Absolutely and completely from the heart

Lots of great new (Power Pop) releases this year but it looks like Sloan’s 12 and Rob Bonfiglio’s Trouble Again are a league on their own. Both have this ‘greatest hits’ feeling to it. I could spend a couple of months on a desert island with only these songs to sing along to.

troubleagain

 

 

What was the biggest fun during the making of the last album?

 

…Watching these songs come to life. It’s that simple. I recorded this album entirely solo which is a rather unique way to go about the process. On one hand, it’s incredibly liberating and 100% satisfying from an artistic standpoint, but can sometimes get a bit lonely. Such is the result of being an introvert. I’m a bit of a conscientious control freak. I’m very particular about every nuance of my songs, and I have an ability to keep a pretty clear and concise perspective on the results. When working with other musicians on my own projects, I tend to worry too much about whether I’m being too controlling, sometimes to the detriment of my vision. When working alone, I’ve had the ability to lay ideas down as quickly as they come and I like that freedom.

 

 

At what point, during writing, rehearsing, recording, did you knew you were on to something special?

 

…For the songs that appear on TROUBLE AGAIN, I had at least as many others that didn’t make the final cut, all in various stages of recorded form. I allowed myself the luxury of writing and playing all these songs solo for a good year and a half before recording them for the album which gave me the opportunity to see which went over well and which felt true to me and which weren’t quite ready. I like to believe that the “special” quality is the result of each song being absolutely and completely from the heart and without pretense.

 

 

 

 

The music industry has changed a lot (or so they say). What did it bring you? And what not?

 

… I’ve been in the position of having made records for major and indie labels throughout the years with and without bands. I’ve achieved some degree of success, but not so much that I can’t appreciate the difference between wanting to make a commodity and wanting to share heartfelt music with people who really appreciate it. I’ve faced rejection in this business so many times it’s ridiculous. If anything, my decision to keep going is purely out of love and desire.

At this point in my career, I truly don’t feel the pressure of trying to appease “the man” in any way. I’m humbled and grateful for personal one on one connections with appreciative listeners.

 

 

The meaning of ‘success’ has changed over the years. When will the new record be a success?

 

…If I’m able to move the listener in any positive way, I’m successful.

 

Do you feel part of a community, the power pop community?

 

…Yes and I love and appreciate them all. I don’t consider everything I do to fall neatly into one specific category, but I’m grateful to be generally accepted by such a discriminating bunch, and I mean that in the best of ways.

 

 

Can you still recall the moment music became important to you? What happened?

 

…I honestly can’t remember a time when music wasn’t important to me. Somewhere in my teens, I grew into the realization that I can do this thing called music with a degree of competency. It was probably then that its importance became that much more significant.

 

 

rob-smiles

 

 

Which is the song you wish you had written every time you hear it? And why?

 

…A complex answer to a simple question.What often makes a song great to me is not simply the right combination of lyrics, harmony & melody, but the times and circumstances under which the song was written. If I heard “Only Living Boy in New York” or “Mercy On Broadway” or ”What’s Going On” for the first time today and without any backstory or pretense I’d say yeah, that’s a great song and I wish I’d have written it. But I wasn’t on the verge of parting ways with my musical partner or living through a brutal New York City summer in 1968 America or struggling through the agony of the Vietnam war and the racial division of that era. The “Tommy” suite, “The Song Is Over”, “Save The Country”, “I’d Have You Anytime”, “Living for the City”, “Whispering Pines”, “Suzanne”, “Hallelujah”, “Forever Young”, “If You See Her, Say Hello”, “Oh, You Pretty Things!”, “Marlene”, the list goes on and on. Oh, and let’s not forget “La La Means I Love You” and so many great Motown and Philly soul hits, not to mention the Tin Pan Alley and Brill Building classics. Why? These songs cut real deep for me. I’d like to be able to move others the way these songs have moved me.

 

If the budget was unlimited, how would you record the next record?

 

…Exactly the same but with better gear.

 

 

Every family birthday, same story. Again, you have to explain what kind of band you are in. What’s the story this time for aunt Jenny and uncle Clive?

 

…I’d have to say “guitar-based pop tunes with classic rock influences”.

 

 

What would change if Disney would call and tell you they are going to use your song in their next movie?

 

…I’m fortunate in that it’s happened before. I have a song called SHINE that was featured in Disney’s “Bridge To Terabithia” back in 2008. It’s always a thrill to hear a song you’ve written and recorded on the big screen, no matter what the movie budget. It’s cool to see what scene a song is chosen for. Having the Disney name behind the movie can really raise your profile. In my case, lots of positive fan feedback, the thrill of seeing the song in official sheet music form, appearing on the official movie soundtrack. It’s really exciting stuff.  It’s sort of like watching your child achieve a milestone. I can only hope and wish for more placements to come.

 

 

What’s up for the rest of the year?

 

…I’ll continue to write, record and produce for myself and others in addition to fulfilling my sideman duties with Wilson Phillips and a host of other Los Angeles based artists. I’m happy to say business as usual!

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Nick Piunti talks about his new record

Release date for “Temporary High” is July 20th. On Jem Records. CD/LP/Digital. Also Sugarbush Records is releasing a limited number of LPs for UK/European fans.

Pre-order at Amazon, and it will be available on my band camp site as well. http://www.nickpiunti.com and click on the link of your choice to hear, buy it.

Listen

How did the new record came together?

The album came together as they always do, when I have enough new songs written that I deem “album worthy”. I then head to the studio with Geoff Michael producing, and lay down a scratch guitar and vocal, make sure the tempo, key is right, then go from there. Donny Brown has played drums on my last 4 albums and Andy Reed has played bass on the last 3, so they know exactly what to do.

What can we expect?

I’m a “seasoned songwriter” (a.k.a. OLD) so I definitely have my own style. I don’t try to re-invent what I do, Just try to make it good, and hopefully in some ways better than what I’ve done before.

You produced some high high quality records the last couple of years and received praise for them. Any pressure when you start a new record?

There’s really no pressure, just my own expectations and standards I guess. Though “Temporary High” will be my 4th album in 5 years, I’m not on any kind of schedule to make the next record. I only make records if I’m excited about the current batch of songs.

‘She is in six bands none of them good’, that line still makes me smile every time I hear it. What makes a good Nick Piunti lyric?

I think my best lyrics happen when the first line of the song is strong and engages the listener. Hopefully that first line will grab someone and make them want to hang around for the story to unfold. I think the new album has a lot of those kind of opening lines. the first 3 songs have those kind of hooky lyrics…”Never heard the word no as a kid, so you did what you did”…’You’re perfect and I’m not”…”You invented Hell, and Heaven in the same night, whatever you decide”…

And what about the melodies?

Melodies is really where it’s at, especially in Power Pop. The best songs seem to happen when the melody and lyric occur at the same time, or at least at the same sitting. So melody, hooks are so important, but if the lyrics are fluff, I lose interest.

Maybe my lyrics are a little too intense

Once Pitchfork wrote ‘Like drawing a perfect circle, making a good power-pop record is an elusive task. Portland’s Mo Troper come closer than many have in awhile, with snot-nosed charm.’, about a Mo Troper record.

Exposure & Response is another good power pop record. Actually, it’s a GREAT power pop record!

motroper
Do you feel part of a community, the power pop community?

The “power pop community” in Portland, Oregon is pretty nonexistent, despite this being the birthplace of one of the best power pop bands ever, the Exploding Hearts. There are some people here who supposedly like that style of music, but I feel like they’re mostly drawn in by the aesthetic—light wash denim, vintage Sweet t-shirts, Chelsea boots, cocaine, etc. I haven’t really been embraced by the power pop “old guard,” either, and I’m still trying to figure out why. I think maybe my lyrics are a little too intense for that scene.

Which is the song you wish you had written every time you hear it? And why?

“Short People” by Randy Newman. It’s the only song with a structure that just really baffles me every time I hear it. It’s so rare for the bridge to happen that early in a pop song, and I think it’s one of the things that makes it so effective. It’s a perfect song.

What was the biggest fun during the making of the last album?

I had a lot of fun working with the symphonic players who performed on the album. It was really humbling to watch classically-trained musicians just sort of do their thing all over my dinky pop songs. Specifically, working with Shannon Rose, who played viola and violin on the record and also plays in the band Typhoon, was huge for me. I think her performances really sell those parts.

The meaning of ‘success’ has changed over the years. When will the new record be a success?

For me, success in music is a mixture of two things: Whether or not I feel good about it in retrospect, and whether it actually resonated with people in a significant way. It doesn’t matter how many people. This record generated this unexpected, grassroots interest among music dorks. 1/3 of the records we’ve sold have been international orders. I still get messages from people all over the world who tell me how much they liked the record. I find that way more validating than paying a publicist thousands of dollars to get on a website like Pitchfork, only to disappear from the public consciousness a day later. That stuff can be exciting, but it’s ultimately fleeting.

What would change if Disney would call and tell you they are going to use your song in their next movie?

Maybe my bank account balance, but that’s about it.

What’s up for the rest of the year?

I’ve spent the last three months working on a new record, and it will hopefully be done by the end of the year. I’m trying to make the best power pop album of all time.

KEXP writes:
Last year Portland songwriter Mo Troper released the excellent Exposure & Response, a record packed with decadent power-pop hooks and decadent musical arrangements. But more than just being a collection of songs where nearly each one can get rotation in my subconscious for months), Troper weaves narratives and parables with a cast of delightfully obtuse characters that would give a Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel a run for its money.

So, there really is this yin/yang between super melodic and heavy guitars.

tomcurless

 

Tom Curless is the progenitor and leader of indie pop/rock outfit Your Gracious Host. Songs of Movement is his first proper solo effort going out under his own name. It will be released on Futureman records on June 29th, 2018.

 

Smart lyrics, catchy melodies, a flock of high-quality songs. Make sure you catch this one!

 

 

 

The biggest fun making the new record came when I recorded the song “Oceans of Love” in Chicago. I had no plan to record the track, really all I had was the verse and a general idea of the melody. I was playing it between takes of another song we were doing and Brian Leach who was recording, (and is also a musician, and former bandmate), liked it and he said: “what is that?” I said, “Oh its nothing” and he said, “No, that is really cool, we should work on that”. We went with it and the next thing you know we had the whole basic track recorded that day, it just took on a complete life of its own. We must have spent a few hours on it but it was so fun because the creative juices were flowing- it felt like 5 minutes.

A song I wish I wrote is a song called Easter Theatre by XTC on their Apple Venus Vol 1 record. Something about that song gives me goosebumps every time I hear it, the words, the melody, the orchestration, particularly the coda.

 

There is something so majestic about it, and that is hard to achieve. Just super melodic and it checks all my boxes. A very close second is Run Like Hell by Pink Floyd. I love the huge guitar riff, the stomping beat and the menace of the lyrics. That song is a perfect example of the great writing combination of Waters and Gilmour.

 

Music has always been pretty important to me as long as I can remember. I have very early memories listening to my siblings’ record collection and being mesmerized by Led Zeppelin 4. Back before the internet, it felt like this whole other powerful thing coming into my quiet suburban home in New Jersey. I would turn on the stereo and crank it up and get lost in the music.

 

I remember the first record I bought with my own money was Queen “A Night at the Opera” at Scotti’s in Summit NJ and I completely wore it out. I was so excited to get it home. I still own it, and it has my name written on it in my 10-year-old handwriting.

 

curless2

 

If the budget was unlimited for the next record, I would hire Steve Lillywhite and Hugh Padgham and fly to England to camp out and record at Abbey Road Studio 2. I remember back in the early to mid 80’s, all my favorite bands/artists were recorded by either Steve Lillywhite, Hugh Padgham, or both.

 

I have also always fantasized about recording an album at either Abbey Road or the Manor (Richard Branson’s studio). Who hasn’t? The problem would be we would not get any work done because I would keep asking them about all the bands and albums they recorded!!!

 

The family birthday question is a classic. I think any artist gets tired of answering the “Oh, you are a musician? What kind of music do you play??” Like they want a quick one sentence capsule of every aspect of your art. I always struggle because some people don’t understand the “power pop” tag, they just hear “pop” and think it is really light music when really some of my songs are quite heavy in a way. I adore Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren, and The Police but I also love bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Soundgarden, and Van Halen.

 

So, there really is this yin/yang between super melodic and heavy guitars in many of my songs. Sometimes they may be in the same song.  It can be hard to explain because it isn’t just one thing. The early Your Gracious Host records are a bit more acoustic/mellow because I didn’t have the right electric guitars and amps at the time. Once I got the right gear look out I was ready to crank it up!

 

 

True rock & roll has always had an urgency to it, and it’s what I love about it.

Power Pop legend Arthur Alexander (The Poppees, Sorrows) is back, with his solo debut album, One Bar Left.

After all those years the hunger is still there. You might think he has nothing left to prove. You are wrong, so wrong! Listen! And Watch

Arthur-Alexander-360x360

BUY it on RED VINYL

So the time was right to release your first solo record?

It was more than the right time.  After Sorrows album was re-released in 2010, I really got the fire under my ass to get back to playing and recording again.  I knew the time has come to do my own thing and actually started working on this record.  But as the John Lennon quote goes: “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”.  Almost as on queue, every time I started working on this record, some other production jobs would come along and divert my time and attention, like the last T-Model’s record (he died 6 months later), King Mud (featuring guys from Diamond Heavies and Left Lane Cruiser), The Bloodhounds, Dirty Eyes, and many others.

You are using a lot of different styles. Do you start writing a song with a certain style in mind or is the song showing you which direction to go?

If you listen to Sorrows records, you’ll hear that my songs are all over the place stylistically. I like so many things, classical music, blues, jazz, you name it… rock n’ roll is my passion, but the influences, styles, and sounds come from all over the place.  That’s because, to me, there are only two kinds of music – good and bad.  I don’t give a shit where it comes from.  As long as it feels and sounds good, it IS good! (Joe Meek gets credit for that line! J)… People tell me you can hear a lot of “film music” vibe in some of my arrangements.  Well, I love Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone!… During my “punk days” I hated disco, even had a “disco sucks” belt buckle! … but the stuff The Bee Gees did on “Saturday Night Fever”?… Absolutely fucking brilliant! Classic!…  I still remember when Sorrows were trying to get a record deal, the geniuses at CBS Records told me the music was too eclectic, too all over the place, too much like this, not enough like that. Well, six months later we were signed to CBS and the same geniuses thought I was the next fucking Gershwin and could walk on water! lol

I never start writing with any “style” in mind.  The music just comes and I let it take me wherever it feels like the song wants to go.  Sure, I may have a general idea about the sound and the vibe that’s in my head, how I’d like the song to be as I begin to work on it, but I don’t get stuck on it. In fact, I think that most of the time, the final outcome ends up being quite different than what I started out with and I’m cool with that.

There is an urgency to all the songs. Hope you take that as a compliment. Still, plenty to prove? Or just angry? Or still on a mission? Or…?

I think it’s my DNA!  The overabundance of energy… I was always a hyperactive kid!  True rock & roll has always had an urgency to it, and it’s what I love about it.  When it doesn’t, it turns into schlock.

“Ready! Set! Go man go!

I got a gal that I love so

I’m ready ready ready Teddy

Ready ready ready to

Rock ‘n’ roll!!!…”

Urgent enough, eh?… this guy just can’t wait to… 😉

Mind you, to me, urgency doesn’t have to have anything to do with just the ‘tempo’ of the song, it’s the feeling I’m trying to convey.  I love rockin’ fast songs, but even when I write a slow, sweet love ballad, I think that by injecting a feeling of restlessness it gives the song a certain edginess to it you may not even realize is there, but it affects you on a subconcious level.  Love is always… urgent.

And yes, sometimes I am angry.  By definition, anger has an urgency to it, or you might as well relax and not be so pissed off about something.  So if I write a song that’s angry, if I don’t play it like that, to make you feel my anger, then what’s the point?…  Sometimes it’s also therapeutic and cost-effective.  Writing “Shot In The Heart” must have saved me thousands of dollars on shrink bills! 😉

And yes, absolutely, I’m still on a mission!!!.. Music, and music making is my life. I love writing, recording and playing live. And most of all, I feel like I still have something to say that will resonate with people.  As an artist, nothing is more rewarding to me than seeing people be affected by my music.  Show me an artist who tells you he or she doesn’t give a shit if people like their stuff or not, and I’ll show you a lier.

The music industry has changed a lot (or so they say). What did it bring you? And what not?

It’s definitely true, the changes in the music industry have been monumental.  And as with anything else, there are upsides and downsides to it.

As opposed to the “good old days” when the record companies were the gate-keepers to your fame and fortune, today, the possibilities for getting your music out there are practically limitless. You’re the best example of that!  J

On the other hand, these days any tone-deaf person with songwriting skills of a rhino (no disrespect to a rhino) and a credit card can become a recording artist, engineer, producer and a record label in the time it takes to get to and from your local music store and be rich and famous by the weekend.

What did it bring me?  The ability to get my music out without asking the music industry’s permission to do so.  Of course, now I’m sharing that gift not with, say, 5,000, but with 50,000,000 other people! Lol…

What did it not being me? Nothing I am worried about.  I’m at the point in my career where I don’t worry if the music industry will accept me and make me the next Justin Bieber (no danger of that either!). I write and play the music I love to play.  I don’t write or play the stuff trying to fit in with the flavor of the week.  I don’t care if I’m ‘current’, or if they call me ‘dated’ or ‘retro’.  There are only a few things that matter to me: is the music good?; did I do the best I could with it?; am I being true to myself?  If the answer is ‘yes’, then I’ve done my job.  If people like what I do, I’m happy and grateful.  And if they don’t? Well, they have the other 49,999,999 choices to listen to! 😉

She tells you she will decide on a 5-song-mixtape if there is going to be a second date. Which 5 would you put on?

If the girl tells me that our second date hinges on a fucking mix-tape, I would think I need to hit the bars again or sign up with a different dating website!…

But if I were desperate enough…

1. Long Tall Sally

2. No Particular Place To Go

3. I Saw Her Standing There

4. Under My Thumb

5. Sheena Is A Punk Rocker/Smells Like Teen Spirit

… and if she turned me down based on that selection, that’s just as well, ‘cause there ain’t no future in this act! 😉

 

1960s Garage bands, Snotty Punk from the 1970s, Sun-kissed sweaty Rhythm n’ Blues, and a lot of inspirational people.

jackcades

The Jack Cades was born in late 2017 when Mike (Lead Guitar, Vocals) and Elsa (Rhythm Guitar, Vocals) decided to record some of their songs at Mole’s (Drums) notorious State Records Studios in Folkestone, Kent. They invited John Gibbs (The Masonics, The Wildebeests) to record bass on some of their songs at the time, which resulted in a mini debut LP “Music for Children”, which will be released May 18th on Dirty Water Records.

 

 

The Jack Cades is a mix of a shared passion for inspirational sounds such as 1960s Garage bands, Snotty Punk from the 1970s, Sun-kissed sweaty Rhythm n’ Blues, and a lot of inspirational people.

 

Sweet Sweet Music talked to Elsa Grooveh.

What was the biggest fun during the making of the last album?

 

Music is fun, I always have fun recording. It’s great to see the bits and pieces get together and to listen to the results.

At what point, during writing, rehearsing, recording, did you knew you were on to something special?

To be honest you never really know what the outcome will be until people give you feedback!
When we were mixing the songs though with Mole, Mike and I did kind of stop and think “wow that actually sounds pretty good!”

But it would be quite pretentious to think anything else I think.

The music industry has changed a lot (or so they say). What did it bring you?

It certainly did not bring anything to me, it has definitely changed a lot and is very poor nowadays.

She tells you she will decide on a 5-song-mixtape if there is going to be a second date. Which 5 would you put on?

 

None since I am not into girls 😀
I guess you are asking for my 5 favorites “love” songs?
“You’ve really got a hold on me” – Smokey Robinson and The miracles
“Be my baby” – The Ronettes
“I can’t help myself” – The Four Tops
“At Last” – Etta James

“To love somebody” – Nina Simone

The meaning of ‘success’ has changed over the years. When will the new record be a success?

 

It already is a big success to me in itself, I am very proud of this first LP.

Do you feel part of a community, the power pop community?

 

No, I don’t feel part of any community and do not intend to be part of any community. I have very different friends from very different backgrounds and different countries.

Can you still recall the moment music became important to you?

 

Probably when I was still in my mum’s womb. I’m not trying to be cool by saying that, it’s the truth. I have played the piano since the age of 5 and have played the clarinet, guitar, bass, I have always sung. I’ve been in bands since I was 15. I cannot live without music and I do mean that literally.

 Which is the song you wish you had written every time you hear it?

 

There are so many songs I wish I could have written!!! But my all-time favorite garage punk song is “My Confusion” by The Elite, which has the best solo of all times, the best voice, and just the best sound ever. And they were all teenagers. Such talent.

If you could tour the world with 2 other bands, who would you ask to join?

 

There are not many bands that are playing today which I really like THAT much that I would want to tour the world with them.
But if I could travel back in time I’d quite happily tour with The Beatles in 1963, and then I’d tour with the Damned in 1977 although that would probably be painful.
Magic can happen when you are playing in front of a crowd. What was the first time it happened?

It happened at our first and only gig in April this year! hahaha!

cades2
If the budget was unlimited, how would you record the next record?

The best analog studio in the world… Wherever that might be. I don’t want to get any ideas so I’m not going to do any research.

Or we would just actually buy a manor house and buy the best equipment and the best instruments in the world and get Mole to do some work.

Every family birthday, same story. Again, you have to explain what kind of band you are in. What’s the story this time for aunt Jenny and uncle Clive?

 

Aha! That’s a good one, what a pain in the backside! I always say to people who don’t know the kind of music we play and like that we aim to sound a bit like the rolling stones. (laughs)

What would change if Disney would call and tell you they are going to use your song in their next movie?

 

Well, that would pay the bills for a while.

What’s up for the rest of the year?

 

We have just returned to the studio at North Down Sound in Folkestone, Kent to record 5 tracks. We are looking to put out a single soon and another album in the nearish future.

It’s purposely eclectic because that’s who I am.

‘It’s purposely eclectic because that’s who I am.’, says Lane Steinberg about his new record Lane Steinberg & His Magical Pony.

This turned into a 15 song journey, a very exciting one.

lane

 

 

 

 What was the biggest fun during the making of the last album?
The album is a compilation of sorts, highlighting my collaborations. It’s purposely eclectic because that’s who I am. I wanted to compile an album of new songs that would be a good introduction for anyone curious about my music. When I listened back to the finished album I was satisfied that I’d fulfilled my objective.

The music industry has changed a lot (or so they say). What did it bring you? And what not?
I am not part of the industry or what’s left of it. I’ve always been on the outside looking in. I know people who’ve been signed to major labels and publishing companies who later emerged jaded and damaged. For better or worse, I never had that opportunity. But I’ve mostly had the luxury to create what and when I want to. Certainly, I am able to reach more people now than when I first started out 35 years ago with The Wind.

The meaning of ‘success’ has changed over the years. When will the new record be a success?
I am realistic on this front. I have lived long enough to see guitar pop turn into a legacy form, like Blues or Jazz. My youth is behind me, but writing, collaborating, and creating music still brings me happiness. That is success.

What would change if Disney would call and tell you they are going to use your song in their next movie?
Not much. I’d pay some bills, maybe open a good bottle of wine to celebrate, but I do that anyway. As I said, my fantasies and expectations have been tempered by the years. I am grateful to be working with people whose talents I admire, artists who challenge and stretch my musical sensibilities. But when Disney calls, I will certainly answer the phone!

 

What’s up for the rest of the year?
After every album, I say, “Well, maybe that’s it. Perhaps I’m done.” And then a bunch of projects presents themselves and I get inspired. Right now I am finishing my fourth 8X8 album with Alex Khodchenko, which has beautiful stuff on it. I am very proud of all the music we’ve created.

 

Next, there is an album of very strong songs I’ve written with Dave Foster that is being produced by Mike Fornatale, who’s worked with the Left Banke and Mark Lindsay. We all play together in a musical collective called ‘Murderers’ Row’. Actually, we are performing tomorrow night, doing a night of songs from 1964. We have phenomenal talent in this outfit and we’ll many different singers singing our songs on this album. Very exciting. Last but not least, I am working on an album of original songs with Steve Burdick of The Wind that is sounding tremendous.

 

Perhaps after these are all done I’ll finally retire, haha.

 

 

Turn around or …

super8

 

It’s been just a couple of months since SUPER 8 released T-T-T-Technicolour Melodies! and on June 15th the new album Turn Around Or… will be available.

 

Paul Ryan is a special talent. His super melodic songs and his arrangements are just different. Fragile & Edgy. And that’s why I want to hear these songs over and over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you still recall the moment music became important to you? What happened?

 

Ha! Ha! There were actually three of what I’d refer to as ‘stand out musical magic moments’ for me growing up. One of my earliest memories is a Simon & Garfunkel ‘Greatest Hits’ album (on 8 track cartridge!) that was on constant rotation in my Dad’s Ford Cortina MkI. I guess I was musically brainwashed from an early age! I couldn’t speak that well at the time but, come the age of two, I knew all the melodies … plus the harmonies!

 

The next ‘magic moment’ was probably seeing Johnny Marr ripping up the stage with his black Rickenbacker on a mid-80s ‘Top Of The Pops’ performance by The Smiths. That had quite a profound effect on me (so much so that, come the following day, I went out and put down a hire purchase payment on a (cheap!) electric guitar. Sadly I couldn’t afford a Rickenbacker … and, again sadly, I STILL can’t to this day!  Maybe one day perhaps.  Who knows? If this new album goes platinum (LOL!) I might treat myself to one – it’s been a LONG time coming!)

 

My final ‘magic moment’ where I knew I just had to at least try to make a go of it and do ‘something’ musical with my life was witnessing a small gig to a packed back room of a club (namely: ‘Legends’) in Warrington, North West England where I grew up. The band was a yet-to-break local band called ‘The Stone Roses’ and I knew right away that I was witnessing something rather special! Maybe I’m wearing rose-tinted spectacles here but, of all the gigs I’ve been to (and I’ve been to quite a few down through the years!), this concert is still the favourite in my mind (closely followed by The La’s at the same club!) A belated ‘shout out’ to local promoters Sean Mellor, Kev McCue & DJ Russ Pearson for bringing SO many bands on the cusp of greatness to a small Northern town (and hugely influencing my taste in music in the process!) I’m not a religious man but that first Roses gig was the closest I’ve come to ‘a religious experience’ musically I guess …. or maybe there was just something in the beer that night?! Regardless, the experience gave me the kickstart I needed to start believing in myself & taking my music-making seriously. It also made me realize what a powerful, life-changing force music can be!

 

At what point, during writing, rehearsing, recording, did you know you were on to something special?

 

To be honest this new album just snuck up on me! It wasn’t planned. I guess I was riding on a natural high (and still am!) off the back of the kind words, great press & good vibes I got for the last album “T-T-T-Technicolour Melodies!” (that was released on ‘Futureman Records’ at the end of January there).

 

Anyway, I started thinking about where I was going to go next musically and dug out my ideas notepad and the completely disorganized ‘bin bag of ideas’ that I keep in the corner of my home studio to throw my work-in-progress demos into!

 

After much sifting & listening, I was surprised to discover that there was actually the makings of another full album lurking in the depths of my bag! I knew it would involve a lot of work to knock everything into shape (I currently do pretty much everything myself on the recording/producing front) plus I knew I’d also be away for the entire month of May.

 

I started to formulate a hare-brained idea that it might be a cool musical challenge to try and ‘turn around’ (see what I did there?) another album in a very short space of time then, without thinking any further, I set to work.

 

I think the record company ‘Futureman Records’ (check ‘em out folks – loads of great stuff going down!) were a bit surprised when I presented them with another fully realized album in such a short space of time since the last one …. I know I was Ha! Ha! So yeah, this album’s a bit of ‘a happy accident’ really – I just ‘bashed it out’! That said, I’m pretty pleased with how it’s turned out. Twelve songs, ALL killers/NO fillers? I’ll let you decide!

 

 

 

What was the biggest fun during the making of the last album?

 

I was getting toward the end of the album but still needed another song that would segue well & fit the ‘vibe’ of the other tracks. After some head scratching, I came up with the song ‘Your Love Is My Blanket’.

 

The night before I did the vocal sessions for said song, I’d been watching an interview with Peter Frampton and he was talking about how he discovered the TalkBox and incorporated it into his music. I knew of the device from his hits, not forgetting Stevie Wonder’s great work with one, but I’d somehow put it to the back of my mind. When I heard it again I was reminded of Frampton’s use of it and thought: “WOW! That’s such a cool sound!” I then realized that a TalkBox riff would be a perfect sound for the solo of my new ‘Blanket’ song BUT … I didn’t have one! To cut an already long story short – I attempted to just make one! I cobbled it together using the innards of a small practice amp, an old sink plunger and a long tube (its original purpose was for siphoning petrol) ie: just the basic stuff your average musician/mechanic/plumber has lying around the house! I was cracking myself up trying to operate my home-made TalkBox but, after much trial & error, what you hear on the finished song was actually my first take!

 

Which is the song you wish you had written every time you hear it? And why?

 

‘There She Goes’ by The La’s. It’s just an out-and-out CLASSIC POP song – I never tire of hearing it! (In the same vein, I also love ‘Serious Drugs’ by The BMX Bandits which I’ve been fortunate enough to record a version of & include on this new album – I just hope I’ve done it justice!)

 

If the budget was unlimited, how would you record the next record?

 

 

Exactly the same as the last two albums I’ve just recorded ie: one mic going into an old, somewhat clapped-out Portastudio then polished up (just a tad mind!) using a laptop running some free music software. I don’t actually need much to make my records. Where it currently falls down though is on the promotion front. If a wad of money were to just fall from the sky and it HAD to be spent ‘musically’ then yeah, I guess I’d use it to try and promote these records I make. (Maybe take out an advert on the side of the No. 147 bus? That’s AFTER I’ve bought my Rickenbacker mind!)

 

AFTERTHOUGHT: Scrub that! I’d use the said wad of cash to fly to LA, bring ‘The Wrecking Crew’ out of retirement and record SUPER 8’s next album ‘Pet Sounds’ stylee! That would be something (it really would be something!)

Our backdrop was the mountains and beaches. 

Hotvox writes: Luv Dot Gov, the brainchild of Matthew Pop (vocals/guitar) and Stevie Seaweeds (drums/vocals), was born on a rooftop in Brooklyn in the summer 2016 as a response to dark, trying times — both personally and politically. The band would quickly become a vehicle for some of the best emotionally honest power pop this side of the 90s.

Sweet Sweet Music talked to Matthew Pop about At Least We’ve Got Madness

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What was the biggest fun during the making of the last album?

Being able to travel to the amazing city of Edinburgh was a pretty special way to make an album.  And having real musicians (horns, strings, etc) be able to play was great as well.  But the most fun was tracking the vocals.  Our producer, Graeme Young, built a portable studio.  We packed up his car and we rented a tiny cabin way up in the highlands.  Our backdrop was the mountains and beaches.  We had cows roaming around our front yard.  There was even a cabin park dog, bob, who we’d play fetch with on our breaks.  The sun set at 10pm, and there was even still a wee bit of light around midnight.

She tells you she will decide on a 5-song-mixtape if there is going to be a second date. Which 5 would you put on?

I’m not thrilled at the idea of dating a girl who will only let me put 5 songs on a mixtape, but here we go:  🙂

Spoon – Anything You Want
The Muffs – Become Undone
Smoking Popes – Megan
Origami Sun – The Anthropologist
Chris Knox – Not Given Lightly

Which is the song you wish you had written every time you hear it? And why?

That’s gotta be “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys.  Because it’s quite possibly the greatest pop composition ever. The chords and melody, and vocal harmonies still blow my mind every time I hear it.

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If the budget was unlimited, how would you record the next record?

I think we would kidnap Graeme and buy a big, old house out in the hills.  Maybe the Scottish Highlands.  Though, maybe Tuscany, or the south of France.  And build a large studio and just take our time making an epic double album.


What’s up for the rest of the year?


We are playing a few more east coast US dates in June.  Then will be touring around the UK in August.  Would love to get to
work on pre-production for the next record, come autumn.

I have about 35 songs ready.  🙂

Find your own thing, do what makes you happy and keep working.

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Smash Palace returns with Right as Rain, a 5 song ep. 5 beautifully crafted songs. Jangle melodies are king here.

Stephen Butler explains how this new music came together. And he explains a whole lot more.

 

 

The music industry has changed a lot (or so they say). What did it bring you? And what not?

 

The music business has changed dramatically over the past 40 years that I’ve been involved with it. I made my first record in 1979. It was a single released on the CBGB label. Hilly Krystal was my manager for a band named Quincy. We then got signed to Columbia Records. Back then, the major labels controlled every aspect of your career. They funded your record, hired a producer and the recording studio, promoted your music etc. You weren’t your own boss .. they were. The label told you how to sound, how to look, where to play etc. Not that that was always a bad thing. But you give up a lot artistically. Some bands have an easier time with it, but my experiences weren’t always that great.
Today, I have my own project studio where I can do whatever I want and for as long as I want. Smash Palace is on Zip Records, which has its headquarters in Amsterdam. The owner of the label, Art Herman, is a great guy. A total music lover who has been releasing our CDs for the past 12 years. He lets the band do its thing, which I greatly appreciate.
The one cool thing about being in a band today is that making an album is so much easier to do. You can get a pro tools set up in your house and make your own recordings without a huge investment of money. Of course, you have to learn how to use the gear and learn how to produce and engineer. Not everyone has the capability to do that.

 

 

What was the biggest fun during the making of the last album?

The most fun in the making of this new Smash Palace record is the writing of the songs. Coming up with a new tune that you know is good .. at least by my standards. I’ve been writing with my brother Brian since I was 12 years old. We’re so close that we can finish each other’s sentences.
I consider myself to be very lucky to have my brother as my writing and music partner. Then when we’re cutting the tracks in the studio is another great experience.
I have such gifted players … David Uosikkinen on drums, Cliff Hillis on guitar, Wally Smith on keyboards and Fran Smith on bass guitar. They always come up with parts that add much to the song. And they’re my good friends too.
What’s up for the rest of the year?
The rest of the year is very busy. The new Smash Palace CD just came out. Now I’m finishing the new Quincy CD .. the first we’ve recorded since 1982. That’s a very fun time.
We got together a couple months ago to do the basic tracks and we fell right back into our groove. I’m in the mixing stages with that right now. I hope to see a release sometime this year.
Then the other project that should see the light of day this year is a duo CD I’m doing with Edward Rogers, a label mate of mine. We started writing together a couple years ago. Two of the songs made it on to Edwards last CD and we thought, why not do an EP with some of the other tunes.
So off to a studio in Brooklyn last month to record. We both sing lead on various songs and we had the luck to record with Sal Maida on bass ( Roxy Music and Cracker) Dennis Diken on drums ( the Smithereens) and Don Piper on guitar and doing the production work. We’re doing some overdubs right now and I’m very excited about where the music is heading.
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The meaning of ‘success’ has changed over the years. When will the new record be a success?

The meaning of success is somewhat the same as it always was and at the same time, it’s changed. In my early 20’s, I wanted to be a successful rock star, travel the world, play great venues, make records with big deal producers and of course, write great songs. Today, the things that are the same are, writing great songs, playing gigs, etc but I don’t expect to become rich and famous from it.

 

It’s really about the quality of music and working with people who are great players. I did get to work with William Wittman on the previous Smash Palace CD ” Some Kind Of Magic”. He’s a Grammy winner and an excellent producer. Touring is very limited because everyone is so busy with not only Smash Palace but with their own careers.

I still think the songs I write with my brother Brian are as good or even better than we’ve ever written so I’m not going to stop doing what I do. If I thought I’m going downhill, and I’m not as good as I used to be, I might hang it up. It’s hard to say. I never thought I’d have a music career this many years later. It’s encouraging to see many of my peers or bands that started when I did, still making music. Ringo is going to be 78 and he’s still gigging .. That’s remarkable!

 

 

 

Can you still recall the moment music became important to you? What happened?

I can’t say exactly when I knew music was important to me. My mother was an excellent musician and songwriter. I grew up in a household where music was always being played or listened to. The Beatles changed my life in the sense that I knew that’s what I wanted to do and be like. All of the British Invasion bands had a huge impact on me and my brother. For Christmas, he’s bought me Rubber Soul and I’d get him Over Under Sideways Down by the Yardbirds.
I just thought this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. Why not? I went to music college and studied classical music, I’ve always taught music, now I produce bands, play gigs, write songs etc. It’s like I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing since I was a kid. I can’t imagine it any other way. I appreciate every day that I’m making music. I feel lucky that way. And most of all, don’t worry about success and what other bands are doing.
Find your own thing, do what makes you happy and keep working. It’s not easy but it can be a lot of fun. It’s really hard work and if you’re doing something you love, it won’t seem like work.