Monday, January 30, 2006

Tom Hunter

Tom Hunter is one of those voices that only comes along once in a blue moon. Honed by years of experience, Hunter brings a passion to his music that started as a child in church. Eventually, Tom Hunter would travel to various destinations in order to find his sound. He settled in Minneapolis, MN, in 1997, and has not looked back.

Here I Go Again features songs covering a musical spetrum that stretches from smoky jazz to gut-bucket Chicago blues. Hunter recently took time to answer some questions via email. Enjoy the conversation.

What type of music was heard in the Hunter household growing up?

There wasn't a lot of music in the house. I'd get most of it from church and school, but two of my sisters took piano lessons, so I'd here that. My parents watched a lot of PBS, so I'd see performances when I was growing up, and had a great appreciation for some of the jazz I would see, i.e. Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie. My parents would play music on our old stereo at Christmas time. Loved Bing, still do. He was the best. My great grandmother, Margaret Cerussi, could play anything, and would play a lot of ragtime and period stuff when she came over.

Did any one musician or band stick out as you were growing up?

In addition to the artists mentioned above, I also listened to my grandfather's Chet Atkins albums, Billy Joel, and anything else coming off of FM radio in New York.

Gospel played an integral in your youth. Elaborate on the influence gospel music had on your life growing up as well as in your fledgling music career.

All of the organized music I participated in was thru the local church in Cornwall, NY. I was taught to play the blues by the preacher's son. He showed me the blues progression on the church he would sing while I played.

Tell me about the first gig you ever played. How vividly do you remember the details?

The first gig I ever played was at The F&J Tavern in Cornwall, NY. It was filled with all our friends and we had a ball. They didn't normally have music there and I don't think they were ready for the crowd. We were all very drunk, so I don't remember if we played well or not. It didn't seem to matter.

What life lessons did you learn in the navy that have transferred over to your music career?

I learned how to show up on time in the navy. They were into that whole prompt, punctual thing!

Why choose to do an album of covers?

I wanted to do an album to record the band. They're a great band, and it's a privilege, and a lot of fun working with them. I didn't have enough original material, so we recorded some of the tunes we perform regularly that truly speak to me.

Let's talk about the songs and artists that you have chosen to cover. The one who stands out the most is Doc Pomus. I'm guessing he is/was a profound influence on your music.

It's not so much Doc Pomus, but Johnny Adams turning me on to Doc Pomus. I met Johnny Adams in Mountain View, CA at a place called JJ's Blue Cafe. He was on a double bill with Nappy Brown and it was great. I would go out there on business trips when I worked for IBM, and check out bands. Johnny was the greatest singer I had ever seen. It blew me away, and I was an instant fan. I went out the next day and bought Room With A View, and kept going back for more. When he did an album of Doc’s work, I heard it. That was probably Johnny's best record, which shows the emotional content of the tunes. I do "The Night is a Hunter" because of one line in particular: "I played the honkytonks, and the upholstered sewers, and all the square sets in between, do up/ Every kind of high, legit, and otherwise, and make every unknown scene..." That one really got me.

Ray Charles - "Drown In My Tears"

I love Ray Charles, that's natural, but I really love this song. We've been doing it for a long time, and it felt right.

Tom Waits - "New Coat of Paint" - I'm guess Waits is not the easiest person to interpret.

I'm a fan of Tom Waits, and this is one of the tunes of his that speaks to me, which made it easy to interpret.

Billy Joel - "New York State of Mind" - I loved how you took his pop song, and turned into more of a jazz number. What makes New York a special place for you?

I'm from a town, about 50 miles north of New York City, called Cornwall, NY. It was also the first actual song I ever learned. So I guess I've been playing it for almost 30 years. It's kind of grown into something after all these years. My ex-wife just told me she liked the way I used to do it...what did she mean?

Sonny Rollinterestingor Madness" - Intersting choice.

I learned this song because Rick O'Dell, a friend who passed away, wanted me to learn it. He played a great tenor sax, and is missed. I'm sorry he's gone from us now. This song swings, and I really like what Gunner does with it.

300 SHOWS A YEAR. That's a massive load. I take it you have a bit of the Energizer Bunny in you. What keeps you going?

Well, I started slowing down, so I had to clean up my life and start working out. It keeps me on top of my game.

Tom, you've had the privilege of playing with, and/or opening for, some amazing musicians. Give me two or three life or musical lessons you've gleaned.

The biggest lesson I've learned is that you have to stay positive. Every great artist I've had the privilege of working with or near taught me that you really have to love your audience. It's really them that you're there for. It doesn't matter if your black or white, it's really what's inside that counts. A man's got to say what's on his mind, and what better way than a song.

Finally, what plans are in store for 2006?

I hope to find an agent, or agents to work with so I can go out and promote this recording. And I'd also like to be in the studio by the year's end to do an album with Jon Gunvaldson.

Check out Tom Hunter's website at

Friday, January 20, 2006

Trespassers William

I've never been a fan of overnight sensations. As quickly as many become sensations, they just as quickly become has-beens. Experience shows that cultivating a sound is much more prudent and long lasting. Unfortunately, labels today cannot afford bands the opportunity to develop. "Artist Development" has become one of the biggest misnomer in corporate music. When a band does afford itself the opportunity to work at its craft, the music reveals itself to be superior.

trespassers william was born over ten years ago. The group cut its teeth in the dog-eat-dog world of Los Angeles playing small clubs and cafes while perfecting a sound that they would consistently tweak. In 1999, the band dropped Anchor, its debut, and immediately garnered critical acclaim. called it, "a poetic blend of introspective pop." The centerpiece of the band was singer Anna-Lynne Williams. The band's website quotes Rock Sound, "...her voice is immediately lovable and her inconsolable world-weariness completely convincing. Moving, even. Each song unfolds through a swathe of reverb and allows Anna-Lynne acres of space to express her woes with quiet dignity."

The band continued to earn rave reviews on the 2002 follow-up, different star. After landing with Nettwerk Music, that collection was reissued in 2004. Now comes having, a collection of new material aready being hailed as one of 2006's best new releases.

TGB recently had an opportunity to exchange emails with Anna-Lynne Williams and Ross Simonini to discuss the new CD.

Is the anticipation of a new release difficult?

Anna-Lynne Williams: I suppose the best thing about waiting for an album to be released is that so much time seems to pass that you can start listening to the songs from a detached perspective. Once we start writing new material and creating new sounds, the completed albums seem like capsules of something slightly foreign. There is plenty of time for wishing that we had changed a bit of this or that on the record, but this is the happiest I've been with anything we've recorded. The most serious part of the process for me is the writing of the songs, and the recording is the most fun and creative part. I'm thinking of Kate Bush's "Woman's Work," about being the father of a child, creating the baby and then just waiting around to meet him without having any power to change or effect the whole process. That is the stage we're in now. I'm getting lots of reading done.

What gets you most excited: people buying your record or great press?

A-L: It's hard to know who's buying the record. That is the whole point of putting one out; that's the most important thing. But you never really know until someone writes you that it is reaching people. Press is concrete and immediate and has tended to be good to us. When we first released different stars on our own, I personally mailed out all of the copies we sold, so it was fun going to the post office each morning. Now everything is indirect and hard to comprehend, but sites like myspace help to keep us linked to some of the listeners.

I have read Ryan Adams claim that he has stopped reading press and blogs, etc., about himself. So many people can be cruel or dishonest. We haven't run across that too many times, but enough to become wary and consider not reading it anymore. I suppose a way to look at it is that press is not created to be read by the band, but it is tempting to peek.

Subsequently, what worries you most: people not buying it or bad press?

A-L: Bad press seems like a much more negative act than simply not buying the record. Plus, I imagine that half of the people familiar with us get our stuff off of burned CDs and downloads and mp3s and soundtracks. So, while I would love for people to buy the actual CD, as I am crazy about collecting CDs myself, singles and all, the most important thing is just that they listen and hopefully like it. Bad press is certain to happen, but so long as there is nothing particularly malicious or misquotes, etc., that comes with the territory. I also feel - and the band has discussed this concept before - that it is better to be hated by some and loved by some than to have everyone think that you're alright background music. I hope at least press and listeners alike will feel that this album offers something different from its predecessors.

Awhile back, one magazine wrote of the "stigma" of Lilith Fair. Is it difficult fronting a band with all men? Do you find women fronting bands are not taken seriously?

A-L: I don't personally see a need to emphasize one's gender when making music or writing. If I had to select artists that I most identify with, or who I feel my melodies are most similar too, they would be primarily male artists, coincidentally perhaps. It's a rare ocassion that a female artist is ever compared to a man.

I do understand the significance of a movement like the one that accompanied Lilith Fair. When someone says "female singer," I suppose one would envision a performer/dancer before a writer/producer. It is worthy to enforce the fact that women like Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, and Bjork have created new types of music, broken people's hearts with music, taken risks, etc.. I think Lilith Fair reminded people that there are women who take music seriously.

I feel I have educated myself enough about the recording process that I am able to communicate and be respected (most of the time, albeit, in my own made-up language) as a female artist. As far as playing with boys, maybe they gang up on me sometimes or think my gender is an excuse to not understand what I'm saying, but somehow I think it's easier than being in a hotel room full of girls on tour.

Tell me about the title of your new release, "having." Any significance/meaning?

ROSS SIMONINI: We wanted to find some sort of connective tissue between all the lyrics on the album. I went through all of the songs in search of something that might work as a linguistic connection (not necessarily a thematic connection). Eventually, I realized that there were a lot of present participles (words ending in "ing") on the album. We listed all of the occurences of these words and decided, eventually, that the word "having" represented something about the album that the other words did not - the idea of possession, the need to do something (having to do something) and so forth. The ambiguity of the word is also appealing. It's not a word you often see written alone, without being surrounded by other words. In that sense, the word has a lot of power when written on its own. I imagine that everyone who sees this title thinks of different words to surround it.

How has the sound of the band evolved on the new record?

A-L: As three or four years have passed since we started writing different stars, and the line-up of band members has evolved, the whole state of music has changed a bit. New influences have seeped in: the beautiful experimental music of the Scandinavian countries, the resurgence of some glam sensibilities of the 80's, the new avant garde folk singer/songwriters.
It has certainly added even more ingredients to what is possible in music.

We were able to work with a better budget and work with Dave Fridmann, who is a mastermind and makes gorgeous and challenging sounds. We spent more time crafting the arrangements of the songs before going in the studio. We took turns sitting with each song in the studio, adding and taking away elements. The themes of the record have expanded beyond just the romantic. Some of the sounds are not beautiful, but rather interesting. Our approach was quite different. We are all familiar enough with recording now that we can record ourselves and be given the freedom of being all alone when you track a performance, which leads to more improvising and brilliant mistakes.

Do you consider the lyrics to your songs poetry, or it is, perhaps, words that happen to fit a certain musical style?

A-L: Writing poetry is also important to me, but I feel it has to be more narrative since it doesn't have a blanket of sound to support it. When I write poetry it never rhymes. I am pleased with the way the lyrics read for having, though I think they are a little less obtuse than the lyrics on previous records. I always know what precise experiences the songs are about and the huge differences in tone for myself between each one, but I understand if they all seem to be cut from the same cloth to other people. The language I tend to write in is a bit soft and lush, so even a song like "I Don't Mind," which has nothing to do with love, will probably be mistaken as a love song. Melody comes first for me though. The lyrics generally rush out to fit the shapes of the melody.

What happened to Jamie Williams? Will a replacement be sought or will you go on as a three piece?

RS: Right now we're concerned with existing as a three-person band. We're dealing with all the new limitations and parameters that a three-person-band deals with. A few of the songs on having were already just the three of us, working in a studio environment, creating texture-based music, and that process was really interesting to us. So I suppose we're continuing to make music in that vein. We are also open to the addition of a fourth (or fifth or sixth) member, but we only want someone who will creatively develop the sound of the group. At this point, we have not found that person, but we are always looking.

Musically, what are three goals you hope to achieve with "having"?

A-L: I think that the goals were already achieved in the studio. We worked very well as a team for the first time, each member having a really strong voice, and I think you can hear all of those voices; more taking turns and space. It is a balanced sound, and I think Fridmann helped us to acheive that even more. Having someone outside the band tell us what our place is in each song, what is important and what is background, was key for these songs because there were so many tracks that needed to be balanced. Secondly, we have familiarized ourselves with the ins and outs of recording and can, therefore, control our own sound much better. Third, personally for myself, I was able to address some new issues like creative conflict and death in the lyrics and we have integrated more keys and found sounds into our music. I am pleased.

CLICK HERE for the band's website.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


The simplest way for me to describe Winechuggers is to quote the band's bio:

"Winechuggers is the project headed up by William Cameron, a songwriter who catalogs various human foibles -- from obsessive love to angst to the inability to settle down in one place very long -- and then chisels out an unusual melody to sing along with."

In 2001, Cameron recorded Grand Rapids. As you will read below, circumstances kept him from releasing the CD until recently. Hop on board, grab a glass, and enjoy the events that have brought the band to the present.

What intrigues you most about emotions?

I guess the most intriguing aspect of human emotions to me is the bizarre behaviors they often lead to. People often do really weird and unexpected things as a result of their emotions, particularly when they try to suppress or ignore them. You can't say that person X feeling emotion Y will necessarily exhibit behavior Z, you know? The unpredictability and occasional chaos that sometimes follows can be good fodder for songs.

What was behind the choice to pack Grand Rapids in 2001?

I moved from the midwest to San Francisco in 2001, right after recording a bunch of songs that ended up on the album. I packed up all my stuff (including the album, so to speak) and didn't unpack everything until I was settled in my new home. Once I was settled, I decided to try to find a home for the record.

What made 2005 the perfect time to see it released?

Really, it just took that long to get it done and ready for release. The first year in SF was taken up with finding an apartment, a job, moving all my stuff west, learning my new job once I got it, etc., etc. It was a very hectic period for me. While I was busy with all of that, my friends Carl and Jeb back in the midwest were working on the album -- finishing mixes, trying out sequencing ideas, mastering the record, etc. Once that stuff was done I burned a bunch of CDs and sent them to labels I liked who accepted unsolicited demos. Then there was the whole process of coming to terms with Arena Rock, putting artwork together, scheduling the release, et cetera. All of which typically takes less than four years, but we followed the Paul Masson ethos - to "sell no wine(chuggers records) before it's time." I would have loved to put it out back in 2001 but it just wasn't ready, and I had too much going on at the time. The time feels right now.

That's quite a piece of artwork on the cover of GR. What were you looking to convey? Who did the artwork? Are you happy with it?

I didn't have a specific idea I wanted to convey; the selection of the artwork was more like "I'll know it when I see it." I came across the painting that adorns the front and back covers of the record on the website of Jason Oberbeck. He's a Bay Area artist who does some nice paintings and drawings. He's also a really nice guy. I like the cover image a lot. I don't know why exactly, but it seems to fit the mood of the record. It's kind of dream-like and weird, with the snakes and the half-horse and the girl on the tightrope. I like that and thought it fit with the mood of a lot of the songs. Oddly, the face on the cover looks a lot like one of my old bosses. I suppose that that's the only thing I don't like about it -- that it makes me think of my old boss whenever I see the CD.

Speculate for a moment, if you will, what Arena Rock heard in your music that others may not have?

Greg (Arena Rock head honcho) and I are about the same age, so we've lived thru the same trends and bands. We both grew up in mid-sized burgs (he in Birmingham, I in Indianapolis) and moved to teeming megalopolises (he to New York, I to Chicago), and both grew dissatisfied and moved to smaller West Coast cities (he to Portland, I to San Francisco). We seem to have a lot in common. The first time I spoke to him on the phone, our conversation touched on a surprising bunch of bands -- Wishbone Ash, old Genesis, The Replacements, Lilys, Superdrag, Uriah Heep, Beach Boys -- and it occurred to me that he is a huge music nerd like I am, and he likes a wide variety of bands and music for that reason. I think that was a factor in our hitting it off and making a connection. I liked the fact that he was well-versed in a variety of music and interested in music history, as opposed to being an indie snob whose musical vocabulary only went back to Built To Spill or whatever. As for what he may have responded to in the record, I'm not sure. Musically, the album is a little bit all over the map, so to speak, and that might have appealed to someone like Greg who seems to have broad tastes.

Your bio mentions that Winechuggers is a "project." The connotation, in my opinion, of "project" is that it's something to do while the "real" band takes a break. In fact, that same bio used "side gig" as a descriptor. Where do you stand with Winechuggers?

I guess I think "project" is interchangeable with "band," at least for the purposes of a bio. Winechuggers is my main musical endeavor, but I still play music in other situations from time to time for fun. I play piano once in a while in a country band. I have a monster-themed heavy metal duo with Michael from Winechuggers that I want to keep working on. When I go back to Chicago, I work on music with Carl from Emperor Penguin, and I would like to release more music with him. And I also play on recordings by my friends from time to time as well. But I don't think of Winechuggers as a side band, or an in-between sort of thing. If bands were relationships, Winechuggers would my main squeeze, with an old flame or two in the background and the occasional fling.

Write about the other members of the band. How did you meet them? What made them the right fit for this band?

Michael Cormier plays guitar and pedal steel, Ashley Adams plays the double bass, and Charlie Knote plays the drums. I met Michael at work and hit it off with him right away. I soon met Ashley, his wife, and found out she is a terrific bassist. The three of us began jamming together here and there, just for fun. I had been friends with Charlie's brother Andy for about ten years, and, when I moved to San Francisco, Andy mentioned that his little brother lived in San Francisco and played the drums. We eventually all got together and worked out a set and started doing little gigs. While that was all happening I was working out the particulars of the contract with Arena Rock for the album to come out. The timing was very good. I've always said that, when it comes to band members, it's not worth it if a musician has great talent but a lousy personality. Luckily, these guys are all swell people in addition to being talented musicians. We're friends in addition to being in the band together, which I think is vastly preferable to having antagonistic relationships with fellow band members.

Finally, let's talk future? What is in store for The Winechuggers? New material? tour? etc.

I have a lot of songs, and we've been working them out and arranging them. The sound of the band now is quite different from the sound of the record, which is only natural given that I made Grand Rapids before I'd met any of the people now in the band. So the next record will probably sound quite different, with a "band" sound and feel rather than the "schizophonic one-man-band" approach in which the sounds are really different from track to track. That said, I like to experiment as well, so there likely be more in the way of sound effects, synthesizers, layers, backup vocals, percussion, etc., than either on Grand Rapids or in our live shows. We'll be recording soon, so we shall see!

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Winechuggers.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

News From The Great Beyond

Let's start this post with news on Ted Leo & The Pharmacists. Prescriptions are being readied for a U.S. tour that begins in March and will cover the eastern half of the states with Texas and Arkansas also getting in on the action. For information on tickets, CLICK HERE.

Criteria (Saddle Creek Records) recently embarked on a month long tour that will afford them one day off between now and February 1st. The band will also embark on a major U.S. tour in March and April. The band will support its 2005 release, When We Break. CLICK HERE for more information on Criteria.

Speaking of Saddle Creek, two other bands have releases due later this year. Cursive are preparing to head into the studio in February. The band's website explains that, "we will be heading into the studio this month to demo the new record. Following the demos, we will begin 'officially' recording the new record in the middle of February with a projected completion date of May 1st." Expect a new disc by fall. CLICK HERE for Cursive's website.

The second band hails from the land of R.E.M. and the B-52's, Athens, GA. Now It's Overhead are currently in the studio recording a new batch of songs scheduled for release in the spring. CLICK HERE to learn more about NIO.

On January 24th, theatres across the country will be showing a sneak preview of Coachella, a new movie featuring two-hours of highlights from the previous six years of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. To find out where the movie will be showing CLICK HERE. The movie features performances by, among others, Bright Eyes, Iggy & The Stooges, Morrissey, Oasis, The Pixies, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Spearhead, and The White Stripes.

If world music is more your cup of tea, Six Degrees Records, the home of Los Mocosos, has two scintillating platters hitting stores in the next few weeks. The first is entitled The Now Sound of Brazil 2 and it features tracks from the legendary Bebel Gilberto, Zuco 103, Bossacucanova, Celso Fonseca, Cibelle and others. The release date is January 17. The second is from Shrift, a new collaboration between former Smoke City vocalist Nina Miranda and multi- texturalist/producer Dennis Wheatley. Their debut CD, Lost in a Moment, hits stores on February 7. Anglo-Brazilian Nina Miranda is a charter member of the celebrated group Smoke City and has recorded with such luminaries as Bebel Gilberto, Nitin Sawhney and Da Lata. Dennis Wheatley is best known for his work with the British electronic band Atlas.

Finally, Park The Van Records acts, The Teeth, are recording their first full-length album in four years. The album is being recorded in North East Philadelphia. Nick Krill from the Spinto Band is engineering and co-producing the album. He is also lending vocals and guitar work. CLICK HERE for more information. Also from Park The Van is the forthcoming disc from National Eye, Roomful of Lions. It hits stores on Valentine's Day.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Thermal and a Quarter - Part 3

As promised, part three of my conversation with India's Thermal and a Quarter. For this final installment, I asked the band to interview each other. Thermal and a Quarter are Rajeev Rajagopal (drums), Sunil Chandy (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Rzhude David (bass, vocals, acoustic guitars), and Bruce Lee Mani (vocals, electric and acoustic guitars).

For continuity purposes, I have reposted parts 1 and 2 of the interview.

Chandy to Rajeev: What do you think is the relationship between inspiration and perspiration when it comes to making music?

Rajeev: Very strong. I doubt if many ordinary people can achieve a reasonably decent standard of musical abilities without sufficient quotients of both. By musical abilities, I mean an all-round ability to consistently produce good tracks. You could be good at coming up with licks, or grooves, or good with chops and technique or good with arrangements or lyrics; there are so many components to making music. You could get lucky and make the odd bubblegum track that makes you your first million dollars, but keeping it going like the Rolling Stones takes a lot of sweating it out. I believe that nothing comes easy, there's always a tradeoff. When you are good at one thing there will be others that you suck at. And so being inspired alone won't do the trick. Luckily for me I never run out of inspiration. I admire the abilities of smart creative people, people who bubble with energy even at the age of 60. Now that's the easy part for me. The tough part is emulating what you've been inspired by and getting as good in whatever you want to do.

Rajeev to Chandy: You've been playing various musical instruments from the age of five. Which was the hardest instrument to get the hang of and why?

Chandy: Violin. I gave up after three months of squeaking and squealing. Reason: because it requires a huge amount of patience just to produce one good note. The angle of the bow has to be right; and when you move the angle shouldn't change. The note has to be quite perfect on the fingerboard, and so on.

Chandy to Bruce: Do you feel that the order in which a song is written, i.e. music first lyrics second, lyrics first music second, gives the song a distinct difference? Does one feel more right than the other?

Bruce: I've always insisted that there are NO rules for songwriting. Things happen every which way and sometimes they feel right or 'righter' and sometimes they don't. But most songwriters are usually perceptive enough to know when the winged horse beneath them has caught a good updraft...and also when they're thrown off into a pile of horse manure. And manure, of course, is good... things grow out of manure.

Bruce to Rajeev: You were very much a hard-rockin' listener before. When, and how, did the transition to the music you listen to now happen?

Rajeev: True, I don't have the inclination to go through four Megadeth albums back to back anymore. It was daily bread and butter for a few years, and great years they were. That has definitely changed.

My change in musical choice was a market-driven thing, I think. There was no real great metal album out for many years. Megadeth's Youthanesia, Metallica's black album and GNR's Use Your Illusion I and II saw the end of any decent hard rock and heavy metal albums for me. Those three albums themselves were pretty commercial for my liking but still had some remnants of genuineness. So, I didn't have anything much to listen to. I then started picking up some great names in jazz. The problem was that all of them were supposed to be great, so I started off with compilations and soon started developing a taste for certain forms of jazz.

I've never let what I'm listening to affect my playing. 'Develop your own style' was what I heard in most instruction tapes, and from a few good drummers who I personally know, so I try my best not to associate what I'm currently listening to what I play in the band. Actually I wouldn't be able to do it even if I wanted to, because the stuff Mr. Dave Weckl does with Chick Corea is quite unreachable at this stage in my playing.

Bruce to Rajeev: How has it affected your playing?

Rajeev: Guess it's made me a lot more open to playing different styles these days.

Rajeev to Rzhude: You have great groove. Do you believe that some people (not just musicians, all people) don't have groove/feel? If yes, is there any way for such people to get groovy?

Rzhude: All people respond to music rhythmically (tapping feet at least), so the answer for me is no. I believe all people have groove, some just don't know it. The way to get groove is to relax and let the body react to rhythm rather than intellectualize the process.

If anyone were to feel the need to understand groove then an attempt to understand the science of music will be necessary - from music lessons.

Rzhude to Rajeev: Is there any such thing as original music (as opposed to inspired music)? How does music gain an identity for itself?

Rajeev: There definitely is something called original music. It's almost like a culture or sub-culture. A group of people, working together for a period in time, knowingly or unknowingly create an identity for themselves. This definitely comes through in the music. Each person's inspiration comes from different things, so there is no one single inspiration that can label your music as inspired music as opposed to original music. Maybe for a solo musician that could hold true, but in a band scenario originality has more chances of coming through. The music gains its identity through the combined energies of the members who make music using their musical expertise, influenced by their current life situation at that point and inspired by a dream to make a difference as a band.

Rzhude to Rajeev: How does a band gain or lose identity when musicians within the group collaborate or indulge in side projects?

Rajeev: A band's identity is closely linked with its musicians. A band wouldn't have a strong identity if the musicians are seen or heard playing together or separately under different band names. The band's identity gets diluted and confused.

Rajeev to Bruce: When you hear a song for the first time, what is the most important thing about that song that differentiates it from being ordinary to being something that means a lot?

Bruce: There was a time when the answer to this was simply "Wow, what an interesting 9/8!" I think it was you who pulled me up once for not liking Nirvana, and gave me a lecture on 'feel', etc., but that apart. I guess when I listen to music now, I think I'm able to tell very quickly if there is some honesty, some genuine-ness to what's coming out of the speakers. I find myself drawn to that quality. To mean a lot to me, though, a song has to work harder, get me interested from various angles, and I guess here I'm still drawn to fine musicianship, the really exciting juggle between self-indulgence and accessibility.

Rzhude to Bruce: In the context of the Lennon-McCartney v/s McCartney-Lennon debate, do you believe that any of the music written in the collaboration would have been possible under different circumstances? What do you see as the solution to musical ownership in collaboration? (Who really owns all that music - Michael J or the people who still believe in the music?)

Bruce: This is a very grey area for me. I think the Lennon-McCartney thing is silly, especially after all these years. 'Lennon-McCartney' even sounds better, is alphabetically correct, and, aw shucks. If songwriters work together and something really magical happens, the whole is much more than the sum of the parts. The muse works in all of us, and I don't know if we really write all the songs we claim to write or are they written through us and so on. This can't be sorted out legally. You bring lawyers and 'mine, mine, mine' into it, and the magic is gone. Gone.

Rzhude to Bruce: Should circumstances and situations be credited for a musical creation rather than an individual's creativity/ego? Would the world be a better place if there were no such thing as copyright law?

Bruce: The musician for me is the lens, through which the 'circumstance/situation' can be focused, its raw material bent, and if the final light hits the right spot, there is greatness. Some lenses are clearer, some are foggy, and everything is possible. Copyright law, like all the laws around civilization, is probably a necessary part of keeping the same civilization out of chaos, though even that is a moot point.

Bruce to Rzhude: What is your songwriting process? You've been writing music for commercials for sometime now - how is that process different?

Rzhude: For me the song writing process has to start with an idea. One that is strong enough to go on to become an entity on its own. The idea itself can be musical or lyrical. Musical ideas show up in the form of a chord progression or a set of notes that are interesting enough to stick in my head and then see itself to completion. I do believe that I am just the instrument, a sort of receiver, if you will, that has the ability to 'hear' these ideas and 'receive' them and transform them into complete 'songs'.
The more emotional the idea is, i.e. personal and involved within the sentiments that move me, the greater the chance of a song that I will remember and feel like working on more. There are those that just fade away and that is the benchmark for a song that 'has it'. Songwriting here is an inspired process with the luxury of time, experimentation with instrumentation and arrangements, and finally the live situation to see if it really works. If it doesn't work on stage, first from me and then the audience, it will fast fade away.

As for commercial songwriting, I look at it as a set of restrictions or conditions given as limits that have to be pushed - 30 seconds, a marketing brief with a specific target audience, words written by a stressed-out copywriter, or worse, by a client (or his wife), are just some of the conditions apart from a deadline that make the end result appear. The fact that I've been conditioned by some 15 years in the biz experience to do this gives me the confidence to do it over again. Sound design and sonic identity (audio logos) is as big a field as graphic and advertising design. The parallels exist both in the creative challenges it presents and the commercial aspect. Digital workstations make the jingle-writing process a lot easier, given that deadlines are always tight. The process is oriented toward creating memorable hooks that stick right away which is not the case at all with song writing for one's pleasure. Writing songs for a pop chart is something I've not done...yet!

Bruce to Chandy: Do you believe in 'confessional' songwriting, or do you think that the songwriter must always distance himself from his art?

'Confessional' has various connotations to it. If we are meaning the core beliefs that we hold, then yes. Not that the songs are essentially creedal statements but more that your core beliefs are part of the context of the songs written. A songwriter might be distant if it's his or her job to write a song. But I think that lacks some integrity in the songwriting context at least. But feeding stomachs wise, it makes total sense! The other concept of distance could be just plain ignorance. I can't write a song about the Native American peoples because I don't really know about them and their struggles. So I would veer towards 'confessional,' but again with honesty and love being the two core values attached to it

Chandy to Rzhude: Some people say that music is a window to our soul. Do you believe that to be true in any sense?

Rzhude: Music can be defined as man's conscious development of a natural phenomenon (sound) into an art and science. Soul can be defined as the spirit, the force that enables life itself and that part of a person that houses emotion.

I believe it is possible that a window exists between the two. When I create music, the material is drawn from this emotional well. When I listen to music, if it has to touch me, then it has to reach the same emotional source for it to mean anything to me.
In a word - yes.

Rzhude to Sunil: How do you relate music with spirituality? How does one distinguish between music for God and music for the self? If music is God's gift, then how can we justify a living by selling it?

Sunil: Relating music with spirituality would have its own nuances according to the type of spirituality that one talks about. Washing plates is a spiritual exercise for me. It teaches patience and forces you to accept the joy of the small things that God has given. It's still quite a hard lesson to learn. So, I would say from the spirituality I love and follow, that it encompasses every part of life, whether it's changing nappies (diapers) or making beautiful music. They are part of the tapestry of life God has given. I don't see a 'special' connect as such. I see that music does have various effects that aren't easily explained but I see music as a human activity. All humans do it. I don't go with the philosophy of music being divine as such. I think it's God's gift to humans.

I don't see any distinguishing factor between music for God and self as long as it is done with honesty, integrity and most importantly love. Examples are the Psalms, of which many are songs of introspection, complaint, curses and other very personal emotions. These songs of the 'self' were meant to be sung by the whole community as part of their spiritual expression. So I see my contribution in TAAQ, in whatever small amounts that is, as my music for God.

Everyone makes money out of God's gifts! Because I would see intelligence, smartness and other things in life and life itself as God's gift. But the issue, I guess, is: what place does money have in one's life?

Click here for Thermal and a Quarter's website.
Click here for TAAQ's Yahoo group.
Click here to check out TAAQ on NPR.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Thermal and a Quarter - Part 2

As you may have read in comments from part one of the Thermal and a Quarter interview, the boys are okay. That's great to hear. Now, let's refocus on the music.

In part one, TAAQ discussed the political situation in India, the war with Pakistan, and it's effects on the music. The boys also discussed traditional Indian music and their place within that dynamic.

In part two, TAAQ continue their thoughts on the music as well as their progression a a band.

I hear much improvisation in your music. This leads me to think of bands like Phish and the Grateful Dead. I also hear technical prowess. I think of Rush in this instance. Would I be in the right neighborhood?

Oh yes, I think you would be. Phish was not one of the bands that influenced our work as we probably found their music well into our fifth or sixth year of existence. TAAQ is quite a mix-up. I've always been a jazz buff, and still a big fan of bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears. Rajeev started with a lot of hard rock, like AC/DC, Rzhude's been an acoustic fan - JamesTaylor, Joni Mitchell... Sunil is perhaps the only one of us with any serious classical training, but also digs jazz/progressive. I guess the influences where things meet are Steely Dan, Dave Matthews, etc.

Our songs rarely come out of jams. There's always an effort that's put into creating parts and transitions and grooves. So in that sense we're not a true jam band. Rush is again a very common comparison due to the odd time signatures we play. We've never forced ourselves to make progressive rock music -- odd time progressions happen very naturally to us. It's actually a bigger effort for us to keep it straight. It's painful to categorize TAAQ's music really, the neighborhood we'd like to be in would be more with early Dave Matthews, some Queen, Steely Dan, Yes, etc.

I have listened to these bands with passing interest, so I can't give you accurate directions to our sound from that neighborhood. People have found us to stray as far away as Led Zep, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and even Steely Dan. While I am aware that others in the band have followed the work of bands like these, I can't put down how much of an influence they have had on the sound we've arrived at in our studio efforts to date. Personally I can state the Beatles, Sting, James Taylor and Steely Dan as inspiration, apart from a great number of Indian artists like Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, T. H. (Vikku) Vinayakram, Kumar Gandharva, among others - though the influence is not upfront in our sound.

You've chosen to make Plan B available for free over the Internet. Explain that strategy.

The most important thing for any band would be to 'be heard'. That's the primary payment. Plan B was made and recorded with no plan in mind as to how we were going to market the album. We didn't want to get into CD production and marketing it ourselves, like what we had done with our second album, Jupiter Cafe. So when we knew that there was an opportunity of being on air on one of America's biggest radio networks, NPR, we decided to take a gamble and give the music away for free on our web site. A staggered launch of all the Plan B songs over a four to five week period got us really popular on the Internet and we now have more people from across the world listening to our music than ever before. I don't think any record company could have worked this out better for us.

We put in a good deal of effort (and spend) in recording what we consider an international effort. It wasn't doing us any good to have that effort cooling in the can. Besides the record companies weren't exactly breaking down our doors to get at it. The Internet has exposed several gaping holes in copyright laws and the way record companies and lawyers make their bushels in the West. Bands like The Grateful Dead and Phish have shown by example how it is possible to create a following by allowing and encouraging fans to record and spread their music through personal networks and recordings of live gigs. I believe that if the music is bigger than the sum total of the creators' egos, then it will get around and get heard. And that's the way to go. The Net and the 'free'dom it brings with it asked our good offices to figure what we had to lose (or gain) by doing what we did. We wouldn't be having this discussion otherwise.

As an unsigned band in a country with an industry that isn't really signing bands that make music (per se?!) like ours, the Internet is one heck of a powerful way to get the music where it belongs - in people's ears. We still treat the free download of Plan B as a promotional experiment. And someday soon there will be a CD available.

You've been at this for almost ten years. Do you feel you have the respect you deserve? If not, what will it take to earn that respect?

I personally don't think we're being heard as much as we should be. It'll probably take a few international tours before that happens.

We always get what we deserve. Maybe not what we expect, but definitely what we deserve - that's about as open-ended as I can leave it for now!

It's just as Rzu said - we only get what we deserve. I believe in that. We have a long way to go and a lot of hard work to do before getting everything we want out of playing in TAAQ.

Your website claims that Album #4 is in the can. What can you reveal about the music, sound, etc.?

Album 4 is definitely a lot slicker, and more eclectic in some respects. It probably has more sticky tunes, and it isn't as 'heavy' as Plan B.

The compositions are a lot more mature - some of the songs are more accessible than earlier TAAQ songs.

We did record 20 songs, which were divided up into what we thought were the ten best and the rest. We had the funds to mix down only ten and chose to leave the best for last. Plan B (as the name suggests) evolved and launched itself as the concept that you know it as. We are just happy to be a part of it! Now we have to see if we can get anyone interested enough in the real thing to pay for it!

You have yet to secure a deal in the United States. Why do you believe a deal has not happened?

We're over here. You're over there. Connections are hard to make, and sustain.

We have not really tried very hard. We need to get networked soon. I don't see any other reasons...

We are not Americans. Our music, though it conforms to what the general public in America listen to, is still pretty much open to interpretation anywhere in the world. The way to make money out of it is to do it the old fashioned way - with hard-working performance. We are not yet ready to tour the US for a variety of reasons, the least of them being having a record deal, an agent and a following there to justify such an exercise. We haven't even toured our own country for the most part! The deal has not happened because we are not ready for it.

Two down, one to go. I hope you have enjoyed meeting Thermal and a Quarter. In part three, the band will interviewing each other. We'll bring you the results soon. Stay in touch.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Thermal and a Quarter - Part 1

The first time I heard Thermal and a Quarter was a report on NPR. The sound was fresh and exhilarating. I knew this was a band I wanted to feature. What followed was a write-up back in February, 2005. At the time, I proclaimed that this was a band who would give Phish a run for their money. I still believe it.

I recently had a chance to exchange emails with four members of the band. They are: Sunil Chandy (guitar and keyboards), Bruce Lee Mani (vocals, guitar), Rzhude (vocals, bass) and Rajeev Rajagopal (drums). Until recently, the group was a five piece, but Rajesh Mehar is no longer with the group.

Tell me about the music scene in India. Many people know raga, but what else should we know about?

They should know that India is about as diverse and vibrant a musical spectrum as it can get. Apart from a couple of thousand years of musical evolution, you can experience the very latest music in the world here as well (read A.R. Rehman for one). The land itself, though divided by arbitrary boundaries into states and towns, has cultural and musical borders that have amalgamated over time. There are traditional musical systems like Carnatic (from the south of India) and Hindustani (from northern India), which have rigid rules that define the music. At the same time you have folk music, which has tribal roots and can be traced back to primitive times. In today's music you can experience all of it mixed (and re-mixed) with electronic/digital sound-scapes in hi-tech studios (or in home studios) to create something totally new.

You can devote a lifetime to any aspect of Indian music and still be left wanting.

Bruce Lee Mani:
If you're a musician in India, you could be:

a) An Indian classical musician - Hindustani or Carnatic (as Rzhude explained). A big scene, with a pot-boiling circuit. Some doyens from this arena are quite a trip — T.H. 'Vikku' Vinayakaram, (who plays the Ghatam, a South Indian percussion instrument, basically a specially made clay pot) for example, has been known to comfortably play a gig in Chennai at a small festival one night, and play the next with John McLaughlin in New York or wherever;

b) A Western classical musician – playing either with small chamber orchestras at select snooty gigs, or absorbed into the regional language film industry (now known by its once derogatory moniker, Bollywood);

c) A rock musician – growing your hair, looking untidy, and generally quite dispirited at the lack of a real 'scene'. Basically not much money, but lots of spirit. Often make a living doing the day job thing;

d) A jazz musician – not a lot of these around, but a few are really good, really underrated, and largely unheard; or

e) A commercial musician – your jack of all, writing ad jingles, film music, playing sessions, whatever. Good chops, versatile. Often someone who has been part of a, b, c, or d, and has figured how the bread really gets buttered.

Sunil Chandy:
Music in India is a vast subject – it’s similar to asking about music in Europe. The biggest music industry in India is, of course, the film music industry. That dwarfs almost everything other than the two main streams of classical music in India. There are countless types of folk music and urban music as well but they are untapped in their potential.

Rajeev Rajagopal:
As Rzhude said, you could actually spend an entire lifetime in India trying to experience all the forms of music from each region. Every state has its own style of music, which has been around for hundreds of years.

For example in Kerala, the southern Indian state where I come from, a separate caste of people called the Marars specialize in playing temple drums. It’s a Hindu family tradition and only people from this caste are allowed to play during the daily temple pujas, or worship rituals.

A lot of these traditional forms of Indian music are fading away for various reasons. Even in rural India, it's likely that you will hear more Bollywood music than the traditional music of that place.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being from a country that doesn't traditionally dominate the music charts outside its own territory?

Sunil Chandy:
The advantage and disadvantage is that we're a fresh unknown quantity...

Bruce Lee Mani:
I can only speak from the rock musician angle here. Even if you make music that is distinctly Indian in flavor, context, etc., but sing in English, you're mostly perceived as 'aping the West.' And the West, when it wants musicians from here, mostly looks for ones that are 'culturally unique' – your type "A" musician. The pluses? I guess you have more time to hone your art before it has to be beaten into a mass-global-market shape...

The music charts, as I see it, are just the opinion of individuals (record companies and music mags) who define the parameters and use the same to influence others who don't have their own opinion. Indian artists like the singers Lata Mangeshkar and K. J.Yesudas (to name just two) have recorded songs by the thousand, not to mention in different languages. These have been selling by the million both via the record companies that produce them and the unaccounted bootleg market as well. Nobody has bothered to record these numbers on a chart. Given the size of the Asian market it's easy to see why an A. R. Rehman track would sell more in India alone as compared to the rest of the world put together.

Our music as a band is considered niche here — that’s a disadvantage when it comes to trying to sell it to a record label. We are competing directly with the 'hot' Bollywood track (of the week) without the advantage of being in a box office hit movie and the support of exclusive attention of the pop TV channels.

We have to get across that hurdle to get across to the West where the rite of passage for a band is the live pub circuit, moving to the festivals and then hoping to be picked up by an agent to get our foot in the door of a record company and then be left to the mercy of some A&R sort.

The Internet has changed all that. Territories as we knew them ten years back don't exist any more.

Your music is not what one might call “traditional.” Was it hard to find acceptance in your native country?

Sunil Chandy:
Generally, yes. Western music is — or you can say was— populated with bands doing only cover versions. When we first started doing originals, it was a bit odd for our audiences and the commercial market still hasn't come to grips with it. To find acceptance in what is perceived as a 'foreign' art form in a 'foreign' language is near impossible. We write based on our influences, our experiences, and the particular chemistry that the band has. Not because the CIA pays us.

Rajeev Rajagopal:
Being born and brought up in a city like Bangalore, there's not very much about us that is traditional. The way live, work, think and generally are, is not very traditional. We haven’t really played our music to a very traditional regional Indian audience. We've played in cities and towns that have a majority of the audience plugged into the Western music scene.

There was this one time that we played in Cochin at a small local festival called the Tree Festival. We were supporting the cause, which was to protect some large and beautiful rain trees from being cut down by property developers. So the crowd was very native and our music was completely alien to them. But the gig totally rocked like any gig in town — so I guess if the music has some raga and tala (rhythm) and everything is in tune, etc., then you have a pretty good chance of being accepted anywhere.

Bruce Lee Mani:
Finding acceptance as a 'musician' per se is, I guess, the same anywhere. For our music? It isn't really difficult to find an audience for 'covers' – basically your ‘greatest hits’ kind of band. What is difficult is building a fan base for your own music without support from the industry. This mostly means playing hundreds of gigs, till your audience knows and learns your music, if it's good enough. It's taken TAAQ nine years to have the front rows sing every song.

The fact that we speak and think in English and play the kind of music we do suggests some kind of cross-border evolution that we haven't accounted for. We find acceptance on a day-to-day basis with every gig we play. We define success by that yardstick. 'Traditional' music itself is struggling to keep its place here, which has been taken over large scale by the pop scene.

Has the political situation in India, especially any conflicts with Pakistan, had any effect on your music or the music of India in general?

Sunil Chandy:
I don't think so. The conflict with Pakistan is a complex matrix, a legacy of a callous pre-1947 British administration, and naive, selfish politicians both sides of the border. To write music on that, we would either have to be directly involved or have family who are directly involved. We don't have either and geographically too, we are removed by over a thousand miles. Pakistanis and Indians are equal humans and to say anything else is bigotry.

Bruce Lee Mani:
Politics in India is quite the grand soap opera in itself, and I'm sure many songs have been inspired by the antics of our leaders. (TAAQ's "Humpty Dumpty," from our first album, is dedicated to the portly Ms. J. Jayalalithaa, chief minister of our neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, a former actress, owner of a thousand shoes, thrower of 100-million-rupee parties…).

The music of India in general – well, you will find the occasional breast-beating 'patriotic' Bollywood film, dramatizing conflict with our hostile neighbors, with songs to match. Anti-war songs from the rock quadrant are few.

In the last few years we have seen some of the bigger 'acts' like Junoon from Pakistan and Euphoria from India do these Indo-Pakistan integration songs and concerts that have been in the media. But apart from the mileage they got from being in the media glare of those events there hasn't been much to talk about in terms of what the music really meant to us as Indians (I speak for myself!).

That apart, Bollywood music and the stars that act in the movies have more clout than all the politicians put together — since the movies (and the music thereof) integrate the people of both regions like nothing else.

We as a band haven't consciously written music to promote or provoke the nationalist spirit (or lack of it!) or even use the idea to draw media attention. Down here in Bangalore we seem quite far removed from what’s happening on the Line-of-Control and Kashmir. Personally the topic hasn't inspired any music in me thus far.


It was not long after this interview that the earthquake in India, and surrounding nations, occurred. I had emailed a second set of questions, but have not heard back. I am hoping and praying that all is well with the four members of Thermal and a Quarter and their families.

Monday, January 02, 2006


Is it me, or are there fewer English bands invading our CD players and radios? If so, why haven't we noticed? TGB has uncovered a few gems, and I am certain we have uncovered another one in Spearmint.

The band is comprised of original members Shirley Lee (lead vocals), Ronan Larvor (drums) and Simon Calnan (keyboards). Within months, James Parsons signs on as bassist. This core was joined by bassist Andy Lewis in 2000. Parsons would move to guitar.

In 2005, Spearmint celebrated their 10th anniversary. Recently, TGB caught up with lead singer Shirley Lee and discussed those ten year as well as the next ten. Enjoy this conversation with one of Britain's hidden treasures, Spearmint.

As you complete the 10th anniversary of Spearmint, what would you say are the highlights and lowlights of the past ten years?

Highlights: getting our debut album out (I mean A Week Away), the tours we have done particularly in Japan, Germany & Sweden, doing the acoustic tour this year as it stretched us, and making the new album as we love it!
Lowlights: Martin, our first bass player dying in 1998, falling for lots of promises from music industry types in the early days, and a few miserable British gigs...

I can't help but compare your band to, let's say, Status Quo. Both have huge followings in countries outside of America, but have made very little impact in America. Would this be a fair assessment?

No that's not a fair assessment! Status Quo are considered a bit of a joke here and they have been going for nearly 40 years! Though I guess without them there would be no Spinal Tap. Our records have never been released in America. We have always thought that one day we would come over there and play and find someone to put our stuff out. I'm sure that will happen! We kind of potter along at our own pace, and are happy as long as we are making the albums.

With an album of new material a few months away, why put out another release so close?

The Boy and The Girl That Got Away is a limited edition acoustic album only available via our website, so in a way it's a good trailer for the new album. We did an acoustic tour earlier this year and wrote these nine songs especially for it. It seemed like a cool idea to record them and do it as a really limited thing. I like the idea that it will be gone once we sell out.

The songs on The Boy and The Girl That Got Away are new, and meant to be played acoustically. How do you determine whether a song is material that's to be interpreted acoustically or should be plugged in?

I suddenly got very excited about the idea of writing songs for an acoustic tour rather than for an album; it brought the whole project alive for me. These songs were just written with playing acoustic in mind. I guess some of them would have been written for the whole band and come out differently if we hadn't done the acoustic thing...

Are there plans to re-record these songs with full instrumentation?

No, we won't re-record any of them, but we may play band versions of one or two of them live.

What can you reveal about the forthcoming release? Any song titles? How about a title for the CD?

Mmm, it is just slightly early for me to reveal that. I think in about one month we will be ready to let people know what it is called. I can tell you that it is a kind of cross between A Week Away and A Different Lifetime in that it has an ambitious concept, but is full of pop songs!

I was noticing that your pattern early on was to release singles, but that you have gone away from that. Could you explain that?

In the early days we were learning how to make records and how to release them and we didn't have any money, so we put out quite a few singles before we finished our debut album. By the time we made My Missing Days, we were confident of how to make an album, so we did that rather than singles. Having said that there will be four singles off the new album - different coloured vinyl and some cool b-sides.

Are there plans to come to America? When? Will this new record be released in America?

I think a few copies will find their way to America on export, but as yet it will have no official release. We are open to offers; we would LOVE to come and play in America!

What does 2006 have in store for Spearmint?

Get the album finished, get it out, get the singles out, do a lot of gigs!

Click here to check out Spearmint's website.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

Here is a list of New Year's Resolutions from friends of TGB. Feel free to add yours.

Steven Morricone - Scaramanga Six: To not be so late all the time, to become a bit more like Tom & Barbara Good (a la 'The Good Life'), to get some earplugs and loads of boring label/band-related things you really don't want to know about.

Paul Lewis: To be an even better musician/artist; to be the best husband, father, friend I can be; and to never stop learning!

Shirley Lee - Spearmint: Me personally: to do more exercise and eat more dried fruit. For the band, I don't know yet. We meet up each January and make our "Pop Wishes", which are the things we want to happen or the things we want to do that year. We then seal them up and hide them in a copy of Burt Bacharach's Hit Maker album. We get them out the following January and see if Burt has been good to us!

William Cameron - Winechuggers:
Take more walks
Play more shows
Read more books
Watch more movies
Record a new album
Get off my fat lazy ass and guzzle the sweet sweet nectar of life

Edie Sedgwick:
Fewer Manhattan's.
More time with Kitty Kats.
Complete that African safari.
Write a tell-all exposing love affair with Martha Stewart.
Update blog more frequently at
Love life!

Cynthia Conrad - Blood Ruby: This New Year is an important event for me. Six months ago, after being diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer and undergoing a grueling chemo regimen and major surgery that left me weak and terminally ill, I was sent to Hospice with a prognosis of 4-6 weeks left to live. Somehow I survived.

In previous years, I always viewed resolutions as taking something away from myself: eat less, spend less money, watch less tv, get up earlier,break old habits, make time for housekeeping and exercise, and so forth.

This year is different. This year I resolve instead to *give* myself something: better nutrition, more secure wealth, more knowledge and imagination, more energy, better habits, better organization, better fitness, and so forth. This year I resolve to do the things I love andlove the things I do. This year I resolve to live.

Thermal and a Quarter:
Bruce: Shut up and play my guitar
Rajeev: Start playing one new instrument (piano if possible)
Rzhude: To live this year like it's the last one I have.
Sunil Chandy: To crack a joke at a gig that people would actually laugh at

Anna-Lynne Williams - Trespassers William: My personal desire has been to compose a song for a film. Whether this time (it) pans out, that is a goal for this year. And the next record will be even better, I already know that. Beware.


First, it's been a great year. Thanks to everyone who contributed, gave time to be interviewed, and, of course, the readers. Second, my resolution is to lose weight (cliche), to publish my first chapbook of poetry, and to see the fruition of TGB as a radio show. There are too many bands being neglected, yet in our corporate radio conglomerate world, there are many people who choose to have their music spoon fed to them. TGB is about education, educating music lovers. Look, true music fans know that there is more oratory pleasure than what is heard on corporate radio. The popularity of college stations across this country is evidence of that. With satellite radio helping to bring more of a variety of sounds to our world, it may not be long before any band across this globe will be able to hide. Yet, if this small blog can a play a part in turning someone's ears onto cool sounds, that's good enough for me.

Keep checking back in. Spread the word. Support the bands you read about on this blog. There's more to music than a top 200 list of albums. Pick from those obscure vines. Enjoy the fruits. You may find them the sweetest you have ever tasted.

Thank you,
Sal Treppiedi
Living in "The Great Beyond"and presumed having fun!