Tag: Features

Veracious Teenage Stupidity – Visions of David Bowie: 1995

IMAG3361Good lord. I’m currently heeding David Bowie’s advice on the back of the Ziggy Stardust LP….well – mostly adhering – I’m only 85% of the way towards maximum volume – but still, I’m CRANKING “Moonage Daydream” and it’s shaking the walls, making me nervous, and causing my blood to pump with veracious teenage stupidity.

Today the man who changed the world left it. Behind him is a vacuum of sorrow sucking many into a reflective remembrance. It was a sad day, but I’m making it a good night as I honor him with wine, music, & dance by-myself moves.

I moved to a very small town in Central New York my sophomore year in High School and it felt like my World had been lost. It was a tough age & time to move, I missed my friends – and I missed being exposed to new music. I went from a circle of kids debating the merits of Morrissey to a nowhere village with no MTV (big deal in 1995) – and only country, classic rock, & pop music on the radio.

In this desperate state I clung to what my friends back home were listening to – Zines I could find – and known material I hadn’t yet embraced – through mining at weird barnyard country “record stores” & yard sales, or….believe it or not, Columbia House (penny taped firmly and all). I was aware of David Bowie my whole life – but I became conscious of him when I was 16, going past the radio tracks and into his brilliant albums & b-sides. This was the most impressionable period of my adolescent and musical life – & he sowed the seeds that made my ears what they are today.

I was sold on the rock and roll daydream, and at an impressionable, and needed time – he made teenage me look far and large. Bowie’s a big deal for me, Bowie’s a big deal for most – and his passing, and HOW he passed is just as big as the life he led – what a hero – what an artist – what a man. Good Lord, gotta flip the record and heed more advice.

“Don’t fake it baby, lay the real thing on me
The church of man, love, is such a holy place to be”

Maximum Volume.

Maximum Volume, almost.

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Re-Birth Of A Nation: How Pedro Martínez Made The Red Sox “The Red Sox”

Pedro shares a smile before the 1999 All-Star Game.

Pedro shares a smile before the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway. (Boston Globe)

In a previous life I ran a popular Red Sox blog – the last time I wrote about the Sawx was three and a half years ago through a haze of tears as a great chapter in my life closed. Since that last sentence I’ve been able to focus on other outlets such as Visions of the Unexcused, DJ-ing, painting, and now most importantly, being a Dad. I’m content with my decision to retire the blog, and only occasionally get the itch to write about the Sox, and today that itch simply can’t be ignored, because the greatest Red Sox of my generation (no offense David Ortiz), and possibly ever, is being inducted into the the Hall of Fame.

A gorgeous sight.

A gorgeous sight.

The narrative of what it meant to be a Red Sox fan pre-2003 has been lost due to the previously unfathomable success of the Sox over the past decade. But pre-Pedro was a dark time for Red Sox fans. The Yankees were in the throes of a modern dynasty and the Red Sox were stuck in their birth-rite purgatory state of being good enough to make hope hurt. The decade before Pedro arrived the Sox averaged 80 wins per Season. The seven seasons Pedro was with Boston the Sox averaged 91, and that’s just the tip of the statistical iceberg of how much Martínez affected the Red Sox on the field, but to us Sox fans, it was his swagger on and off the field that makes him endearing. He turned our hope from its continuous pessimistic hue into a brilliantly saturated optimistic tone of possibility, not inevitability.

The keystone moment for what the Red Sox have become.

The keystone moment for what the Red Sox have become.

1999. This is the keystone year for the marketing money making behemoth “Red Sox Nation” has since become – and the Red Sox brass have Pedro Martínez (and Dan Duquette) to thank for such a solid foundation. Watching Pedro during this season, the apex of the steroid era, was the most electrifying baseball I’ve ever watched. If you had to go to the bathroom during a Pedro game you did so when the Red Sox were batting, for missing a pitch would be sacrilege. Having Pedro showcase this once in a lifetime electricity at the 1999 All-Star Game, the last to be in Fenway, as the baseball world said goodbye to Ted Williams, couldn’t have been more fitting. This was the passing of the torch.

Ted Williams and Pedro Martínez are the #1 and #2 greatest Red Sox ever. Both were inhuman in their ability to play baseball, and they both had unnerving confidence in their craft. This was shown to the World for the first time by Pedro in the best two innings in All-Star history, and then later in the 1999 ALDS, a moment that gets a little buried in a career with a plethora of amazing moments. Pedro replaced Derek Lowe in just the forth inning – this after leaving Game 1 with a back injury. The injured Pedro went on to pitch potentially the game of his life, striking out 8 over six stupendous innings of no hit ball to help the Red Sox win their first playoff Series since 1986.

It would take another five years for Pedro to help the Red Sox to the top of the baseball world, but this was the moment that made the possible real. Everything in-between that All-Star game in 1999 and Pedro holding that trophy in 2004 was magical. You never missed a pitch – his jovialness and defiance helped create the culture that made the Red Sox “The Red Sox” – which gave fans pride instead of contempt. I’ll talk of Pedro to my little boy Dylan like my Pops talked of Ted to me, another passing of a torch, and like Ted, Pedro’s light will forever shine bright on the institution he helped create – Red Sox Nation.

From Cambridge to the Dominican, thanks Pedro, congratulations on your Hall of Fame induction.


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Bacteria Is Real: What I Learned From U2’s “Secret Show” at The Burren

The empty stage at The Burren. (Photo - D.Hixon)

The empty stage at The Burren. (Photo – D.Hixon)

I’ve been home about an hour and I’m still trying to piece together one of the stranger nights in recent memory. Around 5pm yesterday social media started buzzing about a potential secret U2 show in Boston. Monday was their off day in-between a four show stint at The Garden, and given they’ve done something similar as recently 2009, it seemed plausible. So on a whim I jumped into a cab and made my way down to The Burren, the bar that was getting most of the said buzz.

One of many pints became aquatinted with.

One of many pints I became aquatinted with.

Long story short, I showed up, sat belly up at the bar for hours, had Guinness & beef stew, listened to a Scientist talk about bacteria (no….for real), and listened to a Pandora U2 radio station – all while The Burren buzzed about if the show was or wasn’t happening. The fact that U2 never showed up is a lessen in social media I’ll leave for someone else to figure out. What I’ve been thinking on is why was I even there?

Hmmmm....I don't think this is happening...

Hmmmm….I don’t think this is happening…

I haven’t truly enjoyed a U2 album for over a decade, was appalled by their Apple album, and haven’t actively listened to their music in a long, long time. But as I sat over my pints I began to realize why I was there holding onto hope – U2 is a big part of my musical journey. I remember the day my brother was given The Joshua Tree on cassette from his eventual Wife and eight year old me being absolutely blown away by what I was hearing. The first CD I bought at Fay’s Drug Store was the Unforgettable Fire and I listend to it over and over and over again. I then dived headfirst into even earlier albums such as War and October and was never disappointed – these guys were amazing.

I know in certain circles it’s not hip to like U2 anymore, and as stated above, I get it, and am partially guilty. But those four mentioned albums (and a few more not mentioned) are absolutely incredible and had a very strong impact on young me, and are part of my musical DNA. My brothers loved U2, my Mom loved U2, my friends growing up and growing old have loved U2, and like it or not – a lot of the dots in my life can be connected with U2 songs, and for that I had to take a flyer to potentially see one of the biggest bands in the world in a 250 seat room.

It was a weird and surreal night for sure, but I’m glad I sat there paying my penance for the decades worth of good music and memories they provided me, it allowed me to meditate on what U2 meant to me, all while they put on an incredible show without even being there.

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Road Visions: Record Stores of London – Notting Hill

Honest Jon's located on Portobello Road  in Notting Hill. (Photo - D.Hixon)

Honest Jon’s located on Portobello in Notting Hill. (D.Hixon)

Late last year I was able to spend a couple of weeks in London. As I’ve stated in the past, shopping for vinyl in Europe is a dream, an expensive dream albeit, but a dream none-the-less. Every shop you enter is stacked with non-American releases (everything’s an import) and the selection’s vastly different than what you’re used to in the States.

With some modest research my friend Kevin and I made our way to Rough Trade West, which is located in Notting Hill, and let the streets lead us around a non-lazy afternoon that found the wax to be plentiful, the pints proper, and conversation delightful.

Portobello Road Market

Portobello Road Market (D.Hixon)

Portobello Road Market
As we got off the Tube and started walking towards Rough Trade we were greeted – totally by luck – with the Saturday Portobello Road Market, a closed off street filled with throngs of tourists, hustlers, and locals. There were bazaar’s, pubs, and shops lining the streets with open air vendor’s selling everything from food, clothes, antiques, and yes….records.

The prices varied here, but I was able to pick up and barter for a killer copy of I-Roy’s 1973 UK press of Hell And Sorrow as well as an original 1977 Italian first press of Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols – records and pressings you just don’t run across in the States. A main goal heading into London was to get as much reggae as I could. Outside of Jamaica, and maybe even more so – there’s no better place to get reggae on vinyl than the UK. Punk, Indie, and Garage were also on my list – so before we even hit Rough Trade I was off to a great start. I’ll say records were priced a little high on the street until you got further down the road and past the food vendors – where the true locals were selling. Some of the vendors were pretty crass, and to be frank, total assholes (particularly one dude I tried to buy a Hawkwind record from, first & only time I’ve been called a “wanker”) – but other vendor’s were friendly & willing to come down from their tourist high prices if they sniffed out you were a true collector.

The outside of Rough Trade West. (Photo - D.Hixon)

The outside of Rough Trade West. (D.Hixon)

Rough Trade West
After traipsing down Portobello we finally got to Rough Trade West, and I have to say, I was disappointed upon entering. The smallish room was jammed with new records and when traveling internationally I’m strictly on the used record tip. Thankfully I noticed there was an equally sized downstairs filled exclusively with used records. Crisis averted.

I dove right into the reggae section which was bigger than most back in the States, but not necessarily huge. The Indie, Rock, and Garage sections had the more impressive selections. The prices weren’t cheap, but the vibe in the basement was good. The lady behind the counter recognized I was wearing a Bleecker Street Records T-Shirt and we immediately started talking record nerd with each other. Upon hearing I was from Cambridge, MA she informed me that her Husband incessantly wears a T-Shirt they got some 20 years ago when visiting the States from In Your Ear Records, one of my home turf stores. This was my favorite part of Rough Trade, swapping stories of past digs with this lady behind the counter. It’s akin to fisherman telling big fish stories, and as we wrapped up she pushed us on our way further down Portobello to Honest Jon’s, after we (of course) stopped for a proper pint.

Honest Jons Records

Inside Honest Jon’s Records. (D. Hixon)

Honest Jon’s
Honest Jon’s is a quaint shop located towards the end of the Portobello Market that features music of different genres from across the globe. I discovered that Honest Jon’s is also a Record Label of the same name which happens to be co-run by Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz) – not bad pedigree for a record shop/label.  This is where I began to quench my thirst for reggae, as I picked up a Delroy Wilson LP as well as a Studio One Sales Sampler from 1979. Prices were reasonable and I was very thankful to pick up a “London Is The Place For Me” record directly from the source. These excellent complications are put out by Honest Jon’s and feature music composed by Caribbean immigrants in a variety of styles – Calypso, Jazz, Mento, and Highlife – all composed and often centered around London life – absolutely killer comps. After leaving Honest Jon’s we had another pint and meandered off the Portobello path in & got further lost in the Notting Hill afternoon.

All the Reggae 45's & a happy me.

All the Reggae 45’s & a happy me – People’s Sound!

People’s Sound
As we explored the streets we tripped into, by either destiny or luck, Sarm West Studios – a world renown studio which was created by Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records. Sarm has recorded the likes of Led Zeppelin, Queen, & Rolling Stones – all British Rock Royalty. We went inside and chatted with the friendly fellah behind the desk and he informed us that Bob Marley not only recorded there, but lived in the Studio for about a year – which is no coincidence as we were entering what appeared to be the Jamaican section of Notting Hill. Still thirsting for reggae I asked if he knew of any good shops – he smiled slyly, and directed us to People’s Sound – which was only two blocks away – safe to say – I was about to get all I could drink.

The outside of People's Sound (D.Hixon)

The outside of People’s Sound (D.Hixon)

I walked into People’s Sound to find no one behind the counter and a copious amount of incense floating in the air – however, as I 360’d around the small shop I realized I was 100% surrounded by Reggae, Dub, and Dancehall records – my prayers had been answered. A red eyed Rasta eventually came out to see my shaggy haired stupid grinned face and we were off from there.

I handed him my reggae 45 wantlist – which he was impressed with, but the only one he found in the bowels of the shop was Max Romeo – It Sipple Out Dehwhich I was 100% fine with, because I was about to be exposed to a hell of a lot more. We then sat at the counter chatting as he played me 45 after 45 of incredible roots reggae as I plucked what I especially liked while learning a helluva lot from this lifted sage. A week later, when my Wife met me in London this is the only shop I went back to, and is one I’ll go to any and every time I’m in the City. Most shop’s in the US have reggae section’s with maybe 20 records or so, but this was an ENTIRE shop – talk about drinking from a blunted fire hose. Beautiful, beautiful shop. Positive vibrations, yeah.

Music and Goods Exchange (D.Hixon)

Music and Goods Exchange (D.Hixon)

Music / Soul & Dance Exchange
After leaving the high of People’s Sound we backtracked towards the Tube and hit a Pub we earmarked on our way to Portobello. My bags of wax were starting to weigh heavy so after a few pints we decided to be proper tourists and just explore the other side of the neighborhood, but of course, before we got too far we ran into Music / Soul & Dance Exchange, and the dig (thankfully) continued.

This was actually two record stores in one, The Music & Video Exchange on the first floor and The Soul & Dance Exchange on the second floor. I was on the hunt for Althea and Donna’s Uptown Top Ranking all day, and of course, it was found in this last shop upstairs, I was overjoyed and scared the employees as a blurted out a too exuberant yelp. Both floors had an incredible mix of new and hard to find used records – and this shop, while facing the stiffest of competition, ended up being my favorite of the trip for three reasons:

  1. Pure Volume – On both floors there were a lot of records, 45 and LP, the most of any store we stopped in.
  2. Divergence of Selection – Downstairs had all the rock, pop, garage, indie, psych, you could want – and upstairs had an equally impressive selection of Hip Hop, Dance, Soul, Funk, African, and Electronic. If you’re a collector you’d be guaranteed to find something you’ve been searching for here.
  3. Price – On top of the quality and quantity the prices were by far the most reasonable of the day – and with the British Pound lapping the US Dollar this was a more than welcome sight.

We spent another good hour here, left with bags straining to stay in tact, and went across the street to (wait for it…..) another Pub. It was a beyond successful dig – such a cool, unique, and interesting neighborhood – one most recommended if in London and looking to get your fingers dirty and mind clean.

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Taught Me Everything I Know – Recommended Album: Chauncey – To Love Once More

The world's a much better place when Chauncey's together.

The world’s a much better place when Chauncey’s together.

If it wasn’t for Chauncey I wouldn’t have met my Wife. I moved to Boston in 2001 as an optimistic and bright eyed college grad. I had a potential job lined up at a revered record label (Ace of Hearts Records) and the world was going to be my delicious oyster. Two days after moving onto a couch in Allston two planes crashed into the World Trade Center and flipped everything on its head.

Chauney's last show @ Lizard Lounge. (Photo - D.Hixon)

Chauney’s last show @ Lizard Lounge. (Photo – D.Hixon)

My job fell through, the economy tanked, and my bright future turned into a grim and formless grey. The $400 I brought with me dwindled quickly and my spot on the couch got more and more lonely. In order to survive I swallowed my pride and got a job at RadioShack and spent my nights drinking $1 drafts and eating ten cent chicken wings. Things weren’t going as I had planned, until one random night, one chance meeting.

It was night time – so I was of course at the bar drinking $1 drafts, when a girl came up and started chatting with me, I think her name was Melany. Conversation, like it always does with me, eventually shifted towards music and she said she just started a record label with her friend Jacob called Change Records. I immediately started angling for a way to become part of it and let her know I was a video guy who had web skills – but was literally willing to do anything to get out of RadioShack.

Jake and Eliot. (Photo - D.Hixon)

Jake and Eliot. (Photo – D.Hixon)

I’m not sure what became of Melany, but she got me in touch with Jacob and he interviewed me at Anna’s Taqueria (my first time ever eating there actually) – and I got the job. I wasn’t able to quit RadioShack quite yet, as I maybe got paid $100 a month for doing webmaster duties for Change – but I got something much more valuable than money, I got my pride back, and that couch back in Allston wasn’t lonely anymore – it was an opportunity. He mentioned two bands that were on his label, but the one he was most rapturous about was a band called Chauncey, and I was soon to find out why.

JP & Shawn sharing a moment. (Photo - D.Hixon)

JP & Shawn sharing a moment. (Photo – D.Hixon)

I learned how to get around Boston by going to different shows around the city where I’d work merch tables, help load/unload gear, sometimes do lights, and do any other odd jobs that were needed. The guys in the band, each one of them, were absolutely phenomenal to me. I was a shy kid in his early 20’s whose ego got pretty bruised my first few months in Boston, but they treated me like I was part of their Team, and I’ll forever be grateful for that. Their compassion, humor, and commitment taught me a lot on how to focus on things I loved and helped shape who I am today. I’m certain that if it wasn’t for Chauncey or Change Records I would have move back to Upstate NY – and man….I would have missed out on so much.

During the years I worked with Chauncey I was absolutely convinced they were going to “make it”. Their live shows were high energy & exciting, their recorded material was absolutely stellar, and their work ethic was off the charts. Long story short – things didn’t work out in the “make it” sense – but they were as close to breaking through to the general public as a band can get. Boston Magazine heralded their debut the best Rock Album of the year, they were courted by numerous majors, got a lot of serious press, and recorded their sophomore album at legendary Electric Audio with Steve Albini.

After taking an extended hiatus (I refuse to say they ever broke up) – they have released a new EP, To Love Once More – and it’s as good as anything they’ve ever recorded together. There’s a synergy of cohesion with everything those five guys record together, and it genuinely warms my heart to know they’re making music together again.

Chauncey will be playing at The Lizard Lounge this Saturday (01/31/15) with Count Zero and other special guests – and it’s sure to be an excellent homecoming. If you’re looking for me I’ll be the tall dude standing towards the back with dusty eyes – time moves on and plans don’t always fall into place – but what you want isn’t always what you need – and from my biased perspective, the World needs Chauncey.

Recommended If You Like: Indie Power Pop, Awesome

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Tonight’s Word: Honor Roll – Paying Respect to The Colbert Report

The Colbert Report is a first ballot Honor Roll Inductee.

The Colbert Report is a first ballot Honor Roll Inductee.

The Colbert Report has been putting me to bed for a decade, and after Thursday it’s void will be markedly larger than I’d like to admit. At 35 years old nine years is a quarter of my life, and while Colbert will be moving on to deservedly greener pastures, I can’t help but let the nostalgic part of me long for days of future past.

In 2007 when my future Wife and I were galavanting about Ecuador we became friends with an Australian couple, Peter and Penny. They were basically a Southern Hemisphere mirror of ourselves – which was both refreshing and rejuvenating when deep in an internet-less Amazon basin, especially during the years George Bush was making it easier for Americans traveling abroad to say they were from Canada.

We were aligned on everything – except that is, this brand new show I raved over called The Colbert Report, which these different but same Aussies just couldn’t connect on – and from that moment in Ecuador, I realized how distinctive and American The Colbert Report was. In subsequent years the rest of the World would better understand the character Colbert was playing, but for those of a left leaning mind-set in the middle of the Amazon basin in 2007 we were distinctively in on the “joke”  – and with The Colbert Report leaving, I’m predictably melancholy, nostalgic, and sad. Colbert will do a phenomenal job replacing Letterman, but there’ll never be another show quite like The Colbert Report. Huzzah.

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The Last Renaissance Man: Ten Questions with Kurt von Stetten

(Photo Credit - KVS)

(Photo Credit – KVS)

Kurt von Stetten is a continual favorite of mine and one of Boston’s finest artists. His 2014 solo release, Animals, is one of the best albums of the year, and will be featured in Episode 63, The Top 21 Albums of 2014, dropping this Thursday. I recently asked Kurt some questions on his DIY approach, Art, Influences, among other topics.

– Buy Animals via BandCamp

Visions of the Unexcused:
I can’t seem to get away from comparing you to Robert Pollard. That may be a lazy “lo-fi” comparison on my part, but you both have such a high level of DIY to your music, and you’re also both prolific in the quantity of music you release. Is Pollard an influence for you, and if so – are there any albums or Guided By Voices tracks that are particularly important to you?

Kurt von Stetten:
Yeah I take that as a compliment! I love Robert Pollard and GBV. I came to know their music only after I played with The Longwalls. The lead singer is a huge fan and I slowly started getting exposed to them. I love his work ethic and sound- a sound which is not that far from mine. Lo-fi and a little clunky. I think one of my favorites is a recent one, 2012’s The Bears for Lunch. I just think that is a great record and an inspiration- because he produces so much. I always think to myself- well I could do that if I didn’t have a job too. I wrote a song called “Competition (fuck Bob Pollard)” off of my last record that is a reminder to myself that I am not competing with him. It’s no contest at all- he wins!

Another similarity between Pollard and yourself is you’re both Visual Artists as well as Musicians. You both create your own Album art, and you even take it a step further and create your own videos. Does your music influence the art you make – or is it the other way around?

I think visual art definitely influences my music and not the other way around. Really only because all of my training/education is in visual art and music came into my life much later- but all in all they are starting to become closer. This month I started working with an artist on abstract video pieces that I would be writing music for- we will see how that pans out. But really music takes up the emotional space that visual art can’t ever seem to cover- so they compliment each other, but music sometimes gets only the table scraps or base emotions to start with!

Back to your DIY DNA – you’ve played every instrument on each solo album you’ve released – one every year since 2006 – how does this differ from playing drums for fellow Static Motor Recordings band, The Longwells. Do you prefer the solitude of your solo work, or do you miss the camaraderie of collaboration?

They are very different endeavors to be sure. When I sit down to write my own music I make sweeping changes every minute- tempo- key- voice- instrumentation- and then see where the chips land. Then I record it, listen to it, and eight times out of ten trash the whole thing. I shoot first and then aim- I have 90 songs on my iPad from this year that I will never use- they are just in the “booshit” folder (and trust me they are strait up booshit). So I am definitely most comfortable with not being beholden to any sound or style.The Longwalls do all of that hard work before I even get to hear it and add drums to it- that is a huge difference for me and my process. We also usually stay true to the original feel of each new song- that is hard for me too. That is definitely something that I still wrestle with- not being able to be like “why don’t we have a killer musical saw solo here.” I also am the least talented of the bunch so I am playing catch up (musically) most of the time.

Kurt von Stetten - Animals (Artwork - KVS)

Kurt von Stetten – Animals (Artwork – KVS)

Your latest release, Animals, feels like a silver dream. There’s a sheen of cohesiveness that shines throughout it. Did you approach writing and recording any differently than last years Broken, But Not Undone? It’s certainly a von Stetten album, but the vibe has swaygaze smoothness to it for me.

Yeah I agree- there are more compatible sounds from song to song than usual for me. I think that is because I used a lot more synthesizers on this record. For a long time I was scared of having the synth be the main sound of a song – or something that leads everything else. And because it is programmable the screw ups are much less noticeable. I generally leave all the rough edges showing in a song, but synths are always a little smooth. I also spent a lot of time on the drums this go around- I was just loving being in studio and recording them- so there are less screw ups in the drums and drum sounds.

Another love of yours is BMX. You recently posted a video of yourself (below) flatlanding on an abandoned basketball court. This was my first time being exposed to your BMX skills and my jaw was agape the entire time, it was beautiful. Do you find your experience with BMX translates over to your music? There seems to be some symmetry between the two – as the final results appear seamless, even though there’s a tightrope you’re walking – with the fall always being a possibility. That’s where I garner a lot of appreciation for your music, you’re obviously not afraid to push yourself and potentially fall.

YES! They are very similar to me- they are both physical, dependent on patterns and structure, and usually end up with me being bloody and disoriented. Seriously, I love practicing things and repetition- probably to an intolerable degree for those around me. Being on that line between not falling and falling- or musically failing or not failing is enjoyable. It means I fail a lot- and have to- to get something that really surprises me and that I like.

Will we be able to see you performing Animals out anytime soon? Or are you more of a Studio guy solo, a la Harry Nilsson?

Well I am not really a performing musician- and I haven’t had a band in years, but if I was able to find some folks I would love to play again. For now I am a studio guy.

What’s the next big project for you you in 2015?

The Longwalls have another great record coming out soon and I will have another coming out in 2015- those two records are front and center, but I have other side projects in the works too- I have had more people ask me to collaborate this year than in any other so hopefully I will be on many other records. One such local record is the new Dan London recordI Will Take You Back.  I played drums and cello (and other odds and ends) on that record- and that was just released.

Animals will justifiably be featured on the 21 Best Albums of 2014 for Visions of the Unexcused – what have you listened to in the past year that’s really dug into your ear holes?

I think a lot of old music came back to me this year- like digital leather, the drums, and Guided By Voices. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the re-releases of classic hip hop that have dominated my listening year too- Ice Cube, NWA, De La Soul, Wu Tang, and Tribe. For new music I would go with Youth Lagoon, The Folk, Pixies, and Karen O.

What does being “Unexcused” mean to you?

Unexcused means presenting yourself – warts and all (and I mean WARTS)- and not taking yourself or others too seriously.

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Today Is Tomorrow’s Past: What Pono Means For The Future Of Music

Is PonoMusic the start of a new medium?

Will PonoMusic spark a sea change in digital music consumption? (Illustration – D.Hixon)

Like Hemingway used to, I find myself writing while standing up. There’s numerous health studies that support this, but my reasons are different. I’m standing solely because my Macbook’s flanked directly next to my turntable. I digitize recently purchased records as I write, work, and idle shiftlessly about the internet. I stand because despite the technology that rules my life I’m still a slave to the analog.

I’ve known about Neil Young’s Pono project for awhile, and seeing it launch last week made the possible seem real. Do I think Pono is the end all be all for the future of music? No way. When I was Music Director at 90.9 WONY in 2001 I was told that SONY’s Mini-Disc was the future. Still, any technology that can improve the listening experience is going to grab my attention, and Moore’s Law be damned, despite these advancements of technology, Vinyl is still the King of quality.

Some dude named Edison “kick-started” the phonograph in 1878 and since then Vinyl’s met and conquered each competitor that’s stepped into the auditory ring. Reel-to Reel, 8-Track, Cassette, CD, Mini-Disc, and even the almighty MP3 have not been able to replicate or improve upon the quality of Vinyl. Listening to records is not a mobile activity however, and that’s what technology has brought us over the past Century – ease of use and portability, but NOT improved quality. cell-phone-elephant

This ease of use has come at a cost, as the overall quality of what people are listening to has been compromised, compressed, and cheapened – and this holds especially true with the MP3. My “day job” for the past decade has been working with large media companies to maximize the quality of their digital media files, and anytime you sample down from the original source you’re losing quality. This degradation is necessary though, because the emphasis of technology has become portability, or more specifically, and now we’re getting to elephant in the digital room, mobile phones. In order for media to work properly on a smart phone in 2014 you’ll need to significantly degrade the quality of the source file – and this fact is universally true for both audio & video.

youtube_phoneWhat’s interesting to me is that the average consumer will watch a video on their phone without complaint – knowingly accepting that the quality isn’t a tenth as good as what they’d put up with in their living room. What saddens me is that this same consumer will listen to an MP3 on their phone as well as in their Living Room and think nothing of it. The truth is that a similar gap in quality lies between the MP3 on your phone and the record on your turntable. It’s like going from HD to bunny ears, and there’s now an entire generation that doesn’t even know that gap exists.

hd-cost-graphThis is what intrigues me so much about Pono. I have zero Faith that the format will become the medium of choice for this era of digital music. But I do have hope that it’ll make enough of a dent to shift the conversation some. The cost of Storage per Gigabyte has plummeted from over $10 per GB in 2000 to under $0.10 today. The MP3 did great things for helping music infiltrate all parts of our lives, however, we don’t need the MP3 anymore, it’s antiquated, cheap, and subpar for our HD lives.

In the end I think Pono will sing truest to the Audiophile Community, but it’s time for the general public, and especially this new Generation, to take its ear muffs off. I know I can’t be the only one to stand (literally) a slave to good sounding music, and if Neil and Pono can help shift the consumer back to quality over quantity, I’m all ears.

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