Quaeschning & Schnauss : Synthwaves

Ulrich Schnauss is a busy guy. Not only has he released an excellent album already this year with fellow synth aficionado and Causa Sui guitarist Jonas Munk called Passage, but he’s also readying a new Tangerine Dream album called Quantum Gate, which marks the final concepts of TD founder Edgar Froese(who passed away in early 2015) and a new beginning for the Berlin School masters. You’d think that would be plenty for the year, but Schnauss seems constantly abuzz with ideas and creativity. He’s teamed up with Tangerine Dream band mate Thorsten Quaeschning and the two have made an album filled with analog synth heaven called Synthwaves. It’s a testament to the golden age of analog sounds and hazy oscillation that komische music gave us in both the pre-Watergate and post-end of the dream decade known as the 70s. It’s also a bit of a tribute to the mentor both Schnauss and Quaeschning had in Froese. The record is a heady sonic trip into the past, while keeping eyes firmly pointed to the future.

“Main Theme” feels like a proper announcement to the world of Synthwaves. It blankets you in a warm sea of analog waves and melodic, early 80s pop hooks. This track could have easily soundtracked a lost Michael Mann film. It’s the kind of song that grabs you immediately and doesn’t let go. “Rain On Dry Concrete” can’t help but feel like Tangerine Dream. TD is in Quaeschning & Schauss’ DNA. It puts me in mind of Le Parc with its bright synth structures and arpeggiated sounds. “Slow Life” crumbles into a beautiful abyss. It’s crystalline sounds and nearly 8-minute run time create an epic listen. Through headphones “Slow Life” becomes a hypnotic tome, prone to pull you from your existence and carry you into some other ethereal world. Likewise, “Cats and Dogs” paints an aural universe with oscillation and LFO frequencies. It’s playful and all-encompassing. “A Calm But Steady Flow” sounds like robotic resonance in a metallic cavern. Some kind of AI call from the center of a synthetic world. You can almost touch the square waves in the air.

Elsewhere “Thirst” recalls classic TD in the form of their Three O’Clock High score, while “Flare” has an ominous depth to it, like staring with your toes dangling into some great unknown. If you’re a fan of S U R V I V E and the Stranger Things soundtrack, this track will reach something inside you and not easily let go. “Prism” casts off into the great unknown, not really sure what will be caught. That’s the beauty of it, though. The unknown. Something just beyond the horizon.

That’s truly the beauty of Synthwaves. It’s an album of musical exploration. It casts a musical line into the ether and we sit to see what that line pulls up. Thorsten Quaeschning and Ulrich Schnauss have set out to create something exploratory but also something inviting and genuine. They’ve achieved that. I believe Edgar Froese would approve.

 

Creature Comforts

It’s amazing how things really come into perspective when your pretty simple existence is thrown into a frenzied uproar. The simplest and quietest moments are magnified in the millions when you don’t even have a place to rest your tired body in your own home after a day of work. We all fall prey to not feeling satisfied with what we have. We end up throwing little pity parties for ourselves because something didn’t work out like we’d hoped it would, or maybe we didn’t have enough money for that one cool “thing” we wanted. I’ve been in that spot. Hell, I’ll probably be in that spot in a week or two. It’s being human. We all occasionally feel like we’re owed a little more than we got. It’s not a bad thing. Goals push us to succeed. But just as long as we don’t forget what’s really important. You know, the good stuff. The stuff that makes this crazy world worth a damn. The love given to us and the love taken from us. A warm place to rest our head. A sturdy roof to keep us safe from the storm.

The simplest of things.

Having our home torn up has been painful. We’ve never lived extravagantly. My wife and I have lived in our 1,170 square foot ranch home for almost 21 years. We built it as two barely 20-somethings stepping out into the world of grown-ups. We didn’t know what the hell we were doing, but we knew that building a home was a good place to start. We didn’t shoot for the moon, we just built what two newly married kids with a decent credit score could build. That decision has been a good one for us, and to us. We’ve raised three amazing kiddos and three pooches in that home. It’s seen its fair share of happiness and sadness; good times and not-so good times. All in all, it’s been our shelter from both outside forces and internal drama. Three bedrooms upstairs for quiet moments of reflection. A living room where we, well, live. Watching movies, listening to records, conversations filled with laughter(and sometimes not so much laughter), coffee mornings with my dad, and family time with Apples To Apples on Christmas Eve. It’s a place where decisions have been made and kids have laughed loud and hard. A dining room where meals were shared and birthday cakes cut. Year after year our kids get older, yet they’re never too old to blow out candles on a cake. A kitchen where meals have been cooked, desserts created, and many pots of coffee brewed. The kitchen is where the heart of the home beats, in my opinion. Every great decision should be made over a plate and a cup. Minds think more clearly when the body is replenished and caffeine is consumed.

Our house will heal. It’ll soon be back to its top form, with new amenities and prettier furniture(that will hopefully last us a good long while.) New carpet to replace the old that saw more action than Chuck Norris in the 80s. Us Hubners are hearty. We are already healing, slowly. It helps we’re currently in a secret hilltop location planning our next move. Even the dog came along for this adventure. He’s one of us, you know. He’s a Hubner, whether he likes it or not.

I do miss those simple creature comforts, though. First and foremost my record player. The Audio Technica AT-PL120. It’s been a workhorse turntable. Bought it in 2008 and it’s been a good friend since. I miss sitting in my chair and spinning records. Watching the red glow from it as it weaves musical magic with the Ortofon 2M Red cartridge digging into the grooves of the vinyl. “Hey Owen, could you grab me another beer?”, I can hear myself saying. I also miss sleeping in my bed. It was torn apart after the bug disaster was discovered. Sleeping on old furniture in the basement has taken its toll(on both my spirit and my back.) I’m thankful we have a basement that’s partially finished to escape to, but still. Nothing like your own bed to slip into the abyss of sleep with. Being in a rental cabin I also miss things like sharp knives, quality pans, and spatulas that don’t bend with the slightest of pressure. Still, I’m glad this vacation was planned when it was. Worked out as perfect as it could have.

Plus, there’s good beer in fridge. That’s a small miracle right there. And a pool table in the game room. That’s been a blast.

We’re dealing with minor setbacks here, not the end of the world. It felt like the end of the world a few times, but when you’re in the thick of it things seem worse than they are. The house may be bare, but the home still stands.

The love keeps growing, rain or shine.

Nature Wants To Kill Me

Yeah, I’ve been out of commission the last week. I’m still alive and kicking, but it’s been one hell of a week.

For starters, last Saturday I discovered my son’s box spring and mattress were infested with bed bugs. Yeah, they’re real. They’re not just the subject of some fun bedtime tag line you tell your kids before bed. They’re real and they suck beyond belief. For the last six weeks we’ve been dealing with these strange red welts on arms and legs. For the first couple weeks we thought they were something the dog was bringing in from the outside and sharing with us. Poison Sumac or Oak, perhaps. So we started wiping his paws with baby wipes every time he came in. Then I bought a outside leash and hooked him up so he could only do his business in a designated area without roaming into the wasteland of blister-causing weeds. Still, even after all the precautions my wife and I were still dealing with itchy welts. Me, my upper left arm was so bad it began blistering. I thought maybe I was allergic to the crap outdoors. I was beginning to wonder if maybe nature wanted to kill me. My son began breaking out in little red spots, too. It was relegated to his arms and legs. It looked like eczema. We’d put ointment on it and it would go away. Pretty soon though it began to spread to the tops of his hands and his neck. My wife took him to the pediatrician, which diagnosed eczema and prescribed the same ointment we already had.

This had been going on since the first weekend in May. It would seem to improve, then it’d get worse. Last weekend was the big reveal. The mystery was solved. Id’ gone into my son’s room to hang some shelves when I noticed this bug on the floor. I thought it was a tick, as my wife had seen a couple over the last few weeks as well in our bedroom. My son said “That looks like the bug I saw behind my bed.” A feeling of dread came over me as I told him to step back as I carefully moved his mattress from the box spring. A simple inspection revealed his box spring was infested with egg sacs and bed bug feces. The need to get it out of my house was stronger than my need to throw up(and my need to take a flame thrower to the room.) We quickly removed the bed and took it outside. This then led to a mass exodus of years worth of toys, stuffed animals, comics, and clothes from his room. It was the Saturday from Hell last week. The day was spent emptying the room, spreading bed bug dust, and inspecting other rooms of the house. My daughter, whose room was next to my son’s tainted homebase, had one bug crawling on her bed frame(she herself had a few welts as well.) Her room seemed to be in the clear otherwise. Our room looked okay as well, but I spread the bed bug dust in there as well. Sunday was then spent pulling up all the carpet in my son’s bedroom. We didn’t know if the bugs had made their way under the carpet. Not knowing was not an option for me(or my wife.) My dad came over and we removed the carpet in less than an hour. No bugs in the carpet, thankfully. The carpet was 21 years old, so it’s not like it didn’t need to be replaced.

All seemed like it may be getting better.

Then I woke up Monday morning with new marks on me. I called my wife from work and told her we should have pest control come out to do a run-thru of the house. She said that would be a good idea. About an hour later she called me to tell me she took our bed out of the house and took the headboard apart to find bed bugs in it. On my side. I was being feasted upon by these horrible creatures that up until this point I thought were relegated to mattresses on the side of the road and $5 a night flophouses. I ended up leaving work early that morning to come home and figure out what the hell we were going to do. We came to the conclusion that pest control was needed immediately, as well as getting everything out of the house that we could get out. If it seemed tainted, it was gone. We rented a trash dumpster and filled it with furniture, bags of clothes, and years of memories that couldn’t be redeemed unfortunately. The pest control guy came and told us the amount of money it would cost for them to get our house bug-free(they heat the house up to 140 degrees, as well as using chemicals.)We agreed, and it’s going down on Tuesday. As the week went on we began removing all the carpet upstairs. Saturday morning my dad and I finished. The wife and I got our couch outside and it too is now in the dumpster.

We are in a shell of what used to be our home.

So how did this happen? Well a trip to Chicago back at the end of April is the culprit. We stayed at a $320 a night swanky Hyatt in downtown Chicago, a place you’d never guess would have bed bugs. I’ve stayed at some real dumps over the years, but never left with anything more than a sleepless night and sore back. This Hyatt was a beautiful spot to stay so my wife and daughters could enjoy Hamilton at an afternoon show The room seemed clean, and the beds were reasonably comfortable. Turns out that wasn’t the case. At all.

Lesson here is this: check your mattresses kids.

So here I am at nearly 1:30 am typing about this last pathetic week. I’m in the basement with the kids, while my wife is upstairs sleeping in the recliner with the dog. All the room are bare and carpetless(new carpet will be installed next Friday.) Our clothes are bagged in airtight containers after being washed and dried in an industrial washer/dryer at a laundromat in town. I told my wife they looked like giant piles of freeze-dried jerky. We leave later today for Brown County where I’ll sleep in a bed for the first time in nearly a week. There will be woods, nature, and a hell of a view. I’m hoping nature doesn’t want to kill me down there. I’m hoping we can call a truce for the sake of sanity. I know things could be a whole lot worse. There was no house fire or cancer diagnosis. No car wrecks or job loss. The kids are healthy, as are the wife and myself. The house will once again look normal, and the bugs will be a distant, bad memory. A memory I wish could be tossed out with the family couch, but I’ll settle for a bug-free sleep.

I haven’t spun a record in over a week. It doesn’t feel natural.

Motorbreathless

Metallica were the gateway band for me. My older brother and his bad influence ways pushed Master of Puppets on me like some greasy punk passing me my first joint in the middle school basketball courts. We drove on US 33 on our way to the mall one hot summer afternoon and he pushed a cassette into the tape deck of his 1977 Cutlass Supreme. What hit my ears was an onslaught of power chords, double kick bass drum, and a howling James Hetfield singing “Master! Master! Where’s the dreams that I’ve been after/Master! Master! You promised only lies!” It was one of those eureka moments for my 13-year old self which led to a leap into the world of thrash/speed metal. For my birthday that year I was given a Ride The Lightning songbook, which helped me learn “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, “Trapped Under Ice”, and “Fade To Black”.

My brother bought me that book, natch.

From that point on I was a Metalli-nerd(it was a small group of just me, the neighbor kid that wasn’t allowed to listen to Metallica for Tipper Gore reasons, and my dog Klaus.) …And Justice For All was in my possession the day it came out in August of 1988. I was 14-years old and heading into my freshman year of high school. I was awkward and stocky with a weak mullet and wore too many button up striped shirts that were purchased at JC Penney. But I could half ass play “Eruption” and “Whole Lotta Rosie” and in my head I thought it was gonna be my year. Turned out it was just another “meh” school year, with the exception of seeing Child’s Play on my 15th birthday with two pals, snagging a pretty cool Megadeth t-shirt at some point, and my uncle gifting me a 70s DOD flanger pedal. Oh, and Metallica premiered their first video ever with “One”. Stayed at a friend’s house on a Saturday night so I could see the premiere on Headbanger’s Ball since my parent’s didn’t want to pay for cable.

I stuck with Metallica clear through high school. Metallica was the soundtrack to my senior year, along with Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Nevermind, Ten, and Badmotorfinger. I gotta say, though, after “The Black Album” I felt the guys got a little too complacent. Load, a song on the MI:2 soundtrack, Bob Segar covers, and short, gelled hair styles? “Metal up your ass” turned into something far less violent or deviant. Soccer moms were singing along to “Enter Sandman” and “Fuel”. I’m not dissing this San Bernadino Godfathers of speed metal for making bank, but by the mid to late 90s Metallica were dabbling in arty rock and southern rock and I just couldn’t board that train with ’em. In 2003, when everyone turned against Metallica for St. Anger I sort of dug that record. Where most folks seemed to think it was middle-aged men trying to fit in with the kids they influenced I saw it as a band attempting to have fun being a band again. Taking risks(that snare sound, anyone?) and getting out of their comfort zone. I felt that, but the doc Some Kind Of Monster confirmed it to me. Whiny rock stars? Nah, they’re just human like you and me. Foibles and all, man.

So where am I going with all of this? Well I started going back to the old albums and I’d realized that I never really got into Kill Em All. I knew most of the songs, but never really dug into that record. I sort of bypassed that initial debut and went right for Master of Puppets. Last year Metallica started re-releasing their albums in remastered form, done from the original master tapes. The first two releases were Kill Em All and Ride The Lightning. Of course I bought them.

They sound amazing, but the big surprise was how much I love Kill Em All. For some reason I always just figured it was more of a hard rock album. It never came across as speed metal to me. Well I hadn’t hit the right songs. “Motorbreath”, “Phantom Lord”, and “Metal Militia” are as thrash and speed as they come. “Hit The Lights”, “Whiplash”, and “Seek and Destroy” are classic metal tunes. “The Four Horsemen” has a breakdown in it that sounds like Peace Sells-era Megadeth, like something off “Wake Up Dead”(I’m wondering if Mustaine was still in the band when that one was written.) “Jump In The Fire” is catchy as hell, but sounds nothing like Nilsson. There’s even a pretty killer instrumental highlighting the late great Cliff Burton’s bass playing called “Anesthesia(Pulling Teeth)”. This record actually seems like the perfect place for Metallica to being their trek into “Metaldom”.

What this album really sounds like is four barely drinking age California buds getting buzzed in the garage and making their own brand of NWOBHM tuneage. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Venom, Diamond Head, and Black Sabbath all play a part in molding the sound of Metallica, and Kill Em All is their first foray into the world that made them what they are today. I now realize Kill Em All is one of the most important metal records of the 80s. Ride The Lightning was when the speed came into prominence for the band, but Kill Em All was their street record. This was the ball bat and bike chains record. Street level tunes, man. There would be no Master or Justice without Kill Em All.

My son now requests “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. Not because he heard me spinning it, but because of its use in an excellent indie horror movie we watched called The Devil’s Candy.  But now that I mentioned that “The Four Horsemen” was used in X-Men: Apocalypse, he’s now asking to hear Kill Em All.

I guess I’ve become the bad influence now. My older brother would be proud.

 

 

 

 

Beach Fossils : Somersault

Whenever summer rolls around you always hope to find that “summer album”. You know, that record you put on and open the windows to breathe in some of that fresh air. Free your mind of whatever’s been bugging you and just soak up some catchy, breezy tunes. It’s the the road trip album. The album you pull at least three or four songs off of and put on mixes for your less music savvy friends. And there’s at least two or three of those timeless songs that seem to live in their own little musical universe. They can exist within the times we currently live in, or 40 years ago in some other life. Maybe it’s not what you’d consider a classic, but it’s classic for the moment you’re existing in right now.

I have found that album, and it’s Beach Fossil’s excellent Somersault.

I wasn’t all that into Beach Fossils’ self-titled debut LP. You could hear the songwriting chops, but the production made the songs sound distant to my ears. But in 2013 Dustin Payseur and a new line-up released the excellent Clash The Truth. It was a warm and fuzzy collection of post-punk and early 80s alternative sounds, like old R.E.M. mixing it up with Joy Division. It was one of my favorite albums of 2013. Now, four years later we have Somersault. It’s a collection of tight, soulful tunes that often take the form of inner city confessionals. There’s something very modern and current with this record, yet there’s also this early 70s vibe that makes you think of gritty, Red Hook streets and Brownstones hiding a summer sunset.

“This Year” is the grand entrance to the world of Somersault. It cascades through the speakers like the Byrds and Blue Oyster Cult hammering it out during an evening of watershedding ghosts and vices. It’s perfection. “Tangerine” slinks in quickly like a pleasant memory through an open window as you light up another cigarette. Payseur really shows his writing chops here, with a mix of angst-y rhythmic constructs and almost jazz-inflected chord changes. Yet despite the technical prowess the song flows like a classic from another time. It helps that Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell helps out in the vocal department. Another classic sounding track is “Saint Ivy”. Loping groove, tasteful strings, and Payseur’s sleepy vocal delivery bring to mind old label mate Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum’s masterful turns on last year’s Life of Pause. There’s even one hell of a flute solo. Seriously, tasteful. This whole album feels like a well fussed-over summer classic.

Elsewhere “May 1st” might remind one of those New Jersey cats Real Estate. There’s a melancholy lean in there that Martin Courtney and company like to work up in nearly every one of their tracks, but Beach Fossils let the song breathe and roam as it may. It’s carefree, not fussed over. “Rise” is a quick number with Memphis rapper Cities Aviv taking the spotlight. One of the absolute highlights for me is the exquisite “Down The Line”. It pulls back a bit and lets the bass take the lead with guitar coming in for some tasteful accompaniment. It feels like an ode to the city streets that make the band what it is. It could be an ode to a lover, a friend, or the city itself. Regardless, there’s some real feeling here. “Be Nothing” is like a cross between Jane’s Addiction and The Church, with that bass leading the track into crystalline sonics. “That’s All for Now” goes back to the early days of Beach Fossils, but with a more confident vibe.

Fade to black.

Beach Fossils have given me that great summer album I’ve been waiting for(still digging you, Real Estate.) Somersault from start to finish is a beauty. It has that feeling of deja vu, as if you heard it in another life. Like some ghostly album delivered to you by a giving universe. Dustin Payseur has made his best record yet.

8.4 out of 10

 

 

Breathe Easy : The Legendary Trainhoppers Ready New Album ‘Let It Breathe’

I always look forward to talking with Fort Wayne’s The Legendary Trainhoppers. That’s a group of six guys that are at an age of mature comfort. What do I mean by that? I mean they’re middle-aged dudes with careers, kids, mortgages, and all the dad life fixings, but are still willing to take risks for the sake of the muse. After a years-long hiatus from the Trainhoppers in 2015, the guys broke out the mandolins, Telecasters, and tube amplifiers to find that magic they used to make together. They found it and then some. Family Tree was a sweeping and rugged collection of dusty Americana and buzzing rock and roll. It wasn’t a weekend warriors kind of record where dad hangs in the garage with his pals and swills Natural Lights and jams on Petty hits. The boys really did get the band back together and it was glorious.

We’re not even at a year and some change since Family Tree was released and they’re already readying a new record they recorded back in March with Jason Davis at Off The Cuff Sound. It’s called Let It Breathe and it’s their best yet. It features contributions by Cassie Beer and The Hoppin’ Horns. But not only did the guys record an all-analog warm and fuzzy beauty of a long player, they had filmmaker Brad Bores document the whole process. On June 10th at Artslab you’ll be able to hear the guys debut the record, pick up a copy of the album on CD(0r download code if that’s your thang), and see the film and relive the making of the Trainhoppers beautiful new record.

I talked to Matt Kelley and Phil Potts about the record, as well as Brad Bores about the music doc and how he got involved.

J. Hubner: So we’re just a little over a year from the release of the last Trainhoppers album ‘Family Tree’ and now thanks to the wonders of internet voyeurism I know you guys have been recording a new record. The Trainhoppers are in one hell of a creative streak. How did this new one come about so soon? Was it a strike while the iron’s hot sort of situation? Is this a whole new batch of tunes?

Matt Kelley: We definitely felt like we were on a streak, and even when promoting Family Tree, we continued to write—fear that if we stopped, we might lose momentum. All of these songs but one were written in the 15 months since recording the previous album. I think our velocity has been helped by a couple of things; for starters, we’re a six-piece and everyone contributes song ideas (rather than there just being one songwriter), and second, we’ve hit a really great collaborative place where we share ideas very early in the process, and pass ‘em around to be made different and better.

Phil Potts: There are 6 of us in the band and we’re all songwriters, so while having so many creative voices has its challenges, the upside is there is a lot of material. It was a challenge just picking which 10 to record. . .so we recorded 11.

J. Hubner:  So the album’s called ‘Let It Breathe’. You recorded this time around over at Off The Cuff Sound with Jason Davis. What made The Trainhoppers decide to go full-on analog? It seems like a perfect fit. How was the experience with Jason?

Phil Potts: It was a very different process than our last album. With the last one, we made the conscious decision to produce it ourselves. We recorded it in a more modern way, digitally. On ‘Let It Breathe’ we decided we wanted input from someone who could help us best shape the songs for recording. Not everything that is great for a live performance translates well to the studio, so having someone like Jason who has so much experience in that realm was revelatory. Having input from fresh ears was helpful because we’d been living with these songs for a year now. The real artistic benefit to recording to tape in an analog studio, in my eyes, is not some fetishization of  is that there are limitations. Constraints can be immensely beneficial to creativity. You can’t have 100 tracks. You can’t Auto-Tune a bad vocal. You don’t make everything mathematically perfect and that’s what makes it beautiful.

Matt Kelley: Well, we’ve known Jason and known about Off the Cuff for a very long time, but had never been to the studio. We had the option to record in The B-Side again—it’s comfortable (it’s where we write and rehearse) and convenient, and there’s no clock running. Which is to say, it’s an easy option. So, we checked out Off the Cuff, considering it part of our due diligence. About ten minutes into the studio tour, we were in love, and sharpening our resumés in hopes that we might work there someday. Of course, folks often thing “analog tape” immediately when they hear about Off the Cuff, but it turns out that’s the smallest part of the story. It all starts with Jason Davis and his perspective and approach and process to making a record. The incredible collection of instruments is a blast, too. Using real instruments and real gear slows everything down, forces you to make more deliberate decisions, and cranks up the pressure.

So yes, The B-Side would have been the easy choice for us. But easy is a four-letter word, and we felt Off the Cuff was the more challenging direction, and could lead to a better album. We certainly believe that to be the case. It was an experience—grueling, hilarious, brilliant—that the seven of us (band + Jason) will never forget.

J. Hubner: Song-wise did the Trainhoppers go into Off The Cuff with completed songs ready to hit record or did you guys leave space to experiment a bit? What’s the overall vibe of ‘Let It Breathe’?

Phil Potts: We had the songs completed, but we were open to changes. And they did change. Off the Cuff Studios is an inspirational environment.

Matt Kelley: The songs were ready to be performed live. But live, The Trainhoppers are often pretty busy—very loud, everything and the kitchen sink, loud. The studio often gave us the chance to actually play a little less, and be very purposeful with what we played when, and how. Also, of course, the studio’s collection of gear gave us the opportunity to experiment more than we might in a digital environment. If you have a million options, you might just choose the one you know. When you have a dozen, you might find you want to try ‘em all…

Vibe-wise, you know, it wasn’t quite spring, and definitely not summer, when we recorded. Our final pre-production and early studio days were when winter was hanging on, and the rainy season had begun. I think there’s part of that in the album, but it’s also jubilant, and it’s got some real fight to it. We stretch into some places we’ve never been before, including a song pretty much without guitar, and working with a horn section. But hey, if The Replacements could bring in the horns with Jim Dickinson on “Can’t Hardly Wait,” we can do the same, right?

J. Hubner: The album release is Saturday June 10th at ArtsLab. Besides the album, the band will be premiering a film on the making of the LP that evening, too. How did the film come about?

Matt Kelley: I first met Brad Bores when he attended a Rayland Baxter show at The B-Side with some dear mutual friends. We hit it off, and share a love for a certain loose Americana music. We were getting the band together and talking about why we did, after almost a decade off, and I left Brad a five-minute voicemail essay about it, and it just seemed like there might be a story worth telling here.

J. Hubner: Is there any ‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart’ drama in the film? No personnel changes or vomiting mid-mix I hope.

Phil Potts: Unfortunately for the Brad Bores, the filmmaker, we all get along and had a blast making the record.

Matt Kelley: Fortunately—I think—Brad wasn’t there on those days, lol. But really, this band is far more in simpatico in 2017 than it was in 2007. We did have conflict in writing and making this record, but it was always ultimately in service of the song, and the album, and ideas bigger than any of us as individuals.

J. Hubner: So what can folks expect on June 10th at Artslab?

Matt Kelley: We’re really excited to present a very focused show—a concert performance, rather than a gig. We’re doing two shows, one at 6:30 and one at 9:30. Each will open with Brad’s film, which will be around 15 minutes. We’ll then have a Q&A with Brad, and then the band will perform the album in its entirety, and maybe a couple of requests. It’ll be a fun, all ages show. The ArtsLab is an awesome venue, and we’ll have a bar by The Brass Rail.

Phil Potts: They can expect the rain to stop falling and the clouds to part. We advise bringing extra socks because we will have rocked them off by the 3rd song. All of the ladies in the first two rows run the risk of immaculate conception just by looking at our drummer, so sit accordingly.

J. Hubner: After June 10th where can folks pick up copies of ‘Let It Breathe’?

Matt Kelley: We’ll have hard copies at shows and at TheTrainhoppers.com, hopefully Neat Neat Neat and Wooden Nickel, and digital copies on all the usual outlets, including streaming services. I’m pretty proud of the album cover, so I do recommend the CD to those who still have a way to play such a thing…

J. Hubner: Any favorite memories of making the album?

Phil Potts: There was a game of HORSE. I was draining long distance shots over and over again while missing 5-footers. I think that’s a metaphor for this album. As John Irving said “If you don’t feel that you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then probably what you are doing isn’t very vital.”

Matt Kelley: A long, long time ago I worked on the website for a studio in Nashville that was up in the holler surrounding the city, a getaway, a destination studio that was down-to-earth, outside the music industry and all about the song, and the art. This was when I was first discovering this guitar I had picked up was lucky. Well, I never had the chance to be part of recording there, but working with this band, with Jason at Off the Cuff, I really felt like I finally got to live an experience like the one I had daydreamed about all those years ago.


So June 10th, Artslab, and bring extra socks. And if you don’t want to be carrying an immaculate Trainhoppers baby sit in the back row. Seriously get out there. It’s gonna be great, and you’ll get to see the great film about the making of ‘Let It Breathe’ which was directed by Brad Bores, who I talked to as well.

J. Hubner: So how did you get involved in documenting the Trainhoppers recording sessions for ‘Let It Breathe’? Were you a fan of the Legendary Trainhoppers prior to the film?

Brad Bores: Yes but I wasn’t living in the Fort Wayne area for the first coming of the Trainhoppers so I am a newer fan. I met Matt Kelley at a B-Side show back in 2013(?) and when I heard his band was making a comeback a few years later I knew I would dig the music, just from knowing Matt and his musical tastes that align pretty closely with mine. Last summer the B Side hosted a screening of another music doc I made on Fort Wayne Musician PJ Sauerteig. While I was setting up Matt was talking about the Trainhoppers recording a 3rd album and I think it just clicked that this could make a great short film.

J. Hubner: Were there any music docs you were pulling inspiration from while filming?

Brad Bores: There are quite a few music docs I admire and I’m sure subconsciously elements may show up, but I was more focused on the inspiration coming from the Trainhoppers story and how the visual elements of Fort Wayne (trains, rivers, winter) are connected to the themes of their music.

J. Hubner: Did the filming take place specifically with the recording process or were you involved before that?

Brad Bores: I was filming sporadically the entire process starting last fall when they were still writing and assembling the songs. I also spent the winter chasing down countless shots of trains, bridges and rivers leading towards downtown Fort Wayne as well as the harsh winter vibes in general. The last phase of filming was in the studio this spring as they recorded the songs.

J. Hubner: How long have you been making films? Who were some of your early inspirations? Do you prefer docs to scripted films?

Brad Bores: I have been making films on some level since my college days back in the mid 2000’s. My first serious project was a feature length documentary titled “When the Bell Rings” completed in 2013. The Maysle brothers and John Cassavetes would be earlier inspirations with Roberto Minervini being a more contemporary filmmaker I have followed. I enjoy all types of films but only create docs.

J. Hubner: Will you be documenting the album release show on June 10th?

Brad Bores: Nope. I plan to just relax and enjoy the evening.

J. Hubner: What’s your overall takeaway from this experience? Could there be another music doc in your future?

Brad Bores: This isn’t my first music doc and I’m pretty certain it won’t be my last. There is such a strong relationship between film and music that when the right story or theme lines up it makes the process very conducive. I’m excited to screen this film as it is a departure from my typical style of verite into something more visual and stylistic.


Get to Artslab on June 10th for either the 6:30pm or 9:30pm all ages performances. The cover is $12 and includes a CD copy of ‘Let It Breathe'(or a download card.) Brad Bores’ short documentary will be shown first, followed by a Q&A with Bores and then a performance of the full album by the Trainhoppers. Don’t miss this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castles Made of Pixels

I don’t even remember Castlevania III : Dracula’s Curse. I don’t remember one single thing about the game, not even the music. Yet, I felt compelled to buy Mondo’s double LP release of the soundtrack a couple months ago. Compelled may not be the right word. Possessed to buy it, maybe? It’s like a sickness, folks. An addiction. Maybe it’s because I figured I bought the first two Castlevania releases, so I needed to complete the trilogy? That could be. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Castlevania as a teen. That was one of the few games in my sad game-playing career that I obsessed over, but only three versions of the game. The original Castlevania on NES, Super Castlevania on the Super Nintendo system, and then Castlevania : Symphony of the Night on the original Playstation. Those three versions I loved and played like an idiot into the wee hours of the night. I’d load up on caffeine and frozen pizzas and battle all the ghouls and ghosts hidden away in Dracula’s various castles.

But not Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.

But I gotta say, the music in that game was on point. For being 8-bit(or was it 16-bit by then?), the music really grabs you and pulls you into that world of darkness and doomed baroque romanticism. What’s most interesting is that the music reminds me of the neo-classical guitar of Ritchie Blackmore and that Swedish guy Yngwie Malmsteen. When I heard the second release in this Castlevania series I dubbed it “8-bit Yngwie”. It was sort of an inside joke between me and, well, nobody. Just me. Listen to the guitar/organ solos in Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” for the neo-classical reference. Imagine that done on 8-bit instruments and that’ll give you a good idea as to what I’m talking about.

The Konami Kukeiha Club is responsible for the music to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. I’m not sure if they’re an actual club, like with member cards and funny hats. I think they’re just an in-house music department at Konami that were responsible for creating music for Konami’s games. The list of club members is exhaustive, so I won’t list them. I’ll just say that there was a lot of work that went into creating the musical world in not only Castlevania, but so many other classic games that Konami gave us in the 80s and early 90s. What games? Contra. And a bunch more…probably.

I suppose I’ll just continue to keep buying these soundtracks up until I’m broke and selling them on Ebay in order to pay for college tuition or a ham sandwich for lunch. That’s what people with vinyl problems do. We justify these purchases with words and phrases like “nostalgia” and “childhood memories” and “collecting” and “I earned it, dammit!” I’ll have excuses till the cows come home as to why I need to buy these lovely pieces of plastic that are adorned with eye-popping artwork. Why?

Because I earned it, dammit!