Wednesday, October 12, 2016

NADA SURF: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with Matthew Caws!

Matthew Caws

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: PEACEFUL GHOSTS is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the journey to make the album and the way it turned out?
MATTHEW CAWS: It feels like a wonderful gift. An orchestral album is something we never would have imagined doing. When the offer came, we were right in the middle of finishing our most recent studio album, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, and didn't have the bandwidth to focus on it. We learned that Calexico had been asked the year before, which led us immediately to asking our friend Martin Wenk – one of Calexico's two trumpetists and a Nada Surf collaborator who has played on some of our songs and joined us on many tours – to produce the album for us. That entailed choosing the songs, choosing a composer/arranger and supervising the project's development. It felt like a distant concept and then, all of a sudden, there we were in Vienna playing these songs for the conductor. Hours later the orchestra arrived. Two rehearsals after that the audience walked in!

SPAZ: Was the request to perform the FM4 Vienna Radio Symphony concert a complete surprise or had you heard rumblings in the past about them asking you? Do you have quite a following in Austria?
MATTHEW: It was a total surprise. We have a pretty strong following in Austria and have played there quite regularly, and have had repeated contact with FM4. We've done many interviews there and have played a couple of their birthday party concerts, but we had no inkling that this request was coming!

SPAZ: How did you decide which songs to perform and how easy was it to essentially take them apart and reconstruct them into these slices of audio ecstasy?
MATTHEW: Martin Wenk chose the initial list of songs and we made a couple of additional suggestions. He met with the composer Max Knoth a number of times to see how the arrangements were going. He undoubtedly had an influence. I think the general idea about song selection was not to put together a "greatest hits" but rather to be led by how well the songs would work with an orchestra. That's why some of our slowest and most spacious songs are on this album. The first track, "Comes A Time," is far from our best-known song, but it has so much sonic and emotional room that had been left open.

SPAZ: This release is a beautiful collection of great songs and performances. Do you feel that these arrangements reveal the emotional core of the songs that the released versions sometimes only hinted at?
MATTHEW: Thank you, I'm so glad you like it! I don't mean in any way to dodge the question, but that's not for me to say. If someone feels a stronger emotional signal from one of these arrangements, the answer is probably yes. But the emotional core of a song can be there in the
simplest arrangement. It can have a stronger effect with a more powerful/expressive arrangement, but the central meaning may have been clear from the beginning. I'd like to just say yes though!

SPAZ: Are there moments where the utter beauty of these arrangements surprised even you?
MATTHEW: Absolutely. Gosh, many of them. A few examples: the outro of "Beautiful Beat," the middle break of "Inside Of Love," the almost destabilizing melodic swoops of "Animal."

SPAZ: There are those that are unfamiliar with your catalog and they base their opinions of the band solely on “Popular”. While the band has matured and progressed since then, do you think those people will be surprised by PEACEFUL GHOSTS?
MATTHEW:  Yes! It's so many worlds away from “Popular,” and let me be clear that I really love that song! It's humor, bombast, social commentary and a little performance art. It's trying to take you into an analytical frame of mind about our strange presentation and early courting rituals. PEACEFUL GHOSTS is trying to take you to a place of wider references and wider reflection, hopefully giving you impetus and room to bring your own thoughts and feelings.

SPAZ: Are you concerned about issuing a new release so close to YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE? Most artists would hold the release for at least a year or simply release a Deluxe Edition of their previous album and add a bonus disc…
MATTHEW: We're not concerned about that at all. I'm happy to say I don't think there's a rule book. Some artists release records one right after the other. Elvis Costello is a good example of that. Some.... are....slower..... Just like so many pop songs using similar chords but seeming different from one another, every day is a fresh day in terms of how you think about getting music out there.

SPAZ: Has working on this project changed the way you will approach songwriting in the future? Will it have an effect on how you approach the next Nada Surf album?
MATTHEW: Wonderful question which I'm glad you asked. It will help encourage me to keep sonic possibilities in mind. For example, I would probably never have thought of harp as an instrument for us. But there's some harp on this album and it's wonderful! It may encourage us to use a wider palette.

SPAZ: As a songwriter, who were your earliest influences and have any of your contemporaries inspired you to push yourself further?
MATTHEW: My earliest influences as a songwriter (aside from The Beatles, whose ubiquity make them a given as an influence on all rock musicians) were artists like The Who, The Velvet Underground, The Pixies, Buddy Holly, The Byrds. It's hard for me to say – it's really everyone I've ever heard. It's also hard to say which contemporaries get me to push myself further. Again, it's everything good I heard. That can be anyone from Gillian Welch to Alvvays

SPAZ: Would you agree that PEACEFUL GHOSTS proves that a song can be even more powerful when it is given a chance to breathe, musically?
MATTHEW: I agree with that very strongly on paper. In reality, anything can happen. In the case of this album we were fortunate to work with such a good composer. I think it's quite possible that he made the songs more powerful. What I'm sure of is that he expanded their meaning and increased their color.

SPAZ: What’s next for Nada Surf?
MATTHEW: We're finishing up a US tour and then we're going to Europe for six weeks. After the holiday season, we're taking a break. I'm not sure what the future holds specifically, but I know there will be a lot more music!

SPAZ: What are you currently spinning on your CD and record players?
MATTHEW: Fairport Convention, Ali Akbar Khan, William Basinski, Matt Lamkin (from The Soft Pack), The Lemon Twigs, The Pretty Things

Thanks to Matthew Caws
Special thanks to Steve Dixon, Dave Rayburn and Nick Kominitsky


Thursday, September 29, 2016


Jazz legend 


STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: The self-titled Aziza album is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the journey to make this album and the reaction to it so far?
DAVE HOLLAND: The whole process of putting together the music on this recording with these three great musicians has been a pleasure and truly inspiring. We’ve received an enthusiastic response from the audiences at our concerts and a very positive reaction from people who have heard the album.

SPAZ: The band consists of you on bass, Chris Potter on saxophone, Lionel Loueke on guitar and Eric Harland on drums. How did the four of you come together and is this a project that you were planning long before your first sessions?
DAVE: The idea for the project started some time at the end of 2014 and we decided to begin with an extensive tour in the summer of 2015. The music felt so good during the tour that we decided to go into the studio in September 2015 to record some of it.

SPAZ: How did you decide on the band name Aziza?
DAVE: Before we toured last year we still hadn’t decided on a name for the band so we just used our four names to advertise the concerts. One of the songs we were playing was “Aziza Dance,” written by Lionel Loueke. I asked Lionel the meaning of Aziza and he explained that in his birthplace of Benin, Africa, the “Aziza” is believed to be a supernatural race of forest dwellers that give practical and spiritual advice. And so the name of the group was born.

SPAZ: Did you have a vision on how you wanted the album to sound when the sessions first began? Or did the album organically come together?
DAVE: Because the music had been played during the tour, we’d had a chance to really develop a concept for each composition. When we came to record the music we just had to decide a way to present it so that the pieces worked for the recording.

SPAZ: In regards to putting the tracks together in Aziza, how much of a song is actually ‘written’ and how much is improvised?
DAVE: All the compositions existed originally as lead sheets that contained the essential elements of the composition. In rehearsals the group worked on how to present and use those elements as a basis for our improvisations.

SPAZ: Modern technology makes it easy for artists to record in separate parts of the world and then mix everything together. However, jazz seems to be born out of emotion and ‘feeling,’ and that recording technique just doesn’t work –musicians need live context to be in sync and in the same room. Do you feel that jazz music has continued to grow and evolve because a big part of it is the ‘human’ element?
DAVE: I think music evolves because of the creative thinking of the artists no matter how that music is produced, what methods are used to produce it, or what genre it is. The way I like to make and record music is in a live situation with the musicians playing together in the same time and place, so that we can be spontaneous and interact with each other. But I enjoy and appreciate music produced by other methods.

SPAZ: While the playing on the album is very muscular, it can also be very gentle. Is it difficult to balance the two in order to get the blend that you desire?

DAVE: I think all of us in the group want to express a full range of human emotions and experiences. We try to present musical settings and interpretations that do that.

SPAZ: Your playing in particular is very subtle and understated, yet can be felt through the entire album. Is it difficult to hold back and anchor the band with Eric, while Chris and Lionel battle it out up front?
DAVE: In any musical situation that I’m a part of, I try to play for the group and for the musical context in which we’re working, as well as contributing to the overall musical dialogue. There are times when the bass might have a more supportive role and other times when it guides the direction and evolution of the music.

SPAZ: The album has a calming, inviting flow to it, yet it is still filled with many surprising elements. The art of compiling the perfect track order has been lost over the years. Do you spend a lot of time trying to figure out what track order ‘feels’ right, or do you leave stuff like that to other band members, or the label?
DAVE: Although many listeners like to listen to and buy individual tracks, I still view the music on an album as a collection that takes the listener on a musical journey through different worlds. The pacing of that journey is still an important element.  

SPAZ: Was there a particular reason you brought in subtle vocals at the end of “Friends”? Did you purposely have that lead in to “Sleepless Night,” which featured more predominant vocals at the beginning of the track?
DAVE: The addition of the vocal element on those two tracks was Lionel’s idea. The fact that they followed each other was just the result of our choice of order, not because they both had vocal elements in them.

SPAZ: Was there a lot of material left over from these sessions? If so, will we be hearing Aziza 2 anytime soon?
DAVE: There was only alternative takes left over from the session. We did have other pieces that were played in the concerts, but not recorded. Although we haven’t discussed a second recording it’s certainly a possibility.

SPAZ: What’s next for Dave Holland and Aziza?
DAVE: Aziza has an extensive tour this fall and more performances are planned for next year. All of us have individual projects that we’re working on. One of my other ongoing projects is a trio that features guitarist Kevin Eubanks and drummer Obed Calvaire

SPAZ: What are you currently spinning on your CD or record players?
DAVE: My taste in music covers a wide range of genres from different cultures and time periods. On any given day I could be listening to Indian classical music, contemporary and traditional African music, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to Marcus Miller, Cuban music, European classical music, Flamenco, Motown, Missy Elliot, D’Angelo and Prince, etc.

Thanks to Dave Holland
Special thanks to Steve Dixon, Dave Rayburn and Nick Kominitsky



Thursday, September 15, 2016






    “All rap music sounds the same.”
    That is a statement uttered by the non-believers – those who don’t connect with the music and the messages found on the plethora of rap and hip hop releases that hit the streets throughout any given year. However, one listen to Danny Brown’s fourth album, ATROCITY EXHIBITION, will obliterate any notion that all rap/hip hop “sounds the same.” Released on the legendary Warp Records label and featuring guest appearances by Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt, Petite Noir and B-Real (amongst others), this is one of the most original full-lengths of the year. While it may not sound like albums by acts like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, ATROCITY EXHIBITION is just as groundbreaking – an album that will appeal to all music lovers who like to live on the edge. On the surface, it will intrigue the listener but as they dig a little deeper, the depths of this album will lead to amazement. Peel away the layers and you’ll discover a cornucopia of musical ideas fighting for a chance to be noticed. This is an album to explore. It is a listening adventure. This is emotion in motion. It is hard-hitting yet loving and embracing at the same time. ATROCITY EXHIBITION – named after a Joy Division song! – is art for art’s sake.
    Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to gather a few questions together and send them Danny Brown’s way. Danny was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer them…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: ATROCITY EXHIBITION is about to hit the streets. How are you feeling about the journey to make the album and the reaction you’ve had to it so far?
DANNY BROWN: Feeling real good, anxious, excited. I'm looking to up the ante again with this one.

SPAZ: How did your deal with Warp Records come together? They have put out some rap and hip hop, but are mostly known for electronic music like Aphex Twin, Brian Eno, etc. 
DANNY: We had a mutual respect for each other after doing some work in the past. They're a historic Indie and I'm hoping we grow my international presence together.

SPAZ: The album travels a lot of emotional ground. How difficult is it to get the right balance between light and heavy?
DANNY: Life experience is complicated and messy, especially when you live half of your life on the road. Things happen, I reflect.

SPAZ: The album will be classified as rap or hip hop yet there is so much more going on than just spitting rhymes. How do you like to classify your music? Or do you prefer to let others do that for you? 
DANNY: I don't really. I don't think about what genre this is or isn’t supposed to be, I just try to make a Danny Brown album.

SPAZ: The recordings have so many layers and you discover new things with each listen. Does it trouble you that people may only pay attention to what is happening on the surface and not immerse themselves in the recordings?
DANNY: I think the album works on many levels, but obviously the more you listen the more the songs open up and reveal themselves. It's as deep of an experience as you want it to have. You'll get what you put into it. 

SPAZ: There are a lot of influences in the music – more than just rap and hip hop. Are there artists that you admire that might surprise your fans?
DANNY: Most of my fans know I'm a very proactive music fan. I spend hours daily absorbing stories and music. Talking Heads, ONLY BUILT FOR CUBAN LINX (Raekwon’s classic 1995 album) and Joy Division among others influenced this album in one way or another. 

SPAZ: Did you have a particular vision for this album before you began putting it together? Or did that vision present itself over time as you worked on it?
DANNY: It comes together as you see a story develop out of the songs. You see some similar experiences being spoken about from different vantage points and that becomes a final product. 

SPAZ: You have a distinctive delivery that is uniquely your own. Who inspired you as a performer?
DANNY: So many people - David Byrne

SPAZ: How did you end up picking the name of a Joy Division song as the title of your new album?
DANNY: Just found myself listening to it over and over, that song just became the inspiration for the album. Feeling like you're on display, to some extent suffering for other’s enjoyment. A kind of freak show. 

SPAZ: The timing of the new record is perfect following up the exposure you got with The Avalanches single. How did you connect with The Avalanches for "Frankie Sinatra"? And did their approach to making that album impact ATROCITY EXHIBITION?
DANNY: No, what’s funny is I recorded that over five years ago, so it was just kinda cool timing.

SPAZ: How did you integrate working with Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt and the rest into the album? Did you know who you wanted to guest on each track, or was it more organic?
DANNY: Those are the guys that I respect as my peers. They push me and hopefully I push them. Healthy competition is always good. 

SPAZ: When putting together this album, did you take a different approach to the songwriting than you did with your previous albums? 
DANNY: Not really, just took my time and let the album reveal itself. 

SPAZ: What’s next for Danny Brown?
DANNY: The Exhibition 2016 Tour. Come see the show. We put a lot into it. Maxo Kream and ZelooperZ gonna set it off too. 

SPAZ: What are you currently spinning on your CD or record players?
DANNY: As of right now, Devin The Dude

Thanks to Danny Brown
Special thanks to Steve Dixon, Dave Rayburn and Nick Kominitsky


Tuesday, September 13, 2016


(429 Records)

Available 9.16.16

  Yes, the rumors are true: Meat Loaf’s voice is not what it used to be. Ravaged by health issues, age and time, the mighty bellower can bellow no more. On BRAVER THAN WE ARE, his distinctive and powerful voice is now a raspy rumble – more ‘Steve Forbert impersonating Leonard Cohen’ than the Meat Loaf of old. Many people are likely going to ask why Mr. Loaf decided to make this album in the first place. The answer, my friends, is passion and determination – you can’t keep an old Meat Loaf down. Remember, this is an artist that sold millions of copies of BAT OUT OF HELL (1977) a year or two after almost every label turned the project down. And then he did it again in 1993 with BAT OUT OF HELL II, an album that defied all the odds and became a huge success in the midst of the abysmal grunge invasion. In short, Meat Loaf doesn’t necessarily play it safe – he does what he does and we definitely pay attention.
    Success of the two BAT albums aside, many folks in the U.S. don’t realize that Meat continued making albums between those two blockbusters and he has continued to record ever since. There’s even BAT OUT OF HELL III: THE MONSTER IS LOOSE, an album that went largely unnoticed by the general public in the U.S. when it was released in 2006. He may not be a prolific recording artist but each Meat Loaf release has been a cause for celebration. Each album has been theatrical, bombastic, melodic, emotional and powerful – everything that the BAT albums are but minus total involvement from Meat’s not-so-secret weapon, songwriter Jim Steinman. Yes, there have been Steinman songs on almost every one of Meat’s albums, but he hasn’t written a full Meat album since BAT II. Thankfully, on BRAVER THAN WE ARE, Steinman penned every track, and while they may not be ‘new’ songs, they have never appeared on a Meat Loaf album until now.
    Meat and Jim work well apart, but together they are the Dynamic Duo – every song is a trip through Rock ‘n’ Roll’s past, present and future. Like mixing mid-‘70s Bruce Springsteen with the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, their work together can be both playful and menacing. Within every glorious crescendo there is heartbreak, within every gentle piano chord, a maniacal grin. BRAVER THAN WE ARE takes that to the next level – this is an album created under great pressure and while Meat Loaf’s voice is not what it used to be, he is well aware of the situation. He’s pressing forward and making the best of it. That’s kind of what you expect from a Meat Loaf album.
    While Meat’s voice has been strained in recent years – the very fine HANG COOL TEDDY BEAR (2010) and HELL IN A HANDBASKET (2011) albums lacked the vocal power of old – the man has pushed himself to the limit and revealed that he is, indeed, human after all. During a 2011 tour Down Under, he was spitting blood during his performances, thanks to vocal-cord hemorrhages. Much like Harry Nilsson did during the PUSSY CATS recording sessions back in ’74 (Google it!), Meat permanently damaged his voice beyond repair. BRAVER THAN WE ARE doesn’t find him a broken man, though. Like James Brown during his live performances, Meat just keeps on going long after the cape is placed on his shoulders and he’s about to be ushered off stage. If anything, the album shows that Meat doesn’t give up without a fight. That, in itself, makes this an emotionally powerful album.
    The album starts out with the wonderfully weird “Who Needs The Young” that blends the theatrical sound of early Split Enz with the sturdy and reliable Rock finesse of the E-Street Band. “Going All The Way Is Just The Start” (featuring vocals from Karla DeVito and Ellen Foley) is an extraordinary 11+ minute opus that seems to last less than half that time – it is on par with Steinman’s finest songs. “Skull Of Your Country” is a great alternate-universe visit to Steinman’s classic “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” (and it uses the same ‘Turn around…’ hook!). “More” finds meat turning Sisters Of Mercy’s track into a Meat Loaf monster (did you even know the Goth act recorded a Steinman-penned nugget?).

    There are more highlights but I’ve already taken up enough of your time. All I can say is that this is most definitely a Meat ‘n’ Jim record that may not immediately sound like one of their previous masterpieces, but there’s no denying that Mr. Loaf is giving it all he’s got. Prepare yourself for this new Meat Loaf recipe and enjoy…

Peace, love and pancakes,

Stephen SPAZ Schnee

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

JAH WOBBLE: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with the iconic British musician!

Invaders Of The Art:




    From Post-Punk to Dub to Jazz and back to Dub again, there are very few musical genres that have not been touched by the genius that is Jah Wobble. Born John Wardle – and christened with his stage name by none other than Sid Vicious – Wobble has defied the odds and has remained one of the most innovative and forward-thinking musicians of the Rock era. He first came to prominence in John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon’s post-Sex Pistols outfit, Public Image Ltd. After a few years of knocking about and causing musical mayhem with Lydon & Co., Wobble struck out on his own. Working with artists such as The Edge (U2) and Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit (Can), he was able to expand his resume while exploring new sounds and styles. During this period, Wobble also put together his own band, Invaders Of The Heart. By the end of the ‘80s and into the ‘90s, he had become one of the most respected British musicians of his generation – entirely unpredictable yet always riveting. With Invaders Of The Heart, Wobble was able to combine World Music, Ambient, Folk and Electronica, creating a sound that was both unique and commercially successful – not an easy feat for any artist. Scoring a hit album, RISING ABOVE BEDLAM, at the beginning of the ‘90s, was a little surprising but very welcome and well-deserved. With a line-up that has evolved over time, Jah and his Invaders Of The Heart have become one of the most exciting and inspiring musical outfits in modern music. One of the most prolific artists of his generation, Jah’s work with Invaders Of The Heart is only the tip of the iceberg. As a leader or collaborator, Jah Wobble’s catalog is as deep as the music he plays. A visit to will catch you up to date.
    EVERYTHING IS NO THING, Wobble and the Invaders’ 2016 release, takes the band into an exciting dimension – Spiritual Jazz. Produced by Youth and led by Jah’s warm and emotional bass playing, the album takes the listener to new and exciting levels of ecstasy. Anyone looking for Ambient, Dub or Post-Punk will not find them here. However, the attitude and excitement of those genres can be found lurking deep within the grooves of the album. Wobble’s never-ending musical journey means that he never makes a bad record. Spiritual Jazz may not be the direction some fans of “Visions Of You” may be expecting, but open your mind and you’ll most certainly enjoy the ride. This is not music that you’ll just listen to – it is music that you will feel.
    Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to toss a few questions over to Mr. Wobble, who kindly took time out to discuss EVERYTHING IS NO THING and much more…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: EVERYTHING IS NO THING is now available. How are you feeling about the journey this project took you on and the reaction to it so far?
JAH WOBBLE: It wasn't in anyway an endurance test. I was planning a new Jah Wobble and the Invaders of the Heart album back in the Spring of 2015. I figured that I would fund it via a Pledge campaign. I thought that I would probably have to sit and write reasonably complex, eastern-flavored compositions that segued neatly from records such as the eponymously titled INVADERS OF THE HEART (1983), WITHOUT JUDGEMENT (1989), RISING ABOVE BEDLAM (1991) and TAKE ME TO GOD (1994). These records tend to feature spoken word, collage techniques and some slick string horn arrangements as well as various musical curveballs thrown in for good measure. All set on a foundation of Dub. So I figured I was in for a long haul over the course of the forthcoming year. 
At the time I was planning all this we were embarking on a tour of the U.K. The first of these dates was in funky Brixton in South London. Youth came to see us play. He loved the show. We talked about hooking up to do some recording together. We did not have a show the next day. I booked us all into a hotel right by Tower Bridge. Just around the corner from the hotel lies a studio that I have used extensively over the years, Intimate Studios. I arranged a recording session for the day following the gig in Brixton. I simply wanted us to play and have fun, whilst laying down backing tracks that had some changes in as well as some hook lines. I thought the tracks could contribute towards some sort of crazy offbeat album at some point. 
Youth and I got together in the autumn of 2015 and I put some bass down for him on a ton of tracks. We discussed the possibility of him producing me and the band. I hardly ever work with producers but I like Youth and knew that he could do a good job. I must say I liked the thought of not having to source new singers. I thought that Youth could bring some fresh ideas into play. I sold my record label 30 Hertz Records in 2015 and I felt like I should take a whole new approach to life, let alone my music. 
The only problem was that Youth was going off to America to tour with Killing Joke in January 2016. That coupled with the Pledge music campaign scheduled to complete at the end of May made the idea of Youth producing look impossible. I told him about the takes I had from the May session with the band and he was very enthusiastic to hear them. He loved them, so we made a plan for him to work on three tracks before departing to the US with Killing Joke. However, the Killing Joke tour got postponed, so suddenly everything changed. Youth and his excellent engineer Michael set to work on producing EVERYTHING IS NO THING.
I quickly realized that the record was true to the original early 80's Invaders of the Heart band, (that toured America in 1983). That line up was a 'playing band'. A lot of what we did had a jazzy Afro Rock vibe. EVERYTHING IS NO THING sees a return to the original sound. I am surprised at the good response to the album. I thought people would find it too left field.

SPAZ: Your records are always musically focused yet still artistically exploratory – EVERYTHING IS NO THING is no exception. When you begin work on a project, do you have a particular idea on how you want it to turn out or do you let the sessions decide on what the end results will be?
JAH: It really depends on the circumstance of the session. With something like CHINESE DUB it was all about staying disciplined and sticking to the Chinese melodies and arrangements and supporting them. Whereas the DEEP SPACE sort of records are more about getting to the starting point. Once you are there, anything can happen. I did a session with this present line up of the Invaders a couple of months ago. I was calling out keys and making tempos and time signatures change. They are such good players and so free that they stayed right on the groove and took it too some great places. We have ended up with something that is pretty close to Psychedelic Rock.  

SPAZ: Was there a particular song/session during the recording process that helped you to decide the direction of the rest of the album?
JAH: I think the motif that repeats (in different keys) in the first two tunes set the scene for us. Youth correctly read what we had done as spacey Spiritual Jazz/Afro Rock. We were a track short of an album so when we went back into the studio to record “Symmetrical-Asymmetrical,” we knew what we had to do.  

SPAZ: The musicians on the album really lock into a groove based around your playing. Do you feel more comfortable in ‘leading’ the recording session or has it always been about collaborating with the right musicians who understand your musical vision?
JAH: A bit of both really. I do tend to lead, I must say. Having said that, when I work for other people, I tend to step back and be amenable to their vision. 

SPAZ: Which musicians did you work with on EVERYTHING IS NO THING?
JAH: My band consists of George King on keys, Marc Layton-Bennett on drums and Martin Chung on guitar. Trumpeter Sean Corby also plays with my band regularly. He is on the album as is Nik Turner of Hawkwind fame. Aurora Dawn of Alabama 3 sang vocals. Tony Allen plays drums on a couple of tracks.

SPAZ: EVERYTHING IS NO THING really has a great ‘feel’ to it – natural and warm – yet it still manages to take the listener outside of their comfort zone and into a completely new comfort zone. Being a musician, is it hard to balance what is aesthetically pleasing to you while also being aware of the listener’s expectations?
JAH: Hopefully, the two are not mutually exclusive. As I said earlier in the interview I thought the album would turn a lot of listeners off, but that does not seem to be the case. To give Youth credit, he predicted the album would be well received. He said it was the zeitgeist.  

SPAZ: EVERYTHING IS NO THING has a nice Jazz groove, yet there are splashes of Funk popping in and out. Space Jazz is the best way to describe it. How much of the album was written and arranged beforehand and how much was improvised during the recording process? And is there a lot of music left over that didn’t make the album? 
JAH: No music was left over, everything was used. I came up with bass lines and those two hooks at the top. Funnily enough, a couple of people on the session (one tech guy and one musician), criticized those hooks. They said they were like old fashioned Rock and advised me to drop the idea. I'm glad I didn't! I put changes in because you can roughly judge what that would be like with strings and horns on. You know it will be a nice modulating musical bedrock. The playing from my band is pretty much improvised. They are amazing players. I do not say that lightly. We have played together for a few years so we have a great understanding.

SPAZ: Do you like to challenge yourself each time you go into the studio to make a new album? And do you still surprise yourself sometimes?
JAH: Oh yes I always like to be challenged. I am always surprised by the music. It's like it is an extension of the deep communal mind. It throws up surprises similar to that experienced in dream states. 

SPAZ: The album was co-produced by Youth, who has travelled a path very similar to yours ever since your Post-Punk days with PiL. Do you see him as some sort of musical kindred spirit? Or is he just a good mate that you like to have a chat and laugh with?
JAH: He is a mate of mine. I get on well with all of Killing Joke. But above all he is an excellent producer. Just look at his CV. It's amazing. He is very bright and aware. Doesn't miss a beat. 

SPAZ: There’s always going to be those who only accept you as the PiL bassist or want all Invaders Of The Heart albums to sound like your early ‘90s releases. Does it bother you that there is a faction of listeners out there who won’t like what you do no matter how brilliant it is? And yet, if you DID cater to their whims, they’d moan about how it wasn’t as good as ‘the old days’? As I see it, you’ve never been one to stand still, artistically, for too long…
JAH: None of that bothers me. There are always enough people with fresh ears and open attitudes to work with. I'm not bothered about people being conservative. 

SPAZ: You’ve gone from Rock to Dance to Jazz to Funk and back again over the years. In which category do you feel the most comfortable, if any at all? 
JAH: I would say Dub is the genre that I am most at home in. 

SPAZ: Are there any genres left that you’d still like to musically explore? Maybe fill the vacancy in One Direction?
JAH: Ha, maybe! Rock - especially avant-American Rock is an area I want to work in. Maybe I should do something in Seattle or something.

SPAZ: How did the name Jah Wobble come about?
JAH: It came from Sid Vicious. We were both drunk and he changed my real name – John Wardle – into Jah Wobble. Jah because I liked Reggae and all the Reggae guys were called Jah this, that and the other. I said "I like that, Sid! I'm going to keep it because people won't forget it....”

SPAZ: What’s next for Jah Wobble?
JAH: Psychedelic Rock. 

Thanks to Jah Wobble
Special thanks to John Wardle, Alex Jimenez, Ian Attwell, Sue Wincott, Chris White 
and Nick Kominitsky



Also Available:


Friday, August 26, 2016

VAXXED: An EXCLUSIVE interview with producer DEL BIGTREE


An EXCLUSIVE interview 
VAXXED producer 

     First things first: regardless of what you may have read elsewhere, VAXXED: FROM COVER-UP TO CATASTROPHE is not an anti-vaccination film. However, it is a very important documentary that does raise some interesting and often alarming facts about the relationship between the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine and autism. While this subject may not be new to older readers, there is a new generation of young parents who are completely unaware that this was even an issue in the recent past. And why don’t they know? The answer to that question can be found in VAXXED, one of the most controversial and misunderstood documentaries in recent memory.
     Before discussing the focus of VAXXED, let’s go back a few years. In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist, was falsely accused of starting the anti-vax movement when he – and eleven other authors – published an article in UK medical journal The Lancet. The article, which linked autism with the MMR vaccine (and not ALL vaccines), caused outrage and panic in equal measures. For reasons more complicated than I can go into (Google it!), The Lancet eventually retracted the feature, ten of the twelve authors retracted their support of the article, and Wakefield was eventually barred from practicing medicine in the UK. Flash forward to 2013 when biologist Dr. Brian Hooker received a call from Dr. William Thompson, a Senior Scientist at the U.S. Centers For Disease Control (CDC). Thompson, as it turns out, led the CDC’s 2004 study on the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. According to Thompson, the CDC omitted crucial data in their final report that revealed a “causal relationship” between the vaccine and autism. Hooker then reached out to Andrew Wakefield and the seeds of VAXXED were planted.
     VAXXED: FROM COVER-UP TO CATASTROPHE is a fascinating film from beginning to end. Directed by Wakefield and produced by Emmy-winning producer (THE DOCTORS) and medical journalist Del Bigtree, the film focuses on William Thompson’s astonishing revelations about the truth behind the CDC’s findings. Thompson does not appear in the film, although his voice and the documents he turned over as evidence do, and these documents are quite startling.
     The passion, belief, concern and love that went into making VAXXED is evident in every frame. However, writing about this film doesn’t do it justice. Although a documentary, VAXXED plays out like a political thriller and the viewer is left with many questions by the time the film ends. That may leave an audience angry and confused after watching a film of fiction, but for a documentary like VAXXED, it leaves the viewer with a different perspective…and the desire to see changes made. For Bigtree, Wakefield and all of those involved with this film, that is the type of reaction they are looking for. Intrigued now? Well, you SHOULD be.
     Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with the film’s producer, Del Bigtree, and discuss the film’s goals, the controversy surrounding it and more…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: I was quite surprised that almost every bit of press that I read about this film was completely inaccurate. It was not an anti-vaccination film whatsoever. How are you feeling about this journey to finally bring the film into homes around the world?
DEL BIGTREE: The journey so far is scary. I’m nervous about the future of this country and I’m nervous about the future of journalism. I got involved with the movie because I saw a clear representation that the health of children in this country is at risk and we have a government agency that has covered up a dangerous vaccine and I don’t know why exactly. I made the movie because I was worried about the future and the health of children. The media has, in my mind, lied about what our film is about. When I talk to people who haven’t seen the movie, they think I’m a Conspiracy Theorist. Yet I have doctors who say they came to this film kicking and screaming… and then say that this movie changed their minds. Today, out of all of the cities that we’ve done Q&As in, I have not had a single doctor come up to me after a screening and say, “I just saw your film and you’re a liar!” Not one! And yet, I read review upon review that mention that a fraudulent doctor directed it, therefore nobody needs to see it. The reviews rarely ever mention the fact that the film is about Dr. William Thompson, a very real scientist at the Center for Disease Control that is making extremely alarming statements. He has achieved whistle blower status – he is still at the CDC. Beyond four hours of recorded statements, he’s provided 10,000 documents which people get to see in my film. So, you tell me: what has happened to journalism? As a medical journalist, you couldn’t pay me to make an inaccurate statement about anybody, so what is happening? Are they seeing the movie? Or are they writing reviews based on something sent to them by their sponsors? People are calling themselves journalists and cutting and pasting somebody else’s headlines and not doing their job. Journalism and science share the same principle at heart which is, “We should never stop questioning.” We are going down a dangerous road that looks very much like Nazi Germany to me – a propaganda that our media is involved with now that is perpetuating that anybody that asks a question is a crazy person.

SPAZ: How is it that people can so easily believe that UFOs and Bigfoot exist but scoff at the fact that autism might be linked to the MMR vaccine?
DEL: What’s more alarming is the amount of people that believe GMOs are bad for them, that Monsanto is not working in the interest of health, but in the interest of the bottom dollar. They believe that our government body – when talking about food – are lying to them. But they do not believe that there is any chance that a government body could be lying to them about Merck or vaccines. That, to me, is a finer line than what you described. What is it about Monsanto that drives people crazy but Merck (the company that developed the MMR vaccine) is their best friend?

SPAZ: As a filmmaker, is it frustrating to have to explain what the movie is NOT about rather than what it is about?
DEL: The truth is that I don’t get caught in that game – I DO always say what it is about. They want me to talk about what it is not about. They want me to talk about Andy Wakefield and the LANCET paper because that is the one-trick-pony the pharmaceutical industry thinks they have…and that is unraveling before them. I tell everyone that this film is about Dr. William Thompson, a whistle blower from the Centers of Disease Control that has come forward and said that the CDC has committed scientific fraud on arguably the most important vaccine study ever done. And I say the most important because it was the last vaccine study that the United States government ever paid for looking for a connection between vaccines and autism. This fraudulent study is what the U.S. government used as a reason to never have to look at this issue again. And now we find ourselves fifteen years behind the ball. Every seven minutes, a child is being diagnosed with autism. We are destroying beautiful, healthy children. And the only thing that keeps people from knowing the truth is not seeing my film. Everybody that does see the film is realizing the truth.

SPAZ: Is it more difficult to deal with critics of the film or journalists with a definite agenda who quite possibly have not seen the film?
DEL: There are very few actual critics of the film. Most of the things I read are people who have not seen the film – I can tell by the way it’s written. I have no problem with criticism but I haven’t heard legitimate criticism of the film. When I read, “I saw the film and it’s all lies” – that’s not a criticism. What exactly are you saying is a lie? A criticism would actually be saying that William Thompson had an axe to grind with one of his bosses or that he’s trying to blackmail the CDC. Those would be criticisms. Journalists can have different perspectives. In fact, they should. But it’s scary when every news agent winds up on the same side of an argument. It’s rarely possible that everybody has exactly the same perspective on a story. So yes, it is frustrating because it is lying. I don’t have a problem with discourse. I don’t have a problem with a different perspective. But can’t we at least share the facts and say how we see them differently and why? To lie about the facts and not address the facts, then that’s just a lie. So yes, that is frustrating!

SPAZ: Have you noticed any changes for the better since you made Vaxxed?
DEL: The number one positive change has been the growing number of young parents that are coming to this film and saying to me, “I have never heard this is an issue!” There is a generation now that has never heard there was a question. The fact that I am putting a new question in them and they start asking appropriate questions of their doctors, that’s the greatest thing. I believe we are saving children every night that a theater is filled with people. That’s the number one benefit.

SPAZ: What do you want this film to achieve? What type of reaction?
DEL: I want safe, healthy effective vaccines for everybody that believes in that medical approach. More than anything in the world, I want that for them. But how do you have safe vaccines if the most important testing body is committing fraud? It’s hard for me to wrap my head around!

SPAZ: Even though it has been a tough battle, are you proud that you made this film?
DEL: There are projects you get involved in that are a heavy lift the whole way – you have to push it up, it’s difficult and you barely get it there. And then there are those things that almost make themselves – they have a life of their own and there is something they need to say. This is one of those. When we sat and watched the final version of the film, I literally had tears in my eyes. I thought, “Who made that movie?” It transcended all of us. I’m proud to have been a part of that experience. And I’m proud because this movie does cause people to think. I know that every night, people are waking up because every night, this film is being seen by more and more people. And hopefully, something good can come of that.

Thanks to Del Bigtree

Special thanks to Rick Rieger, Lauren Watt, and Dave Rayburn

From Cover-Up To Catastrophe

Available 9.13.16

Friday, August 19, 2016


Hide The Beer, THE FLESHTONES Are Here:

An exclusive Q&A 
Peter Zaremba

In 1976, a group of friends came together somewhere in New York to play primitive Rock ‘n’ Roll inspired by the sweaty, edgy underground Garage Rock scene of the ‘60s. They called themselves The Fleshtones and by 1980, they were signed to IRS Records. Their debut EP, UP-FRONT, introduced their musical mayhem to a young audience eager to feel the flames of true Rock ‘n’ Roll burning in their soul. The Fleshtones were instantly embraced by music fans and critics as the ultimate Garage Rock outfit – unpretentious, fun-loving and party-pleasing. Led by guitarist Keith Streng and vocalist Peter Zaremba, the band’s subsequent albums for IRS were the audio equivalent of the best frat parties you ever attended – sometimes unhinged but always memorable and entertaining. With their popularity rising and a few albums in their back pocket, frontman Zaremba was chosen in ‘84 to host THE CUTTING EDGE, an influential alternative music show that aired once a month on MTV until 1987. 

By the latter part of the ‘80s, The Fleshtones had left IRS but were still a popular live band. Releasing a series of indie albums over the years and constant touring kept the band busy and their fanbase happy. With a line-up that has been stable for the last twenty six years – Streng, Zaremba, drummer Bill Hilhizer (since 1980) and bassist Ken Fox (since 1990) – The Fleshtones have released a series of albums that are still rooted in Garage Rock madness. However, the quartet are not merely one-trick ponies – they’ve expanded upon their sweaty Rock ‘n’ Roll foundation and dabbled in Soul, Pop, Psyche and whatever else floats their boat. This is most evident on their 2016 platter, THE BAND DRINKS FOR FREE. Normally, a band that is celebrating their 40th Anniversary would already be on automatic pilot and putting out the same album over and over. The Fleshtones, on the other hand, are actually better songwriters now than ever – the hooks may not always snag you on first listen but by the third spin, you’ll be singing along…probably with a beer in one hand and fist pumping the air with the other. With ten originals (written by Zaremba, Streng and Fox) and two cover versions, The Fleshtones have created a hook-filled fiesta for the senses. They may not possess the drug-fueled youthful energy of yore, but that doesn’t mean that they no longer have the passion – THE BAND DRINKS FOR FREE is proof that getting older doesn’t mean your albums have to start sucking. Let the party continue on…

Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to toss a few questions over to Peter Zaremba, who graciously took time out to respond.

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: THE BAND DRINKS FOR FREE is being released and you are celebrating your 40th Anniversary as a band. How are you feeling about the reaction to this new album?
PETER ZAREMBA: The reaction is just starting to trickle in, and it's really positive. Good— we can use a break!

SPAZ: The album features a dozen killer tracks, two of which are covers. Do you usually have an abundance of material to choose from or do you prefer to write specifically for each album project? I have to say that the originals on the album – written by you, Keith or Ken – are actually better songs than those two covers!
PETER: This time around it seemed we had too much material – what a difference from the days when we recorded ROMAN GODS or HEXBREAKER and had to torture the songs out of ourselves. It really felt like the songs were finally just flowing out, so that we actually had too many tracks. So, we didn't include any of the songs from our recent 45s like 'I Surrender' or 'End Of My Neighborhood' as we had originally planned. A great feeling, and glad you like the originals. Personally I think 'Love Like A Man' is a masterpiece. Wait until you hear our Spanish version!

SPAZ: The Fleshtones may not have achieved the massive commercial success that you deserved, but you still make better records than most of your contemporaries over the years. Do you approach each album project the same as you did all those years ago?
PETER: No, we don't use all the drugs and stuff we used to. A good thing too – we're still alive and more focused than in those days. Maybe a bit of the success thing will come our way. We’re so cavalier about that sort of thing – especially in the ‘80s when success was a very real possibility. But we'll keep on no matter what. Being in the Fleshtones is more fun than being in most bands, and we get to be proud of what we've done. But approach? I think we go into recording much better prepared now. I mean we're not trying to write songs after we record the basics anymore. And we usually don't go someplace and try to record a whole album at once anymore either. We build our albums now. 

SPAZ: The great thing about Fleshtones albums is that they’ve always felt like they were created by a ‘band’ and you always seem to work well as a unit. Does everyone in the band have an input in the arrangements? And are you all open to suggestions from the other members?
PETER: We better sound like a band after 40 years! And we do work together very well. Strange, although it sounds like someone imposes an overall vision on the songs (and I'm always dying to do it!), we tend to bring our songs in knowing what we want the finished product to sound like, but we've gotten to the point where we more or less share what we think a 'Fleshtones Song' should sound like – and so it does!

SPAZ: THE BAND DRINKS FOR FREE is filled with great melodic hooks throughout the album. Does the songwriting process get easier over the years? The raw and loose Rock ‘n’ Roll energy is still there but the songwriting on your albums seems to be getting better as the years roll on…
PETER: Wow, thanks for that. Now to get a few thousand more people to realize it! Like I said, the songwriting process has gotten easier, stuff just pops into my head, like when I'm mowing the lawn. I've even dreamt up whole songs and wake up remembering them like 'Rick Wakeman's Cape'.

SPAZ: You released the title track as a single, yet it didn’t make the album. Do you enjoy that old-school approach to releasing singles that don’t make the albums? I must say that bands don’t often release a single from an album of the same name yet leave that song off the final track list.
PETER: Hahaha! Yeah that's crazy old-school, but like I said we had enough songs for the LP so 'The Band Drinks For Free' got cut along with a bunch of other tracks. Actually, I didn't think I brought that song in as prepared as my other songs, so it wound up not sitting right in the sequence, so it will remain an 'invitation' to listen to the album that’s named for it. Yes, that is unusual these days!

SPAZ: Are there any high points on the album that you’d choose as singles or radio tracks? Or do you leave that to the label folks? “Rick Wakeman’s Cape” and “Living Today” are classic Fleshtones nuggets. “Stupid Ol’ Sun” is ace. “Too Many Memories” and “How To Make A
Day” are great as well.
PETER: We've made our suggestions and Yep Roc are very open to our suggestions. I really think our version of 'Love Like A Man' is wonderful – it came out perfect, just what we wanted. Keith's idea to ask Lisa Kekaula of The Bel Rays to sing the last verses of the song instead of him was brilliant – she kicks the track into outer space! 'Love My Lover', which wound up as the b-side of the 45 'The Band Drinks For Free' is a natural radio single too – especially if it's ever 1969 again. 

SPAZ: Do you still love the make-a-record/do-a-tour routine after all of these years? And do you ever have to deal with audiences that only want to hear something you released thirty years ago and nothing off the new records?
PETER: Every audience wants to hear their favorite old songs – and we've got heaps of those to play to them. But most people come to see us play, and do something new and unexpected every time, and we like to do that. It keeps playing fun for us as well as the audience. And yes, I love making records even more now, especially since it isn't an exercise in frustration the way it used to be. Records come out sounding pretty much the way we want them to now!

SPAZ: For a veteran band like The Fleshtones, has social media helped you keep in contact with your fanbase and connect you to new fans? Are you happy with technology today (streaming, especially) or would you rather just sit in a bar and plop quarters in a jukebox all night in order to hear the latest sounds?
PETER: Social media has been a huge help to us. We've reached out across the world and keep in touch with people in places like New Caledonia, and they want us to come there and play! We're going to play in China next month for the first time, and played Mexico for the first time in twenty years last June. The technology is mind-blowing. I used to spend months as a kid trying to track down some rare Yardbirds 45, just to discover it actually sucked. And being able to hear so much is great. It also makes up for the fact I had to sell off most of my prized record collection a few years ago. Now I can still hear that music!

SPAZ: You hosted MTV’s THE CUTTING EDGE many decades ago…and people STILL talk about that show all of these years later. Do you look back fondly at that gig and do you think it has helped The Fleshtones in the long run?
PETER: I'm very proud of THE CUTTING EDGE – we gave countless bands and artists their first time on national TV. Even then I used to pinch myself while we were shooting and say, 'This is really happening, remember this moment!' I was amazingly lucky to have been chosen to host the show – remember, I had no television experience and it showed. It's funny, but MTV acts as if the show never existed…just like they did then when we were on MTV!

SPAZ: What’s next for The Fleshtones?
PETER: On to China! And then back to Scandinavia, Western Europe and the USA and Canada to spread the word about THE BAND DRINKS FOR FREE (which, in reality, it does). Then Spain in early 2017. I can't wait to get back in the studio even though our latest album isn't even out yet – so many ideas and so little time!

SPAZ: What have you been spinning lately on your CD/record players?
PETER: All sorts of stuff but especially MONEY MAKER, a re-release of old Studio One instrumental versions from Jamaica – it's in the groove!

Thanks to Peter Zaremba
Special thanks to Steve Dixon, Dave Rayburn and Nick Kominitsky