DONALD DUCOTE

url1.0 – Labels aside, the music on Tracks is hard to pin down, is that part of your vibe as a dude?

I don’t think so.  Maybe more now than the years previous.  We started recording Tracks in 2010 and you could take one look at me and figure it out.  Recovering hipster/pothead and you can bet the farm he started off in the suburbs.  Is that what you’re asking?  I have an aloof card that I can play pretty well, and I have, but lately I’ve been trying to shut that down; it’s boring.  I don’t think anybody wants to be easy to pin down.

2.0 – It sounds as if Ancient History has, ironically or not, been a real organic evolution of sorts; how did it come together?

I met Jim Smith, Austin Lemeiux and Paul Johnson while managing a cafe off the Morgan L stop in Brooklyn. They were all regular customers. I got to know Jim because he recorded the final record of my previous band.  He was also roommates with a friend of mine.

Paul lived in my building and we had been wanting to play together for a while.  Once things got situated with Jim he was the first person I called and we worked out the first couple tunes in his living room.

I don’t know what this says about me as a person, but whatever, it’s funny, I asked a co-worker with which customer she would most like to copulate.  She said, “The earl grey guy with all the tattoos that looks fucked up every morning.”  That was Austin and I can’t imagine there being a better-suited lead guitarist for my songs than that guy.  The next time he walked into the coffee shop I asked if he was a musician.  He said that he was a guitar player and he listed Jeff Buckley as his first influence.  We clicked immediately.  The first song we cut was ‘She Gave You the Keys’ in a basement art gallery in Dumbo and it was just the four of us, Jim was behind the board.  I believe we got it in about 3 takes and I remember us listening back and just being very pleased with what everybody was bringing to the table.

3.0 – Is understanding your sound as simple as the mix of your southern roots embracing the indie biosphere of Brooklyn?

I’m not convinced my roots are southern. I think, if anything, it’s the other way around. When I was in 4th grade I had a Garth Brooks tape and a Trisha Yearwood tape, but as soon as Nirvana showed up I was out.  I’ve always appreciated a sturdy song and I’ve always respected country music for being such loyalists to songcraft, even at the expense of any significant experimentation, but I think for me it’s always been the songcraftier end of my indie influences embracing whatever genre has a documentary streaming on Netflix.

4.0 – How did you approach the recording process for Tracks?

I had recorded with Jim Smith on my last project and he approached me about wanting to record some songs without a full band.  We put our heads together and decided to buy an old tape machine and record another record.  We didn’t want a clock ticking over our head and we didn’t want to record in a sterile studio environment.  That was it really.  We were going for natural reverb and mic placement.  We wanted to use tape and we wanted it to be warm and ambient.  We didn’t want a band album. We made a rule that we couldn’t use a drum kit and we wanted to focus our energy on a song by song basis.

Jim found the machine he wanted and he drove it from Detroit to NYC and we just hacked away at it whenever we could.  It took about two years.  I can’t tell you how important Jim was to this record. He’s amazing at what he does and because of it he is very busy, so there were long stretches between sessions, months at a time, to prep the songs and figure out over-dubs.

AncientHistory5.0 – As trippy as it gets at times, the tradition of story telling seems an important feature to your stuff; to what other artist, or artists, might you attribute the influence?

Storytelling is something that comes very naturally to me.  Anybody that knows me will tell you that I love a good story.  As a musician I’ve sometimes felt that I should’ve spent more energy trying to repress the urge to over-indulge my personal experiences but still, love and heartbreak are not topics that I write about very often. On the three records before TRACKS there are probably only 4 or 5 songs between them that are about romantic relationships. When it came time to write for this record I just said, “Fuck it.  Here’s all the shit I’ve been saving.”  Not sure I’ll ever endorse such straight-ahead narrative ever again, not because I think the record suffered for it, but because nothing I have left to purge is anything that anyone wants to hear about. Regarding influences, I’ve always been drawn to the more subtle characters of Belle & Sebastian and Elliott Smith. I like songs that can capture ordinary moments and infuse them with something unordinary, but at the same time Pedro the Lion’s Control and Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker are two desert island records for me.  I don’t know, I have an undying admiration for Jeff Mangum and the words he writes. Lyrically speaking, I would like to adopt a more abstract state of mind going forward.

6.0 – What tunes on the disc are you digging most now that it’s done?

Hmm.  I love four-leafed.  It’s a song that had been brewing a very, very long time.  My buddy PJ (Michael Poulton) played lead for the first half of the song.  I recorded him in my bedroom in the middle of the night.  I remember we were drunk and he was playing slide with a beer bottle.  It’s one of the few songs that isn’t about a female.  And it’s fun to play.  Clover Honey is a sentimental favorite.  I love Austin’s guitar on that one, when it hits the high note halfway through.  He nailed it in one take.  We were working on Subway Dream and I remember telling Jim that I didn’t want lead guitar on the song.  He said ok, then Austin gave me some weed and I went to smoke in the hall.  When I came back Jim and Austin had finished Austin’s guitar part: that warm, burning distortion that just rolls through the song until it spikes into the breakdown.  Jim just smiled at me.  It took them five minutes and it made the song.

7.0 – How do songs come to you: more as ideas or feelings that lead to ideas?

Lyrics are always last.  Melody happens when it happens.  The riff is always first, the progression, the picking pattern, whatever.  The initial musical idea is what puts the key into the ignition.  To turn the engine you’ve got to grab that change, that switch from verse to chorus or chorus to bridge or whatever.  That’s what excites me.  Great changes.  When it comes to lyrics, I draw from the past, which is something I hate about myself.  I wish I could lose the documentarian in me and endorse a sense of fiction, but I find it very difficult to separate myself from what I’m writing, especially if I’m gonna be asked to sing the words over and over again.  I’m still trying though.

8.0 – What was your favorite 3 records in high school?

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona.  It is not a very culturally diverse place.  If you were in your early teens in the late nineties in Phoenix you didn’t have a lot of access to underground music.  Thankfully, there were a few people that knew how to find it and they ended up saving me my junior and senior year, but early high school was alot of Weezer.  Pinkerton changed my life.  Other than that my buddies and I listened to whatever radio hits we heard on the bus ride to school.

I was working as a prep cook in Scottsdale when I was 16 and one of the line cooks gave me Modest Mouse’s Lonesome Crowded West and Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity.  It took me a while to absorb Modest Mouse but Jimmy Eat Word, being from Phoenix, was instant love.   They were a favorite for sure.  Modest Mouse, Elliott Smith and Neutral Milk Hotel were all bands that I listened to in high school but they didn’t really do their damage until I left home.  I remember the line cook saying that he listened to ’emo’ music.  That was in 1998 and I had never heard the word ’emo’ before.  It sounded exotic!  It opened my eyes and got me searching for music, as opposed to just buying whatever I heard on the radio.

So yeah, my favorites in high school were Weezer’s Pinkerton, Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity and probably the second Weakerthans LP.  A buddy introduced me to Left and Leaving right when it dropped and for years it never left my side.  My first week of college was 9/11 and I remember being in my car driving to community college when the first tower fell, and ‘Everything Must Go!’ was on the stereo.  Since then ‘Left and Leaving’ has always reminded me of good ol’ high school and pre-9/11 America.

9.0 – What was the first concert you ever attended? did it leave any lasting impression on you today?

I wish I had scalped my tickets.  My second concert was Rancid opening for Garbage and Smashing Pumpkins and I wish that was my first concert.  My first show was important though.

Earlier I talked about my love for songs with good musical changes; the first concert I ever went to was Cheap Trick opening for Meatloaf at what used to be America West Arena in Phoenix.  I’m not sure I’ve ever said this out loud, but I remember watching Cheap Trick play ‘The Flame’ and I remember the changes in that song blowing my mind. First when he breaks into the ‘i’m going crazy/losing sleep’ part, then the way it pounds into the ‘wherever you go’ part.  I fucking loved it.

As you can probably guess, I’m a sucker for ballads.  “The Flame” really got me, the way the parts worked together to form these really heavy moments.  Those are the moments I look for in music.  Those are the moments I want to create because those are the moments that can change the way a person feels.

10.0 – If you were Grammy level stars what you tour stage design look like? 

Whoa. No clue. But pyrotechnics for sure.

PHIL ANGOTTI

phil_angotti-people_and_places1.0 – What’s your favorite thing about the new disc People And Places ?

The fact that I think it’s my best work yet and that each song has its’ own sound to it. I used 4 different drummers, and that makes a difference to the basic feel of the songs.

2.0 – So it’s not true you play all the instruments on it?

No…I do almost all of the guitars and singing. I love over-dubbing guitars and vocals! I played bass on 2 songs, and some percussion.
I play 3 different ukuleles on the song “Whatever Happened” and bass. Joel Patterson played pedal steel on “Same Ol We”
Jacky Dustin from the August sang harmony on that song. The drummers are Brad Elvis, Mike Zelenko, Jim Barclay and Tommi Zender. Carolyn Engelmann played piano and she sang on some backrounds with me. Chuck Bontrager played violin and violas – Martha Larson played cello on “My Old Records”.

3.0 – Are all the tracks new or some oldies looking for their 5 minutes?

These songs were all new songs written for this record, except for “Broken baby Doll House”– that one was around for awhile, 2 songs were written as I was wrapping the album up: the last song “Parting For Awhile” was a tribute to my dear friend Carlos Hernandez-Gomez ,who had recently passed away from cancer, He was a Political reporter for CLTV and a huge music fan. I also wrote “National 36” days before we recorded that – we barely knew it when we went in to do it-its a simple rocker so I like that its a bit loose.

4.0 – Did you have a sound in mind before you began recording or did it evolve?

I intended each track to sound different than the next- using different instruments and overall approach to the sound – I wanted this to stand out from my previous records. Its natural to fall into a comfort zone, and to stay with what you do best – or to keep “your sound’ going – I wanted to change that, and I think I succeeded.

5.0 – There are some cinematic feeling pop passages as per usual but also some Nashville twang creeping in too, yeah?

I have come a long way as a musician – and i did try to show that off a bit. The Nashville thing has always been a part of me, I grew up listening to country music, I just never really incorporated it in my own songs-so I really went for it with ‘Same Ol We”  Even the lyrics are country-like, and having Joel on pedal steel and Jacky on harmony vocals really pushed it all the way.  As for cinematic- I did a cd years ago called ‘Juliet Foster” which followed story-line (I called it a film soundtrack, though there wasnt a film) so I do write that way at times.  The songs “Whatever happened To” and “Sorry About the Accordian Jill” sound like movie songs, and I wanted it that way. They are also the 2 songs on the album without drums.

6.0 – What do you find most rewarding these days: writing, singing, or playing live?

I’d say singing first –  because though I always had a certain sound  ( poppy-and from the Beatle/60’s school) I never recorded with much soul and recklessness- which I do live pretty well.  I am very experienced and natural at singing and stacking harmonies-  but I still think my best singing is when I sing live. I have a richer voice now than I used to- and alot of years of doing it so I’m a very confident singer on stage and I think it comes through more these days. I‘m also a much better guitarist these days-so i love playing guitar live.  Writing is still fun, but I’ve been doing it since I was 17 years old and it feels like work sometimes, and kinda normal-so its nowhere near as fun for me as playing live.

Angotti7.0 – Is there a seminal moment in your life that got you officially hooked on rock & roll?

I loved music as a child- my mom bought me Beatles and Monkees records, and I listened to country music with my dad
and anything they listened to, and I was glued to the radio….one memory that got me really hooked to rock n roll was this:
2 doors away from my house (I was around 9 years old) there was a family whose oldest brother played bass in a band –
they’d practice in their basement and you could hear it from my backyard. I snuck over there one day, and actually walked in on their practice and just stood there watching as they jammed – it was loud and exciting and I knew I wanted to be in a band right there and then!

8.0 – If there is time for nostalgia…..what is your all-time favorite Chicago rock n roll moment?

I went to the Granada Theater in 1980 w my best friend and band mate (in my first band, the Fleas) to see Cheap Trick. The opener was Off Broadway. We had great seats and I remember that show really grabbed me – it was great and it really inspired me. It was cool to see that these new bands (at the time) were so 60’s influenced, it made me feel like we were on the right track, and I was always a huge fan of that eras  power pop bands. I hated all those hair bands and metal and guitarists who played as fast as they can – so this was refreshing and inspiring.

9.0 – what advice would I offer to young players who show promise?

To work hard. Improve your craft. Don’t be lazy.

10.0 – As the 2012 apocalypse approaches you tuck a few artifacts in an iron drum for posterity: what items have you included?

Maybe some lyric sheets I’d written down of an old song I wanted to do – handwritten, because now guys have ipods on their mic-stands, I still hand-write my notes and lyrics!  Some flat-wound guitar strings (nobody uses them anymore, I do!) and the guitar pick I caught from that Granada show flung at me by Rick Nielsen!!!!

tafka VINCE

1.0 – It strikes me that the title to your latest CD, “On Display”, kinda sums up your approach; in your face. Is that fair? 

That’s fair. When we play or people here the music I want it to be noticed. Love it or hate it, but not background noise you can ignore.

2.0 – One may hear more New York or Detroit than Chicago in your rock, who are your musical heroes? 

Good ear you have. Big influences, The New York Dolls, The Ramones (70’s NYC punk in general), Stooges, MC5, Bowie, T Rex and coming back home the earliest influence is still Cheap Trick. The city of Chicago is a big influence. I love my hometown, the city and it’s music and people keep inspiring me.

3.0 – What track on the new disc are folks reacting to most? Is it your favorite too? 

“Laser Beam Precision” gets people dancing, always a good sign. “O” is another one of my favorites; it’s all drama and suited for the stage (like me).

4.0 – How do you write? does it start with a riff most often?

That varies. Sometimes I strum some chords or play a riff and build from there. Other times I have a phrase that is a great opening line or chorus hook and figure out how to build on that and add the music

5.0 – Who is playing and singing on the disc and what are your guys plans as a band?

On the record, Me-vocals & guitar, Lauren Kurtz-vocals, Brian Chinino-drums, Chris Geisler-bass with guests Ed Anderson(Backyard Tire Fire)-guitar, Aaron Lee Tasjan(Madison Square Gardeners)-guitar, Vee Sonnets(The Sonnets)-keys & guitar. Produced By Tony SanFilippo. Live we have Christopher Elam on lead guitar.

The record recently came out online and we should be receiving the LP’s soon, so we plan on playing as much as we can, wherever we can. Hoping to hit NYC again before the end of the year and possibly down to SXSW in the spring. Also trying to figure out how to get someone to pay for to go play in Europe.

6.0 – When did you settle on the moniker “The Artist Formally Known As Vince”? Do you feel it affords you more freedom to not be ‘Vince’?

I’ve had the name since the mid 90’s. I needed a name to put on a flyer for a solo show around the same time the other guy, whose name rhymes with mine, was using formerly and a symbol. Thought it would be funny yet a homage to one of my favorite musicians. I quickly made the adjustment to “Formally”, I liked the play on words, and it stuck. So I have actually stayed Vince all these years!

7.0 – What is the best guitar ever made for rock & roll and what is your favorite stage guitar?

I am partial to Les Paul’s especially Junior’s.

On stage I tend to play a Gibson Flying V that I had customized with a single vintage P-90 so it sounds like my Junior.

8.0 – Do you still believe in radio?

I do. I still listen to it in the van. I think you can still find new music on radio but you need to go to the college and community stations or listen to specialty shows on commercial radio to hear the interesting new music.

9.0 – Any new Chicago clubs or bars area rockers should check out?

LiveWire, is a cool new small rock club. It’s in my neighborhood, Avondale. A couple musician friends of mine run it. They like the Rock N Roll music. I love playing there. Late Bar is great for late night drinks. If out on a Tuesday night stop by Lucky Number, I sling the drinks and pick the tunes.

10.0 – It’s your ‘Dream Gig’…… who are you opening for? when? where and why? 

If I dream it would be going back in time to downtown NYC to open for The New York Dolls at Max’s Kansas City or The Ramones at CBGB’s, I think we would fit in the glam and early punk days, or close to home and open for Cheap Trick at The Brat Stop. Even these day I dream of opening for Cheap Trick or The Dolls anywhere anytime.