Saturday, June 21, 2008

THE REVIEW CORNER -- Grateful Dead: Fillmore West 1969 (The Complete Recordings - 10 CD boxed set)

This is one of those boxed sets that's the rarest of finds. It's probably the most coveted collectible out there in the Dead camp.
Since I can't consider myself a big Dead fan (and therefore certainly not a Deadhead, nor even close), the bulk of this review is to be handed over to someone much more qualified than myself to give the review this release deserves.
I can, however, say that I've seen the Dead live. I caught the band in their last year, in 1994, as Jerry Garcia died one year later. I saw the subculture of the Deadheads, and all the shtick that goes along with it, in its total glory. What an experience it was.
I own about a dozen Dead recordings, the majority of them live, however I haven't completely dove into their catalog. I had plenty of exposure to them in college, as lots of guys I know were really into them; but at the time it was more of the hip thing to do, and I wasn't really into "being hip" with my music - let alone with anything - as I've always preferred the more unpredictable route. So recognizing this pseudo-hippie Deadhead trend amongst my peers back in the day, I decided that I would approach the Dead on my own terms at a later time.
As a musical connoisseur, I keep evolving into new and different things all the time. That being said; with time I see myself getting deeper into the Dead, and perhaps they'll end up as one of my favorite bands in the long run as I discover more and more. I'm actually quite surprised I haven't gone through a bona-fide "Dead phase," in true and deep earnest.
I know enough about the Grateful Dead to understand there's a treasure trove of material to be discovered from this iconic band. Some great discoveries lie ahead, including noodling through the recording highlighted in this review; which by all accounts appears to be the Taj Mahal of all Dead recordings.

Grateful Dead
The Complete Recordings Fillmore West 1969
Grateful Dead Prod 10-CD
Rhino 3-CD

When the Grateful Dead originally released their live album Europe 72, it was issued in a three-lp set on vinyl for dual reasons. One was to accommodate the breadth of one of their concerts, the other to fulfill their contractual obligations with Warner Bros in one fell swoop and allow the group to go independent of the corporate record biz.
Had the Dead not been in such dire financial straits at the time of the 1969 release of Live /Dead, it too might have been expanded beyond its double LP size for musical reasons alone. Regardless, the title quickly became and remains one of the definitive live releases in rock as well as wearing extremely well in the face of the multitude of Grateful Dead archival concert pieces released in the thirty-year plus interim.
Now, however, two sets of cds from the same Fillmore West 1969 appearances effectively render Live /Dead obsolete. Most of the three-disc compilation (culled from the 10-cd package) appeared on that earlier album, but if you listen to the entire two sets as now constituted, the flow of the show contains nary a wasted note or beat. Reading long-time Dead publicist and historian Dennis McNally's liner notes, it's not surprising to learn how carefully the band was choreographing this string of concerts on their home turf.
Perhaps not quite the laissez faire hippies of the stereotype, the Dead wanted the optimum conditions for these shows, having spent months preparing and rehearsing the material, original (�Cosmic Charlie, "Mountains of the Moon") and traditional ("Morning Dew, We Bid You Goodnight," the two of which bookend this collection). In addition, through its sound man Owsley Stanley, the group had become ultra-conscious of sound quality for their live music and with a sixteen-track recorder (one of the first available) at their disposal, the stars seemed to be aligned in their favor.
Archivist David Lemieux and engineer Jeffrey Norman have the luxury of hindsight plus the resources of the entire run to create. in the Rhino package, what is arguably the definitive Grateful Dead concert recording. As the band, including two drummers plus Tom Constanten on keyboards, moves from the rootsy likes of "Good Morning Little School Girl," sung, of course, by the inimitable Pigpen, and the reworked folk tune "Dupree's Diamond Blues," into the deeper space of "Dark Star,"� "St Stephen"� and "The Eleven” (those three tunes orchestrated as a massive suite), the sequencing appears utterly logical and complete.
What distinguishes Fillmore West, however, and differentiates it profoundly from Live/ Dead, is the performance included on the third cd of the compilation. While such deliberate deconstruction of their music, including "That's it for the Other One"� "�Alligator" and "Caution Do Not Stop on Tracks"� may leave some listeners cold (even Deadheads who prefer the tighter structure of songs the likes of which the band was just beginning to write at this point), it is nevertheless fascinating to follow the probing for new themes: the expeditions most often led by Garcia, bassist Phil Lesh is never far behind and often in the foreground, but drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, even apart from their own drum interlude, offer ideas all around. The Dead's interaction here is not altogether unlike a ballet.
The experience of hearing this is akin to sitting on the floor of the stage in the middle of the band as they played. The HCDC remastering offers so much clarity and dynamic depth that, for instance, not only are all of Lesh’s bass notes audible, but also contain an almost tactile clarity. The same is true of the drums and percussion of Kreutzmann and Hart, the lightest touch of which come through with proportionate presence.
Grateful Dead aficionados as well as dilettantes have equal odds for epiphany working their way through all the sets from this entire four-night run at the fabled rock venue. The band’s grasp of dynamics isn’t applied just to the jams, as demonstrated by the flow of 2/27’s “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl�: their performance here suggests the band learned much about dynamics playing the blues following Pigpen’s lead, as Jerry Garcia’s howling lead guitar drops out in the blink of any eye to allow the whispering reentry of the vocal and the equally soft sound of the harp.
“Doin’ that Rag� is one of the guitarist’s earliest songwriting collaborations with Robert Hunter, whose philosophy of positivism, as it evolved over the years, is noteworthy even at this stage. The Dead find the tune equally useful as a warm-up exercise on the first night and the precursor of a cool-down toward the end of the first sets on 2/28 and 3/1. In later years, any number of songs served the same purpose, but while the Dead’s repertoire was perhaps never so constricted as these nights at the Fillmore, their improvisational approach expanded in proportion to the shrinking of the number of selections.
The aforementioned suite of songs including “Dark Star,” â€�St. Stephen” and “The Elevenâ€� is a listening experience in itself: the swirl of sound in the former tune is the sonic equivalent of what light shows of the time were attempting to portray visually. and it’s a small but profound pleasure to hear the seamless segue of the middle tune, with its wash of gong, without the abrupt edit as contained on Live/Dead.
But this box set does further justice to the Dead’s eye for detail as it exhibits how their other compositions set up this triad of well-known material. The ominous undertow of “Dupree’s Diamond Blues� is deepened by the eerie organ tones of Constanten, especially as it alternates with the comparatively lighter texture of acoustic guitar on “Mountains of the Moon,� the imagery of which carries its own foreboding rooted in the name of this band:�…hi-ho the carrion crow…�

“Fillmore West 1969 offers tremendous insight into the evolution of a great band and the art of musical improvisation in general.”

While the ten-disc collection is not assembled in book form like the three-disc distillation, its formatting in separate digi-paks for each evening lends itself to inspection of the consecutive night’s set lists. And how differently the Grateful Dead approach each night! The second evening’s first set, in contrast to the previous show, finds the Dead as a dance band pure and simple, with Pigpen upfront throughout, clearly hearkening back to the group’s earliest days in 1965 and 1966. This choice may then, in turn, explain why the band alters its entry into “The Other One,’ and, by extension, into the suite: the Grateful Dead glide as if in free fall as the flavor Garcia’s guitar is nothing but the blues, while its structure is nothing like it whatsoever.
A member of the San Francisco band for a comparatively brief period of time, keyboardist Constanten’s contribution is most notable for the way his organ bubbles under the action of the two guitarists, the fluid played off against the staccato. But his keyboards also bring out the Elizabethan sounds in songs such as the bridge of “St. Stephen� where Kreutzmann and Hart actually have their best moments as a team, navigating the turbulence just before the music morphs in “The Eleven’ on 2/28.
There is definite progression apparent on Fillmore West 1969 The Complete Recordings from one night to the next. The band becomes increasingly comfortable as the run goes on, allowing themselves to stretch out in ways it couldn’t or wouldn’t the first night. It’s worth pondering how much early equipment issues affected the group mindset, but a few bum notes and all, this is generally magnificent stuff, the likes of which shakes the ass and the intellect equally roundly. The Grateful Dead charge to a close on a wave of feedback, “We Bid You Goodnight� marred by a hum that detracts form the quietude of lullaby it’s supposed to present (and does on the final night of March 2nd).
The first of March find the Grateful Dead radiating an authority and confidence that states they know they’re on the right track. Validating Dennis McNally’s perception of this show as the pinnacle of the Fillmore run, the band proceeds with equal amounts purpose and focus, all captured on just two compact discs, suggesting comparative brevity can translate into breadth. After an earthy start that suggests the group is primed for adventure, the Dead display a surety of touch through “Starâ€�/”Stephen”/â€�Eleven,â€� the hours Jerry Garcia spent practicing banjo in the bluegrass mode manifesting themselves in the various progressions and transitions contained here, his eloquence matched phrase for phrase by Phil Lesh.
The plethora of photos contained in the booklet accompanying Fillmore West includes some stage shots from other performances in 1969, but the most notable of all are those that picture Lesh and Garcia juxtaposed on stage, rhythm guitarist Bob Weir not in between them literally (or figuratively as happened later on during the Dead’s career). Especially on the final night, the interplay between the two musicians’ takes on a heightened intensity the likes of which is rare in the Dead history, if only because the bassist is as prominent a figure in the sound as the lead guitarist. In hindsight, this dynamic presages Lesh’s modern day preeminence as the standard-bearer of the kind of exploratory musicianship epitomized by the Dead at their best throughout their career and captured on this set.
The California rock-icons-to-be are absolutely ebullient on the final night, which no doubt accounts for an even more fearless approach that generates generous stretching out at the beginning and the end of the set. With no worries about equipment and by this time bearing an instinctive familiarity with the material, the group radiates a ‘mission accomplished’ air that in and of itself retools their accomplishments as they envisioned them when this all started thee nights before. With due affection, the group sucker punches the audience with “Doin’ That Rag,� before embarking on an expedition into space via “The Other One,� that leads all in attendance even further afield via a drum interlude and a free-form improvisation the likes of which appeared only once before (and oddly enough, very rarely throughout the Grateful Dead’s history).
As much as the group was in the moment as they played during their stay at the Fillmore, they were also anticipating the future. Garcia’s sweet upper-register runs foreshadow his short-lived love affair with the pedal steel that began later in 1969. The guitarist repeatedly quotes the main melodic motif of “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad� in the latter stages of the set on disc three, a precursor of what came to be one of Grateful Dead’s greatest show-closers and crowd-pleasers as their career evolved.
McNally alludes to Miles Davis’ Plugged Nickel and John Coltrane’s Vanguard sets in discussing Fillmore West The Complete Recordings and it’s not an inaccurate comparison.The good ol’ Grateful Dead may not hold much attraction for jazz purists, and it’s evenarguable if this grand release will tempt anyone other than completists (though its limited 10,000 piece run sold out months before it was shipped).
But as with Phish’s Island Tour and various Allman Brothers’ concert recordings (archive and recent vintage), to delve into these recordings is to avail yourself ofsome potentially great insight into the art of musical improvisation. Generally speaking, and specifically in reference to the Dead @ Fillmore West 1969 , casting aside the red herrings of preconception may be the biggest favor truly open- minded listeners can offer themselves.
Visit Grateful Dead on the web

Tracks:10 Disc set

Disc One 2/27/69 1 Good Morning Little Schoolgirl 2 Doin' That Rag 3 That’s It for The Other One - Cryptical Envelopment -The Other One -Cryptical Envelopment Disc Two 1 Dupree's Diamond Blues 2 Mountains Of The Moon 3 Dark Star > 4 St. Stephen > 5 The Eleven > 6 Turn On Your Lovelight 7 Cosmic Charlie
Disc Three 2/28/69 1 Morning Dew 2 Good Morning Little Schoolgirl 3 Don’ That rag 4 I’m A King Bee 5 Turn on Your Lovelight
Disc Four 1 That’s It for The Other One - Cryptical Envelopment -The Other One -Cryptical Envelopment 2 Dark Star > 3 St. Stephen > 4 The Eleven > 5 Death Don’t Have No Mercy
Disc Five 1 Alligator> 2 Drums> 3 Jam > 4 Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) > 5 Feedback > 6 We Bid You Goodnight
Disc Six 3/1/69 1 That's It For The Other One -Cryptical Envelopment -The Other One -Cryptical Envelopment 2 New Potato Caboose > 3 Doin’ That Rag > 4 Cosmic Charlie >
Disc Seven 1 Dupree’s Diamond Blues 2 Mountains of the Moon 3 Dark Star > 4 St. Stephen > 5 The Eleven > 6 Turn On Your Lovelight 7 Hey Jude
Disc Eight 3/2/69 1 Dark Star > 2 St. Stephen > 3 The Eleven > 4 Turn On Your Lovelight
Disc Nine 1 Doin’ that Rag 2 That's It For The Other One> - Cryptical Envelopment > -The Other One> - Cryptical Envelopment 3 Death Don’t Have No Mercy 4 Morning Dew
Disc Ten 1 Alligator> 2 Drums> 3 Jam > 4 Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) > 5 Feedback > 6 We Bid You Goodnight

Tracks:3 Disc set

Track listing
Disc One 1 Morning Dew 2 Good Morning Little Schoolgirl 3 Doin' That Rag 4 I'm A King Bee 5 Cosmic Charlie 6 Turn On Your Lovelight
Disc Two 1 Dupree's Diamond Blues 2 Mountains Of The Moon ) 3 Dark Star > 4 St. Stephen > 5 The Eleven > 6 Death Don't Have No Mercy
Disc Three 1 That's It For The Other One Cryptical Envelopment The Other One Cryptical Envelopment 2 Alligator > 3 Drums > 4 Jam > 5 Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) > 6 Feedback > 7 We Bid You Goodnight
Personnel:[ Tom Constanten: Organ; Jerry Garcia: Lead Guitar, Vocals; Mickey Hart: Drums; Bill Kreutzmann: Drums; Phil Lesh: Electric Bass, Vocals Ron “Pigpen” McKernan: Vocals, Harmonica, Percussion, Organ; Bob Weir: Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
by Doug Collette, from

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An interview with Filter

Ahh, now we're getting nasty...we're getting into what some may consider, if one follows the twisty-turny "metal family tree," as an Industrial Metal /Nu Metal hybrid.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the band Filter. Some of you might know them, as they've been around for quite some time, over 10 years actually.

They're latest offering, Anthems for the Damned, seems to bring an advanced maturity to Filter's songwriting. In this album they keep their nu/industrial roots but tackle the subject matter of the war in Iraq. More on that another time. Here's an interview I found that should give some background to the music. S

Richard Patrick is absolutely amped up about taking a new and improved Filter out on the road, and completely geeked about Anthems for the Damned, their new record. He is upbeat, passionate, extremely confident and pretty darn funny. Bullz-Eye found him trapped in a New York hotel room doing interviews and unable to enjoy the beautiful weather outside. As we scrambled with the tape recorder, Ricardo Patreeck is already midway through his response about the doldrums of back-to-back phone interviews.

Richard Patrick: It's exhausting. You get on the phone and talk about the same shit over and over and over and over, but I love my job. When you stack up these interviews one after another, it gets exhausting, but I get a little coffee (adds a thick New York style accent and pronounces the word caw-feeee) and I look around and I see that I'm in New York City in a beautiful hotel suite, and you make it good.
Bullz-Eye: It could be worse.
RP: (again with the New York accent) I got some caw-feeeee!!!
BE: (laughs): I will try to ask you some different questions so it doesn't seem so boring.
RP: Okay.
BE: Before we get into the new record, I wanted to ask you about the Damning Well [a short-lived project that featured Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit, Danny Lohner of Nine Inch Nails and Josh Freese of the Vandals, Nine Inch Nails and A Perfect Circle]. I have read that there is an album's worth of material. Is that true?
"I was thinking, well, this song won't mean anything when the war is over in 2004, 2006, and then it's still relevant today."
RP: (adopting English accent) That is completely and utterly false. (back to his regular voice) We were thinking about maybe doing a band. Wes Borland had a ton of music and we did one…no actually, two songs. We did two songs with the Damning Well and one song had Amy Lee [Evanescence] singing with me, and it's amazing. I actually have a copy of that and like to listen to it once in a while. It came out as "Coward" on Wes Borland's Black Light Burns CD. I'll tell you what; Josh Freese plays drums on my record, mmm hmmm.
BE: Freese is an amazing drummer. You've worked with Wes and John (5) and Josh, but how did you get them to work on the new Filter record?
RP: After I left Army of Anyone, I said I am going to go do [another Filter record], I called John 5 immediately. I even called [long time Filter collaborator] Ben Grosse and said "Ben, I'm thinking about doing another record." He asked who was going to do guitars. I said, "John 5." He said, "All right." So I called John 5 and he wrote two songs with me. He's amazing. He did "The Take" and "What's Next." So around June-ish, July-ish, I was meeting with Josh Abraham and he said, "Let's do a record, but are you still signed to Warner Brothers?" And I was like, "NOOOOOOOOO-OOOOOOOO!!!!" When he heard that he said that we will be amazing and we'll own it. Once we figured out the details of the deal and stuff like that, I just jumped in the studio. Plus, I had done all this stuff on my own, so we got the record done in, like, 14 days. It was great.
BE: You had material lying around, and you wrote the two tracks with John 5, but you wrote, recorded and produced a record in 14 days?
RP: I also wrote "Lie After Lie" but everything else was kind of there. Some of it was from 2003. I was thinking, well, this song won't mean anything when the war is over in 2004, 2006, and then it's still relevant today. Josh suggested it be the first single because he felt it was so beautiful and so elegant. We did it and it's marching up the charts.
BE: So how do you go from having John 5, Freese and Borland help you in the studio to the band you have now out on the road [Mitchell Marlow on guitar, John Spiker on bass and Mika Fineo on drums]?
RP: Well, by being the main dude in Filter, I can kind of do what I want. That's the benefit. It's something I realized immediately after I left Army of Anyone, is that every single detail, item can be answered very simply and quickly by me. When it came time to choose the live band, I just went with who is extremely talented and who is dying to go out. When people hear the name Filter, they feel that the name is a credible one, a credible band. So, I grabbed Mitchell Marlow and John Spiker and Mika Fineo and most of those guys came from my manager, Josh Abraham. He has a huge database of people who are talented and waiting for their shot, waiting to get out. These guys are so talented; they are going to go beyond just being in the live band. Spiker is a bass player and singer, but he is also a Pro Tools guy and an engineer. Fineo is a piano player and a composer, not just a drummer. Marlow is an amazing producer, so all these guys will contribute. When it's time, and I say "Let's make a Filter record," we can get it done quickly.
"I'm thinking maybe there is a crowd out there that wants to rock and wants to hear music that [asks], Fucking why? Why are our children getting whaled on? Why are we sending our children to die in Iraq?"
BE: Everything that I have read indicates that you plan on being Filter for a while.
RP: I do. Dude, if you could see the look on people's faces when I leave the stage. We do these radio festivals and they're [the audience] kind of like, okay, it's Filter; there are some new faces, what's up? Thirty minutes later, they're like, (in hysterical voice), "Fuck! Oh my God! Awesome! The guitar, fuck, this is awesome!" They are literally converted, and it's beautiful and amazing. They are absolutely convinced, and I love it. Halfway through the show every time, I say, "Filter's back, right?!" The audience is just fucking ecstatic and amazed and happy. It's wonderful. It's about re-educating people to the fact of who we were, who we are and what we are about to do.
BE: So when you move forward and you make the next Filter record, will these three guys be involved?
RP: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think these guys are super-talented. I think that they have a lot of stuff going on, and I would like to put a Filter record out quickly. When you have three other dudes and include Josh and Ryan, there are all these other people that can help. All the great bands have producers and other people that help them keep going, so you have to take advantage of those talents. You can't be afraid of those things. These guys have been in Filter for six months and they're like, "Fuck this, let's fuckin' rock! Let's fuckin' have a blast." Actually, they've only been in the band four months and they're like, "I want everything you have, Rich. I want a Gold record, I want a Platinum record." They are hungry as shit. Songwriting is a wonderful thing. When it clicks, it's awesome and you just feel it and it's an addiction. I want to be there when they experience that. You put a couple of chords together and you throw a melody on top and it makes everybody happy. Once you get that going, like when I wrote "Take a Picture," everyone looked around and was like, "Yep!" That sense of accomplishment, like I wrote that…when we play "Take a Picture" and "Hey Man, Nice Shot," those are the last two songs we play, and it is an amazing, powerful thing when you have hits under your belt. They want that, and I want them to have it. Fuck yes!
BE: Is it ever a curse when you go out to do a show and you want people to give the new material a chance and maybe they only think of "Hey Man, Nice Shot" or "Take A Picture?"
RP: I don't know. There has been such a great response to the record. You can sit around and think about that shit all the time. When I listen to the new record, and I hear "Cold" or "Kill the Day" or "Soldiers of Misfortune," and I think about the sentiment behind the songs, I am extremely proud. I can't worry about a fickle audience. I have to pound out new stuff and believe in it and love it because it's true in my heart. Bono once said, "You have to blow your own minds." You just can't release records and cash in. That's what I want to do, I want to blow my own mind. When I heard "Soldiers of Misfortune," the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and that, in my opinion, is the sign of a hit. It emotionally took me someplace.

BE: I am particularly fond of "Kill the Day" and "I Keep Flowers Around."
RP: Thank you. Those are at the back of the record. I am kind of demanding that people listen to the whole thing, they need to buy the whole record to find these tracks, not just grab a couple of songs. That's what Filter is for people, a slow burn. I think (Anthems) is a great record. I wanted it to be a deep record. I wanted 12 tracks that people could understand, and is deep. I want it to be like a movie, a start and a finish and you go through a lot of emotional things. If I gave you 10 "Hey Man, Nice Shots," I think you'd be bummed. (in a loud voice) "Check it out Martha, he's screaming again." I want you to have "Take a Picture" on the same record, I want you to have different stuff. I even went on an ambient trip at the end of the record because I like that shit. I think my audience is an eclectic audience like me. My audience wants heavy shit like Down or Pantera, but they also love Radiohead. If I can sing like a school kid, clean and soft and then scream with the best of 'em, why not have both of those modes show up on a Filter record? That has been something we have always been criticized for. I think it is one of our strongest attributes.
BE: That's the sad thing about audiences today, they're the iTunes generation, they want that one track, they don't dive into entire records anymore.
RP: (in British accent) I say! I agree, but at the same time, I can't afford to only make records every five years. That is why I am so excited to have my new guys around.
BE: It really sounds like you are re-invigorated and you have some really hungry guys with you.
RP: They are also sweet and very decent people, and they live very healthy lives. They are very stable people. It is very nice to have this very cream-of-the-crop talent and useful people around. They are very good people. You get on a tour bus and there's no griping. The only griping is from me, and that's because I have been around the block a couple of times. And it's kind of sad, I mean I better loosen up or it's gonna be a long tour if I'm the only one bitching. That is the beauty of having this band. I mean, you got a show at 2:00, you get there at noon, there's one shower and 50 in the crew, and they're like, okay. And I'm like, Fuck that! I want a hotel room and I want this and I want that. It is so refreshing to be around people who are like, Who cares? All I know is I get to be on stage and fucking rock out!
The other thing is that they really love Filter, and they really love playing the old stuff. That's important, because that's a legacy and a huge collection of songs. We did this acoustic thing, and I didn't know how the hell it was gonna work out. Mitch and John Spiker worked it out on acoustic, and it was so beautiful. I would have never thought to transpose it like that, the way they did it. "Check this out Rich, what about these chords?" That was even a weirder and cooler way to do it. We did "Welcome to the Fold" acoustic, they did "The Take" acoustic. They don't care, they're like, "Dude, we will make it awesome. The songs are well written so we can make them awesome." It is really good for me spiritually, considering I was living at the bottom of the bottle at the height of my career. I was so bothered by having to actually sing because it was getting in the way of my beer buzz. Now, here I am at the age of 40 getting on stage and just enjoying so much of it. It makes it so worth it; it is just exciting being right here and right now.
"It was definitely amazing to be part of the Nine Inch Nails phenomenon. At the same time, it was incredibly alcoholic. Trent was drinking 24 hours a day; I was drinking 24 hours a day. It was a lot of excess, a lot of drugs and a lot of craziness, and that complicated things."
BE: Richard, I want to ask a few more things, and I appreciate your time and that coffee for getting you through this…
RP: (back to New York accent) Ya gotta have CAWWWW-FEEEE!!!!!
BE: Filter has never been lollipops and balloons, but this record is particularly dark because you're taking a look around at the world and you're not particularly thrilled with what you see. Is this the one political record that you put out and then you go back and do different stuff, or is this where fatherhood and your life has led you, to put out this kind of album?
RP: I am horrified at the way things are going. I can't believe the Bush administration has made this many mistakes. I see a man like Al Gore and that's my hero. I have always loved Carl Sagan. He had a special episode of "Cosmos" in 1977 and he's like, "Who speaks for the earth?" Even when I was a little kid, I thought about this stuff. I would say, So this car uses gas and oil and (Jimmy) Carter just said gas is going to be expensive and we shouldn't use cars so much. Then there is the oil embargo and the Arabs have all the oil. Then there's the tailpipe and it puts out all these pollutants, and that can't be good, either. Why are we driving all the cars all over the place, and wouldn't it be better if we invented something that didn't run on this stuff. So even as a child, I would question these things and ask, what's up? In the '90s I wondered, why is everyone driving an SUV, and the thing is, humans are kind of stupid. You have to kind of remind your fellow man, Hey is this right? Are we doing the right thing? Even in the '90s with my "Take a Picture" money, I went and bought a small car. Granted, it was a (BMW) 330xi, but it was smaller. It wasn't an SUV. I wrote a song called "Cancer." Have you ever flown over Los Angeles? Have you ever flown into LAX? When you fly into LAX and you look down, the earth looks cut up and in pain. Not only that, but there is a fucking smog cloud that you can literally see around the disgusting air. THAT CAN'T BE GOOD!
I have been talking about this stuff for years and people have been talking about this shit for years. I know Britney Spears has a lot of great things to say, and that's why people buy her records, and hip-hop has so many interesting things to say about their ego platforms and how much money they have and whatnot, but I'm thinking maybe there is a crowd out there that wants to rock and wants to hear music that [asks], Fucking why? Why are our children getting whaled on? Why are we sending our children to die in Iraq? Look at my video (for "Anthems of the Damned") and the American flag gets covered in oil, it just consumes it. How much more fucking on it can I be as far as criticizing what we're doing? As long as I'm creating the conversation I don't care. You can hate Filter's videos… (breaks into Daniel Day-Lewis from "There Will Be Blood") "Ladies and gentleman, when I say I'm an oil man, I think you'll agree that my son and partner H.W. and I run a family business." It's fucking oil, man! You could take a hundred billion dollars and build a solar farm in the middle of Mojave Desert and then you could get 40 percent of the country's energy from that. Did you know that? Did you…
(At this point, the line goes dead. A while later, after taking a shower, Richard calls back.)
BE: I was listening to the first Filter record and then I listened to Anthems, and I believe this is the best vocal performance of your career. Your vocals have really matured between these two points. Has this been a conscious effort on your part?
RP: Yeah. After Short Bus went platinum, I decided it was now time to sing. It was time to unleash what I was capable of. I was really intimidated by having to sing originally, and it is something I still grapple with. These kids on "American Idol," by having to get up there and sing and literally be weeded out in front of a live audience, I have a lot of respect for that. I have a buddy, Ryan Star, who was put through the same kind of thing, and I'm just like, My Lord. I have had all sorts of things to help me; you're platinum, relax. So I did, I took that as kind of an encouraging thing to like finally chill out on myself, because I am my own worst critic. The other thing that really fucked with me is drug addiction and alcohol. That fucked me up on The Amalgamut. I was not able to sing "Where Do We Go from Here" live. It is incredibly high, and I couldn't sing it. In the last five years in being sober and quitting smoking and going to vocal coaches, that really put it into overdrive. But it is something I have always grappled with. I consider myself a guitar player. I do work hard at it, and there is something incredible about singing. I did it out of necessity. On Short Bus, I was like, "I don't know anybody else, so I'll do it." It was definitely done with that kind of attitude.
BE: I wanted to ask you briefly about Trent (Reznor) and Nine Inch Nails and there are some real interesting parallels. Trent is Nine Inch Nails, Richard is Filter. Josh Freese has worked with Nine Inch Nails and has worked with Filter.
RP: When we were starting out in Nine Inch Nails, it was my job to remind him that we were heavy, that we were dark. He came in and I heard songs like (sings), "Well you got me working so hard, baby." And I was the little voice in his ear that would say, "'Head like a Hole' is the fucking song man." That was where I was at in Nine Inch Nails. I was a never-ending nagging voice of darkness. He even said so on Broken, which was really like a Ministry record and he even listed me as an influence. So looking back on it, it was definitely amazing to be part of this Nine Inch Nails huge phenomenon thing. At the same time, it was incredibly alcoholic. Trent was drinking 24 hours a day; I was drinking 24 hours a day. It was a lot of excess, a lot of drugs and a lot of craziness, and that complicated things. And then I said, "I got this song, 'Hey Man, Nice Shot,' what do you think?" He said, "Maybe, I don't know, release it, I'm not sure." He really didn't show any interest. So I wondered what Warner Brothers would think. Warner Brothers was like, You can have a million dollars and go live your life in comfort. So, how do you like that?
I thought it would just probably be a hit. He couldn't picture me having an impact on the music world, so I split and it was a little weird at the time, but we were 20-something and then there was a lot of booze, and that complicated our relationship quite a bit. Looking back on it, I am definitely proud of it. I was the guitar player called "Piggy" and it was my job to be a crazed lunatic. I would get on stage and throw beer at the audience. I would spit beer on the audience, Trent would fucking tackle me onstage. I was in the band for three years and it was a great experience, and no one can take that away from me. The fact that I'm not really mentioned in any of that is interesting, but at the same time I don't really care because Filter is my legacy. I have had great success and I am very proud of my track record.
"Bono once said, 'You have to blow your own minds.' You just can't release records and cash in. That's what I want to do, I want to blow my own mind."
BE: Does being a parent have any effect on what you are writing?
RP: I'm trying to make my world a better place. When my daughter is 10 years old and she starts asking questions like what we were talking about earlier, I want her to have answers. I want her to know that I tried, that I am doing the best I can. Whether it's through lyrics or a conversation or it's pissing people off, I want her to know that I did something that tried to make her world a better place.
BE: Thank you so much for your time and I sincerely wish you nothing but success with the lifestyle change, the new record and I look forward to more Filter in the future. Best of luck.
RP: Thanks Robert, thanks so much.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Gene Simmons Roast

One of the more amusing and entertaining television programs recently has been the Gene Simmons Family Jewels. Had I not found The Osbournes to be amusing a few years back, I probably wouldn't have watched this.

I'm not much of a TV person, let alone reality TV, but for some reason the reality rock 'n' roll family shows strike a chord. The Simmons program is better than the Osbournes, mainly because of his son, who comes up with some of the funniest stuff imaginable. It looks like he has a brilliant future ahead of him.

Here's a clip from a roast Simmons' wife put on for him, along with a dozen comedians to poke fun at him. It's a special 1.5 hour episode, I think showing on A&E. This is the clip with Cher and Diana Ross entering the room.

There's all sorts of interesting stuff at this roast: the comedians get weirded out by Simmons' kids being in the audience, Steve-O gets tossed before the show even begins, Carrot Top looks like he's out of control with the steroids. He looks like Ronald McDonald turned Frankenstein, and not in a good way. Creepy stuff, actually.

Perhaps the funniest moment is when Craig Gass does a mock KISS press conference where he imitates Paul Stanley, Simmons, and Gilbert Gottfried as if he was in KISS. He follows that up with an impression of Al Pacino handing Simmons an acting award and quoting KISS lyrics. I almost fell off the couch laughing.

If you ever even had a remote interest in KISS, or wanted to know what the hoopla was all about, this is an interesting way to get behind the music and into the mind of one of the more amusing characters in rock, Gene Simmons. A legend with the ladies.

One more line from the roast. Quoting Andrew Dice Clay: "Gene made a decision when he was young...why not become the Bozo the Clown of rock 'n' roll?"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

THE REVIEW CORNER -- Coldplay: Viva la Vida (2008 issue, Capitol)

Ouch! Things look a bit painful here.
I tend to be a bit of a stuffy room when it comes to taking in new bands.

As much as I try to keep an open mind on something new, it takes something very very special to get my attention, let alone to get me to like it.

I've been better about it recently, and it's bore some great fruit with newer English bands like Porcupine Tree, Radiohead, and Coldplay.

Of course it depends on your definition of "new." For me, new basically means since the mid-1990s. Part of my issue with getting into a "new" band is that I am attracted to staying power and the way a band showcases itself live. That's a little difficult to do with a "new band," because staying power doesn't mean you're new anymore now, does it?

What can I say - it's a spindrift clusterfunck down the crapper. What do you do.

Coldplay as a "new" band

That all being said, one my "newest" favorite rock bands (who put out their first full-length album Parachutes in 2000) are set to put their 4th studio album out next week. Viva la Vida, Coldplay's latest offering, came out in the UK today and will be released in the US next week.

Coldplay are one of those rare contemporary bands who are a bit of a throwback. They're timeless, yet modern. When I listen to them I hear a mishmash of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and U2...along with a little Radiohead and R.E.M. However, they achieve a beauty, elegance, and flow to their music that in some ways eclipses all those other bands.

I'm not saying Coldplay is "better" than Radiohead, U2, or the Beatles. I'm pointing out what I can only describe as a "flow" or "elegance" as their strongest suit...a very strong suit. Some of it has to do with a combination of their sound and how they lock into a groove. Coldplay is developing a catalog of albums that I believe can start to be viewed as a body of work holding up next to the greatest of the greats.

Viva la Vida picks up on the evolution of a band who started releasing their recording output in the late 90s with an EP Brothers and Sisters (1999), then with their first full-length CD Parachutes (2000). That was followed by A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002), Live 2003, and X&Y (2005).

If you give the band a chronological listen, you can hear their sound evolving. It's a compelling analysis of how a young band can mature their sound. Viva la Vida drives that point home, only hinting at the brilliant future that lays ahead for this British quartet.

Viva la Vida is a really interesting listen - I'm on about my third go-around with it. I love picking up the evolving details of new releases. The album seems to touch on the subject matter of life and death, in that timeless "Coldplay mosaic" we've come to expect from them...much in the same way that X&Y was about the subject of balance.

An analysis of Viva la Vida

Coldplay is starting to mix up their song structures now, as they open up the album with the instrumental "Life in Technicolor," which carries with it the sound of epic drama, like the full gale wind blowing through an open window and messing up the neatly organized paperwork on the kitchen table.

The short opening instrumental morphs into the haunting funeral dirge of "Cemeteries of London," which brings home the great effect and imagery indicated by its title.

"Lost!" brings in Chris Martin on the organ and drives up the tempo a bit. It makes me wonder if the band is a fan of the television program.
"42," the 4th track, brings up the concept of death once again - but not in a depressing sense. The song opens up with a lines: "Those who are dead are not dead - they're just living in my head." Then the song performs a tempo shift to the playful lines of: "You thought you might be a ghost - you didn't get to have it but you made it close."
"Lovers in Japan /Reign of Love" has the makings of a great song, and at first listen seems to be aimed at families and friends of those in the military. "Lovers in Japan" opens up with the words: "Lovers...keep on the road you're on. Mothers...until the race is run.'ve got to soldier on. Sometimes...even the right is wrong." Again, this track features a tempo shift to the beautiful "Reign of Love."
"Yes /Chinese Sleep Chant" is another song structure mishmash if you like, opening with an Middle Eastern feel to it like one might find on Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" from their 1975 hodge-podge classic Physical Graffiti. This is one of those dark horse tracks that might not make it on the radio, but heavily compliments the mosaic of the album.
The title track "Viva la Vida" is another one of those radio-friendly Coldplay classics that everyone will come to know, in the vein of "Speed of Sound" from 2005's X&Y.
As the band has indicated in recent interviews, "Violet Hill" is a nod to the Beatles. That element is immediately recognizable, as it carries the Lennon-esque feel from "I am the Walrus" off 1967's Magical Mystery Tour.
"Death and All of His Friends /The Escapist" seems to be a rallying cry against war and the eventual but unnecessary plague of death that comes with it. It embraces the concept in a general way without getting politicized or referring to specific events such as something like Iraq, or Vietnam, or the bloody revolutions of centuries past.
Once again, the last portion of this song, "The Escapist," ends the album in a mini-soundscape to round off this unusual but very listenable album.
Soundscape to mini-jam to soundscape
Viva la Vida is yet another perfectly crafted work from one of the great rock bands of this decade. It pushes the band in new directions, as it's very bold an innovative in its song structures. It combines a wide range of differing and contrasting sounds together into what I can only describe as "soundscape to mini-jam to soundscape," teetering back and forth. While pushing forward with this interesting lineup of songs, it also looks over its shoulder at band influences such as The Beatles, as they have done with "Violet Hill."
Brian Eno's production stands out as usual. The slick feel and classical accents in many of the songs are part of his stamp.
There's something to be said about creating not only a unique sound, as Coldplay has successfully done in their short career with several albums, but also a feel and vibe to a work such as Viva la Vida. In this regard, I'm at a point with Coldplay where I can say "I'm in the mood for X&Y," or "I'm in a mood for Viva la Vida," and reach for whatever will enhance the mood I'm in at the time.
There aren't many bands that I frame in that sort of light...but Coldplay's one of them. ...and it's my honor.
Cool album cover!
I also have to say I'm a sucker for a cool album cover, and this Delacroix is one of the best I've seen. The guy fighting the battle in that top hat makes me chuckle every time I look at it. Inspiring stuff...
"I'm ready to go out my own way" I imagine Mr. Top Hat is thinking, if that's what the master plan has in store for him.
I can't get enough of this cover...I could simply stare at this thing for hours tripping out on it while listening to the music...time well spent, in my opinion. That's what album covers are all about; the audio-visual experience that brings the imagination to life. A perfect fit for the Coldplay mosaic.
That's also why I'm picking up the limited edition vinyl version of Viva la Vida. This one's going up on the wall, baby.
These boys from Britain have put out another classic to bookend their catalog. "God Save the Queen!" S
For those of you who like a little history on a band, here's the "Coldplay Kool-Aid" if you like...

Coldplay never intended to become England's favorite rock & roll sons when their signature rock melodies ruled the charts throughout 2000. The Brit rock quartet -- composed of Chris Martin (vocals/piano), Jon Buckland (guitar), Will Champion (drums), and Guy Berryman (bass) -- yearned to mess around a bit, plucking their own acoustics for fun while attending the University College of London. All had been playing instruments since their early teens and had been influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan, the Stone Roses, Neil Young, and My Bloody Valentine.
They never imagined taking reign of the U.K.'s ever-changing rock scene. Each member had come from a solid household of working-class parents who encouraged music. Martin, the eldest of five, began playing the piano as a young child. He started playing in bands around age 15 and sought solace in the words of Tom Waits. Buckland, on the other hand, was into the heavy guitar work of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix and was playing guitar by age 11. Scotland native Berryman was into funk instead of indie rock, therefore leaving him to play bass. The multi-instrumentalist, Champion, didn't plan to be a drummer until he joined Coldplay. He favored playing guitar, bass, and the tin whistle, but caught on to playing percussion when the band became official.
Coldplay was heart-rending like Travis, passionate like Jeff Buckley, and as fresh as Oasis when they burst onto the scene. They had played their first gig at a festival for unsigned bands in Manchester, and the Safety EP was issued shortly thereafter. The Brothers & Sisters EP was issued by Fierce Panda and released a year later. (Both releases saw only 500 pressings.) Their sweet melodies and swooning lyrics landed Coldplay a U.K. deal with Parlophone in April 1999, and the five-track limited-edition Blue Room EP followed that fall. With nods from the media, the dream pop foursome was hailed as the next Travis, thanks to their simplistic acoustics and charming personas. Two more EPs, Shiver and Yellow, arrived in spring 2000.
Their full-length debut, Parachutes, earned the band a Mercury Music Prize in the U.K. It saw a U.S. release in November 2000, and a month later "Yellow" was chosen as the theme song for all promo spots for ABC. The well-received hype surrounding Coldplay continued throughout 2001 as well; they were nominated for three Brit Awards and embarked on a sold-out ten-date tour of the U.S. Rumors of a split consumed most of the U.S. tour. Martin frequently battled nasty colds and voice exhaustion, which led Coldplay to cancel a series of American dates and scrap a European tour. With all gossip aside, Coldplay resumed playing in summer 2001 and earned additional success with second single "Trouble."
By fall, they headed into the studio for a second album. Rumor had it that it might be Coldplay's last album, for the bandmembers felt they might not capture such brilliance again. A Rush of Blood to the Head was released in August 2002. The CD/DVD package Live 2003 was issued one year later. Capturing the band's show at the Horden Pavilion in Sydney, Australia, it highlighted Coldplay's monumental success worldwide with A Rush of Blood to the Head. Martin specifically earned a higher notch on the celebrity scale by marrying actress Gwyneth Paltrow in December 2003. Paltrow gave birth to the couple's first daughter, Apple Blythe Alison Martin, the following April.
Fatherhood didn't stop Martin from working, as Coldplay began recording material for a third album within weeks. Previously recorded material with longtime producer Ken Nelson was scrapped early on, while Danton Supple (Morrissey, the Cure) joined Coldplay to complete the recording of X&Y. "Speed of Sound" marked Coldplay's first single from their long-awaited third effort in spring 2005; the album followed in June, topping the charts around the world, including America and Britain. ~ MacKenzie Wilson, All Music Guide

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Greatness, thy name is Neil Peart

Here's a review of Rush's concert at the Gorge on May 31, which was two Saturdays ago. I'll be putting together my own review of this concert soon. S

Published: June 04, 2008 9:00:00 AM
Updated: June 05, 2008 9:45:42 AM

There’s something almost indescribable about being in the presence of greatness. And I have been in that presence.

Greatness, thy name is Neil Peart.

For two hours and 40 incredible minutes, I stood, mouth agape, watching as a 50-something year old man took drumming to an almost extra terrestial level. On May 31, my husband, Bryan, and I celebrated our 12th anniversary a bit early at The Gorge. A few months back, I’d surprised him — more shocked him right out of his skin — with a pair of tickets to see Rush. Rush is his favorite band on the whole wide face of the animal planet. I kind of liked them a whole lot, too. Yeah, I’m the coolest wife in the world ... blah, blah, blah.

It was also our first outing to The Gorge at George, which was a sight to see in itself. It was also our second concert together. The first, Metallica at Qwest Field, was a bit forgettable as neither one of us were very impressed with the whole “St. Anger” thing.

There are a couple other entertainment experiences in my life that came a bit close to Rush. In 2001, saw Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones hit a two-run home run over the center fence at Atlanta’s Turner Field. In the mid-90s, I saw a World Cup soccer game in Fresno, Calif., (the Northridge earthquake damaged the stadium in Los Angeles, forcing the game to Fresno). Rush, live at The Gorge, just took the place of both Chipper’s homerun and World Cup soccer. For me, that’s huge.

We got to The Gorge early enough to stand in line for $13 margaritas, which we promptly killed just to watch them die.

As we made our way to our seats (Section B, Row 20, seats 35 and 36), the closer we got to the stage, the more excited we both got. I was excited for Bryan, while he was excited for the show.

The music was great ... practically spiritual in a non-religious way. Most songs were off “Snakes and Arrows,” but there were plenty of classics thrown in for good measure. The only song I wanted to hear live, “Tom Sawyer,” had a great lead-in with Cartman from “South Park” changing the words.

In Cartman’s version, Tom Sawyer rode down the river on a raft.

The concert almost took a second stage for me because I was having such a great time watching the crowd. It was great to see a crowd of about 90 percent men be so caught up in the moment that they forgot they were supposed to play it cool. The mandatory seat-between-men that exists in movie theaters? Nope, not here. No talking, touching or any interpersonal communication whatsoever? Rules suspended.

In particular, there was a group of guys two rows ahead and a few over who introduced themselves to each other before the show, rocked together for the entire show, then swore to remain BFFs — Best Friends Forever. These are the guys who greeted the band at the beginning with a chorus of “we’re not worthies.”

When The Man stole the show with his right-about 15 minute drum solo, I could physically see the admiration in the eyes of every man in the audience for he who is arguably the world’s best drummer. For years, my husband and all his friends have being making the argument that Neil Peart isn’t so much a drummer as he is some sort of diety. Now, I, too, could argue that case.

Through it all, my usually stoic husband sang along with nearly every song and smiled so much I thought his face would break.

Happy anniversary, sweetie. Oh, by the way, I walked out of there with a mean crush on Neil Peart.

But besides that, I’m still the coolest wife in the world.

North Kitsap Herald Editor Celeste Cornish can be reached at