“You can think of music as being a thing in itself that is just sonic, but I don't think it is. Music is part of a bigger scheme of what your world view is, and what your temperament is at any given time” - Sons of Kemet's leader Shabaka Hutchings says in the Quietus interview ahead of their new album 'Black to the Future'. The recording process was shaped with time in mind - "What we did is we recorded the drums, we played for ten, 15 minutes, before the tuba came in. I might play the melody many times. The idea is that kind of communality, where you want to get out of the individual anxiety of what specifically you're playing, so it can just become a group enterprise, and it can only become a group enterprise after we've been playing circularly for ages”.

The 82-year-old folk artist Peter Stampfel has just released '20th Century', a 100-song album, featuring a cover of one pop song from each year within the 20th century, beginning in 1901 with 'I Love You Truly' and closing on Coldplay’s 'Yellow'. Punk gets its place with The Buzzcock’s 1978 single 'Ever Fallen in Love', disco got its place with 'Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive', whereas the 1990s are represented by The Spice Girls’ hit 'Wannabe' (1996), Beck’s 'Loser', Pulp's 'Common People' and others. The project took nearly 20 years to complete. American Songwriter talked to the cool old man.

“That’s me now. Fake head of hair, fake eyebrows, fake teeth, fake hip. I’m the biggest fucking fake going!” - Shaun Ryder says in Guardian interview. It's a funny read (maybe not 100% scientific) - "I was a heroin addict for 20-odd years, but there’s been no damage off that", or maybe not entirely - "Yes, my teeth went from the crystal meth and crack cocaine".

“What is heritage?. It is the culture you inherit. So if you’re moving to different societies, you’re inheriting these things that become your heritage, become what your music sounds like, become what you move around like” - Pakistan-raised Brooklyn-based musician Arooj Aftab says in a Pitchfork interview about her latest, great album 'Vulture Prince'. She compares singing in Urdu versus English - "it lives in a different place in your mouth, in your entire body. Everything changes a little bit—the intonation and inflection, the accent, the diction". She also touches the sensitive issue of her late brother - “you accept your losses as part of your life, instead of pointing at them”.

"Despite all the restrictions and prohibitions, I will complete the album. Maybe that will lead to a return to prison, but it really does not matter to me. I am doomed to produce music" - Iranian artist Mehdi Rajabian (31) says in a Rolling Stone interview from a solitary confinement in a basement. He is about to release his new album 'Coup of Gods', where he mixes classical strings, Middle Eastern instruments, and gorgeous vocalizations, as well as female voices which could bring him back to jail.

"I am convinced the labels won the war against piracy when they stopped fighting it... Record companies spent 10 years making a dog’s dinner of trying to solve piracy, and then spent 10 years letting go of the old vine and reaching out to the new vine of streaming" - Will Page, Spotify’s former chief economist, says in Rolling Stone interview. The history is repeating, Page believes - "now, because of Covid, everyone is staring at their Napster moment". Page has published a book 'Tarzan Economics' where he lays out eight principles for entrepreneurship in the rapid-fire digital era.

Hold your horses!
May 03, 2021

Billie Eilish: Men are very weak

“Because of the way that I feel that the world sees me, I haven’t felt really desired. But that’s really my whole life, though, so I don’t know if it’s anything to do with fame” - Billie Eilish says in a Vogue interview, where she explains her body-image transition from a girl to a woman. She also discusses the issue of nudity - "Suddenly you’re a hypocrite if you want to show your skin, and you’re easy and you’re a slut and you’re a whore. If I am, then I’m proud. Me and all the girls are hoes, and f**k it, y’know? Let’s turn it around and be empowered in that. Showing your body and showing your skin – or not – should not take any respect away from you”. She tries to understand why men grope women: "I really think the bottom line is, men are very weak. I think it’s just so easy for them to lose it".

“Because everything’s so cancel-culture, woke bullshit nowadays, you could never have the punk explosion nowadays... We’re lucky it happened when it did, because it’ll never happen again. You won’t have any of those kinds of bands ever again. Everyone’s so uptight and P.C., it’s just like, ‘OK, whatever'” - Glenn Danzig says in a Rolling Stone interview about his beginnings with the band the Misfits in the late ’70s. He explained: “Part of [my songwriting approach was] like, ‘F**k everybody. F**k you, f**k you, f**k you, f**k the world.’ And that was pretty much the attitude. It was just like, ‘F**k your system, f**k all this bullshit.’ It was something else. I don’t think people will ever see anything like it again. There won’t be any new bands coming out like that. Now, they will immediately get canceled”.

California-based producer and high school student Jai Beats has recently had hits with Rod Wave and Young Thug. Genius talked to him about his beginnings. He started producing at probably 13, using Instagram to connect with people - "I would hit up producers, artists, engineers, they were the ones who could really get my beats and loops to these artists". His first break was "a PnB Rock placement. I had a whole thing where someone scammed me out of my melody. I made a post about it, people in the industry were sharing it, and I gained a lot of exposure just from getting my loop stolen which was funny". He's 16 now - "a lot of it is really hard to balance trying to get music done and get my homework done on time. It’s a battle". Jai Beats' goal in the next five years - to be a millionaire.

New St. Vincent album 'Daddy's Home' sees her looking back at the early 70’s sound which is the music her father played her in her own youth, which makes for a full circle with her father coming out of prison recently (was there for 10 years for stock fraud). In her Consequence interview she talks about the music at the foundation of the album: "The music that was happening there in the early 70s, post the idealism of the flower children, pre the either nihilism or escapism of punk and disco, there was music that was this confluence of people telling it how it was lyrically, and all of this really great fusion of rock music but with jazz harmony into it, and funk in there and soul. It was just really secretly sophisticated, but utterly musical output". The album is out May 14.

"I’m at peace with my life, with my stories. That peace is a dignity. Which means I guess I’m kinda proud of my life. In fact, my life is extraordinary! I truly feel joyful and I think the book has helped provide some joy" - singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones says in The New Cue interview about her new autobiography 'Last Chance Texaco'. The Washington Post describes the book as a "raw and roving life story", whereas Arts Fuse writer declares it "the most transparent about the vagaries of fame... of all the biographies of female musicians I’ve read in the past year".

An interesting interview in the Rolling Stone with Bob Dylan manager Jonathan Kaplan, who releases his new book ‘The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock-and-Roll Life’ May 4. The part about drugs says plenty about his rock years: "Robbie called Eric [Clapton] a 'chicken junkie' because Eric snorted it. He didn’t shoot it in his veins. But he was definitely at loose ends in a way that I hadn’t seen". Kaplan refused to manage Rolling Stones because of drugs: "I had just dealt with Eric, and just the nervousness of trying to get somebody onstage who was wrestling with heroin didn’t seem like it was worth it. Life was too short. I reached that point where I thought, maybe there’s a way to make a living where you don’t have to worry about a call at 3 a.m. because Richard has driven his car into a tree. The only person they call is the tour manager, right?". Slightly better experience with the Band: "Everybody was pretty well behaved from, say, June of ‘69 until June of ’70. Richard [Manuel] wasn’t drinking that much. Levon [Helm] liked sleeping pills, but it didn’t get to the bad spot. Rick [Danko] would snort anything that was put in front of him, but quite frankly, cocaine was not an issue in the late Sixties, and neither was heroin". George Harrison, on the other hand, liked to speed-drive and - meditate!

Soundcheck
April 21, 2021

One to watch: Pom Pom Squad

"I write sad music. It’s how I process and it makes me feel good" - Pom Pom Squad's frontwoman Mia Berrin says in a Stereogum interview about their debut album 'Death Of A Cheerleader', out June 25. It's not that sad-sounding at all, the album is "bigger and brighter than Pom Pom Squad ever has, spanning Misfits-style punk bursts, longer grunge ballads, and a lot of pop".

Global idea
April 19, 2021

One to watch: Arooj Aftab

Pakistan-born, New York-based artist Arooj Aftab is releasing her new album 'Vulture Prince' later this month, with South Asian, reggae, western indie music influences, which she explains in an NPR interview: "I sometimes feel that, even approaching my own music - what I mean is South Asian music - is like the quintessential imposter syndrome situation where it's like, you know, I haven't really studied this, and I never went back since 19. I might be appropriating it, too, you know? So I'm always kind of making sure that I'm actually inheriting the music with integrity and with some kind of depth and with some kind of respect for its history rather than using it".

Angel of dark
April 16, 2021

One to watch: Amigo the Devil

Consequence chose dark Americana singer-guitarist Amigo the Devil as their Artist of the month, and had interviewed him. His sophomore album, 'Born Against', released, Friday, April 16, as he's told the C,"has to do with … doubting faith itself. … I kept asking myself, 'Are we born a blank slate?' … or 'Are we built pre-programmed with things'. It was more of that exploration of intention versus purpose, of discovery versus instinct”. He also discusses three of his biggest influences: Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Fiona Apple.

"If the Internet existed back when Slayer released their very first album, we would have been destroyed" - speed-metal icons' drummer Dave Lombardo says to Pit's MoshTalks Cover Stories (via Loudwire). "So, today, these days, you have to go with the approach of how we did it back then — we didn't care. We thought it was heavy, we thought it was brutal and evil. It was dark. It had a certain feel to it. And it made all of us happy. It had our stamp of approval" - the drummer continued. Lombardo urges bands to listen to themselves only - "and another thing is bands that feel, 'Oh, no. Our fans won't go for that, because our fans only like us to do this style'. Well, then there's no growth. You're gonna grow stagnant. It's just not gonna evolve if you don't venture out and try new things".

"Big companies going forward will just be managers of catalog. I don’t see the need for a record company [beyond that] to exist... Their ownership in artists’ intellectual property will diminish" - UnitedMasters founder Steve Stoute tells MBW. Last month, his independent artist distribution platform has secured a $50 million investment by Apple, Alphabet, and Andreessen Horowitz supporting his mission to become "a full-service music company in your pocket”.

"I don’t have any right to complain.. When you look at the 8 billion people on the planet, a reasonably affluent caucasian cis-gendered male public figure musician is not necessarily the first person you think of as having valid criticisms about how they’re being treated” - Moby says in a Guardian interview. He is about to release a new album next month - orchestral reworkings of his old hits - as well as a new documentary about his life going from "out of control, utterly entitled, self-involved drink and drug addict" who missed his own mother's funeral because he got drunk, to the producer of philharmonic pieces.

"I didn't have a note. I didn't have an idea. I didn't have anything to write about. I didn't know what to write about. I just didn't see myself as someone that did that. The muscles in my brain had grown over the years to be something else. It was strange to learn how to do it" - singer-songwriter Stephen Fretwell tells in The New Cue interview how he tried to start making music again, after a decade-long break. "When I actually sat down, I noticed there were a few lines that sounded like they were telling a story that I didn't really know existed. And then as that started to come out of the lyrics, then my marriage fell apart" - he says, adding "It was so much work, I put so much work into it". That was the hard part - "the day that we recorded it in Dean Street Studios, we recorded it in one take all the way through". His new album 'Busy Guy' is out July 16.

“Above all I want all of this art, all of these songs, all my words to lead to there being a law that would protect women and children from domestic violence” - Russian singer Manizha, who is about to present her country at the Eurovision contest, says to the Guardian. She adds that the times they are indeed changing in Russia: "There was a time when you couldn’t go outside, there were skinheads, there were Ku Klux Klans. That’s already become far less. You have to agree. And it will continue layer by layer”.

“I think anyone can do music, but not everyone believes they can do music. When you feel like you are emboldened or confident enough to do it, you just do it and don’t think about why” - says Nick Buxton, the drummer of the London post-punk band Dry Cleaning, in a Pitchfork interview. Florence Shaw, the vocalist in the band ("singer" would be really stretching it), adds that “the thing about Dry Cleaning is that it’s only space, so you don’t have to worry about someone mishearing it or there not being a gap for you”.

“We wanted to try something completely different. After the first album we had written songs already trying to set in place a new direction but when COVID hit it gave us even more of an opportunity, individually, to further go down rabbit holes" - Black Midi’s singer and guitarist Geordie Greep tells the Quietus about band's new album 'Cavalcade' (out May 28). “The songs now have proper chord sequences and there's actually melody” - Greep adds. Also, there are a lot more instruments heard on the record too - violin, cello, saxophone, piano, bouzoukis, a late 19th Century zither called a Marxophone, flute, lap steel, synths, and even a wok that the band started using a violin bow on. Still, it's the same mission statement: "to make really theatrical, cinematic, expansive albums”.

A great article by Alexis Petridis about Pino Palladino, one of the world’s most celebrated bass players who has worked with Adele, Elton John, the Who, D’Angelo, Ed Sheeran, and many more, who is releasing his first solo album, a collaboration with Blake Mills. Welsh musician lives in California now - "Film and music studios are considered essential to the economy here – you’ve got to love that, right?. Mind you, that’s better than Britain telling you if you’re a musician or an artist you might have to look for a new job".

"Listening is one of the hardest things for a musician to do. ‘Cause once you’ve achieved some things, you think you know it all. But you don’t know shit. So keeping your ears open and your mind open is the most important thing. Listen to others and then you’ll get better" - Mike Patton said in a Forbes interview, talking about the newest Tomahawk record. He also named a few artists he saw reinventing himself through their career: "I will say Tom Waits for sure has been one of those guys that jumps off always. And he catches another one. Nick Cave, another guy. I mean the guy can barely even sing. But he’s making amazing music and really, it’s compelling. And it’s orchestrated in a great way. I should say Bjork, too. Bjork really did that. I saw her grow up as a kid and then become whatever the hell she is now". Invisible Oranges recently made a Patton profile, going into his numerous projects.

'You’re History: The 12 Strangest Women in Music' by Lesley Chow is a look at twelve groundbreaking female artists who remain criminally underappreciated, including Neneh Cherry, Janet Jackson, Nicki Minaj, Azealia Banks, Kate Bush, Sade, and TLC. "I wanted to come up with a different value system, celebrating music which has a hot, immediate effect on your body - seizing your impulses as much as your conscious mind" - as the author had told in the Music Journalism Insider interview.

Golden soul
April 01, 2021

Ones to watch: Navy Blue

“A lot of young Black kids don’t have healthy outlets, writing has become mine. It’s beautiful to take tremendous pain and turn it into something powerful” - LA-based rapper and producer Navy Blue says in an extensive Pitchfork interview. He released his first two albums in 2020, and the reaction of his fans is what makes a difference to him: "What really touches me is just how many people are touched by the music. The messages I get talking about 'I felt this too' are priceless to me. That’s when I realized what I’m doing is special because that means more to me than making money off of it. Of course, being able to take care of people and buy nice things is great. But you need to be able to help yourself while also helping other people. Being honest in my music is how I learned to love myself".

Billy Childish has released over 130 albums under various guises including The Milkshakes, Thee Headcoats, The Buff Medways, CTMF, and last year he’s suddenly started releasing albums - he’s delivered five LPs over the last four months with a new group, The William Loveday Intention. All these are surprisingly influenced by Bob Dylan - "it’s the lizards’ fault because I ended up stuck on a YouTube loop of all his songs and films", as he's told to The New Cue. Why so many albums in such a short time: "I had this silly idea where I thought it would be good to do a career in a year. Ten albums in a year".

“I grew up listening to Edith Piaf, Barbara, Jacques Brel, Lara Fabian, Patricia Kaas. The pared-down French classicism of their songs was what I always wanted my own music to be about” - 26-year-old Parisian singer Yseult tells the Guardian about her musical background. And about her intentions: “I want all the previously invisible minorities in France to become visible in the cultural landscape. Not for the sake of representation, but for what we can bring to the table. We want to be present in culture because we are present in society. We want to have our contributions credited.”

Two streams a day keeps boredom at bay
March 23, 2021

California vocalist posts twice a day through pandemic

Northern California singer-songwriter Jenna Mammina began hosting twice-daily webcast/livestreaming events on March 23, 2020, and hasn’t missed a single day since she started, which amounts to 730 unique shows in one year. She calls these live-streams “11:11 with Jenna” - with a new episode debuting daily at 11:11 a.m. and a totally different one following at 11:11 p.m. (those are New York Times, meaning that's 4:11 PM and 4:11 AM in Rome, and in Singapore the 11:11 AM episode is at 11:11 PM and the 11:11 PM is at 11:11 AM). She hosts these shows via Zoom and people can join in by visiting Facebook.com/Jenna.Mammina. She plans to continue indefinitely, as she's told the Mercury News - "I never want to stop. I love the community that we have created, the inner connectivity with people all over the world. I’m ready to keep going for as long as it stays in line with my life".

An interesting interview with dr. Stephanie Doktor, music professor, with MJI about John Powell, who liked Black music but was a racist. To summarize it: "Powell was an American composer who initially based much of his music on ragtime, spirituals, minstrel tunes, and jazz in the 1900s and 1910s. But in the early 1920s, he became a politically active white supremacist... He continued to perform his Black-based music at the same time he was collaborating with Marcus Garvey to have Black Americans removed from the nation. Instead of interpreting his pre- and post-war agendas as radically oppositional or his musical and political careers as antithetical to one another, I consider how they are actually imbricated. Doing so helps problematize the structure of modernist concert music. Put differently, Powell was not an outlier but rather a product of American modernism".

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