From The Desk Of Bob Mould: Jimmy Webb

bobmouldlogoBob Mould is a man always on the lookout for a new challenge. After Hüsker Dü (one of the most celebrated rock bands ever) folded in 1988, Mould would helm another powerful trio, Sugar, before beginning a fascinating, ongoing series of solo releases that have ranged from introspective to danceable, from melodic to nearly chaotic. The enigmatic guitar (and cultural) hero is finishing up what promises to be a fascinating memoir to be published next year and has just released a rock-solid solo disc, Life And Times. Read our new Q&A with him and earlier ones from 2008 and 2002. Mould will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week.

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Mould: Songwriting, like most forms of expression, is a combination of unconscious, automatic and refined thought. Every songwriter has a different way of approaching the muse, and over the course of 30 years, my approach has changed several times. Technology, location and emotional state all play into the process. If I have a hammer, chisel and a tree stump, I will make you a log sculpture. If I have egg whites, skillet and a spatula, I will make you breakfast. Jimmy Webb is one of the most influential songwriters of the late 20th century. Beginning with “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” recorded in 1966 by Glen Campbell, Webb amassed a string of hit songs with the likes of Campbell, the 5th Dimension and Richard Harris. Sadly, his sophisticated arrangements were not in vogue with the “in corwd,” who gravitated toward the protest music of the late 1960s. Webb was looked upon by some as “square” or commercial. In 1998, Webb finally published Tunesmith, a detailed, scholarly and masterful look at the songwriting process. I would suggest it to anyone who writes music, lyrics or is simply a fan of Western popular music. Webb fills the pages with examples from his own catalog of hits, as well as the songs of his peers. It is an insightful tome that allows the reader to see the craft of songwriting through the eyes of a true master.

MP3 At 3PM: The Cubists

cubists4001The Cubists not only pay homage to cubism with their name, they actually take a cubist approach to psychedelic pop. Each of the five members of the Augusta, Ga., band brings something unique to the mix; the death of songwriter Noel Brown’s father, for instance, provided much of Brown’s personal musical inspiration. Their full-length debut, Mechanical Advantage, just came out this month on Georgia-based label Semi-Precious. “She’s Got Blood” is less experimental than what most of Mechanical Advantage has to offer, but it still shows off what makes the Cubists unique: the ability to create catchy songs that are both sonically rich and easily accessible.

“She’s Got Blood” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/ShesGotBlood.mp3

In The News: Cheap Trick, Gwar, Hope Sandoval, Quasi, Air, Jay Reatard, Simon Joyner And Free MP3s

cheaptrick550bPower-pop legends Cheap Trick (pictured) are celebrating their 35th year together with the release of the cleverly titled The Latest, currently available exclusively through the band’s website. (It hits retail in mid-July.) The quartet starts a 40-city tour with Def Leppard June 23 in Camden, N.J. … Also celebrating an anniversary (25 years) are self-proclaimed Scumdogs Of The Universe, Gwar. Lust In Space (Metal Blade) offends sensibilities everywhere August 18 … Slightly more refined Mazzy Star chanteuse Hope Sandoval returns with Through The Devil Softly (Nettwerk) on September 1. The record was co-written by My Bloody Valentine co-founder Colm O’Ciosoig … Portland, Ore.’s Quasi’s debut LP for Kill Rock Stars, currently untitled, sees the light of day October 27. It’s the trio’s first record since 2006’s When The Going Gets Dark … On October 6, France’s Air floats its latest effort, Love 2 (EMI), the follow-up to 2007’s Pocket Symphony. “Do The Joy” will be available digitally July 7, with the formal single release of “Sing Sang Sung” happening August 25 … Speaking of follow-ups, June 30 sees Oh, For The Getting And Not Letting Go, the new effort from Jim Fairchild (formerly of Grandaddy and Modest Mouse) under the All Smiles moniker. The band’s previous record was 2007’s Ten Readings Of A Warning. A simultaneously recorded EP, Fall Never Fell, awaits a release date. Download “Our Final Roles As Birds” … Further speaking of follow-ups, Jay Reatard’s Watch Me Fall (Matador) drops August 18. Though Reatard has released new material since, the LP is the proper successor to 2006’s Blood Visions. Download “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me” … Singer/songwriter Simon Joyner’s 12th record, Out Into The Snow (Team Love), is slated for September 15. His band for this outing features Alex McManus (Lambchop, Bright Eyes) and Michael Krassner (Boxhead Ensemble). Download “Roll On”Sting seems to like snow, so much so that his upcoming record, If On A Winter’s Night… (due October 27 on Deutsche Grammophon), is dedicated to his favorite season. Says the King Of Pain: “Our ancestors celebrated the paradox of light at the heart of the darkness, and the consequent miracle of rebirth and the regeneration of the seasons.” This shit writes itself.

From The Desk Of Bob Mould: “Phantom Of The Paradise”

bobmouldlogoBob Mould is a man always on the lookout for a new challenge. After Hüsker Dü (one of the most celebrated rock bands ever) folded in 1988, Mould would helm another powerful trio, Sugar, before beginning a fascinating, ongoing series of solo releases that have ranged from introspective to danceable, from melodic to nearly chaotic. The enigmatic guitar (and cultural) hero is finishing up what promises to be a fascinating memoir to be published next year and has just released a rock-solid solo disc, Life And Times. Read our new Q&A with him and earlier ones from 2008 and 2002. Mould will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week.

phantomoftheparadise500Mould: Phantom Of The Paradise is a Brian DePalma spectacle that combines The Phantom Of The Opera, Faust and glam rock. The film was released on Oct. 31, 1974. Paul Williams is cast in the role of Swan, the svengali of Death Records, who is auditioning musicians for the opening of a revolutionary new club called The Paradise. Winslow Leach, a nerdy songwriter (played by Gerrit Graham), manages to get his song heard (and then stolen) by Swan. Classic rock ‘n’ roll insanity ensues. There is a brilliant scene that depicts Leach in a recording-studio control room, seated at the keyboard, working feverishly to complete his cantata for the opening night of The Paradise. Leach is wearing his owl-like Phantom helmet/mask, speaking through a vocoder/oscillator, surrounded by pills and sheet music. For some reason it reminds me of—or maybe foreshadows—Daft Punk. It is also surely a coincide that the cantata is written for, and about to be sung, by Leach’s love interest, whose name is Phoenix (played by Jessica Harper). Hmm.

The original title of the film was to be Phantom, but it was changed at the last-minute, to avoid potential legal conflict with the copyright holders of The Phantom comic strip. In addition, almost all references to Swan Song Enterprises, the ubiquitous media concern that was headed by Swan, were removed from the film. The instigator of said removal was Peter Grant, manager of Led Zeppelin, who had created Swansong Records (an actual label) just prior to the release of the film. Grant was a major thorn in the side of 20th Century Fox, and his threats to block the release of the film forced DePalma and 20th Century Fox to mask or recut major portions of the film. The original theatrical release was met with the sound of no hands clapping, except for, inexplicably, the city of Winnipeg, where the movie and soundtrack were enormous successes. In the intervening years, two Phantompalooza events have taken place in Winnipeg. I love showing this movie to bands on the eve of recording sessions. It’s a great way to get everyone, including myself, to unwind a bit before the big day.

Film At 11: Lissy Trullie

Is “Boy Boy” the best gay-or-straight song since Josie Cotton’s “Johnny, Are You Queer?” Probably. Lissy Trullie looks like a Warhol Factory girl and sings like Siouxsie Sioux, but she’s still pining for a guy who might play for the other team. Trullie’s debut EP, Self-Taught Learner (American Myth), is out now.

From The Desk Of Bob Mould: Virgin America

bobmouldlogoBob Mould is a man always on the lookout for a new challenge. After Hüsker Dü (one of the most celebrated rock bands ever) folded in 1988, Mould would helm another powerful trio, Sugar, before beginning a fascinating, ongoing series of solo releases that have ranged from introspective to danceable, from melodic to nearly chaotic. The enigmatic guitar (and cultural) hero is finishing up what promises to be a fascinating memoir to be published next year and has just released a rock-solid solo disc, Life And Times. Read our new Q&A with him and earlier ones from 2008 and 2002. Mould will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week.

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Mould: The past few years have been heavy travel years for me. The combination of traditional touring and BLOWOFF DJ events means I am spending more time in the air. The airline industry has been under a lot of pressure, both due to the price of fuel and occasional safety issues. I am sympathetic to the difficulties of running an airline, but sometimes I wonder if certain airlines are listening to their customers. Occasionally, a company sets out to change the average customer experience, and in the case of Virgin America, they may well have succeeded. Virgin America is one of the newer domestic airlines, with service to limited destinations. I remember how revolutionary Virgin Atlantic seemed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and Virgin America has captured that same magic.

On every trip I have taken through VA, I was met by a friendly counter staff who truly seem to enjoy their work. Transactions at the counter have been painless, and they are not as heavy-handed on checked-bag weight overages as some airlines. (I have had terrible experiences with Northwest.) At the boarding gate, the staff are both professional and light-hearted, making pleasantries with the passengers while covering all the necessary FAA guidelines for passenger safety information. Once inside the plane, it is as if you have entered a swank lounge. Yes, it’s still coach, but the modern lighting and seat designs are a welcome change from some airlines who rely on an older fleet of planes.

The in-seat entertainment component includes a good selection of television and movies, plus a relatively deep audio library, from which you can create your own in-flight playlist. If you somehow end up seated away from your traveling party, you can keep in touch via seat-to-seat chat. (Other creative uses come to mind.) Many of the flights offer Wi-Fi; I am torn on this, only for the possibility of someone viewing something that might be inappropriate for the eyes of young children. To me, the crowning achievement is the food and drink service. Once the plane reaches a comfortable cruising altitude, the flight attendants make their initial run through the plane with the beverage cart. After that first run, you order food and drink through the on-screen menu, run a credit card through the screen or handset, and within seconds, your order is delivered. No more carts in the aisles!

There are a few drawbacks, however. What you gain with the on-screen service, which is embedded in the seat in front of you, you might lose your patience if a younger traveler is seated behind you, constantly punching the screen and disturbing your quiet time. I have also had problems with the self check-in kiosks at the terminal. There seems to be a recurring glitch that happens when attempting to pay for extra checked bags with a credit card. But all in all, Virgin America has reinvented several aspects of air travel, and I heartily recommend using them if your travel takes you anywhere along their service routes. Try not to punch the seat in front of you, though—on any flight.

MP3 At 3PM: Carbon Leaf

carbonleaf400 It’s weird that Carbon Leaf cites influences such as Phish, R.E.M., Dave Matthews Band, Neil Young and the Pogues, because the group only vaguely resembles any of them. The band began mainly as a Celtic/bluegrass outfit, which would utterly confuse those who listened to its eighth album, the somber alt- and folk-rock Nothing Rhymes With Woman (Vanguard).

“Lake Of Silver Bells” (download):

Normal History Vol. 13: The Art Of David Lester

lester13365Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 25-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Music: a physical, emotional and intellectual infrastructure that, regardless of intention, passes closest to experiencing essence. Closer than other art-i-tectures (art “manner, mode” + tekton “builder, carpenter”). Essence = being. Rock, where traditional and commonly held beliefs are subverted or derailed, commandeered for use in comparative explorations. Destination: essence. In jazz, mutual understandings of conventional structures from which to deviate astound in ways that rock—from roll to punk—doesn’t. Music more like art, where technicians bust out in abstractions closer to the semi-savant syndrome expressions of untrained outsider artists, who, if not cynical imitators employing the power of deception, are driven beyond intention, to experience being inside the things they make. For further explanation, contact the author: throwsilver@hotmail.com.

From The Desk Of Bob Mould: Kombucha

bobmouldlogoBob Mould is a man always on the lookout for a new challenge. After Hüsker Dü (one of the most celebrated rock bands ever) folded in 1988, Mould would helm another powerful trio, Sugar, before beginning a fascinating, ongoing series of solo releases that have ranged from introspective to danceable, from melodic to nearly chaotic. The enigmatic guitar (and cultural) hero is finishing up what promises to be a fascinating memoir to be published next year and has just released a rock-solid solo disc, Life And Times. Read our new Q&A with him and earlier ones from 2008 and 2002. Mould will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week.

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Mould: I was introduced to Kombucha by my friend Kirk, a personal trainer in California who specializes in the discipline of the kettlebell. I may not be doing the art form justice, but a layman’s description might be the swinging of an object that resembles a cannonball-sized object, which has a handle, with very specific form and routine. This type of integrated training stands apart from conventional weightlifting, which isolates muscle groups for development. One afternoon, Kirk and I were joyriding, and he asked if I had ever consumed a Kombucha. I am an open-minded guy and usually up for a new taste sensation, especially one that is 100{e5d2c082e45b5ce38ac2ea5f0bdedb3901cc97dfa4ea5e625fd79a7c2dc9f191} natural. He offered up a smooth glass container, seven inches in height, which contained a half-liter of GT’s Kombucha.

The drink was called Trilogy. Hmm. It looked a fruity shade, with strands of live culture floating about, yet sounded like the name of a ’70s prog-rock band. The drink was effervescent, but not carbonated. The first sip tasted not like fruit, but more like vinegar. I slowly sipped on the beverage, paying attention to how my body might respond. After a few days of trying different flavors, I settled into a groove with Kombucha. Some flavors are sweeter, some bottles are more effervescent, and a few are downright difficult to drink. Earlier this week, I mentioned my voracious daily consumption of coffee. Now, in the mid-afternoon, I put down the java and head to the refrigerator for a refreshing Kombucha. I can’t imagine a day without enjoying one (or two) bottles of GT’s Kombucha, my preferred brand. I highly recommend Gingerade; if you enjoy the curative powers and cleansing effect of raw ginger when eaten between bites of raw fish, you will find great pleasure in this elixir.

Live Review: Miss Derringer, Philadelphia, PA, June 16, 2009

miss_d0270You could tell who the members of L.A.’s Miss Derringer were as soon as they walked into the crowded Khyber: the boys (guitarists Ben Shields and Morgan Slade, bassist Sylvain de Muizon and drummer Cody James) decked out in their rockabilly-styled outfits and singer Liz McGrath in her bright red uniform and feathers in her hair. When they took the stage, McGrath was all smiles and dancing as the band played ’50s rock ‘n’ roll, American style. The evening’s highlight was “All The Pretty Things,” during which Slade and McGrath dueled it out like Johnny and June. Miss Derringer’s new album, Winter Hill, will be out July 14.

“Black Tears” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/BlackTears.mp3