It is what it is. Latest favourite music as listed by those who were at SXSW this year: It is what it is.
Last week, the Vinyl Me, Please editorial staff decamped to the taco-and-pizza-strewn curbs of Austin, Texas, for SXSW Music. In addition to showing out for our amazing showcase, they spent their days finding secret shows and yeehaw showcases. Here’s the 10 best artists they saw last week.
This performer was my favourite but still leaving much to be desired.
These rappers swear they on that rockstar shit, and these rappers ain’t Rico Nasty. PEREIT! Like, no bullshit, the Moe jumped outta me in the moshpit, my toothpick limbs sweating bullets in jubilee with so many beautiful faces, Black faces. I mean, everyone was in there, but… it felt like the crowd woulda been my friends in high school the way Rico’s aura reminds me of the PG girls from first period. Her presence generates that energy, taking minimal energy to incite a furious wave of rebellious conduct. As she conducted the Sugar Soldiers through an array of her most popular bops, she beamed with equal parts gratitude and astonishment at the mess she’s made already. The stage brimmed with several figures, many playing earlier on the Pigeons & Planes lineup, all crankin’ with Her Majesty. It’s so easy to forget Rico’s 21. It’s also easy to lose your nasal spray, ibuprofen and deodorant when your front zipper comes undone as you thank God for not having to smack a bitch today. In our interview last year, Rico told me she observes the trash on the floor after her shows end and how they differ in different cities. I returned to Empire Garage seeking what I lost in the fire, and remembered. Time is a flat circle. — Michael Penn II
You like retro? You like this.
IN case you ever wondered what a useful list of music genres looks like, here’s a good place to start. 100s!
Prince maneuvered better in his high heels than most stiletto-clad women do. He would do the splits, jump up, high kick, squat, and run back and forth onstage with specially built 4-inch and 3 1/3-inch height boosters at his soles. After all, Prince Rogers Nelson was a man of mega-talent and charisma but was also of diminutive size. He was famously 5-foot-3 and chose to wear heels to lift himself up a bit, though he certainly didn’t need it. Prince also once said that he liked to wear heels because women were attracted to them—and why not? His aura was a regal, ethereal, sexed-up shade of purple, and his style had to match all of that pomp. Prince had his heels—around 3,000 pairs, to be exact—made to his measurements by a 60-year-old cobbler shop on Sunset Boulevard called Andre No. 1. It was founded by Andre Rostomyan, who became known as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after cobblers by celebrities including Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Today, his nephew Gary Kazanchyan runs the shop and creates custom footwear for actors and actresses in TV and film, as well as musicians like Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars. For nearly 20 years, Prince was one of his most loyal customers.
The relationship began when a stylist from Prince’s team contacted Andre and asked him to create a shoe last, or a wooden mold made in the exact measurements of the foot. Prince was around a women’s size 5 1/2 or a 6. He wanted a heeled bootie shoe that he could wear onstage, at home, and everywhere in between. The shoes that resulted were all exactly the same shape and size, but each month, the artist and his team would send in new design requests that often included a rare silk fabric or a light-up Lucite heel. Sometimes, Gary and his team would only have two days to build a new pair; every shoe was made to match Prince’s extensive collection of glam-god ensembles. “At one point, we were averaging 30 to 40 pairs of shoes a month for Prince,” Gary says. “I think he must have worn at least two or three of those shoes a day because he refused to be seen at, say, a press conference in the morning wearing the same heels as he wore onstage the night before.”
Though most of the design consultations were done over the phone and by mail, Prince did visit Andre No. 1 a few times when he was in Los Angeles. “He was very much involved in the process,” Gary says. “Prince would get attached to a certain fabric and bring it in to me and ask, ‘Okay, how can we cut this? Do we do it on the bias?’ He really dug into the process.” The details had to be precise, even when it was just a simple color or fabric change of the same shoe from the original mold. Sometimes, the musician’s stylist would attach Prince’s symbol to the zipper for added embellishment. And because Prince’s performances required intense movement, the heel was supported with a stainless steel bar, so as to ensure that it wouldn’t snap off when he was coming back up from a split. “We also used a heavier wood on the shoes that we knew he was going to do the splits in, to absorb more impact,” Gary says. Mostly, Prince wore white versions of his Andre No. 1–made heels while onstage, but of course, there were others. Gary specifically remembers a time when the musician asked him to create a purple velvet version—and because Prince had his own shade of purple, they had to get it custom-made by a fabric company in England. He also once asked Gary to make him three pairs of furry thigh-highs in white, black, and purple.
All 17 videos of these 7/8 songs are available at the link below. It took a bit of fudging to put this together as most of these songs are not completely in 7 beats to the bar, but they do throw a spanner in the works of the toe-tapping crowd. -dg
There’s a reason why all those Ramones songs start with “1-2-3-4!” — and also a reason why Captain Beefheart raged against the “big mama heartbeat.” For anyone growing up in America in the last century, 4/4 meter has been the core of popular music — rock, pop, rap, blues, gospel, all the way back to their origins in West Africa. Ergo, lopping off a single beat from two bars of 4/4 is like a car with three and a half wheels: difficult to drive, full of uncomfortable bumps, a mix of the unexpected and the compelling. When a band plays in 7/4 or 7/8 (for non-nerds, just count out “1-2-3-4-5-6-7,” or any mathematical combo like “1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3″) — it feels like a record needle stumbling over a piece of dust or ending a dance move with a rolled ankle.
Rock’s initial boom of 7 came very shortly after the moment when it became clear this this greasy kid stuff wasn’t just for driving, dancing, and protesting. Emboldened by the epic ambitions of the Beatles’ 1967 landmark Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, rock bands started imbuing their music with all the highfalutin trappings of classical and art music, including the shifting time signatures of Mussorgsky, Stravinsky, and Ravel. The Beatles did their own dabbling in 7 (“All You Need Is Love”) and prog rock’s barons of bloat naturally followed suit – Yes, Soft Machine, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Gentle Giant.
In the ’70s and ’80s, New Wave weirdos like Devo, Blondie, the Police, and the Pretenders imbued their songs with 7, adding an extra layer of off-kilter alienation. The bands of the ’90s grunge boom grew up spinning those punks, but they also loved the lurch of Led Zeppelin (who used 7 in 1973’s “The Ocean”), a more likely influence for the mucky riffs of Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, and Nirvana (who flirted with 7 on Kill Rock Stars submission “Beeswax”). Modern art-indie bands like Battles (“Ddiamondd”) and Animal Collective (“What Would I Want? Sky”) keep the 7 banner flying, as well as all the math-rock, mathcore, progressive metal, and technical death metal bands that live on tricky turnarounds.
It was 25 years ago today — March 8, 1994 — that Soundgarden released their fourth album, Superunknown. The album was full of unusual time signatures (per Wikipedia: “‘Fell On Black Days’ is in 6/4, ‘Limo Wreck’ is played in 15/8, ‘My Wave’ alternates between 5/4 and 4/4, and ‘The Day I Tried to Live’ alternates between 7/8 and 4/4 sections”). And the LP was preceded by lead single “Spoonman,” whose main riff was, of course, in 7.
So we’re celebrating a quarter-century of Superunknown by ranking an odd number of songs using septuple meter. Here are the 17 best uses of the magnificent 7.
Making new music as The Who We’re just doing a new album at the moment. But it’s a very weird [time] because we’re not really a band anymore. I just love my job of being the guy who takes what Pete’s written as a solo song, looking at it and thinking, ‘How do I make this work to move an audience?’ It’s that process for me that makes making records still worth it. Otherwise it’s two guys in two different studios. We don’t go in and make records like we used to. I wish it was that way but we’re not a band.
No watching unless you go to the link at the bottom of the page
As part of a screening event for Epix’s forthcoming docuseries Punk, a host of genre icons got together this week for a panel discussion. Unexpectedly, some serious punk rock angst was captured onstage rather than on-screen, with Sex Pistols‘ John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) getting quite the rise out of the Ramones‘ Marky Ramone.
Clips of the Monday (March 4) conversation — which also featured Henry Rollins, Guns N’ Roses‘ Duff McKagan, L7‘s Donita Sparks and Punk producer John Varvatos — shared by Rolling Stone show the two aged punks getting into it following questions and discussion of formative acts in the genre’s legacy.
The publication points out that at first, things became testy between Lydon and Rollins. “Henry, we ain’t never met before, have we?” the Sex Pistols singer offered. “You’ve said silly things but excellently good things, too.”
Rollins countered, “And you called Black Flag a bunch of suburban rich kids and we wanted to tear your ears off.”
Lydon agreed, responding, “Yes, I did, but I didn’t like the fucking music. It was boring.”
It was soon Marky Ramone’s turn to get involved, with Lydon looking to speak after the drummer reflected on the Ramones’ role in punk’s genesis. Lydon snapped that Marky was “not even an original Ramone,” leading the drummer to reply, “But I did the Blank Generation album with Richard Hell, and you took his image. All you guys took Richard Hell’s image. That’s all you did.”
The back-and-forth between the two soon escalated, as transcribed by Rolling Stone:
“And you’re still covering your fucking ears,” Lydon said, grimacing that he’d gotten a rise out of the drummer.
“And Sid Vicious was the star,” Ramone said, prompting Lydon to smile and stick his tongue out. “That’s right, he was,” Lydon replied. “He was the star for asshole fake idiots like you. Enjoy your drugs and fuckin’ have a happy death.”Volume 90%Lydon then continued his attack on the drummer. “Punk music for me was positive, proof positive, that we could change our lifes by music, meaning what we said, attack the political systems,” he said. “This daft cunt is into fucking drugs.”
“You talk the talk, but you didn’t do the walk, just like the MC5,” Ramone said. Lydon then stood up and danced around, “Hello, Johnny Rotten never did the walk?” Then as Ramone continued, Lydon looked at him and said, “Look at you, you look like a heavy-metal fucking reject.”
“Sit the fuck down,” Ramone said.
“This is fucking punk rock right here,” L7’s Sparks then offered. “Unpolished, unrehearsed, off the fucking rails.”
Some record executives are starting to sweat, as the music industry morphs into one where the climate is significantly more favorable towards a DIY way of doing business and many artists are eschewing traditional label deals in favor of doing things their own way.
Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0
If you speak with record executives, they’ll tell you privately that one of their biggest concerns is the fact that many artists are no longer interested in signing a recording contract. Thanks to the current DIY nature of the business and the fact that labels are more and more only considering “finished products,” artists no longer feel that a label has much to offer.
A perfect example is the non-start negotiations with 16-year-old Memphis rapper NLE Choppa, who’s recent YouTube video of his song “Shotta Flow” garnered major label attention after it hit 10 million views. In fact, a bidding war among record companies like Republic, Interscope and Caroline soon reached bids as high as $3 million, which the rapper promptly declined.
Instead he entered into a deal with indie distributor UnitedMasters which allowed him to maintain ownership of his material, but without providing an advance. The artist realized that he could make the full amount of royalties from streaming networks like Spotify, Apple Music and others rather than splitting with a record label. UnitedMasters now distributes music for 30,000 artists.
For many artists, the idea of a record deal is still the epitome of their musical existence. The problem is that most who feel that way haven’t yet spent any time connected with a label, where the reality is much different than the perception.
The fact is that a record label is a business that, especially today, spends its time working on projects that are hot, while turning their back on what they think is not. You only have a short time to prove yourself before you’re “not.”
But artists today have heard all the stories and are far less likely to give up control, especially after they’ve achieved a little success on their own. The lure of the record label deal isn’t what it once was, and maybe that’s a good thing.