July 24, 2007

Music Issue 2007: That sound you hear is innovation (pt 3)

SARAH TEEPLESinger: The LadybirdsWhen did you start singing?Sarah Teeple: Photo by James Gammons Sarah Teeple of The LadyBirds says rock could use a little less self-indulgent whining, and a lot more F-U-N.I’ve been singing ever since I was a really young: a little dancing, babbling toddler, all ready to entertain my family and friends. My parents have always had awesome taste in music, so I grew up around lots of good ol’ ’60s jams. I didn’t start singing in rock ’n’ roll bands until I moved to Bloomington, Ind., for school. I worked at a coffee shop called Soma for years, and we used to listen to Detroit Cobras albums all the time. I really loved them, and I loved that the female lead-singer Rachel Nagy’s range was a lot like mine. So I was like, “Whoa, if she can do this, I can, too!” It was kind of exciting and empowering. My first rock show was in B-ton with my manager at that coffee shop’s band, Crypt Kicker Five. It was nerve-wracking and great, and a really big step for me.What do you think is missing from rock ’n’ roll these days?Freakin’ fun, F-U-N is what’s missing from rock ’n’ roll these days! Lots of musicians take themselves so seriously, whining about everything and being all self-indulgent. To me it is more about togetherness, release and kicking ass! And that’s nothing to be cynical or self-important about. It’s all about having a great time with your fellow rock ’n’ roll brothers and sisters.If you were stranded on a deserted island and only had five songs to listen to, what would they be?This is a crazy-tough one! Kind of a sadistic question. Like most other folks, my answer to this changes a lot. But right now, I’d say: 1) Shangri-Las, “What is love?” 2) Mott the Hoople, “All the Young Dudes.” 3) Os Mutantes, “Baby.” 4) MC5, “American Ruse.” 5) International Submarine Band, “Blue Eyes.”And of course “Ladybird” (Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood) would have to be a close sixth. It’s our namesake.Thoughts on karaoke?Right on! Karaoke is everyone’s chance to be a rock star and have some fun! I am a total advocate.Do you think rock ’n’ roll is a boys’ club?As a woman, I’ve felt both advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes I feel like I am given more positive attention, simply because there aren’t as many of us fairer sex in rock ’n’ roll. For instance, sometimes male audience members will “like” me or the band just because I am a girl, shakin’ it onstage. That can lead to a few new fans but is a general bummer if it’s not for the right reasons. Within the music world, I feel like sometimes among male rockers, I might not be given the credibility I deserve. I may be a woman, but I know a damn lot about rock ’n’ roll. I just don’t feel the need to talk incessantly in order to prove it to everyone. Overall I feel so happy to be doing something I feel so in tune with and proud of. And I am lucky to have my four awesome guys rocking with me: Jaxon, Max, Sean and Anthony. This lady couldn’t do it without her “dudebirds”! —M.H.WHY SPIN? IT S IN MY SOULBY KIM SORISEThe sound, the feel and the process are the reasons I got into spinning records some 12 years ago. The low hiss and crackle of a record is my favorite sound. While spinning in public can often cause a certain sense of anxiety, it is the lushness and fullness of well-produced vinyl that centers me.  Kim SoriseWhen I was young, I knew I always wanted to be on the radio playing music. I grew up in Detroit, which has always had a dynamic music scene and a tradition of groundbreaking radio DJs. My favorite was a disc jockey named the Electrifying Mojo; I was a member of his fan club “The Midnight Funk Association.” I would record his radio shows, listen to his musical transitions, his on-air approach, and put my own spin on it; this began at age 9. Mojo still has an influence on how I choose the music I play; DJing is my interpretation of showcasing another artist’s creativity. The turntable for me is not an instrument, but rather a means of conveying information and truly inspirational sounds. Coming from a musically appreciative family didn’t hurt, either — my mom was a big fan of ’60s and ’70s hard rock and folk; my dad’s loves were the Mothers of Invention and progressive jazz, like Pharoah Sanders and Sonny Murray. But Mojo introduced me to Funkadelic, Philip Glass and Cybotron. I spin because it helps pay the bills, but it is truly the thing that makes me the most happy. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s a rush to see people enjoy what I play, but I like walking into a space and improving upon an already cool atmosphere. One thing that makes a good DJ is understanding the needs of the participants and the space, while giving them something that is a bit different from what they have come to expect. For me, versatility is key — each space and group of people demands something different of the DJ and creates a new collection of expectations for me. What I play is also determined by the atmosphere I am trying to create and whether or not I am solo or with a partner. My current DJ partner, Pat Luebbers (Gettin’ Amish), and I spin ’60s garage, ’70s rock and ’80s metal, and our common approach at the Monkey Wrench is one-for-one: We feed off each other’s energy, vibe and taste. This was similar to how Scott Mullins and I spun the dirtysoulparty. Friday nights at the North End Café are more centered on atmosphere, and the type of crowd often sets the tone. For some, DJing is an art form; for me, it is a craft, and it is something I take seriously — whether I’m spinning Marva Taylor, Ennio Morricone, Ornette Coleman, Neil Young or Iron Maiden, it comes from the heart and my experience. I am merely a vehicle to help promote good music. Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.comRYAN PATTERSONCo-owner: Auxiliary Records Guitarist, singer: ColiseumGuitarist: Black CrossWhat was your hometown like?Rod Wenz: Photo by Nicole Pullen Rod Wenz and the National Jug Band Jubilee hold their next event Oct. 12-13 at Iroquois Amphitheater.I grew up in Elizabethtown, about 45 minutes south of Louisville. It was a small town that seems even smaller now that I’ve traveled extensively. It was a nice place to grow up, it was safe and simple, and there wasn’t much to do, so we created our own adventures by starting bands and putting on basement shows.When did you start buying records and why?I think I was 10 or 11 when I started buying my own music, but I started really buying a lot of records (and cassettes) at age 13 when I discovered punk/hardcore music. I can’t say exactly why I started buying records, I just loved music and have had an unquenchable thirst for it nearly my entire life.Was there a particular circumstance or motivation that led to you picking up an instrument? There was no one specific moment that set that passion in motion — my friends and I wanted to start a band. We went from pretending to play songs on cardboard guitars to eventually buying our own instruments and making our own music.  What do you like about writing songs?I don’t know how much I actually like writing songs … With most creative things I do, I generally enjoy the outcome much more than the process. Writing songs is really hard work and can be very tedious or stressful. I put a helluva lot of pressure on myself when writing music on guitar or writing lyrics, constantly comparing it to what I’ve done before and trying to make it better. Having a completed song and hearing the recording or playing it at a show is one of greatest feelings imaginable, and that makes the hard work worthwhile.Why did you start Auxiliary, and what keeps you on that end of the business?Auxiliary is simply a small boutique label; we put out some of our own records and some of our friends’ records … I don’t see us as being much of a part of the music business at large. Some releases might be things we make ourselves to sell a couple hundred copies to a small cult fan base, while some might sell a few thousand copies all over the world. We do Auxiliary because we want to handle certain releases by our bands (Coliseum, Young Widows, Black Cross) in a very specific manner and also help some local bands we love get releases out.Where do you stand on the issue of downloading music?I think downloading can be a great way to check out new music or search through the back catalog of a band to see which releases you like best. I’m not really interested in supporting major labels, so it has been nice to see them scramble a bit and many indie labels grow larger than ever. Of course, it can hurt musicians and labels … It seems that in the past, there was a desire to run out and buy a new release right away or get the coolest rare vinyl release, while the new trend seems to be finding and downloading a leaked album before it’s actually released, just so you can say you have it. Music culture (or at least the subculture I’m involved in) seems to have become more about trashing and criticizing new bands and albums rather than searching out and becoming excited about bands and releases you love. I even think that music becoming easier to get and then delete at the click of a button has made it even more of a casual and dispassionate endeavor for many people … If you don’t put any money or effort into getting a new release, you’re less likely to let an album grow on you ... less likely to read the lyrics and scour over the artwork, less likely to let it become a part of your life. —M.H.ROD WENZFounder, president: National Jug Band JubileeNational Jug Band Jubilee’s CD/DVD is called Jug Band Music? You CAN’T Be Serious! Do people have a hard time believing this is actually music?Nick Drake: Photo by Nicole Pullen Pianist Nick Drake lives with optic nerve hypoplasia, which renders him legally blind.“You can’t be serious!” is often the first comment from people who think they know what jug band music is, but don’t. Like the impatient spouse who interrupts in mid-sentence, they haven’t really listened. They don’t realize that it is a harmonic blend of blues, jazz, bluegrass, country and old-timey pop music.Jug band music is not a genre but a style. These are highly skilled musicians applying their training and talents to novelty instruments to create America’s happiest music. Picture, for instance, a trained opera soprano pushing beautiful music through a kazoo. That happened at Jubilee 2006, and it’s on the CD.What is it about the jug that makes it ideal for playing? Is it the way it’s made?We’ve all created sound by blowing across the rim of an empty Pepsi bottle. Because they hold a bigger volume of air, jugs produce a deeper and more resonant sound and amplify it. Skilled jug blowers actually hold their lips a couple inches away from the jug. Old, one-gallon crockery jugs remain the musicians’ favorite, but a skilled jug blower can produce a rhythmic sound or solo from large plastic jugs, including bleach bottles. When jug blowers gather, they are as likely to discuss instruments and techniques as are those who specialize in more traditional instruments.How did the idea of putting the DVD together come about? What was it about jug bands that you wanted to capture?Our original idea was just to shoot a couple hours of video to capture the unique nature of jug bands in action and memorialize the event. Meanwhile, a lot of us were clicking digital still-shots. I have snapshots of nearly all the participating band members mugging the camera with “Can’t Be Serious!” signs, and that line became a sort of slogan for Jubilee 2006. Our stage manager is Myron Koch, a musician/music teacher with great video-editing skills. Over a couple of months, he invested many hours combining Jubilee video scenes with still photos, music and pre-existing video. We now have a DVD that validates the Jubilee as a lively fact, not just a concept. Because of music copyright constraints, we can’t sell the DVD commercially, but it’s a wonderful tool for introducing music-lovers and prospective sponsors to the unique world of jug band music.What do you think made Earl McDonald a jug band legend?Earl McDonald was the embodiment of jug band music. He was a babe in arms in 1887 when his mother and grandmother moved to Louisville as house servants — and almost certainly former slaves — in the entourage of a former South Carolina plantation owner.  Earl didn’t originate jug band music. It had been around Louisville for a couple of decades when he got interested as a high school student. But Earl had an edge. He labored to perfect his technique, and he had more business and leadership instincts — and probably more personality — than most of his jug band contemporaries. His jug band was the first to record, back in 1924. He performed on more than 40 recordings, and his band played live in New York and Chicago. Three years of weekly Depression-era appearances on WHAS-AM radio made his band well known throughout the eastern U.S.How did you discover jug band music, and what made you explore it further?It was blind luck, maybe providence. I owe a debt of gratitude to this community, which has been good to me and my family. Ten years ago, I suffered a near-fatal heart attack. The docs were surprised by my speed of recovery and return to excellent health following surgery. That gave me a sense of mission.At a broad-based music festival in Birmingham (Ala.) four years ago, my wife and I stumbled across a kind of music in the streets that we had never heard before. It fascinated us. We chatted with band members after the set to learn that they were the Juggernaut Jug Band from Louisville. The leader’s house in the Highlands is (within) walking distance from ours.When the Juggernauts told us that jug band music probably originated in Louisville in the 1890s, the juices from my background in marketing and PR began to flow. The concept of a jug band jubilee became the mission I had been seeking. We, and others, have invested a lot of time and quite a little money since. It now appears that the effort will benefit our community as a growing festival of truly national scale. —M.H.BRANDON SKIPWORTH & NATHAN SMALLWOODCo-owners: Noise Pollution RecordsFill in the blank: Running a record label is like … B.S.: Being pecked to death by chickens.N.S.: Being pecked to death by a hippopotamus.What were the first local shows you attended like?B.S.: The first show I attended was Kinghorse, Oblong Box, Endpoint and Human Remains at the upstairs auditorium at Louisville Gardens. I remember at the entrance, they had a table with all sorts of chains, knives, etc. … that had been confiscated at the door. I was thinking to myself, “What the hell is going on here?” Tony from Oblong Box took the stage wearing a blond wig and cone-bra (a la Madonna). Kinghorse was unreal. The place just came unglued when they played. The whole scene was like a completely different planet. It was great.N.S.: Mine was Kinghorse and a band called Psycho. Kinghorse was pretty mind-blowing on many levels, and I thought Psycho kind of sucked. Also (I) recall chains, blunt objects (and) knives being confiscated at the entrance. There was a degree of tension that seemed to accompany shows I saw back then, like everything might erupt into a full-blown hippopotamus pecking at any given second. I don’t really see that so much now. I used to see Cinderblock (pre-Evergreen) pretty early on, too. Man, they used to make some REALLY weird music.What was it about local music that prompted you guys to start Shakin’ Sheila, and how did you guys handle the costs of starting your own label?B.S.: At the time we adopted the Shakin’ Sheila moniker for our own purposes around 1994, the local punk scene, at least in our eyes, had lost some of its excitement. So, following the DIY example, we decided to start putting out records that we found interesting. Mike Bucayu’s Self Destruct label was a big influence on us.N.S.: We handled costs by spending all our extra money on the label. Looking back, I don’t know how we even got by. Things haven’t changed much for us except for that we have less personal money to put into it now. We still, to a degree, have to rely on each release to at least break even to keep this ship afloat. It would seem like eventually we would sink, but we’ve been doing this for 13 years. We always seem to find a way.What have you noticed about local music lately? Are there common themes you see occurring in the music people play here?B.S.: It seems like over the last several years, and probably longer, there really has ceased to be a overall “scene” and more just pockets of people who see their friends’ bands play, with not a great deal of overlap. I’m guilty of it, too. Which sucks, because Louisville is blessed with having a ton of fantastic bands, and that’s not a great environment for bands (and labels) to survive.N.S.: No kidding. It can be like pulling teeth to get anybody to actually pick up a record these days. I have noticed that there are, in my opinion, a lot of solid bands right now. I don’t see a lot of common themes or trends going on in Louisville music as much as I did several years back. There is a lot of diversity and originality. Check out the upcoming Gaj Mustafa Cell CD.How does the Web impact what you do?B.S.: The Internet has a huge impact on us. I would say most of our sales come through our Web site now. Plus, for better or worse, most of our communication in organizing releases is done via e-mail.N.S.: We’ve had frequent discussions about this lately. We actually kind of freaked out the other day when we got an order from Cincinnati through the mail. It’s become pretty unusual for us. I do miss talking with the bands face to face as much as we used to. The Web can have its perks, but it can be very impersonal, you know. Kind of like being taken out by a hippo. —M.H.NICK DRAKEPianist, U of L School of Music graduateHow old were you when you were diagnosed as being legally blind?My condition is congenital. I was born with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, which means that my optic nerves are underdeveloped. This is a stable condition, so it’s not getting any worse or better. Throughout my life, I have not noticed any drastic changes in my vision, and people seem to forget that I even have a disability after a while.Were you angry or scared?Since I was only a baby when I was diagnosed, I really just grew up like a normal child. I was very happy and didn’t even realize that I had different visual capabilities until I got in school. I have very supportive parents who made sure that the schools were aware of my vision impairment and that I received the appropriate accommodations upon entering the public school system.How do you get to school every day?I either catch the bus and walk, or catch a ride with someone.What was it like picking up an instrument for the first time?I actually did not start formal musical training until I was a teenager, which is pretty late in life. I began on the piano and, yes, I did have some difficulty visually reading the music. I have become accustomed to using enlarged copies of any music that I am going to study. I began composing a few years later as an undergraduate at Centre (College, Danville, Ky.). I did not find any visual difficulties in creating compositions. I sometimes give my eyes a break from writing down notation on the page or at the computer in Sibelius software, but this is normal for most composers today, I think. I do most of my composing at a piano.What type of music will you be working on, and what does the future hold for you?I’m working on several different projects at the moment. I’m working on a couple of commissions from two local performers. One is a piece for solo bass clarinetist and composer Brad Baumgardner, who is an amazing player. The other commission is for violinist Juan Carlos Ortega, who is also a very sensitive and thoughtful musician. The other projects I’m working on include a series of short teaching pieces for the piano, in which I attempt to give the young performer a chance to explore some of the various techniques that have developed in music over the past several decades. In these pieces, I hope to introduce unusual rhythmic patterns, harmonies and performance techniques that will be both fun and educational for youngsters. Writing music for younger musicians is a growing passion of mine, and there seems to be a strong need for them in modern pedagogy.I’m also continuing to explore electronic music composition with pieces that use the recorded sound of antique engines as their base. Is Louisville a hard town to live in if you’re blind?The city is certainly manageable, and this town does a pretty consistent and good job about being aware of its rather large concentration of visually impaired travelers. For instance, the bus system here is very aware of visually impaired travelers, and the drivers are often extremely receptive and helpful to us. There are several resources here in town for the blind (The American Printing House for the Blind, Kentucky School for the Blind, etc.) and U of L has been especially gracious and helpful across the board in making sure that I had all the accommodations I required so that I was on an even playing field with everyone else in the student body. —M.H.MIKE BUCAYUVice president: Bluegrass AnonymousWhat does bluegrass mean to you?Bluegrass music to me represents a very down-home, down-to-earth culture of great music, history and fellowship. Has the genre changed your outlook on music? I love all music, but bluegrass music kind of reminds me of how good it is to still have my feet on and above ground.Who are some of the Louisville bluegrass players you admire?We are lucky to be in a region of so many great musicians. There are so many veteran bands and new, up-and-coming bands playing bluegrass music out there. Steve Cooley has been doing the ’grass thing around Louisville for many years and is a great musician. I admire anyone or group playing bluegrass music — it only helps grow our bluegrass community. Where do you see Bluegrass Anonymous heading in the coming years?  We continue to go by our BA Mission Statement, which is: promoting and supporting bluegrass music, preserving its traditions and nurturing its growth by providing opportunities for picking, singing and listening. We recently reached the 900th member mark. As a “grass” roots organization, we do our best to create an awareness of the music as well as the bluegrass community we have in the Kentuckiana area. More events?Bluegrass Anonymous has partnered with different folks putting on bluegrass music events or shows such as BOTOFest, Outback Concerts, Kentucky Center for the Arts, George Garrett’s Itchin’ to Pick at the Galt House, Bisig Impact Group’s Kentucky Bluegrass Fest on the Belvedere, Forest Fest at Jefferson Memorial, Vine Grove Fest and many others. I have been hosting the weekly BA bluegrass jam every Wednesday night at the Bluegrass Brewing Company in St. Matthews. There are other great jams through the week as well: the Bulldog Café in Fairdale on Monday nights started a beginner bluegrass jam hosted by Dave Shattuck — it’s good opportunity to learn bluegrass music. In Hillview at City Hall on Thursday evenings, there is another jam. There are other regional jams, and I would recommend checking the Bluegrass Anonymous Website for jam info and more (www.bluegrass-anonymous.org).Do you think Kentuckians embrace the state’s heritage as a haven for bluegrass? I believe many people recognize that regardless of where they think bluegrass music came from. Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass Music, was born in Kentucky. He got his musical start and influence in Kentucky. I do believe many people do relate bluegrass music to Kentucky. Here is the great news, though: A bill was introduced by (state) Rep. Ted Edmonds on Jan. 2 to designate bluegrass music as the official state music of Kentucky. It passed the House and Senate and was signed (into law) by Gov. Ernie Fletcher on March 19, so it’s official! —M.H.