Soothe Me, I'm Savage (Part III)
Here's a question that was once posed to Frank Zappa and now to you: "Have there been parts of your life that you've neglected because you've been absorbed in your music?"
DJ Luna: Yes, a one point or another... the gym, friends, women. Sometimes music is my girlfriend ;)
Patty Boss: Yes, I have traded in ways, my financial and family life to a degree, in terms of studying music, buying gear, and prioritizing these things financially. Family life traded in the sense of trying to maintain the open unending space needed as a climate for creation.
Lolo: Not so much so though I’d buy a cd before I’d buy food. If I can get my hands on some good music, I’m willing to worry about other things later. As for losing myself in creating music—no, I haven’t given enough and that’s why I’m not the real deal—yet. The people who I know who are successful in music are the ones who really seem to give their lives up to it or who let it become the gospel of their lives, living and breathing by it. Jimi Hendrix sleeping with his guitar.
Which affects you more—lyrical content or the music (melody / harmony/ beats)?
Tijanna: Definitely the music. Case in point: I've been in this band for over Five years and I still don't know the words to about half the songs! You can have the best lyrics in the world but if the beat is whack, I can't get with it. The first Too Short albums I bought back in 198%#@ suffered from both a lack of intelligent lyrics and a stunning paucity of phat beats. I returned them promptly. Now, I might feel differently about it today, but back then I was disappointed. Another example: at one time I thought I wanted to be a recording engineer, but after having to mix a vapid song for one of our classes, I decided right then and there that I could never do that job because how was I going to mix something I didn't like?
On the other hand, after I've completely absorbed tasty music through my pores, I'll eventually turn to the lyrics to see if I can live with them. Tupac's "Only God Can Judge Me Now" is something I love listening to, but half of his lyrics threaten to ruin everything, as well as Rappin' Forte's solo on the song. Of course, when both music AND lyrics are either intelligent, fun, or just plain niggah, I've got the whole world in my hands.
Being a bass player, I was ecstatic when drum and bass started happening. And while I'm far from knowledgeable in that area, LTJ Bukem instantly grabbed me from the first moment I heard Logical Progression at Burning Man back in 1996. The Chemical Brothers always do some interesting and crazy shit. I went to this one gig where they were just working as Tom and Ed without the Chem overtones. Ed, the dark-haired one, was cranking up this one song's intensity, you know, amping it up and amping it up towards the payoff. And right when you think he's going to drop the beat heavily after a heightened pause, he fking turns around and crams this tidal wave of sound right in back of it that practically made you turn around and LOOK for the sound coming up behind you! It was brilliant and was even better than a standard payoff.
DJ Luna: For me, it’s all about the beat. The harmony is key. The lyrics are like icing on the cake. It’s deeper though. You could have a song with great lyrics, but the beat sounds like two wailing fire trucks crashing into a wall. On the other hand, the lyrics could be mindless and still have a good beat that people groove to.
Lolo: The music always gets me first. In fact, it’s gotta because I don’t hear the lyrics for a long time. This is something my brother, and I talk about all the time because as fan of his music, I know that it’s the lyrics that make his songs. But honestly, I grasp it much better when he feeds me the lyrics ‘cause when I’m listening to music I only process on the most primal level, which is sounds and rhythms (i.e. mood), not taking in words and understanding their meaning (content).
Now, nothing is worse than falling in love with a song and then finally catching the lyrics and falling into a quandry over lyrics that are so stupid that it’s insulting or lyrics that are offensive in some way—racist, misogynist, jingoistic, etc. Fortunately I don’t get caught in that trap too often, but sometimes the opposite happens—I finally hear the lyrics and it makes the whole listening experience that much more rich. That happens to me with hip hop all the time because my ears are never fast enough to process that shit, but I get wildly excited when it reaches me and it’s got something good to say.
Usually I’ll gravitate to a couple lines here and there that manage to grab me. The last time that happened was with De La Soul’s last release, on the title track "The Grind Date": “people gotta go out there and bust they ass for a job / I mean, my dad's got five kids, man and I mean yo / he hates drivin' a bus but he loves five kids.” For me that's the gist of the whole song because it’s the only part of the song I’ve heard despite a hundred listens. Why? Because I always get lost in the beats, but those lines are enough for me to know the song's got something to say to me. Sipho has a line that always sticks in my head—I've got “pain in my pain.” I think about that one all the time.
The bottom line is that usually, if I have access to written lyrics, I’ll read along with them the first time through a listen and that helps me hear and retain. But I’m definitely all about the beats or a beautiful voice first and foremost.
Was music education available to you when you were growing up? If so, did you partake or are you more self-taught?
DJ Luna: Both. My brother played guitar, he taught me a little bit. My parents owned a record store in Jersey so I was always surrounded by music in some form or another.
Lolo: I was in middle school band, and I played the flute because all the girls played either flute or clarinet. Except Sue Sabin. Sue played the drums, and I was jealous but as the only girl, she had a high pressure, high profile role; I watched her cave and wasn't about to go there with her. Yet, to this day only rarely can I bear the sound of flutes. Ugh. If I'd had the chutzpah, I would have chosen the trumpet, the saxophone, or the drums.
The really sad thing is that I learned how to read music, which is a skill I've lost over the many years, and now I'm just too lazy. I'm a guitar fiend who spends more time reading about them and looking at them and listening to other people play than actually playing. I'm self-taught though I haven’t learned even one-tenth of what I'd like to be able to do. I know the answer is practice, practice, practice. I guess this goes back to the question of how much you’re willing to prioritize it. I guess in the scheme of things, it’s in the top five of my life priorities, but only the top three get attention. But in the past year or two I've been doing more composing and am just starting to toy w/ the idea of home recording.
Tijanna: I'm totally self-taught. Up until about two years ago, I never wanted to take lessons because I thought it would ruin my individuality. But now that I'm 40 I think I could use a little help! I'd also like to learn how to read music some day.
Patty Boss: I played around by ear. At 10 my mother offered lessons. Perceiving lessons as just one more adult telling me what to do, I declined. At 24 I felt strongly that the music I heard in my head was too complex for me to execute without more skill. So I embarked upon study that was one of the most painful processes ever.
I feel the course of study has been stopped mid-stream. I have not completed what I served up for my self, but now feel so deeply satisfied by branching out into composing and using recording as an instrument, as well. I still can express my emotions using just a few piano notes that then branch into a simple melody, with simple chords. For the speaking of the soul, I feel I have just the bare necessity to say [what] I need to say. It's enough for now, in terms of playing. Composing and arranging using the recording process is allowing me to sculpt and investigate the larger ideas, the more layered and complex ideas I would like to express.
If you currently collaborate with others, how did you find each other?
Patty Boss: We found each other sometimes through newspaper ads, when I was new to town. But that quickly evolved into meeting others when playing out. It gives them a chance to hear you and vice versa. And through invitations from music friends, to come and sit in on a project, to see how the chemistry is. No matter how good or bad anyone is, like dating, it all comes down to chemistry.
DJ Luna: [Not yet] but I would like to collaborate with other djs/performers.
Have you gone through discernable "musical phases" in life, and if so, what have they been?
Tijanna: I cut my teeth on hard rock and heavy metal in the late 70s [imagine a little Black girl learning some AC/DC (preferably with Bon Scott), Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, and early Queen on an acoustic in Hattiesburg, Mississippi where I went to high school]. Led Zeppelin, the Who, and Pink Floyd got me through college in the early 80s. Reggae had me in the mid-80s for a minute. Led Zeppelin snatched me up in the late 80s. Public Enemy and KRS One stormed me in the early 90s. Led Zeppelin won me over again in the mid 90s. Salsa overtook me about three years ago. Death metal and hard, misogynistic rap have me by the clit currently.
DJ Luna: Yes, LOL. In high school I went through my hippie phase with classic rock, my goth phase where I wore all black and listened to angry dark music, my gangsta phase when I listened to gangsta rap, my 80's glam band heavy metal stage, my not so glam - speed metal stage, my mainstream pop phase, but not all in that order ;)
Lolo: I’m always going through a musical phase : ) The first album I ever picked out for myself was Eddy Arnold’s greatest hits. Actually, I didn’t really pick it, but I had memorized all the tv commercial sound bytes, and my dad ended buying it for me. The first album I bought for myself was with birthday money. I was torn between whatever the The Doobie Brothers had out that year and Maynard Ferguson’s Greatest Hits, having been exposed to his music from band class. I went with Maynard. I also had all kinds of disco 45s.
I was pretty religious about writing down all the songs from Casey Kasem's Top 40 countdown and catching the King Biscuit Flower Hour. I milked Columbia House with their 12 for a penny scheme. That gave me a nice classic rock collection, with my absolute treasures being The Best of the Doors and the Who's Hooligans. In high school my faves were U2, The Police, Prince, and Peter Gabriel. Though I brought my Isaac Hayes soundtracks and Frankie Goes to Hollywood 12-inches with me, the college years gave way first to CSN / CSNY / Neil Young, Simple Minds, Midnight Oil's Red Sails in the Sunset and the Psych Furs' Forever Now. I also had short-lived radio show called "Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine," the title of a Doors compilation. The second part of college was all about Love & Rockets, Jane's Addiction, Traffic, and Humble Pie's Lost and Found.
The 1990s was filled with acid jazz, inc. Soul II Soul and Masters At Work's Nuyorican Soul; the grunge of Pearl Jam's Ten and Alice in Chains; trip hop, starting with Massive Attack; the first hip hop I embraced on my own (i.e. without having to have my brother force feed it to me) inc. Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest and Tupac; the neosoul of Me'Shell NdegeOcello and Erykah Badu and a slew of other stuff: Eric Matthews, DJ Shadow, 808 State, Seal, Elastica, Goldie, Jamiroquai, Madonna, Lush, and lots and lots of house music and Detroit Techno.
Brazillian music and jazz always weaved in and out, starting with Isaac Hayes soundtracks I borrowed from my cousin Darby when I was in middle school and leaping into hard bop / post-bop and working my way to free jazz only recently.
In the noughties it’s been Radiohead, old soul, Jill Scott, and a true branching out into all kinds of stuff—field recordings, roots music, Cuban music, electronica, experimental stuff. Since my mom passed away I’ve picked up on her love for South African music and country music. I go backward and foreward through everything—neosoul, country blues, chamber rock, hip hop, Japanese rock, Eurojazz, Venezuelan disco. I don’t care what it is as long as it’s good.
By which artist/group do you have the most recordings?
DJ Luna: Missy Elliot.
Tijanna: Ach! Why ask this question??? How am I supposed to figure that out, woman??? :-) LTJ Bukem, Chemical Brothers, Aerosmith, Missy, Me'Shell, Janet, Mick Karn, and Madonna.
Patty Boss: Chopin, Tricky, Steve Reich, but the most recordings, not to be confused by the most listened to. A band I love, MONO, (not the other mono) well, I have one recording of theirs. And I have listened to it two million times in the past 3 years since I got it. So, who do I sit around and listen to the most? Over and over and over and over and over? Recently: Coldplay, Gillian Welch, Radiohead, Bjork, beck, Coltrane, Nat King Cole on those down days. Keep in mind, this is all limited by my limited collection.”
Sipho: Prince and I don’t really know why. No disrespect to Prince :)
Is there a genre that you would like to know more about?
DJ Luna: House & Breakbeats.
Lolo: I am trying to understand classical music, but it’s hard because I don’t have an ear for it, and I don’t know where to start. The only classical stuff I know is from Looney Tunes. Seriously. But I just got Mozart’s Symphonies 40 and 41, recorded by the Prague Chamber Orchestra. Don’t ask me why I chose to start there. Because I had to start somewhere. Opra, too, I don't really understand / enjoy, but I'm willing to learn more about it.
Patty Boss: Yes, I would like to understand more about poly rhythmic African styles. When I say 'understand' I mean that I want my body to understand.
Is there a genre that you simply can’t relate to and why?
Patty Boss: Easy listening pop radio Kenny G. Plastic music with no soul. The first indication of no soul is the lack of a speaking melody. Playing scales and arpeggios in place of actually saying something. I cannot relate to music that is being played in a detached way, like banging on a drum because you can, or playing a chord progression because it's there. I need to feel the players' motive. I need to feel something painful or beautiful churning beneath. Even if it's a question. Even if it's one note, played over and over.
DJ Luna: Opera. I just can’t feel it. It doesn’t move me enough to want to listen to it. It’s actually quite annoying.
Lolo: I have a hard time with native Hawaiian music and most reggae from dub and roots right on through dancehall. They both bum me out, and I don’t know why. I don't care for Cajun music or Dixieland jazz. Or swing for that matter. Oh, and someone once tried to turn me on to “black metal.” I like some hard stuff, but I really couldn’t go there except for the Swedish group Opeth. It made me wish I could create an amalgam of two genres—black metal and black American soul, which of course would be called "black soul." If anyone does it before I do, I’ll be pissed!! Remember, I had the idea first. You’re my witness!
I really can't stand anything with the harpsichord or bagpipes and have only slowly been warming to the organ and the acordian. And other than Peter Frampton, nobody should touch the vocoder. There's also some instrument or sound I blame on Dr. Dre—that eeeeee sound that's in a lot of hip hop. I know he didn't start it, but after The Chronic everybody was doin' it.
Who’s the best live performer you’ve ever seen?
Sipho: Seal. I wasn’t expecting anything special, but I was totally pulled in and captivated the entire show. I can’t say that about any other show I have seen. At some point I will lose focus on the performance and find myself day dreaming or people watching. Seal had me pulled in the whole show.
Lolo: I get bored at shows. It doesn’t matter how much I like an artist; I have a low threshold of interest, so I don’t go to many, though I have seen some truly great ones over the years. But I have to say hands down, no contest, Ornette Coleman was the best experience I’ve had. #2 was Derek May’s set at the The Motor Lounge in Detroit for New Years eve in 1998? And Master Mike, who BLEW ME AWAY at the DNA Lounge a year ago or two? Goddamn, that was slammin’! Make that number 3.
There are so many elements that go into a show—the music, the audience, your mood—let alone the performer’s performance. Ornette Coleman and Derek May are about as different as you can get—apples and oranges—but those shows changed me. The Ornette show was a powerful and moving experience. My mom had recently passed away, and I felt very connected to her through the music, though she would have hated it. During the show I had a piece of paper on which I scribbled something about how the music sounded like it must be the music of heaven with all the stars listening in… Coleman, accompanied by his son on drums and two bass players, didn’t say a word during the entire show. Then at the end, he thanked the audience for coming out and added that he believes that there are as many musical ideas as there are "stars in heaven” and it felt like synchronicity because I’d just used the words “stars” and “heaven” myself, and I was certain my mom was there with me.
Derek May is Detroit Techno, but there's more of an audience for it Europe and Japan than at home. So not only was it great to see a big turn out but people were in a great mood that night, and he worked it, and a beautiful girl kissed me while I was waiting in line to get a drink, and her boyfriend beamed at me as they got lost in the crowd and I only realized now—nearly 10 years later—that they were probably on “E” but at time I was convinced that Derek had worked some magic for me and my year would be incredible. (I think it ended up sucking royally). And Mix Master Mike? Merciful god in heaven, that man can throw down!!
DJ Luna: 1. Tori Amos – her honesty projects through her lyrics, she’s passionate, sexual, charismatic, and just plain ol’ talented. 2. Actually, to be honest, Kid Rock. I know it sounds lame, but it surprised me too. The guy is actually talented. He played every instrument on that stage that night, including doing a scratch solo on the decks.
Tijanna: You know what? ZZ Top put on quite a show back in the day. Excellent execution of songs, lights that only complemented them, and silly stuff like cows and bathtubs falling on the stage at the end of the show. Judas Priest wasn't too shabby either (man, when's the last time I've been to a show?). And would I be worth anything if I didn't say that Janet's last show, where she starts the night on a giant white pedestal....ohhhhh!
Patty Boss: It depends upon your definition of “performer”. There are shows that appeal to many senses, visual and conceptual. There are those performers that entertain the shit outta the audience - the Princes or Tina Turners, the energy and church-like charisma of Patty Smith. All I ask is to be lost, to be taken, and to be risen in vibration to the cumulative community. So I can't answer the question with one performer. Like a drug, I need the consistent intake, and all are relatively equal in what they can offer for a live experience. But the performer is only one piece of the live experience puzzle. Also contributing is your own state, the people around you, the visual experience, the sound mix, the lighting. And famous or obscure, shy onstage or entertaining you, they all hold the most important place of catalyzing magic.
Do you support the local music scene in any way, whether going to shows, buying recordings, etc.? Who or what’s your favorite local band or dj?
DJ Luna: Yes, I’m out at clubs probably more often than I should be. It’s hard getting up at 6am for my day job! (I try to work with new djs and help them get started. It’s just good karma. Favorite local djs: Club Papi Productions’ DJs: Luna (of course ;) Carlitos, Chili D, and James from The Café.
Tijanna: I love Hadan. They're death metal. Their music is so heavy and so thick, oppressive, and meaty that it makes me want to have sex right there in the club.
Patty Boss: Yes, yes, yes. Well, I really loved David Hopkins but he moved back to Dublin or somewhere far away. There are so many great artists, and I rely on the auspicious intersections of evenings and venues and friends leading to such music. Sometimes ducking out of the rain and into the Amnesia bar on Valencia for a Wolaver's on tap can lead you into the most beautiful night of acoustics, and voices and red lamps and bend 1940s hats. And then there's the Make Out room. I tend to rely on knowing what type of music a venue tends to book or what my friends think I'll like, as opposed to finding music on my own.
What’s most important in the music business—luck, talent, or image?
DJ Luna: Luck 20%. Talent 60%. Image 20%. [To succeed as a dj] it takes determination, turntable skills, people skills/street smarts ;) (to deal with some of the scum in the industry), communication & negotiation skills... you have to be able to do lots of PR and be willing to take risks.
Patty Boss: Raw charismatic talent to entertain, and a shit load of persistent marketing.
Why are Britney and co. so popular? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
Patty Boss: She is a hell of a good entertainer. She entertains, and is supported by the machine of all elements of glamour sex and fashion. It has little to do with music specifically. She's popular because the machine finds the lowest common denominator of what people think they want, and they put a pretty bow on it, and some cleavage. It's a good distraction for people, just like my King Cobra 40 ouncer and chess board are distractions. Luckily there are different levels of distraction and intrigue. If she were it for me, I might look for the doc. (Kevorkian).
DJ Luna: Uggh. I can’t even bear to answer that one…. To the cranked out, processed, Brittany Starbucks musicians of the world… I would barely call them musicians. I haven’t heard her do anything that would classify Brittany Spears as an artist either. Yes, she’s easy on the eyes, but depth, quality, skill, and true beauty are lacking.
Lolo: Woe is me.
Tomorrow: Rhythm science.