In case you missed it, here’s my coverage of FloydFest 21 for Glide Magazine; it’s essentially my highlights reel. Spoiler alert: Billy Strings and the Avett Bros aren’t here, man.
I recently had the chance to chat with the legendary Dale Crover, drummer for the Melvins. We talked about their new album, “Pinkus Abortion Technician,” Crover’s latest solo effort “The Fickle Finger of Fate,” and the weird shit Kurt Cobain used to decorate his apartment back in the day. Check out the full interview here in Glide Magazine.
“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.
Last 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.
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
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.”
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.
Last week, I interviewed JD Wilkes of the Legendary Shack Shakers. The Songfacts interview will be published shortly, along with a few of my favorite photos from the show at Asheville’s Grey Eagle on February 10, but until then, here are a few of the favorites that didn’t quite make the official article cut. (I’m a writer, not a photographer, so don’t expect too much. I was just fooling around trying to get a few photos to go with my interview.)
Cracker, remember them? If you were around in the ’90s, you know who they are, even if you don’t remember their name. “Low,” “I Hate My Generation,” “Get Off This:” these were the guys who didn’t just whine about how life sucked, they screamed about it and acknowledged their part and kinda prodded you in the ass to do something about it. I knew they were groovy, but I really fell in love with Cracker when I heard the word “fecund” in their song, “All Things Beautiful.” Music is awesome; smart music is like… fuck, you know? It stays with you. One of my favorite memories is of driving around with my sister in my beat-up minivan, singing along with “Mr. Wrong” at the top of our lungs, feeling like everything was absolutely awesome with the world. We both ended up finding our Mr. Rights, but Cracker is still a huge part of some of my best memories.
I recently got the opportunity to interview Johnny Hickman, who along with David Lowery, is half of the songwriting team behind Cracker’s beautifully snarky and intelligent lyrics. I thought I’d share the link with you here; I hope you enjoy it. And if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out their latest album, a double record called Berkeley to Bakersfield. It’s fantastic, truly.
I woke up this morning and checked Facebook — the best source for local not-really-news — hoping to see that my kid had a school delay, so that I could stay in bed a little longer. I didn’t see that, but the first thing I did see was something that had me wide awake in an instant: David Bowie was dead.
As the day progressed, you could watch the stages of grief unfold: denial, shock, acceptance; the videos rolled out and social media was filled with people reminiscing about seeing Bowie for the first time (a milestone second only, it would seem, to losing one’s virginity, and then in most cases it probably still came out ahead). Everyone had a David Bowie moment to share. There was an almost universal outpouring of grief.
And then came The Crusaders, sharing photos of emaciated children and villages destroyed by war, nuclear fallout and government tyranny: competition for David Bowie’s death in a game of smug and vulgar one-upmanship. “How can you cry for some rock star you don’t even know,” they wrote, “when this is going on in the world?”
“It’s a sad day when people care more about a dead singer than all the starving children in the world.”
“Why are you mourning a dead stranger when there are refugees and famine and atom bombs and hungry kids and rape and war and murder and-”
“How can you be sad about this thing, when there is also this thing?” is what they were saying. As if sadness was a self-contained unit, a box that can only hold one thing at a time, a box the right size for hunger and small dead people, but not the right size for cancer and tall dead people.
The answer is that we have to be sad about this thing, because this is one of the things that helped us not be sad all the time, about all the other things. We know there is famine. We know there is war. We know that children are dying. We see this every day, we live this reality, although for most of us, we live it from a fair safe distance, watching in horror on television as the bombs drop and the children starve. We live on different planes of sorrow, we live with different kinds of loss, and we need things like David Bowie to remind us that that isn’t all there is.
We need art. We need beauty. We need music that makes us smile, and music that makes us think, and music that makes us go holy fuck YES and listen to it on repeat a thousand times, tuning out the ugliness outside. We need music that reminds us we aren’t alone in facing the horror, and music that takes us well beyond where it lives. We need people with the strength to be themselves, so that we can show our children and the children in the mirror that we’re okay. We need things that sparkle, that shine, that make the world flip upside down while we’re anchored firmly in place, looking at it from an entirely different point of view.
We need music. We needed David Bowie and every other artist who makes us feel something besides the agony of real life. When that gets lost, we feel lost with it. It’s okay to feel that. Even with everything else that’s going on, it’s okay to grieve the loss of something beautiful. This is not a competition; sorrow does not live in a vacuum. It’s everywhere, it bleeds into everything, and in acknowledging the loss of something so vivid and unique, we acknowledge that there is more to life than all the ugliness we see.
Last 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.
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).
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.