What got you hooked on rock and roll?
Matt > I was a 3-year-old kid living on Long Island in 1977. One day, my 16 year old babysitter Donna (who I was utterly devoted to) shows up with a copy of Alive II by Kiss and has me sit down, listen to it, and puts that iconic gatefold picture in front of me. I had no chance! For the next ten years, there was no other band but Kiss for me. I wanted to be a rock and roll superhero.
Rachel > I think I was always destined to love rock & roll. My parents met each other in a band and music always filled my home. But, when I was probably 4, my dad showed me how to use the old record player. I listened to a lot of Rolling Stones and I remember the first time I ever watched Mick Jagger perform. I was hooked. I loved that it was dark and exuberant, free and alive. All my first crushes were rock stars, Mick, David Bowie, Jimmy Page. It was just part of who I was from a very early age so I grew up idolizing people who made music. I was performing from about 4 on and it was a drug. I always felt most alive when I was making or performing music and rock & roll was always my first love.
How close is Roxy Swain to the band you wanted to create and how have you guys evolved?
Rachel > I mean, this is a hard question to answer. I think in terms of the democracy and the co-authorship of the music, Roxy is really strong. We all bring something to every song and I love that sense of community. That is definitely a long process that we improve upon with every song and every release. However, I think there’s always room to grow. I would hate to think that we ever reached the point where we were done and we’d reached some kind of ideal band. To me evolution is all there is – when you stop evolving, you’ve peaked and I never want to peak.
Matt > Roxy Swain has changed so much since we first started. Rachel and I have been working together since 2006, but when we were looking to do a band, we didn’t quite know what we wanted to do. The initial version of Roxy Swain was an outgrowth of a Chicago power pop band named Loomis, and much of the band’s first wave of songwriting was based on the influences Tom Valenzano, our first lead guitarist) and I shared. Our first album The Spell of Youth was written as an extension of the style of Loomis: a lot of late 70s-inspired power pop and rock and roll. I believe through a series of lineup changes and examination of our strengths we are very close to what we want to be doing now.
Do you have a philosophy when it comes to the recording?
Matt > Our philosophy on recording is to capture the band organically. We prefer classic tones, simple (but purposeful), dynamic arrangement. We try to highlight the biggest strengths of the band – Rachels amazing voice and sense of melody, and the band’s overall performance and treatment. Generally speaking, we like to let the songs speak for themselves, as tracked. We shy away from a lot of digital processing and an abundance of compression. That being said, we aren’t necessarily wed to a particular process, nor do we think the band should sound exactly the same in the studio as it does live.
Rachel > I’m probably the least experienced with recording. I would say that I like to take a lot of time away from recordings to formulate opinions and I am very feel oriented. In other words, I will often fall in favor of a track that isn’t technically perfect but has a lot of spirit, character, and quirk. I also really refuse to listen seriously to anything I’ve recorded under bad conditions (crappy computer speakers or earbuds) because I know I will be frustrated and hyper critical. I like to walk away from a recording for a week, come back to it in the studio and make a judgment. I’m just a strong believer in the feel or the vibe of a performance over total proficiency. I don’t think I’m even capable of taking a track that feels totally perfect anyway. If recordings are too perfect, too massaged, they end up sounding robotic and they lose something intangible. I want to feel passion in a recording and I think sometimes passion and perfection go in opposition. Not always, but sometimes.
How does the songwriting process work for Roxy Swain?
Rachel > Typically, one of us will start with the skeleton of a song, bring it to the band, and we will build it as a group. I’ve become increasingly aware that each of us have a really important role in this band when it comes to songwriting. Chuck Harling is a master arranger, Jeff Altergott‘s bass lines are so crucial because they are so interesting and organic, Matt’s lyrics and sweeteners make our sound ours, and I think my melodies come together with the other parts to create what has become our cohesive band sound. I don’t want to elevate us to be something that we aren’t, but I’m really proud of the ways in which we’ve honed our craft as a group. We work together well and we each add something unique and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of about the band.
Matt > We currently have four accomplished songwriters and arrangers in the band, so everyone has ideas. In the initial phase of the band, Tom Valenzano and I came in with complete ideas, and we dictated those ideas to the band, which was all we could do at the time, but that approach didn’t optimize the band’s talents sonically. Now that all of us are involved in the writing process, our songwriting is rarely one person with a finished idea, and more often two, three or four people collaborating on a piece. On our forthcoming album there are instances of Rachel writing with Chuck, of Rachel writing with me, of Chuck and I doing a song together, and of all four of us collaborating. It’s really exciting to be in a band with a bunch of songwriters collaborating, because many of my favorite bands feature that. As we transitioned into the lineup we have today, the style of the band has really changed into an amalgam of Chuck, Rachel and I’s separate influences, which include my power pop, but also Rachel’s soul and blues, and Chuck’s rock, roots, swing and modern indie. As we have progressed, I believe that our songwriting blend has emerged as a distinctive hybrid sound that now fits all of us like a glove. There’s an aspect of all of us in there. Even though Jeff does not typically have the initial ideas, he puts his writing stamp on the songs with the incredible bass lines he comes up with. The most fascinating thing about it is that it’s continuing to evolve and push us in unique directions we never expected, which is evidenced by the sound of our third album. We are definitely getting weirder, and I like it.
What was the first real concert you ever attended and what impression did it have on you?
Rachel > It’s really sad, but I grew up watching so much live music that I can’t remember my first real concert. My dad’s band played constantly and growing up in Texas, we attended the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo every year where I saw a ton of live music. I guess it’s kind of tragic that I can’t remember, but I think it was so present that I can’t pin point the first ever. I do remember seeing some big bands at a really young age and looking around at everyone singing along and thinking, that’s what I want. I want people to sing along and dance to my music. I was probably seven when that translated into writing my own songs (terrible, terrible songs) and performing them on my front lawn with my sister and neighbor for the other kids on the block.
Matt > I actually didn’t attend a concert until Junior High School, and that was an odd bill. My parents took me to see 80s Chicago radio personality Jonathan Brandmeier and the Leisure Suits at the Rosemont Horizon. A strange entry into concert experience, to be sure. My ears really just hurt the whole time! I had never seen anything that loud. By the end I was enjoying it, despite feeling rather deaf. I followed that up with seeing Rush at Alpine valley a couple years later. That was really cool.
What is your approach to playing live and what is your mind-set pre-show?
Matt > My approach to playing live is to try to stay in the moment. My mind set pre show is often meditative as I try to pull myself into the present tense.
Rachel > Playing live is my favorite thing in the whole world. Honestly, I’m excited and often I just want to get up on stage. I don’t get nervous because I’ve been doing it for so long. I just want to get up there and I get really bummed when we get to our last song. I want every show to be memorable and I want to see people having a good time. I mean, half of playing music for me is sharing my art but the other half is sharing a moment with people, whether they are friends or strangers. When I see people dancing, singing along, smiling, it makes me feel honored and privileged and happy. Being on stage is a privilege and I just feel like every show is a blessing and an honor and I want to share a good time with the audience ….my approach to playing is live is to make try and give every performance and every audience all I have.
If you could tour with any artist as support who would it be and why?
Rachel > I don’t know, I have so many friends that I would be honored to share a tour with, I can’t really see myself picking a big band. I guess if I’m being honest, I admire my father’s musicianship so much that I would probably want him along on the tour. Also, other projects of my band-mates’, both Roxy and other projects I’ve been involved in, like The Ye-Ye’s. I think I would surround myself with local bands because I think support of your fellow local musicians is really important.
Matt > In terms of currently touring indie bands, I would love a shot at opening for The National. Their songwriting has been a big influence on both Rachel and I. In terms of all time faves, this an odd answer, but probably Yes, if they ever went out with their 1973 lineup again. I love those guys. It would be a terrible fit stylistically but I would have fun just watching those guys play every night.
What are your favorite 3 albums of all-time?
Matt > King Crimson – Red, Yes – Tales from Topographic Oceans and The Wrens – The Meadowlands
Rachel > David Bowie – Station to Station, The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers, The Replacements – Let it Be
Whats the best live performance you have seen by a local Chicago band?
Rachel > My friend Heather Perry was in a band called Bring Your Ray Gun that absolutely killed every time I saw them play. I’ve always felt honored to be associated with her because she was one of the first women I saw leading a band as a songwriter and musician. She was the first person to make me think, I can do this. I didn’t have many female role models in the local scene before her. Anyway, seeing her play live has always inspired me. Plus she looks so cool on stage playing insane bass lines without breaking a sweat. They were a really tight band and I loved seeing them live.
Matt > Sludgeworth, final show of the original run, January 11th, 1993, McGregors in Elmhurst. The single best concert I have ever seen.
You two are separated in a horrible ship wreck, stranded on adjacent island and forced to leave messages in a bottle for one another: what does your message say?
Rachel: “At least we will have a lot of good experience to write from if we ever get off this island”
Matt: “I love you. Here’s the lyrics to our next song, “Stranded”” ~ ROXY SWAIN
Guns N’ Roses. I was in grade school, and had a passing interest in music – just whatever my folks listened to or what was on the radio. Then my dad bought Use Your Illusion I (either trying to find “Knockn’ on Heaven’s Door” , or “November Rain”) and hated the rest of it. So I got a hold of it, and that was the beginning of the end. They swore!
Who were your heroes growing up?
Musically, it’s run the gamut over the years, from GnR (see above), to Bowie, Ginger Wildheart, Johnny Thunders, Stiv Bators, Keith Richards & the Micks (Jagger and Taylor)… Michael Jackson and the Beach Boys when I was younger… I don’t know that they really count as heroes, but I sure as hell looked up to them (and still do).
Otherwise… Fuck, I don’t know. I was honestly a pretty apathetic kid for the most part. I don’t remember caring about or being inspired by anyone enough that I would call them a hero. I mean, soldiers and firefighters and whatnot fit the bill, but I can’t honestly say that I cared while I was growing up.
What was your first instrument?
The first instrument I learned to play was the piano (not counting kazoos or whatever), but I was just borrowing my folks’. The first instrument that was MINE, was a trumpet. Which was great, because when I got hassled by some older kids after band practice one sunny afternoon, I was able to smash them in the face with it and run off. Don’t know what happened to it… Might’ve been a rental actually? Next was a horrible blue (with black stripes?) Jackson guitar… sounded and played like crap, but man did I have fun with it. It got lost when my folks moved while I was in college, which I’m still pissed about.
What was your first rock concert and what was its impact on you?
Technically the Beach Boys when I was like 5, but I was just along for the ride with my folks. My first show with friends… Probably either Pantera, Alanis Morissette (I know), or Smashing Pumpkins/Garbage? I’m honestly not sure. And probably the biggest impact on me was Pumpkins/Garbage – because Garbage opened and put on a killer show, and the Pumpkins went on and were lifeless and boring, even though I liked them more. That firmly cemented the importance of “the show” rather than just playing.
Elementary/middle school… I think my first song was a catchy track titled “Field Trip to Hell.” It came naturally, but that doesn’t mean I was any good at it. I definitely have to work harder at it these days (for the most part – sometimes I get in the groove and it just spills out, which is really the best feeling this side of sex but I still don’t know if I’m any good at it.
How did you guys choose the songs for the debut EP?
‘Cause they kick ass. Why else? Honestly, while PLS was becoming 3 Parts Dead, there was a lot of bullshit going on for JC and myself (the PLS remnants). Once we started playing with Fitz and Ramon, we were all just having so much fun, and these songs sort of happened, and we were just so stoked on them that we put them out right away. I mean, we had been playing together for maybe 2 months when we went into the studio.
Any plans to release a full-length follow-up?
Definitely. We’ve been writing since we put out the EP, and are looking forward to showing everyone what we’ve been working on. We’ll get into the studio soon, but we’ve been keeping busy playing out around the country in the meantime. Fingers crossed for late spring/early summer.
Would you consider recording one cover to bring more attention to the band like VH did and, if so, what might be strong candidates for you guys to do?
I’d love to, but that’s definitely a secondary priority to writing our own tracks. We do some live covers, both obscure tracks and more popular ones. I guess if we were gonna do a cover for attention we’d have to pick some top 40 track that we all abhor. But I’d rather do something by the Wildhearts, or the Stones, or the Distillers, or… You know, something else that really speaks to me as a fan and we can just have fun playing. But that kinda defeats the “pop appeal” aspect of it. Maybe doing “Do You Love Me” (a la the Heartbreakers cover) would be a good middle ground.
As 3PD you’ve already shared the stage with a number of luminaries as a solid opener, what’s the secret?
We never thought we were a “local band”, and we never acted like one, and so those opportunities have always just kind of fallen into our laps. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we work our asses off to pursue them, write (we think) catchy tunes, and have managed to get a ton of support from some really amazing friends and fans that have helped push us to that next level.
If you could go out on tour with any band this year who would it be and why?
Haha, why, do you know someone looking for an opener? Seriously though, that’s a tough question to answer. As a fan, I’d love to hit the road with the Wildhearts, or the Supersuckers, or any of those bands that never seems to leave my cd player. As a professional musician, I’d probably want to hit the road with someone like Nickelback, or Hinder, that’s packing shows, to get in front of some new faces that would dig what we do but might not hear us otherwise.
I hear Motley Crue is doing a “farewell” tour, so maybe that’s the sweet spot in the middle… Nikki Sixx, if you’re reading this – give me a call if you need an opener!
I started writing in notebooks when I was probably six or eight – it’s hard sometimes for me to discern reality from family myths. Anyway, by the time I was 10, reading and writing had become central to my daily life and very survival. My initial efforts, like now, involved trying to make sense of things and to savor the beauty of the world, the indifference, the chaos and drama. You know, pompous artsy whiny stuff (grin).
2. Who are your main literary influences? Do you emulate any of them?
This is going to sound clichéd, but if I were to be stranded on a desert island and had only one author’s work, it would hands-down be Tolstoy. War and Peace and Anna Karenina are the best novels ever. By themselves they would be enough.
Another all-time favorite is JD Salinger; I have spent years reading and studying him. I also love Virginia Woolf; I treasure her prose, her lyrical and psychological depth. And Dostoevsky, Raymond Chandler, Adrienne Rich. The list goes on. In general, I love books, a lot of different kinds of books, and when I find ones I love, I carry them around for years and re-read them time and again.
Do I emulate my favorite authors? You bet I do – or at least I try to – just like guitarists and drummers and singers, I guess: borrow here, borrow there, add your own two cents.
3. OK, now you’ve done it – you are stranded on a desert island, one turntable, no booze, 5 albums….what are they?
Ha, no booze, interesting! OK, I wish I could just have 5 mix tapes (REALLY, my musical tastes are MUCH broader than the question allows (I’d like a Brandenburg Concerto, a piano piece by Keith Jarrett, blasts by Coltrane and Mingus and Monk, Satchmo’s It’s a Wonderful World, and the Exploited’s Sex and Violence)), but sticking to the spirit of your question, five albums as follows, followed by five back-ups in case of warping due to sun or saltwater:
First Five: The Clash’s The Clash (U.S. release w. “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais”), David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Leonard Cohen’s The Songs of Leonard Cohen, The Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico, and Husker Du’s Zen Arcade
Back Up Five: The Replacement’s Let It Be, Tom Waites Nighthawks at the Diner, Bob Marley Legend, Nirvana’s Nevermind and Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1
4. What is the status of your long toiled-over life’s work, the semi-fictional “Vicious Circles”?
It is virtually done, except for my final confession in the last chapter and the epilogue. Or maybe that’s a gross misstatement; maybe I should just say it’s what it is and I am virtually getting ready to slay the beast one final time. I am working on it part-time now but I think about it all the time and hope to deliver it in-full next year. So, yeah….it’s been sixteen or seventeen or eighteen years, depending on the math.
5. What is it about?
It’s about a sixteen-year-old Sarah, a girl who ran away in 1977 from the suburbs to the city of Chicago. It’s a true story based on nearly 100 hours of tapes Sarah and I made together. She was of course, like virtually all runaways, exploited. It recounts her adventures and misadventures as a girlfriend, a professional escort, a wife, a mother. It’s drugs, sex, power, survival, Chicago, the 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s, and it’s about running away and, then again, not running away.
6. You are also a chef celebrating the opening of your first restaurant, Fusion Cafe; is the name autobiographical?
Well, celebrating is not exactly the word for it, if you know the restaurant business. It’s more like trading in your life and working and worrying all the time, but luckily I love it.
I hadn’t realized it exactly until I thought about your question: yeah, I guess the name is autobiographical. Fusion, the melting pot, my African father, my English mother, my art, my science, my cooking, and on and on and on…. It’s almost like a guiding principle for me, now that I think about it. (see Tristan’s ‘Cafe 101’ cooking blog)
7. You’ve always been an avid indie music purveyor and dabbling songwriter, does music have a nexus with cooking?
Yes, I think so, very much. Think in terms of a production, the mix, the balance, the quality of performance, the quality of equipment, and of course the composition itself, the melodies and harmonies, the tempo and rhythms, and of course the lyric…. These all have almost direct analogies to a successful (or unsuccessful) dinner service.
8. What are you listening to these days?
I’m listening to Pandora a lot these days. I had been listening a lot to internet radio on iTunes a lot for a couple of years really, especially Coyote Radio out of UCal.-SanBernadino and Boot-Liquor, a SomaFM alternative countryish station with a alcohol sub-theme. But ever since I started Pandora when I got my iPhone, I’ve been listening to a lot of Superchunk Radio and stuff like that.
9. As a writer, do you have to stay busy at your craft to keep your chops up like a musician, or do you have to walk away from time to time to keep things fresh?
Well, I’m probably the last person to give advice about writing habits, but I’d say both have their place. Like with everything of course: practice, practice, practice is the way to get better and to get things done. Writing though especially takes place not only in the act of writing but in the act of living too.
10. What takes more courage for you, actually writing or reading what you have written?
Wow, that’s a good question. I don’t know, probably the writing; as much as I love it, I am very afraid quite often and really, you know, it can be hard and it can hurt. I love the quote from Hemingway: “There’s nothing to writing, just sit at the keyboard and bleed.”
In terms of reading, the hard part is getting past the understandable but unreasonable loyalty to what one has written – that is, to approach and see it objectively. to be able to critically assess its virtues and weaknesses and to have the courage to re-write.
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.
Wow, I had to think really hard on this one.
I’m not so sure that I can narrow it down to 3 albums, as much as 3 songs. When I was a kid, around 9 or 10, listening to the radio wherever I was, I wasn’t so much interested in what album these songs were on, but rather what the SONG was, and maybe who sang it. I had an uncle who was in country music cover bands for a long time in my life, and he could do a killer Johnny Cash voice. But, at the time of being so young, and not caring about who Johnny Cash was, the lyrics of “Folsom Prison Blues” can stand out if you’re paying attention to them, and I remember thinking “dang, that’s messed up”. And only thinking back on that do I realize that that was when I started to actually care about music and see how cool and different it can be, because… well… they weren’t going to be playing that song on “The Muppet Show” anytime soon.
The second would be the first time I heard Nirvana, which was their MTV Unplugged session. They did this song called “The Man Who Sold The World” by this guy I didn’t know about named David Bowie. That was a two-for-one. Just like every kid in the mid 90’s wanting to be a musician, Kurt was that motivation, and it made me want to find out who the hell this David Bowie was. So, I started looking into more of the historical aspect of music/musicians.
And the third one, the one band that made me hunt for meaning BEHIND the lyrics is Pink Floyd. Besides the Johnny Cash tune and the fact that I heard a lot of country tunes from my Uncle’s cover band, The Silverwings Band, Americana wasn’t really apart of my early musical development, it was classic rock.
Are they still essential to me today? Absolutely, you can’t deny the classics.
2.0 – How does being a musician yourself impact your opinion on a disc received for consideration if at all?
I think the fact that I’m a musicians affects a lot of how I listen to an album. I listen for musicianship, lyrical quality, and mixing. If an artist/band is willing to record and send out this album, they better make sure that it’s the best that it can be, not just because they want to have something out there for someone to listen to. I don’t want to hear your basement tapes with the neighbors dog barking in the background.
3.0 – You recently celebrated a milestone with your 100th AmericanaRockMix.com podcast, what inspired you to start doing them in the first place and have you been surprised by its acceptance and growth online?
Being from St. Louis, I grew listening to mainstream radio and not knowing anything besides what the radio tells me to listen to. Then as I got older, I started finding other bands that I really liked, but weren’t getting any radio play. I come from the land of Wilco and Son Volt. They sell out shows in St. Louis, but do they get played on the radio on a regular basis? No, because they don’t fit the popular radio format. And so, I started to question “if these bands are so good, why have I never heard them anywhere besides my friends’ CD players”. So I started doing this tiny little, extremely unprofessional, make-shift, blah blah blah, show to put on the internet in hopes that someone, somewhere would find it, and love these bands as much as I do. Without trying to sound like a martyr for the music, I really did start it for the love of the music.
The acceptance and growth aspect blow me away. I think I’m a little detached from the extent of how far around the world this show goes. I get e-mails from all around the world and it never ceases to amaze me. Is the show popular? I don’t know. I know that bands like the show, but do the individual music listeners? Once again, I don’t know. And I’m ok with that. I know how many downloads and listens each show gets per month, and it’s exciting to see the numbers go up each month. But then again, they’re just numbers. And I’m not completely sure how relevant that should be to me. Not to say that I don’t appreciate those who listen to the show, because I absolutely do. If it wasn’t for e-mails and facebook messages that I get from people telling me about how they have a new favorite band or just bought a new album online because of two songs that I played on the show, I probably would have gotten bored a long time ago. It just feels good to get some verification that I’m not doing this for no reason.
4.0 – Genre tags like ‘Americana’ can help an artist reach their audience but can also have a negative effect in the sense that they may limit an artists appeal, is the term Americana Rock intended to expand that scope?
The tag “Americana” can really detract the casual listener from checking out a new band. There are stereotypes and stigmas that go along with the term which have gained attention due to the “redneck” movement in country music. But because of those limitations that can be applied to “Americana”, I needed to bypass that with something that people can relate to more, such as the hugely ambiguous term of “rock”. Plus it brings a format to the show. I don’t want to do a show of ballads, that’s going to put people to sleep. A lot of people listen to the show at work, or in the car, or while exercising. They need something that will catch their attention. But, yes it’s meant to expand the scope of the show without sounding overbearing. If I really wanted to expand the scope of the show, I could have named it The Americana Bluegrass Folk Alt. Country Cowpunk Rockabilly Extravaganza Rock Mix.
5.0 – One of the attractions to the home-spun podcast format must be being able to promote the artists you dig with no constraints, would you ever relinquish that to an extent for a larger audience on radio or Sirius?
The fact that it’s a home-spun podcast with no limitations for the artists or myself is a strong fixture in the format of the show. If I gave up any of that for any reason, it would no longer be “The Americana Rock Mix”. It would just be another generic radio show. Not to say that I wouldn’t gladly do a SiriusXM or terrestrial radio show. But it wouldn’t be The Americana Rock Mix as it stands now. Maybe a variation of that.
6.0 – As with any media outlet, quality control is your calling card; what is your criteria for featuring an artist on ARM?
I really try to emphasize to people the “ROCK” aspect of the show. If it’s not up tempo or there’s no driving force in the song, it doesn’t stand a strong chance to making it onto the show. But not every song can be a rocker. It’s also got to be a song that will get caught in people’s heads. People like songs that have a catchy hooks. And, like I mentioned earlier, good audio quality is a must.
7.0 – You recently relocated to the Gulf Coast of Florida, were you burned out on the St. Louis scene and what have you learned about the Fla. scene so far?
I grew up on the St. Louis music scene. And it was tough. There’s not a whole lot of support from people up there. And then when I moved down here to Florida, I realized how crappy the scene up in St. Louis really was. I just thought it was tough up there, I didn’t know it just flat-out sucked. The scene down here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area is so supportive of their bands. And the support works both ways. The bands love to help out those who are will to help them out as well. There are organizations down here to help out the bands with shows and tours. I just wish there was someone, with enough heart, back in St. Louis to help them with that. They don’t know what their missing.
8.0 – Is there such a thing as ‘Midwesticana’?
I know that Uncle Tupelo kind of started the whole Alt. Country music scene back int the 90’s. And there have been a few bands to spawn from that, like The Bottle Rockets, Son Volt, etc. But if there is such a thing as “Midwesticana” then it starts and stops there with those bands.
9.0 – Any independent 2011 releases that you feel should be ‘must listens’ for major labels?
I don’t think that the major label is the way to go anymore. There are a few artists that have released some amazing records this year. And I wish them huge success, but I don’t know if I wish the for them to get affiliated with a major label. The major labels aren’t making the money anymore. It’s the DIY artists/bands. The ones that are really trying to get out there to get noticed and doing their own merchandizing are the ones who are going to be more successful, and won’t be trapped by the contracts of limitations of major labels. It used to be that the people within the major label organizations had the connections to people with more connections. But in the age of the internet, everyone knows everyone. The major label is an overrated middle man now.
10.0 – Are you at all surprised by the extent to which Americana music/artists are are featured in advertising today as a sort of ‘seal of brand sincerity’ and yet remains ignored by mainstream radio?
Yeah, I am surprised. And it makes me happy. It just shows that some advertisers out there have their finger on the pulse of what is good in music nowadays. Hopefully it’s not just some trend that will fade. We’ll just have to wait and see…
1.0 What’s your vision for Michael Lux & The Bad Sons? I’m concerned at the moment with the city I live in. There are very few ‘front’ people. Most of the good ones are women, which is fantastic. Everyone really loves meandering at the moment. And I’m at times hard pressed to find anyone that gives a shit or two about lyrical content. None of this is really a problem for me, though. I try and do the opposite of those things. Though there is a chance I could be persuaded by some monitary sum to try being a woman for a short time. The vision for me is my songs settling in people’s conscience for the long haul, the way the songs i love do in mine, i suppose.
2.0 What’s more important to you, the tunes or kicking ass live? The most important thing is the songs. with good songs you will always kick ass live. why do you think the modern ‘pop punk’ and ‘nu metal’ genres were as short lived as they were? My guess is that once people got home from diving around like lunatics, they realized they were listening to essentially the same terrible song over and over again by countless bands trying to be the other one. But they could do that cool thing where they flip the guitar round their head or maybe vomit on stage! yep, songs win for me.
3.0 Were the songs all really “written in 30 minutes” or are you trying to say that a song either happens or it doesn’t? It sounds awfully pretentious, but the songs actually were written in 30 minutes. It honestly wasn’t me showing off or some bullshit holier than though stunt i was trying to pull. In Hollus, I was always used to taking days, weeks to sort of, “perfect” tunes. I had a hard time writing material for myself in the past few years because I couldn’t decide what it should sound like. Finally I sat down with a bottle of pinot and once i had a riff, that was it. I just went stream of consciousness and said ‘done.’ Put it down on pro tools because i didn’t want any time to start rethinking. And then a few days later, another bottle, another song, etc. This must be working for me, because I’ve just written a few more tracks the same way in the last few weeks.
4.0 Since your name is on the door, did you write all the songs or were they collaborative efforts? All the songs on “Neat Repeater” were written and recorded before I had a band. I wasn’t even planning on forming a band for it. Just releasing it for folks that sort of cared about what I was doing in Hollus. I’ve always been a pretty singluar songwriter. I’m never opposed to writing with others, but I know how I work, obviously. The live group really works within the ranks to bend and perfect things, and the licks and riffs are all interpretted by the players I have, which are sometimes different from show to show, which makes the shows varied and spontaneous.
5.0 What is your favorite song of your FREE EP “Neat Repeater”? “So Loud.” It’s the song that kicked off this whole mess. It’s when I said, “ahhh, so that’s what it sounds like..” and made perfect sense. The song itself is very much about Chicago and embracing life, even if it’s shit, fuck it, let’s fuck it out kind of thing. I feel like a lot of people in the city, if they’re writing about it directly, write about escaping it, or they just avoid it all together and write about some place else for some reason. I’ve done it as well, in the other band. I was feeling like Chicago was giving me a giant wine kiss and it needed to be recipricated.
6.0 When did you fall in love with the idea of playing music? When I was 6 I was very in to Cypress Hill and I think MC Hammer. I had the fucking pants, man. Green and Black tiger striped if you care. I had a kid move in two doors down that tried for 4 months to play me a record that I refused every time. It turned out to be The Beatles doing “Rock n’ Roll Music” – how fucking cornball of a story is that! It’s true though! I flipped my pudding. I got a guitar and drum kit at the next christmas, though I broke into the attic about a month into November and started learning when my parents were at work. I had a fake band with that kid for the next 6 years, that ended in 3 original records we wrote before the age of 13. I was always completely bonkers for music.
7.0 Does the stage come naturally to you? People say I’m very natural on the stage. I do feel very at ease. Many times I feel like my life off the stage is spent waiting to be back on one, yeah. But going back to what I said before, I started playing in live bands when I was 14 and playing drums in church congregations before that, so I was always pretty used to it i suppose.
8.0 Do you guys do any covers live? Yeah, I always try to play a new cover every show. I think it’s fun for everyone, as long as fucking Live Nation or the RIAA or whatever doesn’t sue me for it. We’ve done “Moonage Daydream” by Bowie, “Crimson and Clover” and “Motor Away” by Guided By Voices. WE’re always entertaining new ones, post one on the fuckbook if you have a suggestion.
9.0 Paul Stanley of KISS said that “most people listen with their eyes”, do you agree? God love him, He must have said that in the years he was wearing makeup right? Like pre 1995 unplugged or whatever? Because after that, “Love Gun” only sounds good with the eyes closed. I do agree, actually, and I think it’s a good thing. We need to have something to weed out groups, right? It’s incredible how many bands get away with looking like complete baffoons. If the singer’s wearing shorts, I don’t care if it’s fucking Elvis Presley, i’m walking out. In fact, if anyone besides the drummer is wearing shorts, i’m throwing something at the stage. New rule.
10.0 You’ve got one ‘ticket to ride’ in a time machine to a moment in rock history, what are your coordinates? Does in between Debbie Harry’s legs circa 1977 count as ‘coordinates’?? That’s dirty, forgive me.