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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Let's Talk about STARDUMB Records

Kepi Ghoulie - Keeping Me Alive/Accused of Love (7")

On Valentine’s Day 2020, STARDUMB Records will release a new Kepi Ghoulie 7” featuring two Tom Petty love songs. I heard it and believe me it's REALLY excellent. So this was the perfect opportunity for this blog to take a glimpse "behind the curtain" of the music business and to have one of the most interesting conversations ever with Stefan Tijs, head honcho of the label and all around nice guy. Let's Talk about STARDUMB Records!

1) For the viewers of this blog who would not be aware of STARDUMB Records, what would you tell to introduce your label?

Stardumb was founded in 2000 and most bands I work with could be labelled power pop, punk rock or something in between, I suppose. I'm based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, but I’ve been working with bands from all over the world. If I look at my most recent releases, Lone Wolf is the only Dutch band actually, haha.

2) Do you remember when you started it all and why? Was this an out of the blue decision or were you thinking about starting your own label for quite a while?

Stefan about to spin Lucy and the Rats
I ran some other label called Little People Records before Stardumb and that one pretty much happened by accident. It started with two friends and I who put together a compilation CD featuring young local bands we liked, without the intention of running a real label. The only reason we came up with a label name and a logo was that we figured it would help the bands if their songs appeared to be released by a label instead of on something that seemed self released.
That comp was well received though and before we knew it five more releases followed, but that was that. I enjoyed putting out records enough to start a new label though and from day one I was more serious about it with Stardumb, but I don’t think I could’ve guessed I’d still be here 20 years later, ha.

3) Nowadays, do you still run STARDUMB Records on your own or do you have some helping hands?

I actually got more helping hands in the early days than now, haha. The label had quite a booming start and we had a really cool scene in Rotterdam in those days with lots of young people with enough free time to help out every now and then. The scene is smaller now and grew older, so most people have more on their hands nowadays whether it’s work, family life and/or their own projects. So at this point it’s basically just me doing all the work on my own, although I know there’s a handful of people I could always call for help if I really needed them.

4) Is this a full time job or do you have a regular job on the side?

Stardumb totally is a labour of love. The label is sorta keeping itself alive financially these days, but I personally never made money with it, so yeah, I have a job next to this. I’m fortunate enough to make a living as a (children’s books) illustrator working out of my own studio, which is where I run the label from too. And my job allows me to squeeze in some hours here and there for the label whenever needed, so I’m able to get orders out on pretty much a daily base and stuff like that, which is nice of course.

5) In your opinion, was it easier to run a label in early 2000 than it is nowadays?

When I started Stardumb in 2000 a lot of people who had been in the music business for a while already were complaining that sales dropped a lot since the 90’s (the early 2000’s were the heydays for illegal mp3 downloads of course), so I guess I missed the real peak, but in this specific niche of power pop and pop punk I’m specialized in I still think it was easier then. Not for me personally actually, because I was young with not much of a clue about the business side of things, so I made a lot of mistakes, ha. So if it comes to running a company it’s a lot easier for me now, since I’m a lot more organized and I learned from my mistakes, but still I moved way more units then than I do now. But hey, I’m thankful for every sale. I think it’s great there’s still people buying vinyl by obscure bands on independent labels. It’s easy to get lazy these days with Spotify offering these ready-made playlists, but there’s a lot of good music out there that doesn’t make it to those playlists. It’s cool quite some people realize that and make an effort to find out about what else is out there.

6) Let's talk about co-releases. Are co-releases a necessity today for smaller labels (as opposed to majors)? Can you explain how the whole process is working? Is one of the labels taking the initiative? Who decides where the records are gonna be pressed (example in Europe or in the USA, or elsewhere). Who's taking care of the promotion, etc… Please tell us everything.

Geoff Palmer's album
There’s not really one answer to this. For me it varies from release to release, plus it varies from label to label too. If you’d ask this question to five labels you’ll probably get five different answers. But since you’re asking me, for me in general they’re not a necessity, no. I work with distributors in both Europe and the US, plus my good friend Anne of The Machine Shop from New Jersey is always up for helping me out with setting up a pre-order, so we can offer people in the US affordable shipping for that as well.

So there’s still a bunch of releases that are Stardumb only, like the two most recent Even In Blackouts releases or that Local Drags EP that came out a few months ago for example, and in a way I actually like it like that best, because it’s just really clear what’s expected from me. The more parties involved, the messier it potentially can get. But sometimes co-releasing does make sense, and it’s a different story each time.

Like for example last year's Geoff Palmer album. The vinyl edition is on Stardumb (I generally sell more LP’s than CD’s), but Geoff and I both have been friends for something like 20 years with the great Malibu Lou of Rum Bar Records and Lou happens to be specialized in CD’s, so that all just turned out to be a perfect fit. The three of us have been working together with the same kind of enthusiasm on that album and I think we really complemented each other.

Or the sophomore Lone Wolf album which came out in October... At first that was gonna be just on Stardumb, both on LP and CD. I don’t have official distribution in Japan though and I happened to know Kazu of Waterslide loves Lone Wolf and I know Lone Wolf would love to tour Japan at some point... So I hooked up with Waterslide and eventually we did the CD-version together, which is great because he can obviously do more for them in Japan than I can.

My newest release is a Kepi Ghoulie 7” with two Tom Petty love songs, which drops on Valentine’s Day. That one and most of the other recent Kepi Ghoulie releases (including Groovie Ghoulies reissues) have been co-releases with Eccentric Pop in the US. I’ve been working with Kepi since 2001 and we became close friends, but for a good while I slowed the label down because in that period I needed almost all my time for work as well as some personal shit I had to deal with. In those years I still released an occasional single by Kepi and we did a Kepi art book too, but no time for albums. After releases on various labels Kepi found a great home in Eccentric Pop in I think 2013 and they’ve been working together successfully since. When I got more active with the label again though Kepi asked if I wanted to join in with their ongoing projects, taking care of Europe. Which of course I did!

Local Drags EP
That’s just three examples, but the story is slightly different for pretty much every co-release I did. I know some labels also like to do co-releases to spread the risk or just because they can’t toss up the whole amount themselves and this might be the reason I was asked on board for some co-releases, who knows. I personally never feel the need to spread the risk though, because I only release stuff that I think is really great and I’m always confident I’ll be able to move enough copies to make it work. That turned out to be quite naive more than once, haha, but luckily I’ve always managed to survive anyway.

As for where records are pressed and stuff, that all varies too. It usually depends on which label is taking the lead, who’s taking the biggest chunk of the pressing or who’s got the best deal. I’m a bit of a control freak, so I love taking the lead, so with most of the co-releases I’ve done I’ve been taking care of the pressing part.

7) About your personal taste in music: To what kind of music did you listen to as a teenager? What were your favorite bands as a teenager? Name 3 bands that you consider still have an influence on your own work today.

I’ve always listened to a wide variety of music, but as a young kid in the 80’s living in a small Dutch town I was pretty much dependent on what the radio fed me or what my mom was spinning. Besides John Denver, who she was a huge fan of (and who I only got to appreciate to some degree after my mom passed away, but probably mostly because of sentimental reasons, ha), she luckily listened to a lot of good stuff too, like Neil Young and Johnny Cash, music I still listen to myself today.

The first music I really “discovered” was hip-hop. Beastie Boys and Run DMC both hit the charts in 1986 and that’s probably the first time I really heard hip-hop and as a ten year old I was fascinated by the rawness of it. Since I was still very young it took me another year or two before I was actually able to really dive into the genre, but when I finally did I dove real deep. I think I've heard every single hip-hop release from the US, UK and The Netherlands that came out between 1987 and 1993, hahaha. One of my first faves was Boogie Down Productions, and I think I should name them, or actually their main man KRS-One as the first of the 3 bands that still have an influence on me. I’m not even listening to him that much these days, but I learned so much from his lyrics… He even said things that were in conflict with what I’d been taught to believe my whole life until then… It didn’t turn me into a rebel I think, but it did teach me to question everything, or at the very least to realize there’s often two sides to a story. He helped me shape up to the curious and compassionate person I like to think I am. Plus through a compilation he put together he introduced me to Billy Bragg’s music. That’s a nice bonus too of course.

It wasn’t until 1993 until I discovered punk rock and while they weren’t the first punk rock band I got into, from this period I think I should pick Screeching Weasel as the second band that still has a big influence on my life. Quite literally actually, because Screeching Weasel was the first band on Lookout! Records I ever heard and without that label I doubt Stardumb would have ever seen the light of day. I haven’t paid too much attention to Screeching Weasel in the past 10 to 15 years to be honest, but the amount of amazing songs they made in the 90’s is quite incredible. And by finding out about them it opened the doors for me to discover The Queers, Groovie Ghoulies, MTX… I worked with those first two bands, became friends with Dr. Frank of MTX, worked with both Vapid and Jughead of SW... so I guess that says enough about the impact that picking up that “Anthem For A New Tomorrow” CD in some skate shop in Scheveningen had on my life.

One more to go, right?… I’m thinking what bands I’ve been having on heavy rotation ever since I
Stefan DJ’ing at the Punk Rock Raduno festival in Italy
was a teenager… Dinosaur Jr and The Clash for sure. Ramones of course. I’ve always loved both The Beatles and The Stones… And don’t get me started about Bob Dylan… Still I think I should pick The Clash as the third band though. Besides being the soundtrack to a huge part of my life, I love how diverse they were. Far from flawless of course, but I even love them for that. I think in a way I can relate to them because I’ve been doing stuff in my life that’s all over the place too. So even if Stardumb has quite a clear focus, as a person I get inspired by how they dared to cross boundaries.

8) Do your personal tastes always guide you when you decide to release a new record? Have you ever been tempted to sign a band because you thought I might be "good" for the sales of the label even if you did not actually liked the band you signed?

I did get a few offers through the years that might have been good for business, but if I’m not feeling it I can’t do it. I don’t think it’s a shame if other labels choose differently, especially when there’s people financially dependent on the label, but I guess music is too close to my heart to really look at it as a product. That might be the reason why – after all these years – I’m still running this label as a thing on the side though, haha. But then again, if I was just gonna sell something with the sole purpose to make money, there’s easier markets than the music one.

9) What are the plans for the future/next releases in 2020 as far as STARDUMB Records is concerned?

Lucy and the Rats 7” coming up in March
Since Stardumb is turning 20 this year I’ve actually got a few things in the works to celebrate that, which I will announce in the not to distant future. Wish I could say more now, but gotta keep my mouth shut for a few more weeks. Next to that I’ve got a whole bunch of releases planned. Unless someone or something stops me prematurely this is probably gonna be my busiest year so far releases-wise. Following up the brand new Kepi Ghoulie 7” which I mentioned earlier I’ve got a Lucy and the Rats 7” coming up in March, followed by their second album this spring. Something that isn’t announced yet is a Mikey Erg EP which should be out just in time for his upcoming Euro tour. Eccentric Pop and I have got another Groovie Ghoulies reissue in the works, with incredible new artwork by Tom Neely. Another thing I’m super excited about is that Geoff Palmer is working on a new album again. The songs I’ve heard so far are just as good as the best songs on his previous one. So enough cool stuff to look forward to and to keep me busy, hehe.

10) Any information you want to share with the viewers of this blog.

I just wanna thank everyone that got this far for reading all this. Hope I didn’t bore you too much. And if you own any Stardumb release: Thanks a lot for the support! It might sound silly, but every single sale means a lot to the bands and me. It’s literally an encouragement to keep on doing what we’re doing. So cheers!


Friday, February 7, 2020

Faz Waltz' new single soon to be released

Grown Up Guy b/w C'mon Liar is the new single by Italian glam rockers FAZ WALTZ.  It's got a powerful sound and a very nice SLADE vibe. 

It's going to be released physically by Spaghetty Town (USA) and Wanda Records (GER) and digitally (spotify,  etc..) on the 20th of February. The new single will be aired on the radio for the first time by Rodney Bingenheimer on Little Steven's Underground Garage on the 9th of February.

"Grown Up Guy" is the forerunner of a new album (Vinyl/digital) featuring 11 new tracks that will be released in April by Spaghetty Town  (USA), Contra Records (GER) and Surfin Ki (ITA). "C'mon Liar" is exclusive to this release.

The 7" and the album were both recorded at Tup Studio, Brescia and produced by Brown Barcella and Faz La Rocca.

FAZ WALTZ will be playing live at the single release party on the 29th of February, at Joshua Blues Club (COMO), Italy.

Pre-order a physical copy here

Or here:

Monday, January 20, 2020

The RATBOYS - Click

A sonic blast of '77 era Vibrators-Undertones-Motors & Ramones with the sound, look, and style to boot punk rock n' roll is what we're talking about. Sprinkled with glitter, new wave, glam, and sneer, slamming with high heeled boot stomping hooks, licks, and choruses.

Vincenzo D'Aguanno
'Click' your stereo on, turn up the volume and get ready for The RATBOYS sophomore release that'll stick to the back of your brain like an everlasting stick of bubblegum as you hummmm, tap, and sing along to these songs all day.

The story of The RATBOYS goes back to the summer of 2008. Eric St John went with his daughter Deborah to a so called "punk" festival featuring 4 bands. Belgian punk heroes The Kids, Buzzcocks, The Sex Pistols and -his personal favorites of the day- The New York Dolls.

Eric St John
There, in the crowd, he stumbled upon bass player Vincenzo whom he hadn't seen in more than a decade. Probably inspired by the music they had listened to all afternoon, they very quickly discussed the possibility to make some noise together. Soon a drummer -Baba- and a guitar player - Manu Ribot - were found and within a couple of months the four of them had enough material to record what would become their debut full length "Cash, gas and trash" that saw the light of day in early 2010 on Brutarian Records.

Renaud Arents
Unfortunately, shortly after the release of the album various setbacks occurred, the band soon fell apart and everybody went his own way.

In 2017 Vincenzo and Eric St John decided to reboot The RATBOYS. With little success at first until finally in early 2019 guitar slinger James and new drummer Reno entered the picture.

James Neligan
Within a couple of weeks the sophomore album "Click" was recorded and, like the first album, it was mixed by the one and only Pierre Vervloesem.

This album was recorded in various places all around the world between March 2019 and July 2019

Eric St John: Vocals and guitars
Vincenzo D'Aguanno: Bass
James Neligan: Guitars
Renaud Arents: Drums 


Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Poison Boys - "Out of My Head"

1) For the viewers of this blog who would not know you, What would you tell about you and your musical background to introduce yourself? Can you also introduce the other members of The Poison Boys who participated in the recordings? 

Hi I'm Matt Dudzik from the Poison Boys. My musical background consists of a whole lot of rock n roll, blues and a whole lot of punk. I grew up listening to punk starting with the Ramones, Sex Pistols and the Misfits in my early teenage years before getting into street punk and protopunk/older 50's 60's and 70's rock n roll. The sleazier the better. Used to play drums in a few punk bands through those years that never really did much, and eventually decided I wanted to play guitar in a rock n roll punk band kinda like The Riffs. So, I taught myself guitar at about 19 years old and began Poison Boys when I was about 23.

The other members of the band on the "Out of My Head" LP are Matt Chaney - drums, and Adam Sheets - bass. Our drummer Matt Chaney has been playing in garage punk / rock n roll type bands for years. He used to play in a band from Ohio called Wheels on Fire that had released a few full lengths and gotten several tours under their belt before disbanding a few years back. Then he played in a band called City Slang that released a 7" on No Front Teeth Records back in 2016.

The bassist on the LP is Adam Sheets, who was in the band from 2015-2018. He used to play in a Chicago-based punk rock n roll band called Scoundrel in the early part of the 2010's that released one LP. He's also the bassist on our three 7" releases but left the band last year due to changing interests and different life directions.

2) About the "Out of my head"  full length album, what can you tell about the recording process? Was this a "live" in the studio recording or a track by track recording with lots of overdubs?

The recording process was quick and easy. We had it done digitally, just had our friend CJ Rayson (aka Ceejay R'Moan) track the LP at our rehearsal space on the west side of Chicago. We did most of it track by track, starting with drums for each song then bass and guitars. I played a scratch guitar track along with Chaney when he was recording his drum tracks.

The songs that I played drums on - "Out of My Head," "Slow Down," "Cut Right Out,""Tear Me Apart," and"I Won't Look Back" (Dead Boys cover) - I had CJ record me playing the drums without a click track or someone playing along with me or music in the headphones. That was fun but I had to redo a few of them from listening back and realizing I played them too fast at first.

We didn't really have to do a ton of overdubbing, pretty much nailed a ton of it first take. Most of these songs had been in our set for years so they were pretty natural when it came time to record.

Adam and Matt recorded guitar and drums for "Downtown" as a live take first try and I got to just watch. It was pretty cool not having to record anything other than vocals for that one. Maybe one day we'll do a whole album like that...

3) Do you use the nowadays digital recording technology or do you only work with analog machines in analog studios? 

Both methods are cool and have their advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately I haven't had the opportunity to record with analog machines yet.

4) How would you describe the music you are playing? If I were to call it Rock'n'Roll à la New York Dolls, would you agree with this label? Are you proud of it or do you consider there is way more than that? 

I would definitely agree with that. The Dolls are one of our main influences. Not all of our songs are in the same vein as their songs though. We mix it up a bit to have a rounded spectrum of rock n roll style in our music. "Up to the Sky" is definitely more on the Stones/Dolls side of things whereas "Out of My Head" is more on the Stooges "Raw Power" and high energy punk side of things. It just depends on what comes out when writing the songs but also not going too far outside of what we play. This album is a pretty good demonstration of the range of rock n roll style we have for the Poison Boys, and in that way it was a good first album, a good demonstration of what we can do. The next album we plan to have a bit more on the punk side of our songwriting, and the one after that maybe more on the protopunk or glam side. Stooges/Mott/Lou Reed type of glam though, not much like the Sweet or bubblegum style. Hopefully this makes sense.

5) What is your favorite topic/topic that comes easily when you write a new song?

Just life experiences. From living in a gloomy filthy sketchy city to various interpersonal relations. Getting excited over meeting someone new or reveling in the scuzzyness of the city. For some reason I usually get inspired to write when I'm feeling down about something.

6) Do you have a new video on youtube featuring a track from the LP?? 

Yeah we have two videos out right now of songs from the Out of My Head LP.

"Tear Me Apart" is about someone you really can't stand and gotta get away from. You tried to fix things with them but it just won't work out, so fuck 'em.

"Been Here All Night" is about meeting someone you really fall for. I've always considered this one "single" material for the album. I wrote lyrics to some riffs that my friend Mike Lippman wrote a few years back when we started the band. Sadly, he passed away the same year we started the Poison Boys. I wanted to keep his memory alive by continuing to play the songs we wrote together so it's nice to get this song out and have a music video for it.

7) What can concert goers expect at a The Poison Boys gig? Are you playin' any famous cover songs during the concert?

They can expect the best rock n roll music they've ever heard loud and in their face!! We play high energy songs and play one song after the next with minimal pauses like the Ramones did. Come to our show and find out for yourself!!

We cover a classic rock n roll song called "Slow Down" that we play that's originally by a pianist and singer from the golden era of rock n roll (the late 1950's) named Larry Williams. That song's also been covered by bands like The Jam and the Beatles. Other songs Larry Williams wrote are "Dizzy Miss Lizzy," "Bony Maronie," and "Bad Boy." Amazing Little Richard sounding stuff.

We love doing songs from that era or the 1960's like when we did a cover of "Fluctuation" by Texas one-hit-wonders the Shades of Night on our "Bad Mouth" 7" back in 2017. Most of the time though we just play our own songs live but it's really fun to throw in a cover every here and there and play it Poison Boys style. There's also another cover on our LP of the Dead Boys' "I Won't Look Back." I chose that song because it describes my childhood and goes well with our style. We don't usually play it live though. There's too many of our own songs to pack in our set to focus much on covers.

8) Are there any bands in The USA today you consider yourself close to, musically speaking?

Not really. There's a bunch of variations on punk rock n roll but not a lot that mix it up within the genre like we do. There's definitely a ton of sick rock n roll bands out right now though like Jonesy, The Crazy Squeeze, Joey Pinter, the Sweet Things, Black Mambas, the Rubs, the Waldos, the Flytraps, and our buddies Criminal Kids and Big Blood from our area to name a few.

9) To what kind of music did you listen to as a teenager? What were your favorite bands as a teenager? Name 3 bands that you consider still have an influence on your own work today in The Poison Boys.

Johnny Thunders, Generation X, Slaughter and the Dogs, The Professionals, Nervous Eaters, Berlin Brats, Iggy Pop, the Jook, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, MC5, Flamin Groovies and the list goes on and on. Definitely the Riffs for doing rock n roll punk at a time when it seemed to be either pop punk or street punk that was popular like 20 years ago.

10) What are the plans for 2020 as far as The Poison Boys are concerned?

We got big plans in 2020 for another few records. We have a 7" in the can that we recorded on tour over the summer, just looking for label support at the moment. And we started tracking for our 2nd LP already, set for (hopefully) release next summer. Oh yeah and more touring of course!!!!!

11) Anything you wanna add?

Thanks for listening to and supporting the Poison Boys! Support your local rock n roll and punk scene any way you can. Be kind to each other and give love every way you can. It's not really cool to be a dick or a douche bag and exclude newcomers from the scene. We're all we have left in a world where rock and roll and punk seems to be slowing down and fading out! Lets keep this fire burning. See you at the gig.

Friday, December 6, 2019

MORE KICKS debut album released on WANDA Records

As soon as I heard MORE KICKS debut full length, recently released by WANDA Records, I was totally sold. This album is a blast! 12 perfectly crafted slices of amazing Powerpop with a touch of Punk thrown in for good measure! Big guitars and hooky melodies are going to please your ears for days. This is a real rock'n'roll masterpiece displaying one catchy tune after another and it'll keep you humming the songs for hours in a row. 

MORE KICKS, baby! 

So it was time for your truly to have an interesting chat with James SULLIVAN, mastermind behind MORE KICKS.

1) For the viewers of this blog who would not know you, What would you tell about you and your musical background to introduce yourself? Can you also introduce the other members of More Kicks who participated in the recordings? 

My name is James Sullivan but most people call me Sulli. My parents call me James so if you want to use that then it's fine by me. I'm the singer and guitar player in More Kicks. I also play in a band called Suspect Parts where I share singing and guitar duties with a beautiful American man called Justin. My first gigs were when I was 14/15 with a band called Ripchord where I played guitar and sang harmonies. Ripchord did some fun things in quite a mainstream, major label world. When that band imploded I was about 21 and I jumped into the world of DIY (although I hate that term) bands, tours and recording. Driving yourselves around Europe playing weird vegan venues and sleeping on promoters' floors. Somehow I am still doing that, but this time I demand at least a sofa.

More Kicks has been a band for about two years, formed when Kris Hood (drums) wrote to me out of the blue to say we should play songs together. He was one of the two people in London who cared about Suspect Parts so he thought it would be a good fit. He was right. I love him deeply and he is the perfect drummer – excitable, slightly eccentric (e.g. baths and decaf coffee) and a total powerhouse on drums.

On the album Marco Busato is on bass. He was our bass player for approximately 18 months and it was a privilege to play with him – fantastic musician, great company. He left the band shortly after recording because I kept asking him to grow his moustache back. So now we are joined by north London guru, Paolo Mantovani. He has the voice of an angel, the devil's left hand and is a calming presence on both me and Kris. Most importantly, he's adopted some of our tour rituals like a true pro – honey, gin and tonic, hypochondria.

2) About the self titled debut full length album, what can you tell about the recording process? Was this a "live" in the studio recording or a track by track recording with lots of overdubs?

We recorded live on to 2" tape in a studio in East London in February. Then it was mixed down on to 1/4" tape and mastered by our friend Daniel. We didn't see a computer the entire time. We recorded everything in two days and then mixed it in 1.5 days. We actually got a refund of 0.5 days because we'd paid for four days.

We did it on tape because it sounds better, we're good enough to make it work, it's more fun, and all our favourite records were done on tape. There's no question in my mind it makes for a better record and a better recording experience.

There is one guitar overdub on some of the songs, maybe a tambourine, an acoustic guitar on a couple. I did some monkey-playing-piano keyboards on a few songs. Then I did one or two takes of the vocals. I prefer doing the vocals in one take all the way through, so you don't have the chance to overthink things. You get a natural performance and you move on. I think I overdubbed a 'WOOO!' at one point.

But otherwise it was a live recording – three people in a small room. There are a few moments on the album where I actually feel anxious that the train is coming off the rails. The speed of recording was partly through necessity – we didn't have money to spend weeks in a studio. But also because it's a debut album – it's supposed to be live, unfiltered, raw, bursting with energy. Then we can get fat, drunk and coked up for the second record. It's a tale as old as time, people.

3) Do you use the nowadays digital recording technology or do you only work with analog machines in analog studios? 

Oh I think I answered this already!

4) How would you describe the music you are playing? If I were to call it powerpop, would you agree with this label? Are you proud of it or do you consider there is way more than that? 

It's so boring when bands complain about the names of genres because it's totally a fair question. But honestly I don't know what the hell to say. If you think it sounds powerpop then that's cool for me! I think maybe I get sensitive about the word because it is EASY to make crappy powerpop. It can be a very lazy genre – too clean, too wet, too weak, too fake. Bad powerpop is worse than the shittiest X Factor pop group because it's more fraudulent. But then I fucking love The Plimsouls, Cheap Trick, Gentleman Jesse, Big Star and people call those bands powerpop, right? I think in the end, my instincts are pop, Kris' instincts are powerpop, and Paolo's are punk. Too much of any of those three elements would be tedious.

5) What is your favorite topic/topic that comes easily when you write a new song?

For me, the lyrics usually come last. So by that point I'm excited about the cool little melody that I created and desperate to start making a little demo. Which means I write lyrics very quickly. It's the classic "I'll think of something proper later and just sing this for the moment" – and then never change them. I usually write backwards too – write the chorus first and then lead up to it with the verse.

I would say that my favourite More Kicks songs lyrically are the ones that work as a little narrative that shifts slightly throughout the song. 'Ain't That Just the Way' is maybe my favourite. 'Blame It On the Satellite' too. There is usually a hint of something broken in there. You can't trust the narrator of More Kicks songs – and that narrator is not necessarily me. There's frustration, romance, arrogance, ego, bitterness. Writing quickly enables a stream of consciousness so you don't get stuck with over-thought or insincere sentiment. There is absolutely nothing insincere or dishonest about these songs. I fucking mean every word, even the ones that don't mean anything.

6) Do you have a new video on youtube featuring a track from the newly released LP?? 

Yes we do! I find making videos to be one of the more painful elements of being in a band (along with general admin and carrying things) but we made a cool video for our song Blame It On The Satellite. Our friend Rizzo filmed us in north London, including at Rockaway Studios where we practice. The idea was that unreliable narrator thing – what you believe is real, what you choose to blame on an invisible force instead of taking responsibility on your own shoulders. The video cost about £20 because we went out for Turkish food afterwards and paid for Rizzo's meal and beer. It was quite literally the least we could do.

7) What can concert goers expect at a More Kicks gig? Are you playin' any famous cover songs during the concert? 

When we're on tour we try to play a song from the country we're in – it's a cynical marketing technique to try and win favour from the audience. We did a Jacques Dutronc song in France, for example. Oh actually on our Spanish tour in November 2018 we were playing Moscas y Arañas by Los Negativos every night and LOVING IT. Then we played in Barcelona and two guys were kindly buying one of our records after the gig. They asked us to sign it and said 'Oh by the way, we are in Los Negativos'! I couldn't speak for a couple of minutes. We had no idea! They were there?! Bizarre and so cool.  Honestly, the gigs are great. I was going to try and make a joke about what our gigs are like, but actually we're a really good live band, haha. We all play pretty well and we can sing – but the good news is we're more than capable of fucking things up too. So you get the best of both worlds.

8) To what kind of music did you listen to as a teenager? What were your favorite bands as a teenager? Name 3 bands that you consider still have an influence on your own work today in MORE KICKS.

As a teenager I was pretty much an indie kid. Supergrass, the Smiths, Jeff Buckley, Elliott Smith, Beatles, Kinks.  I probably became more raw and messy the older I got.

So in terms of bands that influenced More Kicks – and these would be completely different answers if you spoke to Kris or Paolo, of course. But I think the key is pop melodies where there's something corrupting it from the inside. That could be a weirdly discordant guitar, or a strangely cynical lyric. Velvet Underground were the kings of that. Graham Coxon from Blur is fantastic at deliberately sabotaging pop songs too and I will love him forever for that. He was the first guitar player I liked as a kid and is still a reference point for me for what to do when there's only one guitar in the band. So let's say Blur and piss off Kris and Paolo, haha.

I'm deeply obsessed with the Star Spangles too. A song like I Don't Wanna Be Crazy Anymore from the first album Bazooka is an incredibly simple thing – there's almost nothing happening. But the amount of heart and regret in that song and those performances makes me want to punch the air and scream. In terms of heart, they are the band I aspire to.

People mention Buzzcocks quite a lot when they talk about More Kicks. That is a huge compliment as far as I'm concerned. Lyrically, Pete Shelley was on a different planet. Totally fearless. Not afraid to change his mind during a song, to doubt himself, to intellectualise, to be stupid. I'm completely in awe of him.

9) What are the plans for the rest of 2019 and for 2020 as far as More Kicks are concerned?

Well the album is now out so we're planning stuff in early 2020 to support it. We'll be touring in Europe in February, then again in April. Plus we have a launch party in February in London (we're announcing that soon). We want to play to as many people as possible. If you want to book us for your town then email us! We're very polite on email!

We have some other touring plans that are at a much earlier stage of organizing too. But apart from gigs, we'll start to think about when to record album #2 soon. We have some new songs that sound fantastic and are taking us in an interesting direction.

10) Anything you wanna add? 

Nope, I wrote too much already probably. I'm going to go and have some soup. Thanks for fighting the good fight!

Purchase it without any delay!



Sunday, November 17, 2019

Roger C. Reale & Rue Morgue - The Collection

Rave On Records from New London, Connecticut recently released the aptly titled "The Collection" featuring Roger C. Reale & Rue Morgue’s discography, with all 24 remastered tracks making their digital debut. Tracks 1-12 comprise the band’s 1978 debut album Radioactive. The band lineup features Reale (lead vocals, bass), G.E Smith (guitar), Hilly Michaels (drums, vocals), and Jimmy McAllister (guitar, track 10).

Tracks 13-24 comprise the previously unreleased Reptiles In Motion album. Recorded in 1979, Reptiles In Motion was meant to be Roger C. Reale & Rue Morgue’s second album. The band includes Roger C. Reale (lead vocals, bass), guitar legend Mick Ronson (guitar), Jimmy McAllister (guitar, vocals), and Hilly Michaels (drums, vocals).

So it was high time for this blog to have a conversation with the man himself. Here it goes.

1. For the viewers of this blog who would not know you, what would you tell about Roger C. Reale and Rue Morgue to introduce yourself? How long were you together as a band? Who was playing what instrument in the band? 

 I signed to newly formed Big Sound Records, Wallingford, CT., in 1977. I already had a notebook of songs that would eventually become my first album, Radioactive, and had started some of the songs which would appear on my second album, Reptiles in Motion.

Big Sound was an American label, which sort of patterned itself after Stiff Records in the UK. That is, they deliberately went out and signed bands/musicians who were a bit under the radar. I was about as far under the radar as you could get!  I didn't even have a band at the time of signing.

Rue Morgue MK 1: GE Smith, guitar; Hilly Michaels, drums.  Hilly was coming off a tour with Sparks and I knew GE from The Scratch Band, another Big Sound signing.

Rue Morgue MK 2:  Jimmy McAllister, Mick Ronson, guitars; Hilly, drums.  Jimmy I met through Hilly; he also was on the Sparks tour.  Hilly brought in Ronson, after Mick had heard Radioactive, and asked if he could come down from his then home, in upstate NY, to play on the next one, which would be Reptiles.

2. About the recently reissued CD "The Collection", what can you tell about the recording process? Was this a "live" in the studio recording or a track by track recording with lots of overdubs? 

The Collection actually consists of two LPs: Radioactive, which was issued on vinyl only in 1978; and Reptiles in Motion, recorded in 1979, and never issued until now on Rave On Records. 

The approach to Radioactive was to record live in the studio with very little overdubs. We recorded all the backing tracks, with live vocals, in one session, pretty much like on the job. Later, GE added a few guitar bits, and I added backing vocals, but what you hear is essentially a live band.  We just went for it.

With Reptiles, I wanted to progress with the same feel, but spend more time on each track, treating each song as its own entity rather than the complete adrenaline rush of Radioactive. However, I was very keen on retaining some sort of identity for Rue Morgue, as far as the energy and the feel of the songs. I wanted the second LP to be seen as a logical progression to the first. The key, for me, was that the rhythm section remained intact, with me and Hilly, so the identity was there; you could essentially put anything on top and it would remain Rue Morgue.

Obviously, having Mick in on the sessions was an amazing encounter and opportunity; we bonded immediately, and he and Jimmy worked out their parts. 

Again, the basic tracks were recorded, but this time, we agreed to return to finish anything left undone. Everyone went their separate ways, and I returned, from time to time, to work on vocals, and assorted overdubs. Finishing Reptiles would never happen, as Big Sound folded for a variety of reasons, and Reptiles remained on the shelf until now.

3. If you had to record new songs today would you use the nowadays recording technology or do you only work with analog machines in analog studios?

I've recorded four CD's with my band The Manchurians and two solo CD's. I'll work in any studio, or use any method that helps me get my sound across. I have no real preference. For me, it's all about the feel. I never go into the studio without knowing what I want, and I work very quickly. Of course, I'm always open to advice, suggestions, but I'm always prepared.

Photos by Robert K. Derosa
4. To what kind of music did you listen to as a teenager? What were your favorite bands as a teenager? Name 3 bands that you consider still have an influence on your own work today. 

I listened to everything on the radio, but particularly Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley. Then all the British Invasion bands:  Stones, Beatles, Pretty Things, Yardbirds, Who, Small Faces, and all the stuff that you had to hunt down because it wasn't being played on the radio, like Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and John Lee Hooker.

Three bands that still have a major influence on my work today:  Pretty Things, Stones, Yardbirds, and WHO...that's four!

5. What was your favorite topic/topic that came easily when you wrote a song?

I don't write songs on topics; I pursue whatever melody, riff, phrase comes into my head...sometimes it comes every day... sometimes you go weeks with no messages. People politics; situations; observations. No particular point of view.

6. How would you describe the music you were playing back then? Was it powerpop? Do you agree with this label? Are you proud of it or do you consider there is way more than that? 

Back then, and now - Radioactive and Reptiles, I consider rock n' roll. I'd be very happy with that. 

7.  Do you have a video on youtube featuring a track from The Collection?

“She’s Older Now” video tells the RCR&RM story while the track plays from the LP.

8. Way back in the day, what could concert goers expect at a Roger C. Reale and Rue Morgue gig? Were you playing any famous cover songs during the gig? 

Rue Morgue (with Hilly and Jimmy) actually only played one showcase gig in New York City at a club called Hurrah.  We played songs from both LPs, and we were well received.  I can't recall playing any cover material at that gig, although we recorded a few on Radioactive. There are no covers on Reptiles, although that band (Jimmy, Mick, Hilly) recorded a version of The Jook's Aggravation Place, which remains in the vaults.

9.  Were there any bands in the USA back then you consider yourself close to musically speaking? 

I tended to identify more with what was happening in the UK at the time:  The Jam, The Clash, Elvis Costello, Rockpile particularly, although, early Cheap Trick and The Raspberries certainly figured as well. Vocally, I didn't really sound like anybody else, so I wasn't concerned.

10. Is there any chance for new recordings seeing the daylight one day soon?

I've never stopped recording. I currently play and record with The Manchurians, and I've recorded two solo CD's. Right now, they're available on Bandcamp. As for a Rue Morgue reunion?  Unfortunately, Mick and Jimmy have passed. Hilly and GE are still here, so I'd never say "never"!

11. Anything you wanna add?

  Thanks Eric; I am humbled that you are interested, and happy to oblige!


Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Abyssmals - "Gospels, Hymns and Other Trash!"

Rescued from a cult and saved by love and rock'n'roll. Read all about it here!

1) For the viewers of this blog who would not know you, What would you tell about you and your musical background to introduce yourself? Can you also introduce the other members of The Abyssmals who participated in the recordings? 

JARPON: The Abyssmals are a five-piece garage psych band from the Schenectady, NY formed in October 2016. The band consists of Bob Forget on guitar/vocals, Boris Cahrenger On bass/vocals, Nick Nigro on drums, Muffy Reyes on keys/percussion/vocals, and me (Jarpon Reyes) on guitar/lead vocals. The group initially formed around a collection of demos (The Abyssmals S/T) I started recording in Spring of 2016 and released that September.  Up until that point everyone was in separate bands that were in the process of ending so it took a bit to get together. Once everyone was assembled, the songs began to take on a new life with everybody bringing their own personality and musicality to them. While there’s definitely a cross section of psych music for us, everyone integrated their own distinct musical sensibilities, styles, and sounds. Personally, the Velvet Underground are my faves, but the stuff that most informs my writing for The Abyssmals is mixture of early Mod/British Invasion, 50’s rock, 60’s surf rock, Nuggets-era psych, 70’s punk, and a little 80’s post-punk.  The Animals, The Monks, Los Saicos, The Stooges and ? and The Mysterians were big vibe inspiration behind the whole idea when I started writing. More modern psych and garage bands like BJM, Black Angels, Black Lips I also love and can be traced in our songs. Also artists like Elvis, Roy Orbison and more currently, Angel Olsen. My dad was a big karaoke guy and I grew up on American oldies radio so I’ve got a major soft spot for dramatic crooning and melodic, vintage pop.

BOB: I grew up listening to a lot of British Rock, started with The Beatles, The Who and The Stones.
I eventually shifted into Brit Pop, Shoegaze, Psychedelic, New Wave stuff like Oasis, Blur, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses. I also enjoy several American artists, The Velvet Underground, The Black Angels and Brian Jonestown Massacre.

BORIS: Hello, I’m Boris and I play bass. My own personal music background goes way back to high school, where I played euphonium for 4 years or so. After that, I went into a pawn shop and purchased a Squier p-bass without even playing it beforehand and never looked back. I’m a huge fan of Motown and Stax artists, and also passionate over rock and roll.

MUFFY: I'm pretty much a tempestuous fan of music so it depends on my mood what I'm really digging. The most impactful artists for me musically though are Blondie and The B-52's. For performance style and aesthetics, the B-52’s still reign on high with that, but I also really love 60's flight attendant outfits, Cher in her Bob Mackie days and any and all drag queens.

2) About your debut full length album "Gospels, Hymns and Other Trash!",  what can you tell about the recording process? Was this a "live" in the studio recording or a track by track recording with lots of overdubs?

JARPON: We recorded in the basement of our friend, Shane Williams’ house.  He was essentially the engineer and I mixed it. Our friend, Troy Pohl mastered it. Side note: Our song, ‘Mansion of Happenings’ is actually about Shane’s house.  When Muffy and I moved to New York in 2016, the first show I went to I ran into Bob and Shane and also met Boris. I’d known Bob and Shane because my old band in Boston, Peachpit, played some weekend tours with Bob and Shane’s old band, Linear North, back in 2014.  That night Shane invited me over to jam with them all at his house the next morning. I hadn’t played with people in months since my old band broke up so jamming with them was great and inspiring. I immediately went home and wrote ‘Death Row Messiah’ and ‘Mansion of Happenings’ the next day and kind of sparked the idea of a band. As for the recording process, we did the majority of the instrumentation live. Bob did a few guitar overdubs. All the vocals were recorded separately at me and Muffy’s house as was most of the organ, percussion, synth and random bells and whistles. I cut together all the weird audio samples. The first bit at the beginning of the record is a mix of a John Lennon clip and Rod Steiger’s Twilight Zone intro monologue.  The sax before ‘For All of Time’ is a recording of our friends’ son mimicking Ornette Coleman.  Other than that, most of what is heard happened in one room together over the course of 2 or 3 days. I’d never mixed a bulk of work like this before so it definitely was a massive undertaking for me and also a huge learning experience.  I probably went through 6 mixes for each song.  I love recording and mixing just as much as performing, but I think for the next record I just want to watch and learn while someone else takes the wheel.

NICK: Recording live takes at Shane's house was a blast and I think the live feeling definitely came
out in the final product. It was an awesome experience to watch the mixes evolve over time.

3) Do you use the nowadays digital recording technology or do you only work with analog machines in analog studios? 

JARPON: Yeah, we used all the newfangled digital stuff. It’s what was available, haha. I also feel like as long as you have a sense of vision about what you want, you’ll get there somehow. I do know we’d love to do some analog recording though. Hint, hint if anyone is reading this wants to record us.

4) How would you describe the music you're playing? 

JARPON: I used to use the label, “Butt Psych” for kicks before, but most folks stick us with “Garage Psych” or some variation of that. We’ve gotten a pretty good mix of bands people have compared us to or hear in our songs. The Cramps, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Velvet Underground, Beatles, Stones, Black Angels, The Pretty Things, The B-52’s, The Warlocks, The Allah-Lah’s, Dick Dale and even Tommy James and the Shondells have all been mentioned. Our sound gets likened to Quentin Tarantino soundtracks with some frequency as well. I’m ok with it. All of that’s in there and more, I think. Muffy was quoted in another interview as characterizing us as an “inter-dimensional trash prom”. I like that one.

MUFFY: It's true! I feel like we're the cool band that a school got to play at their prom back in the 50's -- but in an another post apocalyptic dimension where the world had ended but yet we as humans are still here.

NICK: It's definitely a mix of what everyone is bringing to the table. At it's core, it nods to vintage rock and roll with some twists and turns thrown in the mix.

BORIS: I tend to keep it simple and tell people we’re 60’s style psych/garage rock with energy, attitude, and style.

BOB: A lot of people throw us in the Psychedelic Garage category but we all bring our musical backgrounds to the table and it just ends up being The Abyssmals!

5) What is your favorite topic/topic that comes easily when you write a new song?

JARPON: There are definitely some themes I end up swimming with a lot. Those would be belief/disillusionment, obsession/addiction and escapism. That may sound kind of grim or heavy, but I like to present them in a tongue-in-cheek way.  I very rarely begin writing a song with a topic in mind though. Usually it begins with some chords, then a melody, then I pull words out of the melody.  The topic of the song will springboard off the first line I come up with so I put a lot of emphasis on having a solid first lyric. Overall though, I try not to think too hard about it. I don’t write very personally or confessional with Abyssmals songs really. It makes it a little more fun that way.

BOB: I normally don't write any lyrics, but when I do it's usually about escaping, struggles in life, space and water. Other times when i'm working on a song I try to create a mood with different guitar lines and effects. Then there's the acoustic guitar approach where I'll be strumming away on something and then i'll just record a quick demo and build off of that.

6) Do you have a new video on youtube  featuring a track from the new LP?? 

JARPON: No new video yet. That’s something we’ll be working on.  I made a video for the ‘Death Row Messiah’ demo I did, but we’ve got some ideas for stuff off of G.H.A.O.T. I guess it’s technically past due for our “promotional” time, but we’re mostly concerned with just making something fun and cool, timelines be damned.

7) What can concert goers expect at a The Abyssmals gig? Are you playin' any famous cover songs during the gig? 

JARPON: Concert goers can expect to escape the realm of earthly burdens and fall head on into the abyss. No taxes, no mortgage, no debt to pay. Just straight freedom of freakishness. They can expect to be entertained. As for covers, we’ve done a few.  ‘Hold Tight’ by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, which is a good, classic Nuggets tune. We also did ‘Reverberation’ by 13th Floor Elevators at our album release show, which was shortly before Roky Erickson passed. Probably the most famous one we’ve done is ‘Helter Skelter’. That’s always a bash.

8) Are there any bands in The USA today you consider yourself close to musically speaking?

JARPON: Actually, when I first heard the band, The Nude Party, I immediately felt like we had some kindred sonic sensibilities. I absolutely love that band too.

MUFFY: When I listen to Black Lips, I definitely think we can play a bill with them, they have that stanky southern rock while we have a cheerfully despondent, post-industrial America sound.

BORIS: It’s hard for me to say who we are close to, but we have been told that we sound like The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Black Angels, which is cool to hear people say, as they are definitely big influences.

NICK: As far as more other well known bands go, Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall match the heavier side of our sound. We also had the good fortune to play with the bands New Aura (Boston, MA), and Psychotic Reaction (Norman, OK) who have a similar feel.

9) To what kind of music did you listen to as teenagers? What were your favorite bands as a teenager? Name 3 bands that you consider still have an influence on your own work today.

JARPON: As a teenager I started off mostly listening to 90’s alt-rock bands that would have been on MTV’s 120 minutes (even though that was off the air by the time I started high school).  It really wasn’t until my late-teens/early 20’s that I started finding my own tastes.  I started getting heavily into The Beatles’ full discography around 16 or 17 and obviously that was huge.  But also right around then I started listening to Elliott Smith and that deeply affected me. It was the first time I’d heard an artist and felt like their music was speaking directly to me. His music made me fully realize I wanted to write songs above anything else. And not necessarily songs that sounded like Elliott Smith but just good songs in general, regardless of genre or style. But as far as bands from my past years of musical discovery that currently influence the Abyssmals’ songs - I’d say the the Velvets, The Beatles, and a dead tie between The Stooges and The Buzzcocks .

BOB: The Beatles, Oasis and The Who were my favorites as a teenager but then I started pushing towards the psychedelic, shoegaze stuff later on. I always loved the songwriting of Lennon/McCartney and Noel Gallagher but I found my strengths were in the lead guitar/guitarist role. Nick McCabe from the Verve was always a huge inspiration for me when it came to the guitar same with Kevin Shields from My Bloody Valentine, they both had a big impact on me when it came to finding new sounds.

BORIS: For me, the first band that I really got exposed to and loved as a teenager was Tool. I was blown away by the rhythm of their songs and the riffs. I also loved Rage Against The Machine, Chili Peppers and in my late teens I got really into The Beatles. Three bands/artists that still have an influence on me today (off the top of my head) are Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and Television. I can go on and on with artists though!

NICK: I grew up with a lot of 60’s rock, folk, and Motown in my house. As I got older I found my
way into punk rock, grunge, hip-hop and indie/alternative rock. If I were to pick 3 bands from early on I'd say David Bowie, John Lennon/Plastic Ono band and Velvet Underground have had a lasting impact on me.

MUFFY: I was in a cult as a youth so I was not allowed to listen to any music outside of American top 40 radio.  It was only until I was rescued about the age of 25 that I was able to diversify my tastes.

10) What are the plans for the rest of 2019 as far as The Abyssmals are concerned?

JARPON: The rest of 2019 we’ll be playing as many awesome shows as possible, working on new material, and ideally getting ‘Gospels, Hymns and Other Trash!’ on vinyl and available to our ravenous fan base for the holidays.

11) Anything you wanna add?

JARPON: Firstly, on behalf of all of us, thank you so much for your listening, interest, and time Eric!  Secondly, I thank anyone who takes the time to read this and listen to our songs. Lastly, to any bands, labels, bookers out in EU who may read this or listen to us: we want to play with you, we want to play for you, we want to release with you!!! Hit us up at