Deep Purple – Machine Head
When did you start playing guitar and who is your main influence?
I have two guitar players that influenced me majorly: David Gilmour and Ritchie Blackmore. I started playing at age 14. First song, like many others of our kind, was Smoke On The Water but I then I went more into bluesier stuff like Eric Clapton, J.J. Cale and some singer/songwriters like Paul Simon and Tom Waits.
How did you and Sertab Erener hook up and was it musical to start?
We fell in love while we were making music together. She asked me to produce a demo to present to the great Arif Mardin. We cut 2 songs in about four days. And something happened during that time, I mean there was something before that but studio can be a very dangerous place for potential lovers :) After that we wrote many songs together some of them being big hits. I produced 4 albums for her and some singles, all in a state that I can’t really tell if it’s making love or making music.
One of my favorite things about Chicago Issue the sound; pulling in elements from different styles like rock, electronica, dance and blues.Also, I like the way we combined electronic elements with the played instruments. It’s usually not this seamless but I think we got it on this.
How did you two end up in Chicago? and what do you tell folks back home about the city?
We re-located to Chicago for a musical theater project that we’re composing for. It is a very long-term project so we thought we might as well move here. It’s a beautiful city. I’ve lived in Los Angeles and New York but I think Chicago takes you in more than the others. I believe Chicagoans are very warm, sincere, no b.s. and socially evolved people which makes this city the most livable place for me. We also have a home in Istanbul, which is also a great mega-city. They are both very very different though, which creates a diversity in my cultural soul.
How does the writing process work for you guys?
Do we fight? Of course! :) I think creativity is born out of clashing of differences rather than compliance of equals or the alike. In the end there is only one winner: The Song! If it’s good for the song and the music it does not matter whose idea it is really.
Do you guys perform live with a full band or just as duo?
We have been performing with a full band but now we are moving towards a trio format where two of us will be fronting and one more member controlling the sequences, keyboards and computers. I will also be playing some keyboards and some electronic stuff aside from guitars. Also musically I am more inclined towards the electronics domain because of the freedom it provides in sound. As a composer, there comes a time when the conventional sound and the playability of the known instruments is not enough to put out what’s in there in you. Synths and digital audio opens many doors to new creative ideas and inspirational ground.
You are known for taking musical left hand turns: is it important to your relationship as a couple for the music to evolve?
I think when individuals have the intention to change and evolve, they do with everything else around and related to them, be it the relationships or music. I and Sertab, we both have this intention to change and renew, constantly. Stability is good until it fulfills its use, then you have to know when and how to realize its time for change and which direction to take. It takes hours of meditation, thinking and observing. And of course there are these accidental blessings happening sometimes. All of a sudden you slip and make a mistake which puts you on a track that you’d never think of. That could also be a subconscious decision which you might be perceiving as a mistake, but this is a whole different subject to talk about :)
So few Americans know anything about your homeland, Turkey: is there anything you guys hope most to convey with your music n’ lyrics?
I believe if we plan and do this deliberately, the music will not come out sincere enough. We think our music has the codes in its DNA that belongs to our homeland and whatever we play, sing or compose it’s there. Honestly, when we listened to our EP all through after it was finished you know, objectively, we thought it was western music. This did not last too long because as soon as we’d hear our American friends commenting on it, we realized that it still sounded a little foreign, unique and different, which we believe, is a good thing. Lyrically, we want to maintain a subjective point of view which again would be of two individuals’ from Turkey. So in short, whoever listens to our music will be breathing in the molecules of our homeland, our life-stories, and like I said this is not we want to consciously implement into the songs. I see this as natural cultural evolution because we mix and renew with Chicagoan cultural codes as well.
Should Shakespeare be looking for royalties from you?
:)) The verse lyrics of Why Do You Love Me are based on some love quotes of W. Shakespeare, but they are sung from an opposite point of view. Sertab is singing them to the person who is saying those words. W. Shakespeare, I think he has a way of not using clichés but still making things sound familiar and with full intent. Having studied English literature an humanities in college and being into rock and roll, it’s not possible not to be influenced by the Bard himself and his work.
Do you recall the first records you bought or had as a kid? It was probably some Disney or childrens records back when I was like 2 years old, that’s my earliest memory. and the album covers. I used to get a big kick out of….I was big on cars & trains. So an album that had cars or trains on it I could spend hours just looking at the cover.
How has record sales going by & large over the last few years? They are there, they could be better, they could be worse but I see a lot more young people getting into music via records which is a good thing. They have an enthusiasm for ‘the records’. They’re more consumer friendly. You don’t need a magnifying glass to read the lyrics like you do for the lyrics from the booklets for the little CD’s.
So how long has Hip Cat Records been in business? We opened in November of 1987.
How did you come up with the name Hip Cat or is that all you? I had a cat who I nicknamed ‘hip cat’ but the name also comes from the Pink Floyd song named “Lucifer Sam” ….their original guitar player and songwriter Syd Barrett wrote they lyrics “be a hip cat, be a ship’s cat, somewhere, anywhere”. I was a big Pink Floyd fan so I just ran with the name ‘hip cat’; it just seemed a natural name for a store.
When did you move to the new location (3540 Lake Ave, Wilmette) and how is it going? Well we moved to this location in June of 2006 and its been a good, plus it’s nearer to where I live so the commute is a lot shorter.
Do you guys have a website or is it all word-of-mouth? No, it’s pretty much word of mouth or customers who have been coming here for a long time. I’m not computerized. I’m old school. Somebody did set up a website at some point but i don’t what happened with it (laughs).
I imagine you’ve had some interesting Chicago musicians walk through the door? Well we’ve had Ben Weasel come in before. He probably didn’t know I recognized him. When a known musician comes in I never acknowledge that I know who they are. I just treat them like some regular customers, I don’t give them any preferential treatment, they can just be a regular Joe looking through records. and they seem to like it that way.
What are the DMM stickers on some vinyl re-issues and what do we need to know about records today? DMM stands for ‘direct metal mastering’ and it actually encodes more information from the original recording so it’s going to sound better. The recordings done with 1/2 speed mastering make the biggest impact improving sound. Another ingredient for better sound is the deeper grooves in (some) records. So they might be advertising different vinyl weights like 180 gram heavy weight vinyl or 200 gram audio file vinyl but the real jist of it is the fact that the grooves are deeper. The industry has decided to hype the weight; They aren’t going to tell you on the sticker that it has deeper grooves, they are going to tell you it weighs more.
You’ve been doing this a long time and you’ve seen a lot of records come through and leave the door, who are the top 5 that still move records? Definitely Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and of course The Beatles. But we also do really well with Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. On the blues side it’s probably Muddy Waters and then Buddy Guy… he puts a new album out every year or so and they re-issue some of his older albums every now and then. He does great.
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…