Flip Your Gig: Leading The Post-Rock Lifestyle

gregnorton400bWhen Hüsker Dü officially ended in January 1988, bassist Greg Norton was 29, decidedly unwealthy and unemployed. He ended up in the restaurant business, first as a server, then as a chef. “I had some natural ability and a good palate, so I dove into that,” says Norton. “My only training was just on the job.” By 1995, Norton had attained the position of head chef at Staghead in Red Wing, Minn., where he met his second wife, Sarah, in the kitchen. In 2003, the couple opened their own place, The Nortons’, in Bay City, Wisc., about 60 miles from Minneapolis. The Nortons’ serves contemporary American cuisine and boasts an award-winning wine list. Says Norton, “It’s not a novelty act: ‘Ex-punk rocker becomes chef.’ We actually know what we’re doing.”

After leaving the Replacements in 1990, drummer Chris Mars continued making music: From ’92 to ’96, the “quiet” member of the Mats released four solo records. What might’ve begun with creating his album covers has blossomed into a full-blown visual-art career for Mars, who now paints full-time. “Some call my art surrealist, because I like to work with lots of detail,” says Mars, who still lives in Minneapolis. “But I think of the work as closer to expressionist, except perhaps that I’m not investigating the self as much as the world outside of me.” According to Mars, the imagery in his paintings is also informed by his older brother Bill’s battle with schizophrenia. His artwork is on permanent display at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and has been purchased by celebrities such as Prince, Tom Petty and Michael Stipe, not that Mars cares very much. “My mom and my wife own some of my work,” he says. “That makes me most proud.” Mars declined to speak about the Replacements, saying, “I’m just not living in that space anymore. It’s been so long, I feel more and more removed as time goes by, and I’m on another path.”

Chris Osgood—pioneering punker, guitar teacher and benevolent godfather of the Minneapolis scene—has continued to be a paternal figure around town since the Suicide Commandos called it quits in 1978. “We were the only band I knew that broke up with assets—stuff to sell, a PA,” says Osgood. “We cashed out for a few hundred bucks each.” As director of artist services at Springboard for the Arts, Osgood counsels artists, musicians, writers and actors on how to manage their assets and market their work.

Key To The City: A Minneapolis Glossary


All Shook Down: the Replacements’ last album (1990)
Jello Biafra: Dead Kennedys frontman
Candy Apple Grey: Hüsker Dü’s first album for Warner Bros. (1986)
Creepers: thick-soled, often two-toned, rockabilly-style shoes; an ’80s fashion staple
Bob Dylan: the best writer from Minnesota
Everything Falls Apart: Hüsker Dü album (1983); reissued with “Statues” and other bonus tracks as Everything Falls Apart And More (1993)
First Avenue: nightclub made famous by Prince’s Purple Rain
Flip Your Wig: Hüsker Dü’s last album for SST (1985)
Greg Ginn: Black Flag guitarist and co-owner of SST
Jay’s Longhorn: punk/rock venue
Land Speed Record: Hüsker Dü’s first album (1982)
Let It Be: the Replacements’ last album for Twin/Tone (1984)
Loud Fast Rules: Soul Asylum’s first moniker
Macalester College: liberal-arts college attended by Bob Mould
Mats: shorthand for Replacements
New Alliance: Minutemen-run label that released Land Speed Record; it was later bought by SST
New Day Rising: Hüsker Dü album (1985)
Oar Folk: record store (a.k.a. Oar Folkjokeopus)
Pleased To Meet Me: Replacements album (1987)
Punker: slang for a punk; a punk rocker
Reflex: Hüsker Dü-run label (1980-1985)
7th Street Entry: smaller venue attached to First Avenue
Sire: Warner Bros. subsidiary; home to the Replacements (1985-1991)
SST: seminal hardcore/punk label; home to Hüsker Dü (1983-1985)
“Statues”: Hüsker Dü’s seven-inch debut (1981)
Seymour Stein: president and co-founder of Sire
Stink: Replacements mini album (1982)
Tim: the Replacements’ first album for Sire (1985)
Twin/Tone: the Replacements’ label (1981-1984)
Warehouse: Songs And Stories: Hüsker Dü’s last album (1987)
Warner Bros.: home to Hüsker Dü (1985-1987)
Young And The Useless: early-’80s NYC hardcore band featuring Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz
Your Flesh: Minneapolis-based fanzine
Zen Arcade: Hüsker Dü album (1984)

Q&A With Moby

moby62qa550Like fellow one-named, slightly built, narcissistic workaholics Prince and Beck, Moby (the most charming and humanistic of that club) has slowed his output in the new century. Almost three years have passed since he released 18, a bloated album that still managed to soak up a wave of critical backlash. Moby’s new, sample-free Hotel (V2) is scarcely slimmer, even without its bonus ambient disc. While the first half of the record is stripped-down and kinetic, much of the second half—the primitive, sex-with-an-Atari-2600 burble of “I Like It,” the Vangelis-flying-too-close-to-the-ground “Homeward Angel”—never comes into focus. But even on 1995’s Everything Is Wrong and 1999’s Play, Moby’s industry trumped his inventiveness. His sense of economy—not no-wasted-gesture economy but rather bargain-basement, wow-it-has-a-shitload-of-tracks economy—holds up here as ever. Moby’s bang-for-the-buck philosophy seems tied to his relationships with various commercial users of his music. He revealed as much in a recent entry in his online journal, which cited childhood poverty as a possible reason for his shrewdness. Does the guy get a bad rap for issuing more licenses than a Las Vegas justice of the peace? Even he doesn’t know, and Moby is an expert on himself first. Hotel is another chapter of Moby’s meta narrative on the succor he finds in, well, being Moby. He can check out any time he likes, but he would never leave.

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The Wedding Present: A Career Overview

“It’s not quite as romantic anymore, is it?” asks David Gedge, who, with the Wedding Present and Cinerama, has made a career of describing the travails of romance. But this time, he’s talking about the state of the music industry, not love. “Downloading files onto your laptop is not quite the same as going into the shop and buying a single.”

Gedge has been sending people into record stores to buy singles—and EPs, albums and Peel Sessions—for two decades. His conversational tales of jilted suitors and helpless love slaves made the Wedding Present one of the best-loved bands in Britain, post-Smiths and pre-Blur/Oasis. Now, after an extended hiatus—his Cinerama years—Gedge has resurrected the Wedding Present with the new Take Fountain (Manifesto).

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John Davis: God Only Knows

john-davis350Growing up in a devout Baptist household in Knoxville, Tenn., John Davis also worshipped deities like John Lennon and Pete Townshend. He was conflicted, believing true salvation might not be divined from the word of Jesus but rather the lyrics of musical gods.

Davis did find glory, if it can be measured by Superdrag’s outstanding albums, critical success and fan adulation. He wasn’t saved by rock ’n’ roll, though. In fact, its excesses nearly killed him.

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Damon & Naomi Make MAGNET A Mix Tape

Husband-and-wife duo Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang are a psychedelic power couple. Since first making the scene with Galaxie 500 in the late ’80s, they’ve served as ambassadors of international acid folk (collaborating with Japanese gurus Ghost) and have acted as at-home historians (performing with Pearls Before Swine’s Tom Rapp). The Earth Is Blue (20/20/20) is a pristine reflection of Damon & Naomi’s vision and taste, featuring eight gauze-pop originals alongside covers of songs by George Harrison and Caetano Veloso.

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Elliott Smith: All Things Must Pass


Elliott Smith, 34, died on Oct. 21, 2003. He is survived by a private history, his personal demons, questions about his death and some songs that make sense of it all. By Jonathan Valania

Something terrible happened on the night of Oct. 21, 2003, in the cozy, box-like bungalow at 1857 1/2 Lemoyne Street in the Echo Park section of Los Angeles where Elliott Smith lived with girlfriend Jennifer Chiba. In Chiba’s version of events, the couple had an argument that grew so heated she locked herself in the bathroom. At some point, she heard Smith scream and unlocked the door to see him standing with his back to her. When he turned around, there was a knife sticking out of his chest and he was gasping for breath. Panicked, Chiba pulled the knife out of him, and Smith turned and took a few steps before collapsing. Chiba called 911, and an operator talked her through CPR until the paramedics arrived. Smith was rushed to a nearby hospital, where emergency surgery to repair the two stab wounds to the heart couldn’t save his life.

Back at the house, police found a note written on a Post-It:
I’m so sorry.
Love, Elliott
God forgive me.

When the coroner’s report was finally issued in January 2004, the nature of Smith’s death was maddeningly ambiguous. While the circumstances of the case had most of the hallmarks of a suicide, certain factors also pointed to the possibility of a homicide: the absence of hesitation wounds (the nicks and cuts that come from tentative initial attempts to stab yourself), the fact that Smith didn’t remove his shirt before stabbing himself, a pair of cuts on his hand and arm that could’ve been defensive wounds incurred while fighting off an attacker. There’s also Chiba’s removal of the knife and what police characterize as her refusal to cooperate with investigators, all of which leaves the precise nature of Smith’s death in limbo. Chiba has since refuted police reports that she didn’t cooperate, but the case remains officially open and under investigation.

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The Black Keys: My City Was Gone

blackkeys350You don’t have to go looking for the blues in the Black Keys’ hometown of Akron, Ohio: The blues will find you. By Andrew Parks

Ohio’s Economic Portrait—The Heartache Of It All
“Ohio lost about five times the number of jobs from 2000-2004 that it lost during the 1990-92 recession.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer, page A1, Oct. 21, 2004

Patrick Carney’s car, a 1969 MGB roadster that’s barely big enough to accommodate his six-foot-five frame, won’t start. The drummer for the Black Keys is currently behind the wheel of a loaner: his grandfather’s silver, boat-sized Cadillac Coup DeVille. Along with Black Keys singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach, Carney is giving MAGNET a guided tour of the five miles that matter in Akron, Ohio: a dismal stretch that includes one decent record store, an antiquated, single-screen movie theater and lots of bars. Carney cues up Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” on his iPod and begins to narrate details about his hometown.

“A river of evil flows beneath Akron,” he says.

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Jay Bennett: Enemy Territory


On “Cruel But Honest Fortune,” from Jay Bennett’s The Beloved Enemy (Undertow), the ex-Wilco multi-instrumentalist sounds like he’s headed for the edge. “There’s a cruel but honest fortune inside every misery,” he sings over a loose-stringed guitar. When reached at his studio in Chicago, however, Bennett laughs and swears the quiet, near-murder ballads that fill Enemy, his second solo album of 2004, aren’t really that out of character.

“I think it’s a sad record, and I wouldn’t say there’s resolution, either,” he says. “I didn’t put this out to say hello and then invent, investigate, experiment with this side of me. I’ve always done this kind of stuff. I’ve got tracks like these that have been around for 10 years.”

Bennett is often portrayed as Wilco’s shaggy dude with dreadlocks, a guy you suspected was always a bigger influence on records like Summerteeth than he was given credit for. Bennett admits he’s a “pop guy,” which only makes the stark nature of Enemy that much more surprising. Even the album’s best songs—the tender “My Little Valentine,” “If I Forget How To Land” (a duet with alt-country singer Michelle Anthony)—are bereft and brooding.

Don’t attribute the melancholy heard on Enemy to Bennett being unceremoniously booted from Wilco in 2001, however. As sordidly documented in the film I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, Bennett (who, through selective editing, comes across as the bad guy) was anti-climactically fired for erratic behavior and various drug offenses. But he doesn’t want to rehash the film or his departure from the band, other than to assert that his new album isn’t about Wilco or Jeff Tweedy.

“No, that record would have been called The Fucking Enemy,” says Bennett with a hoarse laugh. “How do you tell someone you’ve moved on? I’ve moved on. I lost a wife and had two uncles and my grandmother die. Come on, compare that to a guy whose head was getting so big there was no longer room in the room. I didn’t have to go mining for subject matter on this one. On the list of pain I was feeling, not being in Wilco is so far down it’s ridiculous. It was an exorcism in a way, but I wasn’t the most depressed guy in the world when I was doing it. This gave me joy.”

Bennett’s two previous post-Wilco albums—2002’s The Palace At 4am (Part 1) (recorded with Edward Burch) and 2004’s more stripped-down Bigger Than Blue—at times feature a full band. The poignant Enemy, on the other hand, is nearly a one-man show, from Bennett’s opening exclamation (“Whoa, it’s cold”) to the unlikely closing cover of Tori Amos’ “Pretty Good Year.” Rather than labor over the project for months, dubbing and overdubbing a la Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Bennett cut Enemy by himself in one week.

Keeping up his pace of writing and recording, Bennett has already finished his next album, titled The Magnificent Defeat and due out soon. “It’s the Beatle-y side of pop,” he says. “Maybe it’s the fast version of Enemy. It’s over the top in a sloppy way. Contrary to my reputation as a studio-wiz dude, this is not a return to that. It has a weird kind of energy to it, elements of light and dark.”

—Robert Baird

John Frusciante: Perfect From Now On


Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante is learning to make brilliant mistakes on his own albums. Lots of them. By Patrick Berkery

It will take you roughly 15 minutes to read this interview with John Frusciante. In that time, the Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist and his frequent collaborator, multi-instrumentalist Josh Klinghoffer, might record basic tracks for six or seven songs and add percussion overdubs. Maybe that’s stretching it a bit, but such an exaggeration illustrates that, when left to his own devices, Frusciante works quickly and quite often. Half a dozen releases are scheduled to be out by year’s end on the Record Collection label, all of which were recorded, mixed and mastered in a six-month period beginning late last year.

The first release was Frusciante’s fifth solo disc, The Will To Death, which came out in June. Tracked in a handful of mad-dash sessions, the album is purposefully raw without sounding rushed. A psychedelic-rock record that’s heavy on mood and melody, Death leaves plenty of open spaces for the slow-motion beauty of Frusciante’s expressive guitar work. Also arriving under Frusciante’s own name this year are the D.C. EP (recorded with Ian MacKaye and Fugazi’s tech/second drummer Jerry Busher) and the full-lengths Inside Of Emptiness and A Sphere In The Heat Of Silence. You have to wonder where he finds the time.

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