isn’t that Gwenth Paltrow’s new movie—“A Little Bit Country?”

Shaun: Yea…ha.

Elizabeth: Standard first job question—where do you see yourself as a band in five years? Are you just going along for the ride or do you have specific aspirations?

Shaun: Of course we have aspirations. We just finished a 7-inch—we got the master tracks back three days ago. Of course, vinyl is expensive so we’re saving up money to release it. We’re also shopping ourselves around, looking for a small label to release a full-length. We love recording! We get in and go—wow, an organ! That’s what this song needs—an organ! Ideally in five years we’ll ideally be touring Europe with a couple of full-lengths and 7-inches under our belt.

Elizabeth: Tell me a little bit about the rest of your band.

Shaun: Definitely! Miles [Doornbos] is our bassist. I played with him in an earlier band, Mountain Coming Down and we met through my job at Bobtail Ice Cream. We’re best friends. It’s always great to make music with your best friends.

Mark [Sheridan] is our keyboardist/boy genius. He’s 21 and he worked for me at Bobtail a couple of summers back. He’ll play anything we throw at him.

Elizabeth: Chaperone’s Conner Oberst?

Shaun: Yes! Shaylah [Kloska] is our glockenspiel and singer. We also write together…actually we got engaged last week.

Elizabeth: Congratulations!!!

Shaun: Thanks, yea! Actually, I was in a band with her ex-boyfriend. Our band broke up, we didn’t see one another for 2-3 years and then I ran into her at a show at the Bottle. We invited her to be a part of the band and things developed from here.

Elizabeth: Does a relationship change the dynamics for the band or your songwriting?

Shaun: I really hope it won’t change the dynamics. I definitely thought about that. But no, it hasn’t affected things. We used to drink wine at one another’s apartments and write songs and then go home after that. I was worried that would change, but we moved in together a year ago and things are great.

Elizabeth: Has the EP [self-released Cripple King] changed anything for the band or its approach?

Shaun: The EP’s been great for us. People I never would have imagined are listening to us. Things are really snowballing and the EP’s been effective.

The hardest thing for us over the past few months is that we lost our drummer [Tom des Enfants]. He decided to leave the band three months ago due to conflicting priorities. But we’ve got a new drummer. Schubas will be our first show with the new line-up. And we’ve got two day parties lined up for SXSW and we’re looking for some other gigs there.

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Topics: interview

Erik Roldan writesCHIRP + Coach House Sounds Session with Roommate

Roommate is a Chicago-based five piece band, self-described as “Stoner Crooner.” They recently recorded a Coach House Sounds session and had some interesting reflections on coaches, Chicago and basements.

Their CHS session released on February 3rd. Hear the entire session over at coachhousesounds.com!

What the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in a basement?

In 1999 I started playing keyboards in an Iowa City band called Swim Team. At my birthday party that summer we played a basement show in the house where I was living and ended our set with a cover of Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”

Our singers/guitar players Cody & Jason Hennesy didn’t want to even try to do the ridiculous guitar solo, so they cued up a tape of the original song to the solo and when we got to that moment in the song we all stopped and they put a little portable cassette player up to the mic. That maneuver was pretty clever, but the song is really dumb.

Tell me about a coach you had as a child. What did you learn from them?

Rick French was the coach of my high school’s swim team. I was on the team in 9th and 10th grades. We were a terrible team with barely enough members to fill all of the events in a swim meet. Coach French always assigned me to swim the 200 Meter Intermediate Medley and I always puked my guts up shortly after swimming it. So I learned from Rick French that if I swim the 200 Meter Intermediate Medley I puke.

Describe a scenario where Roommate could be someone’s life coach and the top 2 life lessons you’d teach them.

[Our drummer Seth Vanek fielded this one.] I think we could do a good job with something called Sarcasm Therapy for people who have trouble getting that ’90s ironic sensibility out of their system. We would 1) help them start saying what they really mean and in the process have them figure out what they really think 2) Help them realize that you don’t have to be intelligent to be sarcastic and not to confuse sarcasm with wit.

What do you like about Chicago, and what makes it special to you?

I’m no music historian, but I think Chicago’s music culture represents a particularly vital intersection of the avant-garde with traditional music. When I think about how Sonny Blount became Sun Ra and recorded seminal albums like Angels and Demons at Play and Nubians of Plutonia in Chicago, or when I put on a track like The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s “Theme De Yoyo” (the most electrifying marriage of pop and free jazz I can think of) or an album like Bonnie Prince Billy’s Beware (essentially a country album played by Chicago jazzbo heavies like Josh Abrams and Michael Zerang), I feel deeply humbled and inspired and grateful to be here.

Also, I’d argue that the breathtaking corruption of Chicago and Illinois government has inspired an especially vibrant culture of activism here. Publications like AREA, grassroots groups like Tamms Year Ten, our burgeoning community gardening movement, those things make me really proud and excited to call myself a Chicagoan.

Tell me about your CHS session – what did you like about it? Was there anything that surprised you or was spontaneous that came out in the recording?

Our CHS session was a blast. The Coach House is a really cozy space, and Matthew and his crew are courteous, charming, professional dudes. We hadn’t played in almost two months, so we had a short practice just before the session and decided to stick mainly to songs we’ve been playing live for a while.

We almost nixed “After The Boom” because we thought maybe it needed some more tightening and polishing, but Gillian ended up insisting that we do it and I’m glad she did, it’s my favorite song of the session… so that was a nice surprise.

Like in any live show, each of us tried to maintain a little bit of spontaneity in our performance—sometimes that resulted in little flubs (or “clams” as they call ‘em in the biz) but it also yielded some beautiful surprises, where the music gelled and swelled in unexpected ways.

It was interesting for me to listen to multiple takes of the same song and to hear how our playing evolved in the course of the session as we got more comfortable with the space and situation. We’re always honing our arrangements and group dynamics so that the songs evolve and stay fresh and get more powerful and interesting with every show, so it’s nice to have the CHS session as a document of where we were on that particular day.

What’s happening? What are your current/upcoming shows or releases?

Yesterday we had quite possibly our best rehearsal EVER – we’ve invited our friend and guitar hero Reid Coker to join us at our next couple of Chicago shows and on tour, so we’re a five-piece again and we are sounding pretty sweet, if I do say so myself.

We’re really excited to return to the Hideout on Saturday and to get to play with SHAPERS. Later this week a remix I made for a track by the soul singer Bilal (whose album Airtight’s Revenge was released last year on our former label Plug Research) should appear on our Soundcloud page

What else? A video I made for our song “Snow Globe” was premiered at Magnet Magazine a couple weeks ago, and sometime around the release date (March 22) for our new album Guilty Rainbow we’re planning to release a remix and super-surreal video that our friends mr.666 made for the album’s first track “My Bad.”

Our record release show is set for March 18 at the Empty Bottle with Dozens and Algernon, and a week later we’ll head out on a two-week tour through the midwest, southeast and northeast. In the last couple years we recorded a lot of material that didn’t make it onto the album, so it’s fairly likely that we’ll release some of those songs later in the year. Lots is happening!!

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Topics: interview

Erik Roldan writesA Conversation With White Mystery

White Mystery is a band so rooted in Chicago, you’ve probably run into them at the store, at the show or at the bar. Their sound is heavy and their debut, self-titled album is every bit as enticing as their live show.

Somehow, they are just as loud over email, with their answers sent in ALL CAPS. The brother sister duo have an upcoming show at Beauty Bar; It’s the 2nd annual Fan Appreciation Party. With opening band Squish on the bill, White Mystery treats its fans to free beer and free pizza.

Wednesday, January 26th 2011, Beauty Bar Chicago (1444 West Chicago Avenue), 10:00pm, No Cover.

Erik Roldan: I remember a call for natural red heads for a music video shoot. How did that turn out? What are the top three things about being a natural red head?

White Mystery: HERE IS THE WHITE MYSTERYPOWERGLOVEVIDEO BY MEDICINE FILMS TO SEE FOR YOURSELF: THE NUMBER ONE THING IS THAT NATURAL REDHEADS LIKE IT HOTTER!

ER: Your music is raw – the production on the record is very minimal—tell me about the decisions to go with that stripped-down sound and how the result differed from your expectations.

WM: THE RECORDING IS A RAW ROCK’N‘ROLL EXPERIENCE THAT CAPTURES THE PURELY LIVE SOUND THAT PEOPLE LOVE ABOUT WHITE MYSTERY.

ER: Working with your sibling—how does that affect your music? How does it compare to previous bands where you didn’t have those family ties? Have you ever been in a situation where you thought “this could only happen with my brother/sister?”

WM: IT’S A POWERFUL CREATION PROCESS AND IT’S AWESOME TO SHARE IT WITH EACH OTHER! BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER.

ER: What’s your take on being from Chicago? How do you think being from here affects how your band is perceived in the media or in the music industry?

WM: BEING BORN AND RAISED IN CHICAGO PROVIDES A UNIQUE CULTURAL EXPERIENCE THAT BUILDS A TASTE PROFILE WHICH IS REFLECTED IN MUSICAL OUTPUT.

ER: What’s next for White Mystery? Tours? Projects? Collaborations?

WM: WHITE MYSTERY PLAYS SXSW, RELEASES A NEW ALBUM ON APRIL 20TH 2011, PLAYS THE ATLANTA MESS AROUND FEST, TOURS THE USA IN SPRING AND SUMMER, AND YOUR BIRTHDAY PARTY!

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Erik Roldan writesAn Interview With Kerthy Fix, Co-Director of Strange Powers, a Documentary About The Magnetic Fields

In the year 2000, Kerthy Fix, co-director and producer of Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields, joined Gail O’hara in documenting live performances, rehearsals, and interviewing the band. A decade later, Fix would finally be able to premiere the documentary at South By Southwest Film Festival 2010. This started an international screening schedule, and Chicago will finally get two chances to see the film at the Gene Siskel Film Center on January 15th and 20th.

Fix, obviously a big fan, says that following the band for 10 years revealed many layers of Merritt’s process and interpersonal relationships. A large portion of the film’s focus is on the relationship between Merritt and friend, band-manager and creative muse Claudia Gonson.

“Claudia helps bring him to his audience,” she says. “It’s her creative-management genius and friendship with him that allows his music to reach his audience. I felt like they were really working in tandem and their relationship itself was so fascinating – I haven’t seen this type of ‘gay man/ fag hag’ 20-year friendship profiled anywhere.”

“I thought that was an interesting thing to profile in pop music – what are the relationships and process in making this kind of work? He’s known Claudia since he was 14. Things happen in the film where you are not sure if their relationship is going to withstand the changes. He’s very reserved, and Claudia’s very outgoing and emotionally open and really funny. She kind of functions like the heart of the film because I think she’s the heart of the band.”

Having once interviewed Stephin Merritt myself, and eventually commiserating with my fellow journalists about what a hard time we had doing so, the concept of Merritt allowing someone to follow him around with a camera for ten years seems almost implausible. “He’s doesn’t plug in well to the 20 minute interview,” Fix says. “It’s sort of required as a musician – you put out a record, you go on tour (which Stephin doesn’t like to do) and you have to do a million interviews and answer the same questions over and over.”

“Stephin’s much better when you engage him on a topic. I remember the very first question for the very first interview I did with him, I was very nervous. And he has this habit of pausing for a really long time before he answers a question, but he’s actually formulating the answer to the question before he says it because he’s so thoughtful. So, I ask him what he’s reading, like as a warm up question. And he pauses for a long time and I’m getting more nervous, and he says ‘What can I say that I’m reading right now? Because I don’t want to tell you what I’m actually reading because I’m writing an opera about it.’ He pauses again and then says ‘Oh! I like your shoes.’”

“He knows that he’s making me nervous but he knows that complimenting my shoes will put me at ease and give him time to think. And we put that segment at the front of the film because it’s kind of symptomatic as to how he’s misread. He’s just not great for the quick sound-bite. He’s great if you want to hang out and talk about any kind of music or film or books. People in the press who interview him, what do you get? You get 20 minutes of this excruciating arrangement which will end badly. And so he gets this reputation of being difficult, which is not really justified. When you see the film, you’ll see a different side of him.”

Press materials for any of Stephin Merritt’s recordings usually contain the name “Cole Porter” and a statement about how in the future, Merritt’s catalogue will be revered as iconic, standard American pop music. But why not now? Why isn’t a new Magnetic Fields record greeted with reverence for a living legend in the same way that a new Bruce Springsteen record is?

“Yeah, he has an outsider status, I think,” Fix says. “He writes from different points of view. The album Distortion was written from the point of view of an overweight Midwestern housewife. He writes from these different perspectives, and as human beings, we all have that kind of shifting persona.”

“We are asked by our culture to lock down on a solid persona but the internal experience is much more complicated. As a straight white woman, I might feel like a gay man inside. Or someone who’s black and likes country music might not feel culturally comfortable with the Black Panther kids he grew up with in the ’70s and feel like an outsider.”

“There’s all kinds of different ways to feel like an outsider, and I think in that way, Stephin’s writing from different characters and different points of view is very much of our time. But in terms of mainstream success, are the most important artists the most popular? I don’t know if that’s a criteria. He makes a living off of his music – but it’s an artisanal craft like a fine wine or a fine cheese. Do you want to eat Kraft American Cheese? Probably not. I think he’s right where he wants to be situated. He’s influential without being popular.”

Kerthy Fix will be hosting a preview of the documentary at Stardust on Thursday, January 13th at Berlin Nightclub, 954 West Belmont Avenue. Co-presented by CHIRP Radio and featuring CHIRP DJ Erik Roldan and special guest DJ Kim Ann Foxman (of Hercules and Love Affair), the event goes from 9pm to 4am, $7 cover.

Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields screens at The http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/">Gene Siskel Film Center on January 15th at 8:00 pm and January 20th at 8:30 pm.

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Topics: interview

Erik Roldan writesCHIRP + Coach House Sounds Session with Rabble Rabble

Seeing “Jailbait” and “Bangover” listed as the names of two available singles by Chicago quartet Rabble Rabble, you start to get a sense of their intentions. Low-end Stooges sleeze with a yelpy punker in the front and reverbed psychedelia in the back give this heavy rock a mature swagger.

This summer, Rabble Rabble recorded a session with Coach House Sounds and the result was an amplification of their vinyl-friendly bass, warmth only an analog recording could bring out. The band insisted on democratic answers to my interview questions; below is their group effort.

Rabble Rabble’s CHIRP and Coach House Sounds Live session is streamable at coachhousesounds.com starting Tuesday, November 9th!

What the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in a basement?

We were doing a photo shoot for our album at Ottoman Empire (R.I.P) over the summer and they had a show the previous night so the basement was still pretty trashed. One of the bands that played had a giant cardboard/plastic vagina as a prop that was sitting in a corner and was covered in olive oil (yes, olive oil) to create a “wet” visual effect.

Being the young, innovative, individuals that we are, we all climbed into this giant wet vagina and did a Beatles-esque stack-up. It was pretty gross. Those pictures might not surface for awhile… Also Salvia…

Tell me about a coach you had as a child. What did you learn from them?

Rabble Rabble never went to school. We all coach each other and help each other out when we’re having life or other problems. Got have each others backs in a band like this, you never know when a fight is gonna break out.

For instance, we played at Mortville in January and there were some crust punks that were starting some shit with us. They were trying to grab our microphones and getting all up in our shit when Matt started strangling one of them and fighting him.

Kaylee saw what was going on and got out from behind her drums and started fighting these punks too and then Ralph and Todd joined in. It was an all out Band Vs. Audience brawl for a minute.

What do you like about Chicago, and what makes it special to you?

Chicago is a city of diversity. If you get sick of hanging out in Wicker Park getting wasted at the Flat Iron with a bunch of post-art school cats, then go to Pilsen and get mugged. Now that you don’t have a wallet, go to Lincoln park and peddle outside of the Pita Pit so you can get enough money to catch the 74 bus back to your apartment in Logan Square. Safe and sound!

Never a dull moment. Keeps you tired at the end of every day. Plus the sense of camaraderie and general love that is developing in the music community is a breath of fresh air compared to New York or L.A.

Tell me about your CHS session—what did you like about it? Was there anything that surprised you or was spontaneous that came out in the recording?

We recorded our set sometime in June just before Radar Eyes did. It was brutally hot. In fact it might have been one of the sweatiest one hour periods of our lives, and we have played many a sweaty basement shows. That day was exceptional hot however.

Also, our session includes two songs that at the time happen to be very new. “Why Not” and “Long Hook”. We are quite certain that both songs have grown a lot since then but it’ll be nice to hear the early stages of our first steps into new territory after recording our first LP “Bangover.”

What’s happening? What are your current/upcoming shows or releases?

We are doing a radio program on December 15th for Vocalo 89.5 FM. Then we have the Chicago Music Blogger Showcase at the Sub-T with White Mystery, Hollows and Radar Eyes on December 18th. That’s all that’s confirmed as of now. But we may be doing a few out of town gigs and a DIY space or two. November is gonna be filled with a lot of experimentation and new song writing.

As for releases, we are actually gonna release a full studio-recorded single of those two new songs that are on the CHS session, “Why Not” and “Long Hook” sometime early next year. We are also hard at work on new material for our next album and things are sounding EPIC!

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Topics: coach house sounds, interview

Erik Roldan writesA Conversation With John Bellows

John Bellows is Chicago singer-songwriter working in the Jeff Mangum school of honesty, throwing in some self-deprecating humor to keep him grounded. His MySpace page contains the blurb “In transcendent moments of performance, I give back the energy that the audience gives to me in the flavor of raspberry truffle Godiva ice cream, and everyone in the room eats it up. Except for the people the don’t like ice cream, which is rare.”

While working in humor to his presentation, Bellows is obviously serious about his music – he’s got an LP out on Moniker Records and has two upcoming shows in October – The Turning Fork Supper Club on the 7th and Cafe Mustache on the 15th.

Earlier this Summer, John went over to Coach House Sounds and recorded a live session – CHIRP DJs will be spinning highlights from the session all week in anticipation of its release this coming Tuesday, October 12th, over at coachhousesounds.com.

What the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in a basement?

Envisioned myself as a famous, revolutionary rock star just for “being myself.” I was alone.

Tell me about a coach you had as a child. What did you learn from them?

I had a coach that looked like Abraham Lincoln in 8th grade. We had to do 40 push ups one day and as I rounded 35, he ran over and cheered me on up to the 40th. I learned that I had endurance in the face of hardship.

Describe a scenario where John Bellows could be someone’s life coach and the top 2 life lessons you’d teach them.

How to cook your own meals. And once for a week, I “band coached” 5 kids how to play Smells Like Teen Spirit. Those two things did a lot for my life!

What do you like about Chicago, and what makes it special to you?

Da’ Rent! I afford many luxuries in Chicago (groceries, shelter/studio, beer) with very little spending. Plus, it’s flat, and you can easily bike all over.

Tell me about your CHS session—what did you like about it? Was there anything that surprised you or was spontaneous that came out in the recording?

I get nervous when I’m being recorded cause it’s a moment set in stone. That’s one reason why I home record so much… so I can capture the appropriate mental state. But the Coach House has a stellar environment with plenty of mood lighting and I think that made for some warm recordings. Then biking on my way home, my pocket called Matt on the phone over 20 times!

What’s happening? What are your current/upcoming shows or releases?

I just purged 6 angry songs a few days ago. All written on bass guitar. I hope to purge 6 more and make an album called Verse Chorus DIE! Or maybe I could write six happy songs and call it Songs of Love and Hate.

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Topics: interview

Erik Roldan writesA Conversation With Kid Static

Kid Static (born Moses Harris) recently moved from Chicago to Los Angeles but still maintains the many connections he made while living here. While in the Midwest, he recorded two albums with producer Yea Big and put together a spontaneous, outdoor hip hop party with Mr. Tastees called Pop Up Jam. He recently collaborated with Chicago DJ’s The Hood Internet and released an eponymous single titled The Hood Internet and Kid Static 7” out on Whistler Records.

Kid Static, always busy, always warm and personable, took his loop pedal and rhymes to Coach House Sounds and recorded seven tracks to analog. Read all about the partnership between CHS and CHIRP here, and tune in to CHIRP all week for exclusive preview streams of Kid Static’s CHS session before it goes live at www.coachhousesounds.com on Tuesday, September 21st.

What the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in a basement?
Define dumbest. I’ve done some pretty crazy things in basements but noone got hurt or died so I’m not sure if the dumb classification fits. I guess setting things on fire in the basement when I was a kid was pretty dumb.

Tell me about a coach you had as a child. What did you learn from them?
In high school I had a swim coach that was way too attractive to be the coach of a boys swim team. What did I learn from her? I learned that teenagers hitting on teachers only works at schools I don’t go to.

Describe a scenario where Kid Static could be someone’s life coach and the top 2 life lessons you’d teach them.
Don’t you have to have your own life figured out before you coach someone else? Cause ummm I don’t really know s**t about s**t. I can’t imagine a situation that would end with me being a life coach.

What’s your favorite of the 5 senses? (touch, smell, hearing, taste, site) When has one of your senses played a joke on you or other wised tripped you up?
By nature of what I do, I’m a really big fan of hearing. My senses are finely tuned instruments, the only time they trip me up is when thouroughly muted with intoxicating beverages. Is balance a sense?

Describe your favorite room in a house and tell me why it’s your favorite.
My living room. That’s where my drums are. I’m a fan of rocking out and watching really bad cinema. I’m talking Conan the Barbarian. I’m talking Tim Allen movies. There is nothing so horrible I won’t watch it.

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Topics: interview

Nicole Oppenheim: Ear Candy writesSwine Rising: The Court of King Pignacious Comes to Viaduct Theater

Ever dream of leaving the workaday world behind and liberating yourself from corporate control? Or have you ever wanted to put some of your life experiences to music, but it didn’t quite work out the way you’d envisioned? How about experiencing two full weeks of eating nothing but the best BBQ in the world? I sat down with Dave Smith to talk about these and other issues.

Mr. Smith is the author of “King Pignacious: A Swine’s Rise to Power,” a not-quite-rock-opera, decidedly multimedia entertainment extravaganza which chronicles a war between humans and pigs where pigs try to expose the hypocrisy of the for-profit health system and show average humans how their lives are being ruined by healthcare conglomerates and big business.

“King Pignacious: A Swine’s Rise to Power” has its third and final show at the Viaduct Theater this Saturday, September 11. The show starts at 9:30pm and the opening act is Fluid Minds. A portion of the sales will go to benefit CHIRP.

CHIRP: How did you come up with the idea for “King Pignacious?”

DS: The multimedia production that eventually became “King Pignacious” was a direct result of a two week trip I took to Tennessee a couple of years ago. I was looking for the world’s best BBQ and was told it was in this one specific area of Tennessee. I decided while I was there to travel around, sample as much BBQ as I could, and to make a documentary about my trip.

When I got home, I was working with Jeff Kowlakowski (Jeff plays keyboards in “King Pignacious”) and we wrote a song called “Tennessee” as theme music for the documentary. Basically, I never stopped writing music for my imagined documentary. Eventually, what I had was the beginnings of the rock opera/multimedia experience that became “King Pignacious.”

CHIRP: So it started initially as a celebration of barbecue?

DS: (laughs) Yeah, I guess you could say that. Although along the way, it morphed into something with political and social themes. The history of BBQ becomes very important. There’s a war between humans and pigs and the audience learns that BBQ actually came about because humans were torturing captive POW pigs by slowly roasting them and then eating them. Hence the slogan “Low and Slow” that you hear throughout the show.

CHIRP: Interesting. BBQ as torture. Are you a vegetarian?

DS: Surprisingly not. I still love BBQ.

CHIRP: I have to ask about any possible “Animal Farm” connection. The pigs and the political overtones—it seems very reminiscent of the book.

DS: Yeah, we all read that one in high school, but there’s no connection. King Pignacious and his Merry Swine try to liberate humans, not subvert other farm animals. So I guess he’s kind of a Marxist, but he’s no Trotsky.

CHIRP: Who exactly is King Pignacious?

DS: King Pignacious is not modeled after any specific character; rather, the character was inspired by the lyrics I wrote when I got back from Tennessee. It just seemed right to make him the leader of a revolution. As far as looks go, he’s kind of modeled on my English Bulldog.

CHIRP: Have you written any other shows like “King Pignacious” before?

DS: No. This is definitely my most ambitious project to date.

CHIRP: Tell me about the writing process.

DS: I wrote all of the songs myself, and recorded rough demos of the vocals and piano accompaniment. I played these tapes for people I was interested in working with and asked them to comment. Some people were excited about the project, others were not. Some were actually offended that I’d asked them to take part in something so “silly.” But those who were interested in the tapes are the people you see on stage in the show.

We’re all established musicians and we’re trying to do what we do and have fun in the process. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the audience, so I think those who joined the cast made a good decision.

CHIRP: You said that the cast is comprised of professional musicians. Have you played together before? Do you play the same style of music? How did the other musicians’ backgrounds influence the sound of “King Pignacious?”

DS: Some of us have played together before—mostly in jazz bands. But we all certainly knew each other before the show began. The Chicago music scene isn’t that big. We play a large variety of music in the show. There are about fourteen to fifteen songs and they run the gamut as far as genre goes. There’s punk, reggae, jazz, blues, country, pop, etc.

I was definitely inspired by “Joe’s Garage” by Frank Zappa, at least in the initial phases of writing. But in the show, all of the songs are different and we even have multiple singers. Improv is a big part of it.

CHIRP: So there’s no guarantee it will be the same show every night?

DS: Exactly. We wanted to make it kind of like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book for the audience. What the audience reacts most to is what we play up. Plus, the show itself has evolved with time. For instance, I even added a song called “H1N1”. As the show keeps evolving, I hope people will come back and see it again because it really won’t be the same show they saw six months or even three months ago.

CHIRP: With the improvisation and the multimedia experience, would you say that “King Pignacious” is a little jarring to the senses?

DS: Well, we wanted it to be as over the top as possible. There’s a giant pig’s face that images are projected onto from multiple projectors, while at the same time, the pig’s eyes are old school television tubes that play other images. And we kind of mess with the images in the pig’s eyes using magnets to warp the picture and sound. Obviously, there’s music. There’s narration. There are sound effects. The experience could be considered jarring, but that’s kind of the goal. And it’s not jarring in a negative way. Like I said, we’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from the audience.

CHIRP: So now that you’ve written and are performing your first multimedia show, what are your future plans?

DS: I want to construct my own city of pigs. Not actual pigs, but pigs as they are portrayed in “King Pignacious.” People who are tired of corporations running everything in their lives. People who want to live off the grid. People who are tired of dealing with “The Man,” as it were.

CHIRP: Where would you build this city? Could anyone live there?

DS: Sure, anyone could live there, but at first it would probably just be the band and their loved ones. It would probably be out somewhere in Wyoming or Montana. Someplace without a lot of people. Actually, I think Montana would be best. It’s a much prettier natural environment. Wyoming is too desolate.

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Topics: interview

Erik Roldan writesA Conversation With Sam Amidon

Sam Amidon is an experimental folk artist. His newest album I See the Sign has been praised for its unique interpretations of traditional folk songs. The album was produced and recorded by Valgeir Sigurdsson and features contributions from Shahzad Ismaily, Nico Muhly, and Beth Orton. Performing this Friday at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Sam took some time to answer some questions for CHIRP Radio.

You were born in Vermont but have been living in New York City, still making folk music. What’s folky about New York City?

New York City is like 40 little teeny villages off in the mountains all piled up on top of each other. A Village-Tower.

What do you see is the relationship between traditional folk (choirs, untreated guitar, vocal groups, etc.) and the recording studio? Is there a conflict with what you grew up with and technology?

No, because my sense of traditional folk has a lot more to do with what the songs are and how people interact with them, not so much what the sound of folk music is. The significance of technology in folk music is way more about how it affected the way people heard and learned and shared music. So the main thing is that once radio was invented, you didn’t need to play music in order to hear it.

And the other thing about it is that it took memory and its attendant faults out of the process. So with music that was learned by ear and not written down, i.e. folk music, the songs were created through this wonderful series of accidents and forgotten verses, which is less true now that you can go back and check the recording.

Your new album has been praised for its reinterpretations of other people’s songs. Can you respond to that? Was making these songs something else intentional? If so, how do you go about recreating something like that? Can you talk about one song in specific that you are most proud of and why?

The main thing about the folksongs is that they are not “other people’s songs,” they are songs that are slowly created by many people over time, including whoever is singing them at the moment. I do tend to change them around, and partially that’s to make them more personal, but in a way I don’t stress about that too much – if I realize I just prefer singing the song as I learned it, there’s nothing wrong with that.

But sometimes I work backwards – I will write a guitar part or some chord changes, and then realize that a folk melody will fit on top, or won’t quite fit, but that’s nice too.

R. Kelly has, despite his dubious personal life, remained revered in both pop and indie circles. On your new album, you cover his song “Relief.” What about him appeals to you? What about that particular song?

He’s the most prolific and most insane and most melodic songwriter of the decade! I guess that would make him our Bob Dylan. And if he is our Bob Dylan, then that is his “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

How are you dealing with the changing landscape of the music industry? Have there been any particular things you used to do that you can’t anymore? In general, are the way things are changing good for you?

Well, the Internet has made it much easier for my music to be flung farther afield – because of that I was able to start traveling to Europe much sooner than I would have otherwise, I think. And anything that results in traveling to far-fung places is good!

What were the last three records you purchased or downloaded?

“Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares, Vol. 2”; John Coltrane, “Ascension,” The-Dream, “Love King.”

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Topics: interview

Erik Roldan writesWOXY will be missed

Sometime on Monday, March 23rd WOXY’s front page splashed the sad news. “Due to current economic realities and the lack of ongoing funding for WOXY’s operations, we’ve been forced to suspend our live broadcasts as of March 23rd.” The initial shock was quickly tempered by remembering that WOXY has had its fair share of trouble over the last six years. Since 2004 the internet-only radio station has been sold three times, each sale followed by uncertainty and finally saved by private investors. WOXY, as a mid-sized media outlet struggling with the changing landscape of distribution, is just one of many companies constantly needing to reevaluate its model in order to sustain itself.

Founded in 1983 by Doug and Linda Balogh, 97.7FM benefited from a powerful signal (3,000 watts according to Programming Director Mike Taylor) and its proximity to college campuses in Cincinnati, Ohio. Around 1998, it began its slow journey into cyber space, streaming its programming as an experiment. Finally nearing retirement age, after years of refusing generous offers, Doug and Linda Balogh sold the broadcast license in 2004. The terms of the sale made sure to keep “97X,” the station’s vast musical library and its tagline “The Future of Rock ‘N Roll.” The mom and pop owners hinted at their hope of radio by keeping the brand and within a short time, WOXY was saved by an anonymous source, what business culture refers to as “angel investors.” The sale and new ownership prompted a move to Oxford, Ohio and with that, it became an internet only radio station with live DJ’s hand-picking the music and hosting the air shifts. Not only was this a radical move for an established institution, it was further cemented into the media history books by its success. With a considerably smaller budget than other, larger webcasts, 97X is considered on par with household names like KEXP and The Current. “KEXP and The Current have six times the budget that we do. We never had the equity, resources or access of stations like that but we are still equated with them,” says Taylor, who has been an employee of WOXY for 20 years.

Two years later in 2006, over objections from the staff, WOXY moved to a subscription based model, where listeners would pay in order to listen. This was an attempt to offset increasing budget deficits and operating costs, but the switch proved temporary. “The online audience was tremendous at first, and it peaked eight or nine months after the switch. Unfortunately, I saw a steady decline in listener numbers from then on,” says Taylor. He says the falling numbers only got worse, “Subscription drove away the majority of the listeners.” That happened in early 2006, by August the pay-to-stream idea had failed. Once again WOXY had to close its doors and its future was uncertain.

The late 2000’s not only saw the beginnings of an embrace of online media by historical outlets, but witnessed internet upstarts taking risks. Lala.com, a streaming music subscription service, itself just coming out of its invite-only beta testing, purchased WOXY in September 2006. It could have been seen as an early adopting strategy by an edgy company further moving the music industry in the right direction, however, the reality was not that great. “There was an attempt at starting a blog, but the efforts were not as strong as they should have been,” says Taylor. Meanwhile, the frontline DJ’s and programmers strove to integrate new media into their product, but their bosses were hesitant. “The problem was not the product, but the delivery. A solely online identity with live DJ’s – I don’t know if there’s an audience for that. Online listening to anything that is not Pandora, is skewed older, while cutting edge music skews younger. WOXY, which cuts that difference…there is a disconnect there.” Taylor, being a broadcast veteran continues, “There has to be a larger scope with additional content, a one-stop place, and DJ’s hand picking music for a stream, I’m not sure if there is an audience for that. “

Still, a brand with a loyal audience, strong name recognition and a deep library of music should be able to thrive. Joe Long, a DJ at WOXY for three and a half years, loves the idea of curating for his listeners and thinks WOXY’s live, subjective format takes a little longer to warm up to, but is rewarding. “With the growth of technology and blogs for example, music is readily available to the consumer and allows them many options. People can listen to almost anything they want, whenever and wherever they choose. Because of this, in order to stand, you have to gain peoples trust with your recommendations and with your voice. Once you do that, they will be back for more.” Ali McDonald, a club DJ and former WOXY listener, confirms that. “I listened to it during the day while I worked at my computer. The music was consistently good. At the time my other primary online music source was the WFMU stream but my interest in listening to WFMU would change depending on which show was on. I knew with WOXY, however, that I could listen at any time.” No longer able to listen at work, McDonald as found other ways to find new music. “These days, I learn about music primarily from blogs and recommendations from friends. I really like it when websites compile their new music into an embedded music player, like RCRD LBL and Pitchfork.” It’s this time gap, the amount of seconds it takes to click out of one window and on to the next to get to what you want, that all media is struggling to fight. It literally takes a couple of seconds, but that difference is what will make or break any new company. Currently, Pitchfork uses Lala.com as its embedded music player for all its album reviews.

The most recent purchase of WOXY by Future Sounds Inc, was intentional in its attempt at bringing a throw-back distribution model like live, human-curated radio to younger audiences. Lala.com, while saving 97X from evaporating, did not force any changes or help WOXY succeed. Link exchanges to purchase music heard on the station directly seemed to be the only tangible difference, and in early 2009, Future Sounds, Inc . purchased the company. However, this transaction was done with the intent on making huge relocation and repositioning changes. Based in Los Angeles, Future Sounds manages bands and promotes events. John Mascarenhas is currently in charge of handling business between FSI and WOXY. “Future Sounds is a media company whose prime focus is giving small and unsigned acts mass distribution. We had a radio show [on WOXY] that focused on those acts.” The established partnership and vision to expand WOXY’s audience made making changes an easy decision. “The goal was to move WOXY to a stronger market where they could have more access to touring artists, the ability to sponsor/present more shows, create more original content (lounge acts) that could then be syndicated across the web. Austin was a perfect fit because the local music scene is dominated by ‘indie’ music and you have two major festivals (SxSW and ACL) annually that bring great artists directly to our doorstep….not to mention a robust local music scene that does not get the coverage it deserves.”

A move from Ohio to Texas was ambitious, but Joe Long thinks it’s still a good idea. “When we moved to Austin the city really embraced us. We moved into a great space in a great location and had our sights set on taking everything up a notch. Nothing changed about what we did, except we had two more competent full timers to help make it happen. The intentions were excellent but in the end it was the lack of funding that held us back.”

Despite the setbacks of starting over three times and facing flash changes in the music industry, WOXY and radio still have their devoted followers. Zachary Hersche is 23 years old and made a mini-documentary about WOXY in 2007 (video embedded at the end of the article). “There is a whole lot to like about WOXY. The DJs love what they are doing and I have been turned onto band’s I have never heard before because WOXY played it. I think radio still matters to a lot of people. Radio stations are realizing they need to take advantage of technology and are finding new ways to advertise besides audio commercials. Radio, newspapers, magazines, and TV stations all do it. WOXY is different though. They do their job because they love it. They are playing the music they love, unlike corporate radio that only cares about money, not the music they play.”

The latest bout of dead air could be just another one of the company’s temporary closures. The staff I spoke to all allude to current negotiations being made and they all have a hopeful attitude. Mike Taylor, despite being exhausted by all the changes, wants to see something happen. “I would never count this place out. In my opinion, the structure of what we do needs to change. The brand is strong, admired and loved but can’t continue to exist the way we’ve been doing business. The recent owners had good ideas but didn’t have the plan or the resources to enact that plan.” In our conversation, Taylor inquires about CHIRP, and when I confirm we are all volunteers, he seems validated. “I wouldn’t do this without getting paid and my colleagues wouldn’t. I’m compensated for a well crafted, well done product, and it’s our owner’s responsibility to get it out there.” Macscarenhas from Future Sounds, Inc., confirms this, “WOXY will be back on the air soon…there are too many people that love the station whom are already working on our behalf to make that a reality.”

In the meantime, a cursory search on Twitter.com for #woxy finds many results, from people lamenting its current state to those promoting their own streaming broadcast. What you won’t see is a public that will settle for inconvenience. An all encompassing, one-stop place for music and information has yet to bubble to the top, but we are trying. When looking for music to spin, Ali McDonald, aka DJ Reaganomix, isn’t going to wait. “One of my favorite things about internet based radio stations as opposed to traditional radio stations that stream online is that DJs don’t talk as much, and so it’s less talk more rock.” If the audience won’t wait, then the eventual king of its distribution shouldn’t either. Here’s to counting the seconds.

WOXY DOC from Zachary Herche on Vimeo.

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Topics: industry, interview

Erik Roldan writesPavement Group - Chicago’s Theatre Punks (an Interview with Pavement Group’s Artistic Director)

David Perez is a Mexican-American living, breathing and loving theatre life in Chicago. Since 2006, Perez, along with several friends and collaborators, have been growing their company, Pavement Group with the intention of doing something different. As Artistic Director, Perez has used alternative loft spaces and stages, tackled sex, friendship and punk music for larger and larger audiences. In fact, the exposure has been so good that for their 2008 presentation of Lipstick Traces at the AV-aerie, opening night was shut down by the police and the run had to be completed speakeasy-style, with large signs on the front door that read “CANCELLED” and a suspicious looking person directing you to go around the back. Such is life in Chicago when you are trailblazing punk-rock theatre for independent-minded folks, I suppose. I emailed David to ask him a few questions about their current production punkplay, his love of music and being different in a city full of thespians. punkplay is a Steppenwolf Visiting Company Initiative and runs through Sunday April 25, 2010 in the Garage Theatre. On Saturday, March 27th people who attend punkplay are invited to a post-curtain celebration in the theatre with cast members, complimentary food, beverages and CHIRP DJ Mike Gibson spinning his picks of the best in punk, post-punk and hardcore.

Tickets are available at steppenwolf.org or by calling the box office at (312) 335-1650. Read on for the interview…

Erik Roldan: What is punk about theatre?

David Perez: Theatre at its best forces an audience to reorganize themselves around their taste and humanity. Good theatre can enrage you, revolt you, and inspire you to participate in your humanity. A good piece of music unlocks a conversation with yourself, and I think theatre is the same. I get the same rush reading a great play as I did the first time I heard Pixies “Doolittle.” And then there is the assumed vow of poverty. Really, we are all broke.

ER: punkplay is Pavement Group’s 2nd play about punk rock. Why have you chosen to tackle this subject again?

DP: Well firstly – we wanted a play that was in direct (or indirect) conversation with Lipstick Traces – a companion piece of sorts. We are fascinated and curious about culture and how we augment it – replicate it – assign it in ways to activate our lives. I think “punk” and music in general serve as a great point of entry into our generation’s humanity. As a demographic raised by TV – especially MTV, music serves as a way to anchor ourselves in memory and identity. While Lipstick Traces argued punk as an impulse and a vehicle into finding some sort of genuine interaction with the world around us, punkplay argues the genre as an identity system – a tarnished relic of what used to be – a total negation of the purity of the movement. The play is almost anti-punk in the way it warns us about the frailty of trying to assign our selves identity with fashion. The play tells us to go out into the world and be the people who we are supposed to be. Very punk. While both plays use punk as a point of entry, Lipstick Traces explores the intellectual implications of the movement, punkplay ponders the deeply personal and emotional territory.

ER: What is Pavement Group doing in Chicago that is different from other theater companies?

DP: This is an awesome question…and one we ask ourselves a ton. We founded on the new plays platform, but the second prong of our mission, the one I feel that gives us our unique brand, is that we speak directly to a non-theatre audience. I mean, you are reading this interview on the CHIRP website – not exactly the main line theatre environment. Our audience is comprised of folks who see two plays a year – and they are Pavement Group plays. Our core demographic usually uses their spending power on live music etc. We are proud to be changing peoples minds about the form.

ER: You’re still a relatively young company, and yet you’ve already partnered with About Face Theater and Steppenwolf. Tell me about your experience so far in Chicago and what your plans are for the future.

DP: Well were really fucking lucky. Steppenwolf has given us a tremendous opportunity this year, and given the PG founders are former Steppenwolf apprentices, were pretty happy to see this dream come true. AFT under the brilliant leadership of Bonnie Metzgar has really taken on the mission to engage the theatre community in ferocious conversation with the XYZ Festival, which we were thrilled to be a part of.

We are also lucky enough to be part of the unofficial league of itinerant theatre companies. Our friendship/sharing of resources with Sinnerman Ensemble, Theater 7, and 13 Pocket have really given us hope and pride in this community.

We are proud to be a Chicago Theatre. Lets not mince words: Fuck New York. Chicago is where the energy is put into the work, not into the orbiting egos around the work. We are lucky enough to be part of a collective pool of energy that supports and encourages discourse, regardless if your haircut and lack of a trust fund.

The future … well … let just say stay tuned. We have some very exciting news we want to share, but can’t just yet.

ER: Tell me your last 7 music downloads/purchases. What is your current favorite jam and why?

DP: The rest:

  1. Pavement – Quarantine The Past – Well, lets get real – I am huge Pavement fan so I of course just bought Matador’s Greatest Hits Comp. Awesome. Huge pavement dork. Clearly I am stupid-excited about Pitchfork.
  2. SHAPERSLittle, Big – I am biased, as the folks in the band our friends, but this album is my favorite purchase of the year. Seriously … progressive and haunting. Features members of May Or May Not, and The Hood Internet. This album irritates my coworkers because I play it so much
  3. Girls – Album – So obsessed. Its like if Jan and Dean were homos.
  4. Amen Dunes – Dia
  5. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
  6. Eric Satie – Piano Music – When I want to pretend I am smarter then I am
  7. Lotus Plaza – The Floodlight Collective

As for a jam. Totally not new, but I can not stop listening to Band of Horses “The Great Salt Lake.” I am a sucker for some nostalgia-anthemic-lonely boy music. I also am a Seattle transplant, and was a huge fan of their previous incarnation (Carissa’s Wierd). Life is all about changes for me right now…so anything that is unearthing the past and moving boldly into the future has a place on my ipod.

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Mike Scales writesArtist Spotlight: Why?

(Photo by Jacob Hand)

On their fourth official full-length effort, Eskimo Snow, Oakland’s beloved psychedelic folk-hoppers WHY? take a decidedly less hip-hop approach to their song-writing. Recorded during the 2007 sessions that birthed Alopecia, the band’s last, more robust and rap-inspired record, the 10-song set reveals a lighter and more spacious side of WHY? – songs that feel more like “song-songs” according to frontman Yoni Wolf.

“Eskimo Snow is intentionally what it is I suppose,” the singer/rapper cryptically states in a chat with CHIRP. “But [it’s] not like we said before we made it, ‘let’s make an album that is not rap’ or anything like that. It’s just what we happened to come up with.”

The more live and stripped-down feel on Eskimo Snow was no doubt made possible in part by session players Andrew Broder and Mark Erickson of the Minneapolis-based outfit Fog who rounded out the band to 5 members in the studio. The two longtime collaborators and friends of WHY? will also be joining them on the road this time around and the whole band is doing what they do to prepare the 40+ date trek which will include stops in Australia and New Zealand. “The Fog boys are most definitely in tow in a big way, they are sounding strong; sounding super!” Wolf enthuses. “Of course, we’ve rehearsed an awful lot for the tour. And between rehearsals Broder likes to jump rope, Josiah [Wolf, Yoni’s brother and drummer] likes to work on this house (today he was putting up insulation) and the rest of us…do other stuff I guess.”

“Other stuff” for Yoni meant recently lending his consuming and reviewing skills to TheYoundAndHungry.com with his version of a New York vegan restaurant review. “Though I was extremely busy, my friend Jena asked me to write that,” he admits. “She’s the kind of very attractive woman you find it hard to say no to. So, I did it and I’m glad I did! It was a lot of fun and I could see myself starting a whole new career. I am surely a big fan of food.”

In true WHY? fashion, cooking up another uniquely awesome record called for another batch of unique and awesome album art. To help him flesh-out the many ideas he had for the look of the album, Yoni enlisted the help of photographer Phoebe Streblow and layout artist Sam Flax Keener. The resulting image utilizes paint, photography and collage and vividly depicts a mummy figure with a bouquet of flowers for a head and an eerily lit purple wall for a backdrop. “It is my favorite WHY? cover so far,” Yoni says. “It took me a long long time (months) to come to this idea after having so many others, but I think things finally came together. I had a lot of help from my friends on it.”

As one of the founding members of the anticon collective, Yoni Wolf knows all too well the value of a supportive group of forward-thinking friends. Although some of the crew have branched out to other bands and labels, anticon remains thick as thieves and has injected some young blood (in the form of Serengeti & Polyphonic, Tobacco and Anathallo) to help keep the operation afloat. “I love all those guys,” he says of the label’s rookie acts. “They probably wouldn’t be a part of the label if I felt differently. We are doing quite a few shows with Chicago’s own Serengeti & Polyphonic [on this tour] and we’ve toured with Anathallo (also a Chicago band) and Tobacco in the near past. I’m very much looking forward to the future of anticon.”

Why? is playing tomorrow night (Oct. 5th) at the Bottom Lounge

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Topics: artist spotlight, interview

CHIRP DJ writesAn interview with Ma Dukes

Putting J-Dilla’s fifteen year career into perspective is like trying to contextualize Michael Jordan’s impact on Chicago, Nike and the NBA. It’s an insurmountable task really, and while I was preparing for my interview with Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, mother to Dilla and executive producer of the Jay Stay Paid album, I couldn’t help but wonder what more can be asked that hasn’t been asked already? Better yet, how do you address Dilla’s life and death with a mother, who is now suffering at the hands of the same debilitating disease that took the life of her son just three short years ago? In the brief hour long interview Mrs. Yancey managed to set me at ease by answering my questions in ways that left me informed, inspired and believing that the rhythm that traveled through Dilla is something that is inherently born in all of us. Sure it’s difficult to believe that the average joe, music producer or not, could actually share something in common with arguably the greatest beatsmith of all time, but believe me it’s true. It was as much tragic as it was touching, and a feeling best summarized by Ma Dukes herself, “Love is the strongest thing in the world and it ties all of us together, and I don’t care who we are or what we are about we all can be changed and touched by love”.

Since James’ passing, you seemed to have inherited a lot of attention-some good, some bad-have you had time to sit back and let everything digest? Have you had time to mourn?

I just began to realize this year that I didn’t mourn, but I do have a broken heart. At my home there are pictures everywhere [laughs], it’s like a museum here, on all walls, on every shelf, on top of the TV, anything that moves and even on my bed-stand is Dilla. So I have pictures of Dilla in every capacity, and it helps me because I talk to these pictures at times. I just realized how difficult it can be, I do have a broken heart. We were like one because I was with him for the last couple years, but I didn’t mourn because of the suffering he had, and because he had so much music here. I have a confidant because my husband and I get in the car and we put on some of his music and it just makes us feel real good. We talk about things and feel better, so no, I haven’t mourned.

His spirit is till resonating.

It is! And the way it has affected them is that they share.

Dilla’s passing helped shine a light on Lupus, a disease that you’re now battling. Could you tell me a little bit about the disease and what a typical day is like for you?

A typical day…it’s random you never know what to expect [laughs]. It’s an autoimmune disease. A cold wind blows or you turn the wrong way, and then you end up with a bad flu. And even though they can use a flu or pneumonia shot you’re still susceptible to just about anything. I don’t go out much in night- air because I know crazy things can happen, and because I have rheumatoid arthritis. I have a severe case of that, and it’s sort of like in the same family but I cannot distinguish when I’m being attacked by that or Lupus. That was the cause of the heart attack I had in December, not anything Lupus related, but the rheumatoid arthritis aggravated that. One would think it would never affect the heart, but I’m finding that it happens often. So I had to learn to thank God, and I really paid attention to my diet after that. So I do a cardiac diet as a rule, and I don’t really go too far because I have to really think about what it is I do. Life with lupus is hard because so many things come into play. The medicine I take, it’s meant to treat Cancer, and it kills bad cells, but in the process it also kills some good ones. You’re constantly trying to kill the body to prevent being broken down all at once. I’ve been blessed because being with Dilla and watching and working with him in his treatment taught me naturally how to do some things. I’ve really been blessed by that.

How so?

Well, it opened my eyes. Anything I look at and the things I experience through this illness really serve as a point of contact. It reminds me of how my son felt, which I think is very very important. And it brings me closer to his spirit; I believe that his whole work here was about love. I was telling everyone it’s not just about the good things, but it makes you aware of the bad types of love. We need to be aware of what’s going on in our lives, and he brings his vision to us in different phases of his music. For instance with Donuts he breaks it down to variations, he wants us to be conscious of what we’re doing and be able to think about the things that we do and to make it mean something in our lives.

It’s [lupus] an eyeopener it makes me more aware, more conscious of the love and the care that I wish to help and that I can give to children with Lupus. You know anything we can do to bring a smile to the face of a child with lupus whether it be a sunshiney day of camp where they can do these things to make the pain go away. It’s so important because you don’t know from one day to the next if you can move or if you’re going to be on a machine all day. See you don’t know how long you got to live and that one day of sunshine can mean so much. I just wish we can be more conscious of what we do in our time and what we give and say with the people we come in contact with because you never know. It can be one or two words that can make someone’s day, and it can make them think how blessed they are.

It seems like doctors are still having trouble diagnosing Lupus.

They really do, Dilla had been in and out of the hospital for four years before they even found out that he had Lupus. He was having all sorts of bouts with everything; his kidneys shut down several times…everything. And even though he was in the hospital for three or four months at a time they didn’t check him for Lupus. I think that because he was male might have had something to do with it because for the longest time it was believed that males couldn’t get the disease. But without knowledge of family history, I just don’t know-it could be something in the genes. Three or four people in a generation with autoimmune disease is not normal to me. I mean we were never sick other than my sister being diagnosed with Lupus no one was ever sick and she never got hospitalized.

What’s the status on the J-Dilla foundation?

Yes, yes we were forced to take it down because of the estate problems. It was a tricky situation because they weren’t adamant about taking it down they just tried to be a thorn in our side. It was done as professionally as it should have been. We even went through attorneys before we even set things up, and it was done legally in the state of California. We got things going and I had no reason to believe that we couldn’t work together with the estate. They told me they were going to set it up in a better way and I would run the foundation while they helped run it with me, and I would be an intricate part. And I was like okay we’ll do that, and I had no reason to believe that they weren’t going to try and do that [laughs], and they had no intention.

So I said well that’s alright, because of my illness I was not spiritually able to fight and I’m not going to give in to myself, and trying to fight these people was too much. So I just decided to let it roll and try to get my strength together, but now that the tide has turned I’m going to restart the foundation but this time I’m going to go international. So I’m very happy, and I take my hat off to’em even as a block they gave me for a couple of years, it’s gonna be good because we’re gonna go bigger-where all of his fans will take part.

What stage is it in now?

We’re in the early stages and there are so many individuals…oh my god both abroad and here that are waiting and we are going to work together. We’re probably going to have a forum probably within the next month, the people from Suite for Ma Dukes are some key organizers in it, and then we have people from Australia and Germany. Oh my goodness everywhere people are taking a part in this.

I wanted to talk about Suite For Ma Dukes. That album really took hip-hop appreciation to another level.

You’re right about that, there’s something about people who don’t know or understand hip-hop-it’s because they don’t listen. The album made other listeners aware to the fact that they can get so much from hip-hop there is so much there. I mean not every artist is gifted or knows how to deliver to every ear, but there is certainly a message. The writing, I mean there just not jotting down lyrics they’re taking their time, months and months trying to get what’s in their heart on paper. And so it’s another avenue and it opens the eyes and ears of the people who have never been there before and people begin to realize that there’s a lot to hip-hop it’s not like they thought. Unfortunately we hear some things that are not good for hip-hop and we just have to close our ear [laughs].

In the song “Antiquity” the rain hitting Carlos’ bomb shelter studio was left in because Miguel and Carlos felt that it was Dilla making his presence known. Does Dilla still speak to you in his own way?

Yes, he does! And it’s funny because it’s just not in the music there’s certain things I see or hear in my mind. There was a time when I woke up at 4:00am to total outrageous sunshine in my window. I was wondering [laughs], I thought I had overslept! But the sun doesn’t shine at 4:00am in the winter time in Detroit. I got up out of the bed and outside it was pitch black, but in my window the sunshine came in. And it’s just like the music in your mind that you can’t get it out of your head: confirmation.

I know you’re still very fond of Detroit, and I’ve read in interviews the urgency behind programs for the youth.

There are no real recreation areas in the neighborhood that I lived in. There is one that’s maybe a mile from me that is never open; I guess the city doesn’t have the funds to keep it open. There were two others in the area but both those are shut down. The area is so torn. To give you an example one of the photographers that does a lot of work for Stones Throw, said that when he came down to Detroit it reminded him a lot of Katrina. It wasn’t downtown Detroit where the neighborhoods are nice this is in the hood and it does look like Katrina; boarded up, burned up, vacant lots and houses with no windows no doors, open air holes, it’s just horrible. Places are so unsafe for youth. I remember there was a time in Detroit when they had a vacant building the city would get them boarded up or torn down so nobody would get raped or use drugs in there, but I actually can tell you there are no less than sixteen vacant houses on my block. You have to come down to the neighborhoods to see how people are really living. I mean if it wasn’t for a guy like Amp Fiddler, Dilla may have never been discovered. He didn’t charge anything to teach Dilla how to work the board.

Can you tell me about the Jay Stay Paid album?

Well the experience has been spiritual in a way because it was like a gift. Pete Rock was a gift-he was Dilla’s idol. [Laughs] It’s funny because Pete would always say that he idolized Dilla. Dilla had a profound love for Pete and his work, he meant everything to him. The love he had for Amp in guiding him was the same love he had for Pete. It was like Pete was way up there and Dilla just wanted to be in that area. I know Dilla’s smiling from Heaven at Pete who knows Dilla’s work and knows what he was feeling. It’s just short of Dilla coming down and finishing the work himself.

Will the proceeds of this album go to the J-Dilla foundation?

It’s my hope that when the proceeds go to the estate some will come our way, which will help Dilla’s children. This will keep their education going and much of the proceeds will go to the Lupus foundation as well.

I know music is something that is part of you, weren’t you going to make an album?

Yes, I had promised Dilla [laughs] two little jazz albums. It was supposed to be me recording some standards that he wanted me to work on. And I hadn’t gotten to those yet and of course I was going to write some, and I guess I was so overwhelmed with his passing then I got sick and I just decided to put it to the aside. I don’t know if I was feeling sorry for myself or what, but I don’t feel that way anymore and I told my husband that I would do it toward the end of the year. And I told my husband he better get ready because he plays the upright bass. I intend to see it through because it’s something I promised Dilla, and it’ll be a tribute to him.

You’ve been a fan of music before and now after your son’s life. What sort of impact have you seen him make on the world and what sort of imprint has that left on you?

The imprint it left on me was that I have to open my eyes, and I can’t sit around, but to make it big and spread it as wide as possible because it’s a message not just for Detroit but for the world. You know he made a statement during the time he was in ICU, it was sort of an out of body experience, but the statement he made was “I need more time. I want to give my gift back to the world”. And I will never forget it because when he came to, and was able to come out of the hospital he was with us almost year after that, and I realized he was talking to the master and he was given the time he needed to complete the work he needed to complete. The fact that he wanted to give his gift to the world he has done that, and I want to see that all his work is given back to the world, and I can’t let anything go. I have to keep a promise not just the promise that he made, but for his fans.

We must acknowledge that love stands, and to be able to receive it through music is so personal…it’s such a beautiful thing. When Dilla was in that hospital he was tied to like fifteen different machines at one time and each one of those had monitors making all types of music. Beeps and horns all going at the same time. And all I can think of is he’s listening to all this hour after hour day after day what type of beat is he coming up with now [laughs].

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Topics: interview