Eric Bachmann: Please Explain

You wrote your new album, To The Races (Saddle Creek), while living in your tour van. How’d that work out for you?

eric-baucman300When I returned from touring Europe in June 2005, I was a bit low on cash and didn’t want to pay the high rents in Seattle. I would be touring a lot in the fall and didn’t need a permanent home. I had placed what few things I owned in storage and already had a post-office box, so I figured it’d be easy enough to just sleep in my van. I have a cot for sleeping, a fold-up chair, a guitar, some blankets and a few cases of bottled water. I have a membership to the YMCA to take showers and maintain some kind of dignity by trying to stay in reasonable shape. Mostly I park around the Ballard/Crown Hill area in Seattle because there are a lot of side streets that seem safe, and I know of a 24-hour Kinko’s nearby so that if I need to use the restroom seriously, I can go in unnoticed. That area is fairly quiet, too, which I like because I can work on writing songs and recording them into my MiniDisc recorder without too much traffic noise in the background. It’s really good if you want to focus and get a lot done.

Monkey Gone To Heaven: Jason DiEmilio (1970-2006)

Azusa

If you knew Jason DiEmilio only via the cryptically packaged music he made with his various drone- /noise-oriented projects, you would get the impression that he probably fancied himself some sort of ultra-serious artiste making records that were purposely over the head of even the most hipster music lover. (It didn’t help that Jason took the name of his main outfit, the Azusa Plane, from Akira Kurosawa’s epic film Ran.)

The Azusa Plane was a big part of the late-‘90s Psychedelphia scene, which also included sonically similar artists such as Bardo Pond, Lenola, the Asteroid #4 and psychedelic godfather Tom Rapp. (It’s no coincidence that all of those musicians played MAGNET’s five-year anniversary in 1998.) At various times, Jason also played guitar in Mazarin, ran three record labels and recorded and released music by various projects including the Spires Of Oxford and Dance Chromatic.

I first met Jason almost a decade ago. Immediately, I found it pretty hard to reconcile that he was the same guy who made such artsy, challenging music. Jason called everybody Monkey. (He also really enjoyed the word “dude,” which he spelled “dood.”) He worked in the programming department of ComcastSportsNet and loved Philly sports. He was constantly on the lookout for what he termed “hot chicks.” He once asked—in all seriousness—what chicken tasted like. (For years, Jason only ate Ellio’s Pizza, which we, of course, took to calling DiEmilio’s Pizza.) During the cold months, the follically challenged Jason proudly wore the biggest, furriest, ugliest winter hat you have ever seen, often indoors.

It was no secret to his friends that Jason—who has a rough childhood to say the least—struggled with depression. In recent years, however, he began suffering from tinnitus and hyperacusis (a rare, debilitating ear disease that can be caused by playing loud music without wearing ear protection). Jason traveled across the U.S. seeking treatment from doctors, but none could help him alleviate his chronic pain. The last time I saw him, he told me that he didn’t know how he could handle always being sick.

Jason killed himself on Halloween, just 17 days following his 36th birthday. Since, much has been written about his various musical accomplishments. But when I think about Jason, it’s never in terms of the music he made. I think of my friend, who, despite all his troubles, had only good in his heart.

Monkey is missed.

—Eric T. Miller

Brain Damage: Bad Brains Live From New York

bad-brainsh520With CBGB closed for good, it seems like an appropriate time for the DVD release of Bad Brains: Live At CBGB 1982 (MVD). This frenzied performance of a now-legendary act before an appreciative audience epitomizes the cutting-edge status the club once enjoyed. (If only Live At CBGB 1982 included more footage taken outside the club; there’s just an agonizingly short intro that shows two cops walking by the entrance.)

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Cosmic Thing: The First Gram Parsons Documentary

gramparsons

It’s about time someone made a documentary about Gram Parsons: He’s only been dead for 33 years. Often called the father of country/rock, Parsons brought the two genres together during his time with the International Submarine Band, Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers. He made listening to—and liking—country music hip for the rock set. German filmmaker/musician Gandulf Hennig has dibs on the first-ever Parsons documentary, the revealing Fallen Angel, set for a DVD release July 11.

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Company Men: Tone, Menomena Score Modern Dance

menomenanewslatIf you’ve ever attempted to bust a move to Mogwai or the Kronos Quartet, you might be aware that a pop-and-lock routine just won’t do. Modern-dance troupes, however, have found the cinematic end of the underground-rock scene useful, commissioning music from Washington, D.C.’s Tone and Portland, Ore.’s Menomena.

Tone, a 15-year-old instrumental ensemble whose members’ lineage stretches back to punk bands the Teen Idles and Government Issue, began working with the Bowen McCauley Dance Company in 2004. In January, Tone provided the music for Amygdala, a Lucy Bowen McCauley performance at the Kennedy Center.

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Sparks: Please Explain

sparks350It’s been reported you spent 18 months working on your new album, Hello Young Lovers (In The Red). Yet the opening track quite clearly and quite often proclaims that “All I do now is dick around.” What are we supposed to believe?

Sparks’ Russell Mael replies: It’s all hard work. Humorous elements in our music are sometimes mistaken for frivolity or novelty. For every song like “Dick Around,” there are several months of agonizing work, trial and error and experimentation to be able to do something musical that isn’t based on tried-and-true conventions of pop music that have been around for 50 years. We take the craft of making our type of music very seriously. In order to have 20 albums and still be able to do music we feel pushes the boundaries within pop is a task that few in our position seem willing to adopt. We approach every new album with the idea that it might be the first album a listener may hear from us and it has to stand on its own without reference to past music we’ve done. In that sense, Hello Young Lovers is our debut.

John Martyn: Departures And Revivals

John Martyn

John Martyn is too tough to be the folk singer you remember from the ‘60s. Enduring several storied decades of music making his legacy continues with a new set of modern classics. By Mitch Myers

John Martyn sits at a hotel bar in downtown Chicago. The 50-year-old Scotsman is relaxing after a weekend of stirring live performances, including a minor spot on the summer’s Fleadh Festival. His face is swollen, and I’m positive that it’s a side effect from decades of serious drinking. Then the singer casually informs me, “I got hit on the side of my head with a baseball bat in New York a few days ago. Mugged just a few yards from my hotel. I wish I felt better, I’m still a bit off.”

Message received: Never assume that you know a man before he tells you his story.

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