Fiendish Conversation with Mudhoney’s Mark Arm

Photo by Emily Reiman.With the band celebrating its 25th anniversary, I caught up with Mark Arm to talk about how they’ve managed to make it last. Check it out.

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Touch Screens – Erik Blood

Erik Blood - Touch ScreensNo need to be coy: Touch Screens, the new album from local producer/songwriter Erik Blood, is all about pornography. From the sweaty, churning alt-rock of the album’s opener “Phenomenal Pornography” to the rhythmic moans of the keys, his latest effort is musically diverse but singularly focused. His musings on porn aren’t meant to shock or be ironic; there’s an honest affection for the industry underlying each track. Touch Screens’s aesthetic is rooted in the girl-next-door charm of ’70s porn, not the tramp-stamped ladies of the every-desire-is-one-click-away Internet age.

Thing is, you have to listen closely to discern the lyrics about porn actors and “Shame Spots” beneath the driving guitar and layers of synth. There’s energetic rock aggression on “Constance and Casey,” dreamy atmospheric ambience on tracks like “Lethur” and “(Wakefield),” and danceable chicka chicka guitar on “Today’s Lover.” Blood’s primo producing skills—he made his name working with some of Seattle’s finest (Shabazz Palaces, the Moondoggies, THEESatisfaction)—are evident in the album’s seamless flow between tracks and the tremendous drum sounds he lays down. He also plays everything but the drums on this second solo release, proving he can shine when he steps away from the mixing board.

The peppy/dark duality of the album is best heard on “Share Your Love,” which starts with playful chatter about the offscreen love lives of porn stars, only to transition to the frustration of the actor’s loved one. Nothing’s taboo here. Touch Screens may not be suitable for work, but the artfulness of its composition won’t leave you craving a shower after a listen.

Review Score: 8.3

*Original version published on SeattleMet.com.*

Bearcubbin’ Feature From The Inlander

Bearcubbin’ is a tiny struggling band just like any other. Well…except for the fact that their drummer happens to be in The Smashing Pumpkins. I wrote about them over at The Inlander. Check it out.

Unnovae Nights – Eighteen Individual Eyes

Unnovae Nights - Eighteen Invisable Eyes

As March rolled in and slowly began granting Seattle more hours of sunshine, Eighteen Individual Eyes made sure the city still had a tantalizing taste of darkness. The Seattle quartet’s new album Unnovae Nights sounds like Wild Flag-meets-atmospheric art rock with a dash of nightmarish imagery.

Something sinister seems to be lurking around every corner of Unnovae Nights, but front woman Irene Barber’s alluringly smooth vocals help soothe the potential in a way that harkens to St. Vincent. While the album is packed with song titles like “Octogirl” and lines like “Love for fate. The place and time of death addressed and kept away,” the album avoids being dark in a cheesy way. This isn’t horror punk hokeyness. The interaction between Barber and guitarist Jamie Aaron gives the album a real identity. The coy interplay between their guitar lines on songs like “Tree Farm in the Darkness” builds each song’s tension, and Aaron also provides spot-on background harmonies.

Famed Seattleite producer Matt Bayles has his fingerprints all over Unnovae Nights. He knows how to make a rhythm section (drummer Andy King and bassist Samantha Wood) pop without burying the guitars in the mix (see: Mastadon, Minus the Bear, et al.). Some of the ripping lead guitar tones Eighteen Individual Eyes employ are also instantly familiar for fans of Bayles’s production. While tracks often show glances of math rock influence, they’re never tied down in technicality. These songs have solid cores that would still sound full even stripped down to Barber’s vocals and a single acoustic guitar.

Unnovae Nights is, appropriately, one of those albums that one can hardly imagine listening to in the day. Eighteen Individual Eyes are here to satisfy our nocturnal listening needs. Maybe those extra hours of daylight weren’t so great after all.

Review Score: 7.0

*Original version published on SeattleMet.com.*

MUTEMATH Feature From The Inlander

Anything But Typical

While many focus on the band’s videos, Mutemath focuses on the live set.

Mutemath produces videos that make OK Go look like playful amateurs. The latter are well-known for carefully orchestrated, one-shot videos that seem to go viral instantly, but look at the video for Mutemath’s 2007 single “Typical.” The band performs the entire song backwards in one take while incorporating visual elements ranging from Silly String shooting to paint throwing to the on-screen destruction of a keytar. The whole time, frontman and keyboardist Paul Meany perfectly nails singing the lyrics backwards. And, while that’s all very impressive, drummer Darren King actually learned to play his drum parts in reverse. Reverse!

The video earned the band a Grammy nomination.

The band hit another high note recently with its video for “Blood Pressure,” a stimulating clip that found its way onto VH1’s “Top 20 Countdown” at the end of 2011. And it’s not like they have a Hollywood studio at their disposal. They’ve achieved all of this with just one camera!

“So it’s whatever we can figure out to do with one camera,” Meany says. “Limitation has kind of been good for us.”

It would be easy to label Mutemath a “video band.” Or so sayeth the Viacom overlords: MTV dubbed the band a “You Hear It First” act and VH1 labeled them a “You Oughta Know” artist.

But when making its latest album, Odd Soul, Meany says, the band concentrated on identifying its biggest weakness. Continue reading

Vince Neil Feature From The Inlander

Winning. Everytime.

Why Vince Neil is the frontman we secretly crave.

Think about all the characteristics of your ideal rock ’n’ roll frontman. You’re thinking of Motley Crue’s Vince Neil, aren’t you? So, is Vince Neil the greatest frontman ever?

Heavens, no. There have been a myriad of more talented performers who were better singers and who made superior music. But that’s not the point. In fact, the argument here has almost nothing to do with music. Rather, Neil embodies more of the stereotypical characteristics of the rock frontman than any of his peers. In this sense, he is the pinnacle, a measuring stick by which we compare all other rock frontmen. Just look at all the categories he covers in the rocker checklist:

Bad-Boy Mentality: At its peak, Motley Crue was the walking, breathing definition of boys you wouldn’t want to take home to Mom. Tattooed, troublesome, and legitimately destructive (proof: countless hotel rooms), the band and Neil terrorized each city they swung through. But, amazingly, Neil is making debauchery pay off. Today, he owns a Vegas tattoo shop, his own vineyard, a tequila line, and he founded his own poker tournament and a chain of three bars called Dr. Feelgood’s Bar and Grill. Check.

Womanizing: According to the Motley Crue biography, The Dirt, Neil may be one of the few souls to approach Wilt Chamberlain’s illustrious claim of laying 20,000 women, often making his way through five or more groupies after each show. Failed marriages to mud wrestlers and Playboy playmates also score him points. But really all you need to know is Neil was Motley Crue’s chief lothario despite being in the band with Tommy frickin’ Lee. Check.

Booze & Drugs: While Motley Crue was a volatile cocktail of every substance imaginable, Neil was always an alcohol guy. Numerous empty bottles and empty trips to rehab were left in his wake. Check.

Showmanship: To be an elite frontman, one needs the ability to run around and fire up any crowd. This is why frontmen who play guitar or bass don’t compare. In his heyday, Neil could strut with the best of them. Check.

Success: How does five albums going platinum sound? Check.

Rivalry: An underrated aspect of frontman lore. The singer needs rival bands in order to elevate his standing. Not only did Neil and Co. have a beef with Poison, who they viewed as an inferior and fake version of Motley Crue, but he also feuded with Axl Rose. After a confrontation backstage at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards, Neil famously and publicly challenged Rose to a boxing match. Rose never accepted. Check.

Internal Band Struggle: Be it McCartney and Lennon, or Morrissey and Marr, it’s hard to be an elite frontman if you aren’t at odds with your bandmates. Neil took it far enough to briefly get fired from Motley Crue because of his spats with Nikki Sixx. Check.

Hair: Long, big, blonde. Check. Continue reading

Supersuckers Feature From The Inlander

Liquor, Women, Drugs and Killing

If that headline doesn’t sound like a good time, the Supersuckers ain’t for you.

Boot-stompin’, beer-drinkin’, hell-raisin’ — this is what the Supersuckers are all about.

And for over two decades, the Seattle rockers have been blasting buzzed bar patrons from coast to coast with their brand of rock and roll. Longevity like that is rare, but frontman and bassist Eddie Spaghetti doesn’t revel in it. He sees it more as a historical inevitability.

“Rock and roll as an art form is still kinda new in the scope of things compared to classical music or even blues or whatever,” says Spaghetti. “I don’t know when you consider the start date of rock and roll. Sometime in the ’50s I guess. As the art form itself becomes older, it’s gonna become more common to see older guys up there rockin’.”

The Supersuckers began with pure rock and punk roots, but have since garnered recognition for adding country stylings into the mix. What was meant to be an Eddie Spaghetti solo record, 1997’s Must’ve Been High, turned out to be a Supersuckers alt-country album by virtue of Spaghetti not knowing anyone to play with but the guys in his band. The success of that record led the band to collaborate with the likes of Steve Earle and Willie Nelson.

While combining styles has opened many doors, Spaghetti thinks anyone who sees the Supersuckers as an act striving for genre cross-pollination is way overthinking it.

“Rock, country, punk; I think they’re all kind of the same. It’s basically the same three chords and you try and put some words over it that sound fresh or interesting to you,” he says. “I think anybody who spends any amount of time listening to rock and roll or punk rock — eventually it’s going to lead them down the road to the country music.

“I think that Hank Williams is the same as the Ramones. All his songs sort of sound the same, but they’re all totally awesome; just like the Ramones.” Continue reading