Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Today's mailbag prize: Peace, Love and Total Fucking Destruction, the new album by Total Fucking Destruction. As is often the case with grindcore, the song titles are half the fun. The highlights, at first glance:

"Non-Existence Of The Self"
"Let The Children Name Themselves"
"Nihilism, Emptiness, Nothingness and Nonsense"
"Seth Putnam Is Wrong About A Lot Of Things, But Seth Putnam Is Right About You"
"Trilogy On The History Of Strongmanism"
"Youth Apocalypse Right Now"
"Pig Of Knowledge"
"Last Night I Dreamt We Destroyed The World"

Oh, and there's a secret Rush cover buried on this album. Awesome.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


My downstairs neighbor is a nice guy who loans me movies he's rented before they're due back at the video store. This week, he rented The Happening.

I know you've heard how shitty it is. All I'm gonna say is, you have no idea how shitty it is until you actually sit through it. It is indescribably shitty. It's like the exact reverse of "The Entertainment" from Infinite Jest: You pop it in and then you sit there, paralyzed by the utter sucking void, the total lack of entertainment. It's not even a bad you can really laugh at. It's just vaguely depressing. It makes you regret the existence of the human creative impulse.

(Note: His taste isn't always bad. Last week, he loaned me Street Kings, the latest James Ellroy hate-valentine to the LAPD. That one was pretty good - maybe better than the overrated Training Day, if not as good as the underrated Dark Blue. But even with some extra aging-bully weight on him, Keanu Reeves is no Kurt Russell.)

When I returned The Happening to him, I loaned him two DVDs from my own collection: the recent two-disc edition of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and John Carpenter's Prince Of Darkness, which I maintain is one of the hidden gems in his catalog, and one of the scariest movies of the '80s.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


[From Westword.]

Tuesday, October 21, 3 Kings Tavern
A North Carolina-based outfit intent on keeping the Southern sludge-doom sound of Eyehategod et al. alive, Sourvein hasn't released a full-length CD since 2002's The Will to Mangle, but despite revolving-door lineup changes (vocalist Troy Medlin is the only original member left), the band has managed to record three four-song EPs for as many labels since 2005, the latest being Imperial Bastard. In a way, the group is like the Fall: No matter who's actually playing guitar, bass and drums, it's Medlin's vision that prevails, and that vision is loud, slow and ugly, more about relentless punishment than the catharsis most metal bands pursue. Listening to a Sourvein song is like being beaten with a sack full of softballs that's been dipped in tar and motor oil: It hurts, and it'll leave stains on you for a long time afterward. Live, the group's blend of feedback, distortion and misanthropy is bound to be even more vicious. (N.B.: Photo does not reflect current Sourvein lineup.)

Monday, October 13, 2008


[Originally published on]

Calle 13 started out as the court jesters of Latin music, throwing witty social satire atop reggaeton and hip-hop beats. But on their second album, 2006’s Residente o Visitante, they exhibited a political consciousness as sharp as their black humor, as well as an expanded sonic palette that incorporated music from all around the Latin world. On their brand-new third release, Los de Atrás Vienen Conmigo (The Ones Left Behind Are Coming With Me), rapper Residente and multi-instrumentalist/producer Visitante venture even farther afield, exploring sounds from Dixieland jazz to the Balkan chaos of Emir Kusturica. We spoke to Residente on the eve of the album’s release, and a New York concert with Mexican electro-funksters Kinky.

What's the song “Que Lloren” about?
Well, I think it’s not the best song on the album, but I don’t know, some people like it. I’m criticizing some of the reggaeton artists who try not to give us space in the urban community. I think there is a misunderstanding about the words ‘urban music.’ I’m explaining in that song what is urban music for me.

Are you perceived as art school kids playing around with reggaeton?No, but – they see us as crazy people, making alternative whatever. They don’t know what we are doing. I don’t think they see us as art school kids making urban music. They know that we are for real, and they know that we have good lyrics the thing is that some of them criticize us because they don’t understand some of the things we’re doing. That’s what I’m talking about in the song.

If you’re seen as weirdos, working on a track with Café Tacvba probably isn’t gonna help.
Yeah, well, it depends on the people, you know, and how – if you know about music, you know that Café Tacvba is one of the greatest bands, if not the greatest band in Latin rock music. So the thing is, maybe they don’t know about Café Tacvba. Not every one of the reggaetoneros - maybe some of them do.

Didn’t you record a collaboration with Juanes for this album, also?
Yeah, but right now it’s not on the album because of problems with the record label. So I have Café Tacvba and I have Ruben Blades. I still have the song with Juanes, but my little sister is singing [his part]. She’s got a great voice.

How did you manage to get Ruben Blades to rap on “La Perla”?
He just did it by himself. He wanted to try it. He raps and also he sings. It’s nice, because rapping sometimes can be difficult, if you try to push the bar to the limit. It’s difficult to write, also. The way he was writing, it’s difficult because he’s putting a lot of words into one sentence.

Yeah, but I’ve heard his old records from the ’70s and his vocal delivery from back then was almost speaking, sometimes.
Yeah, he used to do that all the time, and also the music on that track is like – we tried to maintain that old-school sound. It’s not salsa, it’s candomble from Uruguay, the rhythm, but also has, like, the drums, the electronic drums that you can hear on the song are old-school, like from his band.

“Electro Movimiento” features lyrics in English; can you see yourself rapping in English in the future?
I’ve thought about it, but the thing is right now I can barely have a good interview with you in English. I have to learn more English. Maybe this year, I want to have a tutor or teacher to teach me a little bit more. And I need to have the street thing going on, otherwise I’d be a rapper with words from the dictionary only. I need the slang. I have a little bit of that, and I know it could be interesting – if I rap the same way I rap in Spanish, it could be huge.

Sometimes you’re rapping really fast on this album. I admit my Spanish is not that good, but I’m completely lost. Do you worry about losing people?
No, no, because the people in Spanish they understand everything. And also the music is so great that even if you don’t understand, you’re gonna like the music. Especially in live performance, there’s a band – we’ve got eleven people, horns, drums, guitar, bass, piano, everything.

Yeah, I was wondering how big a band you have now to play music this complex.
On the stage we are 11. With me, my brother and my sister, and eight band members. We have two trombones and one trumpet, timbales, conga, drums, guitar, bass, piano and my brother plays piano but also plays other instruments like accordion, Theremin…I don’t know.

Did you always have that many? I thought you had fewer people, around the time of the first album.
Yeah, we always perform with a huge band. The thing is, sometimes we bring the horns and sometimes not.

Your last album was more political than this one. Was that a deliberate choice?
This one is mixed. I have political things going on, but at the same time I’m using a lot of black humor on this album. I’m talking about everything – politics, religion, sexual things, and just regular stuff for dancing. But even if I make a song just for the club, I say things also. I take sentences to say things.

In one song you call people out by name, like Don Francisco. When people start to think Latin society is in decline, do they blame you?
Not all the time they wanted to, they tried to do that once with “El Tango del Pecado,” but then they figured out that this is not the case, that Calle 13 is not to blame for things that happen in Latin America. It’s the opposite. As soon as they started knowing the group better, they started figuring out what Calle 13 is, that I’m making fun of the things that are around us. They stopped blaming me for things.

The song “Un Beso de Desayuno,” from the last album, was very soft there’s nothing like that on this album. Was that deliberate?
I wanted to have a song like that on this album. Maybe I can do it later on. I always like to have those types of songs on the albums. The good thing about this album is that it’s very fast. Even the song with Café Tacvba that is a pretty song – the lyrics are very nice, it’s a good song – is fast, also, the rhythm. The first thing we talked about before we did it was to make an album packed with fast rhythms. The last one was slower.

It seems like you’re taking not only rhythms from various parts of Latin America, but electronic music and things, and I heard the same thing on Tego Calderón’s last record. Do you think that’s happening more now, that even people who are affiliated with reggaeton are moving past the clichéd reggaeton rhythm and doing more interesting stuff?
Maybe. The thing is that with us, we are not with reggaeton all the way. We’ve never been that way. On the first album we had three reggaeton songs, on the second album we had two, and on this album we have none, or we have one, but you don’t feel it because it’s funk, we have horns and live drums playing along with the reggaeton beat, so you don’t feel it. But yeah, we experimented with more North American rhythms this time, like Dixieland from New Orleans, because we performed at a jazz festival there last year or earlier this year, and we just took the rhythm and made “Ven y Criticame.” And we have funk also, because we performed in Spain with Jamiroquai. It depends on our travels when we travel, we make songs. That’s the way it is. On the last album, a lot of the time we were in Latin America, so we used a lot of Latin American rhythms. Last year, we were in the U.S. and Europe, so that’s why we mixed it.

I know hip-hop producers listen to each other and compete with each other to see who can come up with new sounds is there anyone you listen to that makes you think, We need to step our game up and beat this guy?
We’re not trying to listen to – like, we listen to music, to hip-hop and everything, but we’re not trying to do the same thing ever. Like, last year I was listening to Emir Kusturica. That’s not hip-hop, it’s Balkan music. We took his music and made a song, “Fiesta de Locos.” That’s the way we work. We’re trying to avoid hip-hop also, the rules of hip-hop in terms of music. I like it, I like hip-hop, but there’s a lot of music in the world, and you can mix it and rap over it all.

Friday, October 10, 2008



Along with Mastodon, Kylesa and Harvey Milk, Baroness is part of a mini-wave of terrific metal bands currently roaring out of Savannah, Georgia. The group's mix of psychedelia, doom and raw '70s riffage makes it one of the most potent combos in contemporary heavy music. Early EPs showed a fair bit of promise, but it wasn't until issuing its full-length debut, last year's Red Album, that the act's sound truly bloomed. It doesn't hurt that Baroness's albums also look amazing; guitarist/vocalist John Baizley designs them all, and has also done work for Darkest Hour, Pig Destroyer, Torche and the Red Chord, among others. The band recently hired guitarist Peter Adams to replace drummer Allen Blickle's brother Brian, who's headed to law school. Consider this tour a trial by fire, as Baroness serves as the mind-altering, arty but crushing bridge between Opeth's tightly controlled prog-death epics and High on Fire's raw blasts of thunder.


[Reproduced with permission.]

Date: Fri, 10 Oct 2008 16:17:30 +0100
Subject: FW: FAO Stefano Isidoro Bianchi
From: Tony Herrington
To: Phil Freeman


Thought you'd be interested in this correspondence. If they get in touch I will let you know. But note this is not the first time Blow Up has lifted content direct from The Wire without credit (let alone compensation).

Italians are unbelievably cavalier when it comes to intellectual property rights. Other peoples' that is.


Tony Herrington
Editor-in-Chief & Publisher

------ Forwarded Message

From: Tony Herrington
Date: Fri, 10 Oct 2008 16:13:47 +0100
To: Blow Up Magazine
Subject: FAO Stefano Isidoro Bianchi

I write from The Wire.

We received the following mail from one of our Italian readers.

Would you care to comment?

I will wait to hear from you.


I have recently noted a very curious analogy among some sentences in the article written by Phil Freeman on Bill Dixon (particularly when he was describing the new record, 17 Musicians in search of a sound: Durfur)in the July number of the WIRE and a review just released by the Italian magazine BLOW-UP and written by Dionisio Capuano. Indeed, the Author of the review were highlighting that the record bears some resemblance to other jazz orchestra masterpieces from decade past (namely Alan Silva\'s Season and JCOA\'s Communications) as Freeman noted and used a very similar expression about the division of the music in subgroups. Moreover, Capuano reported quite entirely the Dixon\'s point of view about the political background of the date but without indicating that the sentences were taken from the Wire article (as he confirmed to me afterward). I have contacted by e-mail the Italian Editor (Stefano Isidoro Bianchi) and the Author who surprisingly whereas they both recognize the analogies (and at least, the Author apologised for them) were not apparently considering the fact worthing of a future errata corrige . I wonder to know your feeling about that because , at least to my unexpert view, this sound quite close like a little case of plagiarism.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


[From the Village Voice.]

Los de Atrás Vienen Conmigo
Sony Latin

On their self-titled 2005 debut, Calle 13 were hilarious and musically innovative, vocalist Residente's lyrics poking fun at every aspect of contemporary Latin culture while his cousin Visitante's beats combined reggaeton, hip-hop, and funk into a swirling, irresistible groove. The follow-up, last year's Residente o Visitante, was more thoughtful and musically broad-minded; guests ranging from Cuban-expat rap group Orishas to Latin über-producer Gustavo Santaolalla and his Bajofondo Tango Club added flavors from all over the Latin continuum, and if it occasionally stumbled into arty pastiche, overall it was a sure-footed next step. The album also offered Residente a platform for a more explicit political consciousness than some might have predicted: "Pal Norte" was an immigrant's rant, and "La Cumbia de Los Aburridos" was, as its title might suggest, dedicated to bored/frustrated Latin youth.

Los de Atrás Vienen Conmigo (The Ones Left Behind Are Coming With Me) is more fun than its predecessor. Café Tacuba and Ruben Blades are the big-ticket guests this time, the former serving as backing band and chorus on a relatively straight love song ("No Hay Nadie Como Tu"), while the seven-minute tropical jam "La Perla" finds Blades not only singing but rapping, and holding his own—which may not surprise those familiar with the talk-singing on his own classic '70s albums. Visitante's compositions—calling them "beats" or "tracks" now is ridiculously reductive—grab sounds from across the globe this time, including New Orleans second-line rhythms and Dixieland on "Gringo Latin Funk," early-'80s electro on "Electro Movimiento," African guitars on "Esto Con Eso," and a crazed Balkan whirl on "Fiesta de Locos." Though his vulgarity remains unrestrained, Residente's apparently sick of being Latin culture's whipping boy: "Que Lloren" and "Ven y Criticame" are direct responses to critics, from within the reggaeton scene and outside. (The chorus to "Que Lloren" translates as "I love it when they cry," and the latter track's title means "Come and Criticize Me.") Combining the fun of the debut with the sonic adventurism of the follow-up, this is a genre-redefining—if not genre-shattering—triumph. Formerly Latin music's court jesters, Calle 13 have become its future kings.

Friday, October 03, 2008


New England Band Was Metalcore Before Metalcore Was Cool

[From the Cleveland Free Times.]

It's tough being a metalcore band these days. The term has almost become an insult, a way of dismissing a group as more interested in roiling the mosh pit than musically evolving. Unearth vocalist Trevor Phipps understands where that dismissiveness comes from.

"When a certain subgenre kinda takes over as the main influence of all the younger bands, it gets oversaturated … so people get burned out on it," he says, phoning from his Massachusetts home.

Still, the fan in him doesn't like it.

"I think people put too much emphasis on what genre of metal a band might be. I think there's only so many fans of aggressive music out there, so to actually put down bands for being in a certain genre is kinda stupid. Back in the day you had bands like Maiden, Metallica and Slayer, and it was all metal, even though it all sounded very, very different."

"All metal" is a good way to describe The March, Unearth's fourth studio album. The disc's 10 tracks demonstrate consolidation and advancement at once. While the hardcore-derived riffs and moshpit-ready rhythms of its first three albums remain, the salient feature of songs like "My Will Be Done," "Hail the Shrine" and "Grave of Opportunity" is the presence of screaming guitar leads.

"There's a lot more solos, and there's a lot more guitar harmonies on there - just better guitar playing overall," says Phipps. "That was definitely a conscious effort because Buz [McGrath] or Ken [Susi] are great guitar players and they really wanted to add more to our sound. Also, I think it was a lot easier for them to play with Derek Kerswill on the drums."

Kerswill is the newest of a string of people who've served as Unearth's drummer. While the rest of the band's lineup has remained mostly steady over the band's decade of existence, the drum kit has changed hands several times.

"It's like Spinal Tap shit at this point," laughs Phipps. "I think it's 'cause drummers are all fuckin' weird. They're all just a little bit different. It's just bad luck."

Original drummer Mike Rudberg, who played on two EPs and the group's debut album, quit after suffering some kind of meltdown at the 2003 South by Southwest music festival. He was replaced temporarily by Sworn Enemy's Paulie Antignai; eventually, Mike Justian of the Red Chord joined. Justian lasted until mid-2007, but by the time the touring cycle in support of Eyes of Fire was underway, his bandmates were ready to move on.

"We didn't really take the time to get to know him as a dude, and we had most of [The Oncoming Storm] written already," says Phipps. "So it wasn't until we were on tour with him for a long period of time that we realized that our personalities kinda clashed, and for the writing of In The Eyes Of Fire, our writing styles kinda clashed. We had to fire him right in the middle of a tour because things got so bad between us."

There's a bright side, though: "We're actually better friends now that he's out of the band. I actually got drunk with him the other weekend." After some shows with the man-mountain of metal, Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel/Strapping Young Lad), filling in, Kerswill's been the man in back since the 2007 Download Festival last June. Interestingly, he's someone with whom the band has history. "We wrote a song off The Oncoming Storm called 'The Great Dividers' with him," says Phipps. "Mike had just joined the band, but he was on tour, and we had a session drummer come in, and that was Derek.

"He did all the touring for the past year, he wrote, played on the record, he's signed on to do this whole touring cycle, and we're hoping we can announce him as a full time member soon, but I'm thinking that both sides don't want to get too far ahead of themselves just yet. But I'm thinking that pretty soon he's gonna be the drummer of Unearth for real."

The band worked again with Killswitch Engage's Adam Dutkiewicz, who produced their first two studio albums as well as their The Endless EP. (Terry Date produced 2006's III: In the Eyes of Fire). "He's a friend of ours, he knows our band inside and out, and he's actually played as a fill-in on drums for us back in 2003, before we got Mike Justian in the band," explains Phipps. "So he's like an extra member of the band. Working with Terry was a great experience, but Terry's not that extra member of our band, and Terry's not a musician, which is something Adam can add to our sound as well. He's a great guitar player, so he might hear one harmony a bit different than Buz or Ken are, and he'll make or at least suggest a slight change, and that can make a big difference."

The members of Unearth feel a tight bond with Dutkiewicz and the other members of Killswitch because they all rose up together in the New England hardcore and metal scenes, creating metalcore before that term was a pejorative. "Back in the late '90s, it was difficult to get good metal shows," recalls Phipps. "Kids just weren't going to metal shows anymore, so we had to play with heavy hardcore bands. That's where the metalcore scene came from - bands like us, Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage playing with hardcore bands."

But can they break out of that scene to mainstream success? Can any of the young bands of today, even ones with a decade in the game like Unearth, become the next Judas Priest or Iron Maiden? Phipps isn't even sure such a thing is possible. "I think it's tough to get to that point again, 'cause there's not many bands signing to major labels," he says. "They're all on independent labels, and I think the biggest band within our scene is Killswitch Engage, but they've only sold 500,000 records for their biggest release. That's not a couple million. That's a big difference.

"I don't know what it's gonna take," he concludes. "But I think people are gonna have to realize that metal is metal. You shouldn't dislike it because it's a subgenre and be a snobby, ultra-picky metalhead. If it's heavy and you feel like going to a show and having a good time, go to the fuckin' show. Don't be like, 'I don't like that part' or 'I hate solos' or 'I hate breakdowns.' There's too much elitism within the scene that I think has to disappear."

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


[From the October 2008 issue of The Wire.]

Runhild Gammelsaeter

The vast majority of musicians have day jobs, but few are as open about that fact as Norwegian vocalist/composer Runhild Gammelsaeter. "It's never been a goal for me to sell many records, which is contrary to many bands," she says, "but that's because I have a job so I don't need to make money on this. I can afford to make the expensive choices of not performing and keeping a low profile."

Gammelsaeter has always been a somewhat mysterious figure within Metal's avant garde. As a teenager, studying in the US, she sang for Thorr's Hammer, a short-lived Doom quartet featuring future Sunn O))) members Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley; her ability to shift instantly from a clear, plainsong-like vocal style to guttural growling, when combined with her icy blonde beauty, made an immediate impression. But she vanished into the lab, getting her PhD in physiology from the University of Oslo. She didn't make music again until 2003, contributing vocals and abstract breathing sounds to Sunn O)))'s White 1. Then she disappeared again, re-emerging as half of Khlyst, alongside producer/multi-instrumentalist James Plotkin on the 2006 Hydra Head release, Chaos Is My Name (Khanate drummer Tim Wyskida performed with the pair live). And now she's making her debut as a solo artist with Amplicon, a limited edition release on Utech.

Label head Keith Utech had envisioned a series of eight releases, each with a cover painting by Stephen Kasner (whose paintings for Chaos Is My Name Gammelsaeter eventually purchased). "Because [Kasner]'s very interested in understanding the material, I sent him the lyrics and talked to him on the phone about the concepts, so the art he creates is always very special," she says. It was partly the opportunity to work with him for a second time, and partly the absolute freedom of the project, that convinced Gammelsaeter to make a solo album, despite early reservations. "A bigger label would want to be involved, where [Utech] just said, deliver a record by 1 May. Which was amazing. You don't get that kind of freedom."

Gammelsaeter clearly values the ability to come and go as she pleases, for professional and personal reasons alike. "When I did my PhD, I had a scholarship and I went to the States and worked in different labs, and I had some professors react very negatively to my association with Black Metal. So I started to discover that I needed to step carefully and be reflective about what I say and do and how I mix my things." At the same time, she says, "I've always liked underground scenes, cult-type music, and it's been somewhat purposeful for me to not make it so accessible, and not expose myself very much. Not really to be a mystery, but to make it so inaccessible so that you don't push it in anyone's faces. People have to discover it for themselves. And I'd rather have my four fans who really love what I do and who spent the time to discover it than to have 100 people who just think it's funny, who saw me live or read about it in the newspaper or something like that."

Amplicon is a record made for cult appreciation and mass apathy, if not revulsion. Its 11 tracks follow a sequence modelled on the cycle of life (titles include "Incubation," "Birth," "Coming To," "Love," "Senescence" and "Dying"), and the disc's title relates to Gammelsaeter's day job - an amplicon is a piece of DNA that has been synthesized using amplification/gene-duplication techniques. The music is pretty dependent on advanced technology, too. It's an intricate collage of cacophonous voices, acoustic and electric guitars, synthesized heartbeats, drones, organ and more. Gammelsaeter croons, mutters, howls and roars in English and Norwegian, sometimes singing what sounds like a murder ballad, other times ranting about genetics and physiology. It has antecedents in both Nico and Jarboe (particularly the latter's vocal shapeshifting and emotional rawness), but is ultimately a unique and personal document. It's an unsettling experience, not just because of the competing and overlapping voices, but the jarring transitions between acoustic and electronic, between silence and sudden bursts of sound - there's never a moment where expectations can be comfortably set. Gammelsaeter describes most Metal as "like Mozart, you know what's coming," but the music on Amplicon, while logical, is anything but predictable.

"I basically went home at night and got myself Logic and sat down and started working, and it ended up being a creative process where I got so pulled into it that I couldn't involve anyone else," she says. "I would sit down for an hour and do clean vocals and acoustic guitar, and then I would do some mixing sounds or effects or something like that. And I would clip it together, keeping the best of it, and I would end up putting on stuff like screaming or effects of different kinds. It just became like a patchwork of things, where you pick out your own favourites of the different elements that I thought the song should encompass and gluing it together in some way. And I liked the sharp breaks, that was very purposeful of me. I didn't want to make it gentle. I really liked the jumping effect of the switching from one thing to another.

"It's intimidating and it's frustrating, but afterwards, I told my friends, everyone should make a solo record," she continues. "It forces you to become very organised, this large project that you have to complete and make a totality out of all your own ideas. There are a lot of choices involved, choosing what you like of your own things and what you don't like, choices in how you're organising it, producing it, structuring it - it's kind of a huge thing. I did my PhD previously, and I thought of it sort of the same way. You start off with all these blank pages and different kinds of results, and you have to amass them into this complete thesis that you deliver in the end."