parodies by nacrowe
maybe its the generation im from or growing up in suburban SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA in the early 1990s without MTV and only access to the radio and 106.7FM KROQ on constantly, but so much of what i understood to be modern music from an early age was produced by BUTCH VIG.
i remember being at a SHAKEY'S PIZZA in ORANGE COUNTY after what had to be a youth soccer game during my early elementary school years (maybe 1892?) and hearing "SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT" for the first time as someone played it from the jukebox. had no clue who NIRVANA was or anything about INDIE ROCK, PUNK ROCK or the SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene at the time. i just knew that whatever that was, it sounded how i felt and i connected with it on first listen. i can only think of a rare few other times thats happened with bands like GLASSJAW and THE GET UP KIDS among others. i dont believe i even had a copy of NEVERMIND (DGC, 1991) or the STEVE ALBINI-produced follow-up IN UTERO (DGC, 1993) until christmas of 1993. i was just too young.
and NIRVANA is just the beginning. as i grew older and discovered more bands it was always a pleasure to learn this new discovery (to me) inevitably led back to BUTCH VIG, as was the case with L7, SONIC YOUTH, HELMET, THE SMASHING PUMPKINS and much later GARBAGE. whats compelling to me about his output is how eclectic his production catalogue has been, as AFI sound nothing like AGAINST ME! and sonically and aesthetically sit on a different planet from KILLDOZER, yet they all bear his fingerprint. the man does not pigeonhole himself, even within the greater ROCK N ROLL milieu. the versatility likely comes from his production chops and work ethic that kept the doors of his MADISON, WISCONSIN-based SMART STUDIOS open to all newcomers, but i also feel it comes from the lack of pretense that comes with his midwestern upbringing. with culture caught up with him he didnt seem to become fazed by the attention, instead maintaining a distance while taking advantage of the ability to be selective with upcoming exciting new projects. even his decision to initiate GARBAGE does not feel like an inevitability, but a genuine artistic choice to push the limits of technology and marry it with the songwriting prowess and sardonic yet earnest ethos of ALTERNATIVE ROCK. when i first heard "STUPID GIRL" on MTV at a relatives house, i had no idea BUTCH VIG was involved. which is likely the highest compliment i can offer.
the dude is a chameleon and he is always someone whose latest project i look forward to consuming, just to see what latest madness he's help midwife into the world.
below is a pandemic episode of DEER GOD RADIO from june of 2020 dedicated to the production work of BUTCH VIG. enjoy!
photo & text by nacrowe
during my 1990s childhood in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, there were two songs i remember hearing on the ALTERNATIVE ROCK station 106.7 KROQ and having absolutely no clue who sang them. in those days there was no SHAZAM app or internet and the only way to learn was if the DJ felt like mentioning it. the first song i learned years later was NIRVANA's haunting "SAPPY." the other was STONE TEMPLE PILOT's laid-back, harrowing cover of LED ZEPPELIN's "DANCING DAYS" on the ENCOMIUM: A TRIBUTE TO LED ZEPPELIN (ATLANTIC, 1995) tribute compilation.
that cover in particular is probably one of SCOTT WEILAND's great performances and showcases a charisma and preternatural ability to shine when the focus very much is on him and his voice. he comes off both assured and insular and transforms a celebratory anthem into something entirely different, something excruciatingly introspective. i should also mention that guitarist DEAN DELEO has some righteous slide work on the track which only heightens that haunting, reflective vibe.
when revisiting this compilation recently, i was struck by the quality of other vocal performances by the likes of LINDA PERRY (4 NON BLONDES), SHANNON HOON (BLIND MELON) HENRY ROLLINS (ROLLINS BAND) and DAVID YOW (THE JESUS LIZARD here collaborating with HELMET), which all point to the dynamic and versatile quality of the songwriting and the poetic lyricism of JIMMY PAGE and ROBERT PLANT. just the fact that this material can be interpreted convincingly by such disparate artists is pretty remarkable. that is not to say that there arent some forgettable, less-than-stellar duds from the likes of HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH, SHERYL CROW, CRACKER and DURAN DURAN, remember this was put out by ATLANTIC RECORDS with largely its then-current roster of artists. maybe this was a calculated effort to draw attention to LED ZEPPELIN's back catalogue as PAGE & PLANT where reestablishing their recording and touring career at the time as a duo. could be that this compilation was a marketing ploy, but with the solid aforementioned contributions, i dont believe it was a fruitless exercise in the least.
ENCOMIUM is definitely worth checking out if you are a LED ZEPPELIN aficionado or even a fan of SCOTT WEILAND or SHANNON HOON. definitely two captivating performances by the two at a point in their creative careers when they were firing on all cylinders. REST IN PEACE to both.
photo & text by nacrowe
HELMET to me equals riffs. those precisely jagged, start-stop verse riffs that juxtaposed with ringing open chords create an aural sense of space not to dissimilar to a FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT structure. WRIGHT loved having tight, claustrophobic hallways that led to grand high-ceilinged parlors and family rooms. it was part of his artistic lexicon.
i feel that PAGE HAMILTON has a similar songwriting aesthetic when crafting his songs, especially those on MEANTIME (INTERSCOPE, 1992). his ability to mine contrast in his songs, through abrupt tempo and time-signature shifts is progressive without sacrificing aggression and intention. when i listen to songs like "UNSUNG," "BETTER," and "IN THE MEANTIME" there is a cathartic sense of push and pull, catch and release that is sonically very satisfying on a compositional level. in a sense his songs almost feel like JAZZ music or CLASSICAL MUSIC in that there is a definite form and structure that creates tension and then resolves itself, almost like a SONATA. in a SONATA you start in one key, go to another, maybe another, and then return to the original key. like a sunday drive through the countryside. HELMET's music is anything but an evening stroll, but it works on the same level in that no matter how exotic or unforeseen the sonic texture or tempo shifts are, they do ultimately resolve themselves in a thoroughly satisfying way. the other band for whom this is a trademark in my opinion is TOOL. but they are way further on the progressive rock side of the coin, HELMET is like a PROGRESSIVE ROCK version of HARDCORE.
ive been fascinated with the riffs of HAMILTON since childhood and he has been criminally underrated for years. i mean, if none other than DIMEBAG DARRELL of PANTERA steals your riff ("UNSUNG" riff on "RISE" from VULGAR DISPLAY OF POWER), you must be the real deal. MEANTIME is a classic record and should be celebrated and revisited often much like those of their contemporaries from the ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion of the 1990s.
parodies by nacrowe
tonight starting at 8PM on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC there will be a double-bill of two separate DEER GOD RADIO episodes showcasing both the pioneering production work of STEVE ALBINI and the influential BRITISH independent record label 4AD RECORDS.
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