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Friday, 22 January 2021

Brexit May Be The Final Nail In The Coffin Of Physical Music Sales

 


I distribute CDs from the UK. I took this on as a service. It was intended to be Non Profit, but it is really loss making. This decision was a reaction to postal hikes in the USA initially. Postal charges of over 14 dollars per CD had made a once healthy import market decline to little. 

The aim was to aid musicians, it was never gonna be about money and never would be. It also provided opportunities to distribute albums for Promotion for a few US labels. It has worked fairly well, despite the obvious problems and delays due to Covid. 

The UK music scene has become tumbleweed. It is so London centric that the rest of the country has is now so regional. There are great labels but their reach has become so restricted. The one bright spot was Europe as the likes of Australia and Japan had become as expensive and problematic as the States. 

Europe was going great. There was amazing growth in the likes of France and Sweden, then Brexit happened. We were told that Trade between the UK and Europe would be as is and as with virtually all of the Brexit supposed benefits, this was a lie.

Firstly we had the UK Government making Customs and VAT changes. They abolished the zero VAT on items under £15 and so at a stroke added 20% to the price of a CD. They also insisted on Customs labels that mean each receiving country now adds local taxes also. 

Then the Royal Mail decided to whack up postal costs by a double digit percentage with a January Price Increase that wasn't due until April and was certainly not expected to be so high. Many couriers have put deliveries on hold to Europe because of delays and unexpected customs charges. 

So much for Goods out, but goods in are also beset by major problems. European labels have to charge VAT at the point of despatch. Those that didn't found product being returned because receivers wouldn't pay the excess charges. For instance a £10 CD would have the customer paying £2 VAT and an £8 Admin Charge before receipt. 

Now the CD manufacturers have also been hit as European couriers will not deliver to the UK because they have to pay an upfront charge of 20% and Import Duties in case they are not paid by the sender. They also have to cope with major delays at Customs.

This is only CD, imagine the cost increases with Vinyl which already is more expensive to send due to the size and price of protective packaging. The higher the price, the more the VAT. 

Much is made of streaming killing music and physical sales have accordingly decreased dramatically, but what little that is left is being chipped away at. Voices that try to save CD and Vinyl sales are to be admired, but the external non music conditions make this harder and harder. 

Also for those that state that CD is dying, it isn't by as much as stated. Vinyl Sales have certainly not overtaken CD. They may have done so in £ value, but most vinyl is at least twice the price of the CD, unit wise CDs still far outstrip Vinyl. 

Thursday, 21 January 2021

I Don't Hear A Single Audio Extravaganza Volume 106




Welcome to The IDHAS Audio Extravaganza as we reach Number 106. This was originally planned to be the final AE of 2020, but life and work got in the way. 23 songs in 73 minutes, 21 newbies, bookended by two classics, one of which is from a remastered release next month. 

There is currently work afoot to do an alternate version of this for other sites, including a download option. The alternate version may even be a chatty affair for those who like to hear more about the songs played. The playlist will remain the same. 

IDHAS isn't about liking and favouriting, I find it all a bit tawdry. However, if you feel inclined, like the Mixcloud version, this gives the artists wider listening potential. The Audio Extravaganza features regularly in the Mixcloud Global Indie Charts. 

A reminder that these episodes are compiled with great care. The aim is to produce a sort of modern day mix tape. Hopefully this will be the soundtrack to your day. If you use the Mixcloud player at the bottom of this page, each song title is shown as it plays. The playlist itself is also as the first comment on the Mixcloud Episode page.

You can listen to the previous IDHAS Audio Extravaganzas on Mixcloud here.

Thanks as always to Jim Moody for his audio expertise. Here are the contents of Volume 106 :


01 Per Gessle - Elvis In Germany (Let's Celebrate)
02 The Jomo - Morecambe Boys
03 Davey Lane - Never Ever Comin' Back Again
04 Your Academy - Heaven Knows
05 Mooner - Can I Be Angry
06 Chris Church - Remember The Lightning
07 Derrero - Gerbil Days
08 The Airport 77s - (When You're Kissing On Me Do You Think Of) James McAvoy
09 Sweet Sweat - Girlfriend
10 The Armoires - The Night I Heard A Scream
11 Mason Summit - Confidant
12 Wiretree - Back To The Start
13 Even - Living In A Child’s Dream
14 The Stan Laurels - This Is Your Life
15 West Coast Music Club - Long Goodbye
16 Dead Stars - Hold My Breath
17 Psychotic Youth - Picture Of You
18 Blank Pages - Before And After
19 Gary Lee Conner - Mary's English Garden
20 Philip B. Price - All Lies
21 Bad Spy - Heat Death Of The Universe
22 Goodman - Raymond Burr
23 Be Bop Deluxe - Panic In The World (2020 Stereo Mix)



IDHAS Audio Extravaganza Volume 106 Mixcloud Link 



Or Click Below






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Saturday, 16 January 2021

Sweet Sweat - Maximum Saturation

 



Released on Nick Frater's Great Sheiks label, London Trio, Sweet Sweat  have released a wonderfully loose debut album. Recorded at State Of The Ark studios in London on the Rolling Stones old EMI desk and produced and engineered by Frater (Does the man ever sleep?), this is Rock in every sense of the word.

The Stones recorded Start Me Up on the desk and that gives you some idea of the direction and sound.  All the vintage gear was intentionally recorded to sound like it could have been made in early 70s.. They describe it as Garage Rock played in a Pub or Pub Rock played in a Garage, this is a little unfair because at times there is a UK Beat feel to proceedings.

This though would be a UK Beat with lots and lots of solos. The looseness is almost jamming at times, but the direction is clear. Songs are built on Riffs a la Black Crowes, but the material is far more reminiscent of Stray or Man. 





The drum sound sounds far more natural, sort of early AC/DC whose drums sounded more rehearsal studio than modern recording studio which perfectly fits the sound and aim of Maximum Saturation. The album was recorded a while ago  and almost came out then until life got in the way for all. 

It sat on a shelf until Nick Frater decided the world should hear it and mastered the album, specifically because it was a definite electric led reaction to what 2020 had offered up, hence the 1st January 2021 release date to ensure it was the sound of music untouched by the pandemic.





This release deserves your attention. It is a reminder of the album age and is certainly "Heavy Man", but is the type of album that isn't made any more. Steve Lowe's vocals are splendidly earthy and sound as though all he wants to do is play those Guitar licks and singing gets in the way. This earthiness and sound ensures Maximum Saturation steers clear of what could have easily gone down the derivative and tedious Blues Rock avenue.

Girlfriend is my particular favourite with its in your face riff, but Not Willing To Play is a close second. The wonderful closing Outro, sounds as though it is in an actual Rock Club, which is ideally where you would listen to Sweet Sweat. One day soon hopefully!





You can listen to and buy the album here. You can find out more about Nick Frater here.


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Friday, 15 January 2021

Kool Kat Musik Weekly New Release Update



Welcome to the Kool Kat Weekly New Release Update. Kool Kat are distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single as part of our aim to keep CDs available and affordable. The Kool Kat Links with each album take you to further details on each release..

Please place all UK and European orders by following the details here. Links to Kool Kat's Entire Stock can be found here. Without further ado, here are seven new additions to Kool Kat Musik this Week.


The Galileo 7 - Decayed (Fools Paradise Records) 2020      $17 





2020 marked the tenth anniversary of The Galileo 7 and this album was planned as a celebratory release. A cover album of songs from their live set over the decade. All were to be recorded in the studio and seven songs were quickly recorded. in September 2019. Covid and family hill health meant that completing the album in the studio was a no no. A dig into the archive found four additional songs that were remastered resulting in Decayed.


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


The Happy Fits - What Could Be Better (Self Released) 2020      $15  

                                                      




                                  

A Guitar Pop Trio with a cello! The Happy Fits. The genre anarchy that distinguishes the group is intensified in this album via noticeably fuller sounding instrumentation. An outstanding album that gets better with each listen.

 

Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


I Don't Hear A Single Review


Bruce Moody - forever fresh! (Self Released) 2020      $14




                     


A new (old) set of pop-centric tunes from Bruce Moody, one of the 80’s power pop names that's been bouncing around for years and has only recently been investigated.  23 songs, all of which have been meticulously digitally remixed using the legendary Abbey Road mixing desk via digital plugin
.
    

Kool Kat Link


Amazon Music Link


Paul Starling - Shipwrecked Commotion (Self Released) 2012      $11







With Brian Bringelson’s profile raised courtesy of his recent “Desperate Days” pop gem, we thought it a good time to bring to your attention a 2012 release by Brian as Paul Starling Get ready for an emotional journey at sea with jangly, hook-filled songs about a love of the sea and romance. with the pop." - Powerpopaholic.com 

                                

Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Various Artists - Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned (Futureman Records) 2020     $12





An extremely Kool co-release from the fine folks at Big Stir Records and Futureman Records that sees artists from both labels and other familiar names paying tribute to one of power pop’s all-time great bands that sneaks its way into the end of 2020 (fitting, heh?)!In the true spirit of giving, the release benefits MusicCares!  As we like to say here at KK, “it’s great music for a great cause”! 

           


Bandcamp Link


I Don't Hear A Single Review


The Vibrators with Chris Spedding - Mars Casino (Cleopatra Records) 2020      $17

  





British guitar icon Chris Spedding joins UK punk legends The Vibrators on the band's newest studio album that reunites the original line-up of Knox on vocals and guitar, John Ellis on guitar, Pat Collier on bass and Eddie on drums!   You’ll notice a strong presence of pub rock, hard rock, rock’n’roll, rockabilly, blues, country, incorporated in a unique manner. 


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Shindig! Magazine –  Issue #111      $13   (US Only)





Sly & The Family Stone grace the cover: A riot’s goin’ on, the descent of the soulful multiracial collective.  Other features include Serge Gainsbourg: “Histoire de Melody Nelson”: The defining album in the words of those who made it.  1971: Shindig’s twist on 35 favourite long-players from rock’s defining year.  The First Class: A decidedly British mid-70’s version of California’s golden era.  Suzanne Cianin: The Diva Of The Diode.  Othe featurettes on: Syd Barrett, Ghost Funk Orchestra, The United States Of Existence, Farmer Dave & The Wizards Of The West, The Higher State, Spencer Cullum, The Bangles and much more.

 

Kool Kat Link 


Shindig Website


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Mason Summit - Negative Space

 


In these days of A and R being all about algorithms and collaborations, it is easy to forget that there was a time in the 90s when labels scooped up any singer songwriter in sight resulting in the good, the bad and the ugly. Mason Summit, at 24, was a baby when this reached it's peak, but he is a reminder of those trailblazers who were just as at home with an electric or acoustic guitar. 

The intervening years haven't been as kind to this kind of troubadour to the point where they became an endangered species. Hopefully Summit marks the return of the genre, because Negative Space is one hell of an album, particularly for one so young. This is an incredibly mature album, all the way from Santa Monica.





Two artists spring to mind when you listen to the album. These are Neil Finn and Elliott Smith, although these influences are added to throughout as you are reminded of the likes of Emitt Rhodes and even Jason Falkner. The feel of the songs are also far and wide.

At times there's a hint of country to the arrangements, think Steve Earle and on the instrumental, Point Doom, you wait for Chris Isaak or Nick Cave to start singing. The quality of the song writing screams for your attention from start to finish.





Doomed From The Start is a great album opener with a gripping hook and the Bass and the Drum Fill, reminiscent of latter day Beatles. This would be the best thing on the album, if it wasn't for Confidant, the chorus in particular is pure Glenn Tilbrook.

How Does It End  moody and haunting and Better Place races along like Crowded House at their best. Cause For Concern is an acoustic joy and Move To Fear needs a Camp Fire to gather round. The title track is Jason Falkner to a tee. This is a crackerjack of an album, an absolute gem. Time to get your wallets out!





You can listen to and buy the album here and Listen or Buy at one of the links here.


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Mick Dillingham Interviews - Allen Clapp

 


Since the mid nineties Californian songwriter, musician and producer Allen Clapp, both as a solo artist but mostly as The Orange Peels along with his wife Jill Pries and various notable collaborators along the way, has created a steady stream of records of immense beauty and charm that blends Orchestral Pop, Psych Tinged Rock and melodic Indie Pop in endlessly glorious ways. 

He’s a mighty songwriter and creatively pure of heart and intent, just as we always like it to be. The magical results of all this is a rich and fascinating body of work that would effortlessly grace any serious record collection. The news that there is a new double album on the way brings us clamouring to his door in an effort to get his story nailed down for your pleasure and edification. Allen was more that happy to oblige and what a treat we have in store for you all. So off we go. 


Where did you grow up? What are your earliest memories of first getting into music?


"I grew up in a place called Foster City. It’s about halfway between San Francisco and San Jose and it’s right on the San Francisco Bay. It was an early attempt at a “planned community” — the developer bought this huge piece of farmland in the early 1960s and master-planned a whole modern waterfront city, complete with man-made lagoons and boat channels, beaches, schools, and shopping centres. It was all very mid-century modern and kind of futuristic. The only thing they forgot to do was build a centre to the city. No downtown. 

So as nice as it was to live in a futuristic city, where you could literally do your shopping by sailboat, there was really no heart to the place. No soul. But as a kid, it was kind of a Huck Finn existence. Floating around on rafts in the summer. Having adventures. The only problem was that we thought everyone else lived in a place like this too. Looking back, It was kind of like growing up in a bubble.

I’m the youngest of three kids, so my first exposure to music was through the record collections of my brother and sister. I was born in 1967 (on August 5th, the day Pink Floyd released “Piper at the Gates of Dawn), so by the time I was five, we’re smack dab in the summer of 1972. It’s a world of Bowie and Bread; Zeppelin and Elton. 

There was a lot of John Denver, the Carpenters and Wings around the house too. I still remember not believing my brother when he told me the same guy in Wings had been in The Beatles. It seemed like they were in two separate eras to me at the time. But hey, I was five.


Which music artists made you sit up and take notice back then?


"Elton was my guy and when I was a kid in the early-to-mid 70s, he was inescapable on the radio. He always had a song in the charts and the songs were fantastic. Plus, I felt like I had something in common with him. We both wore glasses and we both played the piano.

By the time I was in my early teens, it was the middle of the 80s, and my friends and I all gravitated toward 60s and 70s music, probably in reaction to the automated sound of so much of the new music coming out at the time. 

I got really into early, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes. And the funny thing was, these bands somehow survived the bloated late 70s and were now making Top 10 records in the 80s, which I thought was fascinating. Seeing the evolution of these artists, their ability to shape-shift and for many, have more success than they ever did in their classic days was a good lesson for me. 

But then we discovered Indie bands and it changed everything. One of us bought “Sixteen Tambourines” by LA indie band The Three O’Clock and it instantly became not just one of our favourite albums, but a way forward. Those guys were only a few years older than we were and they weren’t huge or on a big label, but they were fantastic. And we thought hey, if they can do it, why not us?"



 



When did you start playing an instrument and why?


"Elton, Elton, Elton. I taught myself how to play the piano just so I could play “Crocodile Rock.” I drove everyone in the house crazy with that. But I really did figure out how to do this around age of five. Sheer force of will. At some point, my mom tried to teach me some actual piano theory and technique, but I wasn’t too interested. Who wants to play scales when you can play Crocodile Rock?

By the time high school rolled around, I was definitely looking for some sort of creative outlet for music that didn’t involve lessons, recitals and reading music. I had been playing the violin for about seven years by that time and was starting to get into some pretty complex stuff until I realized I couldn’t really read the music. I was memorizing it, learning it by ear, and then associating the muscle memory with the notes. If you put a new piece of sheet music in front of me, I couldn’t really do anything with it.

So with my best friends, Dan Jewett and Larry Winther, we just started messing around with a little Casio micro keyboard and some bongo drums and making recordings on a boom box. We weren’t necessarily writing traditional songs at that point, but we were making music that had potential and I think we knew that.

Dan and Larry and I eventually became The Batmen / The Morsels after continuing to experiment with recording. I don’t think we became a band with the express purpose to play live though. I think we were always more interested in recording. We made some pretty sophisticated multitrack recordings by bouncing tracks back and forth between two boom boxes. 

It meant you had to listen to the playback on one boom box while playing along to it in real time and capturing both the new and the old performance on the second boom box. Also by this point, we had acquired an electric guitar, an amplifier with reverb and a Yamaha CS-50 synthesizer. Sometimes I wish we had never tried to make the transition into being an actual band that played shows. It was always more fun to just hang out and make tapes. And I wonder, if we’d have taken that route, what we would have come up with because a lot of our stuff was pretty experimental.

As it happened though, The Batmen played covers of early Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, The Jam, The Dukes Of Stratosphear and some proper 60s Psych Pop too. And there were always a couple surf songs in our repertoire too. Misirlou was a particularly good one. Our first real show was at The Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco, which was a favourite spot for punk bands a few years earlier. We played clubs, college dorms, parties, anything we could, basically.

When that band ran its course, it broke up into three separate things. Larry and Maz Kattuah (who had joined on drums) ended up forming The Mummies, who went on to Garage Rock stardom. Dan left to form a band called The Himalayans, whose lead singer was Adam Duritz. Adam split from that band and formed Counting Crows and took along a couple of the Himalayans songs (notably ‘Round Here) for their debut album..

That left me and the fourth original Batmen member, Chris Boyke, to form our own band, The Goodfellows, which was far less ambitious than either The Mummies or The Himalayans. We just did it for fun,and for the love of playing music. That band eventually morphed into Huck, which was slightly more ambitious and a little louder. Where The Goodfellows could be a little Simon & Garfunkel-ish, Huck was a little more like The Lovin’ Spoonful."


So around this time you got yourself a Tascam Porto four track and start recording your songs.


"I was really trying to find out who I was as a songwriter and a singer. In the context of The Batmen and Huck, it was always about putting together a good live set and being somewhat entertaining in front of a club audience. But the thing that always fascinated me about music was the recording. Whatever it was that combined to make the finished song on a record is what interested me. I knew that I could figure out how do it just like I’d figured out how to play the piano. If I needed to do something to create a song, I’d do it. Whatever it was. Suddenly play the drums? Sure. Learn guitar? Sure. But the big one for me was figuring out how to use my voice."


As an aside, I’ve got a lot of love for the good old Tascam. My late brother Todd started out on the Tascam up in his small bedroom. With his guitar, microphone, effects pedals and drum machine, he recorded lots of amazing songs chock full of psychedelic wonder. Some of his finest work. Down the years as this archive stuff has been released it had been presented as home demos  but the truth of the matter is he rarely recorded demos as such. Most recording were done as valid and finished songs, ready for release and stand as such to this day.





So as long as you have the talent and a creative thirst then that’s everything you could possibly need. Luckily you have both Allen. The seemimg limitations of four track recording bring out the finest invention. I agree with those insights about “demos” vs. “proper” recordings (whatever those are).


"A good song cannot be stopped! It doesn’t matter how it was recorded, who recorded it, or what it was recorded on. People get hung up on all that stuff, which microphone, which preamp, which compressor, which reverb. I mean, all those choices do make a difference, but for me, the point isn’t to make an album where people can say, “Whoa! Did you hear the guitar tone on that song or Man! That’s the best sounding kick drum I’ve ever heard.” Obviously some people listen in to recordings on that level, but if you don’t have a song that’s worth listening to in the first place, who cares? The thrill of being bowled over by the emotion of a brilliant song is like 10,000 times more powerful than “dude, that’s a really accurate bass sound.”


And so we come to your first release,  the flexi Very Peculiar Feeling. How did you feel when you had it in your hands? How many tracks did you have to choose from? Your next release, A Change In The Weather was a one sided single. Why was that?


"Those early songs for me were magical. Discovering that I could create a little world inside a three minute Pop Song was a dream come true. I had an initial batch of half a dozen songs and Very Peculiar Feeling was the most obvious choice for a single. I had finally figured out how to sing! I was pretty thrilled about that. 

It took a couple years to unlearn all the vocal coaching stuff I’d picked up singing in choirs in college. That stuff is all designed to turn human voices into instruments that can be conducted and made to project a huge sound over an orchestra. Some of it was good to know, like breathing techniques, and how to modulate between full voice and falsetto. But a lot of it just makes your voice sound unnatural. Very Peculiar Feeling was like a better version of me singing and was one of the first songs I played guitar on.

A Change in the Weather was another big step forward for me. More of a nuanced production and I even got to introduce some ambient sounds and experiment with the Roland Space Echo on the vocals. I still like those lyrics.

I was finally feeling like a real songwriter, a real singer and a real producer. That single and the Flexi that came out prior, were both on Maz’s label, Four Letter Words. He had this thing where he’d put out a two song single, but put both songs on Side A and leave Side B blank. I think it was just a way to do something different and just have fun with a format that everybody had certain expectations about.

After the Change in the Weather single came out, suddenly there were reviews coming in from the Indie Pop fanzines, which was fantastic! And international fan mail. Although, it really wasn’t fan mail. It was more like “mutual respect mail,” because everybody kind of tangentially knew each other and we’d trade letters and it was amazing. It was a really nice way to meet other people making music as well. It was a very open-minded and supportive community. I’m forever grateful for the things that happened in those days.

Brian Kirk had written to Maz to see if I might be interested in putting out something on Bus Stop. At the time, I think they had just released a couple of my favourite 45s, "All of a Tremble" by St. Christopher, and "Hey Blue Sky" by Honeybunch. So I was flattered, but also a tiny bit mortified. I mean those singles were huge sounding, lush studio productions and here was me with my little Tascam Porta One, producing on the fly and still learning how to play guitar and drums!

So we did a 3-song EP, “Mystery Lawn” which I had written and recorded in an afternoon when I was sick with a high fever. It was nice to do an EP. My first release was one song and the second single had two songs. So for me, three songs was like room to branch out a little! "Mystery Lawn" the song was the lead track and was the most obviously poppy one on there. “Snow In The Sun,” and “Happy To Be Sad” were a little more melancholy, which was nice to be able to put out there. 

I think it was rather well received and got some reviews in some larger music mags. Someone from some larger publication, I can’t remember who, described me as “a male Judy Collins” which I took as a tremendous compliment, whether it actually was or not. Then came the offer to do a full-length record. That was maybe the best thing that ever happened to me. Just being asked to do it, you know? Like, hey Allen: What would it be like if you made a whole album? 

I had guessed at what that might be like my whole life, but until that point, I really didn’t know what I’d do with the opportunity even if it was given to me. So again, here I am with a tie-clip microphone, a Roland Space Echo, a cassette 4-track recorder and a synthesizer. So it’s the exciting prospect of putting together some sort of vision, but with extremely limited resources. 

Nobody was going to give me any awards for engineering or High Fidelity, so it HAD to be about the songs. And the songs showed up. I was grateful. I made it sound as good as I could, and that was it. Here’s my album. I made it for a total of $12. Between cassette tapes, batteries and a couple cheap reels of Ampex for the 2-track masters. 

We were lucky to live near Ampex headquarters,and there was a guy across the street from them in Redwood City who would sell 1/4-inch reels for cheap if you used him to do tape duplication). I’m still proud as heck of that thing. I also taught myself graphic design and put together the artwork for the whole package, obviously very influenced by Blue Note jazz albums at the time.


You seemed to gravitate towards the production, engineering end of things right from the start.


"Yeah, that’s always been a fascinating thing for me. Even when I was a kid, I’d hear something on the radio and be engaging in some sort of deep critical listening. How did they get that sound? What is that, a guitar or a synthesizer? Is that just reverb, or are they doing something else I don’t know about? “Rocket Man” by Elton John was full of strange little sounds like that. The little “take-off” sound that leads into the choruses, which I think is an acoustic guitar doubled with an electric slide guitar with tons of reverb on it. That sound fascinated me for like a year. The “and I think it’s gonna be a long long time” part has these question-answer notes that I think might be guitars trading off with an ARP synthesizer. Still fascinated by that one.  

I thought that older people must just inherently understand this stuff, so I’d ask people all the time, “Hey, how do you think they got that sound?” They would try to answer, and pretty soon it became clear that adults did not know this stuff! Even my childhood friends probably thought I was nuts. But what I did realize early on, was that not everybody listens to music the same way, or even values it equally. I kind of got it that if you could figure out these little audio puzzles, you might be able to, one day, make something like that on your own. It turns out to be true. You can make some big sounds with some very cheap gear and a big imagination."





How did you first meet Jill?


"I met Jill in college, first week of freshman year. 1985. I had seen her from afar and thought she was super cute, but had no idea how to just go up and talk to her. So one day I’m having an argument with the guy across the hall from me, who is trying to convince me I should be listening to Amy Grant or some Christian rock band, and I’m like, no thanks buddy. 

But he keeps badgering me, so that afternoon I set the speakers up as close to the windows as possible and put on the piece of music I thought might irritate him the most: “Interstellar Overdrive” off Piper at the Gates of Dawn. And I turned the volume all the way up. A couple minutes in, there’s a knock on the door,and I’m ready to let this guy have it. I open the door, and it’s Jill standing there! And she says, “Oh, hi. I just wanted to find out who it was playing Interstellar Overdrive.” My heart practically exploded. That was a turning point in my life. First week of freshman year. I had just met the love of my life and I knew it. There was no escaping it. I still can’t believe it happened."


Together you formed The Orange Peels which certainly put you on the map and moved things to another level. Compiling the recent deluxe edition of the first album must have brought back a lot of memories for you.


"Oh yeah, it was a trip down memory lane. Rounding up all the original masters and then discovering all the bonus material, it was like a treasure map that led from my solo days to the formation of the band, all of which occurred during the recording of "Square.” Looking back on everything we went through trying to get that album recorded and released, I’m kind of amazed it happened. Three record labels, three studios, three producers. I mean, I hope most bands don’t go through all that on the way to releasing their debut album! But we did make it through and now there are three versions of “Square” for people to hear, from the newly remastered original album all the way back to the 4-track demos."



I love the Cerebral Corps album. How was working with Jeff Saltzman?


"More than anything, Jeff is a great teacher. I don’t know if he realizes that, but working with him was like an education in audio engineering and production. He really helped me take my ideas and focus them on what was going to work in the context of a recording vs. what works in a live setting. His studio was the living room of a double-wide mobile home in San Jose, but the sounds he got in that place were very big-league. Plus, he introduced us to Bob Vickers, who was the other core member of Cerebral Corps and he ended up becoming a member of the Orange Peels." 


So Far …was it the traditional difficult second album and the arrival of the mighty John Moremen …quite the catch?


"Yeah, it WAS the difficult second album. The band was falling apart. Everyone was moving on with their lives, having kids, getting mortgages. I think everyone was kind of going through some sort of major life transition and it just became more and more difficult to give the kind of time and energy to the band that we all had during “Square." At one point, both Larry and Bob left the group and we were wondering what the heck to do. 

Meanwhile, we had started recording and had about half an album in the works. We decided to try and keep the thing going, and started looking for likeminded people to audition.  John Moremen is a person who we knew about already. We’d played shows with his band and he had worked with Jeff Saltzman on his own album around the time of “Square.” When we auditioned him on drums, it was a no-brainer. But we also knew he was an equally good guitar player. So that was a bonus. 

John brought a lot of enthusiasm and energy along with him, which we really needed. He drummed on a handful of tracks and played guitar on a few things and he really helped us keep the momentum going when it looked like we might not keep the band going. When we finished the album, we eventually ended up sharing the mixes with Larry and Bob and they both came back and wanted to be a part of it again. So now we had expanded to a 5-piece. We toured with that line up and it was a great big sound. Then Bob left again, and we toured for the next year as a 4-piece.

We started making Circling the Sun at our home studio with me, Jill, Larry and John. A lot of the tunes had been road tested and we had every intention of making the album at home with that line up. Then life intervened again. Larry and John bowed out and once more it was me and Jill sitting there wondering what to do next. 

There was obviously a lot of instability in the line up, and we were going on a few years of this. I’ve thought about this a lot over the years and there are a few contributing factors that I think were unavoidable. For one, we were trying to be a band in one of the most expensive places on the planet. San Francisco, Silicon Valley. These are not cheap places to live. and none of us was rich. In fact, all of us had very ordinary jobs. Teacher. Reporter. Store Manager. AV Tech. 

People were (and still are) being forced out of the area because housing prices are just ridiculous. So while there was still some romanticism about San Francisco’s music scene left over from earlier eras, the truth was that artists were leaving in droves. They were going across the bay to Oakland, and they were heading north to Portland and Seattle.

We were putting out albums that, critically, were doing amazingly well. We had a dedicated fanbase, but it was never enough to offset the strain of trying to have a job, family, a house and a band. So Jill and I decided to not focus so much on the live thing and the idea of playing shows and just make the record we wanted to make. 

We had toured with The Ocean Blue over the past couple years and had become good friends with the guys. Their guitar player, Oed Ronne and their drummer, Peter Anderson, had actually played with us for a few east coast shows right after Larry and John left the band. So we called them up and asked if they’d meet us in Minneapolis over Christmas and make an album. They were into it, and we booked ten days at The Terrarium with Bryan Hanna, who had helped us finish “Square” back in 1996. 

It was a great winter getaway and we recorded most of “Circling the Sun” in that time. Oed and Peter were so great to work with and the Terrarium is a world-class studio. It was definitely the best sounding thing we’d done yet. Over the next year or so, we added a few home recordings: “California Blue” and “How Green the Grass” and returned to Minneapolis to mix them with Bryan.





 The next album was titled 2020 …not what you thought it was going to be I think?


"Yeah, tell me about it! Although, I see it now as being prophetic in a way. In late 2008, I got laid off from my job at the newspaper. It was the beginning of the massive economic downturn and it was pretty bleak. Journalism was suddenly just no longer an option for me, there were no jobs and the existing jobs were paying even less than they were before. I was out of work for almost a year, and so this album became my project. 

We still didn’t really have a solid band line up although. Jill and I and Oed were hanging out a lot and we had played some shows with either Bob or John on drums, but it was sporadic. I had been having panic attacks for the past few years and didn’t really want to play live very much anyway. But making an album was what I needed to do. 

Everyone who’s ever been in the band came over to the house to help out. It was a really nice, laid back way to make an album, and everyone’s contributions make it a special album for that reason. The overall tone of the album is set by the opening track. “We’re Gonna Make It” was like, the theme of the album. However bad things get, we’re gonna be okay. It was the end of a decade that had been rough for the band, and rough for me professionally and personally. So, in the winter of 2009, I thought: let’s call the record 2020. Let’s look to the next decade and see what it’s gonna bring us.

Well, who could have known how the next ten years would unfold. The title track has this line in it: “And now it seems so obvious / how these changes came to be / and in my rear-view crystal ball / everything’s 2020.” As the decade crept forward, it became clear that those words were prescient in a way I still can’t really explain. They were written from the perspective of someone seeing their world crumble, but still remaining optimistic about a very uncertain future. Que Será, Será!

At the tail end of promoting 2020, we decided it was finally time to focus on being a live band again. We missed the whole thing and just wanted to give it another shot. John wanted to move over to the vacant lead guitar spot, and audition a new drummer. So we were like, yeah, let’s give it a go. We had heard about this guy Gabriel, a coworker of John’s wife Suzie, who was playing in a band called Carta. They had a show coming up at the Hotel Utah, so we went to check them out. We loved the band and we loved what Gabriel was doing on drums. I don’t think we really even auditioned him.

I think the first thing that happened is we got together at the house to record something, our label was going to pitch for a commercial. It didn’t get picked up, but if you want to hear the very first thing we recorded with that line up, it’s on Sun Moon (Traveling West/Sundowns). So now there was this new energy in the group and it felt fantastic. It was liberating and there was a great group vibe happening. 

Because of that, it opened up our whole recording process. Instead of me writing songs and bringing them to the band, it became more of a group effort, us just getting together and coming up with something in the moment, and me writing lyrics afterward. In a way, it became the version of the band I’d always been wanting. We were a live band, all living in the same general area,and we could play shows at the drop of a hat. Then we could turn around and write and record a new song in an afternoon. Very collaborative times. Sun Moon is a very different sounding album, because of all those things. Much more immediate and band-driven. 





The next album Begin the Begone was a continuation of the energy build up of Sun Moon with a couple major differences. First, it became clear during Sun Moon that Gabriel was a super talented producer and composer in addition to being a great drummer. At one of the last shows of an east coast tour, I asked him if he’d be interested in co-producing our next record together. So we went into the next few months with that idea in mind and I wanted Gabriel to bring as much as he could from a production standpoint.

The next big thing that happened was that Jill and I were almost killed by a drunk driver on the way to our final Sun Moon show in Berkeley. It was awful. We were stopped in a sudden traffic jam on highway 880 and this drunk guy slams into us at full freeway speed. We were really shaken up, not to mention sore for a few weeks after. But we walked away. It could have gone south so easily. The van was totalled and the tow-truck driver was telling us he’d seen accidents like that where nobody walked away. 

Then he asked about all the gear in the back of the van. He said, “If you guys were going to play a show, I’d suggest you play it.” We’re like uhhhh? What? And he says: “Yeah, you guys are hopped up on a ton of adrenaline right now. If you go home, you’re not gonna sleep anyway. Why don’t you ride it out, play the show and have a beer with your friends. Tomorrow you’re going to be so sore, you’re not going to believe it."

So we did it and he was right. It was incredibly cathartic. He was also right about the pain. It was unreal. So the next couple months were recovery time for us. Then we decided to get the band together at the house for a four day weekend and see if we could recreate the Sun Moon collaboration vibe. We basically wrote and recorded 90 percent of “Begin the Begone” over that weekend. It was fast, fun, and super creative. 

The themes are a little darker, based on what we’d gone through and that was all still fresh when we recorded it. That summer the album was getting a lot of attention and we got added to Matthew Sweet’s mid west tour. During that tour, I think it might have been the soundcheck for our first show, Matthew heard something that John played and next thing you know, he’s wanting John to play on some songs for the new album he’s working on. That was kind of surreal. But it also seemed totally normal, because John is a great player. Very inventive. Full of ideas. So the next year or so was John getting more and more involved in Matthew’s “Tomorrow Forever” album and touring with him. Meanwhile, Gabriel relocated to Philadelphia to work for their famous NPR affiliate WHYY.

Jill and I had recently moved out of Silicon Valley to a funky, hexagonal house in the forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains and I needed a little time to sort out our new studio there, so I recorded a 6-song EP, “Six Seasons.” We were just falling in love with mountain life and it was a great time to make a little solo project while everyone was settling into their new routines. 

At some point in late 2016, we really wanted to plan a new Orange Peels album, so we started sharing some ideas back and forth online. Getting together wasn’t going to be as easy as it used to, so we got time on everyone’s schedules and booked a week in March in our new mountain studio. We also decided to fly Bryan Hanna out from Minneapolis to produce, figuring it would take the load off me and Gabriel to just focus on being band members for the sessions.

What ended up happening, was that there was only input from three of us happening in the months leading up to the session. It got a little tense, because there was money riding on this, flights booked, time off from work, producer’s fees and we were not getting any feedback from John. I think he found himself unexpectedly busy with new demos from Matthew, but I don’t know for sure. He did show up to the sessions totally prepared and he played beautifully on the record, but the collaborative kind of thing we had going on for the last two albums was kind of not happening on this one. 

What happened instead was that the production became much more wide-screen and the type of instrumentation we were gravitating toward was a little more experimental. I don’t see Trespassing as the band driven albums that the previous two had been, but then again, maybe it was time for a change?  With the band scattered more distantly, we weren’t really playing shows. So suddenly we didn’t have to think as much about how these songs would translate live. We could just give the song what it needed and make the album a self-contained world.

We were starting to break down barriers and I think in a lot of ways, it prepared us to start making our very first double album: "Celebrate the Moments of Your Life,” which will come out in May, 2021."





Which of the albums are your favourites?


That’s a tough one, because they’re all my favourite but for different reasons. Square, because it was the first. So Far because we managed to make something beautiful even as we were falling apart. Circling The Sun because it’s kind of the fullest realization of what I’ve always wanted an album to sound like. 2020 because it just rocks. Sun Moon because of the collaborative band element. Begin The Begone because we survived to tell the tale. Trespassing because it has some of my best songwriting, and breaks new ground. 


You’ve continued to release solo albums ..what are the stand outs for you?


One Hundred Percent Chance of Rain was my baptism into making albums and it will always be special because of its humble beginnings. Available Light  was kind of a huge risk, putting out a Soft Rock album just after the millennium. Nobody was talking about Soft Rock then, although the famous “Yacht Rock” series came out a couple years later. A few reviewers really thought I’d gone bananas for doing it. But I stand by it. 

One of the tracks (Solstice/Song for David) ended up getting licensed by Coca Cola for a big winter campaign around the time of the Winter Olympics that year, and that put a new roof on our house!  Mixed Greens was super fun to make. It’s a very songwriterly album. By this time I was starting to produce for other acts as well, and this album, became like a portfolio for me. 


How did Mystery Lawn come about?


Mystery Lawn was first a song. Then it was the name of my publishing company. Then the name of the recording studio. It finally ended up becoming the name of my little record label in 2010. Because I was now helping other bands make albums I thought, why not start up a little community, where if you make the record here, we’ll release it too. Maybe it will catch on a little bit?  We have a good stable of artists and at first, we’d play shows together. People would play on each other’s albums. It became a cool little world. We’ve put out some great records on Mystery Lawn and it’s fun to be a part of something bigger than myself, bigger than just my own band."


Talking about the recording process for you…how it works…what do you reach for as a producer?


"I’m always reaching for something immediate and real. “Authentic” is kind of an overused word right now, but it’s a good one. And by using it, I don’t mean that I’m looking for a totally honest picture of what a performer sounds like in a certain room at a certain time. I’m looking for something emotionally authentic. That’s what I’m looking for, because that’s what I think music does better than anything else. People have said for a long time that music is the universal language. I think about that a lot. It might mean different things to different folks, but to me what it means is: Music has some sort of ability to transcend normal communication. 

Whether that’s the printed word, or language, or a photograph, that music is the conveyor of something that goes beyond those things. So, for me I have to ask myself, well, what is that? And I think the answer is emotion. I think music cuts straight through the other forms of communication and has the capacity to deliver direct emotion.  That’s not to say that it always does. But it has that ability, I believe. And I think that’s 99.9% of the value of music. An emotional direct-delivery device. 

So if you’re using music for some other purpose, or focusing on something other than emotion, you’re losing out. If you’re making an album, and the overarching purpose of the album is to sound like other Power Pop bands, then you’re probably not gonna be delivering on the 99.9% of what music can do. You’re probably limiting yourself to about 5% of what music can do, actually. 

That’s not to say there aren’t fantastic genre specific albums out there being made. But in my experience, when people are honest with what they want to communicate through their music, those albums tend to be more eclectic and less limited by the conventions of genre."





Tell me about how the songwriting process manifests for you.


It’s really not a process or even an act for me. Songs usually just show up and start playing in my head. Then I head over to a piano or guitar to try to figure out what the chords are. That’s it. Very occasionally, I’ll sit down at the piano and something will just happen, but mostly, it’s the other thing. I know that sounds like it must be wonderful. You’re doing nothing, or maybe washing dishes or doing yard work and boom there’s a song. But really, I don’t have any control over it at all, so during the times when I want to sit down to specifically write a song, it almost never happens. It can be super frustrating sitting around waiting for the next song to appear, or wondering if it will ever happen again.


If you had to compile a best of Orange Peels how easy or difficult would that be for you?


It would be pretty easy to make a list of the most popular ones. Something Strange Happens. Back in San Francisco. Something In You. Birds of a Feather. Aether Tide. Satellite Song. Running Away … there’s one song on each album that just strikes a chord with listeners, deejays, critics, music licensing people. 

Sometimes those are the ones I think are the best too, but there are outliers that I might love more, and for other reasons. I’ll follow the one-per-album rule here for the outlier list: She is Like a Rose, Mazatlan/Shining Bright, California Blue, Emily Has Told Me Why, Yonder, Wintergreen, Camera 2."


As a producer yourself who would you say are the producers from the past and currently that you are in awe of?


"Gus Dudgeon (Elton John, David Bowie, XTC) — those albums manage to be incredibly commercial while not compromising on art. Amazing! Robert Fripp (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, The Roches) — Fripp is a singular genius and just so unorthodox. But there’s just so much music in that one human being that it can’t be contained. One of the best dreams I ever had was that I was in heaven and Robert was conducting a music workshop. I still think it’s gonna happen!

Phil Spector. Sheesh. I noticed in the 90s when listening to the car radio in my 1967 Falcon that any song that came on after a Phil Spector production was gonna sound like shit. I still have no idea how he did what he did, but those songs sound huge and convey so much emotion that it’s really not fair to the rest of the world’s producers.

David Hentschel (Genesis, Queen, Elton . . . too many to list). David was an engineer who ended up producing later on, but his sound is really something magical. If you’re one of those people who thinks they hate Phil Collins, listen to “Ripples” off “Trick of the Tail.” It was the first Genesis album after Peter Gabriel left the band in the mid-70s and it’s one of the most perfect songs and recordings I’ve ever heard. Hentschel is like a secret weapon. He also did the epic intro to Elton’s “Funeral for a Friend” (with a monosynth! — apparently he overdubbed one note at a time on the 16-track recorder to build that fantastic thing) and all the synths on those early Elton albums. 

Conny Plank, Dave Stewart, Nile Rodgers, Brian Eno, Burt Bacharach, Tony Visconti . . . too many to mention!"


If you could be the engineer to any producer who would it be? Any bands that you would love to produce?


"I’d love to have been an engineer for Gus Dudgeon, basically, if I could be David Hentschel, I would, because Hentschel was his engineer on so many great albums. Not only do those records sound great, but they sound like people having fun in the studio, knowing they were making something lasting and great.

As far as artists I would want to produce, one of them has already come true. I always wanted to produce a record by the legendary Jim Ruiz. When he asked me to produce the album that would become “Mount Curve Avenue,” I had to pinch myself. That was such a fun experience, and working with a songwriter like Jim was just a dream."





If you could go back in time and be the fly on the wall for the recording of any record, what sessions would you go for?


I’d say something epic, like the White Album, or The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a big album that was breaking barriers and really doing something different. Or maybe Skylarking, that’s just such a perfect album, although I think I’d be hanging out with Todd instead of Andy.


What contemporary artists are currently floating your boat?


"As far as bigger acts, I’m always interested in what the Flaming Lips are doing. I kind of love/hate them, but I’m always curious. I think one day, Wayne Coyne will stop trying so hard to convince people how weird he is and maybe then he’ll make the masterpiece he’s always been destined to create.

Because I work with a lot of other artists at Mystery Lawn, there’s a constant influx of new stuff that I love. Marshall Holland’s new one, Paper Airplane is on repeat around here. Such an easy, breezy sense of pop song smithery. My Little Hum from Oakland, The Incredible Vickers Brothers (that’s Bob from The Orange Peels), Felsen, Arts & Leisure. All are great bands that I’m lucky to be able to work with. Also highly recommend the new one from Jetstream Pony or anything Beth Arzy is involved in  and of course, The Ocean Blue. I think those guys just keep getting better with every new album."


Future plans?


"We had a hell of a year (like everyone) capped off with getting evacuated from our house during the California wildfires. I’m months behind on my life, but we are back home and our house is fine! We have just wrapped production on a double album. I can’t even believe I just said that, but it’s true. It’s even more unexpected because we’re a three-piece band now. John left in summer of 2019 and we decided to not replace him with another member.

So we got together to sort of see how this three-piece thing was gonna work. What were we going to sound like? What were we capable of? What is the next version of  The Orange Peels going to be? It started as a single album and we recorded most of it in August of 2019. It happened pretty quickly and it was exciting, because there were really zero expectations. We had a blank slate and anything was possible. 

We were going to finish it earlier this year at a clean-up session this March, but what happened is that the entire world started shutting down as we were in the studio. It was surreal. We were glued to our screens watching COVID-19 just taking out services, businesses, and changing our whole planet. So instead of finishing the album, we composed and recorded an entire second album of material during those sessions. 

This music just came pouring out unexpectedly and we had to rethink what we were doing. At one point, Gabriel just looked at us and said, “You know what we’re doing here, right?”  and me and Jill are just like, “ummmmm . . . not yet.” And he says, “We’re making a double album.” That was just the obvious solution.  Now that it’s mastered and artwork is getting finished up, I can see how this whole thing holds together and how it’s got one foot in the “before” world and the other foot in the “new-normal” world. 

We’ve released two singles already, “Thank You,” in May, and “Birds Are Louder” in November. Of course, they don’t sound anything like each other, and I think it’s a slightly misleading preview of what the album will sound like. Then again, maybe they’re a perfect indication. You can expect “Celebrate the Moments of Your Life” on Minty Fresh in May of 2021.





You can listen to and buy the music of The Orange Peels here. You can find Allen's solo stuff here. The Orange Peels website is here. Mystery Lawn Music is here


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Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Davey Lane - Don't Bank Your Heart On It

 


Davey Lane's third solo album is an absolute monster. The easiest thing that you can draw is that he is now a solo star, no longer introduced as the You Am I guitarist, but as singer songwriter, Davey Lane. He's also gathered friends and musical allies to add to the variety and what a wide array of genres there are here.

2017's I'm Gonna Burn Out Bright revealed all the signs of Lane's talent. You can read the IDHAS Review here. Don't Bank Your Heart On It nails the message to every door. This is the album that he threatened to make, it is absolutely priceless.

This is a Rock album, but it takes many different paths. Although made by an Australian, it feels very British. Some may call it Brit Pop, but that would be unfair, because it is far more than that. At times it feels more like a History Of Rock, yet remains incredibly commercial at its heart.

The collaborators help give it that impression. The likes of Todd Rundgren, Tommy Stinson, Robyn Hitchcock, Jimmy Barnes and Stu Mackenzie partly reveal the variation present, but that doesn't mean that there is any naval gazing. The songs say what they wanna say and move on. There is no excess. 13 songs in 40 minutes.

So where do you start to describe the songs? The best way is not to and let listeners discover them for themselves. I've gone partly down this route by embedding no songs, encouraging you to hopefully listen. There is something here for everyone, but as a whole, the album is a top notch listen.

The Garage Rock of I'll Set U Free, the rock and roll singalong that is Affection's Walkin' The Wire and the call and response of Don't Bank Your Heart On it are just three examples of the direction hopping. Then there is the sleazy Glam of Gotcha Money On Yr Mind, the big anthemic rock of Never Coming Back Again, which is in The Motors territory and the wonderful Orgone Box like Psych Pop of Some Other Wonder.

The more straight ahead songs complement the adventure rather than leading it. There also has to be a special mention for the wonderful, Todd Rundgren aided, Acceptance which is really dancey with a killer chorus. There really is so much to enjoy here. This is an album that deserves repeated listens for decades to come.

Don't Bank Your Heart On It can be bought everywhere and it should be owned. It is on all the streaming sites for a listen if my words don't convince you. You can follow links from here.


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