Monday, October 24, 2011

Ben Meyercord's Live Picks for Monday October 24th

Hello Dear Readers,

What's up? I have not been to any shows in a while. I also haven't blogged in awhile. My life is way different than it was than when I started blogging. It also seems like my life has been pretty scattered in the last year or so. But I am going to try to make time to write about the shows that look good to me. Here are the shows that look good to me today:

Valentine's is having a show with John Heart Jackie and Duover. This is a special show for two reasons. 1) This is the last show of the John Heart Jackie fall tour. 2) It is Jennie Wayne's birthday. Heart Jackie are a lovely band. Peter Murray and Jennie Wayne have been playing music together for a while. I have seen them playing shows with others lately. I believe the tour they just returned from included some of these people. I believe. If you listen to their full length you will find yourself reminded of why male female duos are so great. Or if you want another example you can check out the other band on the bill, Duover. They are great. The show is FREE and starts at 9 PM.

The White Eagle is having a show with Norman and Owner/Operator. Norman is a band from around the Willamette Valley that make music in the vein of classic Americana. If you have not seen them, there have been plenty of opportunities to see them this month. They have been having a residency at the White Eagle. Owner/Operator is a band that I read about from Lewi Longmire's website. He plays pedal steel guitar of this band. It also features Mike Midlo (Pancake breakfast) and Jeff Munger, Tyler Tornfelt and Ford Tennis (guitar, bass, and drums- Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside). The band apparently plays song about trucks and trucking. Exclusively. There is also a chance that Kelly Blair Bauman will play. The show is FREE and starts at 8:30 PM.

If you see me at any of these shows please say, "hi". That would be really sweet.


John Heart Jackie - Deep As Whales from Ben Moon on Vimeo.

John Heart Jackie plays tonight at Valentine's

Back and Forth with Lucas Dix

What up Lucas? Got a few questions for you. First off, let's take it back. What was your introduction to hip hop? What inspired you growing up, or continues to inspire you?

Aside from rocking my clothes backwards while listening to Kriss Kross in second grade and having some Biggie albums get confiscated by my Mom in 4th or 5th grade, I really didn't fall in love with hip hop until my reintroduction to Wu Tang at the end of high school. Punk rock satisfied my teenage angst through middle school up until 11th grade, but once I started to question God, the universe, myself, etc., I needed something more. Wu Tang fit the bill perfectly. Every member had like 10 different aliases and they rapped with this crazy, slanged out imagery about mythology, comic books, kung fu movies, and mathematics. Plus, they had this beautiful sense of brotherhood. I have about 6 or 7 homies in my life that are my fucking brothers, my "been through some intense shit with you and will love you for the rest of my life" type brother. For the longest time I thought that all of us were going to conquer the world together through music and philosophy. We seriously would drive around for like 4 hours a night (back when gas was $2.50 and we were too young to hit the bars up), freestyle to RZA beats, listen to Ironman or Liquid Swords and formulate our Pinkie and the Brain plan.

Last year, I was tutoring a student and he was really starting to get into more underground and old school hip hop music as well as inquiring about the world around him. One day, he told me something along the lines of "I have all these questions about life and religion and how people interact with each other and sometimes it's just so overwhelming." I literally teared up and was like "Have you ever heard of the Wu Tang Clan?". Then I proceeded to jot down the 10 albums he needed to listen to. That collective meant a lot to the development of my peoples and I during a time where we made an exponential amount of personal growth, so much so, that my friend Sins has RZA and Raekwon's signatures tatted on his back. I also was heavily influenced by Aesop Rock, Slug, Black Thought, MF Doom, Mos Def and the like, but nothing like them dudes from Shaolin.

OK. So, what was the impetus behind these new Jellyfish Brigade tracks? Talking to you one on one downtown last weekend I got a basic idea, but can you expound on what we talked about?

For the longest time, I was someone who ate fast food and didn't do anything but rap and was damn sure that I was going to live off of touring and putting out music. I had this bullshit elitist ego and hated on everything from other rappers to religions, to 'sheeple" in society. Then, about a year and a half ago, I had this sudden change of heart where I was tired of being angry and thinking that I was the greatest thing on the planet (when I quite obviously wasn't). My mindstate just flipped and I started to focus on being a better teacher (I sub in 8 districts for my daytime job, plus I tutor). I wanted to be more understanding and empathetic of all people and started to develop a "whatever gets you through the day is ok and whatever gets your through the night is all right" mentality. I wanted to see the sunrise from the morning side more. I wanted to learn how to cook, eat healthier, build fires and camp, do yoga and work out, go hiking, learn to swim, and most importantly have a garden.

One day this summer, while watering my garden, I stopped in front of my giant sunflowers and stared at them for a while. I thought about my lady and I planting the seeds in little pots, then clearing out some area in my yard so I could transfer them to the dirt, then watering them and seeing them slowly grow, to them now being almost twice as big as I am with huge, golden heads. This garden was so important to me because, for the first time, I felt like I had something tangible that I could provide for myself and those around me. I had this new instrumental that Jeff had given me at the time and thought "That settles it. I'm going to write a song about my garden."

The second song on the single is a remix of Portland, OR artist Natasha Kmeto's "Want You Too". She is an awesome producer/singer in the city and friends with Jeff. I was pumped about the opportunity because it gave me a chance to be a Jay-Z to her Mariah Carey, a Drake to her Rihanna.

Around this time, my love hit me with the news that she was going to be moving to Africa and then back to the east coast. This is a woman who has been a huge influence on the changes changing me and I basically just wrote about how we spent our relationship: drinking wine, making love, going to the river and bridge/cliff jumping, etc. I am a proponent of the beauty of the sacrifice. I honestly feel like one of the best ways I can show her that I love her and cherish the time we spent is by letting her go and being supportive of her decision to leave, even if it's going to hurt.

Shit's about growth and change and being uncertain of whats going to happen in the future. Then again, most of the Jellyfish Brigade stuff is. This time I just had a symbol to direct the metaphor. Sunflowers, yo!

Word. So how would you describe the difference between how you approach this project compared to your work with Gavin in Hives Inquiry Squad?

I would say most all of the Jellyfish Brigade songs that exist (first ep, Sunflowers single, and the next ep that's not out) are songs that Jeff made for The Great Mundane project, decided they didn't quite work for what he was going for and then were given to me. Jeff and I connect on very similar levels. One night we'll have a conversation about how "the grass is always greener" and how we need to recognize that we are standing in the green grass right now. The next day, I'll go to write and start writing a song "Standing in the Green Grass" and basically expound on the conversation.

Gavin and I have been working together for about 6 or 7 years now. Our process is different in that we never write a song based around a subject. We don't say "this is a song from the perspective of a crack in the concrete somewhere in the middle of a city and all the things it sees during the course of a day." Rather, we work on moods and images. Gavin will show me a wonky beat and spit me a line like "I'm the dusty albatross cloud 9 afficianado" and I go "all right, I feel you"; then we write our verses.

With Jellyfish Brigade, we're going for an Avett Brothers meets Postal Service meets Foreign Exchange sound. It's going to morph towards complex ideas expressed in simple folk song lyrics with lots of singing to compliment the rapping. We recently got a write up that said we were "part Lazerbeak and Sufjan Stevens, half Das Racist half Neon Indian." That was like "boom, people are getting it." Hives is more Camp Lo, Aesop Rock type shit where Gavin and I string weird phrases together with multi-syllabic rhymes and grandfather slang. Jellyfish Brigade is me with my shirt off in the middle of the woods using a fallen tree as a balance beam over a river. Hives is Gavin and I in a basement of a future world in the present with glowing screens surrounding us, as we plot the break out. I will say this. Jellyfish is waaaay easier to write for, solely because I feel a constant pressure in writing with Gavin. Every time he spits me a 4 bar I go, "damn, how the hell am I supposed to follow that?" I'll admit that he's a doper emcee than I am.

Are there any future plans to perform your Jellyfish material in a live setting? Or is this going to be strictly a studio project?

We are definitely going to be performing as Jellyfish Brigade. Jeff's been on the road constantly for the last year so we have never really gotten a chance to sit down and work on a live set. Now that we have about 10-12 songs and some merch, we are ready to play out. I think with 1320 Records putting out "Sunflowers" and re-releasing "Gills and a Helmet", we will get some damn good show opportunities in the near future. We've already seen a bit of the effect as we've gotten offers to play shows up and down the west coast just this past week.

Our first official show is Thursday, November 17th at the Tonic Lounge in Portland, OR with our homey and local producer Shut-Ins, who is releasing his debut project that night, Gavin Theory of Hives Inquiry Squad, and Dropping Gems artist Brownbear with a live band. $5.
I'm really excited to start playing and perfecting our live set.

Anything else you'd like to add? Any shout-outs? Or just any other info you want to get out there?

Go to or to download "Sunflowers" for free as well as our debut EP "Gills and a Helmet" (which is offered as a pay what you want, free is a welcome option).

Also, thank you good sir for asking me to do the interview. You do a lot for this city with your support of the hip hop scene. Much love and respect.


Thanks for doing this man. I really do appreciate it. Soon....

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cloudy October Q&A


Dear Funky Lord Finesse, I got some questions for you, is that cool?

Ha. You caught the Lord Finesse reference, nice.

Let's start off by taking it back to the basics. What was your introduction to hip-hop? I think you're slightly younger than me, so I assume you didn't come up in the RUN DMC/Fat Boys cassette era like I did. I could be wrong though. What was your personal intro to this music and art form?

I love your style, that is a great assumption. I do the same thing when hip-hoppers are 3 to 4 years younger than me. Not only is it great from that angle but also because you are accurate. I was alive when that shit was going on and I was listening to those cats, but didn't have the cassingles or full albums. But I was more so into what my father was listening to. Which of course was my introduction to hip-hop. Listening to Above the Law, DJ Jazzy Jeff and that one guy, LL Cool J and a few others. My oldest and fondest memories are of Bonita Applebum and Me Myself and I being played on Rap City. Never knew I would be fully immersed 17+ years later but at the time I did really enjoy seeing those brothers killing it on television. Run D and Markie Dee came after those cats on my radar. I'm not a nostalgic cat, don't want hip hop to return to that but damn, those were good times. Innovation by way of being ones self, who would of thought? ill.

How did this new album The Metal Jerk come together? In technological terms regarding your recording techniques, your lyrical and thematic inspirations, as well as how you made the connect with Fieldwerk Recordings.

I made the Fieldwerk connect mainly because of Anthony Sanchez from Runaway Productions and Zavala from Dark Time Sunshine. Sanchez let me loose last year and gave me many opportunities to show out-of-towners what I can do. Dark Time was often in town because of their hard work ethic along with Sanchez. Zavala really dug my work and my brand and how I treated people so he told Crushcon7 from Fieldwerk about me. Crushcon7 is the Cobra Commander of Fieldwerk so once he and I started talking over the phone regularly, we bonded and started making plans. I am the only rapper on the label and I love the novelty of that. Like if they end up sticking around for decades, cats will look back and say that dude was the first rapper on that label. Or maybe first and last rapper if my shit flops. Cheesy sounding I bet, but it feels good to think about it with such plurality.

The idea to do The Metal Jerk was in my head really early because my debut is like a 17 minute record. I not only need(ed) more songs to have when I am doing long sets but also I still had a lot of left over samples and ideas since my debut that I didnt use. The Metal Jerks theme and concepts have been slightly evolving for many months. It's more of an album that is a proclamation of where I am creatively in the present moment, than it is a cohesive theme venture. That would be a cool band name 'Cohesive Theme Venture'. The Metal Jerk is full of flaws, just like its father, and I prefer it to be a reflection of such. My voice cracks a lot in the recordings, if one listens close to other music and then mine they will easily hear that I am still learning how to rhyme and make beats. As far as recording techniques, I am pretty regular there so far. I use the punch-function way too much in my opinion. Really every song went like this: Get high, write a verse. Sober up, finish those verses the next day. That rhyme sucks on that beat but works good on that other beat. Get high and record it. Listen to myself while high, I sound like a pussy, question my position in hip-hop, sober up the next day, record again, nail it sober, sober up and repeat. I still sound like a pussy, but a really wet one that people can maybe enjoy.

There's been a lot of talk about your mysterious nature. I've always thought you were trying to pull a fast one on me by insisting that your name is Genkai Yokomura. I had always doubted that was your birth name, and thought that was you getting your Sun Ra on with the local press.To quote my man Casey Jarman, "My God. Where did this man come from?....I feel like I don't know this guy at all." How do you respond to this?

Yeah, I get all sorts of reactions when people see my real i.d. My ideals and education are constantly evolving because of the time I spend investigating things and communicating with people who also do the same. In short, the way I dress and speak and make choices, even names, is subject to change, probably until I die. Most black folks that encounter my actual name know or have an idea very quickly, about why I changed my name. This is very telling of the separate nature of black and white life here in America. When Paten Locke, a black musician friend of mine, found out I changed my birth name. Without hesitation, he started joking with me about the reasons why I would change my birth name. The spill went something like ' Yoko what? damn, i know some fucked up shit must of happened for you to go through the trouble of changing your name. But, I feel you my brother, you been reading and you know that slave name had to go'. I smiled at him and said something that had a tone of agreement and pride. Any name I choose, including 'Cloudy October', was designed to give me opportunities to express something that many people I respect, feel is important. To make the invisible, visible.

Hip hop as a culture has always been very concerned with geography, whether it be the South Bronx versus Queens in the early years or West Coast versus East Coast in the 1990's or the rise of the Dirty South at the beginning of the new millennium. Yet your music seems to transcend these dichotomies. What would you attribute that to?

Damn sun, you're killing it on the questions, thank you. That is definitely due to the fact that I have grown up on both coasts and over seas and I am from the South. When you travel as a kid, its very difficult to have geographical issues in that way.You have to let go emotionally and start over. I have really never had a name or a home. My dad was in the Navy so we moved every three years. Also because I was raised to be myself, I never really needed to rep anything but whatever I felt like at the time. Even if often times it was something mad corny. Add my studies and its a rap, i mean, a wrap. I have a song called 'Name Yourself' on The Metal Jerk. Not my best song by far but for what it is conceptually, it's a small jewel. A line that says "I am not this skin or this place" is absolute. Skin color is a mutation if i remember correctly and where I am at the moment is just a place. Many people are willing to fight and possibly die over negative words about the neighborhoods they grew up in or a fucking sports team. This is a rare form of localized jingoism or something. I understand why but I also value others emotions too much to ever want to cause someone harm over any opinion. I hear songs often and it seems that rappers for several reasons, are having identity crisis or more so have bought into this 'this is what hip hop has to be like' type shit. Even as a teen I never used phrases like 'Keep it Real'. These were and are like thought-stoppers. Rubber stamp answers to complex issues. To the point where 'thought-stopper' and 'Rubber-stamp' also become useless and only regain life by breathing specificity into them.

How engaged are you with the current state of hip hop? Either on a local level of Portland rappers or on a national level. Luck One tweeted today, "More often than not, I'm disgusted with the either snobby or uncultured palette of hip hop listeners." Does that resonate with you at all? What's your take on either rap snobs or those with an uncultured palette?

Luck-One has a fantastic mind. Glad you brought him up. He is one of the only rappers in all of the Northwest - besides Remember Alwayz, that I can relate to. Not because we share the same mutations, but because these cats have been oppressed in the ways that I have and they are also as study-driven as myself. People ought to just talk to those dudes more, they will blow ye mind. What Luck says does indeed resonate with me. I get disgusted, bored, and many great laughs about the local scene and the national scene and the global scene. This has nothing to do with me thinking I am dope. This has to do with me knowing that I do wack shit all the time but I try not to release it hahah. Where as, to most cats, all they have is material that people find it hard to care for. There is a lot dishonesty going on in song and also going on between listeners and artists. I been talking to audience members locally for years, before I starting putting out music and after. They are bored out of their fucking minds they tell me. They sound like sad wives who havent been fucked well in so long. Slowly, people are starting to change dishonest habits it seems. I also expect things to be the way they are now though. Look at our school systems, look at everyones motives all over the world. Avarice as a prerequisite? Why would they care to actually hone a skill with diligence? I often meet rappers who have only been rhyming for a year or two and have done no research about racism or hip-hop. Racism is the father of hip-hop in so many ways. To not have an inkling of how this phenomenon works can be detrimental to ones skills set. Not necessary to be successful of course, but these men seem to need all the help they can get judging by what the citizens around here tell me. But of course this could be seen as snobby to some so for that I say fuck Cloudy October.

Lastly, you recently messaged to me that, "It's pretty telling about many current issues that the press has been ignoring, voluntarily and involuntarily." Let's get to the bottom of this then, please elucidate what you were alluding to. And also feel free to drop any knowledge you feel you've never been asked about before that you would like to share with your fans.

Thanks for asking yo. Never seen 'elucidate' before, is that anything like elimidate?.....hold on while i look that up.......................Oh shit!!!!! I love elucidating!!!!!!! I would start dating again if I could elucidate more. Mainly most people and the media alike, never connect the dots to complex issues. For many reasons there is little incentive to do so. Too risky. Often times media and individuals may mention someone having a problem and an oppressive system being a part of the problem. To consistently connect each inviduals problems with systemic oppression would be really difficult. Whites are mostly not addressing their racial experiences because they have been taught that they don't have one. This is one of five myths that keeps racism alive and well. The Myth of White Racelessness. Being that whites still run and own most of everything well, you see what happens. Cool thing is though - because of the internet and the fact that people are constantly evolving along with the issues, people of all colors are waking the fuck up. Articles are easier to share with people with the net, and even easier on facebook. That large issue and the things I mention about the local scene are equally ignored and also linked. To speak about the music scene here without speaking about the policies that effect the demographics could prove to be inaccuate.

I would like to tell the few fans I have that my song 'Vagabondage' was made from a voicemail message that I saved for three years. That is all. Oh wait, and also, I wrote one of the best 'I Saw You's' ever in The Merc about Cindy from the back pages too. Bonkers. Whatever happened to the back pages? Ya'll got scared?

All right homie. Thank you so much for taking the time to set the record straight for our readers! Looking forward to the album dropping. LINK HERE

Are you kidding me? Man I am so grateful. I hope you dig the album after many listens. See you around Feigh, thanks again yo.

Nah man, thank you for doing what you do. Appreciate your thoughtful responses homie. Soon.....

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Metal Jerk


Cloudy is a half american male emcee, publisher, producer-songwriter, rhyme inspector and social magician. Cloudy makes research-based hip-hop that caters to the listeners intellect. It is a form that stresses emphasis in specificity.. Cloudy likes to read books, enjoys films, long walks to his mailbox, doing laundry and walking on rappers vertebrae. Rumored to have been born in Atlanta, Georgia in the early eighties or late seventies. It has also been said that Cloudy October has been through several name changes with the assistance of the U.S government and a few facial reconstructive surgeries. He is currently signed to Fieldwerk Recordings and watches Knight Rider. Cloudy is releasing his brand new sophomore album on the Fieldwerk Recordings label, October 18th.

The album, The Metal Jerk, is named after a rhyme style Cloudy is currently utilizing. The Metal Jerk is a walking abortion. It is a rhyme style that seems to have an advantage by vocally mimicking and adhering to the instruments inside of a beat. It is inspired by popular piano right hand techniques. Cloudy states that It is also a rhyme style that is handicapped by his lack of practice, primitive syllable placement and an incessant, desperate use of the punch-in function and delay effect while recording. Cloudy says; "This album marks a period in my life that I discovered that my imagination is much larger than my skill set. "

As one can clearly hear, even his disadvantages seem to have sharp edges at times, depending on who is listening.

"You can't spell rhyme without me folks. You can not spell rhyme without me."


Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Cloudy October Interview Coming This Saturday

Just talked to Cloudy and he has a lot on his mind. We will be having a meeting of the minds Friday evening, and our conversation will be transcribed by Saturday Night *Don Pardo voice*. This is gonna get good. Trust me. In the meantime....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Hello again everybody, I have a very special treat.  Coming up this Friday at the Aladdin Theater is a concert that you don't want to miss: the Adrian Belew Power Trio with Tony Levin's Stickmen.  Between the two, they've worked with a who's who of awesome rockers: King Crimson, Peter Gabrial, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Paul Simon, John Lennon, Talking Heads... so if you are a fan of these two rock legends, or of prog rock in general, I hope you're going to be there.

When I was 8 years old, Peter Gabriel's So had just come out and was the soundtrack to my summer vacation on Chincoteague Island.  The bass sounds were so otherworldly and I kind of obsessed over it.  Cut to about 4 years later, I start playing bass, still can't figure it out.  In a shopping mall at Christmas, there is a guy with a crazy instrument playing "I Saw Three Ships".  I ask him what it is, he tells me it's a Stick, and I ask him to show me what it can really do.  HE GOES CRAZY AND SHREDS THESE 64th NOTE PERCUSSIVE STOP START THINGS, and my light bulb goes off.  That's the crazy awesome bass noise I remember from childhood! So Tony Levin occupies a very special space in my heart, and it was with great pleasure that I got a chance to talk to him.  Without further ado, here is


Mr. Levin- I jumped at the chance to talk to you, and then realized I didn't really know that much about you.  My readers also seemed to view you mythically as judged by some of their mostly tongue in cheek questions like "When you ascended to godhood, did it hurt?" and "When there is a Mt. Rushmore of bassists, will you be Washington or Jefferson?"  So, to help us out, give me your briefest nutshell answer on who Tony Levin is.
Not my area of expertise. [Editor's note: Tony Levin can now substitute for Chuck Norris where necessary.  Example: Tony Levin can slam a revolving door.]

Your work as a session musician is very far-ranging- I can think of both Paul Simon and Alice Cooper off the top of my head.  Do you think there is something in a person's temperament that let's them do work like that?  Obviously not everybody can.
Studio work, as such, is more a craft than an art. Back (way back) when I moved to NYCity, there was a lot of this type of work to be had - quite different than nowadays. Most of it, of course, not for artists like Paul Simon and Alice Cooper, but it was possible in the 70's and 80's to play sessions all day, for different records. So, in that time I got fairly good at sussing out what was wanted from not only the musical track, but from the artist and producer, and engineer too. That's part of the equation in making studio recordings.
In later years, I veered toward playing much more live, less in studio - which is a good thing for me, because I prefer it. 
In these past few years, things have changed again... less touring with King Crimson and Peter Gabriel, so I organize tours myself, for the band Stick Men, that I work a lot with. And recordings are still going on, but mostly file sharing, from my home studio.

There was a very interesting documentary on "The South Bank Show" that you were featured in.  I was surprised at your almost Zen calm.  Is that something you cultivate, or are you just like that?
Again, describing myself is not something I'm good at.  [Editor's note: Tony Levin does not sleep- he waits.]

There were some great insights into the recording of Peter Gabriel's 4th album in that documentary.  Any fun anecdotes from that time you'd care to share.
 It's always great with Peter, whether in studio or touring - a combination of great music, a lot of fun, great people. I believe that kind of atmosphere stems from the person at the top, so it's a credit to Peter as a person that his whole organization and band are very cool, nice people.

I remember Jerry Marrotta getting a bit passionate about how humans will never be replaced (musically, at least) by machines.  What's your take on the increasing mechinization of music?
Drum machines are an old story by now -- they've been incorporated a bit into live drumming, but still sometimes are there on their own. Likewise sequencer bass parts. I don't have any particular insight -- just the obvious, that there is always some room for a musician who can create great parts on his instrument, and that people love live music made by musicians. The economics might change, but those things remain.

From what I understand, you're quite the early adopter.  You've been blogging for as long as I've been on the internet- 1995, right?
Yes, I think it was '94 or '95 that I started the website - at first to offer my new cd, but soon after it morphed into mostly a road diary. Eventually I separated the Papa Bear Records 'store' onto a connected but separate site, with just a few buttons to remind people of it. Must be hundreds of web diary pages up by now, and thousands of photos, from back when they had to be just 200 pixels wide!

Obviously so many things have changed online since then.  How do you keep up with changing times?
I don't keep up as much as I'd like to. But I feel that if I skip a technology jump (say, MySpace) then I'd better jump on the next one, like it or not, so I can be a bit comfortable as interfaces change. Facebook was a challenge for me (the old 'help from my daughter' thing) because I was used to writing code for the page -- the unintuitive, ever changing, rules of getting what you want up on the page has become the new standard. I may not like it, but best that I'm dealing with it, or I might not be able to work my next cell phone!

One of your current projects is The Stickmen. What was the genesis of that?
It began before it's beginning (!) When I made the solo CD "Stick Man" ... the music on that was fun to record, and I was wanting to play it live -- but it had multiple Sticks on much of it, and my band at that time had two keyboards, guitar bass and drums... not right for that harder edged music. Michael Bernier is an excellent Stick player who lives near me, and we had been trading ideas. It seemed right to team up for the band, and the obvious choice for drums was Pat Mastelotto, my King Crimson bandmate, who'd also played on the album, and with his electronic drums, he can cover some samples and stuff we can't manage with two Chapman Sticks.
Then after a few years of touring, Michael felt he couldn't go out on the road much, due to family obligations - we had, and still have, pretty hefty touring schedule - so we made the difficult decision to let Michael move on, and we added Markus Reuter, who plays a touch guitar he designed himself, lives in Innsbruck, and was already in a duet band with Pat.  Since then we've toured and recorded over the last year, and look forward to more.

I've always liked the fact that in a live setting you take the time to explain the basics of the Stick.  I read somewhere that 5-string basses were made as a response to the low notes possible for synthesizers.  Do you think the Stick arose from a similar need?
I don't really know Emmet Chapman's motivation for creating the Stick - but I think it took years and probably began before synths were being played much.  [Editor's note: Tony Levin can cut through a hot knife, with butter.]

You're touring right now with Adrian Belew, which has been described as "as close to King Crimson as you're going to get".  In your own words, what is the heart of this tour?  What's it about?
Adrian has a 'Power Trio" which tours a lot -- then Pat and I are in a different trio which also tours a lot - Adrian thought, if we team up for a show, we could do an encore set of King Crimson music - first the 3 band members (teamed up as trio for the first time ever) then have the other three musicians come on to join us for more Crimson, including being able to cover the 'double trio' period of six players.
The tour has been very successful with lots of sold out venues, and audiences really liking the music.

King Crimson has existed in so many permutations, the methodology behind it may not be so visible.  What is it about that that makes it such an enduring concept, despite changing so much?
I can't speak for the whole life of the band - what I really appreciated in my time in the band was how the ethic was to push yourself as a player, and to push ourselves as a band, to come up with really new approaches, and not fall back on what we'd done before.

That brings me to some of our reader questions.  From Langdon Hickman, "What's your favorite King Crimson song from a lineup you didn't play with?"
I don't have favorites of just about anything, but I think I could choose "Red" because I play it every night, and still find John Wetton's part exciting to play even after decades.

From Alice Green: "What's the status of Peter Gabriel's I/O album that you worked on?"
I'm not sure what that album is -- as you may know, he's been busy recording and touring with orchestra. My hope is, of course, that he'll come back to the band one of these days. It's my very favorite musical thing to be part of.

And a nice open-ended question from Reese Hopkins: "What do you think about newer prog groups like Moon Safari or Phideaux, newer stuff that has only gotten big in the past few years?"
Do not even know of them... okay, have now added to my 'must hear' list!  Sorry.

Well, it's a pleasure getting to talk to you.  I wanted to round things off with a non-musical question.  What does bass hero Tony Levin do for fun?  I hear rumblings about a quilt...
Quilting on the road for sure ... doesn't everybody? But much going on when I'm not touring, including a pretty decent and involved home family life after all these years travelling so much. 

Thanks again for taking time out for this interview!
Once again, thanks to the amazing Tony Levin.  Make sure to read his tour diaries at,  and be sure to make it to the show on Friday!  And just for fun, watch this video of Patrick Stewart playing a Chapman Stick.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ron's Picks: Black Pussy's On Blonde

It is suffice to say that with a name like Black Pussy, you are probably going to be embarking on a journey with an extremely bad ass group.  Of course, this is a band residing the the fair City of Roses, home to the cult legends Starfucker.  And just as the stars would show, the old 80's hip hop question, "What's In A Name?" is still very relevant.  No matter the stigma, Black Pussy is a group that portrays nothing more than hellride worthy damn genius with speed guitar anthems and piston blowing insanity that is both enjoyable and systematic to chance to have a damn good time.

Black Pussy takes Dustin Hill and a few of his friends away from their regular duties with the thrash core group White Orange, to make some old school road trippin', hardcore songs about weed, crumbling towns, and Indiana chops.  On their stellar initial release, On Blonde, we find a side project that takes a turn for the center lane, and never looks back.  They sound cocaine infused, yet determined to develop a pop worthy sound that can be breast fed to one audience, and then a different one entirely.  Alongside Dustin is Toadhouse Studio founder Adam Pike (also of White Orange) enlightening himself just as Hill has obviously done with this fun and enthusiastic record unlike any blatantly boring shit you have heard recently.

While many avid indie rock listeners might embrace this sort of exuberance as just another way to spend a night fueled up on PBR and lost hope, there is actually a bit in On Blonde for everyone.  It is manic!  It's insane.  It's probably an album you have been waiting to find for sometime, yet were far to chickenshit to extend your ears to something so amazingly insane.  So, how about you lighten up Francis, and learn how to party.  These guys can show you the way.  They'll have you blowing smoke from your ears while juggling chainsaws in the back of a busted up convertible fueled by Jack Daniels doing 90 down Burnside with the intensity of Denis Leary on stage talking about 8Balls.  And who wouldn't want that?

Check out Black Pussy's On Blonde on the group's Bandcamp Page (where they somehow earned a tag of "Fleetwood Mac", which actually makes no sense at all, but definitely intriguing)