Sunday, June 26, 2005

Gay Pride = Gay Fried (Over the Rainbow)

"I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore"
—Helen Reddy
Yes I'm over the rainbow, but don't get me wrong, being Gay Fried is a good thing. Gay Fried means that the "high holidays" of gaydom have arrived and that one has participated, not necessarily to the full extent of what is available but certainly to the full extent that one can, given any array of factors from emotional stability to pure, physical & mental stamina. Taking pride is hard but good work, manifesting in a process that is both to be indulged and endured, particularly if one lives in what is generally recognized as the Gay capital of the world.

Each year as Pride weekend approaches, my optimism soars to record levels as a month's worth of events and celebrations loosen everyone's reserves and help shake the residue of any leftover winter blahs or spring blases. Then in the last days preceeding the main weekend, my insecurities breakout like a case of severe hives. I get the heebie-jeebies and start testing out all the excuses with which I can come up, in hopes of avoiding the whole thing. I even make half baked plans to avoid it all by gettin' out of town. But the word "avoid" leaves me with an unsettled feeling that impresses upon me the fact that I will stay, I will take pride, and I will enjoy it. And mostly, that is what has happened, four years in a row now.

I still remember my first June in San Francisco. In my mind, I hadn't moved here because I'm gay, though above all else it is one of the reasons I stay. Regardless, at that time I had zero desire to attend the Dyke March, but a friend of mine was one of the key perpetrators of the event, and Six encouraged me, so I went, as with most things, with my expectations set pretty low. Community shummunity. Dykes and women with a "y." What need could I have that? I mean why? Moments after the march kick-off provided by hundreds of dykes on bikes, I knew why. The sound of all those engines turning over, each mounted by females of my persuasion? Oh, my god—I'd just done my first line of crack. Forever since, the Dykes on Bikes have been my touchstone of Gay Pride weekend. I don't care about any of the other organized events; it's the chicks on steel steeds that really turn me on in every way possible.

That 10 to 15 minutes of every kind of woman—femme, butch, androgenous, short, tall, significantly overweight or thin as a rail, every ethnic persuasion, from dyke babies to wizened sages, the helmeted and the helmet-free riding everything from Harleys and Ducatis to home-built machines of every size, shape and color—choppers, crotch rockets, dirt bikes, you name it—not to mention the scooter contingent and the plucky few bicyclists who tack themselves on to the fringe—to see and to hear and to witness women in their full (wo)mannliness—I mean, it's everything I feel about being a gay female played out as a Chinese opera. Simply put, I love it. After that, everything is icing on the cake. Provided that one's expectations of the weekend are within the parameters of what actually transpires. It's the managing of those expectatons that lays at the heart of the taking, the heart of darkness and light, humility, desire, gratitude.

"Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained"

Having had a few tours of duty under my belt, I was well prepared for this go-round. The smartest thing I've learned is to make as few plans as possible with as few people as possible, letting the day(s) and night(s) dictate themselves. It's an abolute curse to make commitments to anybody, including oneself. Going with the flow this year got me on the lead truck, from which the sound system and a bounty of women sprung forth to introduce an endless parade of goddesses. Going with the flow last year led to a tete-a-tete that need not be described in detail other than to say, well look what the cat dragged in ; ) Other years, going with the flow led to feelings being crushed or squashed, for example, kicking it with a lovely Latina lady who, at the end of the night, mentioned her boyfriend; out of 60,000 women, I had to choose the straight one.

Every year is different. Sometimes you're with someone new, sometimes you're alone, sometimes you're with friends. Actually, always you're among friends. It's the one day of the year that lesbians are nice to each other, and the gay guys show their appreciation for us ladies. It's a love fest, a spilling out of pent up sister- and brotherhood.

"I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin' arms across the land
But I'm still an embryo
With a long long way to go
Until I make my brother understand"

This year I had some friends with me. This year I had a rather fine-looking young lass with me, a girl with a spirit that is as far from puny as one can get. I mention it because it was unplanned, and had I planned it, it would never have happened, could never have happened and that's the beauty of Pride weekend. The sunshine decided to stay home, but the faces, the so many faces I've come to know mixed with the tourist faces, the people from Dubuque, Iowa; or the Texas panhandle; or places that require passports and visas and where they never really get to be free to be you and me—they were there. The ex-girlfriends. Always know you'll see the ex-girlfriends, both the ones you like and ones you like to loathe. The neighbors whom you see every day but didn't know were in the club. The smooches, the one-night or one-weekend stands, the new best friends—they're all there. It's not something to be taken lightly, though when it comes off well, you can be left feeling lighter. Myself, I lost about 40 lbs. of baggage this weekend, the equivalent of a travel carry-on. So cheers to all; until Pride 2006, carry on! I'm so Gay Fried that it will take a year to pack another bag. Thankfully, righteously so.

I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman

Thursday, June 16, 2005

"The White Jacket" - by Philly Moon

So I'm falling asleep as I type, my fingers getting heavier with every letter. Can't really talk, I'm busy, well no, more like, I should be busy. I have to order furniture for my office and get quotes on signs & banners and crap for this company coming in next week. HA, they want ME to decorate the office? I can't even pick out matching furniture for my own apartment! hehehe

Maybe the public won't mind if I sleep talk to them for a while. Maybe my boss won't mind if I sleep walk.

Hell, maybe I can just curl up in a little ball in the storage closet and when someone comes in, I'll just pretend I'm looking for paperclips on the floor! Of course they'll think I'm a crackhead, quietly walk away, run down the hall to HR and explain my carpet combing behavior. THEN, HR will call and say "Hi Carol, how are you feeling today? Can you stop down and see us?"

I'll say, "Sure!" (pretending I don't know that they're about to send me to rehab). So I get down there and they have 2 large men waiting by the door with a cute little white jacket (I bet they're reps from the Gap).

"Oh, for me? How sweet!" Is it my anniversary with the company?"

"Ma'am, you'll have to come with us!"

Oh, how convenient, all I wanted to do in the first place was sleep. Now I get to do it in a cushy padded room! I never clocked out so I'm getting paid now for sleeping.

I wonder when I get to leave? "Hey, can I go back to the office now?" (I say this now in a slurred, drug induced murmur) It's kind of hard to speak when they have you injected with about 5 cc's of Thorizine).

Now I'm in a tough situation, and I'm pissed. I finally get turned loose and return to work next month. They failed to tell me that I've been replaced! I ask if I could at least get my belongings from the closet...they agree.

I open the door and what do I find? The new girl sleeping on the floor...... Hmmmmmm.......... revenge is sweet!

I never looked good in white anyway.

[Blogger's note: A cute girl sent this to me, not knowing that today was the turning point in which I have officially begun to hate my job. I 'spose it was only a matter of time, which is why I've begun reading Sabotage in the American Workplace. I'm not of that inclination, but I find it soothing that others have been thusly motivated to extract workplace revenge. Unwittingly then, Philly Moon's little "bedtime story," as she called it, assuaged the bitter wolf in me. Kindred!]

Monday, June 13, 2005

Asians Apparently Rise Above

I don't know where this originated, but it makes the rounds and from time to time lands in my inbox. I always grimace for a moment before admiting there is a certain humor to it. After having recently seen Crash, which I liked very much despite its flaws, I found this particularly amusing. I'm sure it will offend some people, too. Oh, well. I couldn't resist after the brief Elvis debate on a recent posting.

1. Elvis is dead.
2. Jesus was not white.
3. Rap music is here to stay.
4. Kissing your pet is not cute or clean.
5. Skinny does not equal sexy.
6. Thomas Jefferson had black children.
7. A 5-year-old child is too big for a stroller.
8. N'SYNC will never hold a candle to the Jackson 5.
9. An occasional BUTT whooping helps a child stay in
10. Having your children curse you out in public is
not normal.

1. Hickey's are not attractive.
2. Chicken is food, not a roommate.
3. Jesus is not a name for your son.
4. Your country's flag is not a car decoration.
5. Maria is a name, but not for every daughter.
6. "Jump out and run" is not in any insurance
7. 10 people to a car is considered too many.
8. Buttoning just the top button of your shirt is a
bad fashion statement.
9. Mami and Papi can't possibly be the nickname of
every person in your family.
10. Letting your children run wildly through the store
is not normal.

1. O. J. did it.
2. Tupac is dead.
3. Teeth should not be decorated.
4. Weddings should start on time.
5. Your pastor doesn't know everything.
6. Jesse Jackson will never be President.
7. RED is not a Kool Aid flavor, it's a color.
8. Church does not require expensive clothes.
9. Crown Royal bags are meant to be thrown away.
10. Your rims and sound system should not be worth
more than your car.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

"Ian's Maddening" by William Harmer

He caught her staring at him out of the corner of his eye as he tore down his equipment after the show. Between the tangle of cords, amps, and Vox guitars, he had hoped she would bring him a cold beer. When it was obvious that she wanted something more, he jumped off the stage to get his own and nearly ran right into her.

“They don’t care too much for 80s retro rock in this town, do they,” she observed. “They expect every other band to sound like the White Stripes’s rundown of the Stooges, not Echo & the Bunnymen.”

She’s much too gorgeous to have this much insight about the local scene, he thought. She was wearing an over-priced Made in Detroit jersey shirt. He used to be good friends with the guy who designs them. They went to high school together. Now the sellout was making a killing selling inner city street clothes to trendy white kids in the suburbs. Typical. He looked past this stunning, yet seemingly typical, young groupie and headed toward the bar.

“Yo, Ian,” she shouted after him, “you’ll never make it in this town dressed like a hippie and playing 80s psychedelic rock.”

“Look,” he said. “My name isn’t Ian, its Bobby. And my band isn’t any retrofit. We play atmospheric folk with a wide variety of instruments. And if that isn’t good enough for you, then tough shit, I’ve got better things to do.”

Bobby sauntered away, past the empty beer bottles scattered over the main floor, down to the tiny bar on the opposite side of the stage. He was surprised not to see the rest of his band hovering around trying to cage drinks or pick up any stray young girls. They must all be back stage finishing up the beer or getting high on the bag his bass player scored before the show. Bobby pulled out his wallet, spotted a five-dollar bill, and ordered a Bud. “Not the best turn out in the world tonight,” he said to the bartender, a metrosexual who looked out of place in the grimy setting.

The bartender shrugged. “It’s a Wednesday and people have to work or go to classes in the morning I guess.”

It was their second gig at St. Andrews, so it was too early to tell whether the band would find an audience or not. Although Bobby was only 20 years old, he had never held down a job in his life. All he ever wanted was to write songs and play them in front of an audience. These gigs didn’t pay the band much, but he was extremely confident of his own talent and abilities and never let money or the lack of it bother him. As long as he could afford ramen noodles and beer, he'd cope. So he drank.

He nearly ran into her, again, when he turned to finish packing his equipment. “Mind if I make a snap judgment about you?” Without waiting for an answer she said, “You’re a trust fund baby, right? Instead of going to college, you decided to blow your daddy’s money on a chance at rock n roll stardom.”

“Nice try,” Bobby said. “Mind if I make a snap judgment about you?”


“You are the daughter of a wealthy automobile executive from Birmingham. You went to private schools all of your life, went on vacation with your family every other month to places like Rome or Paris or Bangkok, your daddy bought you a Volkswagen Jetta for your 16th birthday, and instead of going off to an Ivy League school to pursue law like everyone wanted you to, you managed to convince your parents to allow you to blow their trust fund to pursue a long shot as an artist at the Center for Creative Studies.” Bobby stopped long enough to take a swig of his beer. “Close?”

“Close,” she minced haughtily. “But it wasn’t a Jetta, it was a Mustang.”

They both stood silent for a moment. Bobby lit a cigarette.

“Where are you from really?” she asked.

“Port Huron."

“Port Huron? That's a nothing town.”

“Port Huron is the home of Thomas Edison, the Students for a Democratic Society, and one of the highest suicide rates in the country.”

She smirked. “Well that explains why your music is so introspective.”

“I write love songs. There’s nothing particularly deep or mysterious about that,” Bobby said. “I’m pretty much obsessed with love, lost or gained, but not enough to kill myself over it. Not like my father anyway.”

“What happened to your father?”

“He killed himself.”

“No,” she said, “I mean why?”

“Because drugs were more important to him than me, my mom, his music or anything else. Drugs were his first love.”

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Depends on the question,” he sighed.

“What’s your name?”


“Bobby what?”

“Bobby Butler.”

“Oh my god,” she said. “Then I was right. Your dad was Joey Butler of the Thrills.”

“The one and only.”

“I’m so sorry. Is it true that he committed suicide on your birthday?”


“That must have been awful.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said, suddenly uncomfortable. “Listen, do you want to go and hang out in my van for awhile?”

“Sure,” she said.

He took her back to his Chevy work van. In the shadows, her face seemed nearly featureless. Bobby could see her flesh glowing faintly, like a ghost. His hands moved over her thigh to make sure she was real.

She kept still, trying to form a picture of him in the shadows, but she couldn’t. Away from the stage lights, he looked younger, just like the kid he was, barely out of high school, his complexion more pale, his hair darker and more coarse. He looked like a young Ian McCullough.

He was starting to lose his nerve.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, motioning to sit up, but he stopped her, firmly holding her head in his hands.

Bobby was puzzled. She was beautiful. Dazzling, alabaster skin along her neck, long and expressive eyelids with eyes of profound ambiguity, absorbing everything with cool abandon and heightening the weight of Bobby’s desire. She was more attractive than he was used to, a daughter of private schools and community activists, of fund raisers and expense accounts, of parents who read Morningstar and don’t have a need for the public library.

“Pretty girls make graves,” he said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she flinched.

“Nothing. Something Kerouac said, I think.”



“What’s that's supposed to mean?” she wanted to know.


“Isn’t that the name of a band?”

“He’s a writer,” he said.

“No, I mean 'pretty girls make graves?'”

Slowly he said, “I think it has something to do with obsession, which is the result of desire, which usually leads to pain and anguish, which can eventually cause premature death.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?”

“No. I don’t know. I’m sorry.”

“I didn’t come out here because I’m some groupie you know. I came out here because I find you intriguing …even mysterious.”

“I stopped kissing you because I couldn’t help myself,” he said, his eyes unable to face hers any longer.

“Maybe you were expecting me to be a groupie.”

“I don’t have groupies,” he spat with disdain. “I barely have a band.”

“If you kiss me now, I promise to be your groupie.

“I don’t want that,” he said.

“Of course you do,” she insisted. “I’ll be your Marianne Faithful, your Courtney Love ... I’ll be the groupie who makes you famous.” She imagined Bobby writing love songs about her. She imagined standing in the audience surrounded by her giddy friends and dancing to the music Bobby wrote especially for her. She visualized him bent over his vintage black Rickenbacker in an almost sacrificial pose beneath the warm spotlights. She envisioned the crowds growing larger and more dynamic with each gig. She imagined he was Ian McCulloch.

Quickly Bobby got up, pulled on his pants, buttoned his denim cowboy shirt, stepped into his boots, and fumbled around the front seat of the van for his pack of cigarettes. “I loathe people who want to be famous,” he said stepping out. “I don’t want people going around trying to dress like me or wanting to fuck me like they do Jessica Simpson, so you’ve got the wrong guy.”

Standing outside the van in the dark, Bobby lit a cigarette and watched the last of the bar rats stumble out to their vehicles along Woodward Avenue. He watched the traffic lights turn from green to red a couple of times. For a moment, he wished he was Ian McCulloch.

* * *
William Harmer, the evil genius behind "The First-Ever Rock n' Roll Library Tour," is going to be interviewed on This American Life in the coming weeks. Stay tuned here at Sleepwalkers' Glory for details and links to the archived interview.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Soothe Me, I'm Savage (Part IV)

Allen Ginsberg wrote: “A few individuals, poets, have had the luck and the courage and fate to glimpse something new through the crack in mass consciousness.” Is there a moment or moments in music that you would say the same? An artist or group or emerging style that changed the face of music?

Tijanna: Check out Mick Karn. He was the bass player for the band Japan, a much more sophisticated and polished version of Duran Duran. David Sylvian, The singer was pretty as all fck, but he sang like a man! All deep-n-shit. Mick Karn takes bass playing to a whole new level. He finds a pattern and expands it. He finds the sounds in an AREA on the bass. I saw him in support of Mark Isham at the Great American Music Hall once. The music was totally unfamiliar to me but Mick's playing was so......stch....mmmh!'re just like...he played
everything you wanted to hear on songs you'd never heard before. Such an
inadequate description but you just had to be there.

DJ Luna: Hip hop of course.

Lolo: In my lifetime, punk and hip hop. There was a time when some people thought electronica was going to take over the world—remember Prodigy?—but that didn’t happen. Personally, I love electronica in the broadest sense. I mean I’m not to into trance or rave music or other styles within the genre, but I still love IDM, house music, and d&b/breakbeat and nujazz, which has an electronic element to it. I really enjoy the way electronica has seeped into other genres (Radiohead, Madonna, etc.) but I’m not surprised the electronica didn’t win the commercial hearts of the consumer public.

In jazz it was constant from bebop to free jazz, each successive stylistic twist taking over and all the giants were true geniuses. Charlie Parker alone…. In popular music, you can’t overlook The Beatles even if you want to.

Actually this is too difficult a question to answer. I mean even Madonna changed the face of music in a way, if not the music itself then definitely the way it’s packaged and received and even by whom it’s received. Her initial audience was pretty different than the audiences of the other big name acts at the time that she became a household name and a lot different than what women were listening to in the decades prior. Why? Because nobody had ever done what she did.

And speaking of packaging, I’d say “world music,” too, because of course the rest of the world has always had its own musics but it’s never until we Westerners go out and discover it and get our grubby little paws all over it and comoditize it that it gets validated. And now, more and more, you find it seeping into places it didn’t used to be—just like electronica. Like how bossa nova became all the rage in the Sixties and suddenly the hippest thing in the world was for an American artist to incorporate some kind of bossa sound into their music. Nowadays it’s Cuban—you can’t go wrong inserting some Cuban elements into your shit. I’m not saying I’m against it; I just find it interesting to hear. And to whom do we owe this phenomenon? In a certain sense to people like Alan Lomax, who made sure it all got recorded.

Patty Boss: I think that John Cage's concept of incidental chance happening sounds as music, well, perhaps equal to anything else philosophical or musical, it has influenced my life in a dramatic way. I thank the spirit of John Cage every time the man out on Market Street echoes up into my window while he hollers and the car horns harmonize with him, and all at once it blends in with the song I'm singing to the stereo. It's a pinnacle experience that makes you feel like you're in the human soup of sound and potential. Similarly, in Dolores Park on a Sunday, watching the ice cream cart bump across the grass, when the jingle of the bells and the squeaking of the merry-go-round and swings move in a rhythm with the laughing girl playing Frisbee, and dogs digging in their claws, tossing mud up past your lunch, where their owners call them back and the airplanes move by overhead.

How / why did hip hop become the most popular music on the planet?

DJ Luna: See, even you know it! Stated as FACT right here in print! Hip hop is the shiznit beeach! For real, it's got great beats and people can relate to the lyrics, more so now then ever. It's not all about "shootin a nigga up" anymore. It's about the clubs, the parties, the fun times, the alcohol, representing your city, the beats, the vibe, the women. Shallow, yup. Fun, yup. That's why...because people don't want to THINK when they go out and party, they wanna dance & forget about shit.

Lolo: Beats me (pun intended)! Seriously, I think first of all, like the D.I.Y. ethic of punk, in the early daze it was something everybody could get into and have a soapbox. Then, just like anything else, as it become commercially viable it turned into a business and where there’s bait, there’s a feeding frenzy. Everybody wanted to get paid cash money. So on the one hand you have art, on the other you’ve got product and two hands rarely shake anymore. A ton of underground stuff exists that really floats my boat, but now that popular rap has hit it’s middle age, I can relate to almost none of the commercial stuff. Gimme the old school or gimme some underground sh*t, but it’s slim pickin’s for me when it comes to the stuff in the middle.

While it's not my favorite genre, I love the fact that it gives people a chance to get up and say something, which hopefully they use to say something intelligent and interesting. I think it's also popular because it's so dynamic. If hip hop had evolved only into "gangsta rap," I don't think it'd still have an audience. But underground/alternative hip hop is some of the most creative music around. And even some mainstream stuff has tripped me out from time to time. Like I love the idea of Bubba Sparxx, the good ol’ southern white boy mixing it up w/ Timbaland. Great concept. Ah, but there's a word that can be ugly in the context of popular music—"concept."

Can music die? Is jazz dead?

DJ Luna: Yes. House music is dead. What you still hear it in the clubs, you're just hearing a haunting echo of its ghost.

Lolo: I don’t know if it dies or not. I guess it doesn’t die so much as it gets gobbled up and regurgitated as something else. I was about to say that there’ll always be some diehard practitioners who will pass on their knowledge (and diehard listeners), but I just realized I’m writing words of wishful thinking.

I just remembered the first episode of Scorcese’s documentary series on the blues. They were talking about a fife-player who was one of the last of his kind though his grand-daughter was learning. It was tremendously sad; I mean this is music that harkens back to the early days of slavery. That’s when I realized that in a certain sense, music can die. Even if it’s preserved and can be played back, it dies when there’s nobody left who can create it from scratch. And going back to the question of generations, even if a new practitioner comes along 20 years after the fact, the music generated is never what it would have been at the time of its true genesis or heyday. Like remember that swing revival in the mid-1990s or the rockabilly revival of the 1980s? Those nostalgic movements were nothing compared to the real deal, I’m sure.

On the other hand, if a music has an audience, it lives. The heyday of jazz is long gone, but the mantle has been picked up by the Europeans and the Japanese and the Jews. I’m sure there are young black artists here in the states who are keeping it alive, but I wouldn’t know who they are aside from the generation that came of age in the 1980s—the Joshua Redmans and company. If there are any “brothers” (or sisters) younger than that, I don’t know about ‘em, but that’s just me, looking backward.

Patty Boss: Jazz is so not dead. It's the only original American art form. We just think it's dead here in America. In another sense, jazz has not evolved. It's the same that it was decades ago. But let's recognize the gem in our backyard. Music cannot die. It can only rest for centuries at a time.

Sipho: Music only dies when the part of you that music touched dies or goes dormant.

Who/what is your guilty pleasure? Should one ever feel guilty about music enjoyment?

DJ Luna: Frank Sinatra ;)

Lolo: Nobody should ever feel guilty about enjoying music. That’s what it’s there for—to be enjoyed. I admit sometimes I feel a little silly rockin’ my Hall & Oates, but hey, what’s a girl to do when she’s jonesin’ for some blue-eyed soul (which is a totally different animal from soul food people’s soul)? I’ll up the ante and admit to Duncan Sheik, Stone Temple Pilots and Wang Chung’s first album, too.

Once I was in a cab when Journey’s “Oh Cherrie” came on (or was that Steve Perry solo?). At first we both tried to pretend like we weren’t into it. He even asked if the radio was bothering me and made as if to turn it down or change the station but seconds later we were humming it and in minutes this cabbie—whom I’d never seen before in my life—and I, were belting it out and so wrapped up in it that we passed my destination with neither of us noticing. It was great! He drove me back the six or seven blocks and didn’t charge me for the trip at all.

Tijanna: Did I already mention Duran Duran? Yeah, I guess I did. Andreas Vollenweider too!

Patty Boss: Ohhhh! Guilty pleasures! I say, stand up for guilty pleasures. Mine? Joni Mitchell. Crosby Stills Nash and Young.

What has been the greatest decade for music?

Sipho: The 60s as an actual decade. Or a toss up of the ten-year periods 1965 to 1975 and 1988 to 1998. Both periods have had the largest impact on the growth of where music has gone as a whole. Does that make sense?

DJ Luna: 80s.

Patty Boss: It just keeps getting better. And luckily music isn't replaced, just accumulated.

Are there any albums you’d qualify as totally flawless in execution?

DJ Luna: Nobody’s perfect.

Tijanna: Believe it or not-side two of Duran Duran's Rio is PERFECT. As is side One of Houses of the Holy.

Patty Boss: Lucinda's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road comes to mind. So does the Mono album I have. I Don't even know the name. So do a few of our contemporary Radiohead, Bjork and Coldplay albums. Total crafted works of art, as a whole.

Sipho: Pearl Jam’s Ten.

Lolo: To me, a perfect album isn’t necessarily my favorite album though it might be. It just means there isn’t a single song I have to skip. I’ve got quite a few. Off the top of my head Mark Hollis’s Mark Hollis. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds. The Pretty Things’ Parachute. The Who’s Who’s Next. Midnight Marauders – A Tribe Called Quest. Hole’s Live Through This. Emmylou Harris’s Pieces of the Sky. Seals’ first album. Chet Baker’s Somewhere over the Rainbow. Super Furry Animals’ Fuzzy Logic. Zero 7’s Simple Things. Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. Even on a great album though, there’s at least one song in there that will fuck it up. The closest one for me recently is Avishai Cohen’s At Home. The fourth cut barely makes it for me; sometimes I can listen to it, and sometimes I can’t. If it wasn’t on the disc it’d be one perfect disc!

Can you think of a soundtrack in which the music made the film, whether an original score or a compilation of tracks? Or a soundtrack that ruined a film?

DJ Luna: Made it: Cat Stevens soundtrack in Harold & Maude, Kurtis Blow, Fat Boys, & Run DMC in Krush Groove.

Tijanna: Blade! Well, I was into Blade anyway, but I had to go out and get the soundtrack. Not the one with Mark Isham but the hip hop one. And I'm not one for either movies OR soundtracks!

Lolo: Georgio Moroder’s soundtrack to Scarface w/ Al Pacino has NOT stood the test of time and makes that movie completely unbearable to watch now. Stewart Copland’s music for Rumblefish made that film. Gustavo Santaolalla’s music for The Motorcycle Diaries definitely contributed to the beauty of that film. Koyannisquati is, of course, classic. I think the soundtracks to Dead Presidents and Crooklyn were actually better than the films. Spike Lee's father's music for She's Gotta Have It was really nice. Cinematic Orchestra wrote great music for the silent classic Man with a Movie Camera and the music selected for the tv series Freaks & Geeks and created for The Prisoner definitely contributed to the greatness of those two shows. They wouldn't be the same without the music.

Is there any hope for radio?

Patty Boss: Hell yes, you serve it up, I'll consume it. Do my thinking for me, please! I love internet radio. I'm talking about random playlists served up based on genre. But what is happening to traditional, air-wave radio is sickening. The radio dj's voices become sound bites as stored clips, triggered when needed. The dj's are getting fired. I miss a real person talking to me late at night, between songs on the radio. It's the last bastion of reaching out and touching someone. But someone's gotta pay for the radio, and I don't want to hear any ads.

DJ Luna: Yes, if Clear Channel Entertainment doesn't buy every freakin radio station on planet earth!

Lolo: Pirate radio. And maybe Internet radio. Any format in which the djs aren't catering to the record companies and advertisers. That said, I haven't listened to conventional radio in nearly 20 years, reason being that I can't stand spending time listening to music I don't like. Why wait for a radio dj to play a song you like followed by five you don't, plus the incesscent chit chat, plus the stupid ads, when you can just go out and buy the damn album and be your own dj?

If you had the power to force feed the masses one song or album what would it be?

Lolo: That’s just not gonna work. Besides, that’s apparently the job of commercial radio.

DJ Luna: Deee-Lite – “Groove Is in the Heart!” This was the only hit for the group – members were: DJ Dimitry, DJ Towa Towa, and Lady Miss Kier. Kier and Dimitry were married. Before they recorded this, DJ Dimitry wrote to Bootsy Collins and sent him a tape. Collins liked it and flew in to play bass. He appeared in the video. The rap in the middle is Q-Tip, who was a member of A Tribe Called Quest at the time.

Tijanna: Carlos Santana's Supernatural. EVERYONE needs a copy of it. EVERYONE needs to listen to that album at least 10 or 400 times. In fact, I've never seen an album reach across so many different types of cultures. I've heard that album in some mighty weird and unexpected places. Trust me.

According to Stephen Nachmanovitch, in creating, "Sometimes what's needed is to crudely smash through the confusions and obstacles; sometimes the most delicate, patient, intermittent massaging of the problem. Sometimes it is we ourselves who need to be hit over the head or gently massaged." Do you feel this is so?

DJ Luna: Yes, but I relate that to “writer’s block” or “dj’s block.” Sometimes my head turns to mush and I can’t think of a damn thing to mix. I’m burnt, foggy, exhausted. I allow myself to relax, take a step back, and do something different. BUT….when I’m live, onstage it’s completely different. I get such an adrenaline rush that there’s no time for hesitation, fear, or doubt. It just flows. Partly because it has to, partly because something in me opens up, like a door, or a switch goes on. It’s hard to explain.

Lolo: I personally never like to be hit over the head, and I'm likely to hit back. But I can relate to the idea that sometimes giving birth to a musical expression necessitates brute force and other times you kind of just have to let it happen whenever and however it happens. I find it nearly impossible to force things out of myself, and I think it's partly because I'm not technically adept. I don't know music theory, and I'm on the beginning end of the intermediate range on my instrument of choice so it's really difficult to decide that I'm gonna come up with something. I might hear something in my head but getting it out is tricky business. However, these same liabilities also give me a certain freedom. I play around with no expectations and sometimes hit upon something that I can build on, which is always a nice, fun surprise.

Patty Boss: Definitely. Obstacles and limitations are our friend. We are animals of pattern and that detracts from creative evolution at times. It's true with any art form: paint monochromatically, using only red, black and white. Or shoot photographs, but only of brick. Or, “I had to record a banjo solo, but all I had was this mandolin, so I changed the strings, and tuned them down, and oh, mi god, that is where this majestic and unique sound came from!”

Do you need an audience?

DJ Luna: Yes. It’s way different spinning at home. Some people call themselves bedroom djs, that cracks me up and then just makes me sleepy. I’d rather be out there with my people, interacting.

Tijanna: Not all the time.

Patty Boss: Yes. I always need an audience. If I write a poem by myself, I still need an “audience of ONE”, meaning I need someone, at least one, to read it eventually. It's a conversation, the music or the poem. And talking to oneself is contrary to this. If I play the piano at home by myself, I hope someone walks by the hall and can understand my 'question' or my statement. If I am playing by myself, I play to the stars, and to the gods, I ask the ancestors to speak to me. I have a conversation with those passed on.

Lolo: Sleepwalkers’ glory ;)

Have you embraced the iPod revolution and digital music-file sharing, home recording, etc.?

DJ Luna: Yes. There is a little dive bar in New York that used to have iPod “spin-offs”. You could sign up to be a dj for a 15 minute spot. It’s not really like dj-ing because there’s no way to manipulate the music besides fading in and out of the songs. ipods are evil. Mine holds 10,000 songs but at iTunes’ price of .99 cents per song, sheesh! That’s one valuable iPOD. Imagine if I ever lost it! Apple doesn’t make it easy to take the music OFF the damn thing. God for bid you want to back up your music on your hard drive. They’re too worried about copyright issues, music piracy, etc. Hello!? What about convenience! That’s ridiculous, no, actually it’s just capitalism.

Lolo: Not yet. I am really into ‘albums’ rather than singles, and I’ve had a hard time thinking of iPods and other mp3 players as anything other than repositories for singles. Also they’re still pretty expensive and god forbid if you lose the shit. Plus, I guess I’m old fashioned but I really need to own the actual, physical, tangible good. I need the jewel case and the disc jacket, and I need to able to stack them up and reorder them and gaze at them. I just don’t get the same level of satisfaction when I buy a song online or download one from a file-sharing service. I wish I could get over it actually because I’m probably one of the few fools still paying for music the way I do even though I buy only used cds. The other problem I’ve had is selection. The commercial sites like Napster and iTunes don’t tend to have much of what I want. The free sites, like Kaazaa aren’t much better, plus you risk trashing your computer. As for home recording, I’m ready to embrace that wholeheartedly—both digital and analog.

Patty Boss: Yes. The only drawback is that we're losing the concept of the collection or album. 12 songs meant to go together take one on a journey hopefully, a trip lasting an hour. The album that does this with virtuosity is rare, but I have them in my collection. The other drawback is that we're losing fidelity, and therefore information. mp3 compression has subtracted some audio. But in the case of a muddy recording, sometimes and mp3 can take out some of the mud, making it thinner and easier to listen to. But in general, after returning to vinyl recently for an evening of Mendelssohn and Mingus, oh my god! I vowed while bathing in the richness to never give up my record player. We are in the interim of formats and fidelity. When digital bit depth and sample rates can begin to approximate the perception of real ears, then digital music won't have the drawbacks that it has now in terms of listen-ability. But all in all, the music still translates no matter what the fidelity or format is. A melody, the lyrics and the emotion of music usually translates though anything. Back to the power of love. The best, most incredible outcome of mp3's and online access is that we now have access to amazing hard to find music that we might never have experienced. Long live the internet. Long live audio compression!

Tijanna: No. If I did, I'd lose my job, any prospective girlfriends, and would probably grow a beard sitting around all day in my pajamas downloading and mixing stuff. I'd be a girl with 5-o'clock shadow.

How do you feel about sampling, mash-ups, etc. or artists who only make their music available by download?

Patty Boss: It depends upon the goal. All I ask is that we call it what it is. "Recombination technicians" or turntablist. Let's give credit where credit is due. Your 3-minute shitty short video sucks except that now you have put a Tina turner song over it, and the film festival audience is screaming. Let's remember why they're screaming.

DJ Luna: Sampling is an art in itself. It’s like a collage. You can take clips, phrases, or other bits of a song and create a whole new sound. Mash ups get on my nerves. They should call them Fuck Ups.

Lolo: I love a great sample if it’s not overkill, like Puffy’s sacrilegious overuse of “Every Breathe You Take” a few years ago. That is just wrong!! But in my mind, sampling was legitimized by the jazz artists, who would “reference” other songs or artists in the midst of their own playing.

I can’t comment on the mash-ups because I haven’t heard one in which I know both of the original tunes so it’s hard for me to get a feel for what’s really happening. I tried unsuccessfully to download Dangermouse's The Grey Album and and DJ BC's Beastles (Beastie Boys – Beatles mash up). Music by download only is a great statement—except for people who don’t have computers or all the crap needed for a proper download HELLO!! I like Fugazi’s idea better—just make the music affordable. Do both if you really wanna help the fans.

Who or what excites you most about music?

Patty Boss: That it is just as intense as making love, those rare moments when you play music with others and that particular intimacy and interaction clicks or shifts. You can't plan it, prepare it or make it happen. It's one of the most intimate things you can do, and if this is happening, and others are around, it's almost embarrassing. Like love making, music is a far better language for expressing the mysteries of the human experience.

DJ Luna: The way it makes me move, the way it makes me smile when I hear a great beat. Music is the international language! It conveys love, anger, sadness, joy, fear, and everything in between.

Tijanna: I don't know! It just does!

Lolo: Music encompasses every idea and range of emotion ever experienced and maybe even yet to be experienced by humankind. Music has even scared me, at least twice in my life. The first time was when I heard "Emotional Rescue" by the Stones. I was too young; I didn't understand the lyrics and felt there was something sinister in the music itself, especially because I had heard adults say they were "bad" people. Of course, when I got older—and became “bad” myself—it became one of my favorite songs of theirs.

The other music that struck me that way was an album by John Coltrane, who is hands down my favorite jazz artist. For me, he encompasses everything that music is and should be and his growth as an artist was astounding if you listen to his transitions from 1956 to 1967. Amazing. One of my favorite recordings of his is A Love Supreme, which is basically his spiritual homage to "The Creator." Later he recorded Meditations, which is a “sequel” of sorts. However, it's nothing like its predecessor. I found it absolutely terrifying, like if I listened with my eyes closed, something terrible would happen. My heart was racing, the oxygen went of the room, and the physical space of the room shrunk; it scared the living shit out of me. That was a couple years ago, and I haven't had the guts to listen to it since.

That experience tells me also that music is power. Music is said even to soothe the savage beast; Nero was supposedly quite calm as Rome burned! (Despite the myth, Nero couldn't have fiddled while Rome burned because the violin was more than 1,000 years from being invented). Music reflects everything around me and allows me to project aspects of myself into the world even just by what I choose to listen to. It helps me get through the daily grind of my work life, sometimes it tucks me into bed on a sleepless night when I miss my mom, it carries me to distant places even when I have no vacation days to spare, it expresses thoughts and emotions that for one reason or another I can’t, and every lucky now and then, it serenades me and another special someone. More often, it befriends me when loneliness eats its way into my heart. I can’t imagine my life without music. Honestly.

What defines an artist?

DJ Luna: “One who skillfully creates, performs, produces by virtue of imagination to create works of aesthetic value.” Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so “artist” is a relative word.

Patty Boss: Gee whiz. What's an artist. Maybe we are all painters and musicians and poets and writers. Maybe it's up to the following generations to decide if we're artists. In some way, I think an artist is able to show us something else—something that vibrates above the baseline energy of everyday living. We are all artists. When we make children and create platters of food. When we love the stranger at the bus stop. Who the hell knows. I sure don't.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

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 :)

Lolo: Coltrane.

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.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Soothe Me, I'm Savage (Part II)

What is the source you tap into when you create music? Or does Michelangelo's theory of sculpture apply? He believed that the statue is already in the stone, and it's up to the artist to see it and release it?

Harmer: I don't create music. I respond to it.

DJ Luna: I see a song as that stone. I mold it into a mix. Those songs become the sculpture that was already there, but the next gig I do, there’s a whole new beautiful statue in the same stone just waiting to be created. Like Play-Doh, you just keep remolding, breaking, twisting, shaping the sounds.

Sipho: My heart and soul.

LaBlanc: No one ‘creates’ music. It's just out there, part of the human experience. Some of us are like antennas; we can, from time to time tap into the muses, or the collective unconscious, or whatever. Kind of like a psychic. I don't sit down and say, ‘I'm going to write a song about runaway brides.’ That's a different talent. And you'll notice that almost all of these clever lyrical parodies use a real song's music to carry them.

Patty Boss: The first source is the emotion, being moved or triggered by something else. It could be a chord progression someone else is playing. And if it is, I will hear the melody in my head, just little notes at a time, and in a way, I play as I hear it in my head. Like channeling? Sometimes it is energy, where you might just have energy to express, in a kinetic sense. This might be playing a scale, and this is why I love a fast jazz solo, as a listener, an admirer. When I watch a soloist busting out something incredible and kinetic at a live show, my nostrils flare, and I get a burning in my belly. I get nauseous and angry. This is one of the impetuses to study music, to attempt to gain some technique, because when the storm comes and you need to feel the storm come through you, this is when having skills really can come in handy. When there is no actual technically learned skill, there can still be one note. One note played monotonously, over and over like a ticking clock, or a jackhammer, or like the waiting for the return of a loved one. A second is an hour, and one hour is a day. One day is an eon. And so, the note is plucked over and over, slow and steady, monotonously.

The source I tap into when creating music is the tone. The tone is the mode. The mode is the moment of the state of your entire existence at that exact point in time. And if one note says it, one note plucked or strummed or played, then play that note. But if two notes cannot represent the truth of the moment, I can't play the second note. So, like an offering, I hope there is more offered, but it can't be forced. The source is the power of the moment, or the accumulation of the lifetime, or the hopes for the future. And the music serves as a mirror. So if my hair is not green, like a law of nature, I am not able or comfortable to play green hair music. It's about being true to yourself and listening to all of the inner voices and emotions and thoughts. It's about refusing to play that second note if the second note is not truly how you feel. And then all you can do is hope the one note evolves with you into a rhythmic motif and your other hand adds some other sounds, and like making love, it seduces you, and brings you with no sense of time to another place, after which you have been changed. It guess it is like a trance.

Lolo: I wish I knew. If I did, I'd bottle it and store it for the many times I feel blank or I look at a stone, and all I see is a rock.

"Do not fear mistakes. There are none." So said Miles Davis. How do you feel about that?

Sipho: In the music he was making, yes. It does not apply to all types though. I don’t want to split hairs and say there are varying degrees of a mistake. Simply put, a fuck up is a fuck up. The wrong chord by the lead guitar, the band being off in rhythm, the vocals being off from the music or noticeable to even a music novice. These things are not good and very unpleasant to most.

DJ Luna: None what? No mistakes? No fear? Both? Maybe they are just learning opportunities.

Patty Boss: Mistakes become motifs. If they've wormed their way into your playing, it's hard to erase it, even if you hate it. Since it is still ringing out, in memory and air, even as you go on to new phrases of the music, I can't help but try to make peace with it by reintroducing it, playing the mistake again, and working it in to the part being played. Maybe it's trying to tell you something. Maybe you can get it to play with the other children without fighting. Maybe it has something to show us.

Also, as Picasso said something to the effect of not being afraid to copy others, because in copying, you are likely to blunder, and in the blunder are being yourself. IN this sense, all mistakes are doorways to finding your voice. They are the pathway and suggestions to new routes and ideas, new combinations. It's like tripping in the forest and finding a dead body. Ha ha. No, not really. It's like tripping at the beach on waterlogged driftwood and looking up to see the face you have been dreaming about.

When I make a mistake and stumble upon notes that sounds perfectly mysteriously and unexpectedly right together, it is like 'discovering' these notes. All notes have been played. All chords exist. All tones exist. But I think that it is true that the combination of your tone, the softness or loudness played at that exact moment, the previous overtones mixing with the current notes, the room you're in, the others listening, all affect the sound of the moment. And I think, like individual snowflakes or fingerprints, or galaxies, these are unique, always unique. And yes, we trip on the preexisting sounds. But where melody is concerned, I feel that this element of what we call music is the most personal. The melody is the singing soul, and no one can ever have your soul.

Lolo: I don’t like to make mistakes, but they sure like to make me. Monkey, get off my back! Now scat!! And ain’t scattin’ beautiful….

How do you deal with fact that as Philip Toshido Sudo said, "No matter how well you play, no matter how large your spirit, no matter how much your sound speaks the truth, some people will simply not be moved. Your music will not appeal to their taste."

Patty Boss: That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. No, it's sad. Well, it just is a blanket statement that cannot be true. If someone hates your ass, you have moved them! You have moved them right out of the room. I think that Sudo could go into a room and ask himself why he plays music. If it is to play well, speak truth and move people, well then, that might be too extrinsic. Philip could go into a room and play what moves HIM and take a little time out. Count to one hundred and when he's ready, come back in with the other kids.

It's funny, I just reconsidered the question and I realize I may have misunderstood it. I thought he meant that "people" would not be moved. But when considering 'SOME people' not being moved, yes, I agree. I find once in a while, or more often than that, there are people that do not have a relationship to music. They don't own a stereo. They don't seem to miss it in their life, they don't seem to prioritize it or need it. And when I find this, I feel an analogy to a person who is born with a broken part, or something like not noticing your TV is in black and white until you buy a color TV. But this opinion is regarding the larger whole, about people in general. So back to his question about a specific music not moving a specific individual, yes, totally true. It's like you show the huge Picasso painting (on the horrors of war, 1937) to someone, and conceivably, they might not feel anything. Why might they not feel anything or have a response? My answer is a question.

DJ Luna: Reminds me of the saying, “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” It just isn’t possible. I try to focus on the people who are having a good time, it is a much more useful motivator.

Lolo: I wasn’t going to answer this one at all because I haven’t gotten to the point of making my music available for public consumption. However, I do tend to get a little bent out of shape when a piece of music that is really important to me gets dissed or dismissed by someone. I take it personally because music that touches me deeply becomes a part of me. Now I could care less if the masses are into it—they never know what’s good for them. But when a friend doesn’t get it the way I get it, it’s disappointing. I guess that’s it. It disappoints me because it makes me feel like there is something about me that they don't get or are missing or that is unappreciated. Whatever criticism they levy towards the song in question I inadvertently take upon myself.

Another great Miles quote: "You can tell whether [someone] plays or not by the way he carries the instrument, whether it means something to him or not. Then the way they talk or act. If they act too hip, you know they can't play shit." Comments?

DJ Luna: LOL ohhh yes. The louder they are, the bigger the ego, the less convincing.

Patty Boss: This is true. The roadie carries the instrument with a distant care. With an industrial care. The artist carries it like it's the I.V. on wheels, critical to vital functions. But then there are 'players' and there are 'listeners and thinkers' and there are people who might not play technically good, but have so much to say. As in all conversation, it is about meeting the other in a similar tone, creating rapport. If the player is obnoxious and you are obnoxious, it's a celebration! I think you can tell the best musician by how little they say. The quieter they are, better watch out. That is usually true in life.

Lolo: No better case can be made for this than by spending an afternoon at Guitar Center.

What’s more important—proficiency or emotion? Which do you try to cultivate?

Patty Boss: Definitely emotion is more important. If lack of proficiency is getting in the way of expressing emotion, then it's time to go acquire some chops.

DJ Luna: Proficiency. You have to be able to match a simple beat. If not, you cause what they call a “train wreck”. Emotion comes from within, I don’t have to cultivate it. It is the by product of proficiency.

Lolo: There’s nothing more boring to me than unemotional proficiency in anything but especially in art. In surgery, maybe you don't want so much creativity. No cross-stitching or anything like that, but in most everything else, I say go for the emotion. Even if it's kept under wraps.

Tijanna: Emotion when it comes to recording. It took us a couple of months to record our last CD because me and the guitar player wanted the emotion and spontaneity to come through, whereas the drummer and the trumpet player wanted each note in its proper place. Those two won out! I'd say proficiency, but I'm never at my best and I'm actually not that creative when it comes to thinking up new stuff or hitting the right note, so I gotta go with emotion. :-)

Is there still a place for rebellion in music?

DJ Luna: Of course. Always will be—unless of course the music is about rebelling against the record companies. Nah, can’t have that now could we? Could we rebel against the force feeding of crap that is cranked out every week and stuck up on the Billboard charts and Clear Channel Entertainment’s cloned radio station..., the saddest addition being KMEL. Although, it still keeps the name “The People’s Station.”

Lolo: Authentic rebellion? god, I sure hope so otherwise there is no hope for anything at all.

Patty Boss: Fuck you!

Which mixes better—politics and music or love and music?

LaBlanc: Wrong question. It's not an either/or proposition. Both politics and love are societal constructs that in and of themselves mean nothing. It all goes back to that primal human experience we call life. The best comics—Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Sinbad—are those who take everyday situations we all face and give them a new perspective of truth that we can all relate to and laugh at our human foibles. Honesty and truth in the writing and performance are way more important than transitory, illusory bullshit.

Patty Boss: Well, back to Picasso. He said that art was an instrument of war. You can choose where to direct your music. You can be an activist or sympathize with the heart. In the end, it's all the same thing. It is all some kind of lament or yearning, some kind of cry, or declaration. The voice, the guitar, the dulcimer, the drum. These are all ways to make a request; to stake a claim to taking up space on this incredible earth.

Sipho: Love and music of course. Love can affect politics while politics can’t effect love. If someone decided not to be with a person because of political differences, it’s because they love the political belief more than they love the other person. So assuming music affects love and politics to the same degree, the fact that love is involved to a greater extent makes music and love a better mix. Unless of course you’re part robot.

Lolo: Hey, love is politics baby. Love songs might be more popular, but political songs can rally the troops when nothing else will. I think the difference is that politics and the circumstances of life change so that the music rises to meet a need and then it is forgotten whereas we moan and groan (in ecstasy or despair) every day so love music never seems out of context and is always appropriate whether it’s about breaking up or getting’ it on or looking for it in all the wrong places or stealing someone else’s or simply basking in the afterglow. But look at The Clash, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, early U2, Stevie Wonder, Midnight Oil, MC5, Radio 4… hip hop from Public Enemy to The Coup and even “Party for Your Right to Fight”… in jazz we’ve had Abby Lincoln and Max Roach’s “Freedom Now Suite”… look at Gil Scott Heron’s “Revolution Will Not be Televised.” Listen to the “Red Hot” series. Today’s young feminists have Ani DiFranco. Within the classical oeuvre there’s Shostakovich … reggae has given us—Bob Marley, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Peter Tosh. And I think probably in other countries, where civil society plays a larger role in day-to-day life and people aren’t so disinvested, politics maybe goes more easily hand in hand with music.

In Chile, Víctor Jara’s hands were broken by the millitary who then taunted him to “sing your songs now.” He did, and he was killed for that music and buried in a mass grave, but he gave his people strength. Look at China’s dissident rock star Cui Jian, or Nigeria’s Fela Kuti, South Africa’s Miriam Makeba, Zimbabwe’s Thomas Mapfumo…. Save for these, most Westerners probably couldn’t name any other Chinese or Nigerian artists. The political artists make an impression far outside of their homelands because it’s music that moves.

Even in the U.S. if you think politics and music are unrelated look at what’s happened to Cat Stevens, the Dixie Chicks, Steve Earle, and Linda Rondstadt since 9/11. And what was punk all about in the beginning? “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” should be our national anthem: bury your head in the sand, it’ll all be wonderful when ya come back up for air. Listen to slave songs, prison songs, gospel. Basically, I think politics and music are under-rated and sometimes unforgiven in the United States. Calling it political gives it an instant stigma. Yet we love the “the politics of dancing, the politics of ooooh feeling good” (with a nod to Re-Flex.)

Harmer: Love and music. Take U2, would you rather listen to ‘One’ or ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday?’ I'll take ‘One’ hands down. All the greatest music is written about love from Bob Marley to the Beatles to Frank Allison and the Odd Sox.

DJ Luna: Love and music.

* * *
Tomorrow: Rockin' in the free world.

Soothe Me, I'm Savage (Part I)

I don’t know what I’d do without music in my life. For as long as I can remember, it’s been a consistent factor in my day-to-day living, what with my dad’s 8-tracks of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Sergio Mendes and his coveted Beatles 45s and my mom’s penchant for traditional country music, South African music, and an eclectic taste in rock/pop, including the Everly Brothers, Cliff Richard & the Shadows, Abba, and Cleo Lane. And Elvis may not have liked black people, but we sure liked him in my house. Simply put: I love music—listening to it and attempting to make it rank high amongst my favorite past-times. Talking about it is fun, too.

In fact it’s the one topic my brother and I can spend hours rapping about (no pun intended) and it was during one of our conversations that we lamented not having the ability to have a broader conversation—meaning with more than just the two of us—about different aspects of music. A few days later, I called him with the idea of having a music roundtable, or, to be more specific, a virtual music roundtable.

In other words, none of us sat in a room together and held a conference. Instead, I came up with the questions and distributed them to a smattering of people I know, who have a deep connection to music beyond being a casual listener. The results, I think you’ll find, are quite interesting and more meaningful to me than the current issue of Rolling Stone, Spin, Vibe, or any of the other national magazines. I wanna know what people accessible to me think. To that end, I was honored to persuade the participation of friends, old and new, who all share one thing in common—music. I think, like me, you’ll find the answers stimulating, amusing, thought-provoking, and oftentimes, surprising.


Tijanna Eaton is the bass player in San Francisco’s Binky, a devastating quartet of carn-evil “Mistresses of Metal.” Completely self-taught, Tijanna plays the bass left-handed, i.e. upside down which is a total trip to watch. Binky recently released Bloodbath & Beyond, available via iTunes.

Singer-songwriter Michael LaBlanc was born with a guitar in his hand, which he had to trade for a machine gun during the Vietnam War. A survivor of life, he writes and plays roots rock in and around Detroit City.

Writer and music critic William Hendrix Harmer has found a unique niche: as a young adult librarian, he exposes Detroit teenagers to music beyond the scope of top 40 radio. The mastermind behind “The First-Ever Rock & Roll Library Tour,” he has brought musicians such as Brian Jones Town Massacre and The High-Strung face-to-face with youngsters who might otherwise never get to meet “big shot touring artists” and learn first hand about life on the road, working with record companies, and the making of music videos.

Silver-tongued Sipho has voice that can melt butter but over the years he has gone from Mahattan Transfer-style vocals to writing and delivering his own rhymes. He’s been involved in several projects, including cameo performances and guest recordings over the years. He is currently working on Confessions of a Conceited Bastard to be produced by his San Diego-based Naturally Dope Productions. For now, he can be heard at Soundclick.

Poet, composer, and Berklee School of Music grad Patty Boss is the sole proprietor of Boss Studios, Inc., a music production studio in San Francisco, specializing in music production and scoring for film. While the piano is her main instrument, she can pretty much play anything she picks up. She has composed original music for independent film, national public television documentaries, worked on the Sims video game, and has produced a wide array of artists and genres, including two self-released CDs.

Philly-transplant DJ Luna has been making a name for herself on the Left Coast, dropping and mixing beats on the dancefloor. She currently spins at The Café, Kandy in Oakland, Cream @ Space 550 [San Francisco], Octopussy in Sunnyvale, and will be featured at San Diego Pride’s main stage. She also promotes most of the local LGBTQ events on her website and at her space on MySpace.

Lolo is guitarist and composer for Scaliwag, a solo project.

* * *

When are sounds music?

Sipho: I think sounds are music when you can feel them. When a ‘sound’ can make you forget where you are and take you to another place for even the slightest moment—that’s music. You can hear "it" if you listen ... ya know?

DJ Luna: When it speaks to my soul and makes me move my body.

Lolo: Music is in the ears of the beholder. I've certainly heard a lot of stuff that I personally wouldn’t qualify as music but it gets airplay. On the other hand, sometimes the wind whistling through the trees is music to my ears. It reminds me of an anecdote about a Siberian prison escapee who heard the strains of a strange violin only to discover a bear scratching itself on a tree limb. Every time the tree was bent in just the right way, the nonstop wind would create a tone that sounded like an instrument. I think about that all the time. I also think about all the birds in my parent’s yard in S. Africa. They live in the heart of a suburb but at certain times of day they all burst into song. I would call that music, too. Or I remember once when I accidentally knocked over a basket of coconuts at the grocery store. It sounded like horses were cantering through the canned goods section, which reminded me of that Christmas song “Sleigh Bells,” that we used to do in band when I was in the 6th or 7th grade. The percussionist always had to mimic the sound of horse’s hooves at the end of the song before the lead trumpeter would get to give a good brass whinny.

LaBlanc: Any sound can inspire music, but that does not mean that any sound is music. Music is a conspiracy of sounds, all in the same pitch, tuning, and structure. I personally don't believe rap to be music. It's a totally new form of street poetry (some of it very sophisticated and disciplined) put to a heavy rhythm background. It's an art form all its own, separate and distinct from music.

Patty Boss: Sounds are music when they tickle you, draw you in, create a mysterious rhythm. When they synchronize rhythms of the moment. Sounds are music when they are the inhale and exhale of your lover's chest, rising and falling in the early morning, while the city busses squeak and slide down Market Street, and you cannot sleep for fear of missing a moment. Sounds are music when they spontaneously burst out in unison and harmony; the hollering from the tall young black man on the corner, raising his voice where horns are leaned on, with two and three tones each, losing the man's voice in the mix, where the Coldplay song on your stereo is climaxing with the same exact pitch, and harmonizing tones, in a cry of hungry humanity. Sounds are music when the slow ticking of the clock on a late Sunday night indicate you are now stopped. You are still, and silent and perfect.

Harmer: Huh?

Is electronica "real music?"

Patty Boss: Of course. Melody, harmony and rhythm. The three definitions of music as we know it. It's real music, but the real question is, is it interesting? Does it move you? And, who created it? More and more, if samples or loops are used, really, someone else created it, and in this context, using it makes you more of a collage artist. A lot of electronic music combines being a collage or re-combination artist with being a musical or compositional technician.

We're losing our musical skills in our culture to a degree. Sometimes, in the midst of the ease of loops and samples, things sound regurgitated. To some degree this familiarity can bring comfort, like in a stale relationship. But there will be a revival of instrumental and acoustics. We're seeing it now, with low-fi, singer-songwriters found via mp3 online. There will come a day when a real orchestra has never been heard and to hear one will be a revelation. But what's important is the concept.

We are all experimenting and expressing. Sometimes I think we're just in a big soup drawing from the collective unconscious. I have no idea where digital and intellectual property rights will take us. We're in a time where we are confusing the appreciation for something with the creating of something.

DJ Luna: Of course it's real music if it makes people happy, makes them dance, sing, cry, laugh, or whatever. That kind of goes back to "When are sounds music?"

Is there a group, artist, song, album, etc. that has personally affected your relationship to music and in what fashion or how so?

Lolo: Jazz has affected my relationship to all other kinds of music because a lot of the jazz I like requires developing a certain kind of ear and openness to the way different sounds interact. The more jazz I listen to, the more I tend to lean towards the avant guarde or experimental forms in other styles of music. I recently attended a symphony performance of experimental works of contemporary composer Oliver Knussen. I really enjoyed them, but I’m not sure I would have enjoyed them say six or seven years ago when I was more dependent on melody.

In particular, the song “Birdland” changed my relationship to music. I was in middle school when I discovered two totally different versions of the song, one by Maynard Ferguson and the other by The Crusaders. Maynard’s version is very lean and brassy, high energy, almost daring you to get caught up in it. It also goes through a few changes—there’s a funky part, there’s a bare bones section where he solos the melody unaccompanied on the lower registers of the trumpet before the rest of the instruments come back in and then he deconstructs the melody in the higher registers with the backing of a fairly large ensemble on the track. The Crusader’s version is much more laid back and less showy. While the other version is centered around the trumpet, The Crusaders build the song around a bluesy saxophone and some fat electric bass. For some reason, their version always makes me think of those rain showers that only happen in the summer, the kind of rain where you sit in the window and look out just to listen. Until I heard those two dissimilar renditions of one song, I don’t think I really understood that a song is really what the artist puts into it as much as what the listener extrapolates from it.

These days, the closest I’ve come to that feeling of discovery is when I hear something that gives me that “oh! oh! I wish I could play that!” feeling, i.e. the desire to be active in it, rather than being content as a passive listener.

DJ Luna: No one in particular but hip hop has influenced my relationship to music. When I started to spin it, I got exposed to a new way of mixing. Instead of the “four-on-the-floor” beat, it switched up a bit, making it possible to get way more creative with the beats.

Harmer: Like a thousand. I live in my head. I'm the most self-absorbed, self-obsessed, self-conscious, un-self-confident person I know of so naturally rock & roll is the soundtrack to my pathetic life. The last record that truly possessed me was And This Was Our Music by the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Why? Because its one of the most dark, disturbing, depressing, beautiful, sad, and soul stripping records I've ever listened too. Listen to Smile by the Beach Boys and imagine the antithesis of that record and you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about.

Sipho: So many to choose from. Difficult question as I feel there are so many songs I could touch on. So many points on the spectrum of emotions that it would be difficult to not have it effect your emotions. With that being said, I would say a song I sang while in Shade of Blue, a college vocal jazz group I was in. We sang a song called "I Hear Music," an a capella song with lots of movement, tight vocal harmony, and little nuances. Once I learned how all the pieces in that song fit together, I could see the layers in other music. I could always hear all the different sounds (the vocal runs at the end of a song or the key change / rhythm change that move the song to another place), but didn’t see how each as a part of the overall product really made the song as great as I saw it. I learned how to build a song. Nurture it with my soul to deliver something you can hopefully feel if you let it.

Patty Boss: Every artist affects your relationship to music. When it's Kenny G in the women's locker room at the LA Sports Club after a beautiful swim, the relationship calls for a serious talk and possibly going your different ways. If I did not have all the rest (other music), I would not be able to breathe. Artists, albums, songs, they are more powerful than love. More powerful than jobs. Faster than superman.”

LaBlanc: Pretty much everything. My paternal grandfather had a band back between 1910-1930, and my grandmother was the singer in his band. They loved ragtime and Dixieland jazz, pop standards of the day, and French and French-Canadian torch songs. My dad was a drummer during the "Big Band" era, so I grew up on a diet of Al Jolson, Louie Armstrong, Rudy Valle, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and, during the 1950s, "Your Hit Parade" pop hits on TV.

I was never too big into Elvis, but Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, and most of all, Sam Cooke introduced me to a world of music that sounded so good, so "sincere." Sam's "Chain Gang" ran through my mind for days; I bought the 45 and listened to it over and over again. That's when I decided to become a songwriter. He had touched something in my soul, something I could feel, if not explain. From that point on, I just let the music cascade over me like a waterfall: West Side Story; the Beach Boys; Roy Orbison; Bob Dylan; all the great Motown groups, including the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team that wrote so many of those great tunes; the Beatles; the Moody Blues; Crosby, Stills and Nash.

And sandwiched in between all of that was Jimi Hendrix. He was a Vietnam vet, too. 101st Airborne Division. A bad-ass outfit, no slackers there. If you weren't smart and hip, you couldn't cut it. I trained for and was assigned to the 101st, but was attached to the First Cavalry Division, the "Air Cav." Served as a Cavalry Scout. And to this day, the sweetest music I've ever heard was the sound of "Purple Haze" blasting above the thud of the Huey rotors swooping in to pluck our sorry asses up and away from almost-certain death. "Sometimes I was in such a bad head about it I thought the dead had only been spared a great deal of pain." But the songs of that time, the ones I heard, also left a major impression on me: Cream; Arlo Guthrie; Janice Joplin; Aretha.

Several years later my son died. Out of respect for his mother, I will say no more than to acknowledge the fact. And I drank in the music of that time like one lost without water in the desert for too long. And after that I just let the music flood over me, lift me and carry me across the years and the miles to that point in space and time where everything is connected. And it's the connection that's important—that's what the art is—not the music itself.

Stephen Nachmanovitch wrote, "The creative process is a spiritual path. This adventure is about us, about deep self, the composer in all of us, about originality, meaning that which is not all new, but that which is fully and originally ourselves." Do you agree?

Lablanc: After my son died I went to the DIA [Detroit Institute of Art] to kill some time between classes at Wayne State. There was a Rembrandt exhibition and I had only seen prints and photos of his work in books, so I decided to check it out. It was a bitterly cold early February afternoon and few people were there. To view the paintings, one had to walk down a long, canopied tunnel, like those ones these set up for kids to see Santa or the Easter Bunny. I made a turn and came face-to-face with the painting of a man that almost seemed alive. It wasn't the result of Rembrandt's imitative skills; he had captured the spirit, the soul of this man so completely that it translated and touched something in me hundreds of years later.

That was the first time that I really understood what art was—the ability to convey the Universal human experience through a physical medium. His work, his art still establishes that connection hundreds of years after his death. That's the test. And it's as simple, and as difficult, as simply portraying the truth in all of us that makes us human.

DJ Luna: Yes. It’s a beautiful thing when music & art merge with spirit to create a new vibe. The end product is my mix, my connection with Spirit … with my crowd. It’s a pretty powerful link.

Patty Boss: The creative process is a conversation with others. It is praising god with joy. It is listening and mirroring or transmitting what you have been shown. Or it's just collecting music reverberating for years in the air, like a satellite dish—the collective unconscious. I think that what is original, though, are the inundations that we affect it with, even when playing one note with one finger, or one tone with one voice. The originality is in our unique combination. It's the overtone series multiplied with softness followed by a loud punctuated chord. It takes no talent but much of a listening to yourself when playing one single note, possibly over and over. And if you can let the single chosen note explain to the world a little about how you feel, that is all there is to know. It can expand from there.

Lolo: Oh, I agree wholeheartedly, which is why it’s so frustrating not to be fluent in what I’ve chosen as my instrument of expression. But it’s also the journey to fluency that’s the spiritual part of it. In my opinion, nobody got this better than John Coltrane. That man’s music was all about spirit, and he was willing to roll with it no matter where it took him. The blues artists have this expression, “going deep in the shed.” It’s like when sometimes you hit that wall of lack of inspiration, you have turn inside yourself rather than looking for it outside yourself. They go into lockdown mode until they can articulate to themselves what it is that needs to be expressed and then they work on expressing it. You can’t get more spiritually deep than that in terms of finding/being your original self.

I also like Nachmanovitch’s quote because he distinguishes between originality and original self. Music has ostensibly been around as long as the world has existed. It’d be ludicrous to think that one can ever put together a string of notes or chords that have never been put together before; but on the level of being an individual in a sea of sentient beings, your expression may have similarity to my expression and still be original. I might “invent” something that later I realize sounds like a riff from another song that I obviously didn’t intend to copy, but if it’s a genuine self-expression than it’s original.

Shortly before he died in 2002, and many years after the demise of The Clash, Joe Strummer was quoted as saying that he makes music "for his own age group." Is this a statement that resonates with you, i.e. do you feel that certain music necessitates maturity on the part of the listener and / or the creator?

Harmer: Absolutely. I hated Sandinista by the Clash when it first came out because it wasn't punk rock the way I wanted it—loud, fast and rude. Years later I discovered what a masterpiece that record was. What else? The Beach Boys. No way I could have sat thru Pet Sounds or Smile at age 18. Country Music? I would rather have stripped the hair from my arm pits with duck tape before torturing myself with country music. Boy was I wrong. Johnny Cash is the first punk rocker baby!

DJ Luna: Music speaks to anyone that listens.

LaBlanc: Pete Townsend wrote a classic parody on this topic that he recorded with The Who as "My Generation." I guess it's subtle, satirical, tongue-in-cheek wisdom was lost on Joe. He broke the first commandment of Rock: "Thou shalt never take thyself too seriously."

Patty Boss: I feel that all time and all ages can communicate fully through music, although I love to be familiar with an artist as they mature, and feel similar twists and phases of life with them, in synchronicity. For example, Beck used to feel to me fun and silly and intrigued when I felt fun and silly and intrigued. And now, as his voice is deeper, and some of his songs seem to be reflecting a new type of depth, It's easy for me to identify with this new tone and feel a reflection of themes of family and of having children. In addition to this type of resonation, hell yes, music made for one's own generation and culture and context is often one of the most, if not THE most important element defining self when coming up.

Lolo: I probably would never have agreed except for the fact that I’ve reached that seemingly inevitable stage where you can’t relate to “what the kids are listening to these days.” I kind of hate that I’m letting myself get there, but more and more often I look backward to find music that appeals to me rather than looking forward. I don’t know who Pink is, and I don’t give a shit. I don’t like her name and it’s easy enough for me to write the whole thing off. I’d rather go off and discover Aretha’s back catalog. On the other hand, what is music for my generation? I think it might be the kind of music they play at the dentist’s office—lite rock, soft rock, VH1 stuff. If that’s the case, then I’m not too hip to that idea at all!

Tomorrow: Rebel music