Saturday, December 19, 2009

Avatar Film Review

Plot: Dances With Vietnam...IN THE FUTURE! IN 3D! Also, The Matrix (biological network cables) and Star Wars (biological The Force).

Characters: I liked the fact that the main guy was crippled. It added some depth to it. But come on. You're supposed to be the guy who saves the planet, and yet from the start you can't follow a simple order from a trained professional doctor like "Please sit down on the table after your brain has jumped to a completely new body. We would really appreciate it."
I would ship that guy back home in a heartbeat.
And Sigourney Weaver. What the hell? I thought she'd be really good, but her whole role felt phoned in.
"Where's my cigarettes? I got me some more Aliens to kill. Or save. Whatever. Where's my paycheck?"

Colors: Like, all of 'em, man. They were, like...everywhere and a part of us, man.
Actually, there were some really well done transitions when they switched from the beautiful landscapes (they truly were beautiful) to the dull-looking human areas.

Summary: As cliche as the movie itself may have been, I was still drawn to Pandora's box...I mean world. It was beautiful, clever, and fun to look at. Unfortunately, it suffered from Transformers 2 Syndrome: it was too long for a movie that focused all of its attention on effects over anything else. Sure, you may love riding The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman ride at Universal Studios, but would you really want to ride it for 2.5 hours?
The effects also don't exclude James Cameron from making a decent plot. Look at Titanic. That had pretty-to-look-at special effects with the ship and the water, AND it had a pretty good story to boot, all within a 2.5 hour time frame.
Now here's where I get to make my spiel about movies in 3D. First off, I think it's a total fad. It's not going to last forever, let alone another decade. Second, I don't know if anyone else is experiencing this, but I hate when they make certain objects pop out at you that end up being blurry because the camera is too busy focusing on something else that ISN'T in 3D. It was starting to give me a headache.
All in all, though, Avatar was exactly what I thought it would be: a theme park ride. You don't ride them and mock the poor scripts or sub-par acting. You ride them to be entertained. And I was entertained.

UPDATE: I've since written a better, more-organized rant, er, "review" that you can check out here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Aloha AND matt pond PA new releases!

Well, as cliche as it may sound, I can't come up with a better way of saying it:
Next year is going to be an excellent year for music.

First of all, my favorite band ever (Aloha) is going to be releasing a new album in March of 2010. This will be their latest release since their acoustic EP Light Works, which came out way back in 2007.

Now today, I just found out matt pond PA will be releasing a new album called The Dark Leaves in February. They will also be releasing a series of EPs to promote it called Threeep (playing off of their previous release the Freeep). There will be THREE EPs in the series, each with a single from the album plus two unreleased songs, making for a total of THREE songs each.

I am happy.

Be sure to check out my interview with Cale Parks of Aloha here and my interview with Matt Pond here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Beatles - One Love

The last two Beatles albums are One and Love, both of which are not actually new material from The Beatles themselves. This can only mean one thing: Paul McCartney is dead. He's now friends with Bob Marley in the Afterlife and wants us to listen to him.

There is no other explanation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sidestream Radio Show - Episode 4 (11-10-2009)

Here's what Peter has to say about Episode 4 of Sidestream Radio Show:
"In this episode, there's a special tribute to my dad in the beginning who just had surgery for colon cancer that morning, hence the 80s music in the beginning. There's a problem with the mics, so that's why my voice sounds so bad. "

Episode 4 Playlist:
Alice Cooper - "Poison"
AC/DC - "Thunderstruck"
Aerosmith - "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)"
Def Leppard - "Rock of Ages"
Porcupine Tree - "The Yellow of the Evening Train"
Porcupine Tree - "Time Flies"
Porcupine Tree - "Degree Zero of Liberty"
The Mountain Goats & John Vanderslice - "Surrounded"
The Mountain Goats & John Vanderslice - "Scorpio Rising"
The Mountain Goats & John Vanderslice - "Emerging"
Sunny Day Real Estate - "Seven"
Sunny Day Real Estate - "Faces in Disguise"
Jeremy Enigk - "A New Beginning"
Jeremy Enigk - "Been Here Before"
Jeremy Enigk - "Mind Idea"
Jeremy Enigk - "Late of Camera"
Mock Orange - "Song in D"
Mock Orange - "Ms. Brown's Morning Cup"
Mock Orange - "Old Movies"
Marcy Playground - "Sex & Candy"
Marcy Playground - "It's Saturday"
Marcy Playground - "Bye Bye"
Marcy Playground - "Blackbird"
Marcy Playground - "Gin and Money"
Marcy Playground - "Good Times"
Aloha - "The Sound Between"
Aloha - "Perry Como Gold"
Aloha - "We Get Down"
The Police - "Masoko Tanga"

Enjoy the show!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sidestream Radio Show - Episode 3 (CHERRY FLAVORED!) (10-27-2009)

Alright, if you still don't know what Sidestream is all about, then really, just go back a few posts and read the description that the great Peter Henckel wrote about his own show (no biases, I promise!). We've got a whole lot of new and generally unheard of music to show you guys this week, so please check it out and, most importantly, enjoy the show!

Peter says, "On this special spooky episode of Sidestream, I get a listener from the UK and play a few songs in celebration of Halloween."

Episode 3 Playlist:
The Blanks - "Superman"
The Blanks - "Six Million Dollar Man"
31Knots - "Welcome to Stop"
31Knots - "Corporal's Lament"
31Knots - "Compass Commands"
matt pond PA - "So Much Trouble"
matt pond PA - "Several Arrows Later"
matt pond PA - "The Moviegoer"
Tunturia - "Panic Attack"
Tunturia - "Echoes of the Unmoved"
Tunturia - "Cast Shadows on Clouds"
Jack Conte - "Push"
Jack Conte - "Passenger Seat"
Jack Conte - "Kitchen Fork"
Easy Star All-Stars - "Time"
Easy Star All-Stars - "Let Down"
Easy Star All-Stars - "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
The Monkees - "Randy Scouse Git"
The Monkees - "Porpoise Song"
The Monkees - "Mommy and Daddy"
Maritime - "Someone Has To Die"
Maritime - "Adios"
Maritime - "Pearl"
The Blanks - "Happy Halloween"
matt pond PA - "Halloween"
Bobby "Boris" Pickett - "Monster Mash"
The Police - "No Time This Time"


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sidestream Radio Show - Episode 2 (10-20-2009)

The latest episode of Sidestream Radio Show, from October 20, 2009.
If you don't know what Sidestream is all about then go back and read the last post. It's the same idea as the last show. Peter plays unknown music and ends the show with The Police.

With that I give all the ambitious listeners a challenge and everyone the playlist.

Episode 2 Challenge:
Can you spot the facebook and xfire sounds?

Episode 2 playlist:
Land of Talk - "May You Never"
Land of Talk - "Yuppie Flu"
Land of Talk - "Death By Fire"
Land of Talk - "Some Are Lakes"
The Dears - "We Can Have It"
The Dears - "Lost in the Plot"
The Dears - "You and I Are A Gang of Losers"
The Slip - "Honey Melon"
The Slip - "Sometimes True to Nothing"
Plants and Animals - "Lola Who?"
Plants and Animals - "Good Friend"
Plants and Animals - "Faerie Dance"
Plants and Animals - "Mercy"
Abandoned Pools - "Clone High Theme"
Abandoned Pools - "The Remedy"
Abandoned Pools - "Tighter Noose"
Apostle of Hustle - "National Anthem of Nowhere"
Apostle of Hustle - "Rafaga!"
Bonobo - "Transmission 94 (Parts 1 & 2)"
Bonobo - "On Your Mark"
The Police - "Peanuts" from their live album "Live!"

Enjoy the show!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sidestream Radio Show - Episode 1 (10-13-2009)

Sidestream is a weekly online radio show broadcast every Tuesday from 5 to 7 pm at Each week, bands are picked that typically float under the radar and deserve attention. Listen in as Peter offers his take on some of the best bands you've never heard of.

Episode 1 playlist:
Aloha - "Let Your Head Hang Low"
Aloha - "All the Wars"
Aloha - "Brace Your Face"
Jose Gonzalez - "Crosses"
Jose Gonzalez - "Hints"
Jose Gonzalez - "Down the Line"
Volta Do Mar - "On Hand Held Sky"
Volta Do Mar - "Searchlights Burn Cornfields Bright"
Volta Do Mar - "Fall Out of Cars Fall Out of Night"
Ivor Biggun - "Let's All Get Demented"
Nancy Tucker - "Everything Reminds Me of My Therapist"
Loudon Wainwright III - "Dead Skunk"
The Slip - "The Earth Will Dissever and Consume You After These Messages"
The Slip - "Happy Snails"
The Slip - "Driving Backwards With You"
The Slip - "Children of December"
The Slip - "Even Rats"
Karate - "Small Fires"
Karate - "The Lived-But-Yet-Named"
Karate - "Sever"
Deltron 3030 - "3030"
The Police - "Murder By Numbers"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Case of the Missing Energy

I wrote this for a five-point physics assignment. The objective was to demonstrate concepts we've learned so far in the class and apply them to the real world. I went kind of overboard on it, but I thought it turned out really well. Also, that simile about the lead weight is somewhat of an inside joke. Basically, I accidentally hit my physics professor with a lead weight in front of the entire class of 45 students. I know, hilarious, right? Anyway, here's the story of the Case of the Missing Energy:

I have two books in my desk. One’s a book of matches that light my cigarettes. They make me look cool. The other’s a book of physics that keeps my head cool. I’m Phil Sicks, Private Investigator.
The door to my office creaked open. The most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in months stepped in. I let her know that before she could get a word in.
“Oh, my, thank you. I’m sure it’s just the light. It sure is dark in here,” the dame said, blushing.
“Honey,” I said, “Light is simply a name for a range of electromagnetic radiation that can be detected by the human eye. But that’s a different story. What’s yours?”
“Well, it all started when I was driving home from work the other day. A squirrel dashed out in front of me, and I hit the brakes. The car came to a screeching halt. Like any normal person, the first thing that came to my mind was what happened to the car tires’ energy? It’s like it vanished into thin air. I hear you’re the best when it comes to physics problem investigations.”
“You heard right,” I said. “Now hurry on out of here, and I’ll get back to you when I have answers. This could be an all-nighter…”
After the lady left, I reached for my signature trench coat and, of course, my physics textbook. Then I hopped into my car. After hours of accelerating then slamming on the brakes outside the local Walmart parking lot, all I had come up with were two pairs of worn out tires.
“Okay,” I said to myself, “play time’s over. Let’s get to business. Textbook, do your thing.” So I began to read; shocking, I know. I managed to find a clue in the form of a formula:
Initial Kinetic Energy + Initial Potential Energy + Work = Final Kinetic Energy + Final Potential Energy
“Let’s start with Potential Energy,” I said. “Potential Energy is Mass times Gravity times Height. Well, I’m on the ground, so the height’s gotta be zero. That means I can cancel out both Potential Energies. Suspect P.E., you’re free to go.
“Okay, what’s next? Let’s have a look at the Final Kinetic Energy. Kinetic Energy is one-half times Mass times the Velocity squared. But the car’s stopped, which means my final velocity is zero. Looks like I got rid of another suspect, Mr. Final Kinetic Energy. But the car was moving when she started her story, so there’s gotta be an initial velocity. Not so fast, Initial Kinetic Energy. I’m not done with you just yet. “That just leaves Work. Now that’s Force times the Distance. Well, we definitely have both of those. The Force must be friction between the tires and the ground, in this case.”
Then it hit me like a lead weight to the chest. The energy didn’t disappear; it moved! It must have transferred from the tires to the ground. You managed to make your getaway right under the nose of the beautiful female driver (whose name I didn’t seem to get…). Clever, clever, but not clever enough I’m afraid, Energy. Looks like another case solved for… Detective Phil Sicks. Now to solve the mystery of how I get paid...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An Evening in Eau Claire

Today I walk out of my dorm room, deciding to explore the city of Eau Claire further than I had previously. I've heard good things about the Acoustic Cafe and determine to venture there. I jaywalk across a street and walk over a bridge on Lake Street. A river slowly passes below. I can see a seemingly random painting of the Mona Lisa pasted on the corner of a building across the bridge.I take a left on Barstow and continue my journey on the right side of the street. I pass a couple that look to be seniors on campus and a family of three exiting an art supply shop. I notice across the street is something that would appear to be a movie theater with the word "HOLLYWOOD" plastered above it, but upon closer inspection ends up being a church. There are many Christian-related buildings surrounding it. I come up to an actual budget movie theater. "Up" and "Transformers 2" are playing twice each later tonight. Eventually, I reach the end of this strip of buildings and still no
Cafe. I cross the street and trace my way back from where I came. "Drawing Lessons" by Tin Hat Trio comes up on my iPod. The sound of it seems to fit the mood of this part of the city. I get to a crosswalk and wait for the white light of the walking man to appear, signaling my safe passage across the river of speeding cars. An older woman waits opposite me smoking a cigarette, staring off into space. The light changes, and we each cross paths going our opposite ways. We'll probably never see each other again. I'm not even sure if she noticed me. I come across a model train store. Then a shop selling Native American merchandise. It seems rather ironic. Next up is a school of martial arts. A little boy of no more than ten walks out in his karate uniform in his bare feet. His mother follows closely behind him. The boy begins showing off some of his kicks in front of me, the bottoms of his feet quickly turning black from the dirty concrete. I begin to lose faith in finding the sacred Acoustic Cafe. Perhaps I should stop at that church shaped like a theater. Sorry, bad joke. Anyway, just before I make the turn back across the bridge, I finally spot it. I must have missed it while staring at the ugly-yet-pretty river. I step up to the door. A man outside asks if I have a light. I don't, tell him so, and finally walk inside. Most of the people here are a few years older than me. I order a dish of vanilla ice cream for $1.99, receive a penny as change, sit down at a booth, and write this.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

New Shins News

Be sure to click "MORE>>>" at the bottom of the article.

I'm worried. Mercer has completely changed the line-up and replaced everybody, and now he's saying he's changing his style. The reason I think he's such a great songwriter is because you'd hear some upbeat songs but once you actually take the time to really listen to it, you realize it's actually melancholy. Now he's saying they're going to really be upbeat. What's the point?

So, say what you will, but I think the next Shins album will not sound like the Shins. He claims this is his "best work." I take that to mean it's different from his previous work, which, for me at least, is not good.

A couple of my friends had this to say:
Andrew: I hate line-up changes in general (because they're rarely changes for the better (Coheed & Cambria, Wolfmother, etc...)), so that's rather disappointing. The Modest Mouse drummer is promising, but still just seems really foolish. I like the guy, but Mercer has no reason for doing this...seems like he's forcing an "epic change album" or something, just trying different things to get attention and see if something good will come of it...Almost every time that a band member leaves other bands its because they hate each other or one wants to pursue a solo career. I guess Mercer wanted to go "solo" and keep the band name? Selfish...(Wolfmother?)

As for the less melancholy stuff, I'm not too worried about that. When I think upbeat I think Franz Ferdinand, and that's not a bad thing. I don't think we should label all change as bad. If my theory is at all correct and he's just doing it in hopes of catching people's attention, it could be bad.

And it's a little unnerving what he says about the possible label change..."Because you get more money"... I understand that making money is an issue for everyone, but really? Maybe he's not familiar with the negative connotations of selling out...

Arseny: I guess you can't blame a guy for being happy with life. It would be funny if he flipped the Shins lyric mechanic on his head and started playing heavy metal with really upbeat lyrics
And, I guess in the end... no matter how well crafted the songs might be, I know that at least I always regard upbeat-song bands as sort of... silly? I guess, I just don't take them very seriously. Like The Killers. I like some of their songs, but no matter how hard they try to be a serious band I just think they are sort of... silly. Same with Franz Ferdinand. I like them, but still, they seem a bit un-serious. I just can't take them seriously.
All this comes with a disclaimer, though. I mean, it's pretty glaring, the Beatles are definetely an upbeat band and yet I love them. But the song craftsmanship was so good that it didn't seem silly.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Marc Friedman (The Slip) Interview

The Slip. Heard of 'em? No? WHY NOT!?! Okay, sorry to yell. How about Guitar Hero? Of course you have. One of The Slip's newest singles "Even Rats" is featured in said game as a bonus track. This proved to be a helpful spotlight for the band as new fans began to grab their latest indie rock album Eisenhower. What many of those fans don't realize, however, is the group isn't all about indie rock. The first few albums leaned more toward jazz fusion, while later still they began to experiment more with the releases of Aliveacoustic and Alivelectric. It wasn't until the release of Eisenhower that they began their journey into the realms of indie rock.

Speaking of journeying into new, unexplored realms, let's delve into the mind of bassist Marc Friedman, shall we?

To start off, where did the name “The Slip” come from?

I believe a stork dropped it down the chimney of an ocean-side bungalow one morning. It was early spring in the year 1993 and no one in the band was even awake yet. A moniker that would endure to the present day music of "the slip."

A lot of publicity came for the band when the “Even Rats” single was put into the first Guitar Hero. Was it any different putting a song into a video game rather than an album? If given the chance, would you put a song into a game again?

Not really because all we had to do was choose the song and the company did the rest! It was obviously a new experience when we got to play our own song and also receive a tremendous amount of responses from new fans who enjoyed playing our song in Guitar Hero 1. I like Katamari by NAMCO the best if we're going to talk gaming, but I admire greatly what the Harmonix guys have done for music in the 2000s.

What are your feelings toward being used in a video game?

100% approval if I like the game.

Your latest album, Eisenhower, has a definite indie rock feel to it, yet this was the first time the group went for this sound, as you were originally more of jazz fusion band. What made you decide to make this change?

I have written and edited about five different answers to this question so far. I even translated one into Mandarin Chinese at one point! No, really this is a poignant question and the simple answer is that we didn't just 'decide' to change from a Jazz Fusion band to an Indie Rock band. It is a longer and more complicated story in fact. However, I am fully aware of the confusion we bring to the public and media when we choose to exist as a band that seeks a path of development and experimentation, NOT a path of stagnation. One major outcome involved with making a bunch of albums over 15 years is having people judge and compare them. Also, my other brief answer is that 'change' is written into the fabric of our music, so there will always be genre-bending Slip records. Enjoi.

You’re currently working on your side project Surprise Me Mr. Davis. Will you be continuing this collaboration for a while or do you expect to work on a new Slip album anytime soon?

Currently we are working on both bands. Davis lost 'side project' status a long time ago and is more in "full-throttle" mode right now, working on some HOT new tracks. The Slip is about to go on the road for the first time in 2 years in JUNE. The slip is also starting to throw ideas at the wall for a new record.

Do you plan on re-inventing your “sound” again, ala Eisenhower, or is the plan to stay safe with the one you have?

Not sure. It's against my religion to pre-meditate anything like that.

Which do you prefer: playing live or in the studio?

BOTH. I have different reasons for appreciating each, but it's hard to compare things that are so second nature in my life.

Respectively, what are your favorite songs/albums both from your band and other bands?

You might have to pay more for this answer because this question is a novel in itself. Although, I will say The Walkmen are the band to watch right now and have been for the past decade. Also I usually enjoy everything I hear besides modern country, pop punk, nu metal and the Jonas Brothers.

Who are some of the band’s major influences?

Woody Allen, Martin Scorsece, Chaplin, Omar Hakim, Ang Lee, etc.

What typically goes into creating a song for you?

There are infinite ways a song can get penned. Look into the cosmos and the constellations are always shifting around in their patterns. That is similar to how I feel about music. Its melodies, chords, rhythms, colors, words, and an endless supply of other things that surround us. It's our job as songwriters to pick and choose and decipher the endless options. Eventually a song can be developed from what you choose.

You’ve had many different members of the band come and go, including Sally Taylor, Carly Simon and James Taylor’s daughter. Now you’ve added Nathan Moore for the Surprise Me Mr. Davis side project. Are there any plans to add other new members?

Sally was in the band before my time and I think Andrew's as well. Everyone was pretty damn young back then and overall The Slip had many members pre-1994 but the trio line-up has stayed the same since then. We plan to add or play with Elvis or any other dead-icons if they should happen to be reincarnated or resurrected.

What was your favorite on-stage moment?

I haven't officially labeled this my "favorite" moment but getting sung "happy birthday" by 7,000 or so people on my 30th was very cool. We were playing Bonnaroo that year and the audience pulled off a great rendition for me.

What was it like playing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien?

I was just reminiscing about that day with my roommate last night in fact. We talked about the plethora of sandwiches at the ready in our green room at NBC. I had a tuna, turkey and maybe even a Ham n Cheese at one point. (We were there all day...) It was truly a major highlight of my career to talk to Conan on camera about Boston where we are both from.

What was the most challenging obstacle in trying to achieve success in the music industry?

Having to become transient to make any money at all and having that struggle be tied into our music.

You’ve gone through many different record labels and are currently signed to Bar/None. How difficult was it to constantly keep switching like that?

Not hard at all. Each album has a different feel to it really so the music was well suited to travel around from label to label, kinda like the way we toured all the time...haha.

What are the band’s plans for the future?

1. Taking it one day at a time and getting together all sorts of new ideas for Slip albums and tours.
2. Testing recipes at home in the cities we be: Brookyln and Montreal.
3. One plan I had was to post this very interview on our website,, to give people a real up-to-date revealing of my soul. That cool?
4. Trying to stay calm about "swine flu".
5. Just the usual.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Matt Pond (matt pond PA) Interview

You may or may not have heard of them, but Matt Pond PA is a wonderful group and so is its founder, Mr. Matt Pond himself. This, dare I say it, is the best interview since Dr. Demento (click that Dr. Demento link on the left). Pond made some really intelligent comments regarding his work and music in general, and I urge you, whether you've heard of him or not, to read this interview and check out their album Several Arrows Later.

What made the group decide to release The Freeep for, well, free last year?

The intent was to make something that had no intention other than it's creation.

Just like when your stomach drops on a turbulent plane, letting go of expectation can certainly be thrilling.

Putting out records isn't all joyful wonderment. In fact, the preparation can sometimes put a bad taste in my mouth. Rather than focus on the negative, I wanted to highlight the core of what I love about music.

The end result allowed us to give something back to our fans. This type of situation is generally referred to as a "win, win".

You had to move to New York and get all new members a while back, so shouldn’t the new band’s name technically be matt pond NY?

Yes, you're correct.

Still, if I may be allowed to disagree with your supposition... Philadelphia's where I first started playing music. I will never waver in my allegiance to that time. I wrote some of my favorite songs fighting off the cold from under a sleeping bag in an un-heatable China Town loft. That love lives on.

You’ve covered songs by Oasis, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. Are they major influences of yours? Who are some of your other influences?

Of course. They are all hugely influential. The purpose of doing covers is homage to those things I love.

Some more: Neil Young, Neko Case, Vashti Bunyan, Early AC/DC, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Lykke Li, Ratatat, Leonard Cohen, The Magnetic Fields, The Smiths, Otis Redding, Pulp, Johnny Cash, Etta James, Blur, Black Mountain, Blonde Redhead, The Wooden Birds... The list can go on and on and on. The truth is if you plan to base your existence upon music, you better love to listen.

Some of those covers were featured on the television show The O.C. What was it like to hear your work on TV?

I don't have a great fondness for hearing our songs on the television. I imagine it's much like being hunted and gutted. After the first time it happened, I made a pact with myself to stay as distant as my legs would allow.

Which do you prefer: playing live or in the studio?

The studio has amazing flashes. In the studio, songs get arms and legs and start running around and making a beautiful mess of everything.

Correction: the mess is usually caused by poorly delivered high fives after nailing a shaky vocal. And most clumsiness in our circle is caused by me. Cellos, basses, guitars -- I've punted a variety of stringed instruments.

Live is when mistakes become magic. Live is when you give everything to only get a sweaty shirt. Live is when our jaws ache from singing all night and talking till dawn.

What was your favorite on-stage moment?

I would say there are millions. But playing the 930 club in Washington DC to a sold-out crowd for the first time was close to transcendent.

I was sick with fear. I thought everything in my life had led me up to that point to prove I was a fake. Brilliant, right? And somehow I loved it more than anything.

Yes. I enjoy stress.

How has your songwriting process changed over the years, if at all?

The process constantly changes. There are floods and there are droughts.

The part I'm confident about is that I have no idea where these songs come from. They just keep on coming.

The group has managed to tour with some fairly big names. Which group was your favorite to tour with so far?

I loved touring with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Night after night, I never got sick of seeing them.

Along with that, the drummer and I have known each other for years. It's good to know your friends are succeeding in this, the least secure of all fake businesses.

What can you tell me about the new album The Dark Leaves that’s (hopefully) coming out next January?

While I can criticize myself like crazy, I've never been that skilled at describing what I do. Some people will like it. Some people will not.

Therefore, allow me to ramble.

Lately it seems people are focused upon constantly recreating themselves. One could say that the new social commerce might be the internet transmission of an abstract idea of 'cool'.

...Okay. Please let me retract some of that pretension and still maintain my point.

People these days are running in feverish computer circles, chasing down less and less tangible ideas. I believe they sometimes even trample those around them in their pursuits.

The album is an attempt at showing the nobility of our individuality. In the same breath, it tries to look at commonality. Our connection is undeniable and we could get so much more out of this whole 'life' thing if we weren't only out for ourselves.

Disclaimer: I don't know if the music actually does what I'm saying, and I'm not a hippie.

You’ve been playing with this band for over 10 years now. What keeps you going?

I don't know what keeps me going. If I were a doctor, I'd probably give it the OCD diagnosis and send myself off to receive a kindly prescription.

I'm considering stopping after this next album and getting an MFA in composition. I think I'd make a fine professor. I imagine myself to be the kind with a classic Corvette convertible. I like the whole idea of having a fake leather wing back chair and walls of finely bound books. Most important, the teacher's lounge would have to have an extremely loud stereo. Yes, that's quite nice.

If I may quote Van Halen, "Class Dismissed!!".


Right, so it's been a few weeks since I've updated this. It's not that I'd forgotten. There was just a lot going in my life, and I was just too busy to write out interviews. Sure, I could have whipped them out pretty quickly, but they would have been crap. You typically only get one shot at interviewing Big Names, so I wanted some decent questions to ask after researching the bands a bit first.

As for what's been going on lately, last week was a nice, relaxing vacation in Naples, Florida. "But why didn't you write the interviews then?" Cause I like relaxing! Now go away! No, wait, come back. I like weekly viewers.

The other thing that will probably be taking up a big part of my time will be an upcoming webcomic I'm working on with an artist buddy of mine. As of now, it's very work-in-progress, and you probably won't see anything from that for a few weeks. I will say this, though: it's called Attempted Understanding, and it's about a loser who finds a genetically-created dragon. Hilarity ensues.

Finally, be sure to look at the above post as well for my interview with Matt Pond of matt pond PA. Honestly, this one has to be up there as one of my favorite interviews so far. Mr. Pond probably had the smartest answers since Dr. Demento (see: Dr. Demento Interview).

Saturday, April 4, 2009

*Sigh*...and Dark Was the Night

Well, I'm still waiting on those interviews so I guess this is another slow week, but hopefully I'll have something within a few days, so be sure to tune in every couple days this week.

As for music, I just started listening to the Dark Was the Night compilation album, featuring duets from famous artists such as Feist with Ben Gibbard, Jose Gonzalez with The Books, the Dirty Projectors with David Byrne, and many more. The album is a benefit for the Red Hot Organization, an international charity dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS. I must say, I'm thoroughly impressed with both the organization and the record. None of the artists felt like they were "phoning it in." Each song feels like a true effort at creating something amazing and worthy of the cause they're promoting. It's comprised of two discs plus a bonus track if you buy it through iTunes (a cover of Queen's Play the Game by Beach House).

For more information on the compilation and the Red Hot Organization, be sure to check out the official site:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Slow Week

Not much to talk about this week. I'm waiting for the answers to some questions to come back from Sean Moeller, head of

I also got a bunch of thumbs up from Matt Pond PA, Yndi Halda, and Foxhole to do some more interviews. I'll have to force myself to just sit down and write out some questions for them this week.

Still waiting for The Decemberists and Peter Tork to get back to me. Peter Tork was the only member of The Monkees I could find a contact for. Apparently he was recently diagnosed with cancer, so here's hoping for a speedy recovery.

Ummm, I guess I've been watching the awesomeness that is Joss Whedon lately (I should try to get in contact with him...). After seeing Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and rewatching Firefly and Serenity, I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the first time. I finished Seasons One through Five and just started Season Six (Don't spoil anything!).

Here's a list of things I've come to expect from a season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

- Joss Whedon always has an "experimental" episode somewhere in the season (Hush, Reckless, The Body)

- Halfway through the season, a major character is going to leave/die

- If things are starting to finally seem "normal" in the season, something big is going to happen (i.e. someone is going to leave/die)

- Every season starts with funny/cheery episodes but they always gradually get progessively more depressing as the season continues (although Season Six seems to be breaking away from this idea)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fiction Plane Interview

Here it is. My backstage interview with all three members of Fiction Plane. Getting back there in the first place proved to be a hassle as well. I was given a confirmation for the interview via email and was told to contact Pete Wilhoit (drummer) only in case of emergency. So my buddy Andrew and I get to Summerfest and start asking around at all the different box offices about the backstage passes. No one has them. I even left the grounds to go to a tiny off-to-the-side Summerfest box office and had no luck there either. Getting back in after that was a little risky too, what with me carrying recording equipment. This was quickly turning into an "emergency." So we called up Wilhoit. No answer. I left him a message explaining our situation.

Fifteen minutes pass. We're panicking. Our once in a lifetime chance was ruined! Then we receive a text message from Wilhoit saying to meet them at the front of the stage in a few minutes. Sweet!

We proceeded to meet up with them and had this discussion:

Top Monkees Tracks

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted. My computer's hard drive crashed so I haven't been able to post anything for the past couple weeks. So, in today's post, I offer you the top tracks from a hugely underrated pop band from the 60s.

When you hear "The Monkees," the first thing that comes to mind is probably a large creature that's closely related to us who flings its own feces. But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones, America's answer to the fab four. Sure, they had their own tv show and could easily be considered sell-outs. In fact, they were. Most dismissed their music entirely, often making fun of them for being a Beatles knockoff.

But I grew up with them and still love them. I recently took a look back at their work and came up with songs that I still believe are amazing pieces of work. After all, they were the first to use the Moog Synthesizer and Mike Nesmith virtually invented the idea of introducing rock elements into country. That's gotta count for something, right? I'd like to leave out the hits that everyone knew and go with some of their more obscure songs that you may not have heard of but should definitely check out. Here they are, in no particular order:

1) Your Auntie Grizelda
2) All of Your Toys
3) Shades of Gray
4) No Time
5) Randy Scouse Git
6) Goin' Down
7) Salesman
8) The Door into Summer
9) Tapioca Tundra
10) PO Box 9847
11) Zor and Zam
12) D.W. Washburn
13) Porpoise Song
14) Tear Drop City
15) Mommy and Daddy

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Incoming Fiction Plane Interview

Wow, so that last post got me quite a few hits. So for any of those just happening to pass by here, I'll be posting my interview with all of Fiction Plane from my backstage visit with them at Summerfest here in Wisconsin. The trouble is, even though it was only about ten minutes, it's gonna take a LONG time to transcribe the whole thing. So when I get a long stretch of free time, I'll be sure to post it on here along with some backstage pics and maybe the short video I took of them playing their new track Sadr City Blues. I might even post the recording of the interview if I can figure out how....any tips? In fact, that might be a hell of a lot easier instead of transcribing.

also, just hit 100 views after being up for less than a month
thanks everybody!

(Possibly) New Fiction Plane Songs

So I was browsing around the interwebs when I came across Pete Wilhoit's (Fiction Plane) personal website. The plan was to contact him via email, but in the background he had a music player shuffling through songs he's been involved in. Well, low and behold, on pops some Fiction Plane. The odd thing is, it's stuff I'd never heard before. In fact, I can't find the songs listed anywhere else. After a little research (keyword: little), I managed to find out the band was currently in the studio working on their new album. So, ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have a leak of a few songs, unintentional or otherwise.

Here's the site if you'd like to hear them for yourself. There's some other great tracks on there too.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cale Parks (Aloha) Interview

I had the most interesting conversation today with my favorite band Aloha's amazing drummer Cale Parks...

I’d like to start with a personal question: Why are people too ignorant to have noticed your amazing music-god-like talent yet?

Cale: Ha Thank you! I'm not sure really. We've been around for a while, and I'm happy to have the loyal following we've developed. People will come around one day.

What do you think is the group’s most challenging obstacle in trying to achieve success in the music industry?

Cale: Well, we're not a new band. We've been around for a long time, since before indie rock was mainstream again. Immediate success now seems to be all about a fresh faced new group. I think that staying together in a band for this long, with this amount of creative output, is a greater example of success in today's music world.

What made you decide to use a vibraphone as a major instrument in the band’s sound?

Cale: Eric, our original vibraphonist, wanted to play his vibraphone more in a band setting. It worked and we all fell in love with that sound, so we kept with the mallet percussion thing over the years.

In your first albums, you managed to connect all or at least most of the songs together, even going so far as to connect your first EP and first two albums, so as to make them all sound as if they’re one long song. Why, then, did you cease to continue this pattern in your later records?

Cale: We lost Eric and TJ joined the band. It felt like a new group again, with a very different energy. Continuing like that with the album concept didn't feel natural with the new batch of songs.

Why did you decide to use the band name Aloha?

Cale: I didn't choose that name, though I love it. I think it has something to do with the multiple meanings of the word. It doesn't just mean hello and goodbye. It is a very deep thing for Hawaiians.

Which do you prefer: playing live or in the studio?

Cale: They're both completely different things, so I don't prefer one over the other. In the studio, we build songs part by part, very rarely playing together in the same room. I enjoy the creative element here. Live, you all play on stage at the same time together. I enjoy the energetic elements here.

Respectively, what are your favorite songs/albums both from your band and other bands?

Cale: I don't really have a favorite song or album. They all represent different times of my life so to speak, so when I hear a song or album, I just think of where I was personally during the era when I recorded the music. It's hard to separate experiencing the music without experiencing memories of where you were when you wrote the song. I think we did a good job on all of them though!

Listening to the band’s work, I get a sense of a nice blend of The Police and Radiohead. Who are some of the group’s major influences?

Cale: Those two are definitely in there! We all have similar record collections. For example, we definitely enjoy the classic prog rockers Yes and Genesis. We've also spent a lot of time with Can over the years. I personally enjoy a lot of 80's and 90's british electronic bands. Taste and influences change for me depending on what I'm into at the moment. It all reflects in a mush of aesthetics within your sounds.

Can we expect a new album in the not-too-distant future?

Cale: Yes. There is a full length LP being finalized very soon. Expect a release this year.

Do you plan on re-inventing your “sound” again, ala Here Comes Everyone, or is the plan to stay safe with the one you have?

Cale: I'm not really sure. We don't consciously try to re-invent while we're creating.

Altoona, Pennsylvania seems to hold a special place in Aloha’s heart, considering it was given a song and was where T.J. Lipple first played with the band. Could you share more about the significance of this location?

Cale: That's it really. TJ's family live there. They're all very nice. It's a nice quiet town in the PA hills. I've had good experiences in the Altoona thrift stores.

The group has moved all across the country for its writing and rehearsing. Do the four of you ever grow weary of this, or does the change of scenery act more as an inspiration?

Cale: I don't personally grow weary. I love traveling. It's just the way we work. It's not like we move for a year of our life or anything. All the relocating and permenant moves, so to speak, have more to do with our personal lives, not the band. Also, once you tour a bit, you understand that traveling 8 hours to practice a few days before a tour starts or going into the studio in another city for a couple of weeks, really isn't that much of a hassle.

In an earlier interview, one of you had mentioned the Mellotron you used on your later albums was homemade. What can you tell me about this instrument?

Cale: This is a controversial issue. It was not an actual mellotron, but rather the sound of a mellotron that was homemade. TJ sampled a violinist playing for him live, in order to simulate his own unique mellotron sound via midi controllers. TJ is always crafty.

I especially like how most of the lyrics to your songs are subtle and vague so as to be interpreted however the listener feels, instead of something bashing or praising one specific thing. What typically goes into writing a song for you?

Cale: Thank you. The lyrics are always the last thing to come in my writing. I always write the music first. Lyrically, I just try to speak vaguely, like you said, about my feelings, and fit it into the melody I hear, sometimes making it rhyme. It does the job for me as far as getting out what I need to with my art and emotions. If it's vague and open to the personal interpretation of the listener, than thats even better, because they can experience it however they want to, like you said.

How has your songwriting process changed over the years, if at all?

Cale: Well, originally with Aloha, we would write together in band practice. Since Here Comes Everyone, we've written long distance via personal demos. This method has remained until now. In my solo music, the songwriting can be very different from song to song. Sometimes it starts with a beat I make at my apartment. Other times with a vocal melody I hear or a chord progression I've been messing around with.

All of your album covers have been quite unique. Is there any hidden or significant meaning behind them (for example, I keep seeing a recurring wolf), or are they just eye-candy?

Cale: The wolf-dog was only on Here Comes Everyone and Some Echoes. We always go to friends who are artists for the covers, then work with them on the design and layout. We usually give them an advance copy to listen to for ideas while they create.

Are the four of you trying to make a living making music or is money not an issue?

Cale: None of us are trustfunders, so we all do what we have to for money. Speaking for myself, I'm not good at anything else, so yes, I make a living off of music here in New York. Times get tough and things change from time to time. Aloha does not make a lot of money, but like they say, it's not about the money.

Is the band trying to achieve some kind of goal? Like, artistically or commercially?

Cale: I guess like all artists we want to make the best possible music that we can. There are no commercial goals.

Have you planned out the future much, or are you just kind of going with the flow? If you have, what plans do you have?

Cale: I plan to make music and go with the flow always. If you get a big job and have a baby, that is all part of going with the flow, not to get too zen, but it's all relative to living. Aloha will never break up. If we take a break from recording or touring, it doesn't mean you have to quit being a band. Too many groups make this mistake. We all have a great personal relationships with one another. We will always make music together in some form, for whoever still listens. I will always make solo music in some form as well.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Chris Hrasky (Explosions in the Sky) Interview

This is probably my biggest interview yet. Chris Hrasky, drummer for Explosions in the Sky, was kind enough to allow me to interview him.

I’ll start with a simple question: why did you decide to use the band name Explosions in the Sky?

Chris: We played a local college radio show on July 4, 1999 and as we were unloading our gear we heard the fireworks exploding. So one of us said “can you hear the explosions in the sky?” and that was that.

Your work on the Friday Night Lights soundtrack certainly helped to boost your popularity. How was making a soundtrack for a movie different from any of your other albums?

Chris: It was actually a lot less stressful. When we work our own records we feel a lot more pressure. With a soundtrack you’re really just writing background music, or little sketches of songs.

What is your typical writing process when in the studio?

Chris: In the past we’ve always gone into the studio with everything completely written.

How has your songwriting process changed over the years, if at all?

Chris: It hasn’t changed in the sense that its always been a process of trial and error for us. We don’t really have a set method. I sort of wish we did. It would make things a lot easier.

Who are some of your major influences?

Chris: There are so many, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. All four of us agree on the greatness of The Beatles, though. We’re really inspired by their ability to write songs that were both innovative and completely catchy.

What made the group decide to be instrumental?

Chris: It just sort of turned out that way. Honestly, I can’t remember even talking about it. But we all like the idea of there not being a leader or principal songwriter in the band. This can often make things difficult and is the reason it takes us so long to write songs. But, in the end, it’s the most rewarding way for us to do things.

On that note, does this keep you from getting any radio airplay?

Chris: We get a fair amount of college radio airplay, but certainly no commercial airplay. But I’m not sure radio has that great of an influence anymore. We’ve been able to sell a pretty good amount of records without much airplay.

Which do you prefer: playing live or in the studio?

Chris: Playing live. You feel much more energized and not nearly as worried about screwing up. And its nice to have feedback from an immediate audience.

What was your favorite on-stage moment?

Chris: There have been a lot of great ones. Having one of our amps start on fire was kind of funny and ridiculous.

What can you say about the odd coincidence on your Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die… album cover?

Chris: That story has been overblown. Someone claimed that that record came out the day before 9/11. That’s actually not true. It came out two weeks before. And its really more than that…a coincidence.

Many consider your latest album’s name All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone to be a direct reference to The Catcher in the Rye. Is this true?

Chris: Its not a direct reference, but we all love that book.

Esteban Rey has done a few of your album covers now. What can you say about his work?

Chris: Well, he’s one of our closest friends and its nice to work with someone that you love. We really work him hard and make him do things over and over again. But he always follows through.

I’ll admit I was first introduced to you while watching Late Night with Conan O’Brien. What was it like to play on his show?

Chris: We were really nervous but it ended up being pretty fun. The crew were all really laid back and easy going, which was a surprise. It was a nice night.

There seems to be a big story behind the idea of The Rescue involving your van breaking down for eight days, causing you to be flat-broke and live in a stranger’s attic. What can you tell me about all that?

Chris: We recorded our second record in DC and on the way home we played a show in Syracuse. But then our van broke down and the part for the van was on order and we had to live in an attic for a week. There were blizzards every day. It was kind of nuts. The attic was owned by the guy who put our show on. So we owe him a lot. These were the early days when nobody knew who we were and we were completely broke. This was December 2000.

It seems American Analog Set, another excellent band, helped get you started in submitting one of your original demos. Are they good friends of yours? Both being from Austin, did you ever meet up and/or play together?

Chris: I actually live next door to the singer/guitarist of AmAnSet. We played a few local shows with them and they were always a band we loved and still love. These days I go next door and play dominos or watch Lost or basketball games. Also, our dogs are friends, too.

One of you had mentioned you prefer being called a rock band over a post-rock band. Why is this?

Chris: We just think of ourselves as a rock band. It seems post-rock is just a term made up by music critics.

You’re now included in all sorts of commercials and television shows. Have you ever unexpectedly heard one of your songs on tv before? What was that like?

Chris: I don’t watch much TV, but anytime I hear one of songs in a movie or something I feel very strange. It’s a surreal feeling.

What are your plans for the future? Are you working on any new albums/tours?

Chris: Trying to write new songs. But we’re also taking it easy. It seems like our lives have been dedicated to this band for the last 10 years so its nice to be able to sort of live a normal life for awhile.

Rogue Wave - Out of the Shadow

Although I've had the album for nearly three years now, Rogue Wave's Out of the Shadow has been on my mind all week for the first time. This being their debut album, I was extremely impressed. At first you'll be hearing something along the lines of the Shins, and then you'll suddenly come to the last few tracks and swear you're listening to Simon & Garfunkel.
(key tracks: Be Kind & Remind, Postage Stamp World, Sewn Up)

tl;dr: If Simon & Garfunkel ever got together with The Shins, it would have sounded like this.

Dr. Demento Interview

The name Dr. Demento may or may not mean anything to you. Barret Hansen (Dr. Demento) is a famous radio disc jockey who got his start in the 70s with his own radio show of obscure music. The “obscure” soon turned comedic after playing such artists as (the then unknown 16-year-old) “Weird Al” Yankovich. To this day, Dr. Demento still has his own weekly broadcast and is most famous for bringing “Weird Al” to the attention of the world. I was given the chance to interview the great fake doctor last week. Here’s what he had to say…

Peter: Besides being a disc jockey, you’re also an avid collector of just about every type of recording. So, looking back at all the types of recordings there have been over the years, which would you say is your favorite? What do you think was the best era of music recording?

Dr. Demento: My favorite at any given time is something that's new that my listeners like, or that I think that they would like.

As for the past, I'm partial to the 1920s and 1930s, when a lot of great blues, country music and jazz was recorded along with some nifty pop tunes and comedy songs. However, I grew up with the 1950s and 60s and have lots of favorites in those eras as well.

P: Are you a believer in the idea that LPs have a higher sound quality than today’s digital CDs and mp3s?

DD: Not really. Some LPs have fantastic sound IF they were pressed on first quality vinyl, mastered by the very best engineers using state of the art equipment, and if the records are in immaculate condition and played on multi-thousand-dollar systems. Otherwise, I'd rather hear CD's. As someone who uses recordings to produce a radio show, I'd say CD's are so much handier than LP's because they cue automatically, they don't have to be treated so delicately, and in 99.9% of cases they reproduce sound that perfectly mirrors what was recorded on them. One cannot say that about LP's. As for mp3s, they vary considerably in quality. I do use a lot of them in my work, and I love my iPod, but I recognize that they are generally a little lacking (or a lot lacking) in comparison to CD's. The current migration of many listeners from CD's to mp3's as their primary listening technology is not a step forward in sound quality. That is one of the few cases in the history of recorded music that a new technology has not involved an improvement in sound quality. However, mp3's are good enough for most people (including me) most of the time, and they're incredibly convenient, so there you go.

P: How were you given the name Dr. Demento?

DD: I was introduced to commercial radio by a DJ named Steven Segal, known on the air as The Obscene Steven Clean, at KPPC-FM in Pasadena, CA in 1970. On my second or third appearance with him, out of the blue, he introduced me as Dr. Demento. When I spoke with Steven about it later, he said he had conceived of the character of Dr. Demento some time earlier, giving credit for it to a musician named Peter Wolf (of the J. Geils Band) -- Dr. Demento was supposed to be a guy who knew everything there was to know about records. When he met me, he decided I was Dr. Demento, and that was that. It caught on, that's all.

P: Of course fans have many favorite songs that get requested over and over. Does it ever drive you crazy to hear some of the same songs each night?

DD: Well, I don't play the same songs each night. Even "Fish Heads" only gets played three or four times a year. Hot new songs might get played ten or twelve times a year (such as "The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny" in 2006) but no more. So it's not quite the same as a live band that has to play their most popular songs every night on stage, or a local DJ who is playing the same Top 40 songs day after day. I'm OK with it.

P: What are your favorite songs to play on the air? Off the air?

DD: On the air, whatever's new that my audience seems to like. Off the air, lots of old stuff from the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s (or whatever) or whatever pops up on my iPod's shuffle.

P: Many point to you as the man who brought Weird Al to the world’s attention. What did you see in him at the time that got your attention?

DD: The very first tape he sent to me was "Belvedere Cruising", an original song (not a parody) about driving around in his parents' 1964 Plymouth Belvedere. (The song was written and sent to me in 1976). The accordion accompaniment caught my ear - accordions were extremely unhip in 1976, but I'd grown up with them - and even more, I was impressed with the clever lyrics, the rhymes, and the general fine craftsmanship of the song. Al was 16 at the time, and after that he just kept getting better and better.

P: What is your favorite Weird Al album/song?

DD: I think "Yoda" is the all time request favorite...but my most exciting moment with Al is when he played "Another One Rides The Bus" for the first time, live on my show, on Sept. 14, 1980. The response was overwhelming, and stations all over the country were soon signing up to carry my show.

P: Is there anyone else you’ve helped you think should have become more famous than they did?

DD: Logan Whitehurst. His 2003 CD "Goodbye My Four-Track" is my favorite funny music album of recent years by anyone not named Al. He wasn't with a major label, and had no budget to promote it...and he came down with brain cancer in 2004 and died two years later. (Sorry for the downer!)

P: You’ve been a radio DJ for over 30 years now. What keeps you going?

DD: New music comes in every week, and people still enjoy the show and tell me so, and I still make a living doing it, so why not?

P: You now have a few “best of” collections. Did you help pick these out? What would be included on your own personal “best of” compilation?

DD: Yes, I picked out all my compilation CD's. Of course my selection was limited at times by business issues...Adam Sandler's management wouldn't let me use any of his songs, for instance. Outside of that and one or two other songs, I couldn't improve much on the "Very Best of Dr. Demento" CD (except to include a song or two that was released after that came out, like "The Ultimate Showdown...")

P: What people can get away with in comedy today as opposed to years ago has changed rather dramatically. Have you been able to get away with airing “dirtier” material over the years?

DD: That comes and goes. I have to watch that carefully. For instance, the word "fart" is OK now; it was taboo when I started in 1970. Same with references to condoms, and references to masturbation as long as they aren't too graphic. In the 1980s and 1990s I had to be very "politically correct" especially with reference to races, ethnic groups and sexual orientation. That has loosened up a teeny bit in recent years; gay people, for instance, don't go ballistic about words like "queer" and "fag" as they once did (it does depend on the context), but we still have to be extra careful about racial references, more so than in the 1970s. When Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson had that "clothing malfunction" at the Super Bowl in 2004, there was intense reaction in Congress and elsewhere in public life. Many radio executives panicked, afraid they were going to lose their stations' licenses if anything "dirty" went out on the air, and we had to really clamp down on the more explicit things and even on the subtle innuendo for awhile. Things have loosened up a bit since then, but that could change at any time due to unforeseen events. I just have to watch what's going on.

P: What sort of changes have you noticed in the funny music business?

DD: The biggest change is due to the growth of computer technology including the Internet. People who make funny music (and all other kinds of music) are now able to produce their own CD's at home, master and duplicate them on their computers, and sell them online. None of that existed during the first 25 years of the show. People back then could produce their own records, but they had to persuade local record stores to carry them on consignment, or sell them by mail, with very few opportunities to promote them aside from my show and a few other outlets. For most of them, the returns were meager at best. Today, someone like The Great Luke Ski can get a whole lot more people to hear his music...though the prospect of real financial return can still be elusive.

P: You used to look for most of the obscure music you played yourself. Do you still do this yourself, does someone else help/ look for you, or do most people just send you submissions?

DD: I still look for records...but most of the new stuff comes online or in the mail.

P: What do you typically look for in new songs you play each week?

DD: Something that's funny and entertaining to listen to. It's very subjective.

P: Now that you’ve been doing your show this long, what plans do you have for the future?

DD: More of the same. When I did my first shows in 1970, I had no way of knowing whether I'd be on the air the next week, never mind the next year. I had no way of predicting or even dreaming that I'd still be doing the show 38 years later. I have no way of knowing what the future will bring, but people still enjoy the show, I make a living, so I press on. Thanks for your interest!

P: Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions. Good luck to you and here’s hoping we see another 30 years of your show.

DD: Thanks!

Coheed & Cambria - Second Stage Turbine Blade

When I first heard Coheed & Cambria, it was on a sailing trip up in Lake Michigan. Like many, I had no idea what the lyrics meant but I fell in love with the song Time Consumer. I slowly turned into a huge fan of the rest of their work (they only had three albums at the time, the new one is crap). Then I fell away from them and wondered how I had gotten into them in the first place.

Well, today Time Consumer came up on shuffle and it sent a wave of nostalgia through my head. I'm slowly falling in love with their Second Stage Turbine Blade album again.
(key tracks: Time Consumer, Delirium Trigger, Godsend Conspirator)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Joe Sumner (Fiction Plane) Interview

Although you may not know him, you've probably heard of his dad. Joe Sumner is the son of famous musician Gordon Sumner, better known as Sting. Following in his father's footsteps, Joe is now the lead singer and bass player for the rock band Fiction Plane. The group opened for The Police on their infamous reunion tour.

I had the chance to interview Mr. Sumner through email last year and finally got around to posting it here. Here goes:

1) When you first began as a group, your band name was Santa’s Boyfriend. You then changed it to Fiction Plane. Where did these names come from?

Santa's boyfriend is a racehorse, Fiction plane is racetrack.

2) Mr. Sumner, I’ve heard the last thing you ever wanted to do when you grew up was to be a musician, partly because of the popularity of your father. What inevitably changed your mind?

Looking at other careers.

3) Many people recall the first time they heard their song on the radio. How did it feel to first hear one of your songs on the radio?

The very first time I thought, "hmmmm, vocal is a bit sharp, damn!”

4) Which do you prefer: playing live or in the studio?

I prefer playing live in the studio! The great thing about live is that anything can happen. In the studio anything can happen and you can play it back. It gets a bit lonely though.

5) What was the most challenging obstacle in trying to achieve success in the music industry?

The fact that love and money don't always mix too well.

6) As you’ve mentioned before, you’re all trying to avoid sounding too similar to the Police and to give the band its own unique sound. Who, then, are some of your influences?

The Specials, The Stranglers, Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Pavement, Miles Davis, and The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

7) Since you wanted to avoid sounding like the Police, why did you ultimately decide to open for them on their reunion tour?

We had principles. Sometimes principles outstay their usefulness, other times they just get in the way. As the support band, we could sound like whatever we felt like.

8) For a while, the band didn’t have a full-time drummer. Mr. Wilhoit, you drove 13 hours from Indiana to New York for a brief tryout and were quickly let into the band. What was the driving force that led you to take that long drive just to get into this band? And to Mr. Daunt and Mr. Sumner, what led you to let Wilhoit join the band so fast?

The difference between Pete and every other drummer we tried was so gargantuan that we had no choice! No point hanging on for something better when you're holding a diamond.

9) Although it seems fairly unknown, you did a single for the Disney movie Holes called if Only. Is it any different writing and making a song for a movie?

It was really fun actually. I read the script, then the book, and came up with a song that sounded nothing like our other songs, we recorded it with terrible hangovers and it sounded great! It’s great to bounce ideas off other mediums and get out of one's own stinky box.

10) Over the past year the three of you have toured with The Police. How did doing these large-scale shows compare to some of the smaller venues you’ve done in the past?

It's a great privilege and at times it's amazing but with music I'm really seeking a connection with people and that is pretty tough when people are miles away. I'd rather play a smaller place where you can see each audience member and feel the physical heat that creates.

11) Respectively, what are your favorite songs both from your band and other bands?

Two Sisters, too may to choose from. Right now it's 'Once and Never Again' by the Long Blondes.

12) Between albums, the three of you lost your record company. How difficult was it to gain a new one?

It was kind of easy, as Jason Bieler of Bieler Bros. had been in touch with us the whole time. The tricky bit was realizing that a small label could be better than a giant huge rich one.

13) The new album, Left Side of the Brain, deals with fairly serious issues that are usually unheard among rock bands. Where did this need to discuss war, lost love, and even nepotism come from?

Nothing feels worse than singing happy songs when you don't feel happy. I'd rather sing about the difficult stuff and have the music take me to a better place.

14) How does it feel to now have two complete albums finished?

It feels like we should have 4.

15) As the Police tour comes to an end, what are your plans for the future? Will you continue to tour in smaller venues?

We continue until our joints are worn out. Hopefully, the venues will not be too much smaller for too much longer.

16) Can we expect a new album in the not-too-distant future?

I can see it......... sooooooooooon..........ish.

Thank you Mr. Sumner. I’m a drummer myself so, as a personal question, do you have any tips to get me and my band into bigger gigs like you’ve done? Good luck to you all and thank you. I hope to see you the next time you’re in the Wisconsin area.

We've discovered that getting good gig slots is pretty much about who you know. So get out there and know people! (Meet them first, otherwise it could get confusing.)

Aloha, The Best Band You've Never Heard Of

Let me just say this right away: This is my favorite band, and you've never heard of them. I heard their albums Here Comes Everyone and Sugar on a whim and instantly fell in love. So I went out and bought the rest of their discography and had no regrets. I can honestly say I haven't found any bad songs. To me, none of them feel like filler.

Probably the most notable portion of their line-up is the use of the vibraphone as one of the main instruments. The sound is something in between Radiohead and The Police. It's experimental yet poppy. There's never a dull moment.

I'll post an interview with Cale Parks (drummer) and possibly Toni Cavallario (singer) soon to get a more in-depth look at the group. I can't think of anyone else to say other than to start with the album Sugar.

To here a sample of some of their songs (including an unreleased track), head here:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

First Post (Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle interview)

Welcome to the House of Tones!
First off, if you ever feel my post is too long, scroll all the way to the bottom and look for "tl;dr," which stands for "too long; didn't read." This will give you a quick summary of what went down.

This is going to be a music discussion and interview site, but for my first post I decided to start with my first big interview I ever did. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle are both famous sci-fi authors, Niven probably being most famous for his book Ringworld, which the Halo game series is based off of.

The story behind this interview is pretty simple. There was a lottery of sorts to get a chance to ask the writing duo questions through the chat system Xfire. I was lucky enough to get picked, as well as getting a few of my questions answered by the two of them.

Here goes:

Niven/Pournelle Interview

Note: I believe organlegger is Larry Niven before they replaced his name in the questionnaire. Splatteox posts the best questions picked from a chatbox containing 100 people all posting questions. I’m Hawkeye (with the first question of the interview thankyouverymuch)

[Xfire] Splatteox: Hello everyone. Thank you for being so patient.
[Xfire] Splatteox: We are very pleased to welcome everyone to chat with legendary science fiction authors, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle! Please join me in welcoming our special guests!
[Xfire] SDaria: We're having a few technical problems here at Xfire so please excuse our delay! =o)
organlegger: I find Question Room confusing. None of this seems to be for me.
[Xfire] SDaria: Hawkeye: The two of you and a few others were recently asked to advise Homeland Security on possible "outside the box" terrorist tactics and targets. Can you comment on this? Were there any ideas that came out of that conference that Homeland Security was able to use?
Jerry Pournelle: If we told you the answers to that they'd have to kill you
Jerry Pournelle: Actually, it's more complicated than that. Homeland security isn't monolitithic. We only work with the Research Department.
Organlegger: Quite a lot came out of the Homeland Security stuff. Not much came from me. I'm the weirdness branch, I think. If I find soemthing, it's supposed to blow minds.
Jerry Pournelle: He did, too
Jerry Pournelle: But it was Arlan and Greg Bear who came up with the idea of talking dogs
Jerry Pournelle: Actually with encephalographic equipment so the dog could say "I found drugs!" or "I found explosives!" or "I am snhiffing one cool female beagle!!!!"
All of which is technically possible
[Xfire] Splatteox: [DB] g0dd13: To both: Is there any place in science fiction for the old classic space travel stories?
Jerry Pournelle: Well of course there is. Try The Mote in God's Eye!!!
Larry Niven: I'm still writing tales of space travel, and my old stories are still selling. The damn trouble is we've become aware of how difficult travel in space is likely to be.
[Xfire] Splatteox: carnageX: @both: What book(s) do you think you could have improved upon after it was published?

Jerry Pournelle: This whole thing today is confusing: we aren't sure when the audience sees what questions, the question room flows so fast I do not know how any humans keep track of it. Niven points out a great truth: in Heinlein's day we assumed it was simple to get to space. The Rocket Equation is not so kind as we thought it was
Larry Niven: I'd like to read the OATH OF FEALTY that would have been published if our editor had been doing his job.
Larry Niven: OATH is still a good book, but we missed the feedback.
Jerry Pournelle: OATH was a very good book, but it would have been better with Bob Gleason as editor. Gleason bught the book but left Simon and Schuster before it came out. The editor made it a BEST SELLER but he didn't do any editorial work on it
Jerry Pournelle: By the way, this discussion of Oath brings out something that many ask: editors are in fact important to the writing process
[Xfire] Splatteox: [Xfire] SDaria: Mr. Niven: Are you planning on writing any more books in the Ringworld series, or will Ringworld's Children be the last one?

Larry Niven: Ringworld's Children is the last, best I can tell. It ends Teela Brown's story.
Jerry Pournelle: A good editor will make a book a lot better. Sometimes really really a lot better. Heinlein did the editing of MOTE IN GODS EYE (after him both Gleason and Baen, but mostly Heinlein).
[Xfire] SDaria: Tormentor: What would you do or feel if something you wrote became a reality?

Jerry Pournelle: Strategic defense is becoming a reality
Larry Niven: I've seen some of my predictions become reality. Mostly it makes me joyful, but I'm an optimist mostly. The organ bank problem in China raises my hackles.
I love it when my made-up words enter the language. "Flash crowd/flash mob."
Jerry Pournelle: Does everyone here understand that Niven and I are not seeing the questgions as they come in? Some get selected and presented to us and we try to answer those. If this were entirely free form we'd be unable to cope with it all
[Xfire] Splatteox: [DB] g0dd13: To both: What question, if any, have you always wished a person would ask you? And, what's the answer?

Larry Niven: I don't have an answer to the unasked question. I thrive on feedback.
Jerry Pournelle: The "prediction" i made was the CoDominium with US and USSR dividing the world. It did not happen, and I am happy because it was a warning. But something like it could still happen. We often get the question "How do you two work together?" and out invariable answer is to say, in unison, "Superbly".
Larry Niven: Warnings (like in 1984) are always a part of SF. We wince when our warnings don't work.
[Xfire] Splatteox: Jaran: Mr. Niven and Pournelle: Were there any authors that you enjoyed immensely while growing up? In addition, how did their work impact yours?

Jerry Pournelle: We both grew up on Heinlein, of course. One of the big deals in my life was to meet him and become friends. H Beam Piper was another influence who became a friend. And Poul Anderson: I loved his work when I was an undergrad, and then we became close friends. We sent sailing for weeks together.

Larry Niven: Heinlein. Poul Anderson. Jack Vance. Arthur Clarke. I loved them all, and I've needed their skills over and over. I need to be able to write like any given great writer; some story will require it.
Jerry Pournelle: But I also had a classical education, and I can be said to have been influenced by a lot of people. Including Verne and Orwell, and H G Wells
[Xfire] Splatteox: Boojangels: Question: How do you deal with writer's block?

Jerry Pournelle: Niven can write like almost anyone I know. He writes better than I do. I plot better than he does, and I work harder at making the details feed the story. Together we're Superb.

Larry Niven: I have to wait for inspiration--or seek it by doing a lot of reading.
Jerry Pournelle: I deal with writers block by looking at the incoming bill box.
When the stack is too high, I get my tail in gear and WORK. I Owe, I Owe, so it's off to work I go. Niven can't do that. And sometimes Niven gets ideas to continue when we hike and discuss it. As do I. He's the one who had me make Galloway a track star rather than a jock in Janissaries. Once he suggested it, it all made sense
[Xfire] Splatteox: Vanderdecken: To both: Have you ever had ideas stolen from you, or seen people use ideas that are thinly veiled versions of your own?

Jerry Pournelle: Lots of stuff is stolen from us. Particularly by the films. But if we wanted to spend our lives in court rooms we would have been lawyers.
Larry Niven: Occasionally I see a Ringworld in someone else's fiction. Say "homage" rather than "Theft", or I'll go crazy. And I've seen "Man of Steel/Woman of Kleenex" quoted start to finish.
Jerry Pournelle: We had a Hollywood agent who shopped Lucifer's Hammer as an "unpublished story" by a well known short story author who had died recently.
[Xfire] Splatteox: SOS-HeatDrive: Did your success make you more famous (ex. people recognize you and ask you for an autograph etc.)

Jerry Pournelle: Famous is a relative term. If you read science fiction you know who we are. But it's not like we are hotel heiresses

Larry Niven: We're famous if we go to the right places: SF conventions, etc. Otherwise we're as anonymous as we like.
[Xfire] Splatteox: SOS-HeatDrive: Do you personally think that science fiction nowadays in general is becoming in repetitive by using same materials over and over again (ex. slipstream) or do you think it's getting better because lots of original, new ideas and concepts are constantly coming out?

Jerry Pournelle: ALL LITERATURE recycles ideas. Science fiction no more than other forms. Heck, Writer's Digest once published a book that says there are only 35 plots in all literature

Larry Niven: Both are true. There's repetitive SF, but the fringe is becoming really interesting. I'm fascinated by Vernor Vinge's approaching singularity.
Jerry Pournelle: Larry was flattered when people in Homeland Security knew who he was, and a general at Walter Reed (where we signed books) wanted Larry's autograph. I already knew that general
Larry Niven: Other writers can deal with the singularity. I may not have the grasp, but I love the stories.
[Xfire] Splatteox: carnageX: @both: do either of you consider writing a "job" or do you consider it more of a hobby that you like to do?
Jerry Pournelle: I make a living writing. If I don't write I starve. But I get to work inside, sitting down, with no heavy lifting.
Larry Niven: Writing is a job and a hobby both.
Larry Niven: It's also a compulsion. What would I do otherwise, quit daydreaming?
Jerry Pournelle: By the way Larry we are invited to go up to another Singularity conference. Shall we?
Larry Niven: That's in San Francisco? With better names than we had before? If so, OK.
Jerry Pournelle: Good. I'll tell them we're coming
Jerry Pournelle: Niven has a saying: writers who write for other writers should write letters. Influencing other writers is not our goal. Not mine anyway
Jerry Pournelle: If you notice that I often quote Niven, it's because he comes up with good quotable lines more often than most
[Xfire] Splatteox: Jaran: What do you two think about lawyers and critics? Do you share Heinlein's utter distaste for bureaucracy in general?

Larry Niven: Bureaucracy: yeah, I've got a personal distaste. Jerry has convinced me that bureaucracy has its place--but it tends to grow all over everything like kudzu.
Jerry Pournelle: This is a question that needs an essay. The short answer is that the only thing government can do is set up a bureaucracy. THE ONLY THING
Jerry Pournelle: But Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy ALWAYS applies.
Jerry Pournelle: The Iron Law says that all bureaucracies have two kinds of people. Those who are devoted to the purpose of the bureaucracy (good cops, teachers who really want to teach) and those who are devoted to the bureaucracy itself. The second group ALWAYS gets in control
[Xfire] Splatteox: [Vadeka Deathsong]: while reading/watching sci fi, do you ever think: "I can do better"?

Larry Niven: Every writer thinks he can do, or has done, better than whatever's on the screen. It's been pointed out: that's not the point. The point is to have so good a story that a committee of unwanted collaborators can't ruin it.
Larry Niven: I don't send a story out until it's ready.
Jerry Pournelle: When our agent arranged for Niven and me to do interviews with TV series and movie people, after about the third interview (Joss Whedon's people excepted) I told Niven "if we do everything just right we get to spend a lot of time with these executives, and I'd pay money never to meet one of them again." So we dropped out of trying to create a series

[Xfire] Splatteox: [DB] g0dd13: To larry: Of all your acknowledged classics of the science fiction genre, such as Ringworld, The Mote in God's Eye (with Pournelle), The Integral Trees, "Neutron Star" and "Inconstant Moon," is there one that you're most pleased with? Conversely, is there a lesser-known work of yours that you thought deserved a little more attention?

Larry Niven: I had immense fun with "Rainbow Mars". I'm proud of the interstellar tree, and surprised it didn't get more attention.
Jerry Pournelle: Someone asked about people taking our work apart. Actually, one of our best moments was when de Alverez at a AAAS conference on what killed the dinosaurs recognized us in the audience and acknowledged that we thought of Lucifer's Hammer first
[Xfire] Splatteox: Hawkeye:
Of late, NASA seems to have become far more of a beauracracy than anything else, with a muddled sense of direction and no clear goals. Is there hope for the American manned space program?

Jerry Pournelle: "The Congress has determined that an American owned lunar base is in the national interest. The Treasurer is directred and authorized to pay to the first American company that places 31 American citizens on the Moon and keeps them there alive and well for 3 years and a day the sum of ten billion dollars." Pass that law and the space program will be saved.

Larry Niven: I never expected that we'd go to the Moon, come back, and stop. I and friends have spent a million man-hours trying to fix NASA, with varying success.
Jerry Pournelle: Dana Rohrabacher was going to be Chairman of the space committee if the Republicans won. He was ready to try prizes. Prizes and X programs will save the space program. Someone will do them
Jerry Pournelle: NASA has spent enough money since Apollo that we ought to have manned ships halfway to Alpha Centauri. Instead we can't get back to the Moon. NASA ate the dream. It's hard to get to space but it is not THAT HARD
Jerry Pournelle: It takes about the same amount of energy to get a pound into orbit as it does to fly that pound to Sydney from Los Angeles. Of course in Sydney they don’t throw the airplane away and build another. We need reusable ships. I was able to get them to build DC/X at one time but that was USAF. NASA burned my little ship up the first time they flew it. Astounding.

[Xfire] Splatteox: Jaran: Both: What words of advice would you offer to amateur writers who may be thinking of pursuing a career as a Sci-fi writer?

Larry Niven: Get a day job.
Jerry Pournelle: To those who want to make a living at SWF writing: it is hard to do. It can be done. I do it. Niven makes enough that he could live on it. But not many do. On the other hand, a page a day is a book a year
[Xfire] Splatteox: xdeathknightx: A lot of science fiction seems to focus on a bleak and dark future, or present at times, did you ever had the urge to write an utopian sci fi? Or would you feel this wouldn't be too interesting?

Jerry Pournelle: Not long before he died Charlie Sheffield sent me a message. "Here's my utopian SF novel. Where's yours?" he asked. I have studied too much history to write a utopian novel. There will always be problems. We are human beings. Ever hear of Original Sin?

Larry Niven: My first stories were all utopias in which something had gone wrong. Try A GIFT FROM EARTH. It's fairyland. The houses grow themselves; the mines are worked by worms. The only problem is the organ banks, and we're about to solve that too.

[Xfire] Splatteox: [Xfire] Artaxs: Larry Niven, the first novel I read of yours was Dream Park. Given the advances in the 'Net, Virtual Reality, and the rising popularity of Live Action Roleplaying, would you ever consider revisting that trilogy? Perhaps without Barnes as a co-writer? Are you dissapointed that noone has built a VR Dream Park in this modern world of ours?

Larry Niven: Steven Barnes and I are writing a 4th Dream Park novel now. Yes, I'm disappointed that Dream Park hasn't happened yet; it's way overdue. One Mark Matthew-Simmons thought he was going to build it, but he got distracted.
[Xfire] Splatteox: [Vadeka Deathsong]: Both: Do you often have scientists/science nerds who break down your work because it is impossible in reality?

Larry Niven: I mostly meet scientists who got into their fields because they read SF, often my own work.

Jerry Pournelle: As Niven says, we mostly meet scientists who like what we write. Of course Niven's Ringword was unstable, and in his first book the Earth rotated the wrong way, but that was before he met me...
[Xfire] Splatteox: Aaron: To both: What made you decide to participate in xfire's Sci-fi week?

Larry Niven: Publicity is good, and I like to talk about myself. Email is good: I can erase the stuttering.

Jerry Pournelle: Why are we here? We were asked, Larry likes to do stuff like this, and a very charming young lady was persuasive.
[Xfire] Splatteox: {HV}Kukri: to both: Was there anyone who mocked you for beginning careers in writing?

Larry Niven: Friends and relatives did try to persuade me that writing is not a career; but I was never mocked. (Unless behind my back.)
Jerry Pournelle: In my case my first novel sold, I got a good agent, and we made money at it; when I decided to try full time it was a reasonable decision. Took a while to make enough, but then came MOTE IN GOD'S EYE, and LUCIFER'S HAMMER. Amazing what 14 weeks as #2 on the best seller list will do for a career.
Jerry Pournelle: Niven's only financial pressure from writing is score keeping. I had 4 kids to get through college. So I do journalism and write articles -- or did, until we hit the best seller list. I told Niven stick with me and I'll make you rich and famous. He was already rich. But I do a lot of the promotion work, because I need the money more than he does.
[Xfire] Splatteox: That concludes the chat with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle! Thank you very much to our special guests for joining us on Xfire, and thank you everyone for participating.

Jerry Pournelle: Last words? If you want to be a writer, you have to write. And if you want to see more of what I do, go to and see if you can find your way around. Some people are smart enough to get past the puzzles...
Jerry Pournelle: Bye all
[Xfire] Splatteox: The following ten people will receive N-Space, written by Larry Niven:

1. Jaran
2. ultimainferno
3. Hawkeye
4. Vanderdecken
5. Slywolf
6. -SOS-HeatDrive
7. [DB] g0dd13
8. xdeathknightx
9. [Vadeka Deathsong]
10. Aaron

If you are one of the winners PM me for instructions on how to claim your prize!

Thanks again for your participation!

Transcripts will be posted on the Xfire Sci-Fi Week site as soon we’re able to get them out.
Jerry Pournelle: Incidentally, we did answer all the questions we were presented with, and that did take up all the hour. Sorry to those who didn't get questions answered

TL;DR: Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle are cool guys. I, on the other hand, am somewhat of a loser.