This is where I drop the spat and spittle, the sentimental fat and drivel...
Music and such, and maybe a word or two about a word or two. Midwest point-of-view, without all that religion and gun stuff. Intellectually unintellectual. Elitist for the pizza and beer crowd. Grab a bean bag and lounge in the basment for a while, won't you?
Ty Segall is not the type of guy to sit on his laurels. He doesn’t put out an album and then sit, lay back and just coast on good reviews for awhile. It seems that usually by the time he puts a record out he’s already onto the next record, project, music obsession, etc. For those that have been on the Segall train since the beginning that’s an exciting prospect(and an expensive one.) But for the passive listener finding the right place to start with Segall can be daunting. Each record seems to be made by a slightly different version of the man. “Last go round Segall was all about the Beatles and Fairport Convention, but this time around he’s all about Sabbath and the Stooges.” Again, if you like these 90 degree turns you’re in for a treat.
Over the last few years Ty has been veering into wilder territories. Manipulator, Emotional Mugger, and Ty Segall were all wildly unique from another, with Emotional Mugger being an outlier of bizarro weirdness the likes Captain Beefheart would tip his hat to(check out some live clips with Ty in the baby mask.) Well just shy of a year from when Segall released Ty Segall, he’s back with his second double LP(the first being the solid Manipulator) called Freedom’s Goblin. You’ve got a lot of the usual here with fuzzed-out guitars, big drums, and Segall writing catchy jams one after another. This time around he’s mining more 70s funk and even the Stones’ Exile On Main Street. Where Manipulator felt like a psychedelically woven-together concept, Freedom’s Goblin is more just a patchwork of horn-fueled jams that never quite mesh completely to my ears. It’s still pretty fun, nonetheless.
“Fanny Dog” Is the first thing we hear and it lays down some serious electro-funk rock and roll. Brass blast and electric piano sprinkles the background with Nicky Hopkins-like magic. It’s a big blast of classic rock. “Rain” sounds like a New Orleans funeral procession as conceived by Queen. That’s followed by the excellent Hot Chocolate cover “Every 1’s A Winner”. This is an all-out banger. It’s like Segall was meant to cover this his whole life. He proved he was worthy of the funk crown on Manipulator and lives up to that groovy promise on this track. “Despoiler Of Cadaver” is a slice of disco weirdness, almost veering into a mix of Faith No More and Of Montreal with a touch of Blondie. “When Mommy Kills You” is a blast of fuzzed-out weirdness. Big glam harmonies mixed with punk rock abandon(and even a touch of Supergrass thrown in.) “My Lady’s On Fire” is an acoustic-driven ballad with plunky electric piano, some tight drumming and horns that takes this track into Dan’s “Dirty Work” territory.
And we’re only a third of the way thru.
What else do we have? “Alta” is a big rocker, complete with fuzzy riffs and big melodies. “Meaning” lays on the cowbell and grooves pretty thick before going all molten lava punk stomp that is all the more effective with Segall’s wife Denée Segall laying down some vicious vocals(this one’s a highlight, guys.) Then we get back into balladeering with “Cry Cry Cry”, a mix of George Harrison and the Raspberries. “Shoot You Up” is sleazy 70s glam, and “The Last Waltz” is a wonky alternate universe 3/4 bizarro stomp. Imagine Three Dog Night melting into a black hole while still attempting to entertain. That’s what this sounds like.
Listen, Ty Segall borders on musical savant territory. There doesn’t seem to be much the guy can’t do, play, write, and bring to fruition on his albums. He surrounds himself with amazing players that are excellent songwriters in their own right, but are willing to put their own art off to the side in order to play with him. Freedom’s Goblin is yet another run of solid tunes that Ty Segall seemed to just pull out of the ether. This time around he’s fascinated with horns and funk with a smattering of weirdness throughout. At times precise and at times unhinged and scattershot, it’s a mostly engaging listen with a few true moments of greatness. Within Freedom’s Goblin‘s 75 minutes, there’s a truly classic 50 minute album.
Occasionally I like a good dose of tongue firmly planted in cheek when it comes to horror/action/violent cinema. You get too much of that serious, brooding, bloody cinema and I think it starts to affect you. Like, you only want to eat organic food and drink purified water and you forget the pleasures of a cheap, $5 pizza and indulging in an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting. Don’t get me wrong, I love the seriously scary and dark stuff. That sort of thing is what molded me into the fine, upstanding citizen I am today, don’t you know. But on occasion a big, splattery, no-hold-barred horror/comedy is just what the doctor ordered. Shaun of the Dead, Fright Night, Zombieland, Scream, and many other movies over the years have given me great joy as I watched their bloody hijinks. As a parent, it’s also great to have some lighter fare to sit and enjoy on a Friday night with the kids. Sure, I’m sure there’s some parents that would scoff, or dare I say freak the f**k out, at the thought of their pre-teen watching Zombieland. To those parents, I say you’re not doing your kids any favors. Our oldest was watching The Simpsons and Futurama at 2 years old. She’s now going to one of the best private high schools in the state with colleges all over the country falling over themselves to get her to commit to them. Maybe it was all the Baby Einstein videos and being breastfed and read to every night that made her smart, but I’m still giving Matt Groening credit.
Anyways, a movie that can be added to the list of great horror/action/comedy films is Joe Lynch’s Mayhem. The premise is simple: workers at a consulting firm are quarantined to their office building due to being infected with a virus called ID-7. The virus isn’t lethal but it causes people to act on their most basic urges; be it love, hate, anger, happiness. In the case of this building, these are people that work in an office and subjugate their true feelings for just “going through the motions” as they’re at work. It’s a corporate world, and as we know it can be a dog-eat-dog kind of environment. The protagonist Derek, played by Steve Yeun(The Walking Dead‘s Glen) has just been framed for losing a big account and is fired. As he’s walked down to the lobby of the building he realizes the building has been quarantined and everyone inside infected with the ID-7. After years of selling little pieces of his soul here and there for a corner office and a seat at the executive table he lets all those feelings out and turns into a one man wrecking machine. He teams up with a woman(The Babysitter‘s Samara Weaving) who came to the firm to try and get an extension on her mortgage but was turned down and they battle their way through each floor of the building so Derek can get to the board room and plead his case. Oh, I forgot to mention that any acts of violence, mayhem, and murder will not be prosecuted because the courts deemed anyone committing crimes under the influence of ID-7 can’t be held accountable for their crimes or actions.
All bets are off.
So basically this movie is a cross between 28 Days Later, Enter The Dragon, The Towering Inferno, and Office Space. Yeun is great in it, as is Weaving. There’s all the office stereotypes and they’re turned up to 20 in this thing. Scissors, nail guns, staplers, hammers, and fire extinguishers are used accordingly to exact punishment on those who get in the way. The film has that SyFy original look, but fortunately the acting and action make up for any lack of a sleek look. And there are no Sharknados to be found, so that’s a plus.
The other thing that brought me to this film was the soundtrack by Steve Moore. Moore has quickly become one of my favorite film score composers, doing amazing work for The Guest, Cub, and The Mind’s Eye. The Mind’s Eye saw Moore shortening the pieces, where as before he made longer tracks. With Mayhem that trend continues. It’s a double LP with 6 or 7 tracks to a side. They’re shorter but feel punchier. He’s utilizing more dancier tracks, with an almost techno feel in certain pieces. I’d say this is probably one his most unique scores to date. You can really hear Steve Moore stretching out a bit with this one, and his deft synth playing works well to pump up the action and anxiety throughout the film.
So hey, if you like action and comedy but horror isn’t really your bag, you should give Mayhem a try. It’s a mess of Friday night fun. Well, Saturday night fun for us as that’s when we watched it. The wife and the teens and I. Honestly, I’m not sure if my wife and 14-year old daughter even paid attention to it. But my son and I loved it.
Come on, who doesn’t want to see Glen beat a bunch of executives up with a hammer?
Primus were one of those bands that even in the throes of my relentless fandom in the early 90s I still wasn’t sure what it was that I loved about them. I seem to have that problem with music that comes across both funny and prodigiously. Primus did both in spades.
Les Claypool played the bass as if it was an animated object that hung around his neck. It bent and slapped like it was made of rubber and psilocybin nightmares. His voice wasn’t singing more than it was yelling stories like a carnival barker in various states of slackjaw hillbilly and grizzled longshoremen. Larry LaLonde was rumored to have been a former student of guitar wizard Joe Satriani, but I heard no evidence of that. His playing on albums like Frizzle Fry, Sailing The Seas of Cheese, Pork Soda, and Tales From The Punch Bowl sounded like chicken scratch and a pained squelch. Tim “Herb” Alexander was the only guy in the band that it was apparent he was a rock and roll guy. He played like Neal Peart and looked like a welder. He threw fills in that could’ve come off of “YYZ”, but they somehow fit perfectly with what these two strange, lanky dudes were playing.
I loved Primus into the mid-90s, as in I bought their albums up until Antipop in 1999. The only other person that loved them as much as me was my older brother. He actually got me into Primus. I remember him coming home from a weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio with a lady friend and he returned with a Sailing The Seas of Cheese t-shirt and a copy of Suck On This on CD. What were these things? Who were these guys? Why did I like this weird band so much? All three times I saw Primus live was with my brother(along with my wife, then my girlfriend.) First time was 1993 in Grand Rapids, MI at a little dumpy theater called Club Eastbrook. The Melvins opened for them and it was mind-blowing. They were touring for Pork Soda and that album played heavily into their set. Later on that year we saw them again at the World Music Amphitheater in Chicago on the Lollapalooza tour. They were great(as were Dino Jr, Fishbone, and Alice In Chains), but I found out early festivals aren’t my bag(neither is an afternoon in 90 degree heat with no SPF 30.) The last time we saw them together was 1994 in Peoria, IL at some convention center. This time they were the opening band, opening for Rush. Holy crap, that was an amazing night of music. If I’m not mistaken Primus even went into King Crimson’s “Thela Hun Ginsheet” at one point. I’d just started getting into 80s Crimson so I was pretty blown away.
I continued to dig Primus and Les and by Tales From The Punch Bowl I’d started to hear what I hadn’t been hearing before in Les and Ler’s playing: that they were fucking amazing players. Les was obvious from the start, I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the guy. Ler was a little harder to crack. Once I’d gotten into Crimson I could here where LaLonde was coming from. He had a real Fripp vibe to his playing. And “Winona’s Big Brown Beaver” had some pretty killer “chickin’ pickin'” going on which showed a whole new side to the guy’s ability. But after The Brown Album and the disappointing Antipop I kind of lost track of the band. Les continued to put records out under his own name, as well as side projects like Oysterhead(with Stewart Copeland), The Les Claypool Frog Brigade, Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel, and even played on Adrian Belew’s Side One LP, but I just didn’t really keep up. Still dug the older albums, but my brain had remolded and had been rewired to go into different musical proclivities.
Fast forward to December of 2014. My older brother stops by to wish me a happy birthday and hands me a bag. I recognize the bag, as it’s a Karma Records bag. I pull a record out of the bag and it’s Primus’ Primus & The Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble. I hadn’t heard a new Primus album in close to 15 years. Turns out my brother and sister-in-law caught Primus on the Chocolate Factory tour twice that year. He knew I hadn’t heard it yet so he wanted to spread the Primus love my way. After we had a beer my big bro was on his way home and I put the record on. They were still the Primus I’d always known but there was something special about this record. This record I realized that all those years of cartoonish records, weird characters, and rubbery musical escapades were from a real honest place in Les Claypool. In an interview Claypool had said that he was in the 3rd grade when Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder came out. He said he obsessed over that movie until Jaws came out a few years later. Les loved the cartoonish and absurd. He loved oddball characters and storytelling. It’s what he’d been doing since the beginning, but being able to take something that made such an impression on him when he was young and turn it into this musical piece was and is something to behold.
The next year for my birthday my big brother stopped by and handed me yet another Karma Records bag. Inside was Les Claypool’s solo album Of Whales and Woe. This one’s a real treat. Some seriously funky stuff going on within this 2006 LP. Probably the most straightforward grooves Claypool has put to tape. If it hadn’t been for my big brother re-opening my eyes to the wonder that is Primus I’d have never known.
More than Primus, all this is about brotherly love. Even given the fact that my brother and I are well into middle age and we live less than a block away from each other but rarely get together, we still go out of our way to dazzle each other on our birthdays. There were a couple Primus years, then in 2016 he gifted me Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe. Zappa was always a very interesting character, but not one I’d delved into(his autobiography, however, is pure gold.) Since my big bro gave me that record I’ve been delving pretty deep into Zappa. Hot Rats, Over-Nite Sensation, Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar, and Joe’s Garage are just a few I’ve dug into.
For my part, I make sure I get my brother a book of some interest every time his birthday rolls around. From biographies of Monty Python members to Henry Rollins poetry collections to Keith Richards and Bruce Campbell autobiographies, I’m always looking for something I know he doesn’t have and hopefully doesn’t even know they exist. A couple years ago there was a Frank Zappa doc I found that he dug. This year, I returned the Primus favor by grabbing him their newest, The Desaturating Seven as well as their 2011 comeback album Green Naugahyde on CD as my older sibling hasn’t fallen prey to vinyl like me. He was thrilled.
You know, I started writing this well before my birthday. Probably sometime before Thanksgiving. I wanted this to be a Primus piece, but I couldn’t seem to finish it. Something just felt off. Turns out, it was because it wasn’t meant to be a piece for Primus, but how Primus fit into the relationship I have with my older brother. Liking Primus doesn’t quite go deep enough. It’s about sharing a love for something with someone else you love. In this case, it’s my brother and I digging Primus together for the last 27 years. I don’t see him all that often, but when I do I cherish the ample laughs we have together. I’m sure we’ll share plenty of laughs in May as we’re heading down to Indianapolis together to see Dweezil Zappa at the Vogue Theater. It’s his “Choice Cuts” tour where he’s playing specific pieces from his dad’s discography. My brother and sister-in-law saw him up in Michigan last year and said it was an amazing show. Well I couldn’t pass up a chance to see Dweezil with my brother. I can’t wait.
Maybe we’ll listen to some Primus on the way down.
So say you’re in a pretty successful local band. You guys make a name for yourselves as a group that’s the real deal; you make solid, blood, sweat, and tears rock and roll albums, you leave scorched earth wherever you play a gig, and you not only garner the respect of fans but of fellow musicians you play shows with. Sean Richardson is the drummer in The Dead Records, a band that by all accounts fits the description above.
The Dead Records are the quintessential rock and roll band. No gimmicks and no carefully carved-out genre, just loud guitars, big melodies, and solid songwriting. But as things slowed down for TDR, Richardson had an urge to keep writing and creating. He turned in his drums for a guitar and recruited TDR guitarist Dan Obergfell to help him in the process. To round out this new project he reached out to Shade’s Ian Skeans to play bass and James Wadsworth of Heaven’s Gateway Drugs for drumming duties. The result of this musical collaboration is called Best Sleep.
The guys are putting the finishing touches on a 5-track EP(I’ve heard it and it’s great.) In-between finishing that up and gearing up for their debut show on February 16th at the Brass Rail, Richardson sat down with me and we talked about Best Sleep.
J. Hubner: So how did Best Sleep come together?
Sean Richardson: This project started as a creative outlet for me to continue to do something I very much enjoy, writing music. My favorite part about playing music has always been the writing process, however for years I have always been playing drums. I started to play guitar because I wanted to continue to write songs. My other band, The Dead Records, were kind of slowing down on the writing process, but I wanted to keep going. I felt like I was going through a range of different emotions and experiences in my life and the best way for me to articulate that is through words. I had the opportunity to write a good amount of lyrics on the last TDR album and if felt very therapeutic to say how I was feeling through lyrics in a song. So most of my songs start with words and then go from there.
J. Hubner: How did you bring everyone into the band?
Sean Richardson: Once I had some bare bones for the songs I asked Dan if he would be interested in hearing them and filling them out a bit with me. We probably played guitar together a handful of times before we wanted to hear how they would sound with drums and bass. I also encouraged Dan to write some lyrics and versus in the first few songs because I have always been a big fan of Dan’s voice and I thought it would be a shame to have him in the band and not have him singing in some way.
I asked Ian for two reasons. I loved a band he was in called Pink Balloon Band and because I thought he played bass with Ryan Kerr when they do full band stuff. It was not until he came over to my house for our first full band practice that he told me he didn’t play bass with Ryan, but he said he was happy to play bass so we went with it. However, the main reason was because I have always appreciated Ian’s ability to write a good fucking song. The Pink Balloon Band EP he released some years ago is probably my favorite release from a band that I am friends with. I spent some time working in a kitchen in New York and when I drove out that way this PBB EP was the only CD I had in my van and I literally listened to it every single day. Ian seemed honestly excited. It was also a great excuse to hang out with a dude that I have wanted an excuse to hang out with for some time.
I was kind of asking anybody I knew who knew how to play drums if they would be interested, but once James came over and played through the songs with Dan and me it was a done deal. It is nice to hear a part for drums in my head and then have James play that part without any sort of coaxing or conversation. It is odd, because I think that James and I probably have the most different musical influences in the band, but when it comes to drums we both like to fucking play with emotion and our preferences are linked behind the set because every time he plays a part I usually think, “That is what I would have played if I was as talented as a drummer as he is.” On top of that, as a new guitar player, I have been trying to push myself in time signatures and different ways of playing things to the best of my ability to see what the fuck he will come up with to play with me.
J. Hubner: From the sound of the upcoming demo you guys have really gelled quite well together.
Sean Richardson: We have been a band for roughly 4 months. It has really blown me away to see how these songs have come together. It think it has been a true representation of everybody bringing something to the table. I will usually have the rough idea for a song, some bridge chords, a melody, and some lyrics I like and a couple practices later we have landed on a song that is vastly different than what I had envisioned, but more unique because every voice is heard.
J. Hubner: I’m sure it helps that everyone has experience outside of Best Sleep. What are those other projects in case folks want to dig a little deeper?
Sean Richardson: Ian is always doing something in his musical cove at his house in Warsaw. He is playing with his band Shade, he does these great fucking one minute song deals, and also dabbled in some shit he was calling Garfieldwave. I honestly don’t really understand what it is all about, but it is great. Dan’s baby is Big Money and The Spare Change, he also plays with me in our other band The Dead Records, and plays bass in The Meat Flowers. James is playing drums with Heaven’s Gateway Drugs.
J. Hubner: Tell me a little bit about the song creation in Best Sleep. What’s your writing process like?
Sean Richardson: For me playing guitar and singing in a band is way different than anything I have ever done. I have really been trying to write things that I maybe would not have normally thought of. I will play something and then try to force myself not to play the way I naturally want to. It winds up being something that I am connected to so it is going to sound a certain way regardless, but I want to make sure that I am really focusing on how I am playing what I am playing. Once I started really paying attention to songs and how songs can feel a certain way I wanted to approach them from a sense of how I want to be feeling when I am playing that song. Some parts may seem a bit uncomfortable and then be followed up with something that is very familiar. I try to articulate that to the other guys the best that I can and explain to them why I decided to put certain notes in certain parts and I think that can change their thought process a bit too. Hopefully it is about more than just piecing together different parts to get to the end of a song, hopefully they can feel a bit of emotional connection to the songs as well.
J. Hubner: It sounds like you’re really taking your time crafting the songs. Very therapeutic, even.
Sean Richardson: It may sound incredibly cliche, but I am really getting a sense of calm from playing in this band. I need loud music periodically to keep my head from spinning. I have never questioned whether or not I am good or no good at playing music and writing songs, because in the end I always feel better after playing than I did before. If you are able to find something in your life that makes you feel like everything is working out, then I don’t know why you would ever want to stop doing that.
J. Hubner: Are there any bands that are influencing the vibe you’re going for?
Sean Richardson: I don’t know if we are really going for a particular sound. I will say when I really started writing and playing guitar every day I was very much into The Front Bottoms, Modern Baseball, Sorority Noise, Tigers Jaw, Free Throw, and The Hotelier. But I am always influenced by Pedro The Lion, The Weakerthans, Manchester Orchestra, and will constantly listen to Jim Croce and Jimmy Buffet, guys that I think are just good fucking song writers. I thought maybe I was going to write songs that sounded a certain way, but in the end I just play what I want to and what feels right and how it sound is how it is going to sound, especially once the other guys get going on it.
J. Hubner: Let’s talk about the upcoming EP Best Sleep is finishing up.
Sean Richardson: We have been writing for 3-4 months, I wrote the first song for this EP about a year ago. We recorded the EP with a good friend of mine Matt Riefler in his house. He has a great little set up and we set the instruments up in his living room and kind of burrowed away for a few days and got something that we are all really pleased with. Matt is crazy talented and it is great that he has remained so available to me. He is just so fucking enthusiastic about music and about whatever they fuck you are playing. I had never recorded vocals, so before we got started Dan and I bought a bottle of Old Grandad and I poured a big old swig over some ice and walked in front of the mic. Matt was super pumped the entire week to get to vocals and so was I. I have always thought that once you get to vocals in the recording process the songs start to come together. So I did a couple lines and I was on the fence about it, but as we would listen back to the tracks Matt was just constantly like, “Fuck yeah dude!” “This shit sounds so fucking good!” He is like a fucking coach during recording and that is what I needed. So I just kept drinking whisky, getting loose, taking deep breaths, and singing the parts.
J. Hubner: You seem to be mining some painful stuff, lyrically anyways.
Sean Richardson: As far as the lyrics are concerned on this EP there aren’t really any new themes that haven’t been explored by thousands of song writers. Themes such as death, sickness, aging, acceptance, discovery, and love. I have always thought that the beauty of songwriting is that I am the one writing about these things. Sure, maybe the concept of death and acceptance has been researched and gone over time after time after time, but if there is just a little bit of clarity that I can put on the subject, if not just for myself but maybe someone else than it is worth it. After all, the lyrics are mine, so maybe writing about love is a bit cliche, but for the listener hearing what I have to say about these subjects they could be new and inspiring.
J. Hubner: I’m hearing a lot of talk about hospitals and sickness.
Sean Richardson: Most of the lyrics are about things that fucking bother me. They are the things that I think about when I sit alone, with no distraction, with the ability to simply think. I had a friend die some years ago and it really shocked me, then my dad got really sick and that kind of threw my family into a sort of chaos, and then I had to close down a business that I was very excited about and that forced me to think about the importance of certain things. Everything just fucking bummed me out. With the death and the sickness I really focused on how all the people around me were reacting and wondering if my reactions were appropriate. When I closed down my business I couldn’t help but focus on how everything was constantly about money. I thought I was doing something positive for a community and in the end it was just about money and the people who seemingly had the money were the ones mostly focused on the money while the rest of us were more focused on doing what was right, but that didn’t translate to financial success. I often wonder if the whole of society really gives a fuck about anything anymore outside of social media and Netflix. BUT, when I wrote about these things I would realize that of course people still give a fuck, how lucky I was to even have a family to criticize, and a friend who was so inspiring to me that I still tear up when I think about him. I just think I needed to complain about it through these songs to realize that my problems are so fucking minuscule compared to problems and complications that others deal with. I am hoping that something that I say can resonate with someone.
J. Hubner: With the EP coming up, I’m sure there will be an album release show. What other shows are lined up?
Sean Richardson: I think that we will do a release show, probably in the early spring, but nothing set yet. We are playing our first show February 16th at The Brass Rail. We will have a physical CD and I am planning on getting it to Spotify and hopefully like iTunes.
J. Hubner: So what’s 2018 looking like for Best Sleep?
Sean Richardson: I would like to get back on the road and sleep on some fucking floors again. My van has seen a few tours with The Dead Records and I have faith it has some miles left to be discovered. I am hopeful we will continue to write and maybe focus on recording a full length later in the year. I would like to get some sort of local interest stirred up and hopefully people like the songs and if not I am sure we will continue to get together, hang out, and play songs together.
Get out and see Best Sleep as they debut their EP(and themselves) at the Brass Rail on February 16th. It’ll be a great show. Keep up with Best Sleep at their Facebook page here.
Can someone help me? I seem to be stuck in some strange dimension called the 80s. I, I think I’m in a hallway. The walls are covered in neon paint and the floors seem to be black and purple squares leading me to a dank, dark room where strange noises are emanating. The noises are eerie, yet sort of funky. Wait, did I just see Alf? Oh no, I think that’s just the Ketamine and Tang kicking in. The sound, it’s definitely music. It’s sort of like Prince and the Revolution and Yaz had an orgy on a bed covered in neon pink paint and the blood of the innocent. Is Bernie Worrell in here, I can’t see very well. The sound of Moogs and ancient drum machines are filling the space in this room. I swear if I run into Soleil Moon Frye I’m going to tell her how I really feel about her. No, no…I must concentrate. I’m getting dizzy in here. Not much air, and the air that is in here smells like incense and a tomb filled with Binaca. The sound is getting louder and wonkier. It’s like Herbie Hancock’s Future Shock got a heady shot of Moog and the Misfits. What is that up ahead? Who are those cloaked figures? The sounds are coming from them? I feel like I should run from them, but I’m drawn closer. Man I could use some Tang, and where’s Punky Brewster?? A phrase keeps coming up in my brain, as if these two demonic, cloaked creatures are putting them there….
So what did you just read? Hell if I know. It was sort of what kept popping up in my head as I listened to Pink Fink’s self-titled album. Pink Fink? Whaaa? It’s two guys(people, beings, specters) that go by the names Pink Daniels and Fink Samuel and play a variety of seriously cool analog and modular synths. There seems to be a ghoulish, creepy vibe(just look at the font they used to spell out their name), and they’ve tagged their music as “horror boogie”. They themselves dubbed “horror boogie overlords”. When I think of the phrase horror boogie I imagine ZZ Top as zombies playing “Legs” with lyrics “She’s got legs/She knows how to eat ’em”. What Pink Fink play is a late 70s/early 80s electro boogie, something more in line with early Prince, Quincy Jones, Parliament, The Gap Band and other less known but equally funky funk acts from those first couple years into the neon decade.
The songs on this album? Well, there’s not much difference from one to the next. A little shift in rhythm here, and some creepy undertones there, but for the most part it’s like listening to an extended remix of one song. That’s really not a bad thing in the scheme of things. What you get is a 30 minute hardcore, analog funk jam with a horror vibe. Songs titles such as “Haunted Boogie”, “Fear The Night”, “Darkness”, and “Demonic” guarantee some serious Gothic vibes, but you don’t need to be a fan of horror soundtracks or imagined horror soundtracks to dig this album. At its core, underneath the masks, skulls with candles in them, and creepy vibes is unadulterated analog synth funk.
Pink Fink aren’t breaking new ground on their self-titled, but the ground they firmly stand on is buzzing and humming with electro funk delight.
If you’re familiar with the Danish rockers Papir, then you’re quite familiar with Nicklas Sørensen. Sørensen is the guitarist for the three-piece psych rock outfit out of Copenhagen. His style is fluid, groove-filled and nuanced. He can go from heady post-rock passages that float on crystalline clouds to buzzing, fuzzed-out freak outs at the drop of a guitar pick. There’s a real intellectual quality to his style that is missing from so many modern players. Back in early 2016 Nicklas released his first solo LP titled Solo. Using his Papir bandmates as a rhythm section, the album was a tour de force of Michael Rother vibes and motorik beats that sounded like early Satriani and Dixie Dregs records, had they been influenced by NEU! ’75. In relation to other instrumental guitar album fare, Solo stood out as something completely new.
Nicklas Sørensen wasted no time recording album number two. Solo 2 was recorded with Jonas Munk at his Odense studio and this time around Sørensen kept the process to just himself and Munk. With Munk’s deft synth touches and some classic electronic drum machines, Nicklas built an even more unique listening experience. The results are stunning.
I recently spoke with Nicklas Sørensen about the album, the writing process, his influences, and how Eurodance led to A Tribe Called Quest, which led to “Smoke On The Water”.
J. Hubner: So where did you grow up?
Nicklas Sørensen: I grew up in Bagsværd which is a small town in the suburbs close to Copenhagen.
J. Hubner: What age did you get into music as a fan? Did you have someone that was your musical mentor?
Nicklas Sørensen: I don’t remember what age exactly, but I think I was fascinated by music and instruments from a very early age. I remember collecting these Mr. Music-tapes containing a mixture of all these European hits from the 90’s; Scatman John and Whigfield just to name a few. I was around eight or nine then. A pedagogue was kind of a mentor for me. I was often bored and not really good a playing with the other kids, who wanted to play computer all the time, which I hated. But he made this mixtape for various hip hop groups for me, and I was listening to it all the time. Can’t recall what was on it though, probably A Tribe Called Quest, Cypress Hill – stuff like that. So hip hop and Eurodance was my first love so to speak. Rock’n’roll probably came from my father who played “Smoke on the Water” on vinyl for me, that’s the first rock’n’roll song I remember.
J. Hubner: Who were some of the first artists you fell for? Do you remember the first album you bought?
Nicklas Sørensen: Scatman John and Whigfield. I got my first stereo for my ten years birthday, and I wanted to buy Scatman John’s debut album, but for some reason I bougth a compilation called Dance Mix instead. That was my first CD.
J. Hubner: When did you start to play music? Was guitar your first instrument?
Nicklas Sørensen: I started going in this youth club after school and formed my first band with some boys and girls from my class. I played drums. The pedagogues in the club encouraged and motivated us to play and make music. My father wouldn’t let me have a drum set though, so he gave me a guitar for Christmas instead. I played it every day and started hanging out with some guys from my school who played in another band, and soon I was good enough to join that band. We played Creedence and The Beatles and Guns’N’ Roses too. I also started taking lessons in classical guitar at the same time as I started playing in a band. There was actually a period where I thought classical guitar was going to be my life.
J. Hubner: When you started learning guitar, who were some of your musical heroes? Which guitarists blew your mind?
Nicklas Sørensen: I don’t recall I had any guitar heroes, but I started taking a few lessons in blues guitar also with this guy who was obsessed with Eric Clapton. So he got me through a lot of Eric Clapton licks and solos. What first blew my mind was probably a Danish band called Dizzy Mizz Lizzy, and the Danish guitarist Tim Christensen, who could play both heavy melodic riffs and majestic solos – I was really into that in my early teenage years.
J. Hubner: You’ve been putting out albums with Papir for quite a few years now. In early 2016 you released your first solo LP, titled Solo. When you decided you wanted to put out something on your own, what was the idea behind that first solo record? What, on your own, did you want to create that you couldn’t in a band?
Nicklas Sørensen: I used to see myself mainly as a “band person”. I have always been in bands and thought that was my channel for expressing my musical identity – so I guess it wasn’t really obvious for me why I should do a solo record in the first place. I remember Jonas and Jakob said something like “maybe you should do a solo record…?” or “you should really consider doing a solo record…with abstract sounds, new age, esoteric guitar or something like that”, and I was like “yeah maybe, we will see…” And then my girlfriend also started saying “I really think you should do that solo record”. Okay okay! And then in the end I thought, well why not – let’s see what I can come up with. I started experimenting with a loop pedal, and a lot of ideas just came floating. So I was too scared at that time to do it completely on my own and felt it would be nice to create the songs in more familiar context, so Papir was the obvious choice for a backing band and Jonas as a producer as well.
J. Hubner: Were you ultimately happy with how your first album on your own ended up? I personally loved it, btw.
Nicklas Sørensen: Yeah I think it turned out pretty good. I listen to it once in a while and it’s mostly a satisfying experience.
J. Hubner: So you are now releasing your second solo LP, titled ‘Solo 2’. There seems to be a lot more going on sonically this time. You worked on it with Causa Sui’s Jonas Munk and recorded at his studio. It’s a stunning album. How did the record come together? Were you creating guitar loops and then building upon those? Did you two discuss certain vibes you wanted to hit going in or did you just improvise and build the record as you went along?
Nicklas Sørensen: Again, I started with experimenting with loops and sounds on the guitar. Some old ideas, chord structures, themes, etc… And this time I had a more clear idea about the concept, that I wanted to try and make something without a band. But I still liked the idea of collaborating and sharing musical ideas. Jonas was the obvious choice, we definitely share a lot of musical references and to my ears he is a true master of working in details with the sound. He also contributed with a lot of different creative and musical inputs, so that a lot of significant details and the overall feel and vibe of the album is due to his mastery and creative mind.
J. Hubner: You seem to be a fan of Fender guitars(as am I). What was your guitar of choice for this album? What kind of gear did you guys use to create ‘Solo 2’ with? Any favorite pedals you won’t leave home without?
Nicklas Sørensen: Yeah, I have played my Strat for almost 16 years now! It’s all over the first album and on all the Papir albums. So that was also my choice for this album, hehe. I have a soft spot for digital delays – the classic Boss DD’s and my T.C. Flashback Delay are something that I always bring to the studio.
J. Hubner: Do you ever take your solo work out for live shows? Are there any plans to play any shows to promote ‘Solo 2’?
Nicklas Sørensen: I have played a few concerts – just me, my guitar and my pedals. I like that a lot, it’s nice “to be your own boss”. I don’t have any plans for shows this year, besides a duo concert with Jonas in april. But you never know.
J. Hubner: What’s next for you in 2018? Any ideas for the next solo album? Any new directions you’d like to take your guitar into?
Nicklas Sørensen: I have just got my hands on a 4-track recorder. I think I will spend some time alone experimenting with that. But yeah…no plans for anything specific yet. A new Papir album perhaps (we are already working on it). I guess I would like use more time on improvising and experimenting with sound and soundscapes.
Solo 2 will be released this Friday, January 19th on El Paraiso Records. Grab a copy here.
My son came home from school Thursday and told me that his best pal is moving to Colorado. His buddy Nathan hadn’t been at school the last two days and on Thursday sent my son an email titled “Farewell”. In it Nathan explained, vaguely(he is a 13-year old boy, after all), that he was moving to Colorado to finish out the school year and to live with his mom. He mentioned the name of the school he would be attending and then said he’d miss my son, saying that they’d see each other again someday. My son let me read the email, to which I replied “Would Nathan actually title an email ‘Farewell’?” “Yes he would” my son replied. My boy’s only reply underneath Nathan’s email was this, “Sorry to sound mean, but is this a joke?”( my son turns 13 in less than two months.)
When my wife got home from work I told her what was going on and she messaged Nathan’s dad to let him know we were sorry to hear Nathan was moving away and that we hope the best for him. His dad replied back that Nathan was going to really miss our son and that maybe this would just be temporary. Nathan may be back for next school year. Either way, he appreciated the message.
I have to be honest, I didn’t really know Nathan all that well. It seems kids don’t have friends like they had friends when I was a kid. When I was my son’s age I had my pals over all the time, sleeping over on the weekends, during holidays, and 3 or 4 days at a time in the summer. My parents knew my friends and my friends knew my parents. They were like my brothers from other mothers. With my kids, I could count on one hand how many sleepovers my two youngest have had at our house in the last 5 years(and that’s if my hand was missing a couple digits.) My oldest, on the other hand, for her and her friends our place was hang out central. Even now when she’s home from school she’ll have 4 or 5 of her pals over to hang out, eat, watch movies, and gossip about whatever 17-year old girls that don’t get drunk or party gossip about(getting into college, boys, school drama, boys.) But my 14 and 12 year old? It’s like they don’t want anyone here. I’m not sure if it’s because of my wife and I or them. I feel like I’m starting to develop a complex about it. “Wh…wh…wh…what’s wrong with our house? Are you embarrassed by us?” I’d say to myself during weird conversations in my head as I’m trying to go to sleep. My 14-year old daughter, her best friend has a 3-story house pretty much all to herself as her parents run a small restaurant in town called The Cozy Cottage. They’re at the Cozy from the crack of dawn to the evening, so my daughter’s friend is on her own to get around for school, do her homework, eat, and whatever else. She does pretty well for herself, as she’s had to for so long. But I think the idea of a massive house at two teenage girls disposal is a much better proposition than coming to our barely 1,200 square foot ranch-style and hang out in my daughter’s bedroom, or the finished basement. I suppose I get that. Plus, she’s got a goofy Australian Shepherd that likes to eat everything, so that’s entertaining.
My son, on the other hand, I don’t get. He’s a homebody. He loves being home and hanging out in his room. I don’t understand why he wouldn’t want to have a pal over and hang out. The buddy that’s moving to Colorado has never been over. My son had a birthday party 3 years ago where one kid from his class showed. Other than that, just the weird neighbor kid has been over occasionally. Nathan’s house isn’t much bigger than ours, so it’s not a space thing I don’t think. But Nathan lived in town. There’s lots to explore. I think twice while my son was over at Nathan’s house they rode bikes across town and got lunch. Once they went and got pot stickers and egg drop soup at the Great Wall, while another time they got Mexican food at another local establishment. Nathan also lived near Oakwood Cemetery. It’s the main cemetery in town over by Pike Lake. It’s huge. I remember going there in high school and taking photos of headstones for Photography class. My son said that him and Nathan used to go over there and run around for hours, exploring the variety of headstones. They were fascinated at the older ones. These tiny limestone markers that had names like “Abel”, “Lucretia”, and “Ole” that were born not long after the Civil War, and died not long after they were born. He said they’d get home from exploring after dark, sweaty, scratched up, with nettles stuck to their socks. But they had fun. Lots of fun.
I’d ask my son if Nathan liked comic books. He replied “No, not really.” Does he like watching comic book movies, or playing with action figures or Legos? “Nope.” “Hmm…” I’d wonder. So what was it that those two bonded over? My best friend and I bonded over Star Wars, Transformers, GI Joe, music, horror films, and that elusive thing the opposite sex. There was plenty for us to fill our time with. Building forts in my bedroom based off my bunk beds. We took trips to Cedar Point, Kings Island, and boating excursions with my grandma on Lake Manitou. I was puzzled as to what it was that bonded my son with his buddy Nathan. But then he mentioned he liked horror movies and video games, like my son. They both seemed to have the same, quirky sense of humor, too. Finding funny in unlikely places is one of the true gifts a person can have, and when you find a fellow human who shares that innate gift it’s truly a treasure. And of course the adventuring. The city bike adventures, pot sticker lunches, and cemetery exploring are the kinds of activities that transcend comic books, action figures, and some of that other “kid stuff”. A scar from a pebble on your shin will always take you back to that tumble that you got it from. That startle you got that made you take off in the first place. It will always be there, and the person you shared it with will always be there, too.
I’m sad for my son and for Nathan, but I hope this is a move for the positive for the boy. I don’t know what’s going on in his life to cause such a quick, abrupt move. One can speculate, but that never does anyone any good. Hopefully his dad is right and that it will be a temporary move. Maybe this time next year my son and his pal will be laughing at weird things again, and running from non-existent dangers in cemeteries. Or sharing a pot of hot tea and crab rangoon at The Great Wall.
Either way, best of luck in Colorado Nathan. Here’s to new adventures, and never forgetting the old ones.