Tag Archives: Beatles

Before you point a finger, remember ‘Everything is a Remix’

When I was a teenager, I read a story by Orson Scott Card that made a big impression on me. “Unaccompanied Sonata” tells the story of a young prodigy in a future society where talented musicians are isolated and forbidden from listening to the music of others, to prevent their work from becoming derivative.

I don’t want to give too much away, but he rebels, listening to a beautiful piece by Bach. He is forbidden from making music. He does it anyway and is repeatedly punished in horrible ways that ultimately make it impossible for him to make music again. In the end, he becomes part of the very establishment that tormented him so.

I thought of that story when I discovered Everything Is a Remix, a blog about the video series by the same name by New York filmmaker Kirby Ferguson (the one who produced this video about Protect IP, mentioned previously on my blog). The first three videos in the series have been produced and a fourth one is on the way. They can be found on Ferguson’s Vimeo channel as well as Youtube and I recommend them highly. They are fascinating.

The video series points out – very effectively – that very little if any of the entertainment we enjoy is truly “original.” Everything borrows from something else. Movies, music, ideas. And that’s not a bad thing. Bits and pieces of art can recombine and become fresh and new again. I love the old blues music Led Zeppelin ripped off, but I also love Led Zeppelin, can’t imagine what my teenage years would’ve been like without them. Amazing powerful stuff. And much of it purloined.

Same thing with hip hop. That used to be one of my complaints about hip hop before I learned to enjoy it: “It’s just someone talking over someone else’s song.” Sometimes that’s all it is, but in the hands of someone creative, it becomes something much more.

Anybody remember the outlaw album DJ Danger Mouse put out in 2004? He took Jay-Z’s Black Album and mixed it with songs from the Beatles’ White Album, to create The Grey Album. Modern, streetwise rap music, mixed with some of the most beloved classic rock there is. It took off like gangbusters. The studios’ reaction to that very pirate project was predictable. EMI tried like hell to get it off the Internet, even though Paul McCartney and Jay-Z were fine with it, but there was no stopping it. The album went viral and was a very hot topic in the music press for a while.

Something else that will freak you out… Sometime watch Zero Hour, a movie about a plane trip that goes awry when the crew gets sick and a passenger – a washed up, nervous ex-pilot – has to take the controls. Sound familiar? That’s because they borrowed the same exact plot for the comedy Airplane!

Watch the Everything Is a Remix for plenty of other examples. Here is the first installment:

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

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SheLoom’s debut, Seat of the Empire: perfect pop for the Digital Age

It took me a while, but I finally got hold of SheLoom’s Seat of the Empire. That’s been on my to-do list ever since I discovered them back in the old days on TheSixtyOne. Back then they were called Loom. I think they ran into another band by that name and had to make a switch. SheLoom is one of those bands that didn’t exist before the Internet, a trans-Atlantic collaboration between Filippo Gaetani, an Italian, and Canadian Jordon Zadorozny. The duo creates lush Beatlesque pop that reminds me at times of Skylarking-era XTC.

As soon as I heard “Sink or Swim” on T61 I recognized Jordon’s influence. He was the lead singer of a group called Blinker the Star. That group’s August Everywhere has been a perennial favorite of mine for several years. Seat of the Empire has a similar appeal. Great sense of melody. Great production.

I enjoy the whole album but the first three — “Seat of the Empire,” “Bolero” and “Sink or Swim” — really start things off with a bang and “All for Love” is a hell of a finish.

Apparently Filippo and Jordon have deemed their collaboration a success, because they are already working on a new album, according to their website, SheLoom.com. I will probably still be into this album when their new one comes along.

You can order Seat of the Empire from CDBaby. Or buy the digital version via iTunes. Personally, I would go with the physical artifact. Love the cover art.

Also, check out Blinker the Star’s August Everywhere if you get the chance. I can never stop pimping that album.

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Ringo Starr – more than just the ‘nice’ Beatle

I have a friend who says he really likes John Lennon and Paul McCartney. He’s just “not impressed with that little band they were in.” I find that amusing, but I couldn’t disagree more. I’ve loved the Beatles for as long as I can remember. Their music never really gets old.

Each of the Beatles had something to contribute: John Lennon, with his sarcastic wit and social activism; Paul McCartney with his colorful word images and innovative bass playing; George Harrison, with his mysticism and the way he brought Eastern sounds into popular music; and Ringo Starr, a good drummer and a hell of a nice guy. Most fans of the Beatles would agree that the band was more than the sum of its parts.

Even so, the argument always comes up: Who was the most important Beatle? For years, my answer was Paul. Later on I started to drift toward John. Now I’m starting to drift again, not toward George, but toward Ringo.

I remember years ago, reading Howard Stern’s Private Parts – back when Stern was funny and not just a guy who liked to record himself flirting with strippers. One part that really stands out is the Stuttering John “interview” with Ringo. Stuttering John shouted, “What did you do with the money?” Ringo said, “What money?” And Stuttering John followed up: “The money your momma gave you for singing lessons.” Ringo’s answer really summed up his character for me: “I spent it on fish and chips, actually.” You’ve gotta love that. The nice Beatle, the one who can laugh at himself and doesn’t take himself seriously.

On a personal level, Ringo has always been my favorite, always the one I imagined I would enjoy hanging out with, drinking a cold one. On a musical level, I never really thought much about it. People poke fun at his voice, which I agree was “not all that,” and at the silliness of the songs he sang (and in a couple of instances, wrote), like “Octopus’s Garden” and “Don’t Pass Me By.”  The other Beatles people tend to worship. Especially John Lennon. But in point of fact, Ringo had a unique style. Hard to put your finger on it, but his drumming does sound a bit different. He has attributed that difference to being a left-handed drummer playing a right-handed kit.

Original drummer Pete Best had charisma and sex appeal and from what I’ve determined, is also a very nice guy. Maybe the Beatles would’ve been just as successful if they hadn’t fired him and replaced him with Ringo. I have a feeling that’s not the case, however. I think Ringo added an essential ingredient to the mix: fun.

John and Paul were superb songwriters, especially as a team. George wasn’t bad either (although he did get busted for accidentally cribbing the tune from the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” for his song “My Sweet Lord”). But I don’t think that’s enough to explain how huge the Beatles got. While the singer-songwriter part of the group tended to take the listener into his head and into the clouds, I think Ringo projected a sense of “Hey people, we’re just clowning around. Don’t take it so seriously.” I think he kept them grounded and kept them fun.

Maybe he was really the linchpin of the Beatles?

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Doleful Lions – beautiful ballads for the zombie apocalypse

Doleful Lions Jonathan and Robert Scott

Make fun of old horror movies all you want, but if you saw one as a child, it stuck with you didn’t it? There is a lot of emotional power in those images — just as there is in a well-written pop song. Combine the two and you really get something special. Nothing demonstrates that better than the music of Doleful Lions. I’ve been fascinated by the group for years. The title track to The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is a perennial secret weapon in my Halloween playlists.

Doleful Lions frontman Jonathan Scott lives in Plano, Ill., about 50 miles west of Chicago. The band started in Chicago in the mid-’90s and relocated to Chapel Hill, N.C. for several years. It  includes Jonathan on guitar and vocals and his brother Robert on bass. The brothers will give their first Doleful Lions show in two years on April 22 at the Abbey in Chicago. They just completed a new album, Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil Out of Prison, which should be released soon — hopefully by summer. They are working on yet another album for the Jesus Warhol label and have numerous albums available on Parasol Records.

I spent several hours over the last couple of weeks visiting with Jonathan about his music, his influences and his outlook on life.


“We are all zombies waiting to have an apocalypse,” said Jonathan, when asked about the significance of B horror references in his songs. Jonathan believes Americans are being distracted by trivialities from a creeping fascism — much like the future described in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World — and disaster is bound to be the result.

“I feel like everything is a horror show. I think that B-Movie horror is a good barometer for what is going on in the world. I think we are pretty much all programmed and I think that eventually that programming will destroy everyone. I mean people are actually entertained by Dancing With The Stars, which to me is a sign of being a zombie. Most people could care less about the government taking away your rights. They have a big screen TV so who cares? It is totally Brave New World.

“It’s by design. They want us to be all preoccupied with our jobs and our rent and paying for food they know that if we are worrying about that we won’t question them taking our freedoms. People’s lives are hard, ’cause that is what they want, so we don’t question anything. We watch Dancing with the Stars when we get off work cause we can’t be bothered with what is really going on.”

His lyrics are a way of expressing his horror at the world’s problems and dealing with his struggle with bipolar disorder. They also spring from a heartfelt love of old cinema and science fiction — and growing up with access to a damn good video store.

Musical Beginnings

MusicMissionary: “Would you mind telling me how you got into music?”
Jonathan Scott: “When I was 4 is when it started. My parents had an old Realistic stereo they never used and they had a few records and I discovered it and learned how to work it and started listening. I remember they had Abbey Road, Beatles 65, Beatles VI, some Barbra Streisand record and Creedence, but once I discovered the stereo I stopped going outside to play. At that time we were living in Memphis and Elvis was huge so I went to K-Mart and bought Elvis 45s and The Eagles, John Travolta, Shaun Cassidy – you know, the popular stuff in the mid-’70s.”

MM: “Osmonds…”
JS: “I didn’t have any Osmonds, but when I was in kindergarten Kiss was huge and I heard Kiss Alive II and the music scared me and Gene Simmons scared me, but I really loved it.”
MM: “I actually had a Donnie & Marie album. Don’t tell anyone.”
JS: “Oh, that’s okay, I don’t think you should have to be responsible for any record you owned until maybe when you reach high school. I had a lot of pretty lame shit, I had the John Travolta record and really loved it. This song called ‘Easy Evil’ – I loved that song. I read a few years ago that Jim Gordon played drums on that song.”
MM: “Only Travolta song I remember is ‘Gonna Let Her In.’”
JS: “Yeah, that was the big song from the record but I liked the B-Side. That was the A side. I don’t know I was 4. I thought it was good haha.”

Hardcore Punk

MM: “So what about playing music. When did that start?”
JS: “I got into hardcore when I was in high school and really wanted to play in a band ’cause my friends had started playing music. I didn’t play an instrument, but I could sing okay, so my first year of junior college at College Of DuPage I put an ad up looking for a band that plays in the style of Husker Du/Bad Religion or the Descendents and this guy Jason called me and we eventually started a band. We were really bad.”
MM: “What year would that have been, about?”
JS: “This was in 1990. There were a bunch of bands in suburban Chicago doing similar stuff and we eventually got in contact with a lot of people in bands.”
MM: “Did y’all make songs or do covers?”
JS: “We did all originals but we did do a Mudhoney song and a Minor Threat song. It was fun though.”

Cinco de Gatos

Jonathan Scott in his post-hardcore days with Cinco de Gatos

MM: “So anyway… You left off doing hardcore and singing but not playing. When did you start doing that? You play guitar, right? Anything else?”

JS: “Yeah well, when that first band broke up, I moved to Chicago and my roommate [Dan Panic] played drums for Screeching Weasel and Jason – the guy that was in my first band — lived like a block away, so we decided to start playing, even though I had only been playing guitar for like a month. We were called Cinco de Gatos and I had to learn to play pretty fast, but we spent most of that summer rehearsing and played our first show in January of 1995. At the time, we had this dude named Ryan who had played drums in this band called Gauge playing second guitar. We did our first show and we were so bad Ryan and Dan quit that night.”

MM: “You say you moved to Chicago. Where were you before that with your first band?”
JS: “In the suburbs. We were based in the Downers Grove area.”

JS: “There was a suburban hardcore scene out there. Tony Victory lived down the street in Downers and had shows at his house all the time and now he is Victory Records haha.”

MM: “What kind of music were you guys making?”
JS: “It was really influenced by Fugazi and the stuff on Dischord Records. Also the bands on Lookout and stuff like Jawbreaker. There were a lot of bands like that at the time.”

From post-hardcore to indie pop

MM: “When did you start to develop your current sound? I’m hearing Beatles, Beach Boys, some shoegaze maybe… Very different from the kind of music you’re describing.”
JS: “Well, at the time when I was playing in Cinco I was getting into stuff like Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, obviously the Beatles, the Byrds and then the UK stuff like My Bloody Valentine, Ride. I was way into Elvis Costello too, but by the end of that band I had completely lost interest in playing post-hardcore or emo or whatever you want to call it and I wanted to play stuff like what I was listening to. Plus Bee Thousand by Guided By Voices came out in ’94 and I got that and I said ‘Screw this band I am in.’ So I bought a 4-Track in 1995 and wrote a bunch of pop songs.”

MM: “Normal pop songs? As in, not about Satan or werewolves or sci fi?”
JS: “Oh no, these songs were love songs. You know, guitar pop stuff, and with Casio keyboards — real twee stuff. I played it for Jason in Cinco de Gatos and he hated it. So I knew I was onto something.

“I have to tell you this story: When my first album Motel Swim came out, DL’s played Chicago. I was living in Chapel Hill at this time, and I played the album for my childhood friend Kevin Smith. Kevin had come up with me and been into hardcore and stuff, and I played him Motel Swim and he said ‘Dude this is the most uncool record I have ever heard.’ I felt like I had accomplished something ’cause that is what I was going for. Haha.”

MM: “So, what was it about pop songs and being uncool that was cool to you?”

JS: “Well, I had been playing in punk rock bands or hardcore, emo whatever you want to call it. Power pop is uncool at least in my circles and I really wanted Doleful Lions to be completely different from the Chicago emo shit that was going on at the time. I felt no connection to that stuff at all.”

MM: “What was it about emo that you hated? Too whiny?”
JS: “No, I just didn’t really feel an emotional connection to it — which is weird considering it is called emo — it always seemed contrived to me. I didn’t feel that music at all, but I felt stuff like Beach Boys and Flamin’ Groovies. I mean I remember where I was the first time I heard ‘Shake Some Action’ but I can’t say the same about the first time I heard Fugazi.”

Horror Movies

MM: “The main thing that has fascinated me about your stuff has been the pairing of lush pop and B horror imagery. Can you explain why you like that combination and why you like B horror movies?”

JS: “I grew up loving B movies so much. My brother and I used to watch all that stuff all the time. There is a song on the new album called ‘Julie’s Video’ which is kinda a tribute to this video store my brother and I used to go to, it is what I know so I figured I would write about stuff I know, which is Lucio Fulci movies.”

MM: “Why B horror and not ‘art’ horror?”

JS: “Because I relate to stuff like Gates Of Hell and Dawn of The Dead more than some art house movie. I think it is probably because I am a suburban kid who had access to a really good video store.”

MM: “It seems like you have a thing about zigging when others are zagging if you know what i mean. Finding uncool things and making them cool…”
JS: “Yes, there is a song on the Rats Are Coming The Werewolves Are Here called ‘The Contrarian,’ which is about myself haha.”

MM: “The B horror movie thing is a perfect example.”
JS: “Yeah, taking horrible movies and putting them in a literary context… I mean The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is a horrible movie! Almost unwatchable. But Andy Milligan’s movies are charming and I would much rather watch that than Inception or something.”

MM: “How did you get into that stuff and what made you want to make songs about it?”
JS: “Well, I have been into horror movies since I was a kid and never really grew out of it, and bands like the Misfits and the Cramps have done that sort of thing before, but not really a guitar pop band at least not at that time really.”

MM: “That’s what I found so striking about your music. Pretty sounding music, but the titles and lyrics are like Night of the Living Dead. I love juxtapositions like that.”
JS: “Yeah, I do too. The new record is even more pronounced with that type of thing. The lyrics on the new record are pretty hateful and violent.”

Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil Out Of Prison

The forthcoming Doleful Lions album has a rather controversial title, though not everyone will get the reference. (I had to look him up myself.) Indie musicians have a hard enough time getting attention that a bit of controversy probably won’t hurt, and it might help.

Beausoleil is doing hard time for the 1969 murder of music teacher and associate Gary Hinman. Beausoleil said he was trying to collect money from Hinman, who was said to owe money to Charles Manson (yes, THAT Charles Manson) for selling a bad batch of mescaline that had in turn been sold to some rather pissed off bikers.

Beausoleil was also a musician and aspiring actor who appeared in some B horror movies and wrote the soundtrack for a movie called Lucifer Rising that he would’ve starred in if he hadn’t gone to prison. Beausoleil wasn’t involved in the Manson Family’s “Helter Skelter” murders, but his affiliation with the Family has most likely kept him from getting paroled.
Jonathan doesn’t condone what Beausoleil did and thinks he deserves to pay for his crime. But he also thinks it unfair that the man’s cultural contributions are forgotten and that he seems to be paying for murders he didn’t commit.

“I think Bobby Beausoleil should pay for his crime, which was murder, but he should not be lumped in with the Manson family ’cause he was never a part of it. Vincent Bugliosi said that Bobby was a part of the Manson family but he wasn’t. He is what I would consider a genius musician and he deserves a fair parole hearing.”

The album title has already garnered a bit of attention.
“Actually I got a message from Bobby Beausoleil the other day about the record from his wife,” Jonathan said. “She was really appreciative. I wanted to let her know we are not planning on breaking him out of prison. We just wanted to acknowledge the musical influence he has had on us. And she told him about it. I guess he got a kick out of it.”

Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil is going to be a very dark album, as you might gather from the video of the title track, which contains scenes from the Kenneth Anger film, Lucifer Rising.

MM: “Tell me about your new album. You said it’s very dark.”

JS: “Yeah it is. I kinda gave up on everything last year. My girlfriend who I lived with I caught cheating on me. She was having an affair and I basically stopped caring about stuff. So the album is really dark and hateful.”

The song “Funeral Skies For Burst Patriot” is a good example of that darkness. Jonathan explained that the lyrics are about a fictitious assassination of right wing pundit Glen Beck. It is also inspired by Peter Gabriel’s “A Family Snapshot,” a song that tells a story from an assassin’s viewpoint.

“Like I said this is a pretty dark record,” he said. “I actually was a little hesitant to put the song on the album after the AZ congresswoman got shot.”

It’s a beautiful song, despite the subject matter:

Mental health issues

Jonathan said he has bipolar disorder. He describes himself as “crazy,” but he is functioning — earning money, paying the rent, making music. He isn’t taking medication right now and says smoking weed “does the trick” without the side effects prescribed drugs gave him.

MM: “Maybe the album [Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil Out of Prison] is a kind of exorcism.”

JS: “Well I am bipolar and it is a lot about me not dealing with being bipolar. I stopped taking my medicine last year. I got tired of being so asleep so with this record this is me totally nuts.”

MM: “Do you want me to edit that part?”

JS: “No, I want people to know how I am. Don’t edit it at all.”

MM: “OK. Totally your call. I know some people are private about that.”

JS: “I am not. I want people to know I am bipolar and I am doing okay.”

Jonathan has uploaded numerous Doleful Lions videos on YouTube. You should also check out the Doleful Lions’ Facebook and MySpace pages. And you’ll want to hear the Doleful Lions back catalog. Jonathan will start releasing those albums soon on Bandcamp. Check the Doleful Lions Facebook page for updates.

UPDATE: The deal with Parasol is off. The new album will come out in digital format on the Jesus Warhol label and Jonathan is shopping the album around to other labels for a CD release. Find out more about the planned release and the blowup that nixed the Parasol deal.


Filed under indie, indie pop, indie rock, interview, music, pop, psych, rock, shoegaze, Uncategorized, video

The Widest Smiling Faces interview — melancholy and optimism coexist

How does an indie musician become successful? I wish I knew. But I am sure of one thing, there isn’t any magic person or company or website out there who will make it happen. You have to do it yourself. New York-based singer-songwriter Aviv Cohn aka The Widest Smiling Faces is just 23, but he’s already got that figured out.

When I first encountered him on TheSixtyOne, he had uploaded “The Only Lonely Ocean,” a song full of shoegaze echoes and alliteration that I knew was destined to be a hit on the site. And sure enough, the song caught on and burned up the charts. I really admired the way he developed his networking skills, making friends, picking up tips and promoting his music far and wide.

Aviv is a largely self-taught guitar player. He had lessons, but mainly used them as a chance to show off his compositions. “I took guitar lessons when I was younger but I never really followed the lesson plan and would go to the lessons to show off my songs,” he told me in a recent interview. “I think though that that was a good fire starter for me, because it encouraged me to get in the habit of regularly composing so I had something new to show each time. But most of my playing style I developed myself I would say.”

Aviv plays regularly in New York City. “It’s been good,” he said. “I’ve played at a lot of good venues like Mercury Lounge, the Knitting Factory, The Bitter End. I had residency at The Beauty Bar in Brooklyn a few months ago.”

He has one album under his belt, The Widest Smiling Faces, which features the song, “The Only Lonely Ocean.” You can download it for free or get a physical copy for $5 via Bandcamp. A second album is in the works, and he is building a website.

As much as I liked the way Aviv handled networking on T61, I had even more respect for the way he handled the demise of the old, community-friendly gaming version of in favor of the new slick version that doesn’t seem to be much use to anyone. While most of the T61 stalwarts (including me) were getting angry and depressed, he took it in stride and simply moved on, found new ways to promote himself. I thought the pic he uploaded to Facebook around that time summed up his attitude pretty well:

A couple of weeks ago, I had a nice little chat with Aviv in Facebook messenger that turned into an interview. I learned a lot about him and we got into some very interesting topics.

First the basics: Aviv grew up in Long Beach, New York, and went to College at Suny Purchase. He got a BA in Media, Science and the Arts. Sounds like a pretty good degree for a practicing musician on practical grounds, but he picked the major for intellectual reasons: “I decided to study Media, Society and the Arts because I felt it would give me more insight into the way art interacts with society.”

The Widest Smiling Faces is essentially Aviv’s project, although he has had some help along the way. “At times it’s had other members; all my recordings have been solo, and for the most part it’s been solo but occasionally I have performed with other people under the umbrella of the Widest Smiling Faces. But for right now it continues to be solo.”

What’s in a name?

MusicMissionary: “How did you come up with the name, Widest Smiling Faces?”

Aviv: “Hmm, thats a bit complicated. I got the name from my head, it just came in there one day, and I thought it sounded good and felt right, is the simple answer.”

MM: “What’s the more complicated version? Now you got me curious.”

A: “I started playing music at around the same time my face started twisting. I used to have a cute smile but I can’t smile the way I used to. All the good feelings from my normal smile left my mouth and went to my fingers when I started playing, so that’s why the music is the Widest Smiling Faces.”

The melancholy smile

MM: “If i had any genre that your music reminds me of it would be shoegaze. Shoegaze is most often associated with melancholy. Yet your stage name and emphasis is on happiness.”

A: “Yeah, you’re right, my music is probably more melancholy than happy though. I think melancholy is one of the best words in the English language as well.”

MM: “Me too, come to think of it. Feels good on the tongue. So is there a kind of irony to your stage name that you enjoy? And melancholy… it is a bit more complex than ‘sadness.’ It can be kind of pleasant, right?”

A: “Well, I think a smile can be melancholy as well.”

Musical influences

MM: “Who are your big influences, favorite bands?”

A: “I really like Sigur Ros and Boards of Canada. I like Radiohead a lot. Neutral Milk Hotel, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Beatles, Nirvana, The Beach Boys…”

MM: “What about Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine?”

A: “I really like the song ‘The Sadman’ by Slowdive.”

MM: “Jesus and Mary Chain…”

A: “That connected with me.”

MM: “Still it doesn’t sound like shoegaze bands are your biggest touchstone. or am I wrong?”

A: “I would say they aren’t my biggest touchstone.”

MM: “I can definitely hear Beatles and Beach Boys. Is there a certain feeling or sound that you go for when you perform live or record? Atmospheric, reverb, etc.?”

A: “Well I guess it depends on the song. I’m usually going for more of an image or a set of images.”

The Only Lonely Ocean: The Storybook

Speaking of images, one of the most interesting Widest Smiling Faces projects was Aviv’s collaboration with artist Daniel Spenser. If you’re a fan of the satirical website, The Onion, you may have seen his artwork. He is also the artist who designed the cover for The Widest Smiling Faces album. That eye-catching, professional-looking cover was one reason Aviv did so well on T61.

Aviv let Daniel hear his music and come up with artwork based on his impressions. The art was fashioned into a book featuring Aviv’s lyrics for “The Only Lonely Ocean.” “He’s an incredibly talented artist and I’m really fortunate to be able to work with him,” Aviv said.

You can see more of Daniel’s artwork here: http://www.danielspenser.com

Marketing and the Internet

MM: “So… We talked last time about your inspirations, etc. Now how about the marketing and business aspects? For example, would you consider yourself an ambitious artist? Do you expect to make a good living from music someday?”

A: “The music industry keeps changing so I don’t really know what to expect. Right now I’m trying to get my music out there as best as I can.”

MM: “How do you view the Internet as a way to promote yourself? Advantages, pitfalls?”

A: “I think it’s an incredible tool, and there’s no question it’s revolutionized music. I think it’s had more of an effect on music than on any other art form. With regards to advantages/pitfalls, I think it’s helped artists spread their music, while at the same time, perhaps made it harder to make the same kind of living.”

MM: “More positive or more negative? Downloading has impacted a lot of artists’ income don’t you think?”

A: “More positive. People are exposed to more music than ever before, more genres as bleeding into each other.”

MM: “What ways have you found on the Internet to promote your music? What has worked well and what hasn’t? And what kind of lessons have you learned so far?”

A: “I think the best way is to realize you’re dealing with humans and not numbers, and to be as real and genuine as you can with people.”

MM: “I discovered you on T61. Was that the first sort of social networking/venue site you used?”

A: “I think MySpace was the first. MySpace isn’t what it once was but I think it’s still useful.”

MM: “So… what would you say are your most useful tools on the Internet right now?”

A: “Myself.”

MM: “Meaning that no magical site out there will make you succeed, you have to do it yourself?”

A: “Yeah, and I think music is the most important thing as well.”

MM: “I thought you did quite a good job harnessing T61 in its old format. What lessons did you learn from operating in that environment? And what lessons from when the site owners made the big change? Are you still getting good use out of it?”

A: “I haven’t used TheSixtyOne in a while, I would love to go back to it but I feel like all my fans have left (maybe that’s not true though). They sent me an e-mail a litle while ago on myspace asking for high res photos, which I updated, but I heard from them since really. And they updated one of my songs with artwork from the storybook themselves, which I thought was a nice touch.”

MM: “What all are you using right now?”

A: “I’m really liking Bandcamp. It’s clean, it sounds good, people like it.”

MM: “I can tell you I like it because it’s easy to embed songs. which for you means the music can go viral more easily.”

A: “Yeah, that’s one of its best features I would say.”

Check out The Widest Smiling Faces’ music on Bandcamp: 

And get to know Aviv on Facebook and Myspace.


Filed under indie, indie pop, interview, music, one to watch, shoegaze, Uncategorized

British singer-songwriter Richard John follows his dream

There is a scene in the soon-to-be-Oscar-winning movie Up In the Air, where George Clooney’s character explains to a man who is about to lose a high-paying job –  but has a degree in French cuisine – why kids love athletes: Because they follow their dreams. I think the same could be said of musicians. At least that’s what the kid in me loves about them. Just one more reason to admire Richard John, the English singer-songwriter I discovered several months  back on the old T61 site.

Richard became a professional musician after he was “made redundant” or as we say in the States, “laid off” from a nice job in the catering business. He had always dreamed of making his living through music, and found a way to do it by teaching guitar lessons. Meanwhile, he is developing a nice collection of songs, many of them with  a sweet Brazilian influence I simply cannot resist.

As soon as I heard his music, I thought, wow, this is something out of the ordinary. In a word, it had heart. Beautiful guitar work, soft melodic vocals. I nagged everyone I could about him and he seems to be developing a nice fan base. I have very high hopes for him.

Below is an e-mail interview that I think many people will find inspiring. It is never too late to follow your dreams. It might not make you rich, but it might be just what you need to find happiness.

MM: What first excited you about music and made you want to play an instrument?

RJ: I first got excited in music by listening to the Beatles, Beach Boys, early Stevie Wonder, etc. – stuff with really big melodies. I still think of Brian Wilson as being a main influence. My mother played piano and my father sang a lot. So there was always music arod, and I remember there being a pile of Dad’s old 78 records that survived his house being bombed during the blitz, with artists like Nat King Cole, George Gershwin etc, that I also loved from an early age.

MM: How did you learn to play guitar and banjo?

RJ: I started playing the guitar when I was about 10. I had lessons then, and also about 20 years later, when I had an inkling I may one day teach the instrument. I picked up a load of finger style experience at that time.

I pick out a tune on the banjo for recording, but wouldn’t pretend to play it well.

MM: Did you always dream of being a musician?

RJ: During my years in the catering industry, and being a training officer, I would often dream spending more time on my music and maybe making some money out of my guitar. Although never really as a front man. More as a songwriter or more mundanely as a guitar teacher.

MM: Your songs often have a personal story. Are they based on reality?

RJ: The lyrics of my songs often concern wistful romance, yearnings, disastrous relationships and loneliness. All of which worries my wife a little as I’ve been very happily married for 15 years! Lyrics come secondary to me. The melodies and music always excite me the most! So there probably is reality in my lyrics, but from a long, long time ago!

MM: I know you’ve mentioned you really like the High Llamas. What is it you like about them?

RJ: When talking about the current influences on my music I always mention the High Llamas. It’s their mix of great melodies, experimentation and originality that I admire most and I guess, in my own way that’s what I’m trying to aspire to.

MM: Do you have any other big influences?

RJ: I tend to favour anything with a memorable, nagging tune. “Strange” and “interesting” is a bonus! People I’m listening to at the moment include Richard Hawley, Sondre Lerche, Orwell, Celso Fornesca (Bossa Nova), Max Richter, Keran Ann, and Stereolab. 

MM: What new bands and musicians excite you?

RJ: New artists I’m listening a lot to include, The Softlightes (tuneful, quirky, indie) , M Ward, Kassin + 2 (Latin indie), Anthony Rochester (A fine and original Tasmanian Musician), Bossacucanova (Brazilian).

MM: Could you elaborate a bit on getting laid off? What ran through your mind? Were you scared? Confident? Any advice for others going through that situation?

RJ: Being laid off is scary, especially if you’ve worked for the same company for many years., but with a little help from a redundancy pay out I was able to gradually build my guitar teaching business, make space to create music and do some local live work with several musicians. I may earn less money than my previous job but I’m genuinely very much happier than before. A cliché but true! I suppose any advice to others being laid off is try to look at it as an opportunity to work at something you love or enjoy, rather than something you fell into many years ago.

MM: What are your future plans, musicwise? Do you consider that you’re “living your dream” now, or do you have much further to go?

RJ: My musical future hopefully includes more live work and a steady improvement in my recording abilities and to make a little money selling my music would be great i.e. allowing me more time to make music.

MM: How important is teaching music? If you find a way to make enough money from writing and performing, will you still continue to teach?

RJ: Teaching music is good. Enabling pupils to gain even a fraction of the enjoyment I’ve gained from music is very fulfilling. 

MM: You once mentioned that a hosting website you were using didn’t satisfy you because there were too many artists to get honest feedback (too many people giving good reviews, hoping you would return the favor). You got to interact with fans on the old version of T61 and you’re getting some of that on Uvumi. Why is that important to you?

RJ: Self-congratulatory sites for musicians aren’t really very helpful. Sites like uvumi and the old T61 were great because they were full of “listeners,” who had no reason to say they liked your music or save your tunes if they didn’t want to. Any constructive criticism is useful – but you have to have a thick skin!

MM: What lessons did you learn about yourself and your music during your “heyday” on t61?

RJ: Lessons I leaned from the old T61 days were quite flattering, i.e. that a quite a few people actually, genuinely seemed to like my music! It was then great to chat to them and be a part of a community.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to Richard’s music, check out his e-album Etched On Glass on Bandcamp, below and if you like it consider showing him a little love and help him keep the dream alive:


Filed under indie, indie pop, interview, music, one to watch

Before the Music Dies – excellent documentary on the music business

I want to thank Tom Thomas, T61 refugee and Facebook friend for turning me onto this documentary:


Here’s a clip from one of the key segments:

Very enlightening and sad too. Boring, manufactured music rules the airwaves and talented musicians can’t get record deals. Our children are growing up not knowing the difference between a musician and a product. That needs to stop. When will the next Elvis or John Lennon or Kurt Cobain arrive and shake things up? When will we have another punk rock or hip hop revolution? We are way way overdue. Have people devolved to the point where they can’t recognize real music anymore? In my opinion, no. When the kids hear something real again on a massive scale, they will recognize it, and it’s going to change things. There are exciting things happening on the Internet, and something is going to come along and break the industry wide open again. I can feel it.

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