Friday, June 17, 2016

THE HELLACOPTERS: Watch this interview from the 2016 Sweden Rock Festival!

Legendary Swedish rockers THE HELLACOPTERS are back with a new 12" single - "My Mephistophelean Creed" b/w "Don't Stop Now" - and they just headlined the Sweden Rock Festival in their homeland.

Here is an in interview with the band filmed at the fest:

"My Mephistophelean Creed" and "Don't Stop Now"
(12" Vinyl Single)

Available NOW

Thursday, June 16, 2016

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE: A Virtual Round Table Discussion About The Vinyl Experience

A virtual round-table discussion about the 

Hosted by Stephen SPAZ Schnee

(NOTE: This feature was due to run in 2015 but was bumped at the last minute from the publication it was written for.  I've waited for it to be published since then but decided to run with it now. Enjoy!)

     The resurgence of vinyl’s popularity has brought an excitement back to the music industry. The love and passion from vinyl collectors has never waned; however, there is a new generation that is fascinated and energized by the format. The amount of record stores that closed their doors in the ‘90s and ‘00s is staggering, yet there are more new record stores opening up and operating today than just a handful of years ago. Music fans are now bonding over their vinyl purchases again, and some bands are releasing albums and singles strictly on vinyl (and we have Record Store Day to thank for much of that).  So, where does it go from here?  Instead of waxing poetic and offering one man’s opinion, I decided to invite a few other folks to offer their thoughts on vinyl-related subjects. A special thanks to those that took the time to get involved in this virtual roundtable! 

Guest panelists:

HENRY PRIESTMAN (singer-songwriter/Yachts, The Christians, solo)
THOM ZIMNY (filmmaker/Wings For Wheels, The Promise, etc.)
KURT REIL (singer, songwriter, producer/The Gripweeds)
ZEEK WEEKLING (aka BOB BURGER: singer, songwriter/The Weeklings)
BILL KOPP (music journalist/Musocscribe, numerous liner notes)
LANNIE FLOWERS (singer-songwriter/The Pengwins, solo)
MICHAEL SIMMONS (singer, songwriter, producer/Sparklejets UK, The Yorktown Lads, etc.)
DAVE RAYBURN (singer-songwriter/Podcast host)
PETER JACHIMIAK (Senior Lecturer in Media & Cultural Studies at the School of Media, University of South Wales)
GARY FITCH (vinyl enthusiast)
TIMOTHY BISHOP (Podcast host)


STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Ever since CDs overtook sales of vinyl, there have been pockets of staunch vinyl supporters that insist that CDs and digital downloads sound inferior to vinyl. Do you feel that the resurgence of vinyl is directly related to this sound quality issue or do you consider it to simply be a movement born out of nostalgia?
PETER JACHIMIAK: First thing’s first, I don’t believe that vinyl ever really went away. Both professional DJs and ‘record collectors’ have – even during the heydays of both CDs and downloading/streaming – continued to champion, and buy, vinyl.
BILL KOPP: For myself, I've read all kinds of in-depth articles that make a pretty strong case that vinyl is not in fact “better.” I'm not buying it (the argument, that is). I suppose for me the motivation veers a bit toward nostalgia, but it's not exactly that. I started buying vinyl when I was a pre-teen, and it's still my preferred format.
HENRY PRIESTMAN: I think what always gets overlooked in vinyl discussions is the fact that the whole package is a thing of beauty. I still prefer vinyl because I love the sound of it, but equally I love the look of it (record and sleeve), the size of it, the smell of it, the artwork, being able to read the lyrics, and I love losing myself in a gatefold sleeve - the whole thing’s a sensory experience!
THOM ZIMNY: I see a lot of people discussing the sound differences, but also the direct connection with a past and the connection one gets with this physical product which can’t be found in any digital file. Or, the equivalent to what CD packaging offered. Just the sheer size of the artwork, the presentation, and that feeling you get when you have that moment with an album. You stare at the cover and you take in the first message that the artist is sending out to you. It can’t really be reproduced, for me, outside the vinyl realm.
ZEEK WEEKLING: It is not necessarily definable, but somehow the listening experience is different and better. Putting on a vinyl record has an “ah” effect! The music seems to have more dimension and meaning. 
KURT REIL: Vinyl does sound better than CD’s and mp3‘s, if only due to the fact that the resolution is much higher, though high resolution audio closes that gap. But there is an intangible sound and ‘vibe’ that comes across from vinyl that is much gentler and warmer, more conducive to deep listening.
DAVE RAYBURN: There will always be vinyl purists who insist that the warmth and feel of analog vinyl will never be properly conveyed in a digital format. There are certainly great examples to back that up. However, in my personal experience, I think that nostalgia plays a pretty large role these days.

SPAZ: Vinyl sales continue to rise and labels are releasing more and more titles on vinyl.  Are you concerned that this is just a novelty and it will die down quickly, or do you feel that the resurgence in vinyl will have longevity?
BILL: I remember something that Robyn Hitchcock told me several years ago, when discussing a vinyl reissue of some of his catalog: “A record is sort of a circular hieroglyph, if you like. And that's another reason that at this time I'm putting everything out on vinyl, just as a kind of safety copy. Supposedly, the information [eventually] falls off of the CD. So you might be listening to Lightnin' Hopkins or something, and then he just falls off his CD! If you're listening on vinyl, Lightnin' will stay in those grooves.” I think he makes a pretty strong case right there for vinyl's long-term viability as a format.
THOM: I do think there is a generation that enjoys rejecting the experience of listening to music with a digital format and finds this idea of vinyl to be really refreshing. I don’t know it’s lifespan or if it will die down. But, I do know there’s both a difference in sound and the listening experience and I hope that it can keep going for a long time.
HENRY: As I say, you can’t fall in love with an mp3, so let’s hope it’s here to stay.
ZEEK: Vinyl does have the disadvantage of being a bit more of a hassle, and you can’t play it in the car!  You really have to dedicate time to listen, and sadly people do way too little of that these days.  Nonetheless, there will always be music lovers, and they will always seek out the best listening experience.  Classical music halls are still in business for that reason.
KURT: No it’s not just a novelty, because LP’s span generations now, and with the trend moving towards downloads, it might be the only tangible form of music delivery that is left. The music industry likes vinyl because it must be bought and can’t be successfully pirated. Funny that the very format they used to kill vinyl wound up almost killing the industry, and vinyl now seems to be a lifeboat!
TIMOTHY BISHOP: As long as people value the listening experience (quality notwithstanding), vinyl will hold an important place in the minds of the consumer.
DAVE: I have no doubt that vinyl is here to stay on some level. The waves of its popularity may shift here and there over time, but don’t think that it will completely go away.

SPAZ: Do you feel that the ‘interactive’ element of vinyl – from album cover and inner sleeve to actually having to flip the record over to continue listening – is a big part of the vinyl LP experience?
BILL: At its best – certainly at its most fulfilling and rewarding – listening to music shouldn't be a passive activity. Some level of interaction adds to the total experience. Think of the 1970s recording artists: all sort of time and effort went into the development of the album package, with its gatefold, posters, stickers, artwork, inner sleeve, on and on. And even the old 1950s and '60s jazz LPs with their liner notes penned by Actual Music Journalists: those are essential part of the album experience.
THOM: Turning the record over is a huge part of the experience. It gives you that moment to take in the narrative journey of side one and continue to side two. So, having that breath where you’re forced to take in just the listening experience of side one is a great thing. With the experience of an LP you would start it many times, right from the beginning, and go through the full journey of the song, and then go onto the next song and the full journey of the side. That whole experience obviously can be altered with a playlist in the digital format. So, a little bit of the narrative thread of certain records gets lost with a generation because they simply have the freedom not to start from the beginning, play a side, and flip it over. And while you’re playing that side, you stare at the package. You stare at the gatefold. You stare at the lyrics. You stare at the producers. And it’s a secret little world that brings you in. It’s an experience that you can’t really define to people who haven’t grown up with music that way. But every time you got a new record there was a moment of opening the plastic and looking at the graphics, taking in your band, identifying with it and you were let into a secret little world. The reason there’s a secret little world is because the artist was showing you a new story. A new narrative.
ZEEK: With vinyl, you almost have to read the cover while listening.  With the cover, you get to know more about the band and thus become a bigger fan.  And it has a cool odor when you open a new record!
KURT: It’s a real-time tangible experience, rather than the assembly of a playlist. It demands the listener’s focus. It’s even fun to place that needle down on the record. The length of a vinyl record is also just about the amount of time of a listener’s attention span.
PETER: My answer is this: Try flipping over, in a cool way (as a DJ does), a download. Go on, just try it! I love vinyl. As you get older (and your eyes start to fail you), the size of the format that is vinyl is a blessing. You can actually read the ‘small print’ (production credits, etc.). And, as well, I love the fact that you can touch it, feel it, smell it!
GARY FITCH: Ritual is a big part of the revival of the medium.  Ritual and sound quality.
DAVE: You almost need to plan on putting time aside… but that’s a good thing. The cleaning of the vinyl before you place it on the mat and drop the needle is pretty much essential.
HENRY: As old age approaches, it would be good if they could invent something that turns it over automatically!

SPAZ: Do you feel that people are now more appreciative of having a tangible piece of product in their hands rather than experiencing the music via downloads (legal or illegal), which is not as personal?
MICHAEL SIMMONS: It’s definitely paramount to me.  When I am in the market for music now, I always check if there is vinyl available, and I will buy that and forego the CD entirely, especially if it comes with download cards as most do.
BILL: With so many means of getting music for “free” – Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, illegal downloads...all of which are in some ways the 21st century corollary of what we old-timers call “radio” – music that one can hold in one's hand – an artifact, if you will – has a special value.
GARY: Vinyl is, for me, a way to experience something sonically in a different way.  It’s a personal experience especially now that vinyl is no longer the only way to consume music – I view it as something very special.
DAVE: I’ve always felt that way. It was an investment. An investment I could enjoy over and over.


SPAZ: What do you feel are the main differences between the analog (vinyl) versus the digital (CD/download) listening experience?
THOM: You know, the analog experience for me… there’s a warmth in that experience, and I’m not very technical and I can’t really put it into words, but there’s a presence that fills the room differently for me than the brightness that I get with CDs or any digital recording. Again, I’m not an engineer, and this is just a very abstract way of talking about it, but it’s a feeling. And, to listen to certain records and then go to the CD of it, I feel that I lose a bit of warmth in the sound.
TIMOTHY: Passive vs. interactive.  I’m not aware of any active community that bonds over shopping for mp3s.
BILL: The interactive quality that you mentioned earlier is certainly a big part. There's something special about walking over to the record shelf, browsing through it, picking something out, carrying it across the room, and putting it on that essentially says, “I'm investing some of my time, some of myself, in this experience. Clicking on a computer keyboard is too easy and doesn't represent that investment.
LANNIE: For me, there is something a little comforting hearing the needle drop and the pops here and there. Also I work in a digital studio. So when I listen to music at home, it gives my ears a rest by listening to analog music. It’s not as taxing on the ears.
PETER: Analog: Warm, real, meaningful. Digital: Cold, unreal, meaningless.
GARY: It forces you to be present in the music.  At the very least you have to interact with the turntable every 15 minutes to turn the record over, or put on a new record.  You have to really want to listen to music.

 SPAZ: When the demand for vinyl died down in the ‘90s, did you notice a distinct shift in the way an artist arranged the tracks on the album? Some still worked with the idea that the album was two distinct halves (Side A and Side B) while most chose to think of the release as one whole piece…
DAVE: It all really depends on the artist and if they are trying to tell a story or simply collect their songs in a manner that flows from start to finish. Some of the more serious artists certainly focus on the four corners of an album (the opening and closing tracks on each side).
HENRY: As a musician, when I’m putting together a running order for a new album I still work on the premise that it’s two sides –i.e. tracks 1-6, then 7-12. Even when I buy a CD, I will often start at track 7 and let it run on from there (always feel sad for track 14, does anyone ever get to hear it?).
MICHAEL: I’ve learned more recently that the classic programming format of LP sides was never an artistic choice, but a scientific one. Loud, up-tempo, or aggressive tracks sound better at the beginning of a side, where the grooves are longer, straighter, and passing at higher speed.  The last track on a side will perform best if it’s quiet and subdued since the tonearm is typically hitting the grooves at an angle, and the needle is travelling a bit slower.   Sound quality isn’t as good in the center as it is on the outside.
ZEEK: Certainly the sequencing of the songs changed without the two side constraint. But more importantly, I think, was the fact that CDs were longer and artists felt the need to fill them up.  Many, many CDs were released with lots of bad extra songs on them. If the artist had been limited to 40 minutes total, they would have made better records.
KURT: I’ve found it much easier to sequence an album with a half-point break, because it gives you two separate arcs in terms of where faster and slower songs are placed – two programs of intro through end cut. I even sequence a CD that way, and try to give a space between that serves as an ear break.
THOM: Sometimes, you look at some of the great albums and they were like eight to ten tracks. They were a cohesive message. With the CD giving the option of more time, I felt like the difference I saw between CDs and records in structure and presentation was that there was more music. Sometimes you felt, at least like a fan, I felt like wow… it would have been a great album with those eight songs but those other last three are taking it to another place.

SPAZ: Have you come to accept that the pops, clicks and skips are important parts of the vinyl experience?
BILL: I have, yes, especially since I buy quite a lot of my records used. I clean them up, but sometimes those clicks and pops are a fact of life, and the price one pays for music that still hasn't been reissued digitally.
ZEEK: I can’t say I like pops, clicks and skips.  But I don’t mind surface noise.  Actually, I think it is part of what makes the vinyl sound better. 
DAVE: I don’t think people look forward to it on a brand new record, but when it’s been inherent to that piece of vinyl from day one of your initial listening experience, I believe it adds to the canvas. Skips generally suck, but I take the pops, clicks, and static in stride as I keep an eye out for a cleaner copy as I make the rounds gathering new acquisitions.
THOM: I never get over the frustration of a skip. And, a pop will take me out of the track. But, there are certain tracks that I grew up with in vinyl that had a particular pop or click… and I will hear them in my head when I’m listening to them in a digital format exactly at that moment.

SPAZ: Is listening to an album today as powerful as it was many years ago when vinyl was the format of choice?
THOM: Yeah, I can return to it. There are certain things with my work and my filmmaking that I will take myself to a place of having to listen to it in vinyl format just to re-experience the power of the original sessions. And it still happens for me... I go to a certain place of nostalgia, but it’s more of a memory of how the impact of the music hit me. That’s great to use for my work and it’s also just a great experience. I will take the time out to listen to things deliberately in an analog way just because I know it will be different and it will bring back so much.
KURT: It might even be more powerful now, because I find the difference to be staggering sometimes. The first album by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is a good example of a record I loved and bonded with on vinyl but didn’t much like on CD. Another example is the first album by Big Star – I’d listened to that one many times through the years on CD until I found a vinyl reissue, which gave me a more complete picture of how that record worked and also how it should sound.
BILL: For me, without a doubt. And sharing that experience with those important to me is part of that experience, too. And when I can, I open the windows and share with my neighbors.

Thanks to Nick Kominitsky and all the members of the round table panel.

THE DAMNED Documentary: An EXCLUSIVE interview with director WES ORSHOSKI!

A documentary about THE DAMNED

An EXCLUSIVE interview 
with director 

     Like Rock ‘n’ Roll in the ‘50s and the British Invasion of the ‘60s, Punk rock changed everything. It began as a musical movement in 1976, yet it became something much bigger. Punk infected every aspect of pop culture – from fashion to art. Punk became a badge of honor for the younger generation and a punchline to bad jokes told by their parents. Bands like Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, UK Subs, Buzzcocks and so many others climbed to the top of the charts in England and caused a stir around the world. The sudden rise of Punk inspired thousands upon thousands of amateur musicians to rise up and create a racket. It was a glorious thing. However, it is often forgotten that one particular British band was the first to release a single in England, the first to release an album, and the first to tour the U.S. If you guessed Sex Pistols, then you’d be wrong and should be sent to the back of the queue. The correct answer, if you paid attention to the title of this feature, was The Damned.
     The Damned was formed by Brian James (guitar), Captain Sensible (bass), Rat Scabies (drums) and Dave Vanian (vocals). Uncompromising and entirely unpretentious, The Damned were great musicians out to have a good time. Armed with a load of great songs (mostly penned by James), The Damned became one of the most popular Punk outfits in the UK. Signed to Stiff Records, they beat all the other bands to the record shops with their “New Rose” single and Damned Damned Damned album. Their popularity and desire to have a good time didn’t mix well with the other serious, politically-charged Punk acts, and they were essentially ostracized from the ‘Punk Club’ by various legendary managers who felt The Damned were over-shadowing their own acts (i.e. The Clash and Sex Pistols). The band soldiered on, but James threw in the towel after the second album. With Sensible moving to guitar and the band switching gears musically, The Damned fought back with a string of singles and albums that expanded upon their musical roots while still retaining the Punk energy and attitude. Sadly, with so many line-up changes and musical detours along the way, they began to confuse all but their faithful followers. The most surprising thing is that the band’s desire to explore these new musical avenues is what made them BETTER than many of their contemporaries. It seemed to work for The Clash, but not so much for The Damned.
     Now celebrating their 40th Anniversary, The Damned remain the most under-appreciated of all the original Punk bands. The current line-up of the band includes Vanian and Sensible, both of whom are still as charismatic and entertaining as they’ve ever been. However, it hasn’t always been easy for the band. From old record label contract issues that drove Rat and Captain apart, to a constant stream of great musicians who have come and gone, The Damned’s story is a long and convoluted one. THE DAMNED: DON’T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD is an absolutely brilliant documentary that sheds light on the band’s history and offers an inside look at a band that deserves far more attention than they have ever received. It doesn’t matter if you prefer “Neat Neat Neat,” “Smash It Up” or “Grimly Fiendish” – this revealing film by photographer/director Wes Orshoski (Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son Of A Bitch) is as honest and funny as any music documentary you’ll ever see. By the time the credits roll, you’ll be cursing the screen and wishing it was longer. It’s heart-breakingly sad and soul-stirringly joyful. Toss in some insight from contemporaries and fans like Fred Armison, Chrissie Hynde, Lemmy, Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode), Mick Jones (The Clash), Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), Steve Diggle (Buzzcocks) and many others and you’ve got one of the best Damned documentaries you’ll have the pleasure of watching. See what I just did there?
      Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with director Wes Orshoski about making the film, the band’s reactions to it and much more…


STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: THE DAMNED: DON’T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD is now available. How do you feel about how the film turned out?
WES ORSHOSKI: I did my best on very limited means. I spent nearly five years of my life making this. But at some point, you have to disconnect and just know that you did your best. You could do a Part Two with The Damned because their story is so complicated – so many different line-ups, so many different genre changes. I don’t think I realized what I was getting myself into when I started it, once you think about all those things. My previous film on Lemmy – it was much easier to focus on one guy. The story is much easier to tell. But The Damned cast such a wide net that it was a real challenge trying to distill that. There’s so much that I couldn’t talk about. There’s so much more – the film would have been four hours long!
SPAZ: How are you feeling about the reaction to the film so far?
WES: I did some Q&As when I took the film on a tour in England. There was this guy who came to the screening in Leeds who said, “Anything after 1977, I don’t care about!” (Laughs) It’s funny that there are people that are only fans of the original line-up, only fans of the Paul Gray line-up, and so on… In the UK, especially. But there were two places in particular that I was really knocked out by the audience’s reaction. In Long Beach, there was like four hundred people and they were rowdy – it was exciting. The most emotional one was in Edinburgh. It was a sold-out screening. Punk Rock was very important to people in Scotland in the bleak l970s. The movie was about to end and I was about to do a Q&A, so I’m just standing there, waiting as the credits start to roll. And the second the first credit came on, there was this roar in unison from everyone in there. I was moved to tears – it was so beautiful. It was real. You could tell it was genuine. It wasn’t like one guy started the clapping – they all roared together. That was awesome. That, to me, was a perfect moment.

SPAZ: Along with 999, The Vibrators and The Stranglers, The Damned is one of the most underrated original UK Punk bands of all-time. Is that what inspired you to make this film?
WES: To a large degree, yes. Here in America, nobody knows who they are. When I was making the film about Lemmy, people knew who he was. When I told someone I was working on a film about The Damned, their eyes would just glaze over. Either you know and love them or they mean nothing to you, which is mostly the case in America. Here is a band that’s been a part of history – they were part of something that changed music and culture forever – and they have this great story. I think these guys are unsung heroes and that was one of the hopes of this film – to right that wrong a little bit.

SPAZ: I love the way the film is rooted in the present yet keeps cutting back to classic clips and stories from the past. In a way, I thought that mirrored the band’s ethic of always moving forward while still embracing their musical history. Was that your intention when putting the film together?
WES: I wanted to shine a light on the realities of being in a band. The realities of these teenagers who didn’t know who they were as people then, or any idea of who they were going to be, but now they are joined at the hip for life. A lot of Punk rockers have gone on to do other things, but they (Vanian and Sensible) didn’t choose that. They stuck with music and they are stuck together. I wanted to illuminate the fact that it cannot always be the easiest life.

SPAZ: Dave Vanian has always been this mysterious figure and you seem to learn a little more about him in the movie, but not much. Do you feel that you, as the filmmaker, understood him a little more?
WES: I wanted to debunk that mystery entirely but he didn’t give me an opportunity to. There are some hilariously mundane things about Dave. For example, when we were on the road in the States, he loved to go to Cracker Barrel. They have these huge gift shops with all these antique-y items…and Dave loves that place. He’ll spend an hour in the gift shop! (Laughs) There are a lot of things he does that are not really Rock ‘n’ Roll. I tried to hide cameras around and he’d find them and block them or turn them around. I chased him over four continents and it was only when I told him I was done shooting that I got an interview with him. In the UK, he travels separately – he doesn’t travel with the band on the bus. As a result, he shows up 10 minutes before a gig and leaves 10 minutes after.

SPAZ: It seems like Dave and Captain get along well. Do you feel that it is a working relationship or is there a deep friendship there?
WES: It is a working relationship, absolutely. It’s not like they go hang out. They are not brothers. I tried to show that a little bit. The one thing that is fascinating about those two is that they used to room together when they were teenagers. Think about that – they have the goods on each other. When it comes to a film like this, they could have dished the goods…but they didn’t. With Captain, it was probably self-preservation. But I think Dave is too polite of a gentleman to ever reveal personal details about someone. Dave is the complete English gentleman – he could have been on Downton Abbey. He’s so proper. He doesn’t curse and he’s very polite. When you get in a band when you’re a teenager, you don’t know who you’re going to be – you only know who you are at the moment. Then that Punk Rock big bang moment happened and their future was pre-determined for the rest of their lives. I’m fascinated by that. I talk to my best friend from high school and that’s it. I don’t think I could be traveling the world and be completely financially dependent on three other people from high school!
SPAZ: Was it difficult to get all the members involved?
WES: When I started the film, I started with the current line-up. It took me a very long time to get Brian and Rat involved with the film. Brian was very warm but kept me at arm’s length. Rat was frosty – he saw me as a representative of the current line-up camp. I eventually won his trust. I had Captain’s trust until I had Rat involved, and then he became indifferent towards me. Because of his own insecurity, Captain doesn’t realize that he is the star of the film – he’s the hero of the story. But I think he feels exposed and I think it makes him feel uncomfortable.

SPAZ: I think the film offers a well-balanced approach to all the issues between the current and former members. Was it difficult to present those issues without making any of the members seem like a villain?
WES: I’m not trying to judge anyone. I’m trying to present each side and let the audience decide. I could have made a film just based on the ins and outs and complications of the contract issues. I didn’t want to spend five minutes of the film talking about contracts. I just had to touch on it, give Rat and Captain the opportunity to present their side of things and keep the story moving.

SPAZ: How did each band member react to the film?
WES: When I world premiered the film at SXSW I was fortunate to have the whole current line-up out to perform. It was a huge coup for me to get the financing together to pay for that. And I owe that all to Vans. None of the band had seen the film beforehand because I didn’t want them to – I didn’t want them trying to pick it apart. I had a final cut. Vanian flew all the way to Texas and didn’t even leave the hotel…and I have no idea why. As far as I know, he hasn’t even seen the film. Sensible and the rest of the band showed up and I told him, “There’s going to be stuff that Rat says that you aren’t going to like. Don’t feel that you have to apologize. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Be defiant – you are a Punk Rock hero. You are an icon.” He just looked at me and said, “I’m going to react the way I react.” He ended up walking out a few minutes into the film after yelling ‘Rubbish!” at the screen. Then he came back in with a backpack and was making all sorts of noise – playing with candy wrappers in the middle of the movie. He created a big stink and stir and handed out candy and tried to distract people when Rat was speaking on screen – he was like a publicist going on a damage control mission. It was uncomfortable. Rat and Brian are happy with the film. They both told me that it gives them closure.

SPAZ: What do you hope the viewer will walk away with after watching the film?
WES: Maybe The Damned will be this discovery for people now. There’s all that music waiting to be discovered by people who don’t really know much about them.

Thanks to Wes Orshoski

Special thanks to Larry Germack, Clint Weiler and Nick Kominitsky

(Blu-Ray + DVD)

Available now!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

LABEL SERVICES: The future of the music business is now!


By Murray Stassen

(This article originally appeared in MUSIC WEEK)

     It doesn’t take a music business expert to recognize that traditional music companies have been challenged in recent years. The growth of the digital market, the rise of tech companies and the rapid development of their technology have given artists and their audiences the power of choice.
     Artists can decide how they release their music, without traditional gatekeepers blocking their path to market, while audiences have been given greater choice over how they consume that music, whether it’s on CD, cassette, streaming platforms, music video services or vinyl.
     The label services model offers artists a viable alternative to the traditional major label deal. An artist can release through an indie label or even set up their own label, retain full creative control over their music and still have all aspects of their business handled by experts in each field.
     “We are in the business to try and help as many artists and labels reach as many music consumers as possible,” says Dean Tabaac, managing director of US-based AMPED Distribution, which offers worldwide physical and digital distribution as well as sales and marketing. “We partner with artists and labels because we feel we have a mutual understanding of their vision and what is at stake, and will work together to achieve the best possible results.
     “We have found that adjusting our services to cater to the needs of each artist and label is more attractive and desirable than requiring them to fit into a rigid one-size-fits-all system,” he adds. “We do what we have a passion for and what we want to do, not because we have to, and that is very liberating, especially in today’s music business climate.”
    Vincent Clery-Melin, GM of label services at Kobalt Label Services (KLS) in London suggests that traditional music companies are having a hard time adapting to the fact that artists have so many options when it comes to releasing their music now.
     “Established artists with strong sales and fan bases looking for a label services [deal] these days are spoilt for choice, and that’s really a good thing, and more and more artists are shunning the traditional model,” he says. “Our vision of label services is that it is progressively becoming the paradigm that ultimately will replace the traditional label model - especially the traditional major label model.
     “At the moment, [label services] is a model that is particularly attractive to established artists with existing fan bases, as well as self-released artists at the very beginning of their careers – while they are largely under the industry radar. Month-on-month we are seeing more and more artists of all shapes and sizes adopt the approach.”
     KLS boasts internationally successful artists such as Die Antwoord, Lenny Kravitz and Pet Shop Boys on its roster. “We’re very proud of the Pet Shop Boys campaign so far,” he says. “Not only did we improve on the album sales of their previous record so far (over 120,000 albums to date) and on their first week sales and charts in all major markets - including No.3 album chart entry in UK and Germany - but we also worked closely with the band and both Apple and Spotify to move PSB into the streaming age and vastly improve on their profile.”
     KLS has also recently released debut albums by the likes of Norwegian DJ and producer Todd Terje and UK/Aussie rock act Sunset Sons - and Clery-Melin argues that “it won’t be long until an artist’s debut album will break through” by using the label services model.
Ben Rimmer, director of UK distribution and label services at Believe Digital agrees with Clery-Melin that there will soon be more emerging artists that will break through using the label services model.
“We will begin to see more examples of breakthrough acts succeeding through label services, and less of heritage acts breaking even,” he says. “Risk can be offset with new acts by using indicators like streaming data to underpin an investment.”
     He adds that label services will become more appealing to artists, because big advances don’t always guarantee long-term success. “More managers will value services, being made a priority and the targeted marketing spend label services provide,” he says.
     “High advances and wasteful marketing spend can often provide false hope and prevent artists achieving a fair artist royalty rate or regular revenue pay through.
“Having a long-term partner investing in services, assets, and marketing will be seen as much more beneficial.
     “If you’re not a priority act at a major there’s little guarantee you’ll be a success,” he continued, “whereas a label services model allows you to control your destiny, rather than majors dictating whether you will be a success or not.”
     All of the sector specialists that Music Week interviewed for this feature also cite transparency and creative control as two key reasons for using the label services model for releasing music, in addition to the appeal of having access to all the parts of a major music company without having to sign a deal with a major.
     “Label services provides a fairer, transparent and more productive way of working in partnership to allow for artistic freedom. One main difference with this model compared to a traditional record deal is that artists will typically deliver a finished record, so they have complete control over this initial creative process,” says Rimmer.
     He adds that the traditional label model can be risk-averse, whereas Believe is willing to take its chances on newer acts that they feel they can develop over time. “We are willing to invest in long term projects, rather than dropping an act if they see initial low sales, like the majors tend to do,” he says.
     “Currently, we’re working to develop acts like Brolin and Holy Esque under their own label imprints. For us, it’s all about finding and developing this new talent globally – and we’ve found business is strong with the acts we have taken risks on. So competition may be fierce for established artists, but our USP is in new talent.”
     Rimmer tells Music Week that Believe’s strategy is to A&R new talent to sign for label services as well as for its in-house label Believe Recordings: “We’ve A&R’d acts like Public Service Broadcasting and James Vincent McMorrow from their early releases. We’ve taken a risk on new talent and signed them right at the beginning of their careers, helping them develop over the years.”
     Believe provides services ranging from digital distribution to royalty reporting and analytics and also has a multi-territory in-house sync department, campaign management, digital marketing, video distribution and channel management. It also handles neighboring rights with 19 direct deals for registration and collection.
     “Ultimately, we fund projects to create assets and support marketing and promotional spend,” says Rimmer. “We are then able to work these projects internationally with our setup of over 30 offices and 300 staff in both key and emerging markets.
     “It’s suitable for any artists with active fan-bases who want to move beyond the DIY model, but don’t want to sign a traditional record deal where they would lose long-term rights, receive low royalty share, and control over their careers.
     “As we see more artists and managers wanting to control their own rights and develop their own label imprints, more will want to adopt the label services route, rather than go through a traditional major record deal and sign their rights away. If this is the case, label services will continue to grow steadily.”
     Believe Digital has seen a number of successes so far, with both Public Service Broadcasting’s album The Race For Space and James Vincent McMorrow’s single Higher Love achieving 60,000 and 200,000 sales respectively. “We also had US chart success with Big Black Delta, and numerous critically acclaimed releases from the likes of Holy Esque, Ciaran Lavery, and Lizzo,” says Rimmer.
     The company has also seen various successes in sync this year, including a string of US & UK placements in TV shows and commercials. Lancashire duo Aquilo’s track You There was featured in Unilever’s worldwide Farewell To The Forest campaign, which has racked up over 21 million views on YouTube, and James Vincent McMorrow’s Wicked Game is being used in the Game Of Thrones UK trailer.
     “Many managers and artists now see the value of a services partner who can provide a full service solution under a modern deal structure,” says Rimmer.
     “This has meant that label services has become a viable route for both artists and labels alike.”
With so many players now active in the market, there are naturally different views about what it actually means to be a label services company and what services should be offered in order to be defined as one. Clery-Melin concedes that there are a number of companies with a similar offering in the market but argues that KLS has a number of USPs.
     “We’ve seen over the last four years the emergence of a sector, with all the major companies, distributors, and marketing agencies launching a ‘label services’ division,” he says.
     “However, it’s difficult to talk about a sector when the offers are very different and the reality behind these services are very different. Label services, depending on who you are talking to, can be a marketing consultant for hire, a very traditional P&D scenario, or the runway into a major label system for acts that the major label doesn’t feel like signing yet.”
     Absolute Label Services MD Henry Semmence argues that one of the core issues within the label services sector at the moment is the perception of what label services actually is. “There are now many companies out there professing to be a label services business who don’t actually provide label services,” he says.
     “For Absolute, this has meant we’ve needed to spend more time clarifying what label services truly means. It’s very easy for a company to claim to provide a range of services in order to lure business and then not actually deliver on anything outside distributing the record.
     “For us, distribution is just the first step in a tailored, hands-on marketing process – leading to us looking for every opportunity to drive sales and streams around a record’s initial release and on-going life-cycle.”
     In spite of the rise of rival companies in the market, some of the executives interviewed for this feature insist that competition is healthy, while others encourage more companies to enter the sector.
“We embrace it, and as a business Absolute is as stable and strong as it has ever been,” says Semmence.
“We hope more players come into the market in order to keep the sector dynamic and positive, “adds Adrian Hughes, head of artist and label services at !K7. “It’s a vitally important area of this business as highlighted by Sony’s acquisition of Essential in the last few months.”
     Paolo d’Alessandro, chief international officer (CIO) at International Solutions suggests that the label services sector is starting to stabilize. “We are already seeing some signals of consolidation,” he adds. “The Sony Music acquisition of Essential is a perfect example.
     “The players that have established themselves in the past five years and are still there, including ourselves, will have a competitive advantage as we all work to consolidate and maintain our positions. But no one is ever safe from the next guy who will come up with an idea, a different twist, a different way of doing things, and suddenly force change. It’s how we progress as a species.”
     Semmence also feels that that Sony’s acquisition of Essential Music & Marketing is indicative of consolidation in the market. “As we have seen with Essential selling to Sony, it’s likely that there will be 
more consolidation within the field,” he says. “It seems like a case of ‘If we can’t beat them, buy them’.
     “The key to the label services industry thriving is establishing a better understanding across the music community as to what true label services entails – delivering tailored campaigns to artists where they call the shots and retain full control.”
     Dan Chalmers, president of Rhino, East West and ADA UK - which won the 2016 Music Week Award for label/artist services - says that there are a lot more players in the game today, but insists that “this is good news for everyone involved in the business”.
     “Artists get more choice and everyone has to stay on top of their game to remain competitive,” he adds. “We always keep an eye on the market, but our focus is making sure that the service we’re providing to the indies and artists is the strongest in the sector. ADA offers all of the services an indie label or artist needs to release their music anywhere in the world, to get the best possible results.”
     Absolute’s Semmence tells Music Week that distribution and marketing sit at the heart of his business and remain the basics of any of Absolute’s deals, but adds that in an increasingly competitive marketplace, their range of complementary services are just as important as distribution and marketing.
“Choosing a company that goes the extra mile in terms of services offered is essential to maximizing any campaign,” he says.
     “Neighboring rights collection, direct to consumer, sync and branding are three huge growth areas for Absolute and they continue to differentiate us from other label services companies,” he adds.
     “To address the growth of streaming we have dedicated staff successfully pitching playlists and working with the platforms in new ways to continually maximize support and income for our labels.”
     Absolute has seen recent success with the likes of Jack Savoretti, which the company works with in partnership with BMG. It has also enjoyed success with Babymetal, whose album Metal Resistance, released via Earmusic, peaked at No.15 in the Album Chart in April, making them the highest charting Japanese act ever in the UK.
     The company is also particularly active in the grime market, having been involved in the career launches of some of the scene’s biggest players. “We also released the 10th anniversary edition of the Lord Of The Mics compilation, where many talented MCs first made their name,” says Semmence. “That genre is growing at a frightening rate and we continue to attract the best new talent in that field.”
     Republic Of Music’s Mark McQuillan tells Music Week that he believes the term label services is “over-used right now,” and “just a buzz word, with many companies jumping on the bandwagon offering this so called service”.
     “As a result, the market is becoming a little saturated and competition is fierce, with some companies offering silly deals to get the business. Saying that, we are still getting many great projects to work and the business is flowing in, we have a very strong schedule for second half of year with albums from Teenage Fanclub to Joanne Shaw Taylor, Tim Burgess, Moby, Lambchop and The Spitfires to name a few.”
     Although competition is tougher, McQuillan suggests that there are a lot more artists looking to self-release now, and more labels looking for other services in addition to just distribution, which mean that there are now more releases for companies to pitch for each year, which is good news for the sector.
“At Republic Of Music we have had some great success in the past six months with a number of releases spanning many music genres. Floating Points has sold over 25,000 albums across Europe and he is lined up for a whole run of great festivals this summer so should continue to build. Hinds have also been a great success in the UK and also across Europe.”
     Republic Of Music have provided sales, marketing and distribution services since 2007 and the company also recently opened a sync division called Republic Of Sync, which has seen success with placements in ads by the likes of Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Axe/Lynx, Issey Miyake, Top Shop and others.
The company also offers manufacturing services within their label services deals and have a management division with a number of acts on the roster.
     “We have always tried to work incredibly closely with all our labels on their releases and assist and advise wherever we can, so we’ve just evolved with what artists are needing. It does seems now everyone is jumping on this term ‘label services’ and I’m not really sure what it actually means in reality, as it’s just what a good sales and distribution company should be doing anyway,” adds McQuillan.
     “Label services is a mind-set,” argues d’Alessandro. “Look at the individual services and you’ll see that they’ve been around forever. It used to be called independent distribution and the distributors, on occasion, would provide additional services such as promotion and marketing, whether outsourcing it altogether or having an in-house PR team and label managers to coordinate the effort.
     “So is it any different this time, or is it cosmetics and we’re just calling an old set up with a fancy new name? I think there is a difference and it’s all in the mind-set. Label services allows the repertoire owners to concentrate on what they should really be doing which is A&R, finding, nurturing and taking the next big talent to the world.
     “Breaking an artist is hard enough both creatively and financially without independent labels having to take on a financial burden that is going to cripple them at the first failure, and this business has a much higher rate of failure than it does of success.”
     International Solutions’ primary focus is international promotion and marketing. The company designs and executes multi-territory campaigns for album releases, single campaigns and international tours. “We work with an extensive network of local promotion teams and ensure that projects are centrally and globally coordinated by our in-house teams on the ground in London, Amsterdam, New York and Melbourne,” says d’Alessandro.
     “We can create a bespoke extension of your in-house staff, expand your business infrastructure for the projects you need, when you need it, for as long as you need it and when the project is done, the infrastructure goes with it, until the next one.
     “From where we stand we are seeing more and more labels, big and small, come to this state of mind which is typical of other industries – film to name but one – where teams are assembled and dismantled for every single project. That to us is what label services should be about and it is how we approach it. It’s suited for artists and labels of all sizes because – again – it’s a mind-set.”
     Although d’Alessandro is an advocate for the label services model, he doesn’t see competition from long-established, traditional music companies as a problem, and is optimistic that both the traditional and non-traditional can exist together, which, he argues, will give artists more choice and allow for a healthier music industry.
     “What really matters is that the music industry as a whole finds ways to take music to fans and while doing that, generates enough revenue for the performers and the songwriters to make a living and continue to grace their fans with their music,” he says.
“Our industry ecosystem has faced – and is still facing – serious threats to its existence, so the more ways we can find to sustain it, the better. More traditional label signings or more label-service based releases? More of both please.”
     The label services sector, like the rest of the music industry, has had to adapt to the shift from physical to digital and many labels have had to partner with label services companies who can provide full digital, physical and marketing services in order to consolidate their businesses.”
     “The fact that the industry continues to evolve at such a frantic pace means that there are new challenges for everyone each week,” says Semmence. “We have to be forward-thinking and flexible in order to keep our clients and services ahead of the curve. 
     “Whether it’s integrating with new digital platforms or implementing new digital marketing techniques to amplify a campaign’s reach, anyone worth their salt in this sector has to adjust their approach constantly to meet their clients’ needs and the demands of the modern market.”
     Believe’s Rimmer says: “These modern services have become key. Artists want the contemporary route to market with digital, streaming and video included, with the possibility to upstream into the full service solution including physical and traditional marketing.
     “Consolidating our physical distribution network with a reduction in the physical market has also been a tough challenge. We’ve overcome this by signing new deals with strong partners who offer wide service in key territories – such as Proper and Alliance. For example, Proper will provide warehousing and shipment logistics centrally for Believe.
     “Another challenge has been converting high streaming numbers - often occurring through heavy playlist additions through curation - into committed fan bases to provide multi-revenue streams and add to their own repeat listen playlists.”
     An additional challenge associated with digital grow this the increasingly large volume of data that needs to be processed by label services companies, according to !K7’s Hughes.
     “The scale and complexity of data that grows even bigger daily and the aggregating of multiple platforms simultaneously to achieve the most effective impact with the elements of each campaign [is challenging],” he says.
     “We are seeing how IT solutions are coming more into play in order to come up with answers to be able to manage data and processes in one manageable, central platform and it’s something we are driving within !K7.
    “Labels and artists want access to real time trends around real time events so it needs to be readily available in order to measure future performance and strategy.”
     Republic Of Music’s McQuillan also mentions digital growth as a challenge and tells Music Week that declining download sales, which are being replaced by streaming revenues have been a major obstacle his company has had to overcome in recent years.
     “You are often expected to cash flow a campaign and via streaming the revenue flows through far slower than it did with downloads, meaning it can take a lot longer to start seeing decent returns for your investments,” he explains.
     “Embracing the streaming model and helping labels to maximize their promotion on the key sites has been a challenge and I think now most labels and artists are seeing the benefits in return for time spent engaging with fans via artist playlists and on air/on sale streaming.
     “[Label services] will naturally evolve in the way music sales will in general across physical and digital going forward, with label services moving towards working closely with bands to create high end product for the core fan base and vinyl continuing to flourish, coupled with streaming becoming the norm for digital.”
     McQuillan suggests that, in future, we can expect to see the label services sector placing more of an emphasis on non-traditional methods to engage fans. “The emphasis will be on companies like Republic Of Music continuing to work very closely with artists and labels to create compelling offers and products that stores can sell and fans want to buy,” he says.
     “In a few years’ time there will be a much higher percentage of sales via direct-to-fan initiatives set up by label services companies and artists,” he adds. “If more and more artists choose to retain their rights and self-release then obviously this is good news for the so-called label services sector.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2016



An EXCLUSIVE interview 

    Although she is forever associated with the late ‘70s Los Angeles Punk scene, Alice Bag’s journey over the last forty years has taken her everywhere from East L.A. to Nicaragua and back again. To some, she remains the lead vocalist of The Bags, but there is far more to Alice Bag than a rare Punk single and an appearance in the documentary The Decline Of Western Civilization (as The Alice Bag Band). Her status as a legendary Punk pioneer led to a career as a highly respected educator, feminist activist, and author. Her critically acclaimed books Violence Girl (2011) and Pipe Bomb For The Soul (2015) have been warmly embraced by her longtime fans and those who were previously unfamiliar with her musical career. She has inspired generations of young girls and women with her outspoken and thoughtful views on feminism. While largely absent from the music scene over the years, Alice has taken the Punk esthetic and made a real difference in the lives of those she has inspired. She may not have sold millions of records over the years, but she has remained true to her cause, and in turn, made an impact that is still being felt.
    Surprisingly, nearly forty years after she started her musical career, Alice Bag is finally releasing her very first full-length album. Anyone expecting Alice to dip back into the past and relive her glory days with The Bags will be sorely disappointed. Instead, Alice incorporates many of her musical influences into a cohesive collection of songs that range from edgy Garage/Punk nuggets to instantly hummable ‘60s pop gems. The raw, straightforward production adds a tense atmosphere to the recordings, allowing Alice’s emotions to run free. There is some darkness in her lyrics although they are far from hopeless – she allows the listener to fill in some of the blanks and react accordingly. However, the album is filled with wonderful melodies and inventive arrangements. At its core it is Punk, but only in spirit. Musically, it is a potpourri of influences reaching back to the ‘60s. Like any good album, Punk or not, it turns expectations into revelations. The album Alice Bag is a superb look at the modern world by someone who has seen it all. It is intelligent without being preachy and raw without losing its playful charm – a simple, heartfelt triumph that sounds better with each spin.
   Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with Alice Bag about her album and her music career…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: How are you feeling about your journey to make this album and the reaction you’ve had to it so far?
ALICE BAG: I’ve had it under wraps so nobody has heard it except the people that played on it – they were excited about it. No one else has heard it! I’m nervous and excited to see how people react. I’m happy with it and for me, that’s it. You never know what a critic is going to say but I’m happy with it and the people that played on it are satisfied and that is as much as I want. I want to feel proud of what I’ve done… and I do.

SPAZ: This album has been a long time coming. Are these songs that you built up over time or did you actively start writing them for this particular project?
ALICE: I didn’t start writing for this particular record but most of the songs are newer. I was living in Arizona for a while so I didn’t have my usual posse of musicians that I had grown up with. In Los Angeles, if I wanted to do something, I’d just call somebody I knew and say, “Let’s form a band” or “Let’s work on a song.” In Arizona, I was living on the outskirts of Phoenix. In order to find people to play with, it was a little more challenging. I spent a lot of time writing on my own – I bought this five- dollar Garage Band app and started writing. I think for me, being isolated and having this app and having my instruments and a lot of solitude was really productive.

SPAZ: You’ve been making music for forty years, yet this is the first full-length album you’ve ever released. Is it a liberating experience to finally be able to express yourself over the course of a full album project?
ALICE: It was really difficult. I have a binder at home with maybe forty or fifty songs that I’ve written over the years. And they are all over the place, musically. I’m not just a Punk lover – I love so many different types of music. When I write, those different influences come out in my writing. Trying to narrow it down to an album that is eclectic but also cohesive was really difficult. That was the hard thing – to show who I am and to not appear to be all over the place, and to have some range at the same time.

SPAZ: People are going to be surprised by the sheer diversity of the album. Did you have a clear idea on what you wanted the album to sound like or did it organically grow into what it became?
ALICE: It was organic. When I was selecting the songs, I wanted to show different sides of me. When I was selecting musicians, I didn’t just pick one band to play on all the tracks – I thought of each musician’s strength and style and tried to serve the song.

SPAZ: This album is chock full of great melodies and hooks. Lyrics are important but the right song can convey a feeling more than the words can.
ALICE: When you’re a melody person, you realize that words can only get you so far. Sometimes, the beauty of art ­– and music – is that you can express things that are outside of the verbal realm. You can connect with people through the art itself. Through the sound.

SPAZ: With that being said, you deal with many issues on this album. When you write a song like “He’s So Sorry,” the ‘victim’ may see themselves in those lyrics, but do you feel that the perp will recognize themselves in those lyrics?
ALICE: I think there are people that are always going to hide behind what has happened to them and make excuses for the way they are, and there are people who are going to recognize that they need to own their lives and steer them in the direction they want them to go. The aggressor may see him or herself as being in a position of power but aggression does not equal power. Control is power, calm deliberate action is power. I think that is a more complex situation. Each case of abuse is different. “He’s So Sorry” was inspired by two things. One, I was having a conversation with a friend and she was in an abusive situation and she didn’t recognize it for what it was. We had several conversations and she eventually started to figure it out. The other inspiration was Phil Spector. I thought of how my generation grew up listening to the girl group sound and we loved it, but a lot of the messages were like ‘he hit me and it felt like a kiss’ and ‘I’m going to follow him wherever he goes’. It was very subservient. And then there was the history of how he treated Ronnie Spector. Phil Spector himself ended up killing a woman! With all of that, I wanted to have a chance to take the music I loved so much and re-work the content so that you can appreciate the music, and also take away the message that the things that have been said in the past were not OK.

SPAZ: As a lyricist and author, do you sometimes have to make a compromise with your lyrics in order to make them fit the music you’ve written? Or does the music influence which set of lyrics you decide to use?
ALICE: I work in such a weird way. When I’m writing lyrics, I write a whole bunch of stuff and I end up throwing it into a pot and seeing how it works. It really happens simultaneously for me. I have my list of lyrics and I’ll pull out my guitar or keyboard and start singing different things and see how they work together. I could never write all the music first or all the lyrics first. I can brainstorm pieces of each thing and then start combining them. That’s how I write.

SPAZ: Has the experience of making this album encouraged you to start putting another project together, or is that a decision you’ll make somewhere down the line?
ALICE: I definitely want to start writing again but I want to take the time to enjoy this album, enjoy its release. I really do want to play a few shows and spread the word – let people know it’s out. It’s been a really long time since I went out and played with a band. I don’t know if people will remember me or that they’ll be interested.
SPAZ: People are really excited about this album. Interest in Alice Bag goes all the way back to the film The Decline Of Western Civilization
ALICE: It’s funny because I didn’t really want to be in the movie but it’s turned out to help me!

SPAZ: The album’s mixture of styles and the simple, almost raw production makes the album sound timeless in many ways. Was that your intention when deciding how you wanted it to sound?
ALICE: I wasn’t thinking in terms of when people would think it was recorded. I know I have a particular style and I wondered if young people would be able to relate to it. I hope people are open-minded and give it a listen.

SPAZ: What do you want the listener to walk away with after listening to the album?
ALICE: I want them to walk away with a melody that they can’t get out of their head all day! (Laughs)

ANNDY HOSIER (Guest Question): What is your take on women in music today and how is it better or worse than when you started out, especially in a genre dominated by men?
ALICE: Well, I think it’s a lot better. I do a lot of readings and I’m often invited to read in situations where there are young bands playing. Most bands have at least one woman in them, if not more. I see a lot of female musicians. It seems to have come full circle. When the early L.A. Punk scene started, there were a lot of girls, but then for a while it became very male-dominated and you didn’t see the women anymore apart from being shoved off to the side while all the guys were banging into each other in the pit. Then, there was the Riot Grrrl movement. Now, it seems like people can respect each other again and still go crazy but not deliberately exclude anyone. These may just be shows that I’m invited to attend – maybe these people are more open-minded. I’m sure that somewhere, there are those shows that women are pushed to the back. I just see a lot more women playing. The fact that there are Girl Rock camps is very encouraging. It is so rewarding to see little girls pick up instruments and just say, “I’m going to be a musician when I grow up!” and to know that they have a support system. We didn’t have that when I was growing up. Most of the girls that were being written about when I was growing up were the groupies – they were getting the publicity!
SPAZ: I like the fact that when an all-female band comes on the scene, it is no longer a novelty like it was in the past. It is now the norm.
ALICE: Yes! That is so exciting. It’s wonderful.
SPAZ: When The Go-Go’s released their first album, a lot of people assumed that they must have had some kind of male Svengali behind the scenes writing all their material.
ALICE: I remember people saying, “Oh, but they can’t play!” And I’m thinking, “What do you mean?” They thought The Germs were great – and the Germs were great – but The Go-Go’s, in my opinion, wrote better songs and played better than The Germs, yet were criticized for not being able to play! Come on! (Laughs)

SPAZ: What’s next for Alice Bag?
ALICE: I want to support the record. I want to continue to write music. I want to continue to paint. The possibilities are endless!

Thanks to Alice Bag
Special thanks to Steve Dixon, Anndy Hosier and Nick Kominitsky


Available on CD and LP