asheville music

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Dean Ween Interview for Songfacts 

Published October 5, 2016 by April Fox

“If you’ve kept up with the man over the years, you know that he’s a skilled musician and a clever lyricist, and those traits shine on The Deaner Album. “Tammy” written by anyone else could have been just another mullet-rock scorned-man-on-the-road revenge song, but Dean Ween spins the story with a lyrical prowess that rivals the likes of Elvis Costello and Tom Waits, but with that touch of crude, not-quite humor that leaves no doubt as to who wrote it. “Charlie Brown” is a beautifully grungy one-man show, with Dean playing all the instruments on a song that no doubt strikes a chord with anyone who has ever been at the end of their figurative rope; it’s the universal lament, with a mature stroke of hope at the very end. “Exercise Man” is straight up Dean Ween all the way, fast-paced and snarling, backed by the Meat Puppets’ Curt Kirkwood on guitar and full of the kind of pure snark we’ve come to expect from the man himself.”

Read my interview with Dean Ween here, wherein he talks about his new album with The Dean Ween Group, and a bunch of other stuff including his mom’s killer profiteroles. 

http://www.songfacts.com/blog/interviews/dean_ween/

Claude Coleman, Jr.on the Resurrection of Ween (Songfacts Interview)

Published July 1, 2016 by April Fox

ccjrLast year, I interviewed Claude Coleman Jr. for the first time. Back then, there were no plans–that the public knew of, anyway–for Ween to reunite. But reunite they did, much to the delight of a huge number of people who can’t get enough of the band’s clever, off-the-wall songs. I caught up with Claude again a few weeks ago, to get his take on the reunion and find out where he’s been since we last spoke. It was a good conversation, set against the backdrop of a noisy bar and tempered by the balm of good whiskey, and the result is here, if you’d like to take a look. I think it was a pretty neat interview. I hope you enjoy it too.

http://www.songfacts.com/blog/writing/claude_coleman_jr_on_the_resurrection_of_ween/

Artists, Please Don’t Give Up on North Carolina

Published April 9, 2016 by April Fox

Earlier this week, Bruce Springsteen announced that he was canceling an upcoming North Carolina concert because of his opposition to HB2. The law, also known as North Carolina’s “Bathroom bill,” removes state protections against discrimination, and demands that people use single-sex restrooms in public facilities such as schools and government offices in accordance with the sex listed on their birth certificates, not the gender with which they identify.

Springsteen’s voice is one of the most powerful in the music world, and the statement he made by boycotting North Carolina is a strong one. He’s letting fans and the state of North Carolina know in no uncertain terms that he does not support discrimination, and that’s a message that might have a positive effect on fans who were in agreement with the law.

Springsteen isn’t the only person to have cancelled appearances in North Carolina because of HB2, and it’s a trend that’s likely to continue for a while. And while I appreciate these celebrities joining our fight for equality, I’m seeing things from a different perspective, too.

Yesterday, the manager of Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe published a letter about how the boycott can hurt small businesses. Author Sherman Alexie was the first to cancel his appearance at Malaprop’s, not only costing the store business but also taking away an important cultural experience from the people who wanted to hear him speak. Again, I understand and appreciate the gesture; I don’t really want to be in this state either. But Malaprop’s has a decades-long history of supporting LGBT causes, and by boycotting the state, Alexie is [no doubt inadvertently] hurting the good guys.

North Carolina is a state in crisis, and we have been for a while. Our teachers are pitifully underpaid, we have too many children living in poverty, and our state lawmakers voted against the Medicaid expansion so that many families are still uninsured. Right now, I’m saving money to get an important test to determine whether or not a mass in my uterus is cancer, because I fall into that lower-middle class gap. And now there’s HB2, which was called the worst anti-LGBT piece of legislation in history when it was passed. I get it: We suck, many of our state legislators are a bunch of heartless power-mongers, and the only way to hit them where it hurts is to go straight for the wallet.

Problem is, the rest of us have wallets too, and they’re already painfully thin. My husband works in the music industry as a performer, studio owner, and sound engineer. The venues where he runs sound aren’t owned by mega-corporations, they’re owned by regular human beings, people who live in our communities with their families and are just trying to make a living, like the rest of us. My husband runs sound for bands from all over the country, and he loves his work. I work as a teacher and make a little money writing, but his music jobs are what keep our family afloat.

When you cancel a show in Asheville, or anywhere in North Carolina, you’re making a fantastic statement, but you’re also hurting local families who are just as much opposed to that bill as you are. If my husband misses one gig due to a boycott or any other reason, there goes our weekly grocery money. A night of work is a car payment, school clothes for the kids, car insurance, part of the rent… it’s a huge chunk of our life. It’s a huge chunk out of the life of anyone who depends on others’ performances to make a living, from the bartenders to the sound engineers to the business owners trying to figure out how they’re going to make payroll this week.

To those considering boycotting North Carolina in opposition to HB2, I say thank you. Thank you for standing behind our transgender friends and family. Thank you for having the balls to speak out against an absolutely deplorable piece of legislaion that hurts not only the LGBT community, but everyone. But please, consider keeping that date. Come read your stories to us; play some music and let us dance for you. Speak up while you’re here. Use your time in North Carolina to let local fans know that you stand with them, that you agree that Pat McCrory is a spineless, bigoted jerk and needs to be stopped. Use your time on our stages to speak out against HB2, while showing that you support the people our governor is trying to destroy.

 

Musician and sound engineer Anthony Dorion works in his Asheville, NC studio

Songfacts Interview: JD Wilkes on ASL, Angry Punks, and Doing What You Love

Published March 14, 2016 by April Fox

The first time I heard Legendary Shack Shakers, I was sitting at a little tattoo shop called Freaks & Geeks in West Asheville, waiting to go under the needle for the first time. If you had told me back then that one day I’d be interviewing the lead singer and songwriter for the band, I would have laughed–but not too hard; after all, there was some guy with a sharp implement working dangerously close to some of my favorite body parts.

As coincidence — or fate, if you believe in such things — would have it, my conversation with JD Wilkes somehow looped around to tattoos and angry punks, and as I was transcribing everything, I found myself stopping several times to consider his words as they related to things that I’ve been going through. And in the end, what it comes down to is this: be who you are, embrace what you love, and then go out and make the absolute best of it that you can. Pretty simple, really, but sometimes it takes some guy swinging from the rafters to make you remember it all.

“The best way to be counterculture is to live a life embodying the things that you mourn the loss of without drawing attention to it in a literal way.” -JD Wilkes

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After I spoke with JD, I caught the Legendary Shack Shakers at the Grey Eagle, and in the middle of his hyper/interactive stage show, something about JD’s hands caught my eye: he was signing, using American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate during some of the songs. I’m not nearly fluent enough to have any idea what he was saying, but there was no doubt that he was signing to the audience. I’ve worked a lot with children with special needs, and a very dear friend uses ASL quite a bit in her work, so I had to follow up with Wilkes to see what the signing was all about. He was gracious enough to fill me in, saying in part, “It’s another visual. ASL are basically hand gestures, so that’s fun to watch if you’re in the audience. But to me it’s also ‘secret information’ being communicated, which is like my mystic, southern lyrics and garbled CB/auctioneer vocals.”

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To find out the stories behind some of my favorite Legendary Shack Shakers songs, hear what music influenced JD as a child, and get his thoughts on punk rock, modern country music, religion, ASL, and more, read the full Songfacts interview here. For more photos from the Grey Eagle show, click here. And be sure to check out Legendary Shack Shakers new album, Southern Surreal. It’s spectacular.

 

The Hank & Cupcakes Interview

Published July 29, 2015 by April Fox

IMG_6153Last month, I shared a few photos from the Hank & Cupcakes show at Sol Bar New Mountain, here in Asheville. Before that show, I got to sit down with Sagit Shir and Ariel Scherbacovsky and interview them for Songfacts.com. Their stage presence is massive and electrified, almost over the top but not quite, and I wasn’t sure what to expect when I finally got to talk to them. You never know with people, right? And I tend to be on the oh god don’t talk to me, I can’t make words come out of my face end of the social spectrum, so I was half-convinced that what was meant to be an interview would wind up instead being a case of me frozen in my chair, saying a lot of things that sounded like “um” and “fuck” and “goddammit what was I going to say?” And while there might have been a bit of that, there was a lot more laughing and good conversation, with two people who are genuinely kind and incredibly friendly, and shared with me some fantastic stories about their songs, their life together, and how they got started making music. Here’s that interview, in case you want to read it.

http://www.songfacts.com/blog/interviews/hank_cupcakes/

And if you’re in the mood for something fun and a wee bit risque (but totally G-rated), check out this teaser for the video for their song “Shut Up.” It’s fun, and I’m right there in the beginning, being very very quiet (I told you).

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An Interview with Ween’s Claude Coleman, Jr.

Published July 2, 2015 by April Fox

A few weeks ago, I packed up my husbands mobile recording apparatus and headed over to Claude Coleman, Jr.’s place to catch up with him about all the things going on in his musical world these days. Since the tragic demise of Ween in 2012, Claude has stayed busy, moving to Asheville from his home state of New Jersey, making albums with his band Amandla, and recording drums for more bands than I can even try to remember.

In the interview, Claude shares funny stories about some of Ween’s songs, including one that involves Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween) being locked in a trunk while his vocals were being recorded. He talks about his new life in North Carolina and the music he’s making here, and takes us on a trip from the very beginning of his time in Ween to his future with his latest project, Amandla.

It was a fun interview, often meandering all over the place before circling back around to the near-forgotten questions. Claude Coleman is clearly a man who appreciates his success, and holds his fans and fellow musicians in high regard. Underneath the humor and the occasional glimpses of melancholy, there’s a constant thread of gratitude for the life he’s been able to live, and that made the interview that much more impressive to me.

http://www.songfacts.com/blog/writing/claude_coleman_jr_of_ween/

Claude Coleman, Jr. in the studio: GoodFlow Productions, Asheville, NC

Claude Coleman, Jr. in the studio: GoodFlow Productions, Asheville, NC

Hank & Cupcakes, Asheville NC 06-06-15

Published June 7, 2015 by April Fox

Last night, Beloved and I caught the Hank and Cupcakes show in the Sol Bar at New Mountain. It was a working date; he was running sound and I was interviewing them, but it was still, as always, a fantastic show. This made the fourth time I’ve seen them in as many years, and every time, they damn near blow the hair off my head with how good they are. I was running on two hours sleep, ready to drop, barely coherent during the interview, kept upright by insane amounts of caffeine and the weight of my Docs on my feet, and as soon as they took the stage I was widefuckingawake and stayed there until they were done. If music is the sonic equivalent of sex, these guys leave your legs shaking and your chest tight and holy fuck, you’d give anything for a glass of water if you could just manage to walk to the kitchen to get it.

Anyway. It was fun, and I took a few pictures, just goofing off with Beloved’s camera. A couple might end up with the official interview once it’s up, but here are some I kept to share with you all here.

And seriously, if you see that these guys are playing anywhere near you, GO.

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