Thursday, October 27, 2016



An EXCLUSIVE interview 

    While The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks may have received more press coverage over the years, there is no denying that The Moody Blues are one of the greatest British Rock bands of all time. From their rough and raw R&B roots in the mid ‘60s to their Symphonic Rock masterpieces in the latter part of that decade, The Moody Blues reinvented themselves while also inventing Progressive Rock. Their continued success throughout the ‘70s, ‘80s, and beyond has ensured that new generations of fans have been able to experience their well-crafted Rock and Pop first hand. The simple fact that they are not in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame is an embarrassment to Rock Music itself.
   One of the band’s driving forces, Justin Hayward, composed and sang the band’s biggest commercial hits ("Nights In White Satin,” “Your Wildest Dreams,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” etc.) and has managed to balance a solo career in between his Moody Blues commitments. Hayward remains an exceptional songwriter nearly 50 years after he scored his first Moodies milestone (“Nights In White Satin”) and is arguably one of the finest vocalists in British Rock/Pop history. Though not a prolific artist these days, Hayward’s solo material is just as emotionally powerful as anything he has released with The Moody Blues. Under-appreciated by mainstream press for too long, Justin Hayward certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Ray Davies and Pete Townshend if not Jagger/Richards or Lennon/McCartney.
    Released just weeks apart, there are two Justin Hayward titles that focus on his solo material… with just a pinch of The Moody Blues to entice you. The first, ALL THE WAY, is a CD that collects fifteen solo recordings and offers a great introduction into his non-Moodies catalog. The second release is a most excellent DVD, LIVE IN CONCERT AT THE CAPITOL THEATRE. Filmed in 2014 during Justin’s tour for his SPIRITS OF THE WESTERN SKY album, the DVD finds Justin in great form performing solo and Moodies hits with equal amounts of love and passion. Aided by guitarist Mike Dawes and keyboardist/backing vocalist Julie Ragins, this trio breathes new life into Hayward’s back catalog including some of his biggest and best-known tracks. To see an artist perform a fifty year old song with as much conviction as a new composition is inspiring.
     Expertly captured by director/film-maker/composer David Minasian, LIVE IN CONCERT AT THE CAPITOL THEATRE is a warm and wonderful experience to behold. As an added bonus, the DVD features the video to the brand new song “The Wind Of Heaven,” which is also featured on the ALL THE WAY CD collection. The beautifully photographed "Wind of Heaven" music video, co-directed by David Minasian and Trinity Houston, is a prelude to an upcoming major motion picture by the same producing duo. The song itself is a rare collaboration for Justin who co-wrote the epic piece with David. Justin, who readily admits he's never really been successful writing with other people, believes "The Wind of Heaven" to be one of the nicest things he's ever done.
    Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to spend some time chatting with Justin Hayward about the new DVD, The Moody Blues and more…


STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: How are you feeling about the release of the LIVE IN CONCERT AT THE CAPITOL THEATRE DVD and the reaction to it so far?
JUSTIN HAYWARD: The show is a real pleasure for me. I’m working with the two musicians that I treasure most in my life – Mike Dawes and Julie Ragins. They are the best musicians I’ve ever played with on record or anywhere. It’s a joy every night to be with them. I’m very pleased that David took this opportunity to record and film this show. I’m so glad he did.

SPAZ: With just the three of you, you’d expect a stripped down sound, but it still sounds very powerful and passionate. Mike and Julie really seem to understand where the songs come from on an emotional level.
JUSTIN: That’s right, they do. This is often how the songs were recorded. Tony Clarke in the early days, Tony Visconti later on and even Chris Neil – these producers had a style of putting the acoustic guitars more up front in the mix. Usually, the rhythm section was bass with acoustic guitar and (original Moody Blues keyboardist) Mike Pinder playing tambourine – that’s how a lot of things would start. In some ways, these versions are true to the original recordings because of the mix with acoustic up front. That’s how I came to the band – as an acoustic player. This is how the songs were written, this is how they sound in my music room. Julie is doing a lot of the parts that I would have put on my original demos. So, these arrangements are true to how they were written.

SPAZ: How did you come to choose the CAPITOL Theatre as the venue to film this performance?
JUSTIN: It wasn’t my choice – it was the choice of the venue, who were really open to having cameras in it. They were the one place on that tour that had the space and locations to put cameras without them bothering other people. They were the one place that had everything that we needed and they were open to us doing it.

SPAZ: Do you trust David’s vision on how to best represent Justin Hayward visually?
JUSTIN: Yes, I do trust him. Absolutely. He’s got a love of the music and a love of the pictures that is hard to find. I know the Moodies have done stuff and, in the end, we’ve had to cobble it together to find some decent shots. But David already knew what he wanted to do and where he wanted to focus.

SPAZ: Your solo shows are far more intimate than your performances with The Moody Blues. Do you have a preference in regards to which concert setting you prefer?
JUSTIN: I love both of the formats but I probably take more pleasure out of the acoustic performances because I can hear every nuance. In the studio, you can get the balance between drums and the other instruments perfectly. You still can’t do that on stage. The Moodies has two drummers and whatever you do, you have to raise to the level of those drums, which are loud. It’s always been a dilemma. There wasn’t a way to amplify an acoustic guitar until the late ‘80s when they started having good under-bridge pickups. I struggle now in the Moodies shows to do a couple songs with an acoustic – it’s still fighting over the sound of a big P.A. and drums. But I don’t favor one concert setting over the other – both are great for me. As long as the Moodies continue to be genuine and honest, then it will be a part of my life.

SPAZ: Do you find the songs take on a different meaning in this intimate setting because you can see how they connect with the audience?
JUSTIN: I do. Everything is built around the voice, which is in the center. Julie and I have worked together for long enough now that we’ve become like one voice – she knows my nuances and the little touches that I like to have in there. And we can hear each other perfectly. It’s a pleasure to do in a room like this. On the UK tour that we just did, Live Nation booked me in a lot of bigger venues – venues that The Moody Blues play! All of us were a bit worried that it wouldn’t translate but it was absolutely brilliant. It just meant that we could fill an auditorium with the sound of just the three of us and it would still be about the vocal performances and the meaning of the words.
SPAZ: I love Julie’s voice because she has such a nice range. At times, it seems as if your voices become one.
JUSTIN: She works on that! She does at least half-an-hour practice in her room before every gig. She’s able to open up her voice with a real discipline that I really admire.

SPAZ: Your solo work is often overlooked compared to the enormous popularity of the Moodies catalog. Have you or would you consider doing solo gigs without throwing in a few Moody Blues classics?
JUSTIN: They are still my songs whether they are Moodies songs or not. They are songs I’ve written down through the years and they are still very dear to me. I think that there are probably about four songs that wouldn’t be right for me to leave out. I do think that people expect to hear the guy who wrote and sang the song originally to do them… and they are a pleasure for me. It’s not a problem what we play – it’s what we leave out!

SPAZ: For the most part, the members of The Moody Blues have avoided gossip magazines and tabloids over the years, so their private lives are often shrouded in mystery. Do your songs tell us all you want us to know about Justin Hayward?
JUSTIN: Well, they are from the heart – that’s all I can say. If I don’t do them with honesty and sincerity, they don’t work. You don’t have to have lived everything to mean it or for it to come from the heart. But 75% of it is from my own life and people that I know and love.

SPAZ: This live release reveals that you are both an understated and underrated guitar player. Do you feel, as a guitarist, you’ve been overlooked?
JUSTIN: I don’t think so. It was a blessing for me that I was the only guitar player in the band. I think I had to learn to fill up the space with that guitar. I don’t think that anyone comes to a concert to look at my left hand (laughs) but that doesn’t bother me at all. I was lucky enough to get my first job as a guitar player with a Rock ‘n’ Roll singer called Marty Wilde. I could not believe that he gave me the job as his guitar player. Then, it was a baptism by fire – I had to do it and take that role. Still, I can only engineer what seems right for me. And for me, it’s usually about simplicity and melody lines. It’s not about technique for me.

SPAZ: For the first time ever, you performed the 1970 Moody Blues track “You Can Never Go Home” live. When pulling an obscure gem like that out of your catalog and adding it to your set list, do you have to go back and reacquaint yourself with that song, or does it just come back to you naturally?
JUSTIN: It’s somewhere locked away in an automatic place in my memory. As soon as I started to think about the first couple of chords, it all came flooding back to me. It’s always a dilemma when you return to things that you only ever spent maybe two days on in the studio to do originally and you haven’t ever played since – I haven’t even listened to them since. I remember where the emotional points were for that song and I remember what was going on in my life. It puts me right back in that moment. Music has that power to do that for people who just love music, as I do. It also has that power for writers as well. I remember what I was going through emotionally then – I was losing people and there was a lot of grief around my life. It was a difficult time for me, those early years of the Moodies. And to actually bring that back again, it’s worth remembering to value what there is now.

SPAZ: You deliver every song – new and old – with such conviction and passion. How difficult is it to connect with a song like “Nights In White Satin” when you’ve probably performed it around 4,057 times?
JUSTIN: “Nights…,” “Question” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” are songs that the audience brings something to every night. They provide some kind of magic. You can’t expect to evoke a great emotion at a sound check – it’s when you start playing it, and you start feeling the atmosphere in the room of what it means in some peoples’ lives. It’s quite important to them, and they bring an emotional feeling into the room that is just wonderful and very moving. It’s not something you ever get tired of.

SPAZ: For the compilation ALL THE WAY, was it difficult to choose which tracks you wanted to use to best represent your solo career?
JUSTIN: I left it to a friend of mine, Mark Powell, who had a list of maybe thirty or forty songs, and we just had to decide which songs were right for the single CD version. I thought it was better to have someone else’s opinion because I was just too close to the material.

SPAZ: What’s next for Justin Hayward?
JUSTIN: I don’t know what’s in the future. The Moodies are always  being asked to tour. In fact, we are being offered more work now than we ever have been.  I’ll see the other guys and see how they feel, what their priorities are. I will be keeping Mike and Julie with me, that’s for certain. Recording and working with David on "The Wind of Heaven" has been an absolute joy, so I'm hoping there will be some more new things coming.

Thanks to Justin Hayward
Special thanks to Larry Germack, Trinity Houston, Jamie Tinnes, Zack Fischel, Dave Rayburn and Nick Kominitsky


Available NOW!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

THE LEGAL MATTERS: Introducing The Band

Introducing The Band:

      The Legal Matters personify the sound of Power Pop. Their music manages to include huge portions of Power Pop’s three key ingredients — melodic hooks, luscious harmonies and shimmering guitars. They also manage to squeeze in plenty of warmth, heart, and honesty. The band’s three members – Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith – are first and foremost music fans who just happen to be musicians. The three members have been making music separately for years (Andy as An American Underdog, Chris with The Subtractions and Keith and Chris with The Phenomenal Cats) but once they combined forces as The Legal Matters, they became arguably the finest indie Pop band in the U.S. Their self-titled 2014 debut album was damn near a masterpiece – a perfect blend of Beatles, Jellyfish, Teenage Fanclub and just about every other melodic Guitar Pop band you could think of. Add in some spine-tingling chord changes and lovely harmonies and it was a stunning tour-de-force-de-pop! But where do you go if you’ve already recorded one of the best indie Power Pop albums of the decade? Well, you’ll just have to ask CONRAD
    Released on October 28th, 2016, The Legal Matters follow-up their smashing debut with an album that lives up to expectations… and then some! Not only have they come up with yet another batch of great songs, the trio have upped the vocal harmony ante on CONRAD. The harmonies are so airy, light and beautiful that they sound like they are literally floating above the music. CONRAD’s opener, “Anything,” picks up where their debut left off and sets up the mood of the album perfectly. However, CONRAD is a slightly different beast. Sure, the same influences are there – the guitars jangle and shimmer, the melodies sneak up and wrap around your heart like a Christmas bow — but this time, like I stated before, they really stepped up to the plate with vocal arrangements. You know all those great harmonies you love on Beach Boys records? Well, Andy, Chris and Keith love them, too, so they invited them to the party and CONRAD is that much more beautiful for it. CONRAD is far from a carbon copy of their debut – it is more like an upgrade with bonus features. I’m purposely trying to avoid talking about any of the other songs on the album because I don’t want to give away any spoilers. Let’s just say that CONRAD will make you forget the election and all the tragedies of the world and you’ll be able to fall in love with life all over again. And you may even weep a little. Or a lot.
I was able to send some questions over to the boys in the band and they graciously took time out of their busy schedules to answer them…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Please introduce yourselves!
ANDY REED: Hello, my name is Andy. I play bass, guitar, keys, and sing in The Legal Matters. I run a recording studio in Bay City, MI called Reed Recording Co.
CHRIS RICHARDS: Hi, I’m Chris. I’m a Gemini and enjoy roller-skating when not occasionally playing guitar and singing in The Legal Matters.
KEITH KLINGENSMITH: Keith here, I mainly concentrate on the harmonies in the band. I also run a pop label called Futureman Records.

SPAZ: Can you fill us in on this new little platter of yours?
ANDY: CONRAD is our second record as a band. This album has a little more of a defined sound. We had a specific vision of making an album that felt like a journey. We really focused even more on the vocal elements to compliment the songs we were working on. It really came together nicely. We are also excited to have Omnivore Recordings putting the record out.
CHRIS: Yes! CONRAD is our second record. We had a blast making this record. We took a different approach than the first (where we recorded all the principle tracks over the course of six days) to spreading the sessions over a few months – giving us a chance to write songs during that period…and I really think the results speak for themselves.
KEITH: Great songs from all and harmonies everywhere! So excited to have Omnivore in our corner for this one – it’s gonna be fun.

SPAZ: Which song off of the album do you feel best defines the essence of the album and/or what the band is all about, musically?
ANDY: That's really a tough one for me as I'm attached to all of them equally. I'm not bailing on the question. I really just don't know. Without any of them, this record doesn't feel the same.
CHRIS: We set out to make a harmony based record, first and foremost. So I feel that “Pull My String” really validates our efforts. That song and its harmonies clearly show our intent.
KEITH: I’d be good with any LM’s song representing what we’re about, but I think the first song on CONRAD, “Anything,” is the perfect representation of where we are now. A great song that’s a little further beyond what we would have done on the first record in almost every department.

SPAZ: In this age of streaming, the concept of the album as an art form seems to have been lost in the digital shuffle. Did you approach this project as a whole piece of work or do you view it more like a collection of individual songs that you felt work together well?
ANDY: It's definitely one complete idea. The artwork, the recording, and the songs are a piece of the puzzle. We hope that people treat it like an album and give it a listen as a whole.
CHRIS: Unfortunately you cannot change the way an individual decides to take in their entertainment nowadays – I’m pleased in general when someone makes that choice to buy and enjoy our music. Now I’d be lying if I didn’t state that I wish people would listen to the record as we intended folks to listen to it. It doesn’t tell a story, but the songs progress in a way that really makes them shine.
KEITH: We’re all LP guys, grew up with albums and still think in albums. We record with that in mind, and could probably never sequence a record without thinking of it as “Side 1” and “Side 2.”

SPAZ: When you began the songwriting and recording process, did you already have a fully-formed idea of how you wanted the end product to sound like or did it come together organically?
ANDY: I knew that the songs would be there. Since I was recording it I did have it in my head that I wanted this record to breathe and have space. That can be tough when adding a ton of elements, but I was determined to get it to feel that way. I think we achieved that. It was tricky.
CHRIS: Pretty organically – we generally let the song take shape. I know it sounds strange, but really songs have a destiny in a sense. Our job was to attempt to capture those moments.
KEITH: From my point of view, we haven’t recorded a song yet that fought us as it grew from demo to fully realized. Those songs just seem to grow naturally into Legal Matters tracks.

SPAZ: As a songwriter working in a group with equally talented writers and performers, is there a lot of give and take involved with making an album, or were you all on the same wavelength with this batch of songs?
ANDY: We are pretty much always on the same page. We all love a lot of the same music. We are also fans of each other so it's inspiring to work on each other's tunes. That always helps to keep things fresh. It also helps you step up your game too when you are in a band with great songwriters.
CHRIS: There’s always give and take – but when you can work well with others in a collaborative environment, it’s not that difficult. Keith and Andy are pros, but friends first.
KEITH: A lot of ideas get tossed around, but we’re so similar in sensibilities and general mindset, most of the suggestions are right in line with how we all see the track progressing. And that’s no matter who wrote the song, everyone is truly enthusiastic about the other two’s input.

SPAZ: Given the opportunity, an artist could tinker with an album for years before finally releasing it to the world. Are you happy with the release of the album at the moment or are you still in the ‘I wish I could go back and add this or change that’ stage?
ANDY: I think I'm the one that would struggle with this the most but I wouldn't change a note.
CHRIS: Andy’s right – this one really felt right on the first go round. I wouldn’t change a thing.
KEITH: Andy is absolutely the one that that applies to. We give him a couple of weeks for tweaks after he first promises he’s done and won’t touch it again, but MAN that final result...

SPAZ: Listening to an album, one can decipher some of the main musical influences that helped shape that artist. However, there can also be some surprising influences as well. Who would you pick as your chief musical influences on this album?
ANDY: For me, it's actually a cross between George Martin and Brian Wilson. Those two are my heroes. I'm always paying close attention to the production side of things. The sound of the tambourine is just as important as the guitar to me. Every piece matters. Detail was very important on this one. Brian was the master at being an artist and producer at the same time as well. It can be tough when a band produces their own music. The focus can shift a lot.
CHRIS: We all have a common core of artists that make us tick – the Beatles/Beach Boys/Big Star – so that blueprint will always be our backdrop.
KEITH: I had Teenage Fanclub on the brain for a few songs on this one, and I think we did a good job going “full Fanclub” on the couple of tracks that applied to (which are still my faves!)

SPAZ: Did you have any non-musical influences that inspired you during the making of the album?
ANDY: My grandmother was living her last days as we were finishing the album. She was always in my thoughts. She was also the first one to show me how to play piano when I was a kid. Definitely a huge influence on me in every aspect of my life.
CHRIS: The people that make us all strive to be better, as people or musicians, are always gonna be family and friends. I have an amazing supportive team around me 24/7.
KEITH: There were a couple of moments where we’re, “Oh man, this is gonna KILL Spaz.” (Seriously!)

SPAZ: Was there a particular moment during the writing or recording when you realized that you were definitely making something special?
ANDY: It’s really tough to pick a specific point. We always knew we had the potential to do it. The first album was definitely a great way to start a recording career. We were also testing the waters. This time we brought our best so we kind of thought that the end result would be something special, at least to us anyways.
CHRIS: I think we felt that way from moments on the first record ­– so the second confirmed that from the first session for the first track – “Anything.”
KEITH: It takes me some time to stop hearing things as individual songs that grew in the studio and to be able to hear it as a real record. Once I got to the point where I could hear it as CONRAD though, I sure felt like we had a big winner.

SPAZ: What is next for the band?
ANDY: Album number 3!
CHRIS: We want to get through these first couple months of live shows…and hopefully take it to the people in Cleveland-NY-Chicago-Boston. Then start album #3!
KEITH: We’ve got our first full band live shows coming up to support this record; gonna be fun to hear these songs big and live. THEN Album number 3!

SPAZ: What are you currently spinning on your CD and record players?
ANDY: John Paul White, Tuns, The Lemon Twigs, Dawes, and a lot of 70s Beach Boys.
CHRIS: Music is very plentiful right now – loving new records by Tuns, Nada Surf, Allah Las and the immaculate Rolling Stones mono LP box!
KEITH: New Teenage Fanclub, Bill Shaouy, Tuns, The Flat Five and Nick Piunti.

Thanks to Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith
Special thanks to Nick Kominitsky





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



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