it isn't easy
this is such a whiteboy thought, but i sometimes wonder how people living in third world countries manage to make beautiful music. afriancan benga --from kenya's capitol city-- is such a cheerful sounding music, but we all learned in high school that nairobi isn't nearly as rosey. last year, alex minoff and ian eagleson (who you might remember from semisupergroup golden) collaborated with some of benga's most talented artists -- guitarist otieno jagwasi, and drummer onyango wuod omari. tragically, only months after extra golden's ok-oyot system (which fittingly translates to "it isn't easy") was recorded, jagwasi succumbed to a case of liver disease complicated by h.i.v. which makes the band's upcoming american tour much more than bittersweet.
ian on jagwasi's passing--
"it's sad that otieno couldn't be around to see all this. the good thing is that we carried on the things that we had started. another good thing is that his brother is a singer. we'd love to get him over to america in the future. we couldn't do it this time, because we didn't have the funds bring a bunch of guys over, and we needed someone who could play guitar and sing. but this guy helped us so much in getting this all together. if this succeeds, we'll be able to do it again, and be able to bring him over. and that'll be great, because we'll have his brother here singing his songs."
ian on the kenyans coming to america for extra golden's upcoming tour--
"the guys just got here today. they've never been to america before, and they're loving it. they're really excited. one of the guys is saying he feels like he's dreaming. he's not going to know it's real until he wakes up. they're totally excited and so are we. we're going to have about a week to practice. we have a lot of work to do, because the guy who sang on the record passed away a year ago. so we got another guy to come over and play lead guitar and sing. we got that, and it was like a miricle that they got over here. it was a complete nightmare to get visas and passports. it came down to like the absolute last minute. we're just really grateful and excited to be able to do this."
ian on his run-in with kenyan police--
"it was kind of a set up. this guy came over to our house who had some weed, and then thirty minutes after that some detectives showed up saying they were going to take us to jail. for about three hours we had to negotiate with these guys to stay out of jail -- it was basically a payoff. we kind of got blackmailed. we didn't really do anything wrong. we weren't buying pot or anything like that, so, i don't know how it happened. i'll never really know the full story, but i think there was some kind of backhanded stuff going on."
ian on niarobi's underbelly--
"kenya is a great place, but it's a pretty cut throat place. especially niarobi. outside, it's very peaceful, but inside nairobi, there's just a lot of hustling going on. it's hard to avoid it. you get caught up in it. i definitely didn't shelter myself from it. i got more than I had bargained for. it's definitely not a cake-walk. and nobody knows more than these guys, the kenyans."
a godiva chocolate bar encrusted in gold
must say i'm quite fond of this new grizzly bear album.
if history even remembers the shamefully journo-concocted Free Folk Explosion of the Early 2000’s, my money's on grizzly bear going down as its most artful act. those animal collective boys might be anthologized as the fearlessly artistic forerunners, swinging from vines in the jungle and playing broken guitar pedals, but ed droste’s songs have this unmistakable grace, a kind of class and refinement to temper their wandering experimentation. i'm pretty in love. and ed is proud:
ed on yellow house as compared to horn of plenty--
"god, horn of plenty is like a pack of chicklets, and yellow house is a GODIVA CHOCOLATE BAR ENCRUSTED IN GOLD. not to sound arrogant, but I feel 100 percent confident and psyched about the album. horn of plenty was sort of weird and personal and unfinished to me so i didn't really know how i felt about it, but now with yellow house, i know when and if we get a shitty review, i'll just say "well they are dumb because it's a great record" i know that much at least. at least i wont get too depressed about negative press, you know?"
ed on brooklyn and the "scene"--
"i think it's funny and mostly a sentiment echoed by journalists in europe who think everyone all gets beers together at the "freak folk cafe" on bedford. ultimately it's ridiculous. i don't really even know any of those artists personally speaking, although i'd like to meet a lot of them. also i don't have long hair. maybe i should grow it out? i'm not really sure. i mean personally speaking i like how many bands there are in NYC. i don't see it as "fuck it's impossible to make it here, so much competition!" but rather, "wow there's a lot of great music and people around, I better not put out shit." it's inspiring and a motivator as well. as for community, i think there are some circles of famous people in the music world that are friends. i think my invite is still lost in the mail though. once I get it I'll let you know."
ed on leaving a small operation and signing with warp--
"i don't miss small scale operations at all because it's really hard to get shit done. i am very thankful to kanine for the opportunity they provided us, but there is something to be said for being able to find your cd in a store and have proper promotion behind it. the story of warp goes like this -- we thought we were destined to go nowhere. had no label interest, but we decided to record yellow house anyway because we wanted to make a new album. then once we had what was about 80 percent of it done, we sent it out to a few people and suddenly we had all this great label interest. it was overwhelming really and totally was a "when it rains it pours." warp wasn't technically the "biggest" label that put an offer out, but they were always the ones from the get go that we loved the most. funnily enough, they came to us before we even sent anything to them, which was cool. it all just worked out so nicely. coudln't be happier with them as people and a label."
zen intense melody
tim hecker's harmony in ultraviolet is enough to pull a motherfucker out of a coma. here's what he said to me last week:hecker on the album --"i wouldn’t say that it’s different. there’s always this desire to do different things. but there’s often little respect for craft or developing a voice. that can take a long time, that can be slow over different records. i kind of reject the need to be different. having said that, the new record is probably as heavy as any record i’ve done. i would say that it’s also as melodic as anything i’ve done, along the lines of my earlier work. but it’s also not noisy. the element of white noise is really surpressed on this record. it's zen intense melody, i suppose. it’s fairly dynamic, in the sense that there’s quite a trajectory over the fifty minutes, between different movements, between really mellow, traditional ambient pieces, and kind of neo-boredoms electronic metal insanity."hecker on why melody is important --"when i listen to something interesting in terms of its chord structure from a rock band, sometimes it totally underwhelms me for being pretty pansy or pretty weak in terms of its power. and then i listen to someone like merzbow and find it just as dissatisfying because there’s a total absence of tonal quality. melody gives a kind of redemption, a sort of power, and it’s so effective with noise."hecker on bucking the norm --"when i started out doing music, the intention was to be part of a music, electronic music in the late 90’s, that was challenging conventions, and doing something different. and that was a large part of it. for me, going back or resorting to the traditional, i don’t know? that’s not for me. i’m not being progressive for progressiveness’ sake. i just want to add something to the world that, hopefully, even if it fails, tries to do something authentic and new. obviously it’s never something that’s totally new or authentic."hecker on playing live --"all the onus is put on the musician. there’s no onus put on the listener for actually realizing that they’re a product of the 21st century -- a time in which attention span and focus are things that nobody has. i’ve worn costumes just to appease rock crowds. i dressed up as a druid dungeon lord. i’ve done it a few times, when i’m playing huge rock festivals and there’s like 2 or 3 thousand people. it’s kind of appeasing, but it’s also a sort of fuck you. because what’s the difference if i’m playing a mixing desk with fifteen different sound sources, that i‘m blending live, and running through 5 guitar pedals on a table top, or i’m dancing around playing three chords that i’ve played for the last fifteen years of my life. it goes back to that sort of pressure on the crowd to actually look at themselves, as opposed to me, doing something that’ll make them feel it’s worth it to go out. then you realize how ridiculous it is that people value three chords being jammed out and dancing around over something that maybe they don’t see as much. some people deal with that by putting cameras to show that they’re mixing. and that’s like giving in to the same demands. i just think some of that should just be put back on the audience. having said that there are some musicians who obviously aren’t doing anything. for me, that’s fine. even if someone plays an mp3, it puts a greater standard on the show. if their music is not good, and they have the ability to prepare it for a year, to make sure that performance is perfect and sounds amazing, there’s a greater pressure to reject things that aren’t good. i mean, how can you do laptop music that sucks? often, what i do is close the curtains on the stage, or i stand right beside the sound engineer, and completely eliminate the performative aspect. what they’re left with is two huge speakers, blasting enticing music."