Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The straight poop on the latest in morning beverages

I love coffee. But I'm not sure I love it this much.

Where, I wonder, does the inspiration come from? What's the thought process?

"Sure, the coffee I'm drinking right now tastes pretty good. But I bet coffee made from that would be absolutely divine!"

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Well, excuuuuuuse me!

Discovered this in my ongoing attempt to improve the band's global stature in 08. I'll mask the source, though I can tell you it's a booking agency:

Unsolicited Submissions Policy

[Company X] has a policy that neither it nor any of its agents or other employees shall accept or consider any unsolicited material, ideas or suggestions of any nature whatsoever ("Unsolicited Materials"). Accordingly, you may not use this website or information obtained there from to submit Unsolicited Materials to [Company X] via any means (including, without limitation, via mail, fax or e-mail). Should you nevertheless contravene this express prohibition by sending Unsolicited Materials to [Company X], please be advised that the Unsolicited Materials will not be considered by anyone at [Company X], and if possible they will be returned to you with no copies kept. Unsolicited Materials will not be forwarded to or discussed with any third parties.

And then you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Or maybe they're just covering their own asses. But why? From the legal tone of the paragraph, it almost sounds like they could be sued for not accepting someone's application. But that would be ridiculous, no?

More likely they're just overwhelmed, as are most booking agencies these days. Understandable enough -- but in that case won't a simple "Sorry, but we can't accept unsolicited materials" suffice?

What a business.

Anyway, "regular blogging" (whatever that is) will resume "soon" (whatever that is).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

If This Ain't Love

Well, hello there!

Bet you thought I skipped the country, huh?

Actually, I've just been holed up in my basement, madly mixing the new IJG album. More news on that front soon, but in the meantime here's something else:

Beautiful, eh?

Actually, before I go any further, I gotta revise a statement I made in a recent post -- Hounds of Love is just about as good as The Kick Inside.

But now back to the issue at hand: wow, there have been a lot of "neo-soul-divas" coming down the pike over the last few years. Let's see: you've got yer Lauryn Hill, yer Erykah Badu, yer Alicia Keys, yer India.Arie, yer Corrine Bailey Rae, and now, yer Amy Winehouse. That's just off the top of my head.

I think this is great -- much of this music is superior to the stuff that really sells (of the ones I listed, Alicia Keys is the only one who leaves me completely bored -- and she's probably the richest of the bunch). But every time one of these artists breaks, there is a lot of talk about how she is bringing back some long-lost quality of vintage soul / r&b music (or whatever you want to call it). And every time these claims are made, my ears perk up, because, as you know, I, uh, kinda like that old music a lot (especially of the Stax and Muscle Shoals variety).

The above Nicole Willis, who is being similarly marketed, is, as far as I can tell, the first to really live up to the hype. There is something about Willis and her (Finnish!) band (the Soul Investigators) that demonstrates a deep understanding of that music too, right down to the recording techniques. (Mic distortion?! On a commercial record?! That's brave.) The Nina Simone / Irma Thomas / Marvin Gaye vibe certainly doesn't hurt, either.

It's not astonishing music -- it's weirdly familiar, actually -- but it works.

Here's the album in question.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

So bad it's good, part one

You may have missed the Ig Noble awards last week. I missed it too of course, but that didn't stop me from thinking fondly of this wacky event, with which I feel a great deal of simpatico. Check it out: "The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think." One might even say this is what I'm after in music.

This year's ceremony is over, but the site is well worth poking around. Did you know, for example, that you could cure hiccups with a digital rectal massage? (Thank you, Francis M. Fesmire, Majed Odeh, Harry Bassan, and Arie Oliven, for hipping us to this remedy.)

The ceremony is sponsored by the good folks at Improbable Research, who also bring you The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS), a club "for scientists who have, or believe they have, luxuriant flowing hair." Queen's Brian May, who is also an astronomer, is a member. (I couldn't make this up.)

Oh, and Jill, you might be interested in this: "Every year, the ceremony has a new theme. (The theme pertains to some of the goings-on at the ceremony, though not necessarily to any of the year's prize-winning achievements). This year's theme: CHICKEN."

Monday, October 08, 2007

What a business

Well, this truly hits the spot on a rainy night in Portland (while I print out press kits, fer crissakes).

For my money, Kate Bush was never better than on her first album. And when you mediate a great tune like "Them Heavy People" (no, it's not actually called "Rolling the Ball") by giving it to some Japanese singers, while having Kate herself do a few uber-cheesy dance moves (but not singing -- huh?), you've hit upon something delightfully wacky.

Friday, October 05, 2007

For shame

The RIAA wins its first case.

I wish these fuckers would concentrate on making some music that was actually worth $222,000. Wired has the list from the above suit:

Guns N Roses "Welcome to the Jungle," "November Rain"
Vanessa Williams "Save the Best for Last"
Janet Jackson "Let's Wait Awhile"
Gloria Estefan "Here We Are," "Coming Out of the Heart," "Rhythm is Gonna Get You"
Goo Goo Dolls "Iris"
Journey "Faithfully," "Don't Stop Believing"
Sara McLachlan "Possession," "Building a Mystery"
Aerosmith "Cryin'"
Linkin Park "One Step Closer
Def Leppard "Pour Some Sugar on Me"
Reba McEntire "One Honest Heart"
Bryan Adams "Somebody"
No Doubt "Bathwater," "Hella Good," "Different People"
Sheryl Crow "Run Baby Run"
Richard Marx "Now and Forever"
Destiny's Child "Bills, Bills, Bills"
Green Day "Basket Case"

I might give you a buck for the lot.

Actually, no: I'll pay someone to take it all out of circulation. (Except maybe for "Don't Stop Believing," which has camp value for me).

P2Pnet has some perspective. (Check it out: "the judge in the case ruled that jurors may find copyright infringement liability against somebody solely for sharing files on the internet. The RIAA did not have to prove that others downloaded the files." Just ridiculous.)

What's in a name, really?

So I've plunged headlong into "booking madness mode," querying probably (by now) hundreds of music festivals around the world in the hopes that at least a few of 'em will be willing to take a chance on our "Monsters of Industrial Jazz Road Show" in the summer of 08.

There are two festivals that I hope we get into just for the names alone:

The Hell Music Festival, in (where else?) Hell, Norway. (Come on. How cool would it be to see a piccolo-trumpet-playing-dreadlocked-skull-guy on stage at this one? (Yes, that's the opening line of my pitch.))

The Oliver Cromwell Jazz Festival, in the UK. (Betcha didn't know that this regicidal dictator was a jazz fan.)

The best logo award (so far) probably goes to the Brussels Jazz Marathon. Their "running trumpet guy" (kids, don't try that at home) can be seen in the backdrop of this shot (and also in the bottom left-hand corner):

Anyway, keep your fingers crossed. Please.

* * * * *

[UPDATE: I would love for us to be represented by the A.S.S. Agency almost as much as I would love for us to appear at the Hell Music Festival.]

Monday, October 01, 2007

Notes on / in Ohio

Jardin means "garden," right? So what's with all the bricks?

Now for some random observations on what I can only assume will be the last IJG tour for 07:

Cincinnati (27 September, Jardin)

* I have already indicated that our Midpoint show redeemed (for me, anyway) what would otherwise have been a pretty so-so tour. This was not so much because of the size of the audience (which, to the best of my knowledge, wasn't much more than 40 people -- cozy enough inside our tent, but not exactly a huge crowd). No, what turned things around was the quality of the response. Like the best audiences we've had all year, the Cincinnati folks seemed to instantly understand our schtick. Consequently they did not hold back at all: dancing, lighters, whooping / hollering, and various other forms of audience participation were all to be found in great abundance. For the record: we never got this sort of response in 2006 (or before), and for the life of me I have no idea why.

* I was quite internally-agitated until shortly before our show. There had been many premonitions of doom throughout the day (in fact, I might as well admit that this tour occasioned what I suspect may have been my very first panic attack -- oh joy). Not the least of these was the rumor (uncovered by Jill and Matt) that Jardin's neighbors had previously voiced (and had been able to enforce) concerns about "excessive noise after 11 PM." What time were we supposed to go on? 11:15 PM! Beautiful. (As it turned out we didn't run into any problems.)

* Aside: the festival infrastructure was very professional, though my understanding is that things were run almost entirely by volunteers. Kudos to you, good people of Cincinnati.

* Our writeup in Cincinnati's City Paper: "Naturally, it's neither exactly Industrial nor Jazz, but IJG does take the instrumental and compositional chops (and horns galore) from the latter. And if you take into account that the origins of Industrial music can be traced to Dadaism, noise art and a reaction to 'agricultural' music, well, suddenly it all makes sense. Dig It: Throbbing Gristle meets 'Yakety Sax' at an art opening." (I like this, but what exactly is "agricultural music"?)

* As alluded to in the TWSIS piece, Cincy was the guinea pig for our first experiment with "guerilla marketing" (a tactic we alternately referred to as "jazz terrorism" (Rosenboom) and "jazz streaking" (Pratt)). To wit: a few of the horn players (Rosenboom, Templeton, Rodriguez, and perhaps Francis?) piled into one of our minivans a half hour before our show and played a spontaneous open-door concert, while Ms. Knapp eased the vehicle down one of the festival's main drags, and Mr. Lichtenwalner waved a sign announcing who we were. At the time I had no idea whether this (admittedly obnoxious) strategy would work. Now I can say: it worked. (Note to self: more jazz streaking.) Anyway, here, for the curious, is some footage of the second pass:

* Because of the two days of pent-up anxiety that came with worrying about how things were going to go in Ohio generally, I ended up letting off a lot of steam during the performance at Jardin. I mean a lot of steam. It was a physical experience as much as an emotional or intellectual one -- a little bit like laying into a punching bag for 45 minutes straight.

* Speaking of: I realized after this show that if I could somehow manage to tour the group more regularly, I would probably be in the best shape of my life. It seems like every time I get to the end of a set, I have more or less sweated through whatever clothes I happen to be wearing (what with the jumping and the running and the hopping and such). It's a workout, and, you know, much more fun than getting on a treadmill.

* Various kinds of spontaneous band choreography emerged with this show -- something I consider an extremely high compliment from the musicians. Although I have fantasized about carefully working this sort of thing out ahead of time, usually we barely have time to even practice the actual music. Once in a while I will write in specific gestures as part of an individual chart, but nothing too elaborate. With these shows, however, the band more or less danced as an organism -- not in the sense of everybody always moving as one, but a commitment to (and lack of embarrassment about) the idea that music and body movement simply go together. My favorite moments in this regard were the "visual reverb" (the term is Josh Rutner's) that many of the horn players did behind the bone solo in "Fuck the Muck" (see the clip below), and, in the same tune, a rather over-the-top arm-linked-swaying that accompanied the hymn section at the end.

Columbus (26 September, Rumba Cafe)

* I don't mean to knock Columbus. There are certainly good people and good musicians fighting the good fight there, just as there are in most other places in the world. And I personally thought Honk Wail & Moan (the other big band on the bill) turned in an admirable set. They certainly had a decent turnout (including one couple -- okay, one rather energetic chick and her seemingly along-for-the-ride boyfriend -- who danced their way through about a third of the HWM show). Basically, everyone involved in helping me set up this gig really went out of their way to make us feel at home. So gracias all around.

* Still, it was probably inevitable that things were going to be a little stressful in Columbus. The IJG west coasters were seriously sleep-deprived (we had all taken red-eyes); the group had gotten precious little time to rehearse anything, old or new; we ended up going on pretty damned late (if James Hirschfeld hadn't had some friends in that part of Ohio (almost by accident), we might not have had much of an audience at all); and we were adjusting to the somewhat depressing vibe of the city (which suffers from an "insular urban blight" kind of situation).

* I have already mentioned the emergence of our "Skeletor" character, played (and, honestly, created) by Dan Rosenboom. Talk about channeling one's inner 12-year-old! It's probably safe to assume that most of us in the band have gone through a metal phase at one time or another -- so even though the music we are currently playing is pretty unlike metal in just about every respect, there is something inherently right about having a dreadlocked skull-mask guy along to help play it:

* Let me backtrack. For some time now I have been trying to feature the piccolo trumpet skills of Mr. Rosenboom in a more than peripheral way. With the new stuff, I think I finally managed to come up with a few apposite vehicles for that purpose. The catch was that I asked Rosenboom to create an "evil cowboy" character to go along with one of those tunes ("Boozey McBombalot" -- with a title like that, you can perhaps guess who the "evil cowboy" is supposed to be). This he did with a gusto, and an artistry, that was downright thrilling. (In case I'm not being clear enough: Rosenboom actually played the piccolo trumpet while wearing the skull mask.)

* Apropos of nothing: I'm trying to get to the point, compositionally, where I can reliably make a listener laugh with a single well-placed note.

* Speaking of laughter, here's a 2 AM "golden moment of goofery" at a gas station in Columbus, courtesy of Evan Francis:

* * * * *

So there you go. It's been a really exciting and fun year for the band. Thanks again to everyone involved, especially the musicians. We'll see what we can pull out of the hat for '08. Until then, it's back to the new record for me...