In 1987, at a family arcade in New Jersey, I’d hoarded enough Skee-ball tickets for a real prize—not just some ratty stuffed animal. I claimed my bounty with fervor: a single-tape boombox small enough to keep under the covers and muffle the sounds of my parents’ endless fighting. In the dark, the volume at just one bar, I’d lie with my ear pressed against the speaker mesh, my index finger poised, waiting to hit record on any of the groups I loved—Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, Exposé, Kool & The Gang. Then I’d spend hours sleuthing out each nuanced lyric, the staccato start and stops, until the vocals faded and the tapes finally gave out.

A year later, in the neighborhood of 3 a.m., I awoke to a smashing sound against the wall I shared with my parents, so I turned to my radio, moving the metal knob an imperceptible hair at a time until I stumbled on the local college station. The sounds I heard changed everything. A baritone DJ yelled, “This one’s for Saddam Hussein. Fuck you!” Then four ticks of drumsticks before the furious guitar of “Chemical Warfare” began. I was so stunned that I didn’t hit record immediately—unblinking in the dark, muscles stiff—but a few bars in, I scrambled to press that red square.

Songs Of Our Lives: Dead Kennedys’ “Chemical Warfare” by Lisa Nikolidakis.

In Episode 15 of Make/Work, host Scott Pinkmountain speaks with trumpet player/composer Nate Wooley. Wooley’s playing has been widely praised by everyone from the New York Times and DownBeat to trumpet icon Dave Douglass who called him “one of the most interesting and unusual trumpet players living today.” He’s constantly performing and recording internationally with such folks as John Zorn, Thurston Moore, and pretty much everyone playing contemporary free jazz and improvised music.

“I saw this quote by Steve Earle that said, “Write about what you know. Everybody knows something.” And that was it, that was my motto. It was just good to remember that I have experienced my life. I have questions about things, be they very mundane. So I was waking up every day and writing in the morning and then recording at night, and whatever I woke up with on my mind, I would write about that. It’s inexhaustible, you know?”
“To my surprise, I loved L.A., especially in January and February—months which, back in New York and Ohio, had always walloped me with a serious dose of seasonal affective disorder. So there was the sun and also—perhaps more importantly—there was KCRW, Southern California’s NPR outlet as well as the home of Nic Harcourt’s toweringly great Morning Becomes Eclectic every weekday from nine to noon. Each morning, Nic would unleash a steady stream of yet-to-be-discovered gems that—in those medieval pre-Shazam days—had you leaning in extra hard to catch the name of the song and artist in Nic’s soothing Aussie baritone when it was over.”
“When you go on a stage—or even in a café or a room—and you play it’s all happening right then and there: the exchange, the art, the communication. Performance is in the moment.”
“If you have a daughter under ten, I suspect, you know the Frozen soundtrack much better than you wish you did. I have seen the film more times than I have seen any recent film, I hate to admit, and in almost all cases I have seen this film involuntarily. I hate the song entitled “Let It Go” as much as the next parent, and if I never hear it again, especially the Demi Lovato version (which sounds like Celine Dion), that’ll be fine with me. Why then do I like “Love Is an Open Door?” The other “hit” from the soundtrack, which is only marginally different in terms of its conceptual vocabulary?”

Swinging Modern Sounds #50: The Big 5-0!

Rick Moody on the soundtrack of Frozen, among other things.

We love Julia Weldon's new music video, Meadow.” The song (along with the album it’s on, Light Is a Ghost) is produced by Saul MacWilliams (who’s worked with Ingrid Michaelson) and features Adam Christgau on drums (of Tegan & Sara). It’s gorgeous (duh) and sounds great (double duh).

“That’s the whole crazy thing about composing music. You have to let it go and then the good part of it is that sometimes you get very surprised at what somebody does with it. The bad part of it could be when they don’t get the music at all. That’s the hard part of it. Not in this case, but sometimes the musicians just don’t get the principles. And I think with my music—on the paper—what you see is not necessarily what you get. You have to sort of understand the principles of the music.”
“Back in the seventies, in circles I travelled in, you could not escape the Grateful Dead, even if you wanted to—and I was someone who wanted to. My sister had been to dozens and dozens of Dead shows, and was into the boots, and her boyfriend Peter, even more so. In my high school, in New Hampshire (not all that different from the private school that Bob Weir himself attended before dropping out to form the band with Jerry Garcia, or Taft, which boasts among its alumnae one Trey Anastasio), fully half the yearbook pages featured lyrical quotations from American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead, and all those guys are still going out to see Phil Lesh and Friends.”
“At some lamentable moment in your life, the moment when your youth begins to give way to your adulthood, you and your musical friend relocate to different addresses. From these different addresses, you employ what effort you can to attempt to keep each other from finding some other music friend, or you attempt to conduct your musical friendship from a distance. For example, you might hold the telephone up to some playback device—today you might use a tablet—while a song is playing that will perfectly summon the old days of the record store or sitting in front of that bank for hours at a time singing songs, or drinking beer and playing certain records in their entirety in someone’s falling-down rental apartment. Holding the telephone up to the playback device brings all those days back, and suddenly it’s not like you are in the hard years of early adulthood, the lean years, the years when it’s harder to keep close the people you once knew. Suddenly the interval is erased.”