parodies by nacrowe
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at this point there is a whole cottage industry of DAVE GROHL-directed media products, from documentaries (SOUND CITY, WHAT DRIVES US) to tv shows (SONIC HIGHWAYS, FROM CRADLE TO STAGE) to his recent memoir THE STORYTELLER: TALES OF LIFE AND MUSIC (DEY STREET, 2021). oh yeah, and he makes music.
GROHL obviously has one of the most storied careers of any modern musician, having cut his teeth as a teen with the 1980s DC HARDCORE stalwarts SCREAM before serendipitously joining the legendary 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK group NIRVANA and then forming his own band, FOO FIGHTERS, after their demise. he's collaborated with everyone from LEMMY KILMISTER and TRENT REZNOR to CAT POWER and JOHN PAUL JONES. his side projects include PROBOT, THEM CROOKED VULTURES and a brief stint in QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE. but most music fans are familiar with his biography.
and i believe he knows that, which is why his memoir is not a straight chronological telling of his personal narrative, but rather notable moments or vignettes told in sequential order. structurally it was very reminiscent of A HOUSE ON MANGO STREET. and i think such was a smart idea because it freed him to really dive into the meaning of certain rights of passage of his youth and that of his family without having to worry about how they fit into a broader context. again, most of these stories are familiar to anyone who has watched or read his interviews over the years or even read former KERRANG! editor PAUL BRANNIGAN's laboriously compiled biography THIS IS A CALL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DAVE GROHL (review linked HERE). what THE STORYTELLER provides is a perspective of a ROCK AND ROLL life rooted in family. GROHL goes to great lengths to show that his love of music was almost a manifestation of his unconditional love for his mother, who supported and sacrificed tirelessly on his behalf (a contrast to that of his father). but beyond his mother, his love of music connected him to an ever widening mandala of similarly minded friends that includes both the famous and the obscure; and they are both written about with equal wit and empathy. his childhood friend JIMMY SWANSON is as much a part of his personal narrative (perhaps more so) as that of KURT COBAIN, which is very endearing. given his public profile and immense cultural influence, it was likewise heartwarming to see GROHL give respect to his predecessors and influences: from NEIL PEART, PAUL MCCARTNEY and JOHN BONHAM, to LITTLE RICHARD, JOHN FOGERTY, AC/DC and JOAN JETT. even numerous obscure HARDCORE bands from his youth. THE STORYTELLER is in essence a vehicle for shining a light on the connective, reinvigorating force that is music, which is a common returning theme in all of his film and tv projects. by extension music makes everyone kin. everyone is connected on the same wavelength.
aside from its focus on musicians, the core of what i found engaging about THE STORYTELLER is how music connects him with his children. how he takes inspiration from their courage to perform publicly in front of their school peers during their elementary years or how they relate to it on the same emotional wavelength that he does. this made me think about how i have that same musical relationship with my dad and how for GROHL and his children THE BEATLES are that connection point, THE STRANGLERS and THE SMITHS are the same with my father. i havent read about that intergenerational connection in any previous rock memoir, maybe with the exception of KEITH RICHARDS and his mother in LIFE (review linked HERE). i should point out that i found it odd that GROHL mentions his wife in passing (unlike his mother and daughters). it was an interesting omission.
i thoroughly enjoyed this book and its focus on family and the nature of human connection through music or more elementally, love. i know most readers just want to hear COBAIN stories, but i thought he walked that line of audience expectation adroitly and with much care and empathy. THE STORYTELLER is well worth reading and i look forward to future non-musical efforts by GROHL and his ever expanding army of collaborators.
parodies by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO focused on the eclectic AMERICAN independent label MATADOR RECORDS!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
given DAVE GROHL's reputation for being an affable, righteous dude i had some initial misgivings about reading the biography THIS IS A CALL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DAVE GROHL (DA CAPO, 2011) by former KERRANG! editor PAUL BRANNIGAN. i was worried it would veer towards hagiography, especially given author's decades-long relationship interviewing and covering the towering ALTERNATIVE ROCK musician. but i am glad to report that THIS IS A CALL is a pretty even-handed accounting of GROHL's sprawling career up to the point of the FOO FIGHTERS' WASTING LIGHT (ROSWELL RECORDS, 2011) record a decade ago. this book is unauthorized but includes interviews with past band members and the man himself, many culled from past publications and documentaries, but also from BRANNIGAN himself.
i should state that i have read numerous NIRVANA books at this point, but what makes this book interesting is obviously seeing it from GROHL's perspective. at this point in 2021 GROHL is effectively the flag-waving elder-statesman of ROCK AND ROLL writ large. this has only been further cemented given his actions over the past decade (since this book's publication) in connecting more and more musicians and their stories to a wider audience with his personal television (SONIC HIGHWAYS) and documentary projects (SOUND CITY, WHAT DRIVES US).
so it is interesting being taken along for the ride with GROHL, as his story in popular culture is so unavoidably intertwined with his time in NIRVANA and its doomed frontman KURT COBAIN. and that is unfortunate, because the sense you get from THIS IS A CALL is that for GROHL the defining relationship of his life is with music itself. time and time again you sense that for him music was a means of community, escape, passion and above all else, fun. like COBAIN, GROHL lived a childhood marked by divorce. unlike COBAIN, GROHL grew up in a nurturing, supportive environment. my sense is that PUNK ROCK to GROHL represented an extended family/community of like-minded individuals with a similar pragmatic DIY ethos towards life and art. i am not sure that was the case for COBAIN, who seemed to have boundless ambition maybe in hopes of proving his value. im playing armchair psychiatrist here, and i probably shouldnt, but it seems obvious from the get-go that GROHL never had the same hangups or guilt in following his musical ambitions, especially post-NIRVANA.
again, from the beginning GROHL's enthusiasm was all about chasing the fun of playing music. as a child he became aware of the neighboring DC HARDCORE scene and started teenage bands in his native VIRGINIA. from his first serious project in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE to his stints in other outfits like DAIN BRAMAGE and local PUNK legends SCREAM, you get the sense these experiences provided him a vocabulary about how to interact with others. and obviously the musical shorthand faired him well in his later career with outside projects (THEM CROOKED VULTURES, PROBOT, LATE!, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE), session work (GARBAGE, NINE INCH NAILS, SLASH, DAVID BOWIE, KILLING JOKE and TENACIOUS D) and soundtrack work (TOUCH, RISING SUN: THE LEGEND OF SKATEBOARDER CHRISTIAN HOSOI).
but a lot of this i already knew, what made this book interesting for me where the details about how if personal life affected his lyrical content in the first few records. there are several songs i didnt read as autobiographical that now i can plainly see were. i also appreciate the fact that BRANNIGAN didnt shy away from presenting GROHL at times as being highly opportunistic and unempathetic to the feelings of his "friends" like former FOO FIGHTERS WILLIAM GOLDSMITH and FRANZ STAHL, both unceremoniously booted with little patience or grace, just echos and silence.
if anything, this biography is a great primer for GROHL's upcoming memoir which will highlight stories from his career. make sense, the dude is about connecting people. it is what makes him, well, him.
JOSH FREESE is renowned as a studio musician of the first order having recorded and/or toured with the likes of everyone from A PERFECT CIRCLE, STING, NINE INCH NAILS, PARAMORE, THE REPLACEMENTS, WEEZER and GUNS N ROSES to BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE. and that credits list literally goes on. and on. but id argue that primarily he is known as the longstanding drummer of both the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK band THE VANDALS and the legendary NEW WAVE band DEVO.
less known or celebrated are his solo records and the one-off songs hes done over the past few years. they are often very brief, super catchy and hilarious. they are also normally off-the-cuff affairs with an almost FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE-esque POWER POP sense of melodicism and pop construction that seem designed to primarily embarrass his friends or make an ass of himself.
FREESE is an uber-talented musician that is literally capable of anything. i just love the fact that when he chooses to write and release his own material that it literally has nothing to do with his day job in tone or demeanor. definitely an artist worth checking out.
SING BACKWARDS AND WEEP (HATCHETTE, 2020) is probably one of the more harrowing memoirs i have ever come across. its author MARK LANEGAN, gifted singer/songwriter and former frontman of SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK icons SCREAMING TREES, recounts an drug-addled existence that ranged from the 1980s through his final successful rehab stint in the early 2000s. and that addiction literally cost him everything he valued: relationships, collaborations, touring opportunities, friends, love, money. the list goes on and it is brutal.
there is no doubt that many who investigate this book are interested in the PACIFIC NORTHWEST INDIE/PUNK music scene that exploded in the early 1990s, of which LANEGAN was a central figure within. there is some ink here dedicated to his relationships with other participants such as KURT COBAIN (NIRVANA) and LAYNE STALEY (ALICE IN CHAINS), but the real dominant actor here is DRUGS. and by that i mean literally every make and stripe. COBAIN, STALEY as well as numerous other victims such as KRISTEN PFAFF (HOLE) and JEFFREY LEE PIERCE (THE GUN CLUB) are integral to his narrative in that they exemplify the cost of participation in this downward spiral of needless suffering.
LANEGAN is unflinching in his account and i have no doubt that writing this must have been cathartic. it also no doubt took courage to look at himself and unshrinkingly scrutinize his life's decisions and make them public without being patronizing or worse glorifying said behavior. he seems to be a reliable narrator as he relates how the ever-present threat of dope-sickness and withdrawal effectively corrupted his moral compass and led to a never ending search for a fix to maintain his equilibrium and all its attendant decisions that resulted in the suffering of others.
in HUBERT SELBY JR novels there is often an inverse character arc at play whereby as the individual descends into MADNESS, it is their affliction (FAME, POWER, DRUGS, etc.) that prevails in equivalent fashion. for me that is the feeling i get when considering the SEATTLE drug scene and its effect on several key participants in this book, COBAIN and STALEY being the prime examples.
there is a light and that is the MUSICIANS' ASSISTANCE PROGRAM that effectively saved LANEGAN's life. that and his ability to forgive himself and the capacity for other addicts to enable each other in recovery, here COURTNEY LOVE (HOLE) and DUFF MCKAGAN (GUNS N' ROSES) being such examples. you get the sense that despite the absolute depths of DEPRAVITY that drug addicts wade through, that there is an opportunity for RESTORATION. that we can always be REHABILITATED, RECONSTRUCTED and REINVIGORATED by our choices and actions moving forward.
contrary to what others may read into this memoir, i found it inspiring, compassionate and intensely optimistic. maybe this book is his way of paying it forward.
when AMERICANS think of public radio the dry, educational shows associated with NPR usually come to mind. these shows, much like their PBS television counterpart, are meant to enrich and cultivate thoughtful dialogue on a myriad of subjects.
this is not the BRITISH model at all. they have a celebrated station dedicated solely to news called the WORLD SERVICE, but they also have a number of stations dedicated to the arts, including BBC6 which is dedicated to modern ALTERNATIVE MUSIC (i.e. INDIE ROCK, TRIP HOP, ELECTROCLASH, ALTERNATIVE ROCK, INDIE POP, PUNK ROCK, etc).
the professionally mixed live performances are particularly well produced and include the likes of TRICKY w/MARTINA TOPLEY-BIRD, IGGY POP, THE PIXIES, LIZZO, JOHNNY MARR, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, BEAK> and STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS as notable past performers among many many others.
definitely worth a listen.
FROM THE BASEMENT was a live performance series produced by NIGEL GODRICH (RADIOHEAD, ROGER WATERS, BECK, R.E.M.) that lasted two seasons and aired intermittently on SKY TV from 2006 to 2009. shot and recorded without an audience, the bare studio room was an open canvas for the artists and directors, including SOPHIE MULLER, to present their music in manner they more or less had control over.
notable performances include those by PJ HARVEY, THE FALL, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, THUNDERCAT, THE KILLS, RADIOHEAD, CSS, SONIC YOUTH, FLEET FOXES, THE WHITE STRIPES and JARVIS COCKER of PULP
definitely worth checking out, especially for the quality of the live mixes, which honestly is a bit of a forgotten and under-appreciated art. enjoy.
gotta hand it to NOISEY on this one, GUITAR MOVES along with PREMIER GUITAR's RIG RUNDOWN series are arguably the two earliest (and most consistent in terms of quality) guitar-centric YOUTUBE series i was made aware of a few years ago. while RIG RUNDOWN follows guitar nerds asking gear questions to touring musicians and their guitar techs, GUITAR MOVES follows INDIE ROCK guitarist / producer / super-fan MATT SWEENEY of SKUNK & CHAVEZ as he interviews notable guitarists about specific "moves" they do that are unique to them.
as a guitarist myself (a very poor one at that), it is often the little recognizable quirks and idiosyncrasies of musicians you admire that make them stand out. its a very cool concept for a series and for the most part SWEENEY's contagious unbridled enthusiasm and knowledge of their catalogue disarms them into opening up about their approach and philosophy regarding creating music on guitar.
highlights include the JAMES WILLIAMSON and ACE FREHLEY episodes where SWEENEY is beside himself and you can see him returning to his 12 year-old self in awe of his idols as they teach and play classics like "SEARCH AND DESTROY" and "SHOCK ME" with him. for their sake, many of these songs have been incorrectly transcribed, so this allows them to educate the masses on how to play their songs correctly.
i'd also have to point out the JOSH HOMME episode as being notable as he talks about how childhood POLKA lessons influenced his approach to the guitar and how a well chosen sharp note on a scale can transform the feel and tone of a solo. just super practical stuff.
all in all there is mention of techniques such NASHVILLE TUNING (JAMES WILLIAMSON), OPEN G TUNING (KEITH RICHARDS), TAPPING (JOSH HOMME) among others.
if you play guitar, this series (which sadly has been discontinued) is well worth exploring. for his part, SWEENEY has gone on to interview musicians for other video series with bigger brands, but essentially this is the one that is worth (repeatedly) checking out.
the documentary AMERICAN VALHALLA (EAGLE ROCK, 2017) takes its name from a song off of IGGY POP's late-career album POST POP DEPRESSION (LOMA VISTA, 2016), which was a collaboration between the iconic STOOGES frontman and musician JOSH HOMME of QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE/KYUSS fame. this documentary follows their collaboration throughout the songwriting and recording process with interviews of both conducted by ANTHONY BOURDAIN (RIP).
i guess it should be stated that while IGGY and HOMME come from celebrated bands, both are actually quite unconventional musicians. lots of bands pay lip service to expanding their sound on subsequent releases, but if you track the career trajectory of both you will see that is actually the case. when IGGY reached out to HOMME, both took it as an opportunity to experiment and see what new creations could be manifested from their respective provided elements. it was interesting that in navigating this new relationship they based much on instinct and cooked the songs quickly in short order to not overthink it. just move forward.
i think this film at its core is about the nature of collaboration, especially when you have a history or legacy. it is about dismantling those expectations, both external and, more importantly, internal.
i remember when i was teaching i never slept particularly well because i was constantly questioning my plans. its not that they were inferior, i knew they were sound, but the opportunity cost of it all drove me nuts. there were so many options and how could i choose the right course of action that would best serve my students. i think that drive in part is what broke my heart about the profession, the fact that so many of my peers phoned it in. taught the same thing in the same order as years before, altering nothing. i saw the classroom as a dynamic venue for exploring ideas and challenging them against new technologies and world events. opening up the curriculum to show how these classroom concepts affect our understanding of both the world and ourselves. the fact that i did this in foreign countries, never on my home court made it that much more invigorating and scary at the same time. more colors to play with. i was willing to fail and being unable to settle down completely at night was the price i was willing to pay. risk nothing you get nothing.
what i am trying to say is that im well aware of this fear HOMME had in the film. how do i collaborate with an icon? make it worth his time and my time? and most frightening of all: the opportunity cost of all the other possible music i could write, that i could present to him. how do you conquer that fear?
you just do it by doing it. being truly in the moment. their collaboration was all instinct, mutually respecting and sharing that creative moment. in the moment. right now.
i loved that tightrope dance. i miss it.
note: but i wouldnt return to teaching. dealing with administrations that didn't have the students interests at front of mind cut my heart out. repeatedly. a bad one-sided collaboration rooted in politics.
great film. intriguing documentary on the nature of collaboration and cost required to make it a fruitful and meaningful endeavor.
MARK LANEGAN is a national treasure. i feel bad comparing artists sometimes when they are both great, but for my tastes (as i explained in a recent DEER GOD RADIO episode dedicated to 4AD RECORDS) LANEGAN is the equal if not superior singer to his celebrated SEATTLE contemporary CHRIS CORNELL of SOUNDGARDEN.
first off, i love them both. in fact i have a whole DGR episode dedicated to SOUNDGARDEN. what separates them to me is the depth of feeling that LANEGAN seems to drive from. there is something primordial, immediate and just dark that comes off in his singing, like he is channeling some deep inner pain in the best tradition of BILLIE HOLIDAY. when i listen to CORNELL i admire his abilities as a lyricist foremost and his range second, but its like comparing ELLA FITZGERALD with BILLIE HOLIDAY. one has better range and diction and the other has the voice that is suffering incarnate.
if you are unfamiliar with LANEGAN or his work in SCREAMING TREES, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE or his solo work and collaborative albums, i highly suggest you check the dude out. definitely worth the effort.