Tag: Nirvana Nevermind

New Video: Mark Lanegan Releases a Hallucinogenic Visual for “Night Flight to Kabul”

Over the past few years, I’ve spilled a fair share of virtual ink covering Mark Lanegan, the Ellensburg, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, known as the frontman and founding member of Seattle-based grunge rock pioneers Screaming Trees, and an acclaimed solo artist, who has collaborated with an eclectic array of artists and bands — including  Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain on an unreleased Lead Belly cover/tribute album recorded before the release of Nevermind; as a member of the renowned grunge All-Star supergroup/side project Mad Season with Alice in Chains‘ Layne Staley and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready; as a member of  Queens of the Stone Age featured on five of the band’s albums — 2000’s Rated R, 2002’s Songs for the Deaf, 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze, 2007’s Era Vulgaris and 2013’s . . . Like Clockwork; with The Afghan Whigs‘ Greg Dulli in The Gutter Twins; as well as former Belle and Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell on three albums. Additionally, Lanegan has contributed or guested on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Martina Topley-Bird, Creature with the Atom Brain, Moby, Bomb the Bass, Soulsavers, Greg Dulli’s The Twilight Singers, UNKLE and others.

As a solo artist, Lanegan has released 10 critically applauded albums that have seen a fair amount of commercial success. (Ironically, his solo work has seen much more commercial success than his work with Screaming Trees.) The Ellensburg-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay’s tenth solo album Gargoyle was a collaboration between him, British-born and-based musician Rob Marshall and longtime collaborator, singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Alain Johannes. That album’s material was both an expansion and refinement of the Krautrock-tinged blues of his two preceding albums  2012’s Blues Funeral and 2014’s Phantom Radio.

Somebody’s Knocking, Lanegan’s 11th full-length solo album is slated for an October 18, 2019 release through Heavenly Recordings, and the album’s material finds the acclaimed singer/songwriter turning to some of his most formative musical influences and loves — electronic music. “I’ve always been into electronic music since I was a kid,” Lanegan says in press notes. “I think the reason those elements have become more obvious in my music is that my tastes have changed as I’ve grown older. The bulk of what I listen to now is electronic. Alain Johannes and I had actually written “Penthouse High” for Gargoyle but then it didn’t really fit on that record. I have been a huge fan of New Order and Depeche Mode forever and have wanted to do a song along those lines for a long time – a blatantly catchy, old-school dance-type song.”

Although Somebody’s Knocking came together during an 11 day session in Los Angeles, much of the album’s deepest musical influences are decidedly European, including the album’s two other writing partners Martin Jenkins, who records as Pye Corner Audio and the aforementioned Rob Marshall, who contribute some newer, murkier forms. Reportedly, Lanegan approached working with each of the album’s writing partners from the perspective and lens of a fan and interpreter. 

Lyrically speaking, the album purportedly sets the listener down multiple rabbit holes, as Lanegan paints psychedelic pictures inspired by the music. “I feel like I write lyrics instinctively. I let the melody come first and then it tells me what the words are going to be and I write whatever feels appropriate,” Lanegan says in press notes. “That said, I’m also influenced by everything I’m into. I don’t usually like to talk about what a song means to me; I prefer that the people who connect with a song do so with their own interpretation. It never crossed my mind what Neil Young meant by After The Gold Rush, only the personal movie it created in my head. My entire life, all the music that I’ve connected to has drawn me in like that. Joy Division, Nick Drake, Son House, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Gun Club… all the music that meant the most to me, the music that saved my life was the music that told my own story back to me.”

Naturally, some aspects of the real world can’t help but seep their way into the album’s material. “It seems to me that the entire world is in a weird, precarious place right now,” the Ellensburg-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “I try to not be someone in a constant state of worry and alarm but watching the massive divide that is taking place and the political situations, especially in the US and UK makes me think, ‘what the fuck are these idiots thinking?’ The hatred, racism and all this other fear-driven shit, these ‘adults’ that continually drive the machine that perpetuates this ignorance to their own ends should all be in the prison cells instead of the non-violent drug “offenders” in them now. I can’t specifically say how any of this effects my writing but I know that most of the things that occupy my thoughts have a way of coming back out in a song.”

Now, as you may recall, I wrote about the bluesy-Heaven Up Here-era Echo and the Bunnymen-like “Letter Never Sent.” The album’s latest single “Night Flight to Kabul” may arguably one of  be the album’s more dance floor friendly tracks, as it’s centered around thumping, four-on-the-floor drumming, rumbling bass lines, shimmering and skronky guitars, a tight motorik groove and Lanegan’s imitable croon. In some way, the song will likely remind listeners a bit of a bluesy take on the likes of Gary Numan and New Order. But lyrically, the song evokes a hallucinatory and surrealist fever dream, in which things aren’t quite what they seem. 

Directed by Dean Karr, the recently released video for “Night Flight to Kabul” is a hallucinogenic and feverish dream. ‘“The artistry and genius of Dean Karr is what made this video happen,” Mark Lanegan says in press notes. “5,000 still photographs taken in eight hours were painstakingly put together to give the appearance of a strange wraithlike figure moving weirdly through the desolate landscape of the Salton Sea. My third video with Dean in three different decades and I have to say this was the best. The most artistically challenging and satisfying.”

“We had been talking about doing this video for ‘Night Flight to Kabul’ for a month or two and my only concern was how could I pull this off with such a challenging budget for my friend?” The video’s director, Dean Karr adds in press notes. “Being a photographer before I was ever a director, I decided to use my Nikon D810 still camera for the entire music video and turn it into animation throughout the entire clip. What a simple solution! There’s lots of post work involved, which was done by editor and FX artist Joel Nathaniel Smith. There’s alot to be said for the simplicity of working WITHOUT a crew, it was just Mark, myself and a fan of Mark’s (Jason Hall) who drove 3 hours out of his way to meet us at the The Salton Sea, CA to help us shoot a beyond unique video! I think this is one of the freshest looking things out there today and love the ‘melty’ moments, which remind me of doing hallucinogenics back in the day!”

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I’ve spilled my fair share of virtual ink, covering Mark Lanegan, the Ellensburg, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who known as the frontman, and founding member of  Seattle-based grunge rock pioneers Screaming Trees, and an acclaimed solo artist, who has collaborated with an eclectic array of artists and bands — including  Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain on an unreleased Lead Belly cover/tribute album recorded before the release of Nevermind; as a member of the renowned grunge All-Star supergroup/side project Mad Season with Alice in Chains‘ Layne Staley and Pearl Jam’Mike McCready; as a member of  Queens of the Stone Age featured on five of the band’s albums — 2000’s Rated R, 2002’s Songs for the Deaf, 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze, 2007’s Era Vulgaris and 2013’s . . . Like Clockwork; with The Afghan Whigs‘ Greg Dulli in The Gutter Twins; as well as former Belle and Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell on three albums. Additionally, Lanegan has contributed or guested on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Martina Topley-BirdCreature with the Atom BrainMobyBomb the BassSoulsavers, Greg Dulli’s The Twilight SingersUNKLE and others.

Lanegan’s solo career has seen him release ten, critically applauded albums that have seen a fair amount of commercial success. (Ironically,. his solo work has actually seen more commercial success than any of his work with Screaming Trees.) The Ellensburg-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and guitarist’s tenth solo album Gargoyle found him collaborating with British-born and-based musician Rob Marshall, who’s best known for stints with  Exit Calm and Humanist and his longtime collaborator, multi-instrumentalist and producer Alain Johannes. Interestingly, the album’s material was both an expansion and refinement of the Krautrock-tinged blues of his two previously released albums 2012’s Blues Funeral and 2014’s Phantom Radio.

Now, as you may recall, Lanegan’s 11th full-length album Somebody’s Knocking is slated for an October 18, 2019 release though Heavenly Recordings, and the album reportedly less the tale of a brooding rock veteran and more that of someone consumed by a lifelong love affair with music and words. Interestingly, much of the album’s material finds Lanegan turning to some of his most formative musical influences and loves — electronic music.

“I’ve always been into electronic music since I was a kid,” Lanegan says in press notes. “I think the reason those elements have become more obvious in my music is that my tastes have changed as I’ve grown older. The bulk of what I listen to now is electronic. Alain Johannes and I had actually written “Penthouse High” for Gargoyle but then it didn’t really fit on that record. I have been a huge fan of New Order and Depeche Mode forever and have wanted to do a song along those lines for a long time – a blatantly catchy, old-school dance-type song.”

Although Lanegan’s forthcoming 11th album came together during an eleven day session in Los Angeles, many of the album’s deepest musical influences are decidedly European, including some newer, murkier forms provided by Martin Jenkins. who records as Pye Corner Audio or Rob Marshall, a collaborator on Gargoyle and on his own, forthcoming debut album as Humanist. In each case, Lanegan approached working with each of the writers from the perspective of a fan.

Lyrically speaking, the album purportedly sets the listener down multiple rabbit holes, as Lanegan paints psychedelic pictures inspired by the music. “I feel like I write lyrics instinctively. I let the melody come first and then it tells me what the words are going to be and I write whatever feels appropriate,” Lanegan says in press notes. “That said, I’m also influenced by everything I’m into. I don’t usually like to talk about what a song means to me; I prefer that the people who connect with a song do so with their own interpretation. It never crossed my mind what Neil Young meant by After The Gold Rush, only the personal movie it created in my head. My entire life, all the music that I’ve connected to has drawn me in like that. Joy Division, Nick Drake, Son House, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Gun Club… all the music that meant the most to me, the music that saved my life was the music that told my own story back to me.”

Naturally, some aspects of the real world can’t help but seep their way into the album’s material. “It seems to me that the entire world is in a weird, precarious place right now,” the Ellensburg-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “I try to not be someone in a constant state of worry and alarm but watching the massive divide that is taking place and the political situations, especially in the US and UK makes me think, ‘what the fuck are these idiots thinking?’ The hatred, racism and all this other fear-driven shit, these “adults” that continually drive the machine that perpetuates this ignorance to their own ends should all be in the prison cells instead of the non-violent drug “offenders” in them now. I can’t specifically say how any of this effects my writing but I know that most of the things that occupy my thoughts have a way of coming back out in a song.”

Centered around a motorik groove, shimmering guitar lines and a tight hook, “Letter Never Sent,” the album’s latest single manages to bear an uncanny resemblance to Heaven Up Here-era Echo and the Bunnymen but imbued with a bluesy tinge.

 

New Video: Grunge Pioneer Mark Lanegan Teams Up with Duke Garwood on an Atmospheric and Eerie Single

Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about Mark Lanegan, the Ellensburg, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who is best known as the frontman, and founding member of  Seattle-based grunge rock pioneers Screaming Trees, and for collaborating with an incredibly diverse array of artists and bands throughout his lengthy career, including Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain on an unreleased Lead Belly cover/tribute album recorded before the release of Nevermind; as a member of the renowned grunge All-Star supergroup/side project Mad Season with Alice in Chains‘ Layne Staley and Pearl Jam‘s Mike McCready; as a member of  Queens of the Stone Age featured on five of the band’s albums — 2000’s Rated R, 2002’s Songs for the Deaf, 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze, 2007’s Era Vulgaris and 2013’s . . . Like Clockwork; with The Afghan Whigs‘ Greg Dulli in The Gutter Twins; as well as former Belle and Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell on three albums. Additionally, Lanegan has contributed or guested on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Martina Topley-Bird, Creature with the Atom Brain, Moby, Bomb the Bass, Soulsavers, Greg Dulli’s The Twilight Singers, UNKLE and others.

While developing a reputation for being a highly sought-after collaborator, Lanegan has also managed to maintain a solo career that has seen him release ten, critically applauded and somewhat commercially successful albums; in fact, ironically, his solo work has seen more commercial success than his work with Screaming Trees. Lanegan’s tenth solo album, 2017’s Gargoyle found the Ellensburg, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist collaborating with British-based musician Rob Marshall, who’s best known for stints with  Exit Calm and Humanist and his longtime collaborator, multi-instrumentalist and producer Alain Johannes. Sonically speaking, the material was both a refinement and an expansion of the Krautrock-tinged blues of his previous two albums Blues Funeral and Phantom Radio.

Duke Garwood is a British-based blues/indie rock multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, who has written and released six albums as a solo artist — 2005’s Holy Week, 2006’s Emerald Palace, 2009’s The Sand That Falls, 2011’s Dreamboatsafari, 2015’s Heavy Love and 2017’s Garden of Ashes. He’s also collaborated with renowned The Orb,  Archie Bronson Outfit, Savages, Shezad Dawood and the aforementioned Mark Lanegan among others; in fact, Garwood has released an album with Lanegan — 2013’s Black Pudding and as has recorded and toured as a member of Lanegan’s backing band for the renowned grunge pioneer’s last three albums. Interestingly, Garwood and Lanegan continue their ongoing collaboration with their forthcoming, second album together With Animals, which is slated for an August 24, 2018 release through Heavenly Records, and the album, which was split between old-fashioned studio collaboration and Trans-Atlantic file sharing is a decided sonic departure for both artists, as it finds them crafting spectral and sinewy music, focusing on the spaces between notes while employing much different instrumentation — dusty, analog synthesizers and drum machines. The album’s first single, the sparse, mournful and aching “Save Me” is centered around Lanegan’s imitable vocals, fluttering, synths and metronomic drum machines, and in some way the track sounds like a discarded remnant of life just before the apocalypse; but underneath, the song feels made of some older stuff, as though it channels an ancient pagan ritual.

 
As Harwood says of his lengthy collaboration with the renowned grunge pioneer, “Over the years, we’ve recorded together and apart. This time, I started this record alone with many animals as company. It flowed, I set to work and out it came. Our music is instinct, there is not much talking about it, just creating. I think that if you are at peace with your work, and feeling it right, it flows, and can feel ‘easy’. Music isn’t meant to be hard. Though sometimes it can burn you to ashes. Making music for a singer, so they can inhabit it with a song means hitting the right soul buttons. There is no hit without a miss. It is a healing record, for us the makers, and for the listeners. It grows natural. We are gardeners of sonic feelings.  The recently released video features footage of 80s wrestlers but in heavily filtered negatives, which further emphasizes the song’s trippy vibes.

New Video: Mark Lanegan Band Releases Surreal Yet Cinematic Visuals for “Emperor”

Mark Lanegan is a Ellensburg, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, best known as one of the founding members and frontman of renowned Seattle-based grunge rock pioneers Screaming Trees, and as a solo artist who has collaborated with an incredibly diverse array of artists and bands throughout his lengthy career including Nirvana‘s Kurt Cobain on an unreleased Lead Belly cover/tribute album recorded before the release of Nevermind. Along with that Lanegan is also known for being a member of the grunge rock, All-Star supergroup/side project Mad Season with Alice in Chains‘ Layne Staley and Pearl Jam‘s Mike McCready and for joining Queens of the Stone Age after the breakup of Screaming Trees, contributing on five of the band’s albums  — 2000’s Rated R, 2002’s Songs for the Deaf, 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze, 2007’s Era Vulgaris and 2013’s . . . Like Clockwork. Lanegan has also collaborated with The Afghan Whigs‘ Greg Dulli in The Gutter Twins and has collaborated with former Belle and Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell on three albums. Additionally, he has contributed or guested on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Martina Topley-Bird, Creature with the Atom Brain, Moby, Bomb the Bass, Soulsavers, Greg Dulli’s The Twilight Singers, UNKLE and others. As a solo artist, Lanegan has released 10 studio albums that have been critically applauded and have seen a fair amount of commercial success. 

Lanegan’s 10th and most recent album Gargoyle was released this past summer through Heavenly Recordings. And interestingly enough, the Ellensburg, WA, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter can take the origins of the album’s overall sound and aesthetic back to early last year. As the story goes, the grunge rock legend was working on ideas for what could be a new, solo album, when he received an email from his friend and collaborator, British-based musician Rob Marshall, who he met several years before when Marshall’s former band Exit Calm had supported Soulsavers, a band that Lanegan had been fronting. Marshall’s email thanked Lanegan for his participation on a Humanist album — and in the email, Marshall offered to write music for Lanegan, if he needed it to return the favor. As Lanegan recalled in press notes, his response was along the lines of “Hey man, I’m getting ready to make a record, if you’ve got anything? Three days later he sent me 10 things… !” 

Interestingly, the music Marshall had written had managed to fit perfectly with the direction Lanegan had been thinking of for some time — an expansion of the Krautrock-inspired electronic sounds and textures of his previous two albums Blues Funeral and Phantom Radio. Eventually Marshall wound up co-writing six of the album’s 10 songs with the remainder of the album being written and produced by Lanegan’s longtime collaborator Alain Johannes at 11AD Studios in West Hollywood. Gargoyle‘s second single “Beehive” pairs Lanegan’s imitable boozy, growling baritone vocals with a bluesy and swaggering production featuring shimmering guitar chords and enormous tweeter and woofer rattling beats, essentially pushing Lanegan’s recent forays into the blues into the 21st Century; but in a way that feels both warmly familiar and yet new.

Gargoyle’s latest single “Emperor” finds Lanegan and his backing band pairing Lanegan’s imitable, boozy and growling baritone with the sort of old-timey, bar room blues that brings to mind Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” complete with jangling and shimmering guitars and a propulsive backbeat; but much like its predecessor, the song possesses a weary and existential weariness just underneath the surface. 

The recently released video continues a string of cinematic yet surreal visuals — in this case, the viewer is thrown into a vaguely Russian styled dictatorship, full of state sanction violence upon innocent people while also nodding at Julius Caesar. While being fictional, the video manages to evoke our dangerously strange and uncertain times. 

New Video: The Cinematic and Mournful Visuals for Mark Lanegan Band’s “Beehive”

Mark Lanegan is a Ellensburg, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, best known as the frontman, and founding member of Seattle-based grunge rock pioneers Screaming Trees, and for collaborating with an incredibly diverse array of artists and bands throughout his lengthy career including Nirvana‘s Kurt Cobain on an unreleased Lead Belly cover/tribute album recorded before the release of Nevermind. The Ellensburg-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter was also a member of renowned grunge rock All-Star supergroup/side project Mad Season with Alice in Chains‘ Layne Staley and Pearl Jam‘s Mike McCready. After Screaming Trees broke up in 2000, Lanegan joined Queens of the Stone Age and is featured on the band’s last five albums — 2000’s Rated R, 2002’s Songs for the Deaf, 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze, 2007’s Era Vulgaris and 2013’s . . . Like Clockwork. He’s also collaborated with The Afghan Whigs‘ Greg Dulli in The Gutter Twins and has collaborated with former Belle and Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell on three albums. Additionally, he has contributed or guested on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Martina Topley-Bird, Creature with the Atom Brain, Moby, Bomb the Bass, Soulsavers, Greg Dulli’s The Twilight Singers, UNKLE and others. And although he’s managed to be rather busy throughout the years, Lanegan has also developed a low-key solo career in which he’s released nine studio albums that have been critically applauded and have seen a fair amount of commercial success.

Lanegan’s 10th full-length effort Gargoyle is slated for release next week through Heavenly Recordings and interestingly enough, Lanegan can trace the origins of the album’s material and sound back to early 2016. At the time, the renowned grunge rocker and singer/songwriter was working on some ideas for material, which could possibly be a new, solo album, when he received an email from a friend and collaborator, the British based musician Rob Marshall, who he had first met several years before when Marshall’s former band Exit Calm had supported Soulsavers, a band that Lanegan had been fronting. The email thanked Lanegan for his participation on an album that Marshall had recorded with his newest project, Humanist while offering to write music for Lanegan to return a favor to the grunge pioneer. As Lanegan recalls in press notes, his response was along the lines of “Hey man, I’m getting ready to make a record, if you’ve got anything? Three days later he sent me 10 things… !”

Early on in the writing process, Lanegan had written “Blue Blue Sea,” a rippling mood peice that he thought and felt would be more fruitful direction for the songs on the album. “It’s almost always how my records start,” the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter explains in press notes. “I let the first couple of songs tell me what the next couple should sound like, and it’s really the same process when I’m writing words. Whatever my first couple of lines are, tell me what the next couple should be. I’ve always built things like that, sort of like making a sculpture I guess.” Within about an hour, Lanegan and written words and recorded vocals for two of the instrumental tracks Marshall had written and recorded at Mount Sion Studios in Kent UK. Interestingly, the music Marshall had written had managed to fit perfectly with the direction Lanegan had been thinking of for some time — an expansion of the Krautrock-inspired electronic sounds and textures of his previous two albums Blues Funeral and Phantom Radio. Eventually Marshall wound up co-writing six of the album’s 10 songs with the remainder of the album being written and produced by Lanegan’s longtime collaborator Alain Johannes at 11AD Studios in West Hollywood.

As the story goes, everything was polished and finished within a month, which has been unusually fast by Lanegan’s recent standards. “I definitely feel like I’m a better songwriter than I was 15 years ago,” Lanegan stays in press notes. “I don’t know if I’m just kidding myself or what, but it’s definitely easier now to make something that is satisfying to me. Maybe I’m just easier on myself these days, but it’s definitely not as painful a process, and therefore I feel I’m better at it now. But part of the way that I stay interested in making music is by collaborating with other people. When I see things through somebody else’s perspective it’s more exciting than if I’m left to my own devices.”

Gargoyle‘s second and latest single “Beehive” pairs Lanegan’s imitable boozy, growling baritone vocals with a bluesy and swaggering production featuring shimmering guitar chords and enormous tweeter and woofer rattling beats, essentially pushing Lanegan’s recent forays into the blues into the 21st Century; but in a way that feels both warmly familiar and yet new.

Directed by Zhang + Kang and produced by Agile Flims, the recently released video for “Beehive” follows two young lovers — two vampires, actually, who are desperately trying to kick their craving for blood. Before presumably deciding to kill themselves, they spend a sad yet beautiful romantic night together — and at the core of the video is a heavy, world-weary and fatalistic ache.

Led by its founding member, composer and bassist Ezra Gale and featuring Rick Parker (trombone), Alex Asher (trombone), Jon Lipscomb (guitar) and Madhu Siddappa, the Brooklyn-based trombone-led dub quintet Super Hi-Fi can trace their origins to a rather unlikely beginning. Gale, who was a founding member of acclaimed San Francisco-based Afrobeat act Aphrodisia, an act that once played at Fela Kuti‘s famed Lagos, Nigeria-based night club The Shrine, had relocated to Brooklyn and was collaborating with Quoc Pham in Sound Liberation Front when Gale was asked to get a band together for Pham and Gale’s then-monthly Afro-Dub Sessions parties in Williamsburg. Much like DJ Turmix’s Boogaloo Party, the Afro-Dub Sessions Party would pair the live band fronted by Gale with the dub’s top-flight producers and DJs including Victor RicePrince PoloSubatomic Sound System, the Beverley Road All-Stars and others.

When Gale founded Super Hi-Fi, the project was initially intended to translate the improvisatory mixing process of dub to the live show; however, with the 2012 release of their critically applauded debut effort Dub to the Bone, a busy touring schedule in which they opened for nationally known acts like RubblebucketBeats Antique and John Brown’s Body, followed by the release of their Yule Analog Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, the project began to cement its growing reputation for crafting a unique and expansive take on dub and reggae.

With the recent release of Super Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana, the Brooklyn-based dub quintet push the boundaries of reggae and dub by paying tribute to Nirvana. And in typical Super Hi-Fi fashion, the members of the band manage to create their own take on the iconic Seattle-based trio’s material with renowned dub producers, Sao Paulo, Brazil‘s Victor Rice; Venice, Italy‘s Doctor Sub; and Brooklyn’s Prince Polo — all of whom are frequent collaborators with the band — assisting to further bend and morph the band’s sound in trippy and psychedelic ways, which help take fairly familiar songs into bold, new territory.

Super-Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana (large).jpg

Adding to the uniqueness of the release, Very Special Recordings, a small, boutique Brooklyn-based label founded by Super Hi-Fi’s Ezra Gale, that specializes in releases cassettes that showcase the diverse of their borough’s and city’s music scene. Interestingly, while we all live in a world of Spotify playlists and streamable music that one never really owns, cassettes have seen something of a renaissance of late with several artists and labels releasing cassette only releases — and in some way, it’s a response against not just streaming services but against the trend towards technophilia for the sake of technophilia. While being relatively cheap to make and sell, a cassette tape does require a bit of effort  — you’d have to go to a physical record store to purchase your favorite band’s new record and then bring it home to play; have a label or friend mail or give you a tape; and at the very least, you’ll probably listen to the whole tape, if not an entire side once. Plus, let’s not forget, that unless your favorite song is the first song or last song of a side, finding it can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience. And yet, if you remember buying cassettes at your local record store, as I do, it’s an experience that frankly I sometimes miss very dearly.

I recently spoke to Super Hi-Fi’s Ezra Gale about Super Hi Fi Plays Nirvana, how the arranging and re-arranging process differs from Gale’s normal songwriting process, the band’s upcoming releases and more. Check it out below.

__________________

WRH: In the Q&As for The Joy of Violent Movement, we almost always begin with some fairly introductory stuff for readers.  So let’s begin, shall we?

WRH: How did the members of the band meet?

Ezra Gale: I had an idea for a two trombone band and placed a Craigslist ad for trombone players which got exactly two responses, from Alex Asher and Ryan Snow, who became our first two trombone players. Everybody else I just met through other musicians.

WRH: How would you describe your sound?

EG: It’s dub, but I don’t know if it’s reggae.

WRH:  Who are you listening to right now?

EG: The last album I bought was Bowie‘s last album, Blackstar, which is just incredible.

WRH: Seminal albums like Nirvana’s Nevermind, U2’s Achtung Baby, A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders, R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People, Soundgarden’s BadmotorfingerSuperunknown and Down On The Upside, Pearl Jam’s TenVs. and Vitalogy and others reaching important milestone anniversaries, it’s a bit surprising to me that to my knowledge more bands haven’t seriously begun to tackle them with more covers and more tribute albums, especially if you consider how many Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Beatles tribute albums have been released over the years. Why haven’t there been more Pearl Jam, U2, R.E.M. tributes and covers? And how did you come upon paying tribute to Nirvana? 

EG: I really don’t know about those other bands, for us we started playing a version of “Something In the Way” a couple years ago, and we all sort of got the idea that maybe a whole album of Nirvana tunes could be interesting.

 WRH: Much like your fantastic Christmas albums, Super Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana features a couple of very well-known songs such as In Utereo’s “Heart Shaped Box,” and their famous Unplugged cover of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” as well as some rather deeper cuts such as “Verse Chorus Verse,” their Incesticide cover of “Love Buzz” Nevermind’s “Something In The Way” and “Polly.” What inspired you to choose those songs to tackle instead of something more tried and true?

EG: Well, initially I wanted to do all really obscure ones. Nirvana is a band whose famous songs have been played to death and I don’t know if anyone really needs to hear another version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, for example. But I know them from when Bleach came out and they were just this really great, intense band from Seattle that not many people knew- my college band even opened for them then, randomly. So I wanted to spotlight some of those lesser-known songs of theirs. But then, I think i was riding my bike and I suddenly started hearing “Heart Shaped Box” in this really slow, weird way, so we ended up doing that one. Ultimately it’s just about giving each song a different treatment and finding something new to do with it, no matter how many times you’ve heard it before.

WRH: How do you go about re-arranging material that’s fairly familiar in a way that adds your particular spin to it — while maintaining something familiar? And how does the process of re-arranging material differ from your normal songwriting process?

EG: It is different than a normal songwriting process. This album was very similar to our two Christmas albums (“Yule Analog” Vols. I and II), in that the goal was to take familiar material and make it sound different. And like in arranging those Christmas songs, I made some rules for myself doing it, which were that the melody line had to be the same, but everything else around it could change. So the rhythms are obviously very different, but also, Nirvana was a band with only one singer and we have two trombones, so in a lot of these versions the second trombone part is made up- like in “Verse Chorus Verse”, “Heart Shaped Box” and “Where Did You Sleep” especially. And also the chords are quite different in some of these, “Polly” and “Where Did You Sleep” especially are pretty different chord changes than the Nirvana versions.

My attitude towards cover versions is just that there’s no point in doing them if all you’re doing is to play it like the original version. No matter how great the original song is, I don’t ever want to regurgitate what someone else has done- go listen to the original if you want that. At the same time, I think it should be recognizable as the original song, somehow. So the challenge of taking material and sort of shaping it into something different that still has echoes of the original song is something I really enjoy doing.

WRH: While doing a little research for this interview, I learned that you’re currently working on your sophomore full-length effort, as well as Beatles/Police 45 for Record Store Day. Could you tell us a little bit about those projects?

EG: Yes, we are about 80% done with the mixing for the new full-length album, which is going to be called “The Blue and White” and it will be our second LP of all-original music. It’s quite different I think, there are lots of vocals and different sounds for us. It was recorded and mixed all onto tape too, which has been a real pain in some ways (!) but is so, so worth it- it sounds amazing I think. It will be out in the springtime sometime I think, on vinyl, somehow or other, we haven’t figured out yet.

And then the single is done and will be released on Electric Cowbell Records for Record Store Day in April, it’s the Beatles’ “I’m Only Sleeping,”  which was actually recorded for our “Dub to the Bone” album but left off it, and a version of The Police‘s “Hole In My Life” which we recorded for the new album, both extremely whacked-out and different versions, I can’t wait to play it for people.

WRH What’s next for the band?

EG: We haven’t been playing live that much the last few months because I’ve been so focused on finishing these albums, so once we’re done completely with the new LP I’m looking forward to playing a lot more in the new year.