tall_joe_mooreI met the Dead Milkmen 21 years ago. They were the first band with MTV cred and international recognition I had the chance to interview. It was a job that came to me when a promo/advance cassette of their 1993 album Not Richard But Dick arrived to the offices of The Beacon, the student newspaper of Florida International University. It was an intimidating gig for a green music writer such as I, who mostly wrote CD reviews up until this opportunity. The Milkmen were a weirdo punk rock band with a sarcastic and sometimes cruel sense of humor made famous with songs like the “art fag” song “You’ll Dance To Anything” and the sinister “Let’s Get the Baby High.” To top it off, they hid behind fake names.

But what has really shown through over the band’s legacy years is the profound talent they harbor as musicians. Their sound cannot be pigeonholed as mere punk rock. They have an inventive songcraft that includes both catchy songs and a deconstructive knowledge of genre. Still, a wry, critical and sometimes subversive sense of humor shines through their lyrics. Pre-dating the guys behind “South Park,” the Milkmen’s lyrics spare no one, from conspiracy theorists (“Stuart”) to the devout (“I Dream of Jesus”) to hipsters (“You’ll Dance To Anything”).

I met the quartet of vocalist/keyboarist Rodney Linderman (fake name then Arr. Trad.), guitarist/vocalist Joe Genaro (a.k.a. Butterfly Fairweather), bassist Dave Schulthise (then 11070) and drummer Dean Sabatino (Dean Clean) during a break from sound check at the now long-gone Button South nightclub in Fort Lauderdale. They were as stand-offish as an alternative rock MTV band in the slacker years of the 1990s could be, but they were still funny and sociable. I warmed up to them quickly, and I had them all sign the back of my personal CD copy of Not Richard, But Dick. They left some interesting messages, too:

Dead Milkmen autographs. Photo by Hans Morgenstern

The resulting “Beacon” article was re-printed in 1994 by the Chicago ‘zine “Pure.” You can read the admittedly cheesy and amateurish article here: Vodka Keeps the Dead Milkmen SingingThe one Milkman I best got along with was Genaro, despite his creepy message that accompanied his autograph. After our chat, later that evening, he and I sat on some stools behind the pit to watch Possum Dixon* open the show. Genero and I spoke about a mutual appreciation for Stereolab and other then current up-and-coming artists.

Sometime last month, when the recent opportunity for a follow-up interview arose, Genero was the guy I felt most at ease doing a follow-up interview with, so I reached out to him when I heard he and his old mates were making a rare appearance in Miami at Grand Central on April 11. We ended up chatting over the phone for nearly an hour. He now admits to liking Radiohead, but not many truly current, contemporary alternative rock artists. He also graciously accepted my notion that the Milkmen’s sound is rooted in both The Velvet Underground and The Ramones. He also said that though The Dead Milkmen have often been considered a comedy band, it’s just how their music came out. They’ve never consciously been a comedy act.

Watch Genero front the band’s famed MTV hit “Punk Rock Girl:”

We eased into that serious talk about music, though. Our chat began silly enough with me asking the same stupid questions I first asked the band in 1993. It started the conversation with more than a few laughs. However, the interview turned really serious later. He explained the decision to break-up in 1994, the band’s relationship with the major label Hollywood Records, and most profoundly, the effect Schulthise’s suicide had on him and the band. You can read most of our Q&A in the music blog for The Miami New Times, Crossfade, by jumping through the blog’s logo below:

crossfade

A much shorter print piece ran in The Miami New Times yesterday. You can pick it up free at news stands for the next week, throughout Miami-Dade County. It can also be read here.

Most of the material resulting from this interview appears in that Crossfade link. However, as you might expect, there was still a lot left over. So here, at Indie Ethos, you can read about their post-reunion life with some stellar new material they have self-released that includes an album from 2011 (The King In Yellow) and several great 7-inches (see them here— one is already sold out). The new music reveals that the Dead Milkmen have remained incredibly true to its sound and humor, though they now have Dan Stevens on bass. Finally, they are nearly done with a new album. Here’s the end of our conversation:

Hans Morgenstern: So tell me about the new material.

Joe Genaro: We were just in the studio last weekend, and we’ll be in the studio this weekend to add to that, so we’re fleshing out… We started out recording a series of 7-inches, and I think the original idea is that we were gonna release everything on the 7-inches and then compile it on the album, but we changed our plans and decided, OK, we’re not going to release all of the songs on the 7-inches. We did four of them, good enough, and we recorded six more songs, and together, that will create an album, what we consider the next album, the 10th studio album.

Do you have a title for it?

No. We have lots of ideas for titles but no title. The working title that Rodney came up with was Servant Girl Annihilator.

Hmm. Interesting.

(Laughs). If that becomes the actual title, we shall see. There’s other titles we’ve been floating around, so who knows. It’s usually, oddly, the last thing that we do— is finalize the title and the artwork and such.

So how many songs is it gonna have?

17 or 18.

And you return to the studio for final mixes or what?

To do final mixes. I think recording is finished. We might polish some things. Sometimes when we’re mixing a song, oh, we can’t live with this little thing. We wished we had played this on a different thing, but otherwise I think we’re done.

What’s different about recording an album now as opposed to the early years of recording for you?

What’s a little bit different now is you take bits that you recorded in one measure and move them easily to another. Like, if you wanted an ending to all line up in the end you can shift. Before, in the tape days, you’d have to figure out how we’re all gonna have to see each other if we’re gonna have an ending where we all end at once. Now you can record it and have the engineer move it where it should be.

And you can sound like expert musicians.

Exactly (laughs), which we’re not.

dead_milkmen_2011_tea.widea

The years have passed since I seriously sat down and listened to your music, but I can’t say you’ve changed so much. What keeps your sound so fixed?

I think it’s three of us, our style, for one thing. No one plays guitar quite like me. They probably don’t want to. Dean is very unique in his approach, very good drummer, and obviously Rodney has a unique sound and has a voice that no one has matched ever. The danger is that we have a different bass player now, but Dan learned to play bass by listening to Dave. He’s a young’un. He came to our attention through being a fan of the Dead Milkmen back in the ’90s. Just after we’d broken up, he befriended me and Dean at the time. I recorded his first band. They’re still actually together. He had a band with two cousins called Farquar Muckenfuss, kind of like a surfy-punk instrumental band. And when my friend Chris [Seegal] put the band The Low Budgets together he also knew Dan. In fact, he and I met Dan together for the first time, in person, at a show. So the band The Low Budgets was the first that I created with Dan in. It just seemed natural that he sort of acquired a similar style to Dave, by learning to play bass like Dave. He has his own style, of course, but he was very good at mimicking. But now he’s becoming more comfortable with the new stuff and no longer trying to play like Dave would have played it.

How do you balance a set list with the new material and the songs people want to hear?

Good question. It’s a tough thing to do. Rodney is our set list master. We all have somewhat of a say. We all have rights to refusal. We don’t try to put too many new songs in. We learned from other people’s experiences that that can be the death of the energy of the show. People come to a show of a band like us expecting certain songs, and we want to make them happy. From personal experience, we’re happy when the crowd’s happy. So we hit the songs that we think people want to hear, and we sprinkle in the songs that we want to play, and things that they wouldn’t mind hearing, knowing that they probably never heard them before.

*  *  *

Hans Morgenstern

The Dead Milkmen play Miami with Sandratz and Humbert, Friday, April 11, at Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets cost $18 via ticketfly.com. Call 305-377-2277, or visit grandcentralmiami.com. The group continues to Tampa after that, but that show is sold out. Then, they fly back home to Philadelphia, so it’s a mere two-day tour.

Notes:

*I was impressed by Possum Dixon, a band from California that Genaro remembered as fun to party with after the shows this opening act. They then had yet to reach underground college rock fame on the MTV late-night video show “120 Minutes.” Genaro suggested I write about them, too. I would eventually give their self-titled debut a glowing review in The Beacon, comparing them to Wall of Voodoo. Possum Dixon’s vocalist Robert Zabrecky would later send me a postcard saying “We love Wall of Voodoo!”

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Jon_Anderson_Yes_Interview_Miami_2013Jon Anderson is one of those early pioneers of the British progressive rock scene still working who has earned the title of living legend. He was part of many important albums of the prog scene as a co-founding member and frontman of Yes. What a breath of fresh air that he appeared game to entertain some questions that I’m sure he has heard often with warmth and some amusement.

For instance, what happened that made the band carry on without him? “I was going to get back together with the band [in 2008],” he admitted while chatting over the phone, during some grocery shopping, “and then I got really sick, and then that’s when the band decided to move on and carry on touring with another singer and I just thought, well, I gotta get better first. It took me a while. It took me about eight months, nine months. And then I said, OK, well, they’re out there doing their thing maybe I should go out and do my thing, and that’s when I started really touring as a solo artist more and more, and it has become part of my life.”

It’s probably an explanation his given many times before. The fact that he put up with such questions twice in a row after my recorder failed following a 20-minute chat stands as proof that he is far from allowing an ego to overtake his humanity. Topographic OceansI regret that I lost a nice exchange about the band’s 1973 ambitions double-album Tales From Topographic Oceans, where he not only offered insight into its themes inspired by the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda but also what exploring that philosophy meant to him personally. He said, back then, record labels and some bands, were all about maximizing profit and excess. He was more interested in keeping his ego in check and maintaining a perspective unsullied by money and fame. Exploring this Eastern philosophy has helped keep him grounded as well as inspired much of Yes’ fantastic music and lyrics. We also spoke about meditation, which he still practices, and how Yes’ albums capture the sensation of meditation and bliss in its music.

Even though he is no longer with Yes, Anderson continues to compose and record new material as a solo artist not all that different from Yes. In 2011, he self-released a 20-minute-plus digital-only single entitled “Open” (Support the Independent Ethos, purchase direct through Amazon via this link). Not long after, he teased a follow-up called “Ever” that has yet to see release. “Yeah, I started it last year,” he noted, “and it has taken longer than I expected it. We’re down to the last framework of the songs—two-and-half songs. Altogether, it’s about eight songs that are all inter-working together. It’s still not quite finished. I’m working with them now with a friend … It’s a slow process. Music never happens when you think it is going to happen. You work on something and a week later you say, ‘Nah, that really didn’t work. I gotta try again.’ And you do. You gotta keep going until it feels right.”

Let’s face it, any fan of Yes’ music is waiting to hear about his return to fronting the band that has comfortably gone on without him. Well, he did answer that question as well as reveal plans with former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman in our interview, the bulk of which can be read in the “Miami New Times” music blog “Crossfade.” Jump through the blog’s logo below to read that article:

crossfade

As the quote in the headline notes, Anderson may indeed once again front Yes. In an earlier interview I did with Yes drummer Alan White, for the “Broward-Palm Beach New Times” music blog “County Grind,” his former bandmate hinted at the same possibility. You can read that interview by jumping through the blog’s logo below:

county_grind logo

Hans Morgenstern

Jon Anderson takes the stage Sunday, November 10, at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. Two shows: 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Tickets cost $81.95. All ages. Call 800-653-8000 or visit ticketmaster.com. For more Jon Anderson tour dates, visit his official website.

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Kurt Vile

For those who know their music, Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter, Kurt Vile would like to clarify something:  When his parents, Mr. and Ms. Vile, named him Kurt, they did not know anything about the early 20th-century German songwriter Kurt Weill, whose last name is properly pronounced “vile.” Speaking over the phone from his home, the 33-year-old Vile said of his parents, “They had no idea who the composer was … I do have German in my ancestry, but my running joke is I always forget my family tree.”

It’s a great sign when a musician reveals a sense of humor about what is possibly a question he might have heard more often than he has cared to answer. As suits such a giving artist, Vile spoke frankly and was not above giving credit where due. From sonic ideas to his influences, he seemed happy to talk about it all. It was therefore easy for this writer to produce not one, but three different articles on Vile for the “Miami New Times,” ahead of his first live appearance in the Magic City tonight at Grand Central (see details below, as well as more tour dates).

The first article appeared last week, which also appears in print in this week’s issue of the “Miami New Times.” On the publication’s “Crossfade” music blog, the headline for the article tempted some commentators to answer Vile’s rhetorical question:

Kurt Vile on Pretty Daze: “Who Lately Has Opened an Album With a Nine-Minute Song?”

Kurt Vile photo by Shawn Brackbill

Vile spent even more time talking about long songs than was fit to print. His new album, Wakin On A Pretty Daze features a plethora of rambling, lengthy tracks. He admitted he has long had an affection for indulging in riffs that invite the listener to get lost in the music. He pointed to Neil Young as an example. “Like that song ‘Cortez the Killer,’ it can go on forever because he is just playing the right cords,” he said. “It has the right feel, the right groove. That’s an example of a song that doesn’t matter how long it is, and I was just taking that without exactly thinking about ‘Cortez the Killer,’ but there’s a million artists. It’s like the beginning of time, just people in the fields are playing blues riffs forever. So it’s just fine-tuning that and making it your own thing.”

Vile revealed that he felt a new-found ease with these new songs after getting his 2010 breakthrough album Smoke Ring For My Halo out of his system. Though the new songs flow easy and organically, he said they did not necessarily come out in single writing sessions. A lot of the songs were written in different parts of the world while he toured.kurt-vile-wakin-on-a-pretty-daze cover “Different parts of the songs I write in different places,” he said, “but it all just kind of works cohesively and finally, ultimately when you go into the studio, you’re still not sure it’s all going to work out, and then you hear it back. Then there are sections where you just keep it going and think maybe you’ll just fade it out, but then you think this is where a solo will happen and then you listen back and you just realize you got to a place where the whole thing is good like that or at least good enough for you to not cut it out, whereas, in the past, I’ve done long songs too where they are seven, eight minutes long, but it’s still kind of primitive, though.”

Long songs have been something Vile has tried to fine tune for several years. He looks back at earlier experiments with modesty and without shame. “You listen back, it’s primitive. I like it, but I didn’t quite nail it in the recording cause it just kinda sounds all the same, all the way through to me. There were a lot of long songs for Smoke Ring too, but we just had to edit them down because after a while you weren’t bobbing your head. And also you wanted a single. It was that kind of record where a song like ‘Runner Ups’ was longer, cut it down. ‘Society Is My Friend’ was longer, cut it down. Stuff like that,” he added with a laugh.

Humility seems to be part of Vile’s character. The second article for “Crossfade” came easy:  his confession to feeling insecure about the recording and production process:

Kurt Vile on the Process of Recording His Albums: “There Is Ultimately a Million Drafts”

Kurt Vile photo 2 by Shawn Brackbill

All there was to say on the topic appeared in that article. What was left included more technical insights into his craft but also his demystification of analog recordings to vinyl. A self-proclaimed fan on vinyl records, Vile said they just do not make them like the used to. The picture below is a still image from a home-made video for “Never Run Away,” from Wakin On A Pretty Daze, featuring his then 3-year-old daughter and his record collection. After the jump to this third article, you will find the video.:

Kurt Vile on Computer-Free Rock: “Well, That’s Cool, But Kinda Hard to Do, It’s a Luxury”

Kurt Vile Neve rRun Away still image

Hans Morgenstern

Kurt Vile and the Violators with Beach Fossils, VBA and the Band In Heaven. Friday, November 1. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Doors 8 p.m. Tickets cost $15. All ages. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.

His tour continues up Florida and later in Europe:

11-02 Orlando, FL – The Social *
11-03 Tallahassee, FL – Club Downunder *
11-05 New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jack’s *
11-06 Houston, TX – Walters *
11-11 Oxford, MS – Proud Larry’s *
11-12 Chattanooga, TN – JJ’s Bohemia *
12-07 Stockholm, Sweden – Debaser Medis
12-08 Lund, Sweden – Mejeriet
12-11 London, England – 02 Shepherd’s Social Club
12-13 Leeds, England – Brudenell Social Club
12-14 Manchester, England – Manchester Academy 2
12-15 Glasgow, Scotland – Arches
12-16 Bristol, England – The Fleece
12-17 Brighton, England – Concorde 2
12-19 Paris, France – La Gaite Lyrique
12-20 Tourcoing, France – Le Grand Mix
* with Beach Fossils

More tour dates into 2014 and several dates in Australia can be found on Vile’s official tour page (that’s a hotlink).

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

PM_Press Photo 3When Peter Murphy talks about his experience with music, a small part of him fears he is over-intellectualizing. Over the course of our 45-minute chat he occasionally seems to have the tiniest inkling he might be stating things that might go over the heads of readers or may be misunderstood. Toward the end of our conversation, after a rare laugh he says, “It might go over people’s heads, but so what? They’ll get it later, like a hundred years later.”

I spoke with Murphy last Sunday afternoon, as he rode on a tour bus toward the first date of his Mr. Moonlight Tour, which features a set list comprised of only Bauhaus music. After talking about the start and end of the pioneering Gothic rock band and lots in between … much of which you will find noted in my in-depth article on his decision to tour with solely Bauhaus music in the “Crossfade” music blog  from the “Miami New Times (jump through the logo below):”

Miami New Times logo

Up-date: the interview was so long, it was broken up into two parts. Here’s is part 2 (that’s a hotlink).

Our conversation also included the subjective experience of art, specifically music. It came from a mutual appreciation of Brian Eno’s 1974 solo album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). Bauhaus famously recorded a quite literal cover of that album’s “Third Uncle” during a BBC session, which they released as a single and also used as the opener on its 1982 album the Sky’s Gone Out.

“Those lyrics, they take you with them. Don’t they?” Murphy saysBauhaus - Third Uncle of the songs on Eno’s second solo album. “They’re not didactic. They’re not literal in that sense. They open up the creative imagination within the listeners. So it isn’t actually selfish. In a way, the audience is the reason.  For music there has to be the listener. Otherwise, the singer or the musician doesn’t matter. It’s a shared experience in a very natural way. That’s not an over-arching idea. But that is art.”

He agrees that some of David Bowie’s most interesting songs come from a decoupage technique popularized by William Burroughs but pioneered by the Dadaists from the turn of the 20th century. “They leave the creativity to the listener, as well,” Murphy notes, who transitioned from solitary poetry composition to Bauhaus frontman in late 1978 when guitarist Daniel Ash introduced him to brothers David J (bass) and Kevin Haskins (drums).

The A-side of the “Third Uncle” track was Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.” Murphy notes something very interesting happens when he inhabits that song live, Bauhaus - Ziggy Stardustwhich he plans on playing on this tour. “Songs evoke very personal associations,” he says. “So I have my own experience with Bowie. You could have called me a Bowie fan or whatever, but when I met him I realized it was me creating my own inner world with that music. I was Ziggy Stardust. He’s just some bloke creating some theatrical thing, doing his own thing. It’s not him really. It is, but it’s beyond. It’s me really, hence the idea of doing ‘Ziggy Stardust.’ He just wrote it. We did our version, and we did it how it’s supposed to be done in our minds, and it was brilliant.” He pauses for a chuckle. “That was not a statement against him at all. It’s just the ultimate Bowie fan casualty that was sold. So I still become Ziggy Stardust in that three minutes, that seminal character in music culture, and I’m it.”

Watch the official video:

There was so much more we went over. It was a revelatory conversation. Bauhaus worked from a very primal pool of creativity, relying on their chemistry as musicians. He indulged me in an explanation of how they came up with the brilliant collage track that closes the Sky’s Gone Out: “Exquisite Corpse.” He said it comes from a surrealist game for children. Using a folded piece of paper a group sets out to draw a body but only a small bit of the end of the last drawing is visible to the next illustrator. The result is one exquisite corpse.

The band did something similar during the recording of the song that closes the album on a brilliantly abstract note. After programming a rhythm track, Murphy explained, “We each went in, and we gave ourselves a minute each to write whatever we wanted individually without any of the other members, and then the next person would play from the last five seconds, hearing the last five seconds of the previous person and continue, and then we’d all come in and gathered … and that was the result. So the title, ‘Exquisite Corpse,’ is exquisite. It’s the exercise in letting itself create its own venture.”  You can hear the result right here:

Considering, backwards effects, the coughing, the snoring section and other bits, it will certainly make for a difficult, odd song to perform live, so I would not expect to hear it on the tour (did Bauhaus even ever perform this genius little oddity live?).

Hans Morgenstern

Only one day until the show (I had tons to transcribe and illness to battle) in Miami at Grand Central. Tuesday, April 30. Doors: 8 p.m. Tickets cost $26 / $60 (VIP) – VIP ticket includes a 7 p.m. pre-show, access to soundcheck, meet-and-greet with Murphy, exclusive edition T-shirt and a signed poster. All ages. There will also be a second post on the Crossfade music blog tomorrow morning, so be sure to check back there tomorrow.

Update 2: Show happened! To read my review click on the picture below by “Miami New Times” photographer Ian Witlen:

Peter_Murphy_Concert_Review_Bauhaus_Miami_2013d

For those outside Miami, the tour will proceed as follows across the U.S., into Mexico, then Europe and back to North America:

Wed, May 1 – Tampa FL @ Orpheum Theater
Thu, May 2 – Atlanta GA @ Terminal West
Fri, May 3 – Charlotte NC @ Tremont Music Hall
Sat, May 4 – Washington DC @ U-Music Hall
Sun, May 5 – Boston MA @ Paradise Rock Club
Tue, May 7 – New York City NY @ Webster Hall
Thu, May 9 – Philadelphia PA @ Trocadero
Fri, May 10 – Toronto ON @ Lee’s Palace
Sat, May 11 – Buffalo NY @ Town Ballroom
Sun, May 12 – Pittsburgh PA @ Mr Smalls
Mon, May 13 – Detroit MI @ Magic Stick
Wed, May 15 – Indianapolis IN @ Deluxe at Old National Centre
Thu, May 16 – Chicago IL @ House of Blues
Sun, May 19 – Mexico City, MX @ Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli (to include Peter Murphy solo material, as well!)

EUROPE
Wed, May 22 – Bochum, DE @ Christuskirche
Thu, May 23 – Karlsruhe, DE @ Substage
Fri, May 24 – Zurich, CH @ Komplex Klub
Sun, May 26 – Rome, IT @ Orion
Mon, May 27 – Milan, IT @ Magazzini Generali
Wed, May 29 – Madrid, ES @ Sala Arena
Thu, May 30 – Lisbon, PT @ Coliseum
Sat, June 1 – Barcelona, ES @ Bikini Barcelona
Mon, June 3 – Brussels, BE @ AB
Wed, June 5 – Paris, FR @ Trabendo
Thu, June 6 – Eindhoven, NL @ Effenaar
Fri, June 7 – Hamburg, DE @ Knust
Sat, June 8 – Copenhagen, DK @ Loppen
Mon, June 10 – Stockholm, SE @ Debaser Medis
Wed, June 12 – Helsinki, FI @ Tavastia
Fri, June 14 – Nottingham, UK @ Rescue Rooms
Sat, June 15 – Glasgow, UK @ Oran Mor
Mon, June 17 – Birmingham, UK @ Academy 2
Tue, June 18 – Bristol, UK @ Academy
Wed, June 19 – London, UK @ Islington Academy

NORTH AMERICA II
Sat, July 13 – Phoenix AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
Sun, July 14 – El Paso TX @ Tricky Falls
Tue, July 16 – Denver CO @ Summit Music Hall
Wed, July 17 – Salt Lake City UT @ Urban Lounge
Thu, July 18 – Boise ID @ Visual Arts Collective
Fri, July 19 – Seattle WA @ Showbox Theater
Sat, July 20 – Vancouver BC @ TBA
Sun, July 21 – Portland OR @ Hawthorne Theater
Tue, July 23 – San Francisco CA @ Fillmore Theater
Wed, July 24 – Las Vegas @ LVCS
Sat, July 27 – Los Angeles CA @ Henry Fonda Theatre
Fri, July 28 – San Diego CA @ Belly-up

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)