Monday, August 16, 2004

22nd Annual Love Song Of The Year Award

The 2004 winner of the 22nd Annual Love Song Of The Year Award goes to The Deathray Davies for the song THE GIRL WHO STOLE THE EIFFEL TOWER. It's 3 deep from 2003's amazingly moody MIDNIGHT AT THE BLACK NAIL POLISH FACTORY. Congratulations to John, Jason and that crew of freaks that are DRD.

Hey freaky girl can I take you home? I'm under the impression you shouldn't be all alone. Under the stars I wished for you + now here you are. I've got an opinion on everything. You'll fall in love with me unless you hear me sing down at the Barley on a Sunday. I think I'm a star. Don't go to the bar. I've been strange for seven days. Don't go to the bar, you'll find out quick it's not just a phase. Hey freaky girl can I take you home? Your purple hair looks good but I wanna comb out all the knots, take off your clothes- connect the dots. It's funny how everything falls in place. Nothing made sense until I saw your face. Under the stars I wished for you and now here you are.

I'll have the archive of past winners up soon. HMK

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Rolling Stones drummer battles throat cancer

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- The Rolling Stones' 63-year-old drummer Charlie Watts is suffering from throat cancer but should recover after radiotherapy, a band spokesman said Saturday.

Watts was diagnosed in June after a minor operation and is now reaching the end of his treatment at a London hospital, the spokesman said in a statement to British media.

"He's expected to make a full recovery and start work with the rest of the band later in the year," he added.

Watts, who has a reputation as the quietest member of the legendary British band, gave up smoking decades ago.

"He's very positive because he's been told he has every chance of being completely cured," a family friend was quoted as saying in The Mail Sunday newspaper.

"The last thing he wants is everyone calling and making a fuss, thinking he's going to die."

The spokesman said Watt's treatment had not interfered with any of the Stones' tour or recording plans.

The rest of the group were "relaxing between work commitments," he said.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Deathray Davies Are Coming!

deathray davies
Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

Sat. 8/28 San Antonio @ Wiggle Room w/ Buttercup

Underground Garage

Underground Garage
Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

Little Steven's Big Crusade

To hear Steven Van Zandt tell it, he had no choice. He had simply wanted to do a two-hour radio show, no big deal, on which he could play some of the garage rock he loves and have some fun. But when he pitched the idea to syndicators, what they told him forced him to turn his hobby into a crusade.

"They said, 'Stevie, baby, we love you,' " he said, his eyes wide in mock disbelief, "but we cannot get rock 'n' roll on the radio anymore.' "

Big pause.

"And it was like, aaarrrggghh," he said, his voice suddenly booming, his body shifting stiffly like a big machine making a 180-degree turn. "You just said that to the wrong guy at the wrong time. You telling me my whole life is a" - Mr. Van Zandt used an expletive then - "lie? That the 30 years that rock 'n' roll has informed our society was just a big" - he used the expletive again - "waste of time? Is that what you're telling me?"

It was a sudden coming together of the various personae who reside inside Mr. Van Zandt: the head-wrapped rock star known as Little Steven who plays with Bruce Springsteen; the political activist who spent much of the 80's campaigning against apartheid and for human rights around the world; and Silvio Dante, the gangster Mr. Van Zandt plays on "The Sopranos" on HBO, who, lovable though he might be, is no one you want to see angry.

"That was the beginning of the war," he said in an interview in his office near the Javits Center in Manhattan. "The revolution began that day."

For more than two years now Mr. Van Zandt has been waging his garage-rock war. He began with his radio show, "Little Steven's Underground Garage," for which he is host and programmer. When syndicators showed no interest, Mr. Van Zandt decided to distribute it himself; he employs a small staff for the purpose, and the show, which had its premiere on April 7, 2002, now plays on 136 stations around the country. He is also is the executive producer of three channels on Sirius satellite radio, including a garage rock channel.

Mr. Van Zandt's self-styled crusade moves to a new level this weekend with a full-blown outdoor rock festival that is an unexpected highlight of the concert season. On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Randalls Island, more than 40 bands will blast and grunt and groove their way across the stage, playing various interpretations of garage rock - loud and uncomplicated musings expressed with the help of guitars, drums and little else - in a spectacle that will mix the godfathers of the genre with the very latest descendants.

Called Little Steven's International Underground Garage Festival, it will feature Iggy and the Stooges, the Strokes, the New York Dolls, Bo Diddley, Big Star, the Pretty Things, the Raveonettes, the Dictators, the Electric Prunes, the Mooney Suzuki, the Woggles, the Lyres, the Star Spangles, the Gore Gore Girls, Nancy Sinatra, the Creation and many others. The headliners will play full sets, but most bands will play just a few songs. For Mr. Van Zandt, who at 53 still wears the loose, brightly colored garb that earned him the nickname Miami Steve, the radio show and the festival - which he hopes to make an annual event - represent a revival of rough, honest, beautiful garage rock as a musical form and a redemption from restrictive radio formats that rely on familiarity and market testing.

"How could our culture have gotten to the point where we have a format for everything except rock 'n' roll?" he asked, hunched over a purple desk in his studio, in front of an enormous mantle painted in psychedelic colors. Around him on all sides were ceiling-high shelves of CD's and books.

"The classic rock stations are eliminating a lot of the 60's stuff - you don't hear many album cuts from the first seven Rolling Stones albums, or first five Beatles albums, or the first three Who albums, or the Kinks," he said, speaking in a slow, measured, almost scholarly tone. "That's what I call the renaissance."

What's more, he said, when he began to plan the radio show, there was a worthwhile movement of new music that was not getting enough attention from radio and from record labels. "Everyone was ignoring this contemporary garage-rock movement, which was to my ears a possible rebirth of rock 'n' roll, nothing less. So why weren't any record labels signing it?"

But since then, the labels have begun to sign it. In the past few years a wave of new bands has come along with obvious ties to classic garage rock: the Strokes, the Hives, the White Stripes, the Mooney Suzuki, the Raveonettes, the Datsuns and others play stripped-down rock 'n' roll with a passion that has attracted huge audiences.

Mr. Van Zandt is not modest in claiming some responsibility for this revival, but he cannot claim it all. The genre of garage rock has been in near-constant state of revival and reinvention almost since it began; the style was codified in the 1972 compilation album "Nuggets," and throughout the 70's, 80's and 90's various rock movements from punk to new wave to riot grrrl have updated and toyed with the form. As it will be seen at Saturday's concert, there is little to unify the many bands other than loud, short songs.

The Mooney Suzuki, formed in New York in 1997, has worked to expand its sound beyond the usual narrow parameters of garage rock. Its new album, "Alive and Amplified," to be released on Columbia on Aug. 24, was made with the pop production team the Matrix. Sammy James Jr., the band's singer, said the genre's long history makes a clear definition impossible.

"When people say garage rock revival, it's, like, the 80's had a garage rock revival, are you talking about that?" Mr. James said. "The 90's had a garage rock revival, are you talking about that? There's a whole generation now that is likely to identify garage music just with a certain kind of haircut."

Phil May, the singer of the Pretty Things, who in 1968 recorded the album "S.F. Sorrow," which is generally considered to be the first rock opera, preferred to think of it merely as a sound or a method.

"I don't think it is a style," he said in a telephone interview from London. "It's somebody playing guitar - not great, but it is a guitar sound, and it is not generated by digital software. It's people onstage, and there's a whole bunch of people who don't really know that experience."

Mr. James said, "Garage simply means amateur music."

In New York, Mr. Van Zandt's radio show is heard Sunday nights at 10 on the classic rock station WAXQ (104.3 FM), which was one of the first stations to run it. Bob Buchmann, the station's program director, said that at first he did not think it was the best idea.

"Steven told me he wanted to break the mold by doing a two-hour weekly radio show devoted to garage rock," he said. "And even I said, 'Are you sure you really wouldn't want to do only an hour?' "

But considering Mr. Van Zandt's following in New York and New Jersey, Mr. Buchmann signed on for the show and said that since it began, the station's Sunday night ratings have doubled.

Not all stations have been such an easy sell, and Mr. Van Zandt said he had traveled around the country to meet with radio executives and advertisers. Mr. Van Zandt's office sells national advertising time for the show, to sponsors like Dunkin' Donuts and Pepsi; local stations add their own commercials. In addition to the radio show Dunkin' Donuts has sponsored this weekend's festival and a nationwide battle of the bands, which in its finals at Irving Plaza in Manhattan last month contributed two acts to the festival lineup, Muck and the Mires, from Worcester, Mass., and the Blackouts, from Champaign, Ill. (They tied.)

But Mr. Van Zandt said that even with corporate underwriting, he supports the show himself and has never broken even with it. It is simply a cause that he cannot give up.

"Maybe it's a sense of injustice," he said. "That was certainly a motivating factor in the 80's when I was engaged in politics. It bothered me that nobody was talking about South Africa. Why isn't anybody talking about this? Why can't I go to the library and find anything about it?"

He added: "Why isn't there any rock 'n' roll radio? That doesn't seem right. It's a gap. Let me fill that gap."

Thank you Steven.

Monday, August 09, 2004

The Pixies Get Their Act Together

Exclusive to NYT & NLM


MIDWAY through one of their four instantly sold-out concerts in June at the Brixton Academy in London, the reunited Pixies charged into "Monkey Gone to Heaven," a song about apocalypse and faith. The audience — some who had seen the Pixies between 1986 and 1992, and an equal contingent of younger fans getting their first glimpse — all knew what to do as Frank Black started to sing the song's reverse countdown: "If man is five/ Then the devil is six/ And if the devil is six/ Then God is seven."

At 39, he looked less like a rock star than ever: bald, portly, dressed in a shapeless T-shirt. He barely glanced at Kim Deal, 43, the band's bassist and occasional singer. Yet as he worked his way from a strangled, nasal whine to a shriek, the whole room sang along, and thousands of hands shot into the air with fingers raised on cue: five, six, seven. The crowd couldn't have been more enthusiastic if the song, released in 1989, were in the current Top 10.

The Pixies have been rapturously received since they started touring in April, and have been one of the few unqualified successes in a summer filled with foundering tours. Reunions are a staple in the concert business, as acts from Simon and Garfunkel to the Eagles to Duran Duran to the Sex Pistols periodically reappear. Affection for the oldies is one draw; so is the possibility that every reunion is the last chance to see a group. Nostalgia seems to peak after two decades, and lately the postpunk bands of the 1980's have been regrouping — among them, Mission of Burma, which sold out a club tour last year and went on to make a new album.

But the response to the Pixies reunion has been greater by orders of magnitude. It wasn't just the shows in smaller venues that sold so briskly; more than 50,000 tickets were snapped up for the Pixies' day at the Coachella festival, and theaters around the United States have quickly sold out for multiple dates. The Pixies were to perform at the New York stop of the Lollapalooza Festival this month, which had already sold 11,000 tickets when the entire tour was canceled. Instead, they will have New York dates on Dec. 12 and 13 at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Meanwhile, the company DiscLive has been offering instant live recordings of every concert by the reunited group. Those CD's, in numbered limited editions of 1,000 or 2,000, are selling out, too, and turning into instant collectors' items available for handsome mark-up on eBay.

Charles Michael Kittredge Thompson IV, a k a Frank Black, who called himself Black Francis on the Pixies' recordings, claimed to be unimpressed. Pixies audiences were enthusiastic for most of the group's initial career, he said. Now, he added, there are more curiosity-seekers. "I'm wondering if there's a large section of the audience that kind of isn't really getting it," he said. "That's good. It gives us an opportunity to preach to the still-not-converted."

It's an arty underdog's attitude that seems to be a holdover from the band's first time around. The Pixies, who got started in Boston in 1986, became hit-makers in England and Europe. Yet in the United States, they never quite broke out of the collegiate rock circuit, even after they were signed to a major label, Elektra. Those who discovered the Pixies have cherished their catalog ever since. When the band played Coachella on May 1, one visitor's license plate read, "DEBASR," for "Debaser," the Pixies song about (among other things) the Surrealist film "Un Chien Andalou."

Black Francis's songs for the Pixies were terse but wild-eyed. As he sang about the Bible, science fiction, incest or immigration, the music could sound like punk or country, surf-rock or metal. Joey Santiago's lead guitar laced the music with twangy little hooks or solos that threatened to skid right out of the song; Ms. Deal answered Black Francis's hopped-up vocals with calm, airy responses, and David Lovering's drums paced the music from brisk to quasi-Latin to booming. Quiet verses suddenly gave way to howling, stomping choruses — a tactic that would be commandeered by the Pixies' most influential and grateful fan, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.

The songs are full of musical and verbal non sequiturs, but skewed as they were, a decade and a half later they sound like irrepressible pop. And at a time when rock has grown sodden with earnestness and self-pity, the Pixies' songs sound like a corrective; they're smart, lightheaded, profound and comic, and they rock with a vengeance.

That was the idea from the beginning. "I got exposed to some Surrealist films of the 1920's and 30's and 40's or whatever in college, read a couple of articles, attended a couple of lectures," Mr. Thompson said in an interview between shows in London. "And I applied all of that in a really fumbly kind of way to having a rock band. It was going to be quirky but in a really simple, brief, swift fashion. It was like, `Oh yeah, I'm going to add something or I'm going to take something away so that it's a little bit lopsided or whatever.' Because when it's just a foursquare thing, it at least stands a 50-50 chance of being boring, cliché-ridden, heard-it-before. When you lop off one corner of it, well, I don't know if it's boring or not. But it's definitely something that you've not heard before.

"Now people pursue rock music, and they go, `I have something important to say, and here's what it is, and ooh, I'm singing it from my heart, too.' And it's all too serious. And people totally miss out. They totally miss the fun, Jabberwocky, fun-with-language, fun-with-poetry."

From the beginning, the Pixies were diligent. They practiced five hours a day, four days a week, in Mr. Lovering's garage. "We wouldn't be able to play if we didn't figure out what we were going to play," Ms. Deal recalled. "We could not jam. I still can't jam."

They invested $1,500 to make a demo tape that eventually yielded songs for the band's punk-flavored 1987 debut EP, "Come On Pilgrim." With the producer Gil Norton polishing their dynamics, the Pixies went on to make two indelible albums, "Surfer Rosa" (1988) and "Doolittle" (1989), and two solid ones, "Bossanova" (1990) and "Trompe le Monde" (1991). And they toured steadily for five years, from hole-in-the-wall punk clubs to European rock festivals.

The grind of traveling gradually frayed the band. "It's intense being on tour," Mr. Thompson said. "You're cooped up in a bus with a bunch of different personalities — people you know, people you don't know. You're on a weird time schedule. Sometimes there's a lot of drinking and drugs and all, sleep deprivation. It's kind of a weird situation."

By the end of a final tour, opening for U2 and facing audiences that barely knew them, Mr. Thompson was no longer speaking to Ms. Deal. In 1992, he dissolved the Pixies via faxes sent from his manager's office. "If I would have called a meeting or something, then it would have just kind of devolved into this big discussion," he said " `Oh, come on, Charles. Don't do this right now.' And I just wasn't up for that. I was just, like, I'm done. I'm done. Goodbye. There's no discussion, you know what I mean?"

Ms. Deal went on to start the Breeders, who had a million-selling album in 1993 with "Last Splash" but struggled to follow through. Mr. Thompson renamed himself Frank Black and started writing more straightforward songs than his Pixies material; Mr. Santiago worked on and off with Frank Black's bands and started a band called the Martinis with Mr. Lovering in the mid-90's. More recently, Mr. Lovering gave up drums and was scraping out a living as a magician until the call came to rejoin the Pixies. He still keeps a deck of cards close at hand and has sometimes been the Pixies' opening act. "I love the Pixies," he tells crowds who may not recognize his name. "I've been to every one of their shows."

The Pixies reunion, Mr. Thompson said, started as a joke. Or maybe it wasn't exactly a joke, but some combination of wish and strategy. He isn't about to say. But last July, while on tour with his own band, he was doing an interview on a London radio station when he was asked the question he had been asked in every interview he had given for the last 12 years: Would the Pixies ever reunite? And for the first time, he allowed that there just might be the possibility of a reunion.

The news zipped across the Internet to fans who had been waiting since the Pixies ended their six-year career in 1992, and anticipation started to build. Mr. Thompson had joked with the interviewer that the Pixies were still jamming and working on new songs, but he also said that any time he envisioned a Pixies reunion, it was like the classic anxiety dream of being unprepared in public. Still, in August he quietly held some strategy meetings with his manager and booking agent. He called Mr. Santiago, who called Ms. Deal. "I just went, `Oh really?' " Ms. Deal said. "But Joe was telling me, `This could be a change of school district for me. This is important to me.' And because of that I said I'd do it."

The band members, now in their 30's and 40's, are temperate on tour these days. Over dinner, Mr. Thompson and Ms. Deal drank nonalcoholic beer. In London, Mr. Santiago was joined by his pregnant wife, Linda, and his year-old daughter; Mr. Lovering played host to his parents.

The Pixies have recorded a new song together, written by Ms. Deal, called "Bam Thwok," which was originally written for the soundtrack to "Shrek 2." But the movie company chose a song by Counting Crows instead, and "Bam Thwok" ended up helping to inaugurate the European version of iTunes.

Marc Geiger of the William Morris Agency, the band's longtime agent, says he is hoping the Pixies will record a new album early next year. "I have thought of that concept, yes," Mr. Black said. "I wouldn't mind asking Tom Waits to produce us. Why not? I like the way his records sound."

But the band members are resolutely not looking ahead. They have kept the tour as familiar as possible; not just the songs but their business associates, lighting director and sound man are the same as they were the first time around. In Brixton, even the backstage caterer was the same as on the Pixies' last visit to the same theater in 1991.

"There's surprisingly little déjà vu on this tour," Mr. Thompson said. "It's more like just a continuation. It's like there's a bunch of songs. We played them to death in the late 80's and early 90's for a period of about five years. So, a bit of a long sabbatical. Now we're playing them again. And there really isn't any mystery."  

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

New Tiki Bongo Single

Tiki Bongo Art
Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

Hey y'all my first full-on cd is one step closer to being DUN. Check out the new single "The Tarpon Inn". It's a little intrumental tribute to my favorite little bungalow hotel down in Port Aransas, Texas. Let me know what you think!

Click Here!