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Oct 242013

Dave Sanchez of HAVOK performing at The Social in OrlandoHAVOK came to Orlando with legendary Sepultura founder, Max Cavalera, and his band, Soulfly. I caught up with David for a quick interview out on the loading area behind The Social to talk about the current state of metal, world politics, heavy metal inspirato, and horror movies among other things.

HAVOK is a seriously bad ass thrash band that seems to have absorbed all that is great about classic metal, mixed it up, and spit it out with attitude, originality, and authenticity. This couldn’t have come at a better time for me. The geo-political and economic state of the world is screaming for good metal and punk, but I just haven’t found many bands that resonate. Indie music and hip hop are growing tiresome, but nothing heavy outside of alternative bands like Queens and the Pumpkins do anything for me. Mastodon is OK, but just a little too prog-y. New or Nu metal is too math-y and just lacks the chunky bite of colossal riffage that drew me to heavy metal to begin with. I just end up falling back on the greats: Slayer, Sepultura, pre-91 Metallica, Anthrax, and the like. HAVOK is the real deal:

Jul 252013

the-saturday-giant-interview-on-kisses-and-noiseThe Saturday Giant will be performing at Natura Coffee & Tea, this Friday, July 26 at 9pm

Who are you and where do you come from?

I’m Philip Cogley, born in Mississippi, partially raised in northwestern Pennsylvania—but since the age of 8, I’ve been an Ohio boy.


OK, so I have to ask; name? Saturday Giant. The Saturday Giant. Do tell …

It’s a bastardized translation of the name of this incredible Mexican variety show, Sabado GiganteIt’s like the Lawrence Welk show , if everyone involved were on acid. When I got the idea to do a solo project, I knew that I wanted it to incorporate a lot of different genres, and since that show incorporates so many genres of television in a very bizarre, almost psychedelic way, it seemed appropriate. Literally, the name of the show in English would be “Gigantic Saturday,” but I think “The Saturday Giant” sounds cooler. It’s also funny (to me) because I’m short.

Now – I was introduced to your music through the YouTube video you posted. It was “The Fix” on SpoonfeedTV.
The thing I noticed is that your drummer is a total dick. The rest of the guys are OK – but that drummer, man.
No – honestly, it’s the obvious  – the fact that YOU are Saturday Giant. You’re doin’ this solo. And you’re building these layers of rhythms and riffs and melody one-by-one by yourself. It’s really incredible to watch.

Haha the drummer is totally a dick! But man, thank you for saying that. I tweeted the video to you on a whim; I’m really glad you took a moment to watch it and you enjoyed it so well.

Where did you begin, musically? What instrument? What age?

I started playing the guitar when my parents got me lessons for Valentine’s Day in 5th grade. I think I was always interested in music, though. When I was very young, an old friend of my parents apparently told my mother, “you could teach Philip anything if you put it to music.”

At what point did you say, “You know what? I’m just going to make this shit my way. I’m fucking playing everything!”

It happened about 3 years ago. I’d written a record and recruited some good friends of mine in Columbus to play the songs out with me for a few months. I knew that I wanted to tour, and I was in the process of putting a trio together to do that (my friends were either in other bands or lacked the flexibility to tour as aggressively as I wanted), but I was having a hard time finding a bass player who clicked. Then the guy I had lined up to play drums was diagnosed with heart palpitations.  Obviously, the touring lifestyle is high stress and not recommended for folks with that condition, so it was back to square one.  I was really frustrated—the entire rationale for writing and recording an album on my own was not to be reliant on other people!—and here I was stuck, unable to do what I wanted to do for that very reason. So I vowed to figure things out so I would never be in that position again.

I’m an idiot, but to me, it seems the practice it would take to manipulate the myriad instruments before you as well as the sampling equipment would be like learning to play another instrument in and of itself.

I suppose it is a bit like that. Certainly the first time I experimented with looping/live sampling/whatever you want to call it, it did not go well. I said to myself, “wow. I may not be cut out for this.” But I spent a lot of time woodshedding in my basement, and I got a bit better. I don’t think it got really seamless though until I started touring. Playing in different rooms with different acoustics every night really has a way of locking things in.

Would you ultimately like to build a band around Saturday Giant?

The only way I would do that is if suddenly I were working with a label that wanted to offer some big time tour support, or if I knew I was going to be selling a lot of tickets that would enable me to properly compensate the other musicians. But even then, I’m not sure I would do it. At this point, the one-man band aspect of the project is a big part of what makes The Saturday Giant, The Saturday Giant.


What music inspires you? What do you draw from?
I hear a sort of elegant melancholy – and kind of hear touches of Modest Mouse and Death Cab and maybe something like Manchester Orchestra, Mimicking Birds??

I certainly went through phases in which I listened to plenty of Modest Mouse and Death Cab, although I think the former probably has more to do with my songwriting than the latter. I was obsessed with Radiohead for a long time when I was younger, so I’m sure that influence is there. I was (and am) a big fan of late 90s/early aughts post-rock—big, expansive stuff like Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Do Make Say Think, etc.

I also love hip hop and hip hop production, from mainstream stuff like Kanye to indie stuff like Why? Probably the simplicity I tend to favor when it comes to beats and basslines comes from there.

Where can people find more info and hear some music? is the online portal for The Saturday Giant experience – Haha!

There’s also:


What’s your favorite TV show? And if you fucking say, “I don’t watch TV,” I’m going to fucking freak.
Uh oh. Well, I really don’t watch much TV.


<ducks tomato> However, my all-time favorite show is Arrested Development. The writing on that show (especially on the original 3 seasons) is just unreal.


If I hit play on your iPod right now, what would I hear? You have to be honest. You can’t say Dirty Mind or Something Blue or something else cool. If it’s En Vogue you better fucking say it’s En Vogue!

You’d be most likely to hear audiobooks of A Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones)! Haha. That’s the only way I stay sane on longer drives. (And if you drop any spoilers in this article, I will murder you.)

Haha – no spoilers. I’ve really gotten into podcasts and audio books myself as of late.

Just for fun, I hit shuffle on my phone and here are the first 5 songs that came up:

Nirvana – “Dumb”

Ronu Majumdar  – “African Queen”

Manu Chao – “Por el Suelo”

Baroness – “Blackpowder Orchard”

Weezer – “Buddy Holly”

I apologize if that’s not sufficiently embarrassing.
No. It’s just music snobbish enough to know you’re serious …

Who’s blowin’ up in Columbus right now? Who do you see breaking away or what is some music we should pay attention to should they stop by Orlando?

Well, Saintseneca just signed with ANTI-, which is a pretty huge freakin’ deal. I think everyone in the Cbus community is pretty stoked about that; it’s like external validation for a scene we’ve known is kick ass for a long time.

I was hanging with some kids in Gainesville the other night and I played them some stuff by Cbus-expat, Dane Terry. They freaked. Dane is a good friend and a truly incredible pianist, performer and songwriter.  Way Yes and Dolfish are also good buds of mine from Ohio making really interesting, rewarding music.

I really encourage anyone to dig deep into the Columbus scene, there’s so much good stuff people are working on.

Well, thanks for not pullin’ a Beyonce or some shit and boycotting Florida.

Now have you heard about the Treyvon case? It’s big news ya know?
Did the fact that you are playing Orlando trouble any friends or loved ones? You know you might not make it out of here. It’s like the Wild West.

Man, that case is such an enormous bummer. I don’t blame Beyonce for boycotting, to be honest, though I don’t think her doing that helps to address the underlying issues. Floridians ought to know, though, that their state is a real object of derision pretty much everywhere else right now (at least, the places I’ve been on this tour). It’s not fair, but that’s the reality. The incident and its aftermath have been a pretty big black eye.

My point of view is that there are decent people everywhere. I’ve certainly encountered plenty of them thus far in Florida.  And really, what happened in that case would not have been possible without some very serious systematic flaws, and those flaws exist pretty much everywhere in this country. Though I must say that Stand Your Ground seems like a really great way to encourage people to assault each other, and that’s specific to Florida.

If I’ve offended any of your readers with my opinion on the subject, I encourage them to come discuss it with me after the show. Please don’t bring a gun.


Have you been to Orlando as a musician? A tourist?

This is my first time! I’m looking forward. I always thought the Magic had really dope uniforms.


You know you’re playing over by UCF. -Sooo many hot chics- Where and when are you playing?

Haha, that’s good to know. The show is at a place called Natura, The address is 12078 Collegiate Way, Orlando, FL 32817, and the show starts shortly after 9 PM.


You should freak everyone out and just blow the fucking doors of Natura! Just do a death metal version of your show with fucking screeching 5-minute guitar solos, smash a guitar and light your pants on fire. That would be rad.

Thanks for ruining the surprise, dick.


It will be interesting to see how it goes. I’ve been playing an extremely wide variety of venues on this tour. I don’t necessarily see coffee shops as my ideal sort of venue, but I’m pretty good at adjusting my set to the room I’m in. That said, if we can pack some kids in, I’ll totally stand on a table and take my pants off.

You heard it here first ladies. Let’s hold him to it …

Is When Death Comes your latest release? What inspired the title? What’s got you musing on such dark topics?

Yep, that’s the latest one. The making of that EP happened to coincide with a pretty trying time in my life. I lost a grandmother, a 19 year-old cousin and a dear friend, all within a year. I was also dealing with the death of a romantic relationship. So I was thinking a lot about losing people, both physically and emotionally, and each of the songs address those issues in a different way.

Man! That’s tough, but it is also the inspiration for so much great music.

The title track is actually a riff on this poem called  “Death Be Not Proud” by a 17th-century poet named John Donne. In his poem, Donne personifies death in order to diminish his power, and that’s what I attempt to do in the song.

The Saturday Giant – “When Death Comes”

What’s coming up next for Saturday Giant?

I’m on tour through August 17, then I’m home for a couple of weeks before heading back out for most of September. Then I’m home again for much of October before hitting the road again for most of November. I’m doing some short runs in October and December as well.

Amidst all that, I’m trying to finish my first LP. I would love for it to come out this fall, but it can be tough to make progress with all the time and responsibilities of the road. We’ll see. But basically, I’m going to be making records and touring a ton for the foreseeable future.


The UCF area is in for a big treat. Besides performing pantless, The Saturday Giant will be bringing some very interesting, heartfelt indie rock to Natura Coffee and Tea by UCF. Check it out. Do it!

Hear some more of Philip as The Saturday Giant on his debut Daytrotter live session

Dec 272012

Bright Light Social Hour performing at The Social in Orlando, May 2012
I’ve seen many shows over the years and Austin’s  Bright Light Social Hour are one of the best bands I’ve witnessed live – and that’s a bold statement. Their stop at The Social here in Orlando was certainly a highlight for 2012. They are closing out the year in Central Florida with a show on the 29th at The Social and a New Year’s Eve blowout in Tampa at The Ritz. I caught up with these new found monsters of rock, blues, and psychedelia just before the end of the world (Pff, what a let down) to discuss Christmas gifts, going out in style for the apocalypse, rap cat, inspirato, jammin’ out, and their hatred of Tampa (hahaha – just kidding Tampa – you win).

Roll call: Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Jack O’Brien. I play bass and sing with The Bright Light Social Hour, among other things.

Bright Light Social Hour? Sorry for being lame, but what is the origin of the name?
Curt (Roush – guitars / vocals) and I started the band in college, and at the time he was studying Indian activist Arundhati Roy, who described the activist’s job as shining a bright light into the dark corners of society. We dug the concept but our approach and music has always been centered around community and gathering so we wanted to include something to that effect as well.

Cover of Bright Light Social Hour's albumWhat kind of party is happening on your album cover and how do I get invited?
Ha, we just invited a ton of friends, brought a bunch of beer to the greenbelt in Austin and had a little day party. The photographer and art director took a ton of photos and we just put together our favorite ones. I’m pretty sure there are a few randos in there who just walked up, that could’ve been you!

It should’ve been me. I can rock the cut-off jorts.

I never checked out the band before the last show here in Orlando. You guys kicked my fucking teeth in (a bill is in the mail). This is how I described the sound:

“A hefty mix of the southern rock and eclectic pop of My Morning Jacket meets
the frenetic energy of Morning Teleportation. These four guys are sick – drums,
bass, multiple lead vocals, keys (mostly with organ sounds), and guitar are
spot-on. The show went from crazy, high energy jams to spacey, tripped out
interludes that supported smart, powerful rock n’ roll with a twist of bar room
blues. Basically, they are all over the map but The Bright Light Social Hour does
it seamlessly and with ruthless authority.”

How far off am I? How do you explain the band’s influences and sound?
I dig it. Lately we’ve been calling it Future Southern Psychedelic Deep-soul, but we’re probably the worst people to ask. We’re serious students of music of all types. We love old soul, blues, deep-funk, house, electronic, I could go on and on. I went 2-stepping last night.

Live shows are vital for a rock band’s cred, but nowadays, constant touring is a given. You guys seem to thrive on stage. Is that the case? Are you still at the point where it is an adventure and shows are fun? You know, every show is a step forward towards gelling the band and growing as a unit or has this sweaty two-hour, nightly commitment become a drag with heroin and handfuls of pills just to get you to normal?
Haha! No man we absolutely live for the live show! The goal is for both us and the crowd to leave exhausted and fully satisfied.

What inspires you to create music? Kittens?
The future. The South. Outer space. Oh, and Rap Cat fo sho:

Being in the early stages of the band and playing night-to-night, city-to-city and winning over new fans with every stop, what kind of audience inspires you – makes you feel like you’ve connected with them? The type of scene where it might not be a home crowd singing all the words, but a mostly new audience.
An audience with an open mind an open ears is always best. Someone we can pass the spirit energy back and forth with, let it grow as we go. It really builds a connection, but both parties have to be open to it.

Are there bands that you guys see or check out at shows and they get you fired up and make you want to play?
Yea definitely. There’s an incredible 10-piece psychedelic Afrobeat band from Austin called Hard Proof that always makes us lose our shit. When choosing an opening band, promoters usually value someone with a good draw or similar sound to the headliner, but I think the best thing an opening band can do is get both the crowd and headlining band fired up; you gotta preheat the oven before you stick the meat in.

That’s what she said?

The 70’s rock, psychedelic, and blues elements of the band all lend themselves to jams. The album certainly showcases some jams, but how much of the live show is just free form, spontaneous noodling around song themes and how much of it is rehearsed departures? I guess I’m trying to figure out how you work together and sort of stretch out around your tunes.
Most shows there’s not much total improv, more rehearsed departures that develop over the course of a tour. But when we get the opportunity to play a longer headlining set we love to just get weird with it and go some unexpected places.

OK, I’ve never been to Austin. I’m in town for 48 hours. What do I do?
Sunbathe topless at Barton Springs, catch a Big Lebowski quote-along with a great local IPA at the Alamo Drafthouse, eat some killer cheap Mexican food at Las Cazuelas on the east side and go 2-stepping at White Horse.

Are you bracing yourself for the Mayan prophecy of end times?
I tried to have an orgy but no one showed up.

Well, the guy at the door wouldn’t let me in …

Speaking of end times, has Alex Jones ever ventured out of his bunker in Austin to check you out?
Had no idea he lived here.

Oh dude! Look him up. He’s a bit of a sensationalist (understatement alert), but some of his core libertarian views underscore the message of Arundhati Roy

What do you want for Christmas?

Image of Moog Voyager XL


Jo: Moog Voyager XL





image of converse all stars


a new pair of Converse, my foot is sticking out the side




new speaker of the house, a christmas present for Curtis Roush of bright light social hour


Curtis: a new Speaker of the House





Gollum, a gift on AJ Vincent of Bright Light Social Hour's christmas wishlist


A.J: Gollum




OK, time to make some enemies. Being somewhat familiar with Tampa and Orlando, which city do you enjoy more? (It’s ok to be honest. Everyone knows Tampa can be a little dirtbag-y and Orlando can be a little douche-y)
Looooove both but Tampa’s a little closer to the beach…

OK, I can dig that. West Coast Florida beaches are tough to beat.

What is coming up in 2013 for BLSH?
We’ll spend the first half of the year writing the next record, hopefully to release it toward the end of 2013. We plan on doing a lot of summer festivals and touring like crazy as soon as we finish up in the studio.


This band is built for shredding the festival stage, but if you can’t wait until summer (and you shouldn’t), it is my wholehearted recommendation that you SEE THIS BAND on December 29 at The Social in Orlando- GET TICKETS – or ring in the New Year right at The Ritz in Ybor City – GET TICKETS

Check Out the Bright Light Social Hour’s Resolutions for the New Year over at Suburban Apologist

In case you need some more inspiration to get out and see these guys:

UPDATE: Check out pics and video from the show

Oct 312011


Who are you and where did you come from?

“I’m Martyn, I come from a little town outside Slough (Berkshire, England) where I lived a happy childhood and a nightmarish adolescence.”

This is Martyn Jacques, the “criminal castrati,” a mastermind of sorts as the principal creative force and founder of the Tiger Lillies. The Tiger Lillies could be described as Brechtian Street Opera (after German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht) or Gypsy Cabaret and I’ve called them macabre Vaudeville because of their twisted Something Wicked This Way Comes, 19th century carnival feel. There is a nursery rhyme quality to the foreboding tales of vice, death and debauchery woven into their songs. Not the sugarcoated, modern stories for children, but the dreary and awful stories of disease and death that often spawn these tales.

Does that make sense? Do those tales influence the storytelling in some of your songs?

“Well I’m not a big fan of great words and my tunes – at least when they are first born – are always very simple… almost childish you could say. My songs speak about the dark side of human beings which is I guess the basis of the storylines you refer to.”

Martyn finds it difficult to describe the music of the Tiger Lillies because it is “the music that just comes out of my head.” He touches on the broad influences of “cabaret, punk, blues, and old eastern music” as the music he loves to listen to. And it is all in there – elements of the east in Jacques’ ominous accordion spliced together with the raw energy and straight-forward savagery of punk, the dingy glamour of cabaret, and adorned with twisted takes on theatrical and literary themes. All of this blends with so many influences to create one of the most interesting collections of music and performances in modern music. That is why Martyn continues, “So I can’t give you a ‘label’ I’m afraid, but I can say that I believe our music has developed and changed a lot since we started – 22 years ago.”

Martyn’s musical ability – playing the accordion, ukulele, and piano among other things – and his approach to songwriting contribute to the unique world of the Tiger Lillies, but it is his voice that puts the signature on the body of work.

Describe your voice, I mean, how would one classify your vocal style?

“I’m a self-taught singer. I tried attending singing classes in my 20’s and absolutely hated it. Our teacher would use all these different signing techniques, but in my opinion the sound, either way, was absolutely boring. So I guess a voice production “expert” (like he was) would find all sorts of technical flaws in my singing. Its pretty clear that I’m not big on classification, isn’t it?”

(I chuckle) Yes.

“But as we are discussing vocal styles I think I should mention that these days I use both my high voice (that people are more familiar with and has become a trademark of sorts for the Tiger Lillies) and my low voice. They are very different in the sense that my low voice is much more harsh and untrained than the high one. I love using both on stage and when we record, because I think it creates variety, shifting the mood of the songs.”

“The Dreadful Story of Harriet and the Matches” – The tale of a little girls grim brush with pyromania

How did the Lillies come to be? How did the sound and themes and members come together?

“The sound and themes were born inside my head after spending a decade in London staying in my flat all day learning how to play various instruments and training my voice. I had a great view from my window; on one side of the flat there was the playground of a nursery school – on the other, Beak Street of Soho, full of drunks, prostitutes and drug dealers. The band members (originally Adrian Huge and Phil Butcher – who was later replaced by Adrian Stout) were the only two people that got in touch with me when I put an ad on Loot looking for a bassist and drummer.”

It is certainly Mr. Jacques previously mentioned “nightmarish adolescence” and the time in his Soho apartment that spawned the themes in the Tiger Lillies music. His 10 years “embedded” in west London privy to the daily dramas of the dregs of Soho served as research for their music while feeding a fascination with the underbelly of society.

They have numbers like “Heroin and Cocaine” which chronicles a school boy’s addiction and eventual death, “Larder” about a dead body decaying in a larder, “QRV”- a story about a mysterious drug that the whole town is abusing and dying from, “Snip Snip” about a young boy who is warned by his mother to stop sucking his thumbs or an ominous tall tailor will cut them off with his shears (he does), and so many more including “Whore,” “Besotted Mother,” “Pimps, Pushers, and Thieves” “Sodsville,” and “Hamsters” a descriptive tale that harkens the urban myth of Richard Gere notoriety. Their discography is long – beginning in 1989 – and all creepily awesome.

The Lillies are prolific to say the least. It seems that – for the most part – the albums are concept driven and so are the shows / tours / residencies that follow. How do these concepts come about? Where do you find inspiration for these songs that range in subject from whores, drugs and transsexuals to rape, murder, bestiality, and sometimes even love?

“Oh … everywhere around me. All these things are out there for everyone to see. Its more about wanting to look and think about them… and finding a way of doing it that can turn them into art.”

The other permanent members of the Lillies are the Adrian’s, Adrian Huge on drums / percussion and Adrian Stout on stand-up bass. Huge is a talented percussionist that has found a way to play the drums in a non-traditional style for a non-traditional music by bringing the songs to life with anything from percussive instruments to silverware and spatulas. Stout, if you listen, is a solid bass player rooted in jazz. If Martyn gives the songs bite I feel Stout gives them legs. Looking beyond their musical abilities, Jacques adds, “The Adrians contribute not only to the sound but also, and more importantly, to the world of the Tiger Lillies. We never rehearse, we never practice – I write songs at home (or more likely in some hotel room), I turn up at the sound check right before a gig and I play them. They both pick them up instantly and add their own elements to them… musically and theatrically.”

“Crack of Doom” Live from Russia:

Your success wouldn’t be defined as a commercial smash, but you’ve built a strong international following and earned the admiration of so-called stars. Could you name a few?

“I’m crap with stars – especially TV ones as I don’t watch any. Whenever we play in places like L.A. some famous people come at the CD signing and say hello and I honestly feel bad because I don’t know who they are.”

Ha! You are most certainly better off for it.

To elaborate a little on what I was poking around for is that the Tiger Lillies, although not at mainstream blockbuster status, enjoy an underground popularity and respect that true artists earn. Their fans include everyone from international composers and dramatists to Simpson creator, Matt Groening, The Talking Heads’ David Byrne, and Marilyn Manson. They were even commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney to create a “song cycle of crime” for the festivals 17th running in 2010 that was recorded and released as Cockatoo Prison.

Has Manson – a Tampa boy – ever contacted you about collaborating? Would something like that interest you?

“No he hasn’t, but I know he played our music at his wedding. I’m always open to new collaborations, I enjoy anything that gives me another reason to write music.”


Speaking of collaboration, the Lillies have been a part of some amazing and inventive collaborations like Symphony Orchestra of Norrlandsoperan, photographer Nan Goldin, and Russian band, Leningrad. The ‘sort-of’ collaboration with Edward Gorey (American Illustrator and Author), The Gorey End, is fantastic and the vehicle that brought me to your sound. I mean – it seemed so perfect – when I would see his work it was like Tiger Lillies music was coming out of the page and that was before I discovered you! How did that idea come about? What was the story behind it?

“Edward Gorey sent me a letter asking me to go visit him to discuss a collaboration. I was thrilled of course but just before taking the flight to go see him, he died. It’s almost too ironic to be true. We made the album anyway and I think its one of our greatest ones as his work is very inspiring for me, but it’s a real shame he wasn’t around to listen to it.”

I am dying to know what QRV is. What is it? I’ve never found anything on it. Not that I want to take it or anything …

“I’m dying to know too. I would have asked Edward Gorey if he hadn’t died days before our first meeting.”

You are coming off a residency in Vienna where you played a show called Woyzeck. Could you explain that show – the premise and its origins?

It’s about Franz Woyzeck – a great character: to earn an extra buck he has become a guinea pig and eats nothing but peas. He starts hallucinating and goes paranoid, which doesn’t help when he realizes the mother of his child is cheating on him with the sleazy, wealthy and butch drum major.  It’s a wonderfully dark play and I think that the production I was in was a great one too. The run in Vienna went very well – hopefully we will tour it one day.


Stephanie Mohr, who directed The Weberischen (Another Tiger Lillies production with a dark and lusty interpretation of the women in Mozart’s life) in 2006, asked me to write some songs for Woyzeck that was the next project she wanted to work with us on. I wasn’t familiar at the time with Buchner’s (Georg Buchner is an early 19th century German dramatist) work, but I loved the play and I found it really relevant to the Tiger Lillies world.”

How was the stint in Vienna? Do you have any reflections on the city and your time there?

“Civilized is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Vienna. I know the city pretty well as I’ve done a few long runs there. When you travel a lot you develop certain “habits” in certain places. So it’s always good to be back and go to your favorite restaurants, bars, and galleries – walk down your favorite street. The Woyzeck run was very successful so it was a good experience altogether.”

There seems to be a strong kinship with Germany – from the themes of albums and homage to German writers and artistic movements. You also appear to do a lot of recording in Germany. Why is that?

“On one hand German cabaret as well as the Twopenny Opera (A Tiger Lilly interpretation of Bertolt Brecht’s musical, Theepenny Opera) by Kurt Weil (Original composer on Brect’s Threepenny Opera) have been very inspiring for me, so its possible that this influence on my work is something German audiences can relate to. We’ve also had some really good German agents. So over the last 22 years we visited Germany countless times; from big cities to small towns. As for the recordings, we always do them when we are on the road; it makes sense as we are almost never “at home” anyway. And as we spent so much time in Germany we have recorded a few albums there.”

The sound and mood of the music harkens bleak Dickensian squalor – for me anyway. Even though these themes are timeless, the presentation gives the songs a sort of antiquated feel – like it was captured from a bygone era. Do you draw any inspiration or fodder from current events like the current wars, the fleecing of the world by bankers, the imminent economic collapse of the world, and 2012 doomsday prophesies? All seem like they could fall in Tiger Lilly territory.

“I used to be rather indifferent to current events – but I think this is changing as years go by. Last summer I was in Athens where people were protesting at austerity measures. The committee of the protesters got in touch and invited us to perform in Syntagma Square, opposite the Greek Parliament. We performed in front of hundreds of thousands of people with tear gas grenades being fired everywhere around us. I felt what I was doing gained a whole new meaning. It was definitely one of the most important performances in my career.”

The Tiger Lillies Play Greek Parliament During Protests

The Tiger Lillies Play Greek Parliament During Protests

Are the songs developed with the shows in mind or do the shows sort of write themselves as the album tells its story?

“It can and has worked both ways.”

Since I’ve followed you I can’t recall you visiting the states. Do you tour here much? What is the stateside reception of your music?

“We used to come to the States every year, usually in the fall – around Halloween. Last year we had a big tour around Europe with the “Tiger Lillies Freakshow” (a show built around their ’99 album Circus Songs, which could be likened to a musical version of Tod Browning’s 1932 classic horror film, Freaks), so we didn’t make it. Its great touring here, we have many really devoted fans that are also wildly enthusiastic as they don’t see us that often.”

What kind of fans does it seem to attract over here? It almost seems like the themes and nature are too clever for us – like only literature professors and theater majors would “get it.”

I suppose I’ll take that as a compliment. I don’t however see your point. I don’t think my songs are that clever, and I definitely don’t think Americans are stupid. As in the rest of the world we attract different kinds of people; from 16 year-old Goths to middle aged couples. We even have some elderly ladies that follow us around.”


I would beg to disagree with Martyn’s assertion that, “I don’t think my songs are that clever.” As I see it, a band that is highly sought by the international musical and theatre community that can pull off albums dedicated to bestiality (Farmyard Filth, 2003) on one end of the spectrum and creating a musical translation of Francois Rabelais’s medieval novel Gargantua & Pantagruel (Here I Am Human, 2010) on the other is pretty damn clever. Just take a look at their long list of albums and their brief synopsis to get a glance at the magnitude of their themes and collaborations: www.

What can fans in Tampa expect? Will this be a more traditional concert as compared to the themes and concepts of Woyzeck and Freakshow?

“Oh yes. Doing runs with shows is great but eventually I get tired of performing the same songs each night. So now I’m really looking forward to some Tiger Lillies gigs where I can do whatever I like with the set list.”

“Bully Boys” – A brutal tale of revenge from the perspective of a bullied kid:

What do the Tiger Lillies have in store for us in the coming year?

“I’m working on many projects at the moment, but the one that might actually make it to the US is a new production of Hamlet. It will open in Copenhagen in the spring and hopefully next year it will tour the States.”

The Tiger Lillies wrapped up Woyzeck in Vienna in mid-October then went on to a brief stint at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn to perform Sinderella with avant-garde actor, Vivian Bond. This is the tale of Cinderella Tiger Lillies style as “Sinderella” is a crack-whore battling with drug addiction and domestic abuse. I wonder why Disney hasn’t come calling?

Martyn Jacques, Adrian Stout, and Adrian Huge will bring their bizarre, beautiful, and darkly funny brilliance to the Straz Center in Tampa on Thursday, November 3rd.

The Tiger Lillies Facebook page

The Tiger Lillies on Twitter

The Tiger Lillies official website

See the interview on Tampa’s Best Music Website, Suburban Apologist

May 242011

Screen shot 2011-05-24 at 10.04.43

The core of the Smashing Pumpkins was the telepathic relationship between Jimmy Chamberlin and Billy Corgan. On one hand there is a grandiose and ambitious songwriter and guitarist and on the other, a pummeling and incredibly dynamic drummer. Avalanches of howling guitar shift suddenly into waves of shimmering melody and back again. A drummer whose thunderous rhythm, lightning speed, versatility, and incredible meter anchored the music while carpet-bombing fills and elegant flourishes added to the melody.

A prolific and storied partnership ended almost as oddly as it began. Chamberlin, for any host of reasons sought a change, one that would keep him growing and even writing music in a more collaborative atmosphere than to that which he was accustomed. A brief moment of hostility and hurt feelings as Corgan cried, “go ahead and drive around in a white van for the rest of your life if you want” [I am completely paraphrasing here from accounts read before 5.26.2011] Surely this was a jab at walking away from the monster brand of SP that they built together to start over in a smaller band. Although Billy was the songwriter and creator, only Jimmy’s drums could match this attack to fuel and propel their sound.

Enter Skysaw: A band that sees the union of some unique and powerful talent. Mike Reina and Anthony Pirog earned respect with their own psychedelic prog-pop in the Fairfax, VA / D.C. area. United as Skysaw, these guys create a new brand of music that is lush and diverse enough to showcase the awe inspiring drum work of Chamberlin while indulging the songwriter and arranger in him as well.

The overwhelming sound of Jimmy and SkySaw
Capsized Jackknifed Crisis by SkySaw

Out of tact and a desire to be original I quell the need to ask the nagging questions about the Pumpkins split and the personal and musical dynamics that propelled it. Yet as I dig deeper the reasons become apparent, boiling down to simple, personal creative integrity. Frontman Mike Reina and Jimmy Chamberlin took some precious time from their loaded schedule to talk music, plans, drums, and yes a little Smashing Pumpkins.

K&N: I really thought “THIS” was a cool name. What happened? Was it for the sheer fact that it would be impossible to gain any search engine traction with that name?

Mike Reina: That was an issue with the name.  We were into the idea of keeping the name very general so that it could take on many meanings while avoiding specifics.  By the time we were ready to release though, we traded that idea for the imagery that Skysaw might imply.

K&N: The typical trajectory of a band starting off is to tour then record – how does it feel to turn that concept on its head?

MR: It’s interesting to construct tightly wound songs and then go looking for the places where they can stretch out a bit live.

K&N: Who put together the orchestral arrangement on “Am I Second?”

MR: Jimmy wrote the orchestral arrangement, Anthony transcribed it and we recorded it at my place.

K&N: I expected a radical change when you departed SP. I always got the feeling that you are a jazz man at heart and maybe felt you thought you were “dumb-ing it down” – at least to yourself – by playing “rock.” When you made the comment about not being into the music anymore I expected something closer to the Complex – you know, a jazz trio or quartet type scene OR a crazy fusion experimental thing. SkySaw, although different, is not apples and oranges when compared to SP.

Jimmy Chamberlin: To me, music is music and it is all relevant and challenging . I never once in my life have felt like I had to “dumb down” anything. In fact the simpler music was always MORE challenging for me. SkySaw represents an opportunity for me to explore things about being a musician that don’t necessarily involve playing the drums.

K&N: I think I just had this question answered within the last two responses in a roundabout way but I ask anyway: What are you feeling right now, in this band, that you were not feeling in your last band?

JC: Basically a better chance for personal evolution as an artist.

K&N: How many songs have you recorded as SkySaw?

MR: Eleven – I think and demoed probably 12-15 others.

K&N: What was Roy Thomas Baker’s involvement with the record?

MR: We worked with Roy early on.  Jimmy sent him “No One Can Tell” and asked if he wanted to be involved.  He loved the song and came out to my place to work with us for two weeks.  After the first two weeks we decided to remain insular and produce the record ourselves.  We started from scratch and continued working together as we had previous to our stint with Roy.  He was hilarious, btw

K&N: I can see that. Beyond the production genius I see the dyed-in-the-wool rock guy; A legacy from the decadent days of rock, full of stories, anecdotes, and colorful insight.

How I came to be a Pumpkin fan was two-fold. I grew up on metal so as it phased out and grunge moved in – I liked it, but it wasn’t doing it for me. Then SP came around with walls of guitar and an appreciation for the solo that was briefly forgotten with grunge. It re-vitalized metal / hard rock by legitimizing it in a new and valid form. It was also fearless in mingling with just about every other genre of pop and revealing deep emotion.

Here, I do my best to not sound like a sniveling sycophant, but I failed …

But the first thing that caught my ear, making me listen further and appreciate SP, was the drumming. My friends and I were 17-18 when Siamese (Dream) came out. I remember listening every night on my buddy’s back porch with our friends. The guys that knew music would shoot glances back and forth at each other and bust out laughing – usually in utter disbelief – and be like, “what the fuck is that drummer doing?!!!” and “he’s not human!”

JC: Thanks, that is very flattering. I will say that those songs make me say the same things sometimes…….. Not the human part, the other part.

K&N: Ha ha ha! OK. I won’t argue, but I think they are damn near perfect.

Your drumming can be defined as pummeling or over-the-top. How do you bottle up the chops and intensity when working with a band? Is it knowing where to place the fills and flourishes within the confines of the music or is it to work with musicians that can write music that stands toe-to-toe with your attack?

JC: For me, it’s simply playing in context and listening. Those drum parts came about because of a need more than a desire. The Pumpkins provided a context for that type of drumming just like the Complex provides a different canvas and so on. It’s really about fitting the drums in the music, not the other way around.

K&N: I was drawn to your drumming because it sort of embodied everything about my favorite drummers: I could hear the hand speed and control of Chambers or Rich with the authority and flair of Krupa along with the rock power of Lombardo or Bonham dashed with the musicality and flourishes of Roach. Am I crazy? How exactly would you describe your style? It’s so distinctive and almost instantly recognizable in any song…

JC: First off, thank you very much again. I think that the goal of playing any instrument is to develop your facility to the point where you can be yourself and say exactly what you want to say. Those drummers that you mentioned, along with a few others, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Mel Lewis, and a couple hundred others, said things on their instruments that resonated with me. I took those things and learned them, when I could, and moved them around until they represented how I felt. Much in the same way you would arrange words to convey an idea. Music is a chance to be yourself totally and uninhibited. That is the whole point for me. I only want to sound like me. I’m not interested in sounding like anyone else.

Jimmy discussing creating an identity with his sound:

K&N: What have you done with your approach to drumming to help propel SkySaw that you did differently (or the same) as SP?

JC: I think that my approach is the same as it always is: To move the song forward in the best possible way whilst still demonstrating a personal opinion about the piece.

K&N How did SkySaw become a band? Did you know each other before? Was it sort of forming anyway and then Jimmy entered the equation or did you meet first and decide to put together a band?

MR: Jimmy and I were introduced through a mutual friend.  I went out to Chicago for a hang with him and to write and play a bit.  We got along great and decided to become songwriting partners.  Six months later I introduced Anthony with whom I’d been playing for a couple years and again it was a great fit and we continued.  When we finished the record, I invited Boris and Paul to come down from New York to rehearse and we had our live band.  I played with Boris and Paul in the DC based Phaser and I am a touring member for their NYC based Dead Heart Bloom. We are all thrilled to be playing together.

K&N: What is it like to play with a legendary drummer? I imagine his timekeeping is a huge bonus?

MR: It’s a great experience playing together.  Each time is different and I notice something else he is doing that takes the music to a different place.  My favorite drummers have arrangement at the forefront of their writing and Jimmy is a great arranger of music.  Without any one element of his approach, we’d be playing a different song.  Especially when I am playing piano, his precision gives me the sense that we are constructing a building together using sound.  That probably sounds weird, but it’s the way playing with Jimmy makes me feel.

K&N: Not at all! I actually think I’m going to cry a little …

I always felt a differentiator was not only his impeccable timing, but also the ability to drive the music forward from the inside and actually add melodic qualities to the composition. Is that true?

MR: Very true.  I haven’t heard a drummer that supports the vocal melody as well as he does.  He’s driving.  There is no question about that.  The great thing about him is that he sees the point to which he’s driving before he gets in the car, but he’s ready to turn on a dime if the moment calls for it.  He’s trained himself to be aware at all times and I think that gives him his edge.

K&N: Have you changed up your kit for SkySaw? I noticed a few pictures that didn’t seem to have the left mounted 14” tom or quite as many cymbals. If so, is this a reflection of your approach to this sound or brand of music?

JC: I moved things around for one show. My configuration is the same.

K&N: What do your jams sound like when you are hanging out / practicing / sound checking? Which direction does it go? Do you guys prog out, jam, get your metal on, heavy on showtunes?

MR: Jams are spacey and can definitely get proggy.  No metal.

K&N: What is the name of this song and will it see a release?

JC: “Cathedral.” It is fairly new, not yet recorded and will be on the next release following Great Civilizations

K&N: Rumors are that the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex had a couple of tracks in the works, details?

JC: The complex lives and will rise up again at some point. Mohler and I started working on stuff before I left the Pumpkins and we continue to do so.  It’s really just a time issue. We are both very busy these days.

K&N: What, if anything, can you say about the upcoming Smashing Pumpkins re-masters and re-releases?

I am very excited.  Those records are sacred to me and I’m thrilled that they will be repackaged and marketed to another generation. The Pumpkins still have a lot to offer, old and new I’m sure.

K&N: As a respected musician and accomplished drummer, what is your summation of Mike Byrne? Ya know, if you were evaluating or grading him or just your opinion.

JC: I think Mike is perfect for what Billy is doing now; a great drummer with an extremely bright future.

K&N: As a social media and marketing guy in my day job, I always ask this of bands:

A)   How are you using social media tools and tactics to spread the word (music) of SkySaw and engage fans and followers?

MR: Facebook and Twitter are great and are clearly changing the way music is exposed to the listening public. We are still a young band, having a great time playing out and learning to adapt to any tactic other than standing in a room together writing and playing.  That said, we are ramping up on social media and are very excited about the prospect of being in contact with anyone and everyone that is into our music

B) Are there any devices – tablets, laptops, smartphones that you absolutely cannot live without; essential for tethering yourself to home (friends and loved ones) or for keeping notes and ideas for the music?

MR: I have a dumb phone, my laptop died three weeks ago and I still have a pulse (as of this writing), so I guess that means no.  That said, I had to borrow Jimmy’s iPad to answer these questions, so maybe that’s a big yes?  I have a lot of musical ideas coming to me throughout the day and especially during sleep right before I wake up, so part of my editing process is actually not documenting it.  If I can remember it by the time I get to an instrument, than I usually consider it worth pursuing.  That has definitely backfired before though.  I have forgotten a couple really good ideas that I was sure were good at one time.  But then again, there are things I documented in GarageBand quickly on my laptop and those are now gone as well.  You have to be ready to jump on an idea the second it strikes because when it goes it goes and that moment of inspiration is very fickle more often than not….
Well, inspiration has definitely struck this band. Their blend of lush progressive pop is striking chords with critics and fans. Great Civilizations is as good as a debut album gets and the three main contributors in Reina, Pirog, and Chamberlin seem to be firing on all cylinders while sharing equal footing. SkySaw will be opening for Minus the Bear at The Ritz in Ybor City on Wednesday, May 25th. Be there.

Written for Suburban Apologist May 24, 2011

And a gigantic THANK YOU to “Drevpile” the curator of the excellent Jimmy Chamberlin blog, The Machine Somehow, for helping me overcome my hero-induced brain fart

Oct 042010

James and Pat of LCD Soundsystem

James and Pat of LCD Soundsystem

LCD Soundsystem embarked on what could be their last tour. The latest album, This is Happening, is critically acclaimed to say the least and enjoying accolades at a rare confluence of commercial success and hipster cred. So why would James Murphy and company choose now to hold back the reigns and end the journey?

Drummer, percussionist, DJ, and James Murphy collaborator, Pat Mahoney, took a little time after soundcheck in Philidelphia to speak with me about drums, touring behind such a well received body of work, and hinted at yearning for simpler things …

K&N: Now Wikipedia states that you were a sergeant in the 1st Madras European Fusiliers (later The Royal Dublin Fusiliers), during the Indian Mutiny. Is that true?

Pat: It is

K&N: OK, then I’m talking to the right guy

Pat: I am also a rabid anti-abortionist apparently. The Reverend Pat Mahoney.

K&N: So, for the record, who are you and what do you do?

Pat: My name is Patrick Mahoney and I play drums with LCD Soundsystem. I also DJ with James Murphy as Special Disco Version and I am a visual artist as well.

K&N: Now, speaking of drums, I’ve always been interested on how a drummer with an organic kit works with music like LCD? Working in what seems like a mostly electronic environment – mixing in rock with a little dance pop. Are you playing with tracks? Are real drums being used to add an element of live rock? Do you use special triggers on the drums or something to create a more dance-y, drum machine sound?

Pat: We play a few songs to rhythm tracks that come out of an NPC, but we – as a rule – in order to keep it feeling live, and letting it breathe as a performance, um, we have a bunch of rules as to what can come out of the NPC.

Generally, only things that would be totally synthetic sounds, like 606 drum machine beat, but we would never sample congas or something like that. If there are congas on the track, then there is someone playing congas on stage.

Typically when James records, he’ll record a drum machine, then play live drums over it. If there are live drums in the song then there are live drums on the stage. That’s generally how it works so it doesn’t sound too canned.

For the majority of the songs, I am the timekeeper – there is no backing or click tracks.

K&N: OK, so there is that sense of the songs being “alive,” and taking on new forms in concert?

Pat: Yeah, if things are exciting, it could be 5bpm faster or we could slow it down if the need arises. If there is a step-up in energy, I can step up a few bpm’s, capture the moment, and really propel the song forward.

K&N: So you can kind of orchestrate the song based on the moment? You can speed it up and everyone else can jump in with you? They’re not anchored to any kind of pre-sets or tracks?

Pat: Yeah. That’s the other thing. Another rule we have is that no one on stage can hear anything the crowd can’t hear. No one is playing with a click or anything. Sure sometimes things can go wrong, but that is live music.

[media id=50] “Dance Yourself Clean”


K&N: How is the tour going? How are the crowds? How is it playing from night to night?

Pat: It’s been a great – really great response. We just did a 5-week run of festivals in Europe and we are heading back in November. And we just kicked off the American leg of the tour last night in New Jersey.

K&N: Now have you been to central Florida before? I don’t think I’ve ever seen LCD come through.

Pat: We played south Florida. We played Miami for the Winter Music Conference a few years back.

K&N: So this your first trip here?

Pat: Yeah, pretty much. My mom’s family is from central Florida so there is some, I don’t know, sulfur water running through these veins.

K&N: How does it feel to tour behind such acclaimed material? Is there pressure or is just great to deliver this stuff?

Pat: What’s really nice is we’ve existed thus far, kind of in a funny place where we never had to compromise anything we do. We’ve always done this thing that is unique to us and somehow we have a public that has trusted us and come along with us for that. It’s really good and it just feels like everything is firing on all cylinders.

For a long time on this tour we weren’t playing much of this new record, which I think was frustrating for the fans and for us. One of the reasons is that we simply didn’t have enough time to rehearse, but now we are playing most of the new record and good selections from the previous two. It’s really working beautifully.

K&N: What is your favorite thing to do in each city? Do you have to hit some local food places or record stores or something like that?

Pat: Yeah, that’s part of the pleasure of touring is getting to know a bunch of cities in an intimate way. We arrive and it’s not a 9 to 5 type job or anything so we have time to wander around and explore.


Pat with James as Special Disco Version

Record stores are high on the agenda. Finding a restaurant you really love … one that feels like a little bit of home is really important. We’re always on thelookout for good food – we like to eat. And if you’re away from home as long as we are – (wow) it’s gonna be a year and a half when it’s done – any little bit of home comfort is extremely welcome.

K&N: Yeah, I bet those deli trays [I stammer and think of the most hackneyed and storied element in the life of the performer – the deli tray] backstage get a little old.

Pat: There are only so many sandwiches a man can eat.

K&N: Ha, I haven’t found that number yet? [the fat guy in me is screaming to break free – and wants a sandwich]

Pat: Right? After I’m home a few days, I’m craving a sandwich.

K&N: You being a long-time DJ yourself, are you excited about coming to Orlando – the House music capital of the world? Any DJ’s in the area you listen to?

Pat: I don’t know right now. I actually played in Orlando – last year … with Andy Butler. It was really close to WMC so the crowds in town were smaller, but we met a lot of nice people.

I’m actually excited to go back to south Florida and shop for records. I used to live there so it is nice to go back.

K&N: What do you do to stay connected to the outside world while you are in this tour bubble?

Pat: Well, you end up getting pretty disconnected when you’re away for so long.

K&N: Are you a big fan of social media? Is that a way to stay connected to home?

Pat: I am not. I’ve been a bit, I mean, living a public life to a certain extent – we end up valuing our privacy, you know? Also, I have a 9 year-old child so I try to keep a low profile.

I tend to think if I’m not calling somebody directly, texting them or sending them an email, then I don’t really need to be in touch with them.

Also, I think I’m just old enough to not be a part of it – it’s not really a part of my life, it’s almost alien to me.

K&N: So there is not a device that you’re anchored to like an iPhone or Blackberry or something?

Pat: Ha. All that being said – I have an iPhone and I love it. I have a girlfriend that lives in Paris and I stay in touch with her through an app that allows us to stay in touch.

K&N: Skype?

Pat: It’s called WhatsApp.

K&N: What medium do you think is the biggest push for your music? Social media, blogs, satellite radio?

Pat: As you know, we were a little late coming to the whole social media thing. When James (Murphy) said we were promoting our party in New York we were still sending out emails and mass texts. Then he was like, “whoa, we could just Facebook this.” No one pays attention to anything but that anyway. So that was like a realization for us … four years too late.

K&N: It’s funny because the vibe I get from LCD is so current, it’s like future pop or something.

Pat: Yeah, I mean it’s funny. The history of electronic music is filled with all these machines that are failures – at least in terms with what their designers intended. They were trying to replicate acoustic instruments and they ended up making other weird sounds. Then other people sort of developed a kind of music using those weird sounds.

We (the band) use a lot of technology, but some of it is quite old. We are kind of caught between a bunch of things. I think it is pretty special. We don’t sound like other bands.

So yeah, I think everyone is a little ambivalent toward social technologies. People use them in the band, but it is not really “where we live.”

I’m always searching for records and one of the resources I use constantly is YouTube. There’s any number of songs you can’t find anywhere else and some weirdo collector will put a recording up with a still of the center label on the record or something. A lot of our performances and videos are there, but I’m not really sure how people are finding us.

K&N: From what I’ve seen, there is tremendous buzz about the album and band on the “blogosphere” and plenty of reviews and video from the shows.

Pat: I’m really proud of our live shows. Especially, playing festivals where a lot of people are unfamiliar with our music. The see it, they like it, then they evangelize about the live show. Then, occasionally, somebody buys a record.

K&N: How do compare festival shows to the theater shows? I can see you guys sounding great in a theater, but really being able to amp up a large festival crowd with the music.

Pat: It’s a really different experience playing to 40,000 people than it is to 5,000 people. When you’re doing a festival people aren’t there to see you. I mean there are some people there to see you, but there are a lot of people just walking by or hearing buzz about you and you have to deliver to them. And that’s a really exciting challenge.

K&N: What are you listening to right now?

Pat: Right now I’m trying to give my ears a fucking break. (laughs) I’m listening to the 3-dozen things I bought at a record store last month- basically semi-obscure disco and house music.

K&N: There is talk of LCD calling it quits, or at least taking a break from the big stuff like albums and touring and putting out random EP’s and 12 inches. So what’s next for you?

Pat: I’m going to continue to DJ. I have a music project with Nancy Whang from the band, so I want to work on some of my own music, continue working on LCD stuff, DJ with James, make some art work , so, yeah – there is no shortage of stuff for me to do.

What Pat will do in the short term is shake up the Hard Rock Live in Orlando on Tuesday, October 5th with James Murphy, Nancy Whang, Phil Mossman, Tyler Pope, and Gavin Russom and the rest of LCD Soundsystem. Brooklyn noise pop band, Sleigh Bells, is set to open the show ensuring that your hipster-o-meter will burst into flames.

Interview appeared in REAX Online 10.5.10

Nov 252009

Del tha Funkee Homosapien got his start with cousin, Ice Cube, but soon found that there was no other way to go but his own. In the years since 1991′s I Wish my Brother George Was Here, Del carved his name in rap’s illustrious wall with a unique and heady approach to hip hop as part of Oakland’s Hieroglyphics crew, solo, and with monster collaborations in Deltron 3030 and Gorillaz to name just a few.

DtFH freed himself from the shackles of the corporate recording machine to open a deluge of musical creativity over the past year and a half in At the Helm (with Hieroglyphics), Parallel Uni-Verses (with Tame One), Eleventh Hour, Funk Man (The Stimulus Package), and Automatik Statik as well as scoring part of EA’s new Skate 3 game.

Del took some time before hitting the stage in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall to talk about being free of record companies, the writing process, and skateboarding.

Del rocks the crowd

This ain't no Phoney Phranchise

K&N: The last time I saw you, you downed a bottle of Patron while performing at The Social in Orlando, Florida. You slowly put away most of the bottle without missing a beat. I was impressed.

I’m impressed my damn self because I’m not really that much of a drinker. I used to be. It’s fuzzy because I used to be worse than that, but not anymore. Yeah but, Patron is so smooth you don’t even know.

K&N: The Oakland weed scene seems to be at the forefront of a revolution. It is practically free of federal meddling and the culture of the area is spilling across the United States. What is it like to be an artist in the scene? How do people feel, now operating without significant threat from authorities?

We never feared the police in the first place. That is the least we have to worry about out here. It is different now with the proper ID or what have you, the cannabis club card. Nobody cares about that no way. All the smoke out here is the purple (I think a reference to Purple Erkel) anyway, so it’s the best bomb, I don’t even smoke anymore because I get hella paranoid, but everyone else out here, everyone knows we get the best bud. It’s just the vibe of the Bay area. Sly and the family Stone, you know, Jefferson Airplane, it’s just the scene out here.

K&N: What’s up with the Hieroglyphics?

We all doin’ our thing. We’re all grown, so we all do our own thing. Souls of Mischief are in the studio working on a new album with Prince Paul called Montezuma’s Revenge. A-Plus is on this tour with me.

K&N: In addition to being a fan of your sound, I also enjoy your progressive collaborations with the likes of Mike Relm, Dan the Automator, and Kid Koala. How do those things come about?

I guess it’s like anything else, you meet with people and try to consolidate some moves. I’m always trying to work with talented people. If I like them, I’m diggin’ them, you know what I’m saying? I’m going to try to work with them. I’m just blessed I guess to be in this position and be able to take advantage of meeting these people.

K&N: Who do you really want to work with now? Who’s on your radar?

Man, That’s a good question. Nobody I’m actively pursuing now, but I am working with people. I’m working with Psalm One out of Chicago. I’m also working with A-Plus outside SOM.

K&N: Rapping? Writing, producing?

Mostly producing, you know, but I do a lot of stuff. I’m rappin’ here and there. Whatever comes down the pike, If I’m feelin’ it, I’m feelin’ it. I have 3 projects out now.

K&N: You’ve been busy, a lot of releases in a short period of time.¬† What’s going on? What is responsible for this creative flourishing?

For one, I got separated from the music business and they hold up things with a lot red tape you have to get through to release anything. I also got past a couple bad relationships, and once they were out of my life it opened more space for me to work. On top of that I’ve been studying music theory, I’ve been studying for 11 years and that just makes everything that I’m doing way more efficient. Basically, I’ve always been prolific, but you might not get to hear anything because I had to go through a record label. Now, I understand music theory and I can do things 2 to 3 times faster than I did before.

K&N: So are you enjoying this sort of DIY approach, free of the record companies?

Yeah, I look it like being a mercenary.

K&N: How so?

Yeah, I’m operating outside the system.‚ You know what I’m saying?

K&N: In talking about your experience in musical theory, it brings me to the question of your sound. It feels very complex and layered beyond the beats and vocal style. It’s very stone-y or psychedelic you know? Is it the music theory or a producer that is responsible for this sound?

In part, you can say it is the musical heritage of the Bay area. Mainly Parliament Funkadelic and Frank Zappa . I draw a lot from various areas. So it’s basically that and Public Enemy .

K&N: Apart from your sound, your lyrical content is different than the usual hip hop fare? You can talk about things ranging from science fiction to the Internet. How is your informed style looked upon in the hip hop community?

I don’t really associate with that many people. When I’m not on the mic rappin’ I don’t necessarily live my life as a  rapper. I’m just living real life. I know a lot of people got respect for what I do, but I don’t necessarily hear about it in the hip-hop press. Maybe it’s not cool to talk about me or whatever, but on the low, they feel me.

K&N: Another component of your lyrical style is the rich vocabulary. Are you a bibliophile? Where does your relationship with words stem from?

I was a gifted student in school. I’ve always had good comprehension and excelled in English. I’ve always been a heavy reader. That explains a lot of it.

K&N: Your vocal style is yet another unique attribute to your sound, where does this come from?

My voice is just the way it is, you know? As far as lyrical style, It’s just the culmination of everything I learned. Even now, I be pickin’ up from rappers now. You naturally just pick up on stuff you like and assimilate it in your repertoire, in your way. Once you learn how the mechanism works then you can freak it the way you want to freak it. So it’s just been years and years of learnin’ damn near since hip hop came out. I’ve been listening to it, absorbing it, so I take that whole range and build from it. Plus, the area I’m from has a lot to do with it.

K&N: What are you listening to?

Frank Zappa. You know, so much. Let me look at some of the recent things on my computer … Black Dynamite Soundtrack, P-Funk All-Stars, Sweat Band, Jimmy Castor Bunch, God’s Mama (I think that is what Del said), um, Slaughterhouse, yeah I been bumpin’ Slaughterhouse, and oh yeah, I got L.L Cool J’s Walkin’ Like a Panther.

K&N: How does the writing process work for you?

At the point right now, it’s all inclusive. I sit down and work all day pretty much everyday – Del pauses to instruct a child (I hope) “blow your nose. Go blow your nose. You got – ewww, damn …” – It’s pretty much all day. You feel me? Like now, I got a beat rockin’ I hear the faint sound of rhythm through the phone. I’m feelin’ it and when it gets to the point of being a cool groove and I feel like it has a song structure , I start writing. Then I’ll have a song, I’ll lay the vocals – I try to do everything at once because if I don’t, I will get caught up in something else and I forget about it.

K&N: You are in a shit-ton of video games, a lot of skateboard games like Street Sk8er 2, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, and Tony Hawk’s Project 8 just to name a few. It seems like the people involved chose you because they are fans?


That’s usually how it works, that or the company involved has so much money that they can pick who they want to pick, so they pick the biggest stars they can find. Some people are more innovative, they feel me so they want to work with me. I just finished scoring Skate 3 for EA.

K&N: Wow, so you just scored an entire video game as opposed to lending a track?

Well I scored 1/3 of a video game.

K&N: How was that? What kind of process is that?

It was pretty difficult man, but it was fun. It was a learning experience and I learned a lot from it. It took a while.

They were feeling me after they heard my first – What happened was, I had an album out called Funk Man and it was basically free. They got their hands on it. They liked what I was doing. They liked the direction I was taking on the production, they knew I was learning music theory, so they figured I would be perfect to score their game. That’s why they came to me initially. They gave me a general idea of what they wanted and let me go from there. So I made a gang of stuff, let them hear from a myriad of tracks and they chose from that, so it was like a three month process.

K&N: Are you a big gamer?

Me and my girl were talkin’ about this last night. I used to be extremely into video games, I mean, that’s all I did for the most part. Like literally, that’s all I did. I got to a point where I decided I’m not going to make it if I devote all my time to this. I still appreciate it, don’t get me wrong. I have just about every game on my computer. I have Super Nintendo on my Mac right now, with every single game ever made on it. I’ll play a few levels now and then, but don’t really have time and that can be frustrating, but what I get from being able to do music better is so much more than that. And it pays more.

K&N: What do you think attracts skaters to your music?

I hung out with skaters when I was young. I think t is because they can respect the fact that I appreciate skill level and I try to be skillful in what I do. It’s apparent that I take pride in what I do and skateboarders take pride in what they do. I think all underground things got that in common. People like to have their own style, they like to stand out, they like to be known for what they can do and I think they identify with me for that.

Del tha Funkee Homosapien will be droppin’ his unique style and makin’ heads bob in support of the Automatik Statik Tour and headlining the entertainment for the Annual Skateboard Competition at the SPoT. Do not miss this opportunity to see one of the most innovative MC’s and tightest live hip-hop acts around – Friday, December 4th at CZAR along with fellow Hieroglyphics crew member, A-Plus.

Article for REAX Magazine online