Thursday, May 30, 2013

Salad Influence - "STT"/Interview with Michael Turner

Budgie came to mind, a logged memory somewhere in the back of my skull that was revived while listening to trio Salad Influence's debut EP STT.

Some of these are dusty scary clothes that the Cure used to wear back in 1971 before casting them aside for Nature and exploding teardrops. There's a hope in the reverbed vocals and chorus, as though the Youth has learned to Cry, and realized that the moroseness that surrounds them is as important as the light.

Salad Influence contains singer/guitarist Michael Turner, who has become one of the most prolific songwriters between these two cities. I first saw him at Cajun restaurant sprawling in a band called The Legendary Singers either in the late 90s or early 00s...I wholly forget the year. But the band was a garden of amazing. Turner has been in many of my favorite bands in Lexington, including The Elephants and Warmer Milks, a dedicated project that saw him focus on songwriting in all directions, exploring genres freely. Performing solo as Ma Turner, he's continued this philosophy, with no recording even remotely the same. His work with Cross seems to explores a variegated trail of diverse rock n rolls.

This is Turner mixing mirth Renaissance-style with the likes of Joe Mangum of Lexington's The Elsinores. This is a trio that brainstorms a coin of four sides, somewhere on a mission between the missing links of Nuggets and Pebbles; a bridge in the examination of psychedelia that exists in modern Kentucky music.  

Mike's voice drops at times into an "Epitaph"-era Rob Halford, slugging a pitch that hides in a split melancholic falsetto during the third track, which wabbles fire and lava lamp in its delivery. There's a drag to it's freedom, slightly slower than a mid-tempo carouse, but more a dawdle toward its goal. I'm a few steps behind and it is feeding time.

The last chunk of record literates into a chorus amidst an "Oscillate Wildly" hope.

Michael agreed to talk to me over 90 miles of technology about Salad Influence and other subjects.

Gloam: Let's just start talking, see where this goes. We have such a long history together, I figure it can bump up, down, sideways, backwards, forwards. This'll be nonlinear as shit, because that's how you and I get, methinks.
First questions are about now(ish):

Salad Influence: give me the reason why it was started. I mean, you just put out a new Ma Turner EP last year, and since then a bunch of singles/songs (i don't know what to call them on bandcamp...nothing is real anymore).
Mike: Summer of last year, Joe Mangum and I had been hanging out nearly every day, listening to music and having lengthy discussions about literature and visual media as well as the human/inhuman condition. It was only natural to gravitate towards starting something up. Within weeks of meeting, the two us of were talking about "the band". In January of this year we started jamming with him on drums and me on guitar. Going into it I knew that I wanted to tune my high E to B and that Joe and I would harmonize as much as possible. Our first practice we wrote "Calling Light", "A Word" and "Colby". No microphone/pa system. I think we were singing loud to the point that it was yelling. A few practices in, Paul Eldred (The Thirties, CROSS) came over and within minutes had him writing parts on bass, jamming. Not that I didn't like the way things sounded with just Joe and I but Paul's role instantly busted things open. Three Amigos now. On lots of coffee.

Yeah, five two song "singles" and that Vibrant Light EP which has seven songs. I also recorded a split cassette with J Marinelli, eight songs on my side. Twenty-five songs recorded between January and March of this year on my lonesome.  Salad Influence tracked eleven songs this month (which are going to dispersed between cassette and 7")and CROSS recorded a c32 in like January or something. What a mess.

Cross is definitely seems to be doing well...The LP was fucking amazing...definitely a progression that made sense from the double-cassette.

Live in the zone, the train stays on track. I feel the songs have been there since the moment Clint and I started writing together. We worked hard and all over the place between the first release and the LP. Constantly rewrote songs, wrote some new ones, abandoned them, wrote even newer songs, chucked some of those, came back to certain songs from the previous batch. The cycle just repeats itself. Both releases are documents to moments in time I wouldn't ever take back. 

You're cranking material out in so many directions...what was the impetus for Salad Influence, what's the Elsinores connection...being I'm here in L'ville, I get behind on who is what in Lex.

It's funny in that I'm constantly struck with the notion that I don't write or record enough. In reality, I need to chill on that end and get the music I have on the Bandcramp page and release it on a physical format.  While the songs and full lengths I put up digitally are meaningful to me, I still won't feel complete until they hit vinyl or cassette. I'm working on this though. But first, lemme write another song.

Elsinores is Joe's band. He sings and plays drums. Urgent punk spirit. They are one of those bands that put fire in me and serve as a reminder of why I bother to express myself with sound.

What's "STT" refer to?
S.T.T. is alien for SST. 

Is there a tight focus of subject matter for the songs?
Tunnel vision of total freedom gained through following one's true will. Is there anything else to sing about?

On Kill the Crowd with Absence...are you manipulating a toilet flushing?
Not that I know of. The track is a combination of "Marco? Polo!" and the "Telephone" game. Get out yer Googles, kids.

What do you feel like has changed in the years since Warmer Milks til now? For you? For the world?

I take better care of myself spiritually and physically thus I feel healthier, which enables me to work harder. Hopefully, that manifests itself into what I put out into the universe. In terms of how the world has changed, I think some things are fucked, but I also find it easier to accept nowadays that some things are just gonna be fucked. This planet is a speck in the bigger scheme of things and I'm certainly not going to waste away bumming out on it. Too many records to make.
You've seen Lexington's music community circle through several stages of ups and downs. What's happening in it now?

Now is a good time around here. Sidecar is really hitting it's stride with lots of underground weirdo/metal/synth/hardcore/noise/etc. groups and solo artists coming through as well as a handful of locals that are considered "in-house" members (Jovontaes, Mayonnaise, Live Island, Transubstantiation, Wretched Worst, Three Legged Race, Tombstalker, , Tyler and Henry, Blood Pheasant, etc.).  Hole in the wall, no rules environment that every town needs. A lot of youth go there, stand around in their colors and riff, it's cool. They're fresh yet soaking it all in. I didn't have a place like that in Lexington until Club Seal and Charles Mansion popped up, 2004 or so. Noise/outsider shit spilled onto the streets from a completely organic place. That period was my introduction to the powers of organization and dedication. This work ethic got a lot of my friends and myself into ecstatic situations all over the world and to be honest, we did most of the foot work ourselves. I think the sound in the sewers of Lexington is spot on much of the time. It would just be nice to see me and my friends get out of town more with our craft. The Internet has seemed to become some sort of virtual passport yet it can make many a human lazy. A kid in San Francisco "liked" your Soundcloud jam but you didn't make it out to the west coast this year. Things are picking up though. More and more bands are starting to physically get out further with more frequency. James Toth (Wooden Wand) is the one dude in town I know hitting the world as much as he possibly can. Jovo goes out, Tombstalker, Wretched Worst as well. Robert Beatty is busy as a motherfucker with art and Three Legged Race. I'm spacing on others but they exist. Idiot Glee practically lives out of a suitcase. There's a whole slew of musicians that play bars a lot. I work at one and see many a rock band. While I have many friends in that area, I live in the land of "Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!"

Are you going to move to Louisville?
It is a desire but not practical. I have so much invested here in Lexington that at this point it would be a step backwards. This came up on the phone with Mac Finley (Louisville musician and artist) this evening and it just reminded me that I need to visit more frequently. I love Louisville.

I completely agree with you about the Internet making us lazier in the local/regional/whatever independent music world. On the one hand, it's awesome because so much more local music is accessible...If you have a computer and are online, you can record and "release" an album in a day, and hundreds or millions of people can hear it that night. On the other hand, physical releases are dying, and have become almost a novelty art form. But that in and of itself can be a good thing; cassettes are back, reminding me of the Freesound label of the early 2000s in Lexington. People are putting out vinyl and cassettes for no reason than the love of it, because most of us are not making shit on merch at shows anymore.

You've always pursued other endeavors. Art is art. Talk about your visual arts. And your writing.

Last fall I made up a fictitious periodical set in the future called Minimum Jail. I've done a few covers thus far but nothing beyond that.    While i consider myself to be a visual learner and am downright obsessed with pictures, colors, light, darkness, everything i see, i dont think it would be honest of me to identify myself as a  "visual artist". I recently started up one of those portfolio sites to compile my various mediums online for people to see, read, hear, etc. and listed myself as a visual artist and to be frank, im going to delete that because i dont think that is accurate. i think it is a skill, a trade that takes work, not something that just "falls out" of me. sure i have ideas that have transpired in that medium throughout the years but ive never fully married myself to the full blown life of it. What i want out of the process is too detailed and out of my skill set without devoting 10+ hrs a day to be happy with. I went to art school for a couple of semesters but it left me confused and unsatisfied so i dropped out. People find it so easy to label themselves an artist just because they bust out some doodle or are "weird". If you're not putting your everything into it, then you're not an artist. Just be honest and call it a hobby or admit that you feel cool being considered an artist. Fuck craving attention for something you don't even really slave that hard for. For better or worse I always end up focusing all my creative energy into playing music. Drawing at this point is a hobby.  Joe and I do some screen printing stuff but between music and me working and him going to school full time, we haven't made a huge dent yet in the ideas we have. Hopefully this summer we are going to devote more time to our visual pursuits. 

In terms of writing, yeah, I'm a writer. I write poetry. Granted I end up dumping most of it off in the music ghetto but its essentially the written word at some point and its something I work on daily. I mentioned this in an interview several years ago but writing is prayer to me. I dunno, I've been addicted to writing since I was old enough to get it on paper and it keeps me on point with my life. I'd like to get back into writing short stories but I always end up writing songs instead.

I've been doing lots of things to deal with the world over the years. Writing, music, weird attempts at visual scrawling, film, photos, alcohol, drugs, therapy...considering meditation now. Ever tried it?
What's your thoughts? Let's rap.

Writing music alone is my highest form of meditation. It's the one thing that slows everything down so I'm able to channel the marrow of life. It comes off as hokey but I'm sure a lot of what drives me to keep going does. The process of how a song comes together is so internal and dependent on being open to letting go while letting in with my spirit. Drawing for me is fun but I can't "go away" like I can playing guitar. Drugs or drinking can be a blast but for me, it's best to keep my head on straight and hang with coffee and grass. Anything that takes precedence over my girl or my dog isn't a quality way to go.

Crowley said "Man is ignorant of the nature of his own being or his own powers". I grappled with that notion for a long time and finally realized that I just had to accept it. Gratefully I started to see that if I wanted to progress, I needed to clear some space, get unnecessary baggage out of the picture. The days I turn my back on what I consider to be instruments of weakness are the days that I move forward. Obviously nothing is ever perfect or even explainable all the time but that's the point. If the deck is cleared, you're urged inside yourself to work through the muck. Getting in touch with clarity is the essence.

Man, sports kinda drive me nuts. I know people love it but the whole $circus$ vibe makes me sick. Being in Lexington, you can't avoid basketball, it's the most important thing in town or whatever. I dunno. If I stay home or go to Joe or Clint's place I can avoid the spring insanity. Which is exactly what I do. But you gotta walk to Clint's because he lives right by where the UK arena is. Nowhere to park. Ugh. 
Favorite band? Too many. The Black Flag reunions bum me out. Nobody in either camp has anything better to do? "I made a summer playlist. Two Jovontaes songs on it. They're the best. Also jamming Ashra, Wire, Rhyton, Dry Rot, Buzzcocks. The Men put out "New Moon" a couple months back and I love it so much. Salad Influence is playing with them in June. Very excited to hear the new songs live. Also been jamming this band from Northern Virgina called United Mutation. They were around in the early 80's. Brutal hardcore with some far out moments in a headier vein. Right now I'm listening to Soft Machine's "Seven". Weird record.

Haha. Yeah. Sports. I've never been a fan. I've hated the mob mentality of sports fans since grade school. I remember in 8th grade wondering why it was OK to actually stop classes to watch a basketball game. Basketball is nothing but pure entertainment. It made no sense to me that we were allowed to stop class to watch this form of entertainment that I had zero interest in, yet if some concert were to be on TV that I thought was important, we would not be allowed to stop classes for that. This feeling has existed my whole life. It happened a million times in high school. It happens at my cubicle/desk job now. We aren't supposed to stream or watch anything on our computers at work UNLESS it's a UK or UL game during March...then it's alright. Fuck that.

Sports are often considered more important than art, which floors me. I recognize athletic skill, but the importance placed on basketball, football, and baseball is fucking bullshit. And yeah, I have plenty of intelligent friends who are sports fans, but the majority of fans are stupid and assholes. I can give a zillion examples of their stupidity and assholishness. And the mob mentality that is encouraged among college basketball fans in both Lexington and Louisville is scary and ridiculous. Again, you can have a thousand kids come out of a metal concert at Rupp Arena  and get hassled to shit by the cops; a UK game lets out, people trash the entire fucking city, and cops will often let more of it go, shrugging it off as "well, they're just proud of their Cats." I fucking hate it, and it was a contributing factor for me to leave Lexington. Louisville has obsessives here, too, but I've been able to avoid the scenes a little more easily because the city is a bit more spread out.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Teeth - "Brennschluss"

The Teeth don't chaw on just any post-punk muck, never spending too much gulping the molasses and butter of predictable no or new wave that gangrene some punk. It's a descendant of victuals of the crud-garage, as well as the surf-math that can walk barefoot far back into certain Louisville bands of the past.

Ben Herning's vocals alter per song, throwing a wordy state of mind through verses that are sometimes sentences, at times creating islands of almost-stories, inlets of narrative concepts that ferment kvass-like into some some exotic mountainous climax, or maybe anti-climax, within the song. Calling The Teeth anything broad-tongued like garage, proto-punk or post-rockcore is pointless and off. This band has been mining their own sound since 2001, and the current lineup has been exploring the tracts of raw theurgies since 2005, twisting, pulling, scraping and making these genres into their creative own.

In Minutes brilled with The Teeth's volted imagery, much of it produced by Brad Anderson's dirty fucking abstruse bass, which seems to war through the songs with its own aggressive walking, bending the songs left. I've always found there to be something dark within the jangle of The Teeth's music, and I think the bent nature of Matt Dodd's guitar colonized in Anderson's abstracted bass lines add a hard-heart to Herning's voice. JR Rector's percussion is just as combatively original.

Brennschluss continues to explore this stark rock n roll, sometimes popping into rhythms and melodies that  are both intricate, accessible, bring about head-bobbing and send your mind into a divorced mental state that makes you question your reality. Philosophical garage? Kinda scary. But fucking moving and real.

 That disassociated bizarreness bleeds through "Wormwasher" like a dark idea and plunges through "Removal Acoustics," afflicting the song with a soundtrack edge for black nights in unsure places. Even if Anderson sets a groove, Herning's vocals claw cerebrally at the walls. I've seen "Woody Allen Stole My Baby" performed in a room on Chestnut, and it frightened me into a galleyfoisted Byrne dance. So glad it made the cut. Is it about Mia Farrow? Dunno. And that "Sergeant Phoster" is a laid back romp through rebellion and is my favorite.

This album scares me. I love this album more each time I hear it.

Brennschluss by The Teeth is being released by Noise Pollution. The band will celebrate it at Lisa's Oak Street Lounge on Saturday, May 25, with special guests Asm A Tik

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

From Hillbilly to Hipster (A Devolution): J.T. Dockery's Remembrance of Some Nice Kentucky Record Stores Past He's Known to Benefit the Reopening of Mark Rudolph's "Closing Doors"....Part II

As part of a series of record store remembrances to help promote the Indiegogo campaign to fund a reprinting of Mark Rudolph's graphic novel "Closing Doors" (Nix Comics), American Gloam is presenting an installment by artist/musician JT Dockery. Part II continues Dockery's memories of brick-and-mortar stores in rural Kentucky, including his time spent working as a record store clerk at The Outpost in Berea. To read Part I, click here.

Mr. Dockery and Jeffrey Scott Holland in Berea, performing as Cheeseburger and Fries

Written by J. T. Dockery
I even ended up being a record store clerk, after a fashion, in my early twenties. My pal and often collaborator in all sorts of shenanigans, Jeffrey Scott Holland, opened up a record/used book store/art-performance space, the Outpost (or for those of us a few degrees up the line knew it to be the "Creeps Outpost") in the aforementioned Berea, south of Lexington, circa 1998/99. With the small college in that town, and in the early days of the internet/downloading when the physical artifact of music still sold reigned, the local community was hungry for a record store (ironically, at the time, the nearest brick and mortar record store was Recordsmith, but many of the students didn't drive...Recordsmith would hold on until May of 2003, and even had a second location in Berea towards the end, but the end did come when sans fanfare it closed its doors). To say Jeff ran his store loosely would be an understatement, even calling it a business would be stretching the point. Holland, at that time, viewed most of his forays into business more as temporary art projects, even though the upstairs location in one of the centers of Berea's shopping districts, made its rent the first month it was open without any advertising or even an external sign to the building for the shop.
My gig was mostly to go down on the weekends from Lexington and inhabit the store to give Holland, and his wife at the time (he had no other employees) a break, in exchange for gas money/lunch money, a few extra bucks here and there, and, perhaps, more importantly, barter time for records/CDs. If your average, decent independent record store was curated, then Holland's Outpost was curated on the next level. He viewed his selection of vinyl and CDs as being fit to suit his own tastes in music, not the customer's. Granted, Jeff's knowledge of music was pretty vast and his selection represented that, but it was that knowledge and cherry picking which was presented to the potential customer, not some notion of catering to a vague common denominator.
He bought used music, but the thing about Jeff is if someone brought in music to sell/trade, he'd give you more money/credit than your average store if he thought the music was good (his pricing was that used stuff of quality had a higher than average price on the shelf). But if someone brought in music he thought was crap (not popular or unpopular, but a value judgement on Holland's part) then it was purchased from the seller and resold on the shelf at a very reduced price, equal to its perceived lack of value, in general. Jeff's section for this sort of product was actually labeled "CRAP." And some customers routinely shopped the "CRAP" section, with no apparent shame. There was a local punk scene based around Eugene Records, and both Jeff and I fostered a relationship with those cats, played some house shows locally (Jeff and I performed music together in various projects). I had a well-attended art exhibition there, with lots of locals, and friends coming down to Lexington. I remember Jeff laughing that he made more money off people shopping the records during the opening than I did selling art.

Jeffrey Scott Holland, owner of The Outpost in Berea, posing with musician/writer/artist Sexton Ming
 I remember trying to impress a girl in a Danzig shirt who would more than ten years later end up being my girlfriend (only through the synchronicity of me telling an anecdote, a Misfits song on the radio in a coffee shop together invoked the memory, about the "girl in the Danzig shirt" did she put two and two together and explain she WAS the "girl in the Danzig shirt," failing to capture her attention then, I did later, at least). I remember the trio of cute high school German foreign exchange students that would come in the store and hang out with me in their free time, and the "parents" of one of the girls putting a stop to that when she actually entered the store and realized the girls were hanging out with a questionable young man chain-smoking and wearing his thrift store vintage finest in Jeff's less-than-standard Outpost. And, yes, hard to believe he not only allowed me to smoke "on the job" but there was a vintage ashtray by the register, so I could still smoke and ring up customers. Holland's store only lasted as long as his marriage. But in that time period, Holland put out an album ("Marshun Love Secrets") by the British outsider artist/musician/writer Sexton Ming who played a show with us in Lexington and visied the store in 1999 that established a friendship and collaboration that still exists today, and it was Jeff giving me money out of the register to go see Hasil Adkins for the first time in West Virginia as an emissary that began our relationship with him that resulted in his Lexington appearances and ultimately the "Night Life" LP, his last studio record. There are more stories I could tell (and some I could not) about the Outpost days, but, alas, again: gone are the days.
The previously mentioned Lexington-based Cut Corner also went out of business in the late 90s, but the actual physical space was taken over by record store upstart, CD Central, helmed by Steve Baron, so the continuity was pleasant. But even before Cut Corner's closing, I regularly stopped by Steve's original location, just a block down the road. A success story, Steve's store still inhabits that space to that day, a feather in the cap of Lexington's retail culture. I can recall, years ago now, Steve showing up to eat towards the end of the shift at my employer for several years, the independent cajun restaurant, Gumbo Ya Ya, and stepping out from the kitchen to talk to him as it was slow in the last hour before closing, Steve telling me that his reaction to people pontificating why he'd try to maintain and independent record store in the decline of the physical artifact of music that the big sellers of compact discs were either completely phasing out disc media or making it minimal and that, by surviving, he'd end up with virtually no competition. I'm glad his prophecy came true, and glad to see the certain "rebirth" of vinyl. Lexington now, in addition to Steve's CD Central, has Sami's Music aka The Album, owned by Sami Ibrahim (my original "music director" my first year as an on-air DJ at the aforementioned WRFL) which caters more to the hip-hop crowd, and the mighty thrift store with huge used only vinyl stock, Pop's Re-Sale Shop (and lots of friends have worked there, and still do, and its history was part of my own history, it just didn't inform/shape me as much, as Pops arose later in my twenties), and even a few more brick and mortars than those mighty three, and it's good to know that these stores/stories/my history are not all doom-and-gloom and that the independent record store culture still survives and thrives in Lexington, and that young people there are still being shaped by that experience.

Artist Ben Durham outside of CD Central in Lexington. Photo by Joseph Turner.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

From Hillbilly to Hipster (A Devolution): J.T. Dockery's Remembrance of Some Nice Kentucky Record Stores Past He's Known to Benefit the Reopening of Mark Rudolph's "Closing Doors"....Part I

As part of a series of record store remembrances to help promote the Indiegogo campaign to fund a reprinting of Mark Rudolph's graphic novel "Closing Doors" (Nix Comics), American Gloam is presenting an installment by artist/musician JT Dockery. Part I focuses on Dockery's memories of brick-and-mortar stores in rural Kentucky, as well as Recordsmith in Richmond.

Written by JT Dockery.

Growing up in rural eastern Kentucky, and when I say rural, I mean rural Jackson county. The county seat was Mckee which had (and still only has) one stoplight, population 500 (I lived a few miles away in the slightly less cosmopolitan Gray Hawk area). The notion of record stores seemed like some distant urban dream. Born 2/5/76, it was a drive of at least 45 minutes that ever even put me in areas that had your K-Marts and Wal-Marts as retail outlets that sold albums, singles and tapes.

I did have an early interest in pop music. My first purchases bought with chore money/allowances (my parents were both school teachers, so compared to many of my peers in the cash poor agricultural landscape (most of Jackson county was and still is National Forest, actually), I had a relatively posh middle class existence). Top forty eighties radio and the rise of the music video were my first informants. I recall with distinct clarity the feeling of putting a 45 of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" on my Fisher-Price record player. The first time I ever remember becoming aware of Prince was seeing a Prince and the Revolution on a female classmate's notebook. I remember my best friend getting four copies of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album for his birthday in that year of the gloved one (1984--and for the record he refused to give me any of the extra copies (he went on to become a conservative Republican)). And in third grade I recall sitting in class and staring at another friend's copy of Whodini's "Escape" album on cassette and, not even listening to it, staring at the j-card at my desk as if it was some artifact from an alien culture.

At this time, the closest relative to a bonafide record store on my radar would have been the chain variety seen in shopping malls of the 80s. The nearest place that had these was an hour and half drive to the "big city" of Lexington, KY. As my "musical taste" developed, and the advent of cable tv was followed by the input of Headbanger's Ball which made its debut on MTV in 1987, followed by Yo! MTV Raps in 1989 (although I had jumped on the rap (I wouldn't have yet used the word hip-hop to describe the music) bandwagon with RUN DMC's "Raising Hell" album from '86 as one of my first full length cassette purchases, my tastes veered toward rap and metal: the two musical forms that a) had the least to do with a rural Appalachian upbringing/lifestyle and b) the most likely to annoy my elders).

All this rambling, parenthetical or not, to me to circa age 12 (1988). The first time I became aware of any actual independent record store would have been around this age. Some buddy of mine, I know it would have been one or two of my older metal head pals (punk had not found its way to Jackson county, seemingly), hipped me to the fact that there was a record store in Richmond, KY (about a forty five minute drive away): Recordsmith. I can still recall vividly my first trip there. It was the first time I ever stepped into a record store that seemed, although I wouldn't use the word at the time, curated. The vinyl, the tapes (I can see the locked boxes for the cassettes in my mind's eye) and the burgeoning compact disc format were not like your department store or even mall record stores...this selection was not all the flavor of the month new stuff plus a random flotsam and jetsam of older stuff and "classic" big sellers, oh no, this was the entire discographies of bands/artists. And stuff I didn't even recognize. The first clerk that helped me was Martin Shearer, and opening up the cassette section for me in the general K-L area, he looked my young frame up and down and said, "I'll bet you're getting a Led Zeppelin tape." My little hand was in fact reaching out for something from the KISS canon, feeling like maybe I should pick up something by Led Zep instead, and it was also the first time I'd encountered the zen of the indie record store clerk/store owner.

I was hooked on that kind of experience. It turned out that Martin was in the Lexington-based band Stranglemartin (who, starting in '89, had a nice run of a few years putting albums out up through '95 on indie labels and did make some indie rock scene waves) was my clerk that day, and his cohort, Jeff Duncan, who also played in Lexington bands, quickly came to recognize me and watch me "grow up" in a sense. My own tastes developed into my teen age years, and they also helped to guide that taste, making suggestions as one album/one band led to another, and I descended farther into more obscure metal and into punk rock and the emergence of the 90s alternative scene. They even put the zine I put out in high school in their magazine section. And when my mother remarried, we moved to Berea, KY which was only a fifteen minute drive from Recordsmith, and when I started driving, solo-trips to Recordsmith became common. Those guys even got to see me with my first "real" girlfriend senior year of high schook, who was from Richmond come in together; she had been, on her own, a loyal customer growing up going to shop. And even after I moved on to Lexington for college, I would still stop back in and see those guys. I even ended up playing some shows on the same line up, as a musician myself, with Jeff's band, later on.

The move to Lexington put me down the rabbit hole of the infamous Cut Corner Records on Limestone. There I would see cartoonist John Howard working on his comics in the downstairs section of the store (the vinyl vault that gave way as the popularity of vinyl waned into the expanded video rental section--the store did not live to see the reverse of this dynamic, haw), but I was too shy to approach him about his work (we would get to know each other later). And I knew of his work primarily via an interview with John by Aaron Lee, whose zine, "Blue Persuasion," was a big hit in the zine world. His girlfriend at the time, Mary Burt, also published "Sad Magazine" (she worked at a store next door to Cut Corner) and cartoonist Peter Bagge gave props to them in an issue of his comic book "Hate." Made me feel like running down the streets of Lexington yelling at people, "Don't you realize how cool that is that Aaron Lee and Mary Burt were plugged by Peter Bagge and THEY LIVE RIGHT HERE AND WORK IN OUR HIPSTER STORES!" Oh well, gone are the days. And gone are the days when the people who worked at Cut Corner at various times there as age 18 and 19 became my early twenties were my "elder" shaping and informing my interests in music/zines/books/weirdo culture in general. Not to mention the connection that many of us shared via WRFL 88.1FM, the University of Kentucky's student/volunteer non-commercial radio station.

To be continued...

Photos of Recordsmith provided by Central Rock Company.

Submit your own memories of record stores to Ken Eppstein at Nix Comics (

To contribute to the Indiegogo campaign, please click here.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Interview with Ryan Patterson of Coliseum

Coliseum has been breaking it open the last few weeks, tearing through blogs and sites and bandcamps and whatall with news, reviews and talk of their latest LP Sister Faith. The album was released on Temporary Residence at the end of April, and has gotten knocked up for an aeolian glide that has brought accolades from Pitchfork  and Stereogum, as well as this absorbing analysis by popmatters.

This isn't really a surprise. Begun in 2003 by guitarist/vocalist Ryan Patterson, Coliseum has been impressing people with release after release of gripping post-punk/punk rock/loud music/whathaveyou, both in and out of Louisville. Coliseum put out a split seven inch with Superchunk, goddamnit. They were signed to Relapse Records. Their albums are produced by fucking J. Robbins of Jawbox. Echelons have been reached for this band. We always figured they'd return, and they did it boulderish.

Sister Faith is a distorted kit that checks the simple truths of life: death, sorrow, pain. But its not all raw screams. Patterson has graduated passed the level of needing to impress with tilted nongagged anger. It's one of those moments in a discography that seems to capture the energy and grueling effort a band has been cranking through for 10 years and lord over that experience with a personal mantra that glues the treatment together perfectly. Robbins understands this sort of music. Bands like Jets to Brazil have benefited from his input, as now does Coliseum.

Oddly, I knew of Ryan more through his other bands. Black God fucked my mind up at 2am at Cropped Out a couple of years ago. And Whips/Chains destroyed me at a house show in 2012. Plus, we managed to work a few months together at one of our favorite places in Louisville: Wild and Woolly Video.

The Sister Faith record release party for Louisville is tonight, Friday May 10 at Zanzabar. Opening will be Tropical Trash and Anwar Sadat. I'm gonna mouth off and go ahead and say it'll be one of the loudest and best band battles of  the year. I appreciate Ryan taking some time to fire back some answers to some questions.


American Gloam: It's been interesting getting to know you and Evan [Patterson] separately since I moved back to Louisville a few years ago. I was just curious if you two have ever collaborated. I know there was the split seven inch between Coliseum and Young Widows, but I meant in the same project (this question might prove some ignorance on my part right off the bat, but I'm willing to throw that out there)...

RYAN: Well, Evan and I did bands together since we were kids, but most notably Evan formed the National Acrobat which I joined after about a year. The Acrobat was one of our first bands to receive a fair share of acclaim and tour a bit. After that band broke up, I started Black Widows with Rob Pennington, Evan was upstairs at our house while we were practicing and since we didn't have a bass player he came downstairs...and joined the the band. Black Widows eventually became Black Cross and we did a couple albums and a lot of touring. Evan also started Breather Resist during that time and I started Coliseum shortly after that. We haven't played music together since Black Cross ended but we often talk about it. I'm sure it will happen again eventually.

AG: What separates Sister Faith from House with a Curse? That article describes the changes since the first album, but from a songwriter’s point of view, what do you feel the biggest differences were between what you have to say now and what you had to say 3 years ago? Or, yeah...lyrically what has changed over the course of the albums?

RYAN: The approach to both records is essentially the same but I guess we always get better as songwriters and players... I think we knew more of who we are as a band during the writing of Sister Faith. House With A Curse was pretty adventurous for us but it maybe lacked on fun a bit, it was really dark and dour, while still being a damn solid record in my opinion. My point of view changes daily, or at least expands with age and exposure, so the lyrics change accordingly. Sister Faith was great affected by death, loss, confusion, and ultimately love and hope.

AG: That being said, what about the changes in musicians between the last album and now.

RYAN: Kayhan Vaziri joined the band on bass and we clicked into gear in the best way possible. He and Carter, our drummer, are lifelong friends and have played in countless bands together so their chemistry is incredible. We were all operating at the same level and able to make these songs the best they could be.

AG: I’m so impressed (and jealous) that you have recorded with J. Robbins of Jawbox, a band I listened to in the 90s. What would you say he has brought to the sound of Coliseum? To me, it makes perfect sense, considering the sound of Sister Faith. Bands like Jawbox and Shudder To Think and even up through to stuff like Jets to Brazil, Robbins brought a mixture of post-punk aggression mixed with extremely personal lyrics, which I feel is existent on Sister Faith.

RYAN: J. helps us perform at our best and make the songs as good as they can be, makes them sound great, documents them in the best way possible. He feels like a fourth member of the band, he's a great collaborator, a great friend. He makes you better by being supportive and excited, also by helping to create and capture very wonderful tones and sounds of the instruments, amps, and vocals. J.'s bands were big influences to me, along with a lot of the bands he recorded like Kerosene 454 and Monorchid, and the bands that were his peers like Girls Against Boys, Fugazi, Shudder To Think, etc. He's the perfect match for what we're doing because we're coming from the same perspective and in some ways he's part of what shaped that perspective in us.

AG: How long is this tour and how do you plan on keeping your sanity during it?

RYAN: This tour is never ending! Well, this specific run is about five weeks across the Eastern part of North America, then we'll head back to Europe & the UK for a couple weeks to do some festivals over there, then come back and do some midwest and East Coast stuff before finally going out West again, then probably going back to Europe! I just try to stay as chill as possible, get as much sleep as I can, stay healthy. It can be difficult but luckily I have great bandmates and we all get along really well.

AG: Are you or will you be working anymore with Black God?

RYAN: Yeah, Black God and my other side project Whips/Chains are still active, but both bands are mostly on hiatus for the rest of the year. Black God just finished our third 7" EP and it will come out sometime later this year on No Idea Records.

AG: Only asking you this knowing we're both huge movie nerds: were you a Ray Harryhausen fan? He was one of my biggest idols. Been on my mind a lot since his death yesterday. Seems like someone you might have been into. Just curious.

RYAN: Of course! I grew up with stop motion and Harryhausen's effects and the people he inspired. I loved Clash Of The Titans as a kid, along with the Sinbad movies, all the various monster and dinosaur movies he did, Might Joe Young...all that stuff. It was such a big part of movie magic, it didn't seem real - it seemed beautiful and magical. I really hate CG, I'm tired of it and mostly bored by it. I love practical effects, even when they aren't that great. I'll definitely miss Ray Harryhausen and hopefully stop motion won't die with him.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New Bravado - "Unconcious Afternoon EP"

We were funneled onto a blindingly bright Highland Ave, blocked and zoned for Record Store Day. "This band is amazing" my friend spat at me in a hoarse voice. "But I think I'm too high for something this heavy this early in the day."

It isn't that the band is too heavy. It's that the sun is too bright on this cold Spring day, and this a band that should play in dark with fumes, mimes and splayed lights mythologizing them. A picnic band, New Bravado is not.

They had already started. I was a block away and gated a jog to get to the sidewalk in time. After hearing Unconscious Afternoon in my kitchen I got impressed and was intent on witnessing. While Ben Lally's subsequent band Benanthrope blends twists on singer-songwriter material, New Bravado is a pan into fuzzed psych-rock with no inhibitions to that end.

Coffee, short breath, gangrened eyes from the foisted Great Glarer above, and New Bravado is playing at something like noon and oh shit who just handed me beer and wine and the band splays a sidewalk, bending into a space groove. Did we just huff some black ice car air fresheners?

Unconscious Afternoon, New Bravado's debut EP, eats the living flesh and spirit that is Hawkwind, Sabbath, Blue Mountain Eagle, and the 60s/70s fuzz-psych galley. "Death Wobble" mumble sideways with Ben's sweeping vocals, cinch-ringed to a saddle of heavy rock, but sputs any frills and just power chords Thunder and Roses-style into a neurine groove that isn't pretentious, ironic or knuckled. "Nobody Saw Nothin'" isn't a reference to but just sits and stirs in some cosmic shit. The opening wriggle of flange and toms that is the title track eventually lashes to an exotic crease before securing itself to a chorus that makes the drive of the song corrugate with a blend of psychedelia, doomish rock and biker speed that you forgot where you started. 

New Bravado has gotten into the same wind that local favorites Old Baby are kiting, and deserve as much attention. A show between the two would be magnificent; I think their muses interact somewhere in the atmosphere.

Heavily recommended.

New Bravado will play their EP release party at Zazoo's on Friday May 10 with special guests Adventure, The Screaming Hand, and Ancient Warfare.

Bonus interview with Ben Lally:

me: So, when did New Bravado start, how, who came up with the idea, what was the motivation, what was the original intent of the sounds, has it changed?

bEN:  Our bass player Adam Copelin did all of the tracking, editing, mixing, and mastering. The tracking we did over at my house, or "Veggie Beef Stewdio" as I sometimes call it.
I was wanting to do something a little more rock focused than Benanthrope; write for and play out in another outfit that wasn't going to sound the same; something that would allow me to get different ideas out of my skull -the louder, more guitar heavy, rockin' ones especially. I gathered up my tunes like that and called some homies. Adam Copelin, Jason Walker, Colin Kellogg, and I started playing music in late Spring last year as The New Bravados.

Originally, as a base, the songs felt early garage, early psych, early metal, and early punk (Sonics, Stooges, Velvets, Black Sabbath, Zepplin, early Stones, early Floyd) without going specifically in one direction, but starting in a good place. Structurally those first songs we still play haven't changed a bunch, but after practicing every week for a few months, and playing shows they became more bright, thick, nasty and modern. They've been a great proving ground to help us realize our sounds and where we can take them.
Two out of six songs on our debut record were completely written together as a whole band; tracks 1 and 4. And, all of the first ones sound a lot cooler now than they did before everyone sprinkled their magic on them. We've all come together and shared in the process of the songs' evolution and their recording. With a little help from our friends as well. Most notably the invaluable help of Ezra Kellerman on artwork.

That's what I love about this band and where I think it's going: there's an organic, collective creativity and comradery. Everyone brings alot to the table and plays their hearts out. You can hear that on the record, engineering and all. We're working on more tunes now and I'm excited to see where our process will take us.