Monthly Archives: May 2010

June show calendar

Thursday, June 3

Selmanaires, Carnivores, Adron @ the Earl

Saturday, June 5

Mono, Twilight Sad @ the Masquerade

Tuesday, June 8

The Entrance Band, The Growlers, Stonerider @ the Earl

Wednesday, June 9

Blitzen Trapper @ the Variety Playhouse

Saturday, June 12

Black Skies, Monstro, Whores @ 529

Nas and Damian Marley @ the Tabernacle

Monday, June 14

MELVINS, ISIS (FAREWELL TOUR) @ the 40 Watt

Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek @ the Loft

Saturday, June 19

Cadillac Jones and special guests @  Star Bar

Silversun Pickups @ the Tabernacle

Monday, June 21

Dead Meadow, Abby Go Go, Spirits @ the Earl

Wednesday, June 23

Down Since One @ Smiths Olde Bar

Friday, June 25

Jungol @ North River Tavern

First night of ATHFEST: Cinemechanica, Pride Parade, Bambara, Powers @ 40 Watt

Saturday, June 26

New Pornographers, the Dodos, the Dutchess and the Duke @ Variety Playhouse

Atlanta Summer Beer Fest @ the Masquerade

Second night of ATHFEST: Venice is Sinking, Dead Confederate, Gift Horse, Holy Liars @ 40 Watt

Music Hates, Chrissakes, Hot Breath, Savagist @ Caledonia Lounge

Wired Dance Music Festival @ New Earth Music Hall

Monday, June 28

The NEC, Soft Opening, Trailblazer @ 529

Wednesday, June 30

Isness @ 529

* This is totally a personal bias and I apologize, but Isis is having their farewell tour. I would HIGHLY suggest checking out the show at the 40 Watt. Isis is one of my all-time favorite prog-metal bands, I’ve been down with them since Panopticon came out and considering this is their last tour, they deserve as much promotion and publicity as they can get.

For more about this group, click here

Oh yeah and Mike White took the photo of Music Hates You

Social Networking Sites: a Necessity or Nuisance for Artists?

Facebook, twitter, myspace; everyone and their grandma is on it and we’re all preoccupied with how many friends we can add and virtual farms we can cultivate. At this particular juncture in pop culture trends and history, social networking sites are here, they’ve camped out on the lawn and last I heard more social networking friends will be joining them for smores and a bonfire soon.

When I think about social networking sites and the music business, over the past few years I’ve noticed a dramatic shift in music artists relying on traditional marketing resources to social networking sites to place their music onto a larger, more globally accessible platform. Many artists have heard about the Long Tail theory at this point and aspire to build small pockets of fans on a global level so that when you add everything up, all those small pockets in marginalized areas become very large and powerful numbers when placed in a broader context.

If you attend a music business conference or information session, it’s almost the norm to discuss how many social networking sites your music is on and the barometer of your  success is somewhat contingent upon how fans you’ve befriended and how  much content that you’ve uploaded onto these sites. Many music business execs highly recommend utilizing social networking sites and the general idea is you’re pretty much an idiot if your music is not on these sites. And if you’re not pandering to the public , fulfilling all their heartfelt desires by uploading  videos of yourself explaining how you conceived your latest hit record while on the toilet and then tweeting about that same video as you get off the toilet in present time– well if you don’t do that, you’re a failure.

I’m a local/DIY musician myself and like many other musicians and creators of art, I love having the opportunity to place my art onto a bigger platform and potentially gain some exposure on a completely different side of the planet. The idea that my music can touch the hearts and minds of people living in some distant neighborhood, village or commune on the opposite side of the world is profound and somewhat enchanting to me.

But from a music fan perspective, the notion that I can remain in contact with my favorite artists 24/7, all day, every day is a bit banal to me and it even borders on creepy. After all, the thing that attracts me to different artists and their agendas the most is their lack of visibility and a certain amount of mysticism that surrounds them.

When I think about some of my favorite groups and acts that have mesmerized the public, many of them did play up a kind of cryptic image and they remained shrouded in nebulous cloud of ambiguity. Not just from a musical vantage point, but also visually – how they dressed, moved onstage, the way their albums and artwork were presented. All of it can add up to very allusive and appealing package if executed properly, an enigma or puzzle waiting to be solved, but only half-heartedly.

I think about chameleonic artists like David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin or Prince when they were performing in their “peak” periods. They had some of the best live shows and they kept audiences guessing. Pink Floyd even performed behind a three story high brick wall to actively spell out their messages of reclusion and confinement.

I’m intrigued by newer artists like the Mars Volta, Jay Electronica, Trent Reznor’s new project How to Destroy Angels and the electronic artists/production geniuses Bibio and Boards of Canada for the same reasons that I like the older artists. These are people that consciously withhold some of their information and let their fans fill in the gray spaces. By doing so, they allow the crowd to interact and draw their own conclusions, whether true or false. But it doesn’t matter once the interaction has already taken place and an impression has been made.

I’m no Moses Avalon or music business guru by any means. I’ve played in a few bands and most of what I’ve learned comes from trial and error. Nonetheless, I still wonder if an artist plastering their face on every available social networking site is less of a necessity and more of a nuisance. If I’m constantly being bombarded with updates and can learn everything I want to know about the artist online, what incentive do I have to get out the house and catch one of their local shows? I mean they already tweeted several times that the band is rehearsing for the “big gig” tonight and uploaded a video of today’s band  rehearsal anyway.

My personal advice to local and regional acts is this – use the social networking essentials, but don’t ever forget that a bangin set list, stellar live performance and a solid and consistent brand will always sell your art. In addition, using these services sparingly is the key. In the time that you spent bombarding people with messages on facebook, you could have been writing a badass song or sticking up some nice flyers near a venue that you will be performing at.

Social networking sites are a means to an end and many of them are just diversions from achieving one’s actual goals and objectives. Keep your eye on the ball and remember that 800 people in a venue and 20 facebook friends is much more powerful than 800 facebook friends and 20 people in the venue. That way you can actually see your fans giving you a thumbs up and you won’t have to log on to do it.

How to Destroy Angels – “The Space In Between” OFFICIAL Video

I don’t usually cover major artists on here, but this video by How to Destroy Angels is awesome. I’m stoked on this new project and I can’t wait to hear what other tracks on the record.

Intronaut – Descending into a Valley of Smoke

Intronaut is a progressive metal band from LA. They combine heavy sludge metal and cacophonic vocals with smooth jazz breaks and odd time signatures to create a unique and tasteful sound of their own.

When I first heard them I could hear bits and pieces of bands like Isis, Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon and Weather Report all wrapped in one, it was an interesting listen to say the least. All of the musicians have killer chops and I feel they show a lot of promise and potential if they are given the right resources.

I had the opportunity to speak with their lead singer/guitarist Sacha Dunable about their new album Valley of Smoke and other things going on in their realm.

It’s 2010 now and we’re in a whole new decade. However, for the past four or five years, it feels as if metal has already been moving into a new era with different personalities and bands at the core of this movement.

If there truly is a progressive/post metal movement, which groups do you feel are driving it?

This is an interesting question.  I think you’re right in saying that progressive styles of metal are more popular these days than they were five or more years ago.  What is interesting is how people have different definitions for the term “progressive.”  To me, it’s more of a songwriting thing, like as in writing music that is emotionally gratifying, but doing it in a way that is somewhat different than what has been done before.

I know some people who will classify anything with great technical skill as “progressive.”  I mean, no one is wrong, everyone’s opinion is valid.  That being said, I’d be interested in knowing which bands you feel are driving it, because honestly I’m not as in touch as I once was.

For me, it was really one time period and a group of bands  that I saw as a “progressive movement. ” This was like ten years ago and it that inspired me to make the kind of music that eventually became Intronaut.  Coalesce, Dystopia, Cave In, Converge, Isis, Dillinger, Cavity, Botch, that kind of stuff.  The late nineties into early 2000’s were awesome for that kind of material.  I really viewed that music as groundbreaking.  There were all these bands rooted in the punk/hardcore scene that were purposefully being different and showing the people in those scenes something new.

Now, those bands, or at least the ones who are still together, get to reap the benefits by being the forefathers  of these new bands who are emulating them – not necessarily being “progressive.”   The thing is all these new bands are music fans and drawing more attention to the older bands. I think that’s a key element to the cyclical process of music becoming popular and evident as a “movement.”

Do you feel metal is easily defined by one style or can it be several sub-genres?

Well, if you ask me, if a band has a palm mute anywhere on their record, I’ll most likely file it under metal (laughs).  After that,  however you divide it up is fair game.

Are there advantages to splitting up metal into sub-genres or do you think it’s just confusing to your average Joe Schmoe music fan? Does Joe Schmoe’s opinion even matter?

The advantage I suppose is for active listeners to be able to categorize what they hear in conversation or wherever.  I don’t like being labeled, but I understand where Schmoe is coming from.  It’s hard to say it wouldn’t be necessary to call Cannibal Corpse a death metal band and not a rock band for the sole purpose of describing to a potential listener what to listen for and hear.

One thing that really drew me into Intronaut’s sound was the clever use of jazz chords and progressions in many of your breakdowns. It adds a more complex and three-dimensional aspect to your music that I feel other metal bands don’t have.

What are all of your backgrounds as musicians?

Joe (Lester) and I played in a shitty death metal band in high school that would play with Danny (Walker)’s bands.  Joe went off to college and got a BA in Music, so he has a really strong knowledge of theory. He can apply it to jazz, funk, rock, Indian, African, whatever music.

Dave (Timnick) played baseball in college, finished the fire academy in San Diego, then one day decided that all he’s ever cared about is music.  He bought a drum kit and locked himself in a room for a couple years learning probably close to as much as Joe did in college, but more percussion-based stuff.  He always played music, but didn’t get serious until his early twenties.  He is seriously one of the most naturally talented and knowledgeable people I know when it comes to rhythm.

But overall, Danny and I started out playing in punk bands when we were kids and basically developed our chops from there.  Both of us have had some kind of lessons or courses in music theory somewhere along the way, but nothing crazy.  Most of what I know now has come from playing with Joe and Dave for the past six years.

So let’s talk about your last album Prehistoricisms for a bit. That album was pretty heavy- most of the songs are very epic and the titles refer to ancient mankind and our primordial environment.

How long did it take to write and record that album? Explain some of the process.

Let’s see what I can remember…I recall writing right after we came back from Europe in late 2007, then we did a tour with High On Fire in January/February of 2008 after writing only one song.  I think we wrote the rest between March and May, which is when we started recording.  We had everything done and mixed by June something so we could go on tour with The Ocean.

Of course, most of the stuff was semi-written by me at home before all this, but the dirty work of really thinking it all out and molding it into something was done in that short period of time.  At the time I think I was mostly satisfied with it, and at this point that record is what it is…but I knew we could do better on the next one by spending more time writing and putting less pressure on ourselves as far as deadlines go.

Your new album is called Valley Of Smoke. Was the writing and recording process similar to Prehistoricisms?

Yeah, after we got back from the Mastodon tour, I personally wanted to get started on a new record and just take our time with it, no rush.  Everyone else agreed, and we decided not to keep touring and start on what is intended to be the best music we can make. You just can’t do that when you’re continuously rehearsing old songs for a tour or whatever.  We had one distraction and that was going to play in India, but aside from that, we have been writing this album for almost a year straight.  That’s basically ten months more than we spent on the last record (laughs)!  And it seriously has paid off.  We’re just on another level now – I can’t wait to finish recording.

Let’s talk about your trip to India. You went there last year for the Great India Rock festival. India is the last place I would think of having prog-metal fest! What was that experience like?

Incredible! I mean it was a blur for the most part.  The flight there was like twenty hours and it’s literally on the other side of the planet, so you can imagine the gnarly jetlag.  But the people we met were great and the shows were unbelievably huge.  Like, almost too big for us (laughs).  It was amazing to stop and think about how we started this band from nothing and there we were playing for thousands of people in fucking India, pretty wild.

The food was AMAZING.  And the bands weren’t all prog metal, it was more a variety of all kinds of rock groups.  I realized that people here view India as a place that’s backwards and third-world, but honestly they know about all the same stuff as us. The bands are just as easy to bro down with as any American band we’ve toured with.  There weren’t too many cultural barriers on the music side of things.

What can Intronaut fans expect to see from the band this year?

Some exciting stuff surrounding our new release Valley of Smoke. I can’t talk about all of it yet, but we’ll definitely be out and about and I hope people don’t hate the new album.

For more about Intronaut, click here

Did You Hear About – Stinking Lizaveta and Miles From Pangaea

Munehiro Narita – Crafting Music that Transcends Words

Spiritual figure and Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan once said, “music is not expressed through language, but through the beauty of rhythm and tone which reach far beyond language. ”

When I first contacted former High Rise and current Green Flames guitarist Munehiro Narita, I felt as if this interview was going to be plagued with all kinds of scheduling conflicts, linguistic errors and overall cultural differences. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. While there were some initial language barriers, the raw intensity and passion in Narita’s music allowed me to better understand and appreciate his craft and connect with his unique brand and artistry.

Narita has become a major idol of mine and it was a pleasure to discuss his old work with High Rise and his most recent musical project Green Flames.

It’s been a few years since High Rise was heavily active in the Tokyo psychedelic rock scene. How have you kept yourself busy since High Rise has been dormant as a band?

I produced  some solo albums and did session work. I played with many players, I did an album with Shoji Hano under the name Kyoaku  No Intention. That was essentially very loud, experimental and improvisational music.  I also  practiced lots of guitar and made effect pedals.

Your most recent project is Green Flames. Can you describe the sound?

I guess it’s the feeling that what made High Rise a bit more pop…um Green Flames is  more funk-oriented (laughs). Green Flames is the band in which I realized a sound that I did not have in High Rise. It’s music that I’d really love to release abroad and let everyone hear it.

How was Green Flames conceived?

I did a session with our drummer Yamamoto Tatsuhisa and I thought about starting another band and making our sound the base of the group. I wanted to do more proper music and that provoked Tabata’s interests. I also wanted more creative control and felt I could run the band’s artistic direction.

Is the writing process for Green Flames similar to High Rise?

No, because Nanjo was the vocalist in High Rise, I followed his tastes and allowed myself to be flexible to his vocal approach. In Green Flames,  we make music with my thoughts and intentions at the core. I aimed to create a more  pop sound with Green Flames, but I still do not want to seized or seduced by a concept or direction of a sound that is stereotypically  “psychedelic.”

How would you craft and arrange your songs when playing with High Rise? Was there a particular process or formula that you conceived when writing new material?

There were many times that I added a guitar melody and parts to basslines which Nanjo had already written. I would then construct a refrain or bridge to be able to flex my guitar sounds, possibly throw in some solos and really make the most of things. Nanjo added lyrics and a constitution from there.

Do you view the studio and live as two separate entities or do you track everything as if performing live when recording? Briefly describe the recording process for Green Flames.

No, we play live and tape it. We prefer recording in that format and have naturally gravitated towards it. The reason is things cannot be expressed well when certain improvisational elements aren’t thrown into the mix. For instance, if you’re during a “standard” rhythm guitar scratch track, you would want the cleanest signal for that particular sound. I don’t like it when my effects pedals are off and just lay dormant, you hear that really dry guitar sound (laughs).

One of the things that initially attracted me to High Rise and Green Flames is your guitar work. I hate to quote Almost Famous, but you really do have one of the most powerful and incendiary sounds in rock music.

I’m a guitarist myself and I’ve always been drawn to the loud and passionate personalities within the rock and fusion realms, people like John Mclaughlin or Carlos Santana who have so much to say.

Who are your major influences and how did you finally reach your current sound?

The influence of Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana is big, but at first it was Mike Bloomfield and James Gurley from Big Brother. I was heavy into that “psychedelic blues” guitar sound and I really appreciated the elements that James Gurley brought to Janis Joplin and Big Brother. He had a great sense of timing and some articulate melodic phrases.

But honestly, the influence of Hendrix came later on. I remember when I was in school, everyone was into Hendrix and wanted to capture that sound. I really didn’t listen to much of his material until I was older. Even now I’m not your traditional “Hendrix freak.” I prefer to analyze how he carried himself onstage or what amps and pedals he used, not really his playing techniques. I’m more intrigued by his live sound than the studio recordings.

Are you happy with where you’re at with your playing or do you always strive to reach those seemingly impossible heights?

Yes, um I would say I strive to reach seemingly impossible heights. I think that the feeling of playing and being entrenched in the music is like getting caught in a trance or feeling the strong high of a drug, it happens more and more as you practice and become proficient so your performances go well.

Do you feel that your guitar sounds and music are reflective of your Japanese upbringing?

Yes. The sound of my guitar is very “Japanesque” and sometimes I feel like I hate it because it’s so “Japanese-sounding” (laughs). But I think that it’s my personality and I can’t change it, but just embrace it.

Not many Americans are familiar with this, but the city of Tokyo has a long history of psychedelic-rock and experimental bands. My first introduction to the scene was via Boris.

Boris is more of a stoner metal/ambient group, but the more I listened to them, I heard about other artists like Michio Kurihara, Les Rallizes Denudes, Flower Travellin Band and of course High Rise.

What is the current state of psychedelic and experimental music in Tokyo?

The current bands of the Tokyo’s new psychedelic era are becoming a part of  a fixed form. Fixed form as in the opposite of a fluid form. Fixed form as in the old-fashioned tricks and things have increased. Many people are too heavily mimicking the sounds of the bands from yesteryear or even some of the popular bands who came about in the past decade.  The interesting bands are just not seen. They are not put on the radar of the mainstream.

I feel the various and interesting music scenes are any place, but Japan right now. Some Japanese bands are really imitating the success of previous groups.

Considering Japan is literally on the other side of the world, how did you gain access to some of the older psych-rock bootlegs and tapes that were floating around when you were younger?

I heard mainstream American rock in my pre-teen/teenage days. There was this guy I went to school with named Hamano and he was in a band. Hamano had some Keiji Haino tapes and he got me into Haino as well as exposing me to other musicians…like he got me into Kaoru Abe and Kaoru played sax with Haino. I was really blown away by his sound.

I remember wanting to take the power of improvisational like Abe’s and put that into a rock context. It was sort of like what MC5 did with funk and how they tried to emulate funk musicians like James Brown. I wanted to take free jazz, heavy blues and transpose that into a rock setting.

Are there any foreign or domestic labels that have worked hard to push experimental music into Tokyo’s more mainstream realms?

No, actually many of the small labels have begun to shrink or withdraw. There’s not a heavy infrastructure for nurturing experimental music at the local and regional levels.It might be interesting to see some labels stand up and put alternative genres on a platform, like really making things a bit more business-oriented and not just a flash in the pan cultural trend.

Boris is an example of one experimental/heavy band that has managed to tap into the right markets in the US, however they appear to be an exception. You do not hear about many Japanese rock groups performing psychedelic influenced music in America.

What do you think it takes to break into a foreign market? As a Japanese musician, do you feel it’s even a smart strategy to aim at the United States first or conquer another foreign market maybe closer to Japan?

It is very interesting that a Japanese group like Boris or Mono has succeeded abroad.

At one point in time the Japanese heard a lot of music that was not in our native language. It was odd hearing the different vocal inflections and dissecting some of the explicit or even implicit lyrical meanings behind songs. Conversely, I think an American or Chinese person may experience something similar if being introduced to Japanese songs.

So I guess if you can tackle the issue of language, you might stumble upon a strategy that translates well in foreign markets. It does not necessarily have to be close to Japan, but in a region in which people can genuinely receive your message and connect with the music.

For more of Narita’s band Green Flames,click here

For another great interview with Narita, click here