Tuesday, July 12, 2016

PETER COYLE: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with the legendary Liverpudlian music maker and Lotus Eaters frontman!



PETER COYLE:
An EXCLUSIVE Q&A!

Deep In The Music - 
From THE LOTUS EATERS 
To The Digital Age


     Over three decades after he first entered the charts in the UK with The Lotus Eaters, Peter Coyle remains one of the most under-rated singer/songwriters in the UK. He made a splash with the truly memorable “The First Picture Of You” single in 1983 and instantly became a proper Pop star. Featured on magazine covers, pull out posters and Top Of The Pops, The Lotus Eaters – vocalist Coyle and guitarist Jem Kelly (The Wild Swans) – conquered the charts and became ‘overnight’ sensations. “The First Picture Of You” may have been a catchy first hit but it was far from your standard ‘80s assembly line Pop song. This single, like much of the 1984 album No Sense Of Sin (expanded edition via Cherry Red), was multi-layered – a glossy slice of melancholy filled with heart, soul, love, fear, hope, purity, longing and a sense of wonder. The Lotus Eaters were a very unique and gentle band that their label tried to mould into a slick, chart-friendly pop duo ala Tears For Fears and China Crisis. However, Coyle and Kelly refused to alter their musical vision to fit someone else’s idea of what The Lotus Eaters were all about. Their follow-up singles and debut album sounded like nothing else in the charts and this confused the label’s marketing team and the public alike. Unfortunately, the band split in 1985 before recording a second album. Jem went back to The Wild Swans while Peter focused on an eclectic and independent solo career. (In 1987, Coyle won the US Billboard Album of the Year for his critically acclaimed double album A Slap in the Face for Public Taste. A year later he released his groundbreaking album I’d Sacrifice Eight Orgasms With Shirley MacClaine Just To Be There. It was at this time that Peter Coyle formed the most successful dance club in the UK called G-Love and created the Eight Productions moniker to create dance floor classics such as 'Sly One' by Marina Van Rooy and 'Hard' by Connie Lush
     By the turn of the millennium, there had been a critical reappraisal of The Lotus Eaters’ small but beloved catalogue and the duo reunited to play some shows. In 2001, the duo released their second album, Silentspace (available via Cherry Red), proving that they were still a highly unique musical force, mixing gorgeous melodies with Coyle’s emotive voice. The album was embraced by longtime fans and critics but was released on an indie label that struggled with delivering their music to a wider audience. While Coyle and Kelly have continued to occasionally work together over the years, they have yet to release a follow-up to Silentspace. Coyle returned to a solo career, releasing a series of remarkable albums independently including Earthspace, Stay Deep In The Music, The Mood Machine, and Meltdown For The Mindless and G-Metrix’s Kiss the Vision. Always one to wear his heart on his sleeve, his solo recordings are more intimate than The Lotus Eaters’ releases yet they still possess the same heartwarming charm that was first apparent on “The First Picture Of You.”
     More recently, Coyle has stopped releasing physical product and focuses on issuing digital only singles every month. This allows him to work independently. He understands that without a genuine platform his music is destined for obscurity but he is adamant that the only thing that counts is the body of work. Again, these musical moments are unlike anything else you’ll hear on any digital platform yet they are tailored to fit every mood – the same song can make you sob if you’re sad and bring joy to your heart if you are feeling particularly optimistic. The only other artist who can do that so effortlessly is The Durutti Column. Coyle’s recordings have the extra added bonus of his vocals, which come from deep within the soul. He lives and breathes this music and it can be felt as well as heard in his songs. Why a record label – major, indie or boutique – doesn’t snap up his recordings is a tragedy.
     Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to send off some questions to Peter, who graciously took time to answer them…



STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: You first came to public attention in 1983 with The Lotus Eaters and the release of your single “The First Picture Of You”.  Coming out of Liverpool, a city with a rich musical history, what was it like growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s?
PETER COYLE: Life is hard for everyone… it was hard for me… as it was obvious that I was a freak… and the concept of fitting in was a complete nonstarter… but there was no language to express that energy…until music came into my life…and i am very grateful to music for that…music has been my salvation and my refuge…i am very lucky to have lived the life i have lived…a life deep in music…

SPAZ: People often associate Liverpool with the ‘60s British invasion but did you find the late ‘70s an exciting time with bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, Yachts, etc.?
PETER: Music is part of the make-up of Liverpool… I used to just walk around the city and you could almost touch the atmosphere… it was very energizing and a beautiful thing…one of the key aspects of coming from Liverpool is that it encourages you to think in an independent way…and I will always be forever grateful for that…music for a lot of us was the only option…it gave us the chance to express ourselves and find a way out of the desperate situation we found ourselves in…

SPAZ: You hooked up with guitarist Jem Kelly, who had left The Wild Swans. When The Lotus Eaters first started, what was the musical climate like? There were still a lot of great Liverpudlian bands at the time including The Icicle Works, China Crisis, OMD, A Flock Of Seagulls
PETER: There was music everywhere…i was in the Jass Babies and we just could not get anyone interested in what we were doing…i think it was because we were very different… and no one had any money and the rehearsal spaces were full of cups drenched in mold… but it was a magical time and I am very lucky to have been in such a charged up atmosphere…everything was buzzing…everyone was hoping…everyone was trying to make something that cut through the noise…


SPAZ: The music you created was entirely unique. Production-wise, it seemed to fit in with what was happening in ’83 and ’84 yet the songs were unlike anything else going on at the time.  Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted and did NOT want to do, musically?
PETER: It sounds naive now but we wanted to be original… and we wanted to do something beautiful… we didn't just want to fit in with the crowd… we wanted to be brave and do something different and I am proud of what we achieved creatively…we wanted to put our necks on the line…looking back on it…we were extremely brave…and in many ways absolutely clueless…which is part of the charm…

SPAZ: In recent years, I’ve seen the band referred to as Goth, which I believe goes completely against the positive nature of the band’s music. How would you classify The Lotus Eaters if you really had to?
PETER: Gentle melancholy… introspective… and deep… and coming from a different space… and feminine… and brave… and out there…melody and atmosphere…

SPAZ: Looking back at No Sense Of Sin, how do you feel about the album?  And were you pleased with the expanded CD reissue?
PETER:  Yes I am glad that the b-sides like “Two Virgins Tender” were on there… typically the b-sides were very important to us… which sounds like a contradiction…which it is… but it is the truth...


SPAZ: The band split after one album and a final single, the brilliant “It Hurts.” What led to this premature breakup?
PETER: During the French tour Jem decided to team up again with The Wild Swans and signed a two album deal with a Seymour Stein's Sire Records label…

SPAZ: You continued on a solo career that was low-key but contains so many unique and wonderful moments.  Do you plan to reissue any of your early solo releases?  Some of us have only ever heard them and have not been able to find copies!
PETER: that is very kind of you to say…it wasn’t my intention to be low key…but it was my intention to not waste a single moment and make sure that i followed my heart and not the money… I have done so much stuff that I am not even aware of what I have done… I like the idea of doing a ‘best of’ album that is only released after I am dead…

SPAZ: When you create music, as a member of Lotus Eaters and as a solo artist, where does the inspiration come from? Do you start with a musical idea or the lyrics first?  Or has it changed much over the years?
PETER: It changes all the time… the most important part of the process is to start and to then step back and let the creativity flow… again, it sounds very counter intuitive but it is the way it is… music is resonance and is a one to one function with resilience…



SPAZ: Interest in The Lotus Eaters continued which lead to a 2001 reunion album, Silentspace. The album continued your trend of creating unconventional yet beautiful Pop music. “Can Your Kisses Fly?” is especially glorious.  Was creating new music with Jem an enjoyable experience?  It sure sounded like it…
PETERI was in Edinburgh at the time at the university taking a much needed break from music so, yes, it was good to tie up some loose ends with the lotus eaters…it felt good to reconnect to that energy after so many years…


SPAZ: An acoustic Lotus Eaters album received limited release and it has been rumoured that there has been a new Lotus Eaters album in the works for years.  Are there any updates on a reissue of the acoustic album and a possible new album?
PETER: The acoustic album difference was never officially released unfortunately… it was recorded in 2001… a full studio album mixed and produced by Stephen Power was completed in 2009... but similarly that was never released either…i am hoping that we can release all our material together in one package at some point…

SPAZ: Going back to your solo material, do you write differently for each project or do they all manifest themselves in a similar fashion?  Songs like “Reach For The Sun” and so many others are just as moving as anything The Lotus Eaters released.
PETER:  If I don't write songs I can't breathe… it is as simple as that… every single day I wake up and try to write something beautiful that will change my world… I always hold the dream that it may change someone else's world also… but that is out of my control… I do what I do… and the world does what the world does… I am very focused… my goal, pure and simple, is to not waste a single moment on this earth… and to try and make music that counts… regardless of whether or not anyone listens to it… I am here to connect to music and there is only a finite time… all that matters is that I keep my end of the bargain… the rest is none of my business...



SPAZ:  Over the last few years, you’ve been releasing songs through various digital platforms as Peter Coyle Hijacked and Peter Coyle Fractal. What is the inspiration behind the names?
PETER: There is none… it is just that I have used so many different names and guises… that even I don't know what is happening… God knows what it is like for a member of the public… so I decided to just keep on using the same name as much as possible so now everything goes under the name Peter Coyle Fractalas it is easier for me and for everyone else… I use Peter Coyle Hijacked if I work with Yorkie… I use the name Peter Coyle And The Films Of Strawberry Black when I work with Thierry Bon and Bruno Preynat…on that point Thierry Bruno and I have a new album coming out called Strands of Slowness coming out in January 2017…

SPAZ: Your songs seem to come from a place filled with both beauty and pain.  Do you always write from the heart based on your own experiences or do you sometimes attempt to write from someone else’s perspective?
PETER: The best songs in my opinion are always written when it is from someone else's perspective but when you connect with it so much that people think that it comes from you… that is where things start getting interesting… most people think music is built on authorship and ownership… for me music is built on alchemy… and empathy...



SPAZ: Your music and lyrical approach remain honest and don’t conform to standard Pop formulas.  Is this intentional or do you find yourself unable to conform to any musical boundaries?
PETER: I love “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” (Procol Harum)… one of the greatest Pop songs ever… I love John Martyn… I love music that has its own structure… music by numbers that is designed to make money is for everyone else… I need love - real love to quote John Lennon… some of the greatest records ever have zero structure… they are just a surge of beautiful energy that comes to the surface… like the music of Erik Satie...

SPAZ: As with The Lotus Eaters, your solo recordings seem to revolve around emotion, both good and bad.  Do you think that heart and soul is missing in a lot of today’s music?
PETER:  There are people who play music… millions of them… and there are people who can't live without making music… I am in the latter category… every day I dream that I can make music… it is that innate in me… it is that integral to my very core… regardless of whether or not I sell records… that is neither here nor there… I stare at my fate every single day… and I am very conscious of the fact that I am going to be an old man who is staring at the face of failure… there is nothing wrong with that… I have spent my whole life distracting myself from real life by making music… that was my choice… and would be my choice if I had to live another thousand lives… although I am dearly hoping this is the last one… I am just eternally grateful to feel like I am connected to music and it is something that means everything to me…



SPAZ: Who have been some of your musical collaborators on your most recent recordings?
PETER: Recently I have had the pleasure of working with Phil Wake from Wake the Dead! Studios, Stephen Power, Erika Zueneli, Mal Holmes, Thierry Bon and Bruno Preynat and hopefully some new collaborations that are ongoing but I can't really divulge right now…

SPAZ: Do you have any plans to compile a physical release featuring some of your digital-only singles?
PETER: One of my heroes is Gaudi… and I love the fact that he put everything into his designs… I put everything into my music… and I would love it if a label approached me and said that they wanted to create physical releases for me… but that has not happened yet and time is short… my principal role is to make music… if I spent 95% of my time trying to get people interested I would be wasting my life… status is very nice and all that but is of no interest to me… the only thing I want on my gravestone is ‘music maker’...

SPAZ: What’s next for Peter Coyle?
PETER: I am trying to finish a song called ‘Sunset’ - I am hoping as I am always hoping that it is beautiful beyond belief but only time will tell… and I have a new single out in June July and  August called ‘The Wildflowers Of Fire, The Breakup and Homeless… and I am going to try and carry on releasing something every month even though it is extremely taxing and difficult to keep up… the only thing that matters is that I stay deep in the music…i am also hoping that i find time to just sit outside in the sunshine and enjoy the beautiful french countryside…



SPAZ: What are you currently listening to?
PETER: I am not listening to much at the moment as I have no time but in about a month's time I am going to force myself to put down tools and listen… listen and learn… and soak up… and connect with all the beautiful music out there… I love David Bowie's last album Blackstar and love him so much for making that album when he did… I like Radiohead’s new single “Burn The Witch”… I really enjoy listening to Morton Feldman and the Kronos Quartet… basically, I love all forms of music… and long may that continue…


Thanks to Peter Coyle

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

CHRIS COLLINGWOOD: An EXCLUSIVE interview with the LOOK PARK/FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE frontman!

    

LOOK POP:

An EXCLUSIVE interview 
with
CHRIS COLLINGWOOD



     When an artist attempts to alter their musical direction in even the slightest way, the final results are scrutinized by critics and hardcore fans alike. One of the few bands that were able to expand their artistic vision without losing their fan base was The Beatles. Since then, very few artists have been able to mature and grow without being lambasted on the internet by fans who felt betrayed by their beloved musical idols. Remember when Bob Dylan went electric in late 1965? One man yelled “Judas!” and the world spun off its axis. By the way, Dylan’s career recovered quite nicely, thank you! Even The Stranglers, one of the UK’s most popular Punk bands, was skewered once they became a bona-fide Pop/Rock outfit by the middle of the ‘80s. It would seem that their fan base wanted them to remain the scruffy, crabby crew they grew to loathe a decade before. So, what is an artist to do? Stay the same and lose fans because they don’t alter the formula, or alter the formula and lose fans because they didn’t stay the same? Chris Collingwood, he of Fountains Of Wayne (“Stacy’s Mom”) fame, has decided to do both – but with his new project, Look Park, he’s not in any danger of losing fans. At all.
    Although it has been five years since Fountains Of Wayne released their last album, 2011’s SKY FULL OF HOLES, Collingwood has been working hard on mixing up his proven songwriting ‘formula’ and approaching the songs in new and more intimate ways. FOW bandmate Adam Schesinger has been busy with various projects, including the fab new Monkees album, but Chris has surprisingly kept a very low profile. One of the few times we’ve heard from him since 2011 was when he covered The Dream Academy’s “Life In A Northern Town” for the excellent ‘80s ‘tribute’ album HERE COMES THE REIGN AGAIN released in 2014. All the while, he has been working on new material and finally went into the studio with producer Mitchell Froom and recorded the most excellent LOOK PARK album. This ‘debut’ album is a collection of well-crafted songs that retain the melodic charm of FOW but takes Chris in new and exciting directions. One of producer Froom’s earliest claims to fame was his work with Crowded House, and Look Park travels a similar musical path as those albums from the Kiwi band led by Neil Finn. The album is filled with great melodic hooks, yes, but the album is warm and intimate. These are songs you fall in love with, and like true love, the album only gets better with time. The production is lush yet intimate and Collingwood approaches each track with a tenderness that was not as apparent as on his work with FOW. “Stars Of New York,” “Breezy,” “Minor Is The Lonely Key,” “You Can Come Round If You Want To,” and “Crash That Piano” are absolutely lovely without being maudlin or too mellow (not that either of those are bad things). Surprisingly, there is very little electric guitar on the album – acoustic guitar, piano and mellotron create an atmosphere that is inviting and melancholic. In essence, LOOK PARK is a beautiful piece of work. It is Pop and it is powerful – it’s just not Power Pop. Don’t fear, FOW fans, Chris has delivered the goods and they are glorious.
    Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat to Chris Collingwood about the making of the LOOK PARK album and much more…
  

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: The self-titled Look Park album is about to be released. How are you feeling about your journey to make the album and the reaction to it so far?
CHRIS COLLINGWOOD: Most people are surprised that it doesn’t sound like a Power Pop album. My full intention was not to just make a Fountains of Wayne record, but to stray from that as far as possible. I like that it is its own thing and it’s very different from what I’ve done before. It was really difficult to get it to happen. I’d been demoing for quite a long time. I was with a different management company and, at one point, he asked me who I’d work with if I had my choice of any producer. I said, “Mitchell Froom,” and he said we couldn’t afford that. Don’t even bother. So my demos just sat around for a long time. I was thinking of going the crowd-funding route. What I ended up doing was calling Mitchell myself – I don’t know why it never occurred to me to do that before. But I did and he was into it. After that, it was a matter of getting on his schedule and finding some musicians who could come record with me. It was a long, arduous journey getting it finished. The record has been done since the fall of last year. It will be almost a year since the album was finished before I get to start touring.

SPAZ: Why did you choose to release the album under the Look Park moniker instead of releasing it as a solo album? Technically, it is a solo album…
CHRIS: Well, it is and it isn’t. I made it all with the same band. But if a guy has been in a band for fifteen years or so and decides to make a solo record, it is a license to ignore it if you call it a solo record (Laughs). It implies you’re going to go back to the band and that this is a side project – it implies all of these things that I wasn’t comfortable with. I hope to make more Look Park records. I just didn’t want to be ignored, I guess.

SPAZ: Who else plays on the album?
CHRIS: I did quite a lot of pre-production with Mitchell. He played all the keyboards on the record. I might have played some of the keyboards because we kept some from the demos I made. The bass player is Davey Faragher, who has played with Elvis Costello and a whole bunch of other people. The drummer is Michael Urbano  –  he was in Smash Mouth and he’s done a whole lot of session work. Both of those guys are out of my league so I was lucky! (Laughs)

SPAZ: The album has a warm and intimate sound with plenty of breathing room. There are a lot of keyboards and acoustic guitar but surprisingly little electric guitar. I’m assuming that was intentional?
CHRIS: I demoed a lot of songs at home – I was sitting around a lot for years trying to get a record made. I finally called Mitchell and then things seemed to happen pretty easy after that. I demoed a lot of stuff at home and the ones that sounded like Fountains Of Wayne songs, I just threw them out the window. I still enjoy playing loud guitar but I just wanted to make an album that was more introspective and not so immediate.


SPAZ: The album has a real late ‘60s/early ‘70s East Cost Folk/Pop vibe to it…much like Neil Diamond’s recordings from that period and even Carole King. Was that the kind of vibe you were searching for?
CHRIS: I wasn’t going for a specific time period. Both of those artists are big influences, though. It was important to me – even before hooking up with Mitchell – to get somebody else to get me out of the way I’ve been thinking for the last fifteen years. When I was writing a Fountains Of Wayne song, it’s pretty clear that everyone has the same exact instincts in the band – the guitar solo goes here, the louder guitar part goes there…it got to be really formulaic. I knew that if I went into the studio on my own without anybody else, it would end up sounding like a Fountains Of Wayne record because I have this bag of tricks and it’s been the same thing for a long time. Mitchell and I spent a lot of time on the phone – weeks and weeks, actually – before we even met face to face. We were sending demos back and forth by e-mail and during that discussion, we realized we both loved The Moody Blues and he said, “How do you feel about the mellotron?” I said, “Fuck, yeah!” so that’s why there is a lot of mellotron on the record. (Laughs)

SPAZ: So, did you pull from a batch of songs you had already written or did you decide on the direction of the album, and then finish writing a few more to fit into the vision you had conceived?
CHRIS: I had a bunch of songs. It takes a while to get out of writing for Fountains Of Wayne and just get my head in a different space. I was forcing myself to take them in directions that were uncomfortable for me. There are some different approaches there, too – ‘Stars Of New York” was the first time I’d ever written a song around the bassline. It was part of that attempt to get out of the way that I was thinking for so long.
SPAZ: I enjoy Fountains Of Wayne, but this record is really a great step in an unexpected direction.
CHRIS: I’m wondering what percentage of Fountains Of Wayne fans are going to feel betrayed (Laughs). But you can’t spend a whole lot of time thinking of that. I hope there are a whole lot of people who will like it for reasons completely unrelated to Fountains Of Wayne.

SPAZ: Power Pop seems to be a dirty word sometimes – some artists stick to a lovable yet predictable formula, while others take the genre and paint it in broader strokes…
CHRIS: Most of the Power Pop musicians that I know don’t like the term. There are great Power Pop bands but most Power Pop musicians would rather NOT be pigeonholed that way. Power Pop is more descriptive of the production – the hallmark jangle, the tambourines and backing vocals and superficial stuff. Most people who have been successful at it, it’s because they are good songwriters and not because they applied these superficial elements. No one called The Beatles Power Pop, did they? Revolver is a Power Pop record but then it isn’t called that because they are The Beatles and you don’t use that expression to describe it because it implies that it’s only got those superficial elements.



SPAZ: What’s next for Look Park?
CHRIS: Hitting the road. These past few days, I’ve been talking about different ways to start touring. Probably some shows with myself and a couple of friends – acoustic guitar and piano. Eventually, we’ll do some bigger shows with a full band.

SPAZ: What is the status of Fountains Of Wayne at the moment?
CHRIS: There’s no status. Maybe we’ll make a record way down the road. I won’t discount the possibility of that but at the moment, I’m not thinking about it at all. I’d like to get on the road and support this album and then see where I am after that.

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


LOOK PARK
LOOK PARK

7.22.16

Friday, July 1, 2016

THE EXPLORERS CLUB: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with Jason Brewer!


No Strings Attached:

An EXCLUSIVE Q&A 
with 
THE EXPLORERS CLUB’s 
Jason Brewer

    When The Explorers Club released their debut album, FREEDOM WIND in 2008, the Billboard charts were not exactly receptive to their well-crafted and quite glorious Beach Boys-influenced sound. Let’s face it: fans of Fall Out Boy, Avril Lavigne, Sum 41, and Thirty Seconds To Mars (and whoever else occupied the charts that year) were not going to rush out and buy the type of music that their parents enjoyed. However, the band’s engaging and surprisingly authentic approach to the winsome sound of California summers touched the hearts of those seeking something fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Not bad for a band from South Carolina!
    Four years later, the band faced the same dilemma with the excellent GRAND HOTEL album, which blended their pure Beach Boys-like harmonies with gorgeous songs that recalled Burt Bacharach, Paul Williams and other classic Pop writers. Again, those critics and fans who appreciated and understood Pop history fell in love with GRAND HOTEL. And while the band began to gain some traction, their delicious slices of pure, honest ear candy didn’t necessarily lead them to the top of the charts. Insert ‘face palm’ here.
    Putting together glorious albums and singles can be tough when they don’t reach a larger audience, and The Explorers Club had reached a point where they weren’t sure if they were going to continue.   Thankfully, four years on, they’ve released their third album, TOGETHER, and it is everything you’d want in an Explorers Club album – those Beach Boys harmonies and simply beautiful songs prove they truly understand the art of making great records. These arrangements are complex but the end result is stunningly simple and heart-touchingly pure. TOGETHER is an album that reveals more textures each time you give it a spin. It’s a feel-good record that does its job… and then some! Let’s hope the third time is the charm and the world finally succumbs to their The Explorers Club and their magical, musical powers!
   Stephen SPAZ Schnee reached out to Club leader Jason Brewer and fired off a few questions about the band, TOGETHER and more…

 

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Your album TOGETHER has just been released. How are you feeling about the journey it took to make the album and the reaction to it so far?
JASON BREWER: Well, we are just now getting reaction coming in and the folks who have heard it are excited. The album started a year and a half ago, so to finally have it out is rewarding. It was a lot of hard work and, to be honest, we had a lot of obstacles in our way to getting it released. So yes, extremely rewarding.

SPAZ: TOGETHER seems to be more relaxed and confident than your previous albums. As a band, are you feeling that you’ve hit your stride or do you still feel that you have something to prove?
JASON: We feel like it's still just the beginning of what we can do. This is the best version of the band and it shows on this album. We can do much more.

SPAZ: There were features online a few years back that stated that this would be the final Explorers Club album. Is that still the case or will you make that decision at some point in the future?
JASON: Not true. It was something I pondered but it is not the case.

SPAZ: Did you go about recording this album differently than your prior albums – FREEDOM WIND and GRAND HOTEL – and singles? Or do you have a specific way you like to work?
JASON: With this album, we recorded as much as possible all at once in the same room – and to analog tape no less. The other albums were done piece by piece but this album we did a lot of it quickly the old fashioned way. I also chose to record in Nashville as opposed to Atlanta where the other two were recorded.
SPAZ: Do each of the band members have musical input when it comes to arranging the songs? And can you recall any particular time when one suggestion changed the course of a song for the better?
JASON: On this album, the guys put in some ideas on the backing tracks but I had a strong vision of what I wanted each song to be. We certainly smoothed things over together when we played them but, overall, vision stayed the course.


SPAZ: When you went into the studio to record TOGETHER, did you have a definite idea of which direction you wanted the album to take or did you let it grow organically? Has this been the case for each album?
JASON: Yeah, I knew exactly which vibe I wanted on this album…I would say on everything we do I try my best to have a solid vision of what I want our records to be. I am the type that is driven by the idea. I
tend to lose interest if It doesn’t become what I was aiming for.

SPAZ: There are many artists working at an indie level that focus more on hooks and melodies than ever before. How do you feel about the musical climate these days? Is it more difficult or easier for you to be heard now than it was when Pop Punk and Emo ruled the indie scene when you started out?
JASON: I would say it is more difficult than ever. Radio people are afraid of what we do. Because we essentially are an island in terms of current groups doing this type of Pop, we have a perpetual uphill battle at all times.

SPAZ: The Beach Boys are obviously your main influence, but there are loving nods to many other classic artists including Burt Bacharach and The Beatles. Are there any other influences that may not be that obvious to the listener? “Bluebird,” off of your GRAND HOTEL album, certainly recalls Anne Murray’s “Snowbird”!
JASON: I actually heard the Elvis cut of “Snowbird” first! I am very big into Abba which snuck its way into our last record. I love The Zombies, Hall & Oates, and Neil Young a ton but they don’t seem to pop up in our songs.


SPAZ: There are bands that pay homage to The Beach Boys by taking the most obvious elements and then try to ‘sound’ like them. The Explorers Club truly understands their music from the inside out. You create recordings that ‘feel’ classic even though the tracks are originals. Do you write these songs with specific ideas or arrangements in mind or do you compose your material and then build up the arrangements as you go along?
JASON: It goes either way, but the common thread is that the song has to be good first. I usually have an idea of the production about halfway into the song’s germination period.

SPAZ: Did you feel like a ‘fish out of water’ in South Carolina creating this kind of feel-good music that has its roots firmly in the West Coast (and especially Southern California)? And does it feel any different now that you’ve moved to Nashville?
JASON: I did somewhat in SC. I mean, I am from Charleston, which is the coast. I could go to the beach on my lunchbreak if I wanted to. Now Nashville is landlocked and not nearly inspiring, scenically speaking.

SPAZ: Does it frustrate you that people often hear the Beach Boys influences but don’t pay close attention to the actual songwriting that you obviously invest your heart and soul into?
JASON: I guess it can be a drag but to be mentioned in the same sentence as Brian and Co. is always incredible. I do wish writers would really dig into our albums because there will always be layers and massive attention to detail that they miss on. Peppered all through our albums are some great tunes that seem to always get overlooked by reviewers.
SPAZ: What’s next for The Explorers Club?
JASON: I want to start a new album with the guys before the year is up.

SPAZ: What are you currently spinning on your record/CD players?
JASON: The new Weezer, the last Rumer album, the new Monkees release and (Beach Boys’) MIU Album and Shutdown Volume 2.

Thanks to Jason Brewer
Special thanks to Steve Dixon and Nick Kominitsky


THE EXPLORERS CLUB

TOGETHER

Available NOW!

MICHAEL SCHENKER: An EXCLUSIVE interview!


ATTACK OF THE MAD AXEMAN::

An EXCLUSIVE interview 
with 
MICHAEL SCHENKER


    There’s a reason why German guitarist Michael Schenker is considered a music legend. He carved out a successful career as a hard rock pioneer with German rockers Scorpions (1969-’73 and ’78-’79) and British heavy rock band UFO (1973-’78) as well as his own projects The Michael Schenker Group and McAuley-Schenker Group throughout the ‘80s and beyond. His manic playing, songwriting skills and knack for creating extremely memorable riffs has earned him legions of devoted fans all over the world. And let’s face it – Michael Schenker is the only guitarist that has ever made the Gibson Flying V guitar look cool. Many have tried but only Schenker has succeeded. And now, with his latest project Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock, he is proving once again that he still has plenty of fire, skill and energy. Even though he has been a professional musician for nearly fifty years, he has never lost his mojo.
    Schenker’s first claim to fame was joining his older brother Rudolph’s band Scorpions in 1969. He and vocalist Klaus Meine joined the band at the same time, although at fifteen, Michael was the youngest member of Scorpions by a handful of years. He also just happened to be a unique guitarist and gifted songwriter. He honed his skills with Scorpions for four years before leaving the band and joining British rockers UFO. With UFO, Schenker became an international sensation, steering the band away from their early Space Rock leanings towards an edgy Hard Rock sound. UFO became a force to be reckoned with, but by the end of 1978, he left the band. And to think he was barely into his twenties at this point. Schenker rejoined Scorpions right after leaving UFO, but soon realized he wanted to focus on his own thing. So he left – again – the following year. The Michael Schenker Group was his next project, although he moved away from the commercial sounds of his previous bands and embraced his experimental side. For the next thirty years, he focused on various other projects including a brief reunion with UFO, the McCauley-Schenker Group and other endeavors. By 2008, he was ready to embrace his illustrious Hard Rock past and formed Temple Of Rock. The band has had several line-up changes over the years but the most recent – and best – features Schenker joined by former Scorpions members Herman “ze German” Rarebell (drums) and Francis Bucholz (bass) plus guitarist/keyboardist Wayne Findlay and powerhouse vocalist Doogie White (Tank/La Paz/Rainbow/etc.). While on tour for their excellent 2015 sophomore studio album, Spirit On A Mission, the band was approached about recording their live show using a new technology called 3D Listening. The results can now be heard with the release of On A Mission: Live In Madrid. On this release, you can practically ‘feel’ the atmosphere of the venue even on the normal stereo mix of this recording. There’s even a version of the release that, with the correct audio equipment, will make it seem as if you are there in the audience enjoying Michael and the boys giving it their all on stage. The material during this scorching performance spans Schenker’s entire career including Scorpions, UFO and, of course, Temple Of Rock.
   Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with Michael Schenker as he prepared to embark on a series Michael Schenker Fest shows, which feature appearances from three original vocalists he has worked with over the years – Gary Barden, Robin McAuley and Graham Bonnet


STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: What can you tell us about your latest musical project, Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock?
MICHAEL SCHENKER: It’s a story that started in 2009 when Herman and Pete Way and I teamed up. It just went step by step from one line-up to another. Eventually, Doogie and Francis joined. The idea was to have Temple Of Rock to develop, become its own entity, and have its own sound. By the third or fourth album, Temple Of Rock should have enough material to stand on our own feet. That is my goal – working towards that for as long as possible. We’ve been touring and recording for four years solid now. We’ve released live DVDs and CDs as well as two studio records – we’re planning on making a new one in 2017. We’re taking a little break now and we have this live release to bridge the gap. 

SPAZ: On A Mission: Live In Madrid has just been released. Did you initially plan on recording another live album when you mapped out your tour for the On A Mission studio release?
MICHAEL: It is a great end before our break. This release uses a brand new technology using 3D Listening. We were already half-way through putting together a European tour and the record company asked if I wanted to do a live DVD using this technology. We had to pick a venue. The route was already going through Spain and France so Paris and Madrid were an option. I always wanted to make a record in Spain so this was the perfect moment. With the 3D Listening effect, if you have the right equipment, you feel like you’re sitting in the middle of the audience.

SPAZ: So, this release was recorded differently than your previous live albums? Were you happy with the way it turned out?
MICHAEL: I originally wanted to fix a couple of notes I didn’t like on the recording but there were a bunch of microphones all over the theater (capturing the ambiance of the venue). When I tried to fix the mistakes, I realized you couldn’t get rid of the note I didn’t like and then replace it with the right note – you’d hear both notes and it didn’t work. So, I had to forget about it. But we did a great show. We had a fantastic time on stage. It was a great evening. I love raw music – I don’t like tapes. What you hear in the audience is what we play on stage. A lot of bands use tapes and artificial stuff to impress people with sound but I just want to get raw energy across. I’ve never been a fan of artificial stuff.

SPAZ: You have a rich Rock ‘n’ Roll history. As an artist, are you more content when creating new music or when performing songs from your back catalog live in front of an audience?
MICHAEL: My focus has been on pure self-expression since I was seventeen years old. I intuitively knew not to listen to music anymore and not copy anybody. We are all individuals and we create something from within – we open the door and release a creation that is unique and that nobody else can do. There is a power of doing things that way. You have a choice – you either copy people or you create new colors that nobody has seen before. If you decide to open up from within to show something that is very much you, then nobody else can show that color. If you keep that door closed, then it will never be seen. As a result, you automatically create your own style and that’s what people are attracted to. That’s what I’ve done all my life. I just have fun playing guitar – I call it ‘play and discover’ – and the rewards come in ‘the moment’ and it’s a really good feeling. That’s the world that I’m more interested in.  


SPAZ: You’ve certainly been involved with some pretty big bands along the way – UFO, Scorpions – and you experienced success pretty early in your career...
MICHAEL: By ’77, we (UFO) had really hit big in America with Lights Out. Then the Obsession album and recording Strangers In The Night. I was only twenty three years old when I finished with UFO and I had already experienced everything – I understood what success was and that wasn’t my world. I had a taste of it – and it was good to have had that taste because I could make a clear decision that that was not what I wanted. After I left UFO, I got a phone call from Rudolph and the Scorpions to help them out on Lovedrive. I was at the peak of my success in America at the time. Rudolph asked me to help out so I did. When I finished, they were so in love with what I did, they didn’t want me to go, and they persuaded me to stay with them. They hadn’t been to America up to that time.  After all these years, I look back and I’m realizing now what actually happened. I had started Scorpions with Klaus and I was the only person in the group capable of writing at the time. I was fifteen years old when we did the first Scorpions album, Lonesome Crow (1972). When we did that album, we created some international interest in the band because I was a young guitarist who played differently. Then, this young guitarist leaves Scorpions and joins UFO. And then later, when I came back to Scorpions for Lovedrive, everybody became interested in them. All of a sudden, all these managers wanted to manage Scorpions. But I couldn’t stay with them. I didn’t want to do the same thing again. They wanted to be famous and successful – I wanted to focus on pure self-expression. I tried but I just couldn’t. My place is basically being a jump starter. I jumpstarted Scorpions, I jumpstarted UFO – turning them from a Psych-Rock band into a Heavy Rock band. I then would just go my way. 

SPAZ: You’ve written a lot of material over the years for a variety of your projects, which has been overlooked for the most part. Were you ever aware of your influence on new generations of young musicians?
MICHAEL: On Lonesome Crow, I wrote all the songs but they were credited to all the members of Scorpions. When I joined UFO, they explained to me that the one who writes the music gets the credit for it – I just went, “Wow!” But for me, it’s about music and it’s what I do. It’s not a personality contest – it’s about music and that is where my interest lies. In the ‘70s, I made my musical contribution to the world and that same kind of music was commercialized in the ‘80s. It was simplified with nice packaging and sold to a wider audience. Now, forty years later, almost every person has a guitar at home. I think my place was the ‘70s. The ‘80s were artificial and commercial and that wasn’t my place. That is when I entered my ‘middle years’. It was then I decided to experiment and get things out of my system – all the crazy things I wanted to do that I couldn’t have done in a major touring band. I refused to join some other big name bands just in order to do my own thing. What I did in the ‘70s was completely done unconsciously. No expectations and I had no plan. I just enjoyed music. I never knew it had that much of an impact. During the middle years, I found out how many bands I had influenced and were actually fans – Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, Metallica and Iron Maiden, bands like that.


SPAZ: Where did you find your musical inspiration as a young player?
MICHAEL: The music that I fell in love with – Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple – is the style of music I like but my satisfaction is not from the music itself. It’s the lead guitar playing – putting notes together and putting emotion into it. For me, the single string is the most powerful way of pure expression – you can cry, you can speak, you can express all sorts of different feelings. You can do anything with it. The possibilities are endless. If you do it from within, you can create how you feel – YOUR way of doing it.

SPAZ: You’re a great live performer but you spent many years away from the limelight. What made you change your mind and come back full-force with Temple Of Rock?
MICHAEL: In 2008, something made me want to be back in the loop. In the past, I enjoyed being on stage playing my guitar but I didn’t like the attention of being in the spotlight – I was very shy. It was more about music to me than any of the other stuff. But in 2008, all of a sudden, I had this overwhelming feeling that I wanted to be on stage and I couldn’t understand why. I took that as a sign. And I understand now because I can now enjoy and carry on what I started in the first part of my life.

SPAZ: When you are performing the older UFO and Scorpions material, does it feel fresh again with this band?
MICHAEL: What I do always feels fresh because I’m not over-exposed. I had the ‘middle years’ when everybody else got worn out by touring and becoming stagnant and bored, I wasn’t part of that. I was doing my own thing. I was experimenting. I was doing what I wanted to do so I was never under pressure and forced to do anything by big record labels. I wasn’t playing the same old songs for fifty years. I’d show up every once in awhile and do that but I feel I have been preserved. The middle years were important to stay away from everything. What I’m doing now is always fresh. Because I’m operating from within, it comes from a different place. I play with spirit. I don’t copy things. I don’t get bored with things because it is always fresh energy. Because it comes from an infinite place. You can’t get bored with it, because you aren’t repeating yourself.


Thanks to Michael Schenker
Special thanks to Larry Germack, Clint Weiler, Chip Ruggieri, Dave Rayburn and Nick Kominitsky






MICHAEL SCHENKER's 
TEMPLE OF ROCK

ON A MISSION: LIVE IN MADRID

Available NOW!

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



THE CIRCLE OF LIFE:
A virtual round-table discussion about the 
VINYL EXPERIENCE

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.