[10.16.03] NEW YORK, NY - During the week of September 28th, PBS ran it's weeklong documentary series, "The Blues," with Martin Scorsese as excutive producer. In the episodes, directed by Clint Eastwood, Wim Wenders, Mike Figgis and others, the past, present and future of the blues were honored, explored and explained. But some record labels and music publishers say there is one old blues tradition being honored by PBS that would be better off left in the past: underpaying the artist.
FAMOUS BLUESMAN SHORT-CHANGED BY PBS
Randall Wixen, president of Wixen Music Publishing, says PBS offered a bluesman he represents, Robert Wolfman Belfour, $500 for the use of a song on television, on DVD's and in promotions worldwide in perpetuity. That falls far short of the $8,000 to $12,000 that he said was the standard industry fee just for using a song in a DVD.
In an e-mail message sent last month to a producer of the PBS show, Mr. Wixen rejected PBS's music-licensing offer. "If your true purpose is to honor the blues and those who make it," he wrote, "why devalue it so by continuing to treat its creators as if they were worthless?"
Producers who worked on the series said in interviews that what they called a "favored nation" system was devised to pay for music. The same nonnegotiable amount was paid for every performance and song, whether popular or obscure. Clarifying Mr. Wixen's figure, they said that Mr. Belfour's music was intended only for use on the DVD box set, for which he would have received $500 in compensation for the first 200,000 sets sold.
Artists whose music was also selected for the television broadcast were to receive an additional fee. The producers said every important artist who performed was paid $500 for his time, whether the film clip was used or not. (A song's writer or copyright holder and the performing artist are not always the same person.)
"I think the musicians deserve much more than we paid," said one executive who worked on the series, speaking on condition of anonymity. On the other hand, he added, the series could not have been completed if the fees had been higher. Alex Gibney, the series producer, said the budget presented a challenge. Some involved with the series said $450,000 was allotted for each episode, but Mr. Gibney said the actual budget was higher.
"There are over 500 songs in the series," he said, "and the only way to make it work was to come up with a fee that was the same for everyone and low enough to allow us to do the series in the first place. At the same time we wanted to make sure that if these artists appeared on a CD, or if the films themselves ever made a profit, as unlikely as that may be, then there would be additional compensation for these artists."
Mr. Wixen said he understood the constraints the show was under. "But then you're shifting the cost from the show to the people who make the music," he said. "So it's just telling the musicians, `Stand in line,' again. And it didn't feel right." Robert Kenner, who produced the episode Mr. Belfour would have been in, said: "I think it's really sad. Not just for the movie, but it would have been really helpful to him. Here's a guy who is talented and wants to be heard."
Mr. Wixen said the decision not to participate was made after consultation with Mr. Balfour's publisher, Mockingbird Blues. Reaction to the compensation among record labels and managers ranged from pleased to disappointed, though most said they were happy for the chance to be included.
The larger debate is over the advantages of compensation versus promotion. Artists are often persuaded to waive or lower fees to appear in television, film and commercial endeavors because they provide good exposure. Though most who worked on "The Blues" said they wished the musicians had been paid more, they also said that those who appeared would have the advantage of increased CD and concert-ticket sales.
In the early days of blues and R&B, musicians were typically unaware that they were being taken advantage of by managers and record labels. Most artists today are more savvy. "Now we know that black guys didn't get paid and made no money," said Bobby Rush, a blues singer and innovator who is featured in the "Road to Memphis" segment, which was scheduled for Tuesday.
"Skip James cut 28 songs and made $45. I can show you another Skip James. Every time I look in the mirror, I see a guy who didn't get paid for what he did." (Skip James was one of the most influential Delta bluesmen of the 20's and 30's, though Mr. Rush's figures could not be confirmed.) Nowadays, he continued, things aren't necessarily much better.
"We know that record companies today are like they were yesterday," he said. "They may pay a little more, but they're still not paying what they should. So you get what you can." Thus he knew exactly what he was doing when he agreed to appear in the PBS blues series. "I'm doing it not for the cash money upfront," he said, "but for the clout it brings me. Because the more people know of me, the more value I have."
He explained that he wasn't necessarily talking about cash value, but the power to speak to a greater range of people through his music. As for regrets, he said he had none. "I think it's the best thing that ever happened to Bobby Rush in his career," he said of his inclusion in the series, "because it gave me a chance to display what I do, and nobody told me what to do and how to do it."
Mr. Gibney said that in addition to the PBS programs, the producers of the series put on a benefit concert at Radio City Music Hall in February that was filmed for a forthcoming documentary. All the proceeds from the concert and film, he said, will be donated to the Blues Music Foundation, a charity benefiting music education and blues musicians who have fallen on hard times.
Matthew Johnson, founder of the Mississippi blues label Fat Possum, expressed the mixed feelings some had about the project. "I'm glad they're honoring the blues," he said. "We just do that in a different way."
Communication From Randall Wixen To PBS:
I appreciate Alex's posting explanation but there a lot to be corrected and I really don't feel like spending much more time doing it so this will be my last contribution to the debate. Alex, you get the last word if you want it.
1. Richard Pearce told me Belfour wasn't going to be included in the series, only in the box set. The box set sells for around $140 and they offered us $500 for 200,000 box sets before another penny would be payable. In other words, $28 million in gross sales, and Belfour's publisher gets $500 for a 4 minute on screen performance?
2. I'm not talking about who is more famous, but rather how the songs are used. There is no reason a 6 second background instrumental should be paid the same as a 4 minute on-screen performance. Equality is NOT called for in a situation like this.
3. Alex is blurring the distinction between the royalties paid to the performer and the royalties paid to the songwriter and publisher in his argument. The Doors didn't write "Back Door Man" but they receive artist royalties while the Willie Dixon publishers get paid for the use of the composition.
4. He's wrong about Letterman. Publishers do get paid. There are ASCAP/BMI residuals, and I get to approve/decline and/or negotiate whatever I feel is fair market value for any re-broadcast or DVD sales as the owner/administrator of any song we own/control that is used.
5. Exposure? Someone from Texas sent me this e-mail after reading the original article: Randall, I agree with you so much. I could hold forth at length about exploitation through cultural recidivism. So much of what they do is based on what I call the Sophie Tucker argument. When a promoter offered her a gig at less than good wages because "it's good exposure," She said "exposure, isn't that what you die from?"
6. Belfour isn't my client. The owner of the song, Mockingbird Blues Publishing is. That's what it said in the article. I most certainly consulted with my client.
7. Although this wasn't my purpose, Belfour has gotten lots of publicity out of this, and we have been contacted by people interested in using his songs in things that pay a little better.
8. I didn't contact the NY Times. They contacted me. It was not my intention to go public with a private business negotiation. But I still feel it was shameful to offer publishers the fees that they did. So mark me down as passionate about writers' and publishers' rights.
Response To Above From Alex Gibney, PBS Producer:
RE: Artist payments in the series. The number "500" may be causing some confusion. As noted in the Neil Strauss NY Times piece, every key artist was paid $500 for his/her time, regardless of whether they appeared in the final film.
If artists did appear in the film, they were paid an additional "favored nations" (same for everyone) amount based on the number of songs - or parts thereof - that were included in the final film. In addition, any key artist who appears on one of the soundtrack albums receives a royalty from the first dollar of revenue.
And last, there is a profit-sharing formula for all the artists based not on fame, but only on the amount of performance time on-screen. In this way, we sought to avoid any differentiation between artists according to their "stature" in the recording industry. Everyone is paid according to the same formula.
As an aside, it should be noted that there is a promotional value to appearing on the series. Indeed, as I understand it, artists who appear on, say, the Letterman Show, receive no compensation whatsoever. As I told Neil Strauss, there were over 500 songs (both newly performed and previously recorded) in the series. That put serious constraints on how high our favored nations fees could be. (Ken Burns faced the same problem in "Jazz" and solved it the same way.)
We discussed this matter at length at the beginning of the series and we determined that it was more important (for the artists and the series) to be inclusive than to use fewer songs and pay higher fees. Inevitably, this approach favors the lesser-known artists.
The inciting incident for the Strauss piece was an e-mail from a publisher who would not agree to our deal. (He was one of two people - out of 500 songs - who did not agree to our favored nations formula.) The cruel irony is that this publisher's refusal meant that the artist who sang the song could not be included on the DVD.
That's a shame because this artist - Robert Belfour - who is virtually unknown, would have benefitted greatly from the exposure. He is an older, African-American man who deserved to be seen. (We were able to include one of his songs on the soundtrack album for Richard Pearce's film.) The publisher who denied permission for the use of the song never contacted Belfour, the man whose interests he claimed to represent.
The next day in the NY Times, Elvis Mitchell misread his own newspaper and noted that the publisher represented "more than 500 acts." (There's that number 500 again.) In fact, he was one of two people out of 500 songs who refused the deal. I'm a first amendment absolutist but it's hard to understand why this merited a story. [ Top ]
[10.10.03] JERSEY CITY, NJ - More than many other musicians of his generation, JAY FARRAR has demonstrated an inimitable skill in writing songs that explore the back roads and byways of American music -- and then pushing those traditions in bold new directions.
JAY FARRAR EXPLORES WITH 'TERROIR BLUES'
The twenty-three tracks on "Terroir Blues" -- Farrar's latest record on the new Act/Resist label -- cut sharply through layers of this country's roots music and articulate his vision of an American landscape that is bleak yet beautiful.
Act/Resist is a new record label formed by Jay Farrar and manufactured by Artemis Records. The origin of the name is the combination of "two words that I thought I could live with," says Farrar. "It's got the feel of socialist revolt, too."
Farrar adds that "the label came about as I saw a systematic reality in the music business. Artists get dropped and labels go out of business every day. I want to make sure that there is an outlet for my music."
Farrar put down his roots in the influential alternative-country bands UNCLE TUPELO and SON VOLT, and the blend of rock, country and folk that he fashioned in those bands continues to influence other artists across numerous genres to this day.
On first listen, "Terroir Blues"' acoustic-based sound harkens back to quieter moments that Farrar created with songs such as "Still be Around" (from Uncle Tupelo's 1991 record "Still Feel Gone") or "Windfall" (from Son Volt's 1994 debut "Trace"). Yet "Terroir Blues" also revisits, expands and integrates the new sounds that Farrar explored on his first two solo releases - 2002's "Sebastopol" and "ThirdShiftGrottoSlack" - into the mix.
The album's title provides a clue to its ambitions. "Terroir" is a French word that can be translated literally as "soil" - but the broader connotations frustrate simple translation. Often, "terroir" is associated with wine making, where it has come to represent a blend of soil type, landscape, air and sun that cannot be found solely in nature or created solely by man. By definition, "terroir" represents a delicate balance of nature's bounty and human labor shaped over time.
Farrar's gambit of harnessing a delicate process of cultivation to the musical sinew of the blues signal that "Terroir Blues" will revel in odd juxtapositions and provocative wordplay. The title is also a nod to the historical and geographic intersections of the city that Farrar now calls home.
St. Louis and its environs have been a crossroads for centuries - and Terroir Blues is planted firmly in that soil. Native Americans carved a civilization in earthen mounds near St. Louis more than a thousand years ago.
French explorers, Spanish troops and German immigrants passed through the city as well, leaving their traces. Closer to our own time, jazz, blues and country music found their way up and down the Mississippi River through St. Louis - making it a musical crossroads as well.
St. Louis' role in creating and nurturing the blues is well known, but the notion of "terroir" in the album's title is also a nod to St. Louis' strong French influence - which can be found today in its avenues named "Gravois," its boulevards named "Carondelet" and its streets named "Dodier."
Terroir Blues' musical avenues are numerous, and they intersect in consistently intriguing ways. Sonic dissonance links delicate folk songs. A dirty blues finds its way into a psychedelic ashram. Straightforward country is juxtaposed with short snippets that Farrar dubs 'Space Junk' - in which electric sax, synthesizer and backward sounds swarm together like bees in a struck hive.
The sounds of 'Space Junk' demonstrate a continuation of Farrar's desire to experiment and expand his music in a technological sense. "I set out to work in that medium," says Farrar of the backwards sound effects that pop up in the Terroir Blues mix. "I think of musical sounds played in reverse as a legitimate musical tool and not a studio trick."
'Space Junk' and "Terroir Blues"' use of effects evoke the mood and sound of The Beatles' "Revolver", while the live feel of Neil Young's "Tonight's the Night" is also found here -- both of these records placed well-crafted songs into stark juxtapositions and odd settings. It's a comparison that Farrar does not reject. "I was using some albums that I like - Revolver, Tonight's the Night - as touchstones," says Farrar.
But if "Terroir Blues"' sharp surfaces do bear a striking resemblance to both touchstone records - its exquisitely wrought songs only solidify such comparisons. The songs on Terroir Blues are rooted in a musical forthrightness and lyrical gravity - and they rank among Farrar's best work to date.
Songs such as "All Your Might," "Hanging on to You" and "California" sport sharp melodies that hook fast and deep - and ripple with lines and images that will leave listeners pondering.
Farrar notes that the cohesive and integral sound of Terroir Blues can be laid to a consistent lineup of musicians. The difference between "Terroir Blues" and "Sebastopol," he observes, is that "we had more of a core group of musicians on this record - and adopted more of a live approach."
Multi-instrumentalist and Blood Oranges stalwart Mark Spencer is Farrar's primary accomplice, playing piano, lap steel and slide guitar on a good part of the record. Farrar and Spencer recorded one instrumental ("Fish Fingers Norway") "live in the studio, right as we got done mixing."
Among the other musicians in the 'core' of "Terroir Blues" are former Son Volt pedal steel player Eric Heywood, Superchunk's Jon Wurster on drums and St. Louis alt-country fixture John Horton on guitar and bass. Lead Bottle Rocket Brian Henneman plays "electric slide sitar" on the distorted blues of "Fool King's Crown."
"It was Brian's first time fooling around with an electric sitar," Farrar wisecracks. But "Fool King's Crown" is a good example of how much of Terroir Blues came into being. "It's a simple song in a blues vein," Farrar says, "and then we played around with it. Brian says it sounds like 'a Chinese blues band on drugs'."
"Terroir Blues" was recorded at the tail end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003, working from a batch of songs that Farrar had written over a few months that summer. "I tend to write a basic song structure," says Farrar, "and then record it, trying different approaches until you find the one that works."
Thus, the musical textures found on "Terroir Blues" vary widely. "Sebastopol"'s fans will find the exoticism of "Fool King's Crown" and the tear-blurred layers of sound on the ruminative ballad "Hard Is The Fall" to be near kin to Farrar's first solo record. Yet "Terroir Blues" is unafraid to strip arrangements down to a stark simplicity.
On "Cahokian," for instance, Farrar's guitar and voice are underscored by Janice Reiman's brooding cello. Lou Winer's flute playfully chases the melody of Farrar's ballad of wandering, "Out on the Road", as it winds down its path.
As Neil Young did with the title track of "Tonight's the Night," Farrar offers listeners two takes on a few of the tunes on Terroir Blues. The piano-based arrangement of the first version of "Hanging on to You" shades the song more darkly than the tune's more countrified second take.
An alternate take of the album's opener, "No Rolling Back," also switches up the feel of the song from rock to country. Second versions of "Hard Is the Fall" and "Heart on the Ground" strip away layers of sound from the initial takes and transform the songs into something altogether more haunted.
Lyrically, too, there is a feel of spectral restlessness on "Terroir Blues." Farrar's words wander through cities from Salem, Missouri to Inchon, Korea, dragging chains of memory, history and loss behind them.
"Your going to find pain," sings Farrar on "Out on the Road," "when you're out on the road." And when they do touch on the present, Farrar's lyrics blend their hope with the bitterness of a witness to unremembered and unacknowledged history being repeated.
Some of the haunted nature of Terroir Blues' songs is rooted in Farrar's recollections and reflections on the life of his father, Jim "Pops" Farrar - a wandering musician and Merchant Marine in both World War II and the Korean War with Missouri family roots.
Later on in life, "Pops" Farrar became a living legend of sorts in St. Louis - where his crackling takes on traditional songs, sung a capella or accompanied by harmonica and concertina were recorded as Memory Music: Songs and Stories from the Merchant Marine. Farrar's ruminations on his father's death last summer provided some of the impetus for the songs on "Terroir Blues." "I started working with the backward sounds as a way to approximate sonically some of the emotions I was feeling.
It forced me to look at where my parents came from - and where I came from," says Farrar of his father's passing. "Most of it was memories flashing back to me at times."
One of those memories, Farrar recalls, was his father telling him that he'd shaken the hand of Hank Williams - a reminiscence evoked in "Hard Is The Fall" as "Shaking the hand of the rambling man from Montgomery/ a music evangelist/ a never ending quest."
On the somber piano and pedal-steel based "Dent County," Farrar examines the distance between his father's Merchant Marine wanderings in far-off locales such as "Inchon" and "Bremerhaven" to the Farrar family's strong roots in the Missouri Ozarks.
"Terroir Blues" also touches rather explicitly on contemporary issues through the filter of history. "I don't want to be labeled as a political writer," says Farrar. "But there is an acknowledgment of current events that finds its way into the writing."
Songs such as "No Rolling Back" - which touches on the "21st Century blood" already being spilled - and "Fool King's Crown" - which fiercely mocks the vulgarity of popular sentiment and culture - are among Farrar's most specifically political to date.
"Writing about politics does force you to take a straighter line," admits Farrar. "I try to put it in a broader context, but sometimes I can't resist putting those things into a song."
"Cahokian" is perhaps the most explicit in its reading of a history doomed to repeat. The song evokes the grand Mississippian civilization that sprang up over a thousand years ago in Illinois and Missouri and juxtaposes it with the modern landscape that has sprung up around (or even erased) the ancient earthen mounds that remained after the civilization died out. Are the "new Mississippians/under a smog-choked sun/waiting to be undone" doomed to repeat history? The song leaves the question ominously open.
"You can still see signs of that culture around St. Louis," says Farrar. "There are even pictures of a house perched on top of one of the mounds, and of the settlers carrying soil out from the mounds."
Even today, some of those Mississippian mounds stand unmarked next to modern structures. "I used to wonder what folks who used to go to Grandpa's (chain store) thought of the mound next to the parking lot," says Farrar.
At one point in "No Rolling Back," Farrar makes a plea for someone or something to "deliver us from now." In the landscape that he's sketched out on "Terroir Blues," the past is never distant - it is imminent. Memory is not something that can be cast aside. Rather, we breathe it in like air.
On "Terroir Blues," Farrar scores his profound ruminations on memory, history and loss to a vibrant music grounded in his own past accomplishments and pushing hard toward new horizons. In a time of uncertainty, Farrar's articulate vision of America's past and its promise -- filtered through personal pain and loss -- proves compelling and uncompromising. Official Website. [ Top ]
[10.9.03] LONDON, UK - Singer/songwriter/guitarist RICKY WARWICK has grown immeasurably as an artist the past few years, and this surge of creative inspiration has resulted in his recently-released new solo album, "Tattoos & Alibis."
RICKY WARWICK SHINES ON 'TATTOOS & ALIBIS'
On "Tattoos & Alibis," Warwick, formerly of the British punk/hard rock band The Almighty, has embraced no-frills, emotionally direct, pure music exemplified by such American influences as Johnny Cash, The Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Steve Earle and many others.
"I learned how to play guitar from my dad's Johnny Cash records and an Eagles songbook," Warwick says, although bands like Motorhead, The MC5, The Ramones, The Clash, and The Sex Pistols were just as influential.
Def Leppard vocalist Joe Elliott co-produced "Tattoos & Alibis" with Ronan McHugh. Warwick and Elliott have been close friends for several years now.
The 14 songs on "Tattoos & Alibis" include: "Mysterioso," "Enemies," "Can't Live With Maybe," "The Genuine Fool," "Three Sides to Every Story," "It Always Rains on Sunday," "The Church of Paranoia," "Nothing is Real," "Tattoos & Alibis," "Minor Miracles," "Crack 'N' Divide," "Can't Get Arrested," "Close to the Last Call" and "Ending is Better Than Mending."
The album has already been released in Japan, but "Can't Live With Maybe" and "Minor Miracles" are recently recorded bonus tracks for the North American release. Warwick's co-writers on a few songs include Elliott and Del James (known for his work with Guns 'N Roses).
"I found myself writing songs that were radically different from what I had done in the past, but it came naturally. I played some demos of these songs to people at my publishing company who really liked them and to Joe Elliott who also liked them," says Warwick, a Northern Ireland native. "This really encouraged me to make this album.
"These songs gave me new areas to explore. Lyrically, they go into other directions. The Almighty's songs were political, but my new songs are different. The hard part was having the guts and confidence to do it.
"I also completely changed my singing style. I realized that you don't have to shout to get your point across. Part of it was relaxing and having that confidence. When the melodies are strong you have to sing them. It's far, far easier to sing than shout."
Warwick, Elliott and McHugh performed most of the music on "Tattoos & Alibis." Notable special guests include Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham, Hothouse Flowers bass guitarist/mandolinist Peter O'Toole, as well as S.J. McArdle and Seanie Foy, both who are popular vocalists/guitarists in Ireland.
Warwick's rich vocals and expressive acoustic guitar playing are enhanced by Gorham and Foy's electric guitar work and McArdle's mandolin lines. Warwick has appeared on several Hothouse Flowers albums, so O'Toole simply returned the favor. Occasional violin and banjo parts contribute more flavors to the sonic stew and Warwick says it's impossible to escape the influence of such folk music in Ireland.
"I feel completely comfortable with the direction I've taken with my music, and I'm constantly writing all the time as a result," Warwick says.
Warwick has been touring extensively as a solo opening act for Def Leppard. One man armed with an acoustic guitar in such a position might seem like a shaky proposition on the surface, but Warwick excitedly reports he has received nothing but enthusiastic responses from the crowd. Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell will occasionally pop on stage and sit in with Warwick.
"The reaction from Def Leppard fans has been unbelievable. It's a dream come true. As the opener I do seven songs, but they are very in-your-face. That's the beauty of an acoustic guitar and strong songs," says Warwick.
He will remain on the road with Def Leppard through November 2003 and then he plans to tour on his own for at least another year to promote "Tattoos & Alibis," playing both acoustic shows as well as electric ones with a band. Official Website. [ Top ]
[10.7.03] LOS ANGELES, CA - When the four members of LIVING COLOUR went separate ways in 1995, drummer Will Calhoun grabbed his passport and went globetrotting. Over the course of the five years that followed, Calhoun's journeys took him everywhere from Russia (as a member of jazz great Wayne Shorter's touring band) to Australia (where he studied tribal music while living with an Aborigine family in the Outback) to Morocco, where he went to explore the trancelike sounds of Gnawan music.
LIVING COLOUR RELEASES 'COLLIDEOSCOPE'
Though his destinations were diverse, the question was always the same: When is Living Colour getting back together? "It seemed like I was being asked almost everywhere I went," says Calhoun. "It was amazing to learn that the music we created had traveled so far around the world. I had everyone from Claude Nobs (Montreux Jazz Festival founder) to Mick Jagger pull me aside and tell me we needed to regroup. It really made me think about the art and energy of Living Colour and the impact that we made. As an artist, you have to respect that."
That Living Colour's legacy has broken through obstacles of language, distance and culture comes as little surprise. Formed by guitarist/Black Rock Coalition founder Vernon Reid in 1984, the quartet revised a Black music tradition that extends from Chuck Berry and Little Richard to Jimi Hendrix and Parliament-Funkadelic.
Over the course of their career, they released three critically acclaimed albums ("Vivid," "Time's Up" and "Stain"), which sold over 4 million copies combined, earned a pair of Grammy Awards, two MTV Music Video Awards and tore up stages around the world. They were perhaps the only band that could have opened for The Rolling Stones and played the first, groundbreaking Lollapalooza Tour.
Deciding that he didn't want to be "sitting around with regret at age 60," Calhoun phoned Reid in December of 2000 and invited him to sit in with Headfake, a drum & bass side project featuring former Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish and on occasion, vocalist Corey Glover. The guitarist agreed, and a gig was booked at the band's old stomping ground of CBGB's under the winking banner of "Headfake and Surprise Musical Guest."
The faithful turned out by the hundreds and the band didn't disappoint. On the same small stage where they had been discovered more than a dozen years earlier, a revitalized Living Colour blazed through searing renditions of "Cult of Personality" (from 1988's Grammy-winning, multi-platinum album "Vivid"), "Love Rears Its Ugly Head," "Time's Up" and "Type."
"It was such an incredible feeling to look across the stage and see Corey standing next to Vernon and Will playing behind them," recalls Wimbish. "You could see that they were having a great time. After all those years, it was good to be able to share a moment like that once again."
In fact, it felt so good they decided to do it again and played a string of sold-out nationwide club dates, while also hitting South America and the European festival circuit. "It felt a little weird at first," says Reid. "But we started becoming a band again. And based on the reaction we were getting at the shows, it was clear that our audience still cares. Hell, people were coming up to me after gigs and saying we've reaffirmed their faith in music. That's pretty powerful."
Inspired by fan reaction and eager to redefine its focus, the quartet began to write. Fully aware that their long absence required one helluva re-entry vehicle, they took time to craft the material carefully. "We spent a year and a half writing and recording four albums worth of material," laughs Calhoun. "It was a long, drawn-out process, but I think we needed to go through it to make the right record."
The much-anticipated result is "Collideoscope," an electrifying testament to the range and depth of Living Colour's artistry. The band's first studio album in ten years sees them staying true to their roots, while keeping their grooves current and hearts open. The songs are edgy, inventive and uncompromising and rank among the influential band's best ever.
"We felt the record really had to say something," says Glover. "Over the years, we've seen a lot of things go down that aren't being addressed and someone needs to talk about that. We had an obligation then and we have an obligation now to speak the truth, and we're never going to be afraid of that."
Looking at the world outside his window, Glover sees an America filled with disillusion, injustice and fear. It's a vista of ruin, its streets littered with broken and abandoned promises and he channels the collective hurt into songs of monolithic power. Like many of us, the seismic repercussions of the September 11th terrorist attacks have forced him to reevaluate his perceptions of good and evil ("Song Without Sin") while avoiding a life of fear ("A ? of When" and "Operation Mind Control"). As Glover tells it, the latter two are flip sides of the same paranoia.
"'A ? of When' refers to 'the high alerts,' he says. "We have been told us time and again, 'it may not happen today, tomorrow, or the day after that, but it'll happen soon and it'll be very severe.' We're being kept in this state of suspended fear. It's been said that you can run a lot of things by people in a state of confusion. That leads to 'Operation Mind Control,' which is about those that go along with it all. It's a gleeful sing-along of paranoia, saying, 'Hey, this is fun - let's dance for the surveillance cameras.'"
The album's emotional linchpin is the achingly beautiful "Flying," a heart-wrenching tale about a young couple whose tragic end comes sudden and without warning. In a single moment, their dreams are both realized and erased, and no one takes notice of their passing.
"It's a story about a guy who goes to work at The World Trade Center on September 11 and decides that today is the day that he's finally going to ask out Carmen, a co-worker," says Glover. "Ironically, they do wind up together, but it's certainly not the way he imagined it. It's the idea of taking this huge, tragic event and boiling it down to its smallest essence, which is that it was about people.
There were so many people there that day, going to work, punching time clocks. Who knows how many of them got to realize their dreams on that final day?" As the album spins on, Glover talks pointedly and poignantly about consumerism ("Choices Mash Up; A) Happy Shopper"), anxiety ("Holy Roller") and global environment ("Sacred Ground")against a stunning backdrop of hypnotic grooves, honeyed melodies and speaker-shattering guitars.
Living Colour does a lot of things brilliantly-and they do most of them on "Collideoscope," offering an adventurous earful of soulful, raucous rock ("Lost Halo"), reggae/dub ("Nightmare City") and electro-dynamics ("In Your Name"). Among the album's many highlights is the band's blistering version of the AC/DC classic "Back in Black."
"It's a song we've wanted to do for a long time, but it takes an interesting twist with us," laughs Glover. "There are references to having nine lives and lynching with lines like, 'they've got to catch me if they want me to hang.' That definitely takes on new meaning when I sing them."
"On one hand, the idea of Living Colour doing 'Back in Black' is a no-brainer," adds Reid. "But there's an unintended irony that comes into play because of the lyrics. I've heard the song millions of times over the years and the only thing I remember hearing clearly is the chorus. But it turns out there are certain lines in the verses that give our rendition real resonance."
Produced by the band and mixed by Andy Stackpole, "Collideoscope" also features a devastating cover of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows." "We originally planned to do it for a project that never materialized, but it fit perfectly on this record" says Reid. "This song and 'A ? of When' are flipsides of the same coin. On the former, you have fear and loathing, while the latter speaks about the endless coming and going of life and that everything happens for a reason. It's a classic song."
"Collideoscope" may have taken a year and a half to make, but it arrives just in time and was definitely worth the wait. In an era when there's a cookie-cutter sameness to so many of today's acts, the return of Living Colour recalls a time when bands were praised for their uniqueness and willingness to take music to the edge.
"As an artist, you want to make the right moves and step up the ladder," says Calhoun. "But what does that mean for your integrity and artistry? If going up the ladder means becoming more conservative and corporate, then you can have the ladder. We don't want it. We'll just keep doing our own thing." Official Website.
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[10.6.03] LOS ANGELES, CA - KELLY OSBOURNE is no quitter. The recording artist/reality TV star/rebel with a cause has just come off the best and worst year of her 19 on the planet so far. Consider this: Kelly make her debut on the MTV Video Music Awards singing her punked-up cover of Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach." She scored a hit with that track, and then dropped her candy-coated razor blade of a debut album, "Shut Up!."
KELLY OSBOURNE GOING THROUGH 'CHANGES'
With Osbournes Mania in full swing, Kelly graced the covers of magazines ranging from Rolling Stone to Cosmogirl. She toured the dirtiest of dives and hugest of arenas -- even playing to a crowd of one million sweaty rock fans as the opening act on 'Brit It Boy' Robbie Williams' UK stadium tour. That was the best stuff ... then came the worst.
Her mom, Sharon, was -- as everyone in the universe knows -- diagnosed with cancer. Her record label lost interest after a corporate shakeup tossed the team that had signed Kelly out the door. Her brother Jack went to rehab. Her first boyfriend stomped on her heart.
So what's a girl to do? Well, if you're Kelly Osbourne you're not going to bitch and moan. You're gonna get up off your ass and give it another try. Enter Sanctuary Records, the indie label that could. "I'm so fuckin' thankful to be able to put the record out again," says Kelly. "I don't think it got a fair chance the first time."
With the release of "Changes,' Kelly is back with a vengeance. The CD features all the songs from "Shut Up!," four totally raw, totally live bonus tracks ("Come Dig Me Out," "Disconnected," "Too Much of You" and "On The Run") plus Kelly's FIRST-EVER collaboration with her dad, Ozzy. The two duet on "Changes," a jaw dropping makeover of the 1972 Black Sabbath classic (Ozzy fronted Sabbath before going solo as every self-respecting metalhead knows).
Here, the song, formerly an eerie goodbye to a lover, takes a surprisingly tender father-daughter turn. (Let's just say Frank and Nancy Sinatra ain't got nothing on these two.) With Ozzy singing "She's my baby/I love her so/but it's too late now /I've let her go" and Kelly answering "We shared the years/we shared each day/I love you daddy/but I've found my way," the song is transformed into a modern coming-of-age anthem -- replete with soft piano and a choir providing angelic backing vocals.
"It really is a sweet song," says Kelly, who admits she liked her dad's music growing up. That doesn't mean the two saw eye to eye on every aspect of the production, In fact, they didn't even want to be in the room at the same time during the recording. Kelly says, "It's really hard to sing in front of your dad but I think he was actually more embarrassed than I was." There were creative conflicts too.
"My dad and I are both really stubborn and we'll fight to the end," Kelly admits, "Like with the choir, I boycotted it, but he wanted it." In the end, they compromised: Kelly switched up the lyrics, and Ozzy got his choir.
But make no mistake, this is Kelly's album. The release of "Changes" gives listeners a chance to revisit Kelly's music and realize that beyond the hype of The Osbournes (the most watched cable show in history, by the way), beyond the rumors about who she's dating (read US Weekly if you give a rat's ass) and beyond the fact that her mom and dad are rock royalty, is a girl who has churned out some pretty freakin' good songs.
Maybe if Kelly had been born in a trailer park in Hicktown, USA, and raised on squirrel stew, she would have gotten more credit for them the first time around.
So listen -- really listen -- especially to the live stuff if you want a clue as to where Kelly's headed as an artist. Stripped down, tracks like "Come Dig Me Out" and "On The Run" show Kelly at her irrepressible best: angsty, catchy, attitude-packed, and beyond all, real. "I finally got to do the tracks the way I wanted them to sound," Kelly says.
One thing is certain, Kelly Osbourne has done a lot of growing up in 2003. Relieved to be free of major-label politics (don't even get her started on how she feels about people who "suck corporate dick"), Kelly's been busy honing her songcraft and working on new material.
"At first I didn't know what to write about so I wrote about what I thought people were supposed to write about," Kelly admits with characteristic honesty. "Now I've had so many shit things happen that I have something to write about." Considering the year she's survived, the results are apt to be pretty f%cking good. Official Website. [ Top ]
[10.5.03] LONDON, UK - The Beggars Group have announced the latest information regarding the artists below:
ALL THE LATEST FROM THE BEGGARS GROUP
OCEANSIZE Release 'Effloresce' Album
OCEANSIZE's new album "Effloresce" features 12 tracks mixing shimmering, delicate ambient keyboards and their trademark hypnotic, 3-guitar attack. All the tracks were recorded and produced by Chris Sheldon (Foo Fighters, Feeder) during Spring/Summer 2003. The album includes the singles 'One Day All This Could Be Yours', 'Remember Where You Are' and 'Catalyst'.
"It's a schizophrenic album: blissed-out highs to brooding lows with violentoutbursts inbetween. We want to send the listener on a journey through theeuphoric and the terrifying - an emotional rollercoaster that they can immerse themselves in. Like all our favourite records, once you've allowed it to grab you, you're in it for the long haul. Oh, and it rocks like a bastard, too," says the band.
Official Site | UK Record Label Site
Upcoming UK Tour Dates:
10/2 Manchester, UK Academy 3 10/3 Swansea, UK Swansea University 10/4 London, UK Garage 10/5 Oxford, UK Zodiac 10/7 Portsmouth, UK Wedgewood Rooms 10/8 Liverpool, UK Barfly 10/9 Leicester, UK Charlotte 10/10 Brighton, UK The Gloucester Club (Kerrang! Club Night) 10/13 Colchester, UK Soundhouse 10/14 Northampton, UK Soundhaus 10/16 Stoke, UK Sugarmill 10/17 Buckley, UK Tivoli 10/20 Cardiff, UK Barfly 10/21 Leeds, UK Josephs Well 10/22 Hull, UK Adelphi 10/23 Cambridge, UK Boatrace 10/24 Tunbridge, UK Wells Forum 10/26 Brighton, UK Pressure Point 10/27 High Wycombe, UK White Horse 10/28 Peterbrough, UK Peterbrough Park 10/29 Liverpool, UK Liverpool University 10/30 Coventry, UK Coventry Colosseum
SWELL Release 'Whenever You're Ready'
They may have originally called themselves "Swell" to be ironic but in a justworld, their new album 'Whenever You're Ready' would catapult them far from their self-confessed drifting just below everybody's conciousness to the far headier heights that their name suggests.
'Whenever...' really is that triumphant a return to form. After a lengthy hiatus, it also heralds the return of founding band member, Sean Kirkpatrick, to the fold. Sean rejoins on drums and links up with ever-present David Freel to reposition SWELL back to it's original duo status.
There has been one problem to all this though. That problem is the small matter of the 300 miles that now separate the two (David lives in San Francisco and Sean resides further down the coast in Santa Barbara). They readily admit that this has been a major cause of friction between them but as David succinctly puts it: "That's not necessarily a bad thing. Just look at George and Ringo or Mr. Kissinger and Mr. Nixon." He's right. It hasn't stopped them from recording a very great Swell record, maybe their best.
With Sean's return, it also means that Swell has its original artist back in residence and his paintings once more adorn their sleeves. For 'Whenever...', Sean has turned to that very theme for inspiration and can be found depicting scenes from the long journey along Highway 101 - a beautiful drive that rambles back and forth between the ocean, dry rolling hills, old missions, vineyards and some forgotten little towns.
Recorded in five different locations (including Sean's garage), Swell have done an amazing job of capturing the feel of sun drenched California. So much so, they're as good as kicking the sand in your face. You could go as far as calling 'Whenever...' their California concept album but we prefer to think of it as another Swell gem that helps to reconfirm what we've always known about this band. That is that they're still up there with the very best of their kind. Official Site | UK Record Label Site
Upcoming European Tour Dates:
10/28 Hasselt, Belgium Muziek-O-Droom 10/29 Evreuxle, France Aborinage 10/31 Paris, France Cafe De La Danse 11/1 London, UK The Garage 11/2 Gent, Belgium Handelsbeurs 11/3 Tourcoing, France Le Grand Mix 11/4 Brussels, Belgium Botanique 11/6 Geneva, Switzerland L'Usine 11/7 Luzern, Switzerland Boa 11/8 Haarlem, Holland Patronaat 11/10 Dresden, Germany Star Club 11/11 Berlin, Germany Magnet 11/12 Hamburg, Germany Slachthof
BIFFY CLYRO Release 'Eradicate The Doubt'
2003 has been one hell of a year for BIFFY CLYRO. The band's fan base has grown to mammoth proportions, and the release of recent single 'Questions And Answers' propelled them into the Top 30 for the first time.
BIFFY CLYRO recently replaced Zwan on the main stage at T In The Park, where they ''sparked off Biffymania' (NME) and their warm-up gig at King Tut's in Glasgow was one of the fastest to sell out in the history of the venue. The band have recently won over the main stage crowd at both the Reading and Leeds festivals and are out on tour right now.
The CD includes live recordings of biffy clyro favourites recorded at the Mean Fiddler in London on 14th June, and the DVD includes the new video for 'Eradicate The Doubt' with footage shot from the recent tour, along with the 'Justboy' video. There is also a very limited, and numbered, 7" single including exclusive live recordings. Official Site | UK Record Label Site
Upcoming Tour Dates:
10/1 Newcastle, UK Northumbria University 10/2 Aberdeen, UK Moshulu 10/3 Glasgow, UK Barrowland 10/4 Middlesbrough, UK Empire 10/6 Norwich, UK Arts Centre 10/7 Nottingham, UK Rock City 10/8 Northampton, UK Soundhaus 10/9 Oxford, UK Zodiac 10/10 Newbury, UK Corn Exchange 10/11 Birmingham, UK Academy 2 10/13 Bristol, UK Fleece 10/14 London, UK Mean Fiddler 10/15 Peterborough, UK Met. Lounge 10/17 Cork, UK Half Moon 10/18 Dublin, Ireland Temple Bar Music Centre 19 Belfast, Ireland Auntie Annie's [ Top ]
[10.4.03] LONDON, UK - The one-time 'invisible band' - TRAVIS - return after an absence of some two years with their fourth LP, "12 Memories" on October 14th. "12 Memories" is Travis at their most powerful, poignant and effecting. It is an album that sees Travis explore lyrically darker themes. The newly-released single, "Re-Offender" (released in the UK on September 29th), tackles the hidden crime of domestic violence.
TRAVIS' '12 MEMORIES' SET FOR OCTOBER 14TH
Musically, too, there is a sea of change: Travis have rediscovered a spirit of adventure and set sail on courses new. This is a far edgier and brooding set of songs than anything that has gone before. Yet, Travis still possess an eloquence and an ear to a fine tune.
As Fran points out "In the past, Nora, my fiancee, inspired a lot of the songs about love. But we're solid now so I felt it I could move on. September 11 was the start of something. I can now see how fragile the world is."
"12 Memories" is the Travis album that almost never was. Just over a year ago drummer Neil Primrose sustained a spinal injury. Medical opinion was that Neil would be unlikely to walk again. For Fran, Dougie and Andy, there were no 'ifs' or 'buts' about it. No Neil=No Travis. They subsequently cancelled all plans.
Three weeks on from that accident, Neil was sitting at his drum-kit. It was not a Lazarus-like resurrection but, given time, Neil was going to recover as long as he took it easy. While he recuperated, the band took six months off. This was their first true break since 1999, when "The Man Who" went supernova (and multi-platinum).
"We hadn't anticipated the success of 'The Man Who,' and by the time of 'The Invisible Band,' little cracks were beginning to appear," explains Fran. "Suddenly we weren't this little band in Glasgow any more. We desperately needed to take a step back and re-evaluate. Neil's accident was devastating and almost the end of Travis. This band would not exist without one of the four members. Neil's recovery was amazing, we were all given another chance."
As 2002 drew to a close Travis reassembled at Crear, West Scotland. They set up a makeshift studio and once again lived the communal life that they had led when they first came to London in 1996. They would stumble out of bed and play songs still dressed in their pyjamas.
They would wander up the road to the pub owned by Neil's parents and have a few shots of malt. After two weeks they had written and recorded nine new songs. "It was like falling in love again," says Dougie. "Crear seemed like a healing place." And indeed it was.
Travis returned to the studio at the start of 2003. They relocated to Real World near Bath and worked towards completing "12 Memories." There was one further change in the Travis dynamic. This time they opted to oversee production of the record - the Crear sessions being produced by the band and Steve Orchard; additional production and mixing at Real World was undertaken by Tchad Blake. And in "12 Memories," they have arguably made their best record yet. As Dougie so succinctly puts it: "It just feels like us." Official Website.
Album Track Listing
1. Quicksand 2. The Beautiful Occupation 3. Re-Offender 4. Peace The Fuck Out 5. How Many Hearts 6. Paperclips 7. Somewhere Else 8. Love Will Come Through 9. Mid-life Krysis 10. Happy to Hang Around 11. Walking Down The Hill [ Top ]
[10.3.03] LOS ANGELES, CA - THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, whose twenty-year career has encompassed some of the most influential and innovative music of the modern rock era, have announced the release of their long-awaited "GREATEST HITS" collection.
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS RELEASE 'GREATEST'
Set for a North American release on November 18th (the International release date is November 17th), the "GREATEST HITS" album will feature fourteen of their best-known hits, primarily from their Warner Bros. Records tenure. It will also include two new tracks "Fortune Faded," and "History," which were recently recorded during the "By The Way" tour.
Additionally, the collection will be available in a special CD/DVD edition featuring fifteen videos, including two not previously released in the US ("Road Trippin'" and "Universally Speaking"). The CD/DVD will also include exclusive commentary from band members and video directors; special 'Making Of' documentaries and behind the scene footage of the group's acclaimed 2000 Californication tour.
The band has also announced the simultaneous release of "RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS: LIVE AT SLANE", a DVD capturing the band's legendary stage show, shot in Ireland last August before a crowd of more than 80,000.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers "GREATEST HITS" album highlights "Higher Ground" from their 1989 album "Mother's Milk", along with "Give It Away," "Under The Bridge," "Breaking The Girl" and "Suck My Kiss" from their 1991 Warner Bros. Records debut, "Blood Sugar Sex Magik."
From 1995's "One Hot Minute" comes "My Friends," while "Californication" selections include the title track, "Scar Tissue," "Otherside," "Parallel Universe" and "Road Trippin'." Included from last year's "By The Way" are the title track and "Universally Speaking." Also, "Soul To Squeeze"- originally heard on the 1993 soundtrack to "Coneheads"- has been made available for the very first time on a Red Hot Chili Peppers album.
The CD/DVD features videos of "Higher Ground," "Give It Away," "Under The Bridge," "Suck My Kiss," "Soul To Squeeze," "My Friends," "Scar Tissue," "Otherside," and "By The Way" as well as "Aeroplane" from "One Hot Minute."
Other videos on the CD/DVD include "Around The World," and the title track from Californication along with "The Zephyr Song" and "Can't Stop" from By The Way. The special edition will also include videos of "Road Trippin'," and the track "Universally Speaking," previously unavailable in the US.
The "LIVE AT SLANE" DVD is comprised of the following in concert selections: "By The Way, "Scar Tissue," "Around The World," "Universally Speaking," "Parallel Universe," "Zephyr Song," "Throw Away Your Television," "Havana Affair," "Otherside," "Purple Stain," "Don't Forget Me." "Right On Time," "Can't Stop," "Venice Queen," "Give It Away, "Californication, "Under The Bridge" and "Power of Equality." Official Website. [ Top ]
[10.2.03] COLUMBUS, OH - After Americans have enjoyed their Thanksgiving dinner, they'll have a chance to enjoy great music and learn why family farming is essential to keeping quality food on their tables. FARM AID has announced that Farm Aid 2003, Presented by Silk Soymilk, will be telecast as a 2-hour special on Thanksgiving evening, Nov. 27. The program will air in prime time, reaching TV viewers across America.
FARM AID 2003 ON PBS TV THIS THANKSGIVING
"What more appropriate time than Thanksgiving, America's own holiday, to express our gratitude for those who produce our food," said Carolyn Mugar, Farm Aid Executive Director. Farm Aid also announced "10 Ways to Ensure Healthy Food for You and Your Family". These are concrete steps that consumers can take to protect access to fresh, healthful food, grown in local communities by family farmers who care for the land.
"For the past 18 years, Farm Aid has worked to make sure consumers have a choice to put fresh, healthful food, produced by family farmers, on their tables," said Farm Aid President Willie Nelson. "One thing I've learned is that real change will come from the 100 percent of Americans who eat, not just the one percent who farm."
American family farmers are doing their part by traveling from the concert in Columbus to Cancun, Mexico, to attend the World Trade Organization Ministerial. They will take with them a joint declaration on agricultural trade, signed by over two dozen leading U.S. farm, labor, development, environmental, religious, and consumer organizations, that outlines specific demands for action.
"I'm going to the WTO meeting in Mexico to say that family farmers need farm and trade policies that keep them on their land-here and around the world," said George Naylor, President, National Family Farm Coalition. "Family farmers deserve policies that ensure that farmers receive a fair price from the market."
For the first time Farm Aid will Web cast the concert live exclusively on www.farmaid.org. The Web cast will begin at 4:00 p.m. EDT.
At the concert, family farmers and their supporters joined Willie Nelson, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow, Brooks & Dunn, Emmylou Harris, Hootie & the Blowfish, Trick Pony, Billy Bob Thornton, Daniel Lanois, Los Lonely Boys, Titty Bingo and Aaron Brotherton.
Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land. Dave Matthews joined the Farm Aid board of directors in 2001. Farm Aid has raised more than $24 million to promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture.
Through public education and grants, Farm Aid supports national, regional and local efforts to promote sustainable agriculture, fight factory farms, advocate for fair farm prices, and provide credit counseling and direct assistance to farm families.
Farm Aid is proudly sponsored by Silk Soymilk, Paul Newman of Newman's Own and Newman's Own Organics, Chipotle, Organic Valley Family of Farms, QAI International, J & J Distributing, Horizon Organic, Annie's Homegrown, Smuckers Organic, American Apparel, Kettle Foods, L. Coulter-Jones Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Bernstein, United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
Those who wish to help America's family farmers can visit www.farmaid.org to make a donation. [ Top ]