MATT SPIEGEL w/ TRIBUTOSAURUS

1.0 – Was there a specific band or artist that got you hooked on rock & roll as a kid? 

Well, my sister left some vinyl around when she went to college. Abbey Road, The Kinks’ live album, Billy Joel’s debut, and Springsteen’s The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle. So it starts in that pile, and probably with “She Came in Through The Bathroom Window” specifically. That vocal made the hairs stick up on my neck…after hearing lots and lots of classical music from mom and dad. The classical had an impact too.

2.0 – What was the first album you ever purchased?

REO Speedwagon’s High Infidelity. There’s no lying when answering this question, no matter the quality of the album in question. “Keep On Lovin’ You” had owned me on the radio, enough to make me ride my bike to the mall.

3.0 – What music is in your car right now? 

It’s whatever’s on my phone, or maybe an Android tablet I use too. I don’t keep a ton on either of them. Whatever Tributosaurus is working on (Pink Floyd, Tom Petty) , plus: Funkadelic (America Eats It’s Young), Fleet Foxes, Wilco (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Engineer Demos), Spoon (Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga), Grant Green (Sunday Morning). There’s a little more…I swap it out often. Also, Sound Opinions podcasts rotate.

3.0 – How did the Tributosaurus concept come about? 

My brother Jon throws a big birthday party concert every year, and one year (when he was in the pit band for Blue Man Group), some NYC Blue Man extended family was there. They told me about something in New York called Loser’s Lounge. Every few months they got a wide array of NYC musicians together to do the music of, say, Burt Bacharach, and they’d all cover a tune or two doing their own spin. Brilliant. So I thought of doing that in Chicago, but clarifying it to be iconic rock and roll artists, and to do it as close to note for note as possible. The idea was to treat the rock canon with the same reverence and respect with which orchestras treat Brahms or Shostakovich.

4.0 – It must be fun to argue about which tunes to do by a given artists, is there a formula for Tributosaurus set lists?

Yes..there are five core members, and we each get 3 or 4 picks, depending on the set length we’re going for. Every once in a while we might say “well, this and that HAS to be in,” but for the most part the list ends up being a product of our individual tastes coming together. No veto is allowed either, so if I, or anyone, picks an absolute dog, you suffer through it. Of course, tunes you thought you hated always end up being appreciated. That’s one of the real joys of the thing.

5.0 – What five homage’s are you most proud of?

The first time we did Steely Dan, we surprised even ourselves. It kind of made us realize that absolutely anything was suddenly possible. Marvin Gaye gave me the best appreciation for the deconstruction/reconstruction nature of the project, because it took 15 or 16 people to re-create the deceptively simple Motown sound. Stevie Wonder with a huge band was a joy and an absolute party. The Replacements holds a place in my heart, because we were properly gritty, sloppy, and a little drunk, but nailed the stuff we had to nail in that great music. Queen last month at The Vic, with 1100 people singing along to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, is a beautiful memory right now. Those are the first 5 that popped into my head…there are many others.

6.0 – Did your confidence in your voice as a singer lead to your career in radio in any way? 

Interesting. No..they’ve always been concurrent careers, one sometimes jumping ahead of the other. My dad was a sports guy, mom a music teacher and opera singer. My brother 10 years older is a musician; my brother 9 years older was a baseball player and sports fan. I’ve always been consumed by both, and done both. College was full of both. They inform each other far more than you might expect. Team and locker room concepts inform band situations. Musical narrative/lyrical concepts show up in game theories and radio production. There’s probably a book in there.

7.0 – As the resident rocker at The Score you have contributed many musical spoofs & bits, any personal favorites?

‘The 12 days of Bearsmas’ was a lucky and fun concept. We tried it last year too, and may this year, but it’s better when the Bears are terrible. 7 false starts, 6 prime time losses, 5 Cutler picks, etc. ‘The Hossa’ song to the Kink’s “Lola” became a Blackhawks favorite, sometimes played on the ice for their afternoon skate, and put on jukeboxes at sports bars in town. That’s pretty cool. Truly, I’m proud of the music you hear on our show in production, and as bumpers coming out of opens and back from commercials. The producers have good, varied tastes, in addition to stuff that Mac and I like. I have no doubt that you hear the most interesting, eclectic mix of music on our show that big city talk radio has ever seen.

8.0 – Musically speaking, where does the road part for you and Danny Mac?

Um, in about 1986 I think. The man loves his 70’s, and a touch of his skinny tie 80’s period. So I kind of have anything after that covered. In the vintages we do share, I go into soul and funk more than him. I like punk and new wave more than him. But I dig much of his taste, even if it’s a bit narrow. He loves the Stones, ACDC, Zeppelin, Alice Cooper. And he seriously LOVES it. You have to respect when someone is as passionate about it as he is. Plus, like so much with him, he’ll surprise you when you least expect it, and quote a lyric from Pete Townsend’s Empty Glass or XTC’s Black Sea. He turned me on to Todd Rundgren. As long as he doesn’t veer into UFO and Nazareth too much, we’re cool.

10.0 – What’s the best concert you’ve ever seen?

Wow. Peter Gabriel’s “Up” tour at the United Center, in the round was pretty great. Saw the So tour in 1986 I think as well…he’s wonderful live. The Pavement reunion last summer at Pitchfork was a wonderful night personally, with my buddy who shared the history with me, and my wife to be who was discovering them. But I’ll cheat and say Lollapalooza 1994. I had the full combo platter: moshing for the Beastie Boys on the lawn, up front dancing for George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars, I sat completely in love with Kim Deal & The Breeders. Even though I left during the unnecessarily loud Smashing Pumpkins, that day ruled. I heard enough from “Siamese Dream” to cap the show perfectly.

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DAG JUHLIN

How’s the Townshend windmill these days?  I don’t deploy the windmill much these days. The stages I am playing are too crowded and the ceilings generally too low. I will bring it out if it feels right at some point, I suppose.

What was your first rock concert and what do you remember most about it? Jethro Tull, Chicago Stadium, October 1978. I remember the awe of being at my first giant rock show, the haze that hovered above the crowd, Frisbees and toilet paper rolls flying everywhere before the show. The tickets were $8.50, the bootleg t-shirts were five bucks, Uriah Heep opened, and my friend Al and I drove his family’s VW Bug to the show, taking Milwaukee Avenue from Park Ridge, for some reason. Someone threw an egg and hit Tull’s drummer in the face. The music was an indistinguishable, reverberating collision of sounds. The seats were in another county. It was great.

What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened to you on the road? I was driving a Sprinter Van full of Poi Dogs down the coast in California the day after a gig in Mendocino (where my ashes are to be scattered), and en route to San Francisco, where we had a gig that night at the incredible American Music Hall. We had a tire blowout the day before and were riding on a spare, that may or may not have been put on with care and precision. Anyway, I was driving and there came an agitated grumbling from the driver’s side rear wheel, the one that had been changed the day before. It was rather unsettling and began to grow more pronounced. I was beginning my move towards the exit ramp when the wheel pried itself loose and came off. I kept control and steered us off to the shoulder, riding on three wheels and a howling axle. It was a crazy seven seconds or so of chaos and odd personal clarity. We scraped safely to a stop on the shoulder, trying to figure out just what the hell had happened, and like the punchline frame in a cartoon, the wheel came rolling lazily and wobbily to a stop in the grassy median that separated both sides of the highway. There should have been some lazy banjo music accompanying the unhurried comical rolling wheel as it seemed to poke around, looking for a good spot to lie down. But we were all safe.

We got out of the van and called Triple A and started milling around on the side of the road. I shot some video for YouTube which is out there somewhere. The really unbelievable part of the trip started then. A couple who had seen us in Mendocino the night before recognized us as they passed us, then turned around and came back to see if they could help. They were driving a small pickup truck, and they called a local friend to see if they could borrow their van. They returned with their extra vehicle, and the Triple A tow truck driver defied all his rules and grabbed our van, and filled up his truck with band members (who knew tow trucks had back seats?) and took us as far as he could, which was to a gas station just outside the SF city limits. We then crammed all of the band members and our gear and suitcases in into the van and pickup truck and made it to the gig on time. We loaded in, and then sat down to eat our free meal and a much needed pint of beer, and I remember looking at Rick and Max and saying “What the fuck just happened?” (watch Dag Julin’s Tour Movies)

There was a brand new van waiting for us the next day, as the rental company was there in SF. It worked out, only through the most cosmically fortunate set of circumstances imaginable. I have forgotten the name of the couple, but they were amazing. It was one of the friendliest acts I’ve ever been the beneficiary of.

As a guitarist, how did you adapt from playing with a band like The Slugs to joining a much larger stage band like Poi Dog Pondering?  The main thing I had to do was listen and just not blast heavy chords through the whole tune. I still play too loudly, unfortunately, but I have learned to get out of the way and say more, musically, with less.

The stage seems a very comfortable place for you, do you have any advice for happy onstage trails?  Just be right there in the room at that moment.

Does being a copywriter-by-day make it harder or easier to write lyrics?  I don’t know if I’ve ever taken lessons from either side of my writing lives and integrated them. I know that there are times when I tend to write rhythmically or with rhyme in my copywriting gigs, but only if it works. I wrote a thing for a Perry Mason promo that went “A crime, a clue, a suspect or two…” which I suppose could be a result of songwriting.

Who is in Expo’76 and what tunes do you guys do?  Expo’76 is myself on guitar and vocals (and posters and master set list), Kenny Goodman on keys, John Carpender on drums and Ralph Baumel on bass. We are often augmented by at least two of the Total Pro Horns: Max Crawford, Dave Smith and Justin Amolsch. We cover a lot of ground, from Duke Ellington to Nick Lowe; from Oscar Brown Jr. to Neil Sedaka. It’s tremendous fun.

When the call about the Dag Juhlin All-Star Band World Tour comes in, what super-star legends, dead or alive, are backing you up?  Georgie Fame (organ), Toots Thielmans (harmonica), Tommy Ardolino & Joey Spampinato (NRBQ; on drums and bass), Scott MacCaughey (Minus 5, REM, Young Fresh Fellows, etc., guitar/bartender). I would just hold everyone’s coats while they played.

Your making a road trip…..what’s on the Juhlin playlist these days?  In the car it’s been the most recent Beastie Boys album; the Beatles first album Please Please Me, which is my favorite Beatles album; Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise, that 2CD set of ‘Darkness’ extras, and Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite. At family dinner time it’s often Count Basie; when I am on the train it’s usually Segovia or a weird electronic thing; and when I am going to sleep it’s usually The Everly Brothers.

Upon arrival at the Pearly Gates you are surprised to learn old Saint Peter likes to rock, what say ye?  I just say “So, Pete. Any requests? Waddya wanna hear?”