George Clinton: Dada Revolutionary – by Sharyll Burroughs

I recently read that the Dada art movement was an irreverent, rowdy revolution.  While there are plenty of thick, overly intellectualized tomes devoted to Dada, rowdy and irreverent will do just fine when describing the work of funk music legend and Dadaist George Clinton. The problem is that the art world doesn’t have a clue.

For over forty years, Clinton and his fraternal twins, Parliament-Funkadelic, or P-Funk, have served up a Dadaist stew melding psychedelic rock, jazz, r&b, and gospel into infectious grooves with humorous, nonsensical titles such as Funkentelechy, Good To Your Earhole, Gloryhallastoopid, and Loopzilla. Clinton’s oeuvre was radically out of step with the pop and soul music emanating from the airwaves in the 1970s and 80s. For example, Cosmic Slop and Maggot Brain reflected the madness to Clinton’s method: unmitigated rejection of logic, not only concerning music, but regarding the very meaning of art, a theory well within the Dadaist credo proclaiming logic as a form of creative suicide. Tristan Tzara, author of the Dada Manifestos and Lampisteries, expressed, “Nothing is more pleasant than to baffle people.”

Bootsy Collins (top left), Grady Thomas (3rd from left), George Clinton (4th from left), (bottom row) Calvin Simon, Ray Davis, Bernie Worrell, Fuzzy Haskins, Michael Hampton of the funk band “Parliament-Funkadelic” pose for a portrait in circa 1977.

According to Dr. Bradley Bailey, the Dada art movement began “as response to World War l, an event which a group of artists, writers, musicians, and other creative types regarded as signaling the end of an era dominated by reason…. Rather, these artists embraced the irrational as their guiding force….” Clinton fearlessly embraced the irrational in all things P-Funk. His willingness to obliterate the ordinary is evident in lyrics threaded together with loopy syntax and silly metaphors, as illustrated in his solo hit Atomic Dog: 

Yeah, this is a story of a famous dog

For the dog that chases its tail will be dizzy

These are clapping dogs, rhythmic dogs

Harmonic dogs, house dogs, street dogs

Dog of the world unite

Dancin’ dogs

Yeah

Countin’ dogs, funky dogs

Nasty dogs (Dog)

Atomic dog

Atomic dog

Like the boys

When they’re out there walkin’ the streets

May compete

Nothin’ but the dog in ya

Bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah

Bow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah

However, playful word games can distract from serious subtext. The intelligence behind Clinton’s lyrics often disappear beneath the grooves. Dadaist poet Hugo Ball said, “For us, art is not an end in itself, but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in.” Moreover, Dr. Bailey states, “While these artists questioned whether or not art has meaning, they never questioned whether art has purpose, since many used their work to make biting social or cultural statements.” 

Clinton’s keen observation skills produced plenty of opinions about society, race, politics, and capitalism. By annihilating illusions of a mighty, egalitarian America, he  Zen whacks us into an awareness that culture is not our friend. This excerpt from Eulogy and Light, from the Free Your Mind…and Your Ass Will Follow album, is a scathing indictment of capitalism which simultaneously scolds the Black community for accepting the systems in which the conditions of their oppression were created, while wryly illuminating the paradoxical nature of human experience:

Our father

Which art on Wall Street

Honored be thy buck

Thy kingdom came

This be thy year

From sea to shining sea

Thou givest me false pride

Funked down by the riverside

From every head and ass, may dollars flow

Give us this pay

Our daily bread

Forgive us our goofs

As we rob each other

He maketh me to sell dope to small children

For thou art evil

And we adore thee

Thy destruction and thy power

They comfort me

My Cadillac and my pinky ring

They restoreth me in thee

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of poverty

I must feel their envy

For I am loaded, high and all those other goodies

That go along with the good god big buck

Want to see culture and society as they really are, George asks? Stop trying to make sense of everything. Revel in contradiction because understanding is overrated. In a world that doesn’t make sense, dadaist’s make it even less so. The satirical masterpiece Chocolate City, or CC–whose thesis imposes a fresh “authentic” perspective onto Washington DC–is a ludicrous, maybe not so ridiculous rendering of who is actually in control of the government and the city. Black people didn’t get their forty acres and a mule, but remember, you don’t need the bullet when you’ve got the ballot. This is what power really looks like. Dream! Reach! It’s all good because fiction is really the truth.

P-Funk deals in uncut funk, funk that’s “The Bomb.” In my opinion, the bomb detonated when they took to the stage. Their live performances, especially during the 70’s, were unparalleled. No one, except fellow shapeshifter David Bowie, matched Clinton’s radical theatricality and outrageousness. Yes, the music was spectacular, but just as significant was how P-Funk’s farcical blueprint subverted the ways in which black performers behaved and dressed. The matching tailored suits and choreographed routines, a template Clinton adopted early in his career, were abandoned.  At some point he must have realized he’d stuffed himself into a tiny sequined box, a perception embodied in a quote from artist Marcel Duchamp, “I forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.”  Clinton certainly contradicted himself into several astounding transformations. The most memorable appeared in the mid-70’s. Adorned in 6-inch silver platform boots, bikini bottoms over glittery tights, and a long blond wig, he morphed into a debauched ringmaster directing his circus of glamazons, extraterrestrial clowns, and pseudo sheiks into a vortex of anarchy, a dimension where sartorial choices ran the gamut of diapers, Pinocchio noses, and massive sombreros made of fur. Deranged was the new norm–just because. Concerts ran 2 to 3 hours with as many as 20 people on stage, roaming about in various states of gyration through a marijuana fog so thick the audience got a contact high. And let’s not forget the Mothership (now housed within the hallowed halls of the Smithsonian), a faux spaceship carrying a race of Black “aliens”cloned by Dr. Funkenstein, another alter ego who symbolized a new species untethered from anything reeking of convention. Black, White, Red or Green: All subversives welcome. Don’t be afraid to push boundaries or look like a fool. Freedom is a state of mind. In Clinton’s riotous world, you are not naked when you take off your clothes. Just relax and enjoy the turbulence.

George Clinton has graced us with a scatalogical manifesto that will forever influence those looking to write one of their own. He broke all the rules. That’s what artists do. They break shit in order to reframe our inner solar systems, shift our realities. They pry our middle finger upward toward the sky. Hugo Ball asked “Why can’t a tree be called Pluplusch?” George Clinton asks “why can’t a tree be called Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop?” That my friends is what Dada is all about. Clinton is a visionary who deserves a place within the pantheon of Ball, Duchamp, and Ray. He should be acknowledged as a Dada revolutionary and recognized by the art world with nothing less than a major museum retrospective. They just need to free their minds and their asses will follow.

Sharyll Burroughs is a multidisciplinary artist and dialogue facilitator who is interested in exploring the meaning of identity beyond racial, cultural, or societal definitions. Her facilitation process combines Buddhist philosophy, the process of inquiry, and controversial or provocative art to reflect the multidimensionality of a common human experience. Burroughs attended the Santa Monica College of Design, Art, and Architecture, a school founded by MacArthur Genius Fellow, Joan Abrahamson.  Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in Los Angeles, California and in Portland, Oregon. She has facilitated group dialogues for venues such as the Portland Art Museum.

Love Tractor: Noah Fence interviews Mark Cline and Mike Richmond

On November 6th, Love Tractor released the remastered reissue of their self-titled debut album, one of many classics made by bands to come out of the Athens, Georgia scene in the early nineteen eighties. 

Here is my interview with two members of Love Tractor, Mark Cline and Mike Richmond.

Noah Fence: Congratulations on the reissue release of your remastered debut album. I just heard it today, and was quite stunned. I have been a fan of the album since 1982, when it was first released, and I heard stuff on the remastered version I had never heard before. Can you tell me how this came about, what motivated you to do the remaster and get it released?

Mark Cline: We have been planning on rereleasing our catalog for some time. The first album was a challenge as the ¼ inch masters had degraded, so for the sake of sound fidelity we decided to simply remix the entire record. Nothing was added or subtracted, we followed Bruce Baxter’s original mix. To shepherd the project, we enlisted the help of former bandmate Bill Berry [REM] (who knows a thing or two about great records) to produce the remix, along with Dave Barbe behind the board. Both Bill and Dave knew the album intimately, Bill had even written a track on the album. The goal was to produce a faithful remix, but just make it clearer.

Bill said, “it’s as if cotton has been removed from my ears.” It’s quite remarkable how great it sounds — how alive it sounds!

Mike Richmond: Thank you, the first album was not only remastered, it was remixed, so there are some subtle differences between the initial release and this re-release.  We did a reunion show at the Georgia Theater in 2016 and from that time on we have been doing more LT things.  We have continued to play occasionally and we knew we needed to get re-releases going since our catalog is out of print.  

Noah Fence: When the band first formed, the band was an instrumental band. Was that conscious choice or direction? Or was that out of necessity, as no one wanted to be the singer or write lyrics?  How difficult was it being an instrumental band? Were audiences receptive?

Mike Richmond: Not really a conscious decision, but one that just kind of evolved into being fine at the time.  When the four of us (Mark, Army, Kit, Myself) got together to play and write we had great chemistry and the musical interplay that we had going didn’t seem to be lacking anything.  We weren’t making instrumentals that just seemed like backing for a vocalist.  And it is also true that at the time no one wanted to sing or write lyrics. I’ve come to the conclusion that the genre known as Instrumental Rock is the red-headed step child of musical genres and making music of that type destines you to cult status at best. There is no such thing as a really popular instrumental group.  The Ventures were doing covers of vocal pop songs so I don’t really count them, but it seems that people need vocals and lyrics even if they are really bad.  That said, we did have some great shows playing all instrumental music and then other times the audience would look at us like we just landed from Mars. 

Mark Cline:  We were art students when we released our first and second albums— school kids, we were making the music we wanted to make with no constraints. None of the songs needed vocals — we didn’t set out to write an instrumental album; it just happened. Trust me, if a song had needed vocals, we would have added them, in fact we put aside one song with vocals as it didn’t fit the feel of the record— and not because it had vocals— the song appears on Around The Bend. We have always written albums, not songs, perhaps this is why we are famously slow in releasing material. The first album is, in our eyes, one complete work — not a collection of songs. Fans and critics who know our music, know that not one LT album sounds like the other. We honestly didn’t think of the album as an instrumental album…although it didn’t have a human voice. To our ears it is complete, it is narrative, it is highly melodic and to this day it sounds fresh. In hindsight, it was not difficult being instrumental as we had no other experience. Audiences loved us; New Order, The Smiths, and other local acts copied riffs from the record so for us it was mission accomplished.

Noah Fence: I find that because the debut album is instrumental, it has a timeless quality. It could have easily been recorded at present. The interplay between the guitars, bass and drums, and the choices made by the engineer in producing the album left it free of anything dating it to the year it was recorded. When you were working on the remastering of this album, did you find that to be true for yourself as well? 

Mark Cline: We are wary of musical trends or hackneyed musical tropes, as corny as this sounds we are very much influenced by each other as opposed to say, “New Wave,” “Hip-Hop,” or some other trend in music. This is not to say we don’t consume tons of music— we do, but certainly not in any way expected of a band. We consider all our records to be timeless, especially this first album. It was written as a single piece of music not a collection of songs. We recommend people listen to it in one sitting. It’s only 35 joyous minutes long.

Mike Richmond: I agree, that album has a timeless quality to it.  I have to play it regularly because that is how I keep in practice.  I put on the record and play to it.  I never get tired of it, it is evergreen and uplifting, I always get a sense of liberation playing all 32 minutes of it during a practice session. When I think of how many times I’ve had to play those songs live, practice them with the band and hear it over and over again during remixes, remastering. It is amazing how fresh it always sounds. 

Noah Fence : Do you have plans to remaster and reissue more of your records? Your second album is also a favorite of mine, and considering how well the debut album has benefited from being remastered, I would love to hear a remastered reissue of the second album.

Also, prior to the release of this remastered album, the band released a seven inch single for Record Store Day, were the songs on that release new recordings? Are there any plans for the band to go into the studio and record new material?

Mike Richmond: Definitely, the second album is being prepared now.  I like our second record more than the first record.  It’s probably my favorite of our records.  Following that, we are also going to re-release our entire catalog.  The 7”, 60 Degrees Below and Festival became 60 Degrees and Sunny and FESTI-vals.  They aren’t re-recordings but we did add new things that emphasize the repetitive nature of those tunes.  The additions were influenced by the music of Phillip Glass.  We were recording new music until the Pandemic shut things down.  Very excited about our new music and we have at least 2 records worth of tunes that just need to be finished when things get back to normal more or less.   

Mark Cline:  We are in the midst of assembling our entire catalog for rerelease, “Around the bend” is up next, it will get a remaster and perhaps some bonus tracks. We are discussing timing of the rerelease now.

Regarding Record Store Day: In remixing the first album we knew we wanted to do something unique for RSD. After having played these songs for many years some of them had evolved, and we wanted to capture that with three special mixes. 17 Days, 60 Degrees Below and Festival had evolved over the years and now seemed the time to do enhanced mixes of the songs — along with the regular remixes. So, these are not new songs rather we have captured how the songs have evolved over the years. They are fuller, longer in places shorter in others, Instruments and dynamics have been enhanced, they are really lovely you have to hear them. 

As Mike said we have two new albums ready to record, certainly one is absolutely ready to go. I Think if Covid hadn’t hit one certainly would have been finished. I’m quite excited by it —the music is remarkable.

Noah Fence : I have a confession to make, when I first heard your version of the Kraftwerk song, “Neon Lights,” I did not know it was a cover. At the time it was released I had not heard of Kraftwerk or that song. Your version of that song is fantastic. I have heard other people cover it, the band Luna for instance, but I prefer your version.  Being a band out of Athens Georgia, which I assume means fundamentally the band is a dance band, is that what motivated the choice to cover that song? 

Also, I have heard that you performed under the name, “Wheel Of Cheese,” doing all cover versions and welcoming fellow Athens musicians to join you on stage, any chance there are recordings of these performances waiting to be released?

Mike Richmond: Ha! A lot of people say that.  I was backstage after a Flaming Lips show several years ago and Wayne Coyne said the same thing about Neon Lights.  We are all fans of Kraftwerk and decided to play it live, probably at a Wheel of Cheese show initially.  Most of the songs that Wheel of Cheese performed were barely rehearsed, we trashed them, everybody got drunk and it was a crazy wild time.  Certainly not your typical cover band.  We realized that our version of Neon Lights was actually pretty good so we went into the studio to record it and were just amazed at how good it came out.  There are probably some recordings of the Wheel of Cheese.  On one particular night Wheel of Cheese consisted of Warren Zevon, REM, Love Tractor and a few others.  Songs we did were, for example: Electric Avenue, Girls Just Wanna have Fun, Country Boy Can Survive, Roadhouse Blues, Rebel Rebel, Disco Inferno, You Dropped a Bomb on Me, Shattered.  I can’t imagine what a live recording of that night sounded like, but it probably sounded like a big mess, but probably a lot of fun to be in the audience and drinking.  Honestly, I don’t want to hear any WOC recordings, the memory will suffice. 

Mark Cline: We have all been huge fans of Kraftwerk, and you are not alone in thinking the song was ours. People say our version is the best, I have to agree, I do like Luna’s version. It was a song that we could really make our own, it lended itself to our style of music. The one requirement of an Athens band from our era was you had to be danceable, the Athens scene was a very participatory scene — the audience was as important as the band. To me our version of Neon Lights, is best illustrated as such: the band in an old Mercedes bumping down a southern red clay dirt road with NEU! blasting out of the 8 track stereo.

Wheel of Cheese was a way for us to blow off steam. Love Tractor and other Athens bands had started touring heavily, and we of course were expected to stick to our catalog on our tour dates, Wheel of cheese was a release from those constraints. Any Athens musician was welcome to play, the only rule being no rehearsal. So anytime Wheel of Cheese played you could expect members of The Method Actors, REM, Pylon and more to be onstage jamming out tunes. To explain Wheel of Cheese fully would take another interview. 

Noah Fence: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions today. Hope you and your families are all safe and well.

MARK CLINE: Thank you Noah!

The remastered reissue of “Love Tractor” is available now digitally and on LP and CD.

Essential Reissue: Yanti Bersaudara (LuMunai/Groovyrecord)

Reissues of women singers from the 1970s pop scene in Indonesia are few and far between. Luckily, LaMunai and Groovyrecord have teamed up for a re-release of Yanti Bersaudara’s incredible self-titled first record, which originally came out on Polydor Singapore in 1971. (“Bersaudara” is a Sundanese gender-neutral term akin to “Siblings”). The Yantis were a powerhouse sister trio, consisting of Yani, Tina & Lin Hardjakusumah, who sang in Sundanese, creating a beautiful spacey harmonic sound with psychedelic pop overtones. They recorded both solo and collaboratively until around the mid 70s, sometimes with folk outfit Bimbo. Today it is impossible to find these records in their original state. French-Algerian singer and musician Sofiane Saidi, owner of Groovyrecord, is an aficionado on the Indonesian pop scene of the 70s-80s, particularly recordings by women singers. While straight covers of Western pop songs were not uncommon, the really great Pop Indonesia records from the late 60s/early 70s era went beyond bland replication of existing hit melodies and instead synthesized the rich and varied local Indonesian musical traditions with sounds from abroad. Such is the case here. The backing band is uncredited, but, like many local outfits from the time (4 Nada, Eka Sapta, The Galaxies), they avoid overpowering the vocals with heavy rhythmic beats and instead focus on creating the ideal sonic palette for the singers to apply their craft. The interweaving and layering of Yanti Bersaudara’s voices is magnificent to hear. The mastering is excellent, and the packaging adheres to all of the original design elements. Jakarta-based LaMunai and Groovyrecord were also responsible for the acclaimed vinyl release of Harry Roesli Gang’s LP Titik Api earlier this year (see Karen Lee’s glowing review here), and we can’t wait to see what else they have brewing for future reissues. Anyone with an interest in psychedelic pop or women singers from the global south should buy this long-sought-after reissue now before it is gone.

Available at Bandcamp

Radio in the Time of COVID-19

A reflection on radio life mid-pandemic by Noah Fence. Images by dj brzy.

Having already made the decision to sit down and write something, I open up a new blank document, give it a vague generic title — which I will change later as the piece comes together and correct title suggests itself — and then I pause for a breath, pause for a beat of my heart , feeling my head turn to the left and look out the window. Out there is a portion of a green forest, being hit by the sunrise. The bright light presents itself in pockets between the leaves — like lens flares, as a bit of breeze stirs the foliage. I make a considered effort to keep my eyes open to the brightness. I like the sharpness of sunlight.

As I write this, the world is experiencing a global pandemic, a phrase I am sure with which we are all too familiar, but one that I did not give much thought to prior to this year. I do not feel like it was something that I was warned about in high school. My parents never told me scary stories of the overreaching global pandemic, in order for me to obey the rules and stay in my yard and not wander out into the street. I do not recall ever scoffing at a story of a man stocking up on provisions and building an airtight, germ-free home for his family, as part of a conspiracy theory. I was blindsided, as I assume were so many people, with whom I no longer make contact.

I lost my job on April 1st. Since that time I have been at home. Inside the walls of a townhouse. I have been cooking. Making sandwiches. Eating crackers with pub cheese. Drinking water. Making tea. Scrambling eggs, coupled with cheese and pepper, often paired with wheat toast, or fried potatoes. Baking banana bread. Baking chicken. Steaming broccoli. Boiling numerous pots of rice — in the morning with raisins, and plain as an addition to dinner. The days blur together, as do my functions, my place in these things. I have a sense of who I am, but I no longer have a sense of who that person may be to other people.

I have for the longest time considered myself to be a radio deejay, a person who goes on the air for a couple of hours, to share a selection of music with the public. Knowing that sometimes friends are listening, but being even more keenly aware that more likely they are not. Instead, the radio show I present is often heard by strangers, perhaps regular listeners or random people that happen to tune in, catch a song they like and stick around. Or, of course, maybe someone catches a portion of my show, dislikes it and tunes out. It is the nature of radio and I have no desire to please everyone. When I do a radio show, I try to please myself, and then focus on the fact that by pleasing myself, I am likely pleasing someone else.

With deejay being such a strong aspect of the person I believe myself to be, it was very difficult for me when Freeform Portland made the decision to shutter their studios due to the Covid-19 virus. I have been a part of Freeform Portland since 2016, and my weekly trips from my home to the studio, my time in the studio broadcasting my show, and all of the time mentally preparing my show, were the focus of my week. Once the show was over, the cycle would repeat, week after week after week. All while I would rise in the morning, go to work, make my way through a day of work, return home and repeat that cycle five days a week. Work was never my focus, it existed as a necessary component to my decided focus on my radio show. Without work, there was no money for food, rent, or cups of coffee. Without money, there were no trips on public transit, back and forth to the radio station. 

However, since the beginning of April, there has been no money. There has been no radio station to visit. April upended what I viewed as my life. I went from slow motion to deadstop. Starting in April, I sat myself down in front of my laptop, and I am still sitting there four months later. I am like a stone sitting on a windswept landscape. Dirt and debris pile up against me, sometimes threatening to bury me. 

As you may know, Freeform Portland never stopped broadcasting. Yes, the studio was shuttered, and the volunteer deejays — who present their shows and make the radio station entertaining, engaging and a vital part of the radio landscape in Portland — were no longer physically able to do live music programming. Out of necessity, the station moved to pre-recorded programming. The deejays were asked to record their shows from home and submit the sound files to be slotted into a program that would broadcast the files to the public. This change was made almost seamlessly — and I doubt that many people in the listening audience noticed the change.  One of the sacrifices the station made in this switch was the schedule; the programming utilized was set up to randomly select a music file, at the start of every hour. This had the advantage of switching up the music being offered to the public more often, making the station more interesting; however, there were some deejays who opted not to participate in the making of sound files.

When I was informed of the station’s decision to continue on in this manner until it was safe to return to the studio, I assumed my radio career, such as it is, had come to a halt. I was at a loss as to how to make a sound file. I had no idea how I might go about recording myself, speaking to the audience and informing them of the songs they had just heard, to which station they were listening, and what might be coming next. Despite now having all of my music on my computer, the music was all part of itunes. I had no idea how to access the music itself, other than to burn CD-R’s or put music onto my ipod. 

It did not take me long however to examine the program I used to join together the archived broadcasts from the radio station. The station has always been recording the broadcasts, archiving them into hourly increments. I had found a web based program that I used to join together the two hourly sound files into one two hour file. I thought, well, if I can join two things together how about three? Four? Five? And so on. Turns out, I could: easy peasy. All I needed to do a radio show in this manner were MP3 files of songs that I could put together to form a show. You can not imagine how pleased I was to discover that I already had my entire collection of music in a folder on my computer somewhere, in the form of MP3’s. I had no idea. 

There was a learning curve. Aspects of the program I used to join the files presented themselves with further use. I learned how to crossfade songs. I learned to add a fadeout to the final song of the mix, so that my show would not end with a cold stop. I learned that I could use the same program to cut out blank spaces of songs, such as there are at the end, to make better segues between songs. And after making a few of these one hour mixes without any spoken parts, I found an app I could use on my phone to record my voice. It was as easy as speaking into my phone, emailing the file to myself, and including that file into the mix I was preparing, just like I included a particular song. 

This way of putting together a radio show was new to me as well. Being at home, with my entire collection at hand, created a different challenge of what to select. And there was the aspect of perfection. Selecting one song, and finding just the right song to follow and soon on. I found at first I labored over each song, choosing and choosing again, happy with some and then changing my mind. Which led to me spending way too much time on each mix and never being completely happy with the result. It was only after forgiving myself my faults, that I was able to charge forward with this new process, knowing that none of my live radio shows had ever been perfect. Why then should my recordings be so? With that attitude, putting together a mix soon took about the same amount of time as it would to listen to the mix on the radio. 

Despite the fact that the station had deviated from having a schedule in place, I very much wanted to continue to present a weekly show. I decided to go ahead each week with a weekly episode of my show, “It’s a Nice World to Visit,” divided into two parts, the first and the second hour. I knew that once I submitted them, they would be played at random, never likely to play in tandem. But after having lost the routine of my daily life to the virus, I felt it important to impose upon myself some rules, and keep to the commitment I had made when I joined Freeform Portland, presenting a weekly show. 

With all of my new found free time, I also was able to put together a number of hour long mixes in addition to my regular show: mixes of old rock n’ roll, mixes of dub music, mixes of instrumentals, mixes intended to have a calming effect. These mixes and more were all randomly programmed and played throughout the day on Freeform Portland, along with other mixes put together by other deejays. In this way the station kept broadcasting, even though some people were unable to put together mixes, or chose not to put together mixes. 

While all of this was going on, there were a few people at the station working on a program that could be used to broadcast pre-recorded mixes at a particular time, instead of at random: a system that would allow the station to resume scheduled programming, a system that would add a little order to daily chaos, a system that would be of help to the listening audience who might be fans of particular shows, so that they could now tune in at the scheduled time and actually hear that particular show. 

This program was implemented about a month ago as I write this piece. I have returned to making a two hour mix, once a week, to be played when my show appears on the schedule, Fridays at noon. 

There are still a few gaps in the schedule I am afraid, and when there is no mix scheduled, the system selects a random mix to be played. Deejays are still encouraged to add the occasional one hour mix. With my free time, I enjoy doing so. Deviating from the self imposed rules I use to put together my own shows, these one hour mixes allow me to play a few random garage rock songs, psychedelic tracks, or put together my impression of a dance mix. 

Scheduled programming is the return of an aspect of normalcy to the radio station. Perhaps the station will also at some point be able to allow deejays to broadcast live from their homes, from their own turntables and mixers. This would allow even more of the deejays at the station to participate in bringing music to the public.

All of this, all of this goes on while I sit at home. While I become ever more familiar with the walls of my home. With the dust in the corners. With the cobwebs that appear at ceiling corners. While my wife and I make trips in the car, often just to get out of the house, to feel less trapped. I lost my job. I lost the reason to leave my house on Fridays. I have had to come to grips with the fact that I am in fact frightened of contracting the virus. Whether the fear is based on fact or fiction, the fear exists. It keeps me in my home. I look for work, and I have a fear of actually being selected for a job, knowing that would mean exposing myself more often to a chance of contracting the virus. 

So I go round and round in the rectangle that is my living room, only really getting out almost as a spirit or astral projection of myself. Using the medium of radio, I still interact and engage, I still speak and play. I turn my best cheek to the public and let them see, let them judge. Let them be. 

No one knows for certain when the Freeform studio will be open again. Not until it is safe. Safe means when there is a vaccine. It will be many months of this routine, this new way of living. And after the vaccine, some doors will open, and some will remain shuttered. The new normal we are looking down the barrel at right now is only anyone’s best guess. If we all treat each other with kindness, patience, and wear our masks, we will all be able to see what happens together. 

Portland Guitar – An Interview with Jay and Max Dickinson

Jay and Max Dickinson of Portland Guitar aim to build guitars where sustainable sourcing and quality craftsmanship are the vital ingredients.

How did you get into crafting guitars?

I bought myself a book! Studied it for about ten years or so then bought a kit (it looked like firewood) and then bought another kit and then I was off.  I have been a wood worker for as long as I can remember. When I was 3 years old, maybe a little younger, my family was living in Heidelberg, Germany and my father and I found a piece of wood from a fence, it was red, and we made toy boat out of it. My dad was quite an accomplished wood carver and I watched and emulated him over the years, then adopted him as one of my heroes. I started puttering around in his shop; wood working and carving for the next 45 years or so until I decided that the corporate world and I did not agree with one another. In the meantime I had started thinking about building guitars having played one since I was fifteen. The first kit I bought looked like a couple of pieces of firewood where I had expected something more like the model airplane kits I built as a kid. My first attempt was serviceable and I was definitely infected with the guitar building bug. After building the first and then the second kit, I made an offer to my friends that if they paid for the materials I would build them a guitar. I got five orders in a few days and was set. I essentially got my friends to pay for me to learn how to build a guitar.  They got nice guitars out of the deal, I gained loads of experience, and everyone was happy. My next gambit was to make the offer of a guitar for twice the price of materials. Once again I was set, and with ten guitars under my belt I was feeling confident. I am now up to a hundred or so guitars. I have lost count.

Why did you choose the guitar over other instruments? 

Guitars are easy to build and I am lazy. Violins are hard and the customers are picky, pianos are really heavy, and I don’t play trumpet…so. The guitar is a cultural artifact above all else. It embodies the ethos of free and easy music that is easy to play and is accessible to the common person while having the potential of eliciting virtuosic performances from the uncommonly talented. It sounds good, is easy to carry (ever see a piano at a beach party?) easy to play, easy to acquire (serviceable guitars can be had for a couple of hundred dollars). I also play the guitar myself, so I have an inside connection with the instrument. I am my most critical customer. I love wood and what you can do with it. It comes with a certain spirit to it that if you are careful the guitar embodies. This stuff was a living being once; standing in a forest perhaps for a hundred years or more and then some jerk comes along and cuts it down. I think about the tree and its environment and what we are doing and its viability. Well, I can rescue some of that wood and give it a new life that will bring enduring happiness and joy to many people. In the future we are anticipating what new materials we will be using, looking into alternatives such as bamboo and hemp. But in the end, it must still be a guitar.  

Is there a specific sound your guitars have over others?  How do you achieve that sound?

If you will, we are striving to build guitars with a modern sound that is loud, responsive, harmonious, and articulate. We work to create something new while maintaining the spirit of the guitar. To build a better guitar I looked for where the problems were.  

The first is called intonation. A fancy way to say that the notes from the upper frets are around 5% out of tune due to the tempered scale the guitar plays in. I’ve found a way to fix the intonation in a way that is nearly perfect. This creates a sound that is crisp all the way up and down the fretboard. This is great for audio engineers and musicians who need every note to be on target. 

The second is in the mass and stiffness of the top. We’ve created an optimized system where they can both can be tuned. This means in large guitars we can craft big bass heavy low frequencies and in a smaller guitar we can craft delicate high frequencies. This creates for a sound that is unmatched to the other high-end brand name guitars we have tried. 

The Portland Guitar Shop in SW Portland

Do you both play guitar?

Jay: I have been playing for about 48 years and am fond of saying that next year I will learn how. This year I am practicing playing without looking at the fretboard. I started out playing violin in my grade school orchestra, but that ended when I broke my arm. I picked up the guitar when I was fifteen and have been playing ever since. I have never taken lessons, but have studied music theory so I understand the mechanics more or less. Unfortunately in the past I tended to play very technically. In the last few years I have been striving to play more intuitively, by ear if you will, (no, I don’t read music, ack, next year for sure) and to let my expressiveness come out. I think I am making progress; at least I am having a good time. I am not a musician, I am a guy that plays guitar for fun and can make a few sounds that don’t annoy too many people, but if you aren’t paying, you can’t complain. My main thrust in playing is blues based rhythmic progressions; I like to set up a rhythm and then jam to it.

Max: I’ve played guitar on and off form a long time. It’s a hobby that I’ll spend my life slowly getting better at. I played my first chords in middle school in a lesson from my dad. Then I started playing again in college then put it down for awhile and picked it back up when I joined Portland Guitar.  

What sort of music are you tuning into these days?

This is so trite, but I really enjoy most types of music, but some more than others. My go-to tunes includes a lot of jam band centered music, Grateful Dead et.al., Phish, Allman Bros., Beethoven, Dylan, Zappa, JJ Cale, Beatles, Marley etc.. On the radio I have been listening to a lot of jazz these days. It confused me for so long, so I decided to immerse myself in jazz until I got a handle on it (a fool’s errand I suppose). We saw Herbie Hancock play at the zoo and he was fantastic, but I couldn’t figure out what he was doing… that dude is out there. Nonetheless I decided to teach myself some jazz skills and have been making a little progress. I can pick out a few chord progressions these days. What’s more important though is the music we make ourselves. We don’t have to be virtuosos or anything to have fun. A couple of people, a drum kit, a few guitars and amps, a song or two and you can have a real good time. I call it electric parlor music. Music is the best!

Noah Fence interviews King of the Slums

On the occasion of the release of King of the Slums’ new album, Encrypted Contemporary Narratives, Noah Fence interviews Charley Keigher and Clarissa Trees of the band.

From the band’s bandcamp page:

King of the Slums are probably the most ‘under the radar’ and important band to come from Manchester. They started up around 1985 in the Hulme area of Manchester, but never considered themselves a ‘Manchester’ band – just a band with an arty background, a little self-indulgent and gritty, story-type songs.

Noah: Thank you both, for joining me and agreeing to answer a few questions. As I write this,  your new album, Encrypted Contemporary Narratives, is only a few days away from being released. Can you tell me about the writing and recording process for this album, and what it means to be releasing an album during this current pandemic?

Charlie:  We wrote the album in late October last year, we had a break before mixing it, the lockdown kicked in and we couldn’t get in a studio to finish it. But the mixing went really well and sounded fresh. So we are very pleased with it. We wrote a load more stuff during lockdown and are thinking about developing all that.

 Clarissa: Hi Noah, thanks for inviting us! It seems like another lifetime that we started writing the album, back in March 2019. Because I live in Scotland, there were lots of fragments of ideas bouncing back and forth electronically for a while, until we had the chance to get together and finalise stuff. Recording happened between September and March, in fact Charlie got his vocals finished only a couple of weeks before we went into lockdown here in the UK. Then it was just a case of waiting it out until we could get back into the studio and mix it all, which finally happened at the end of July. Sometimes it felt very frustrating to have so much unexpected free time but not be able to finish the project, but that was minor compared to everything else that was going on. And once we were in the studio again it felt great to get back to work in a very focused way. Now I’m just happy that it’s ready and I hope our music will help to cheer folk up a bit…

Noah: The new album is being released on your own label, SLR Records. Are you happy with self-release and self distribution that is available to bands today, via the internet and web sites such as Bandcamp?

Clarissa: I’ll let Charlie answer this one!

Charlie: You can essentially finish mixing a song at midnight and have it available for digital download the next day. But the physical release still takes forever, CD/VINYL. 

We do have a distributor for physical releases, so it being in a record shop is great and I think it’s a whole heap more special when it’s a tangible product rather than a file on your hard drive. 

Noah:  This is the group’s third album since reforming. Can you tell me about the circumstances that lead to the band reforming?

Charlie: I got kidnapped in Mexico city, the guy had a King of the Slums T shirt on, I got released coz I showed him my KOTS tattoo, I felt it was a sign to finish what was started. Been at it since.

Clarissa: I got an email out of the blue late one night in 2017 asking me if I’d be interested in working with a tiny, under-the-radar band called King of the Slums. The message included links to some of the old-school stuff (including the famous Snub TV performance of Fanciable Headcase) and also the more recent Manco Diablo album. At first I thought it must be a scam, then after I looked at the links and realised it was a genuine request I still almost declined, thinking that with my age and my classical background I absolutely definitely wasn’t cool enough to be in a band like KOTS. Then I had a think and it was a “nothing ventured, nothing gained” kind of moment…I decided I was up for a challenge, it would be an experience far outside my comfort zone but there was no harm in going for an initial session to see if they liked me! Well that initial session went okay and within weeks we’d started proper work on the Artgod Dogs album…

Noah:  The band seems to be a well established going concern now…I am curious about live performances. Was the band playing live very often before the pandemic? With the release of this new album, do you think there will be any live performance opportunities in the future? 

Charlie: In the early days we played out a lot. But since the reform, it’s very seldom due to logistics of the personnel, we live all over the UK, and I am incredibly fussy about accepting LIVE appearances. But I personally wouldn’t mind doing more stuff, if only to create a LIVE album, which is what I truly would like to happen one day.  

Clarissa: We’ve only played live four times since the comeback gig (at Night and Day in Manchester in June 2018). Logistically it’s very tricky because the band are geographically distant from each other, with Charlie in Manchester, me in Scotland and Stu (drums) Nic (bass) and Dave (live guitar) all in Sheffield. (Snake Pass is an infamous road that connects Manchester with Sheffield, over the Pennines, so it earned a place on the album after several journeys to rehearsals late last year, often in atrocious weather!) In principle though, we’d love to play live again, I think some of the tracks on the new album would be amazing live, but there’s so much uncertainty about what’s going to be possible with music coming back in smaller venues… I just really hope the venues and the industry get enough support to keep going until we can all get through this.

Noah: I discovered King Of The Slums in 1989, with the release of the album, Dandelions, and was blindsided by the band’s unique sound. The standard guitar, bass and drums are off-set by the inclusion of the violin, which often cuts across the sound of each song, and makes the band’s noise one that you can hardly forget or ignore. With the changes in the line up, and the break up and reformation of the band, how have you managed to keep the band’s sound so consistent?

Charlie: We did an album with no violin, MANCO DIABLO, which did really well, but then Clarrissa, turned up, she kinda gets it, the whole KOTS sound, so she is rather brilliant at what she does, so Violins, distorted/discordant and sweet sounding are back in and going real strong….

Clarissa: Great question! Sarah’s were certainly big shoes to fill, I felt the weight of expectation from the fans before Artgod Dogs came out, and especially before playing live for the first time. I listened to absolutely everything KOTS on repeat for months, to try and distill into my own playing whatever it was that made the KOTS violin sound so unique, and learning the back catalogue for the gigs really helped with that (nothing was written down, and there are no surviving isolated violin tracks from the old recordings, so I had to work it all out by ear). Artgod Dogs is a little bit different because it’s all viola, and the viola is a lot mellower than the violin. But since the Peak Human Experience EP I’m now back on the violin, so we tried in this latest album to capture that rawness again, with the violin as a character in the songs, a character with a personality disorder perhaps?! I have to constantly remind myself that people aren’t expecting the violin to sound beautiful, which is always what was expected when I was part of the classical world, and it still feels quite rebellious to turn the distortion right up on the amp and use the violin in such a percussive and rhythmic way. 

Noah:  Another aspect of the band that I have long enjoyed are the lyrics. The lyrics seem to be wry, witty and observational. Telling stories about people one might not always be so lucky to have met. Have you always been a writer, and turned your focus towards songs? Or did your interest in music lead you to the necessity of putting words to the music?

Clarissa: Another one for Charlie!

Charlie: Originally, I was the guitarist and was looking to find a vocalist for a few words I had written, alas I had to make do with myself doing vocals. The lyrics are usually written to amuse myself on some level. I then kinda put them to the band, with no intention of changing them at all. Clarissa does help me with the phrasing…

Noah: Thank you both again for answering a few of my questions. Hope you and your families are all well and safe.

Clarissa: Thank you Noah, it’s been our pleasure, thinking of you guys in Portland too.

King of the Slums’ new album, Encrypted Contemporary Narratives, is available September 25 on bandcamp

Shamir, A Feminine Guy who Wears his Perfections on his Sleeve

Shamir Bailey was born in Las Vegas, Nevada on Nov 7, 1994. He is known mononymously as Shamir, an American singer, songwriter, activist and actor. Shamir was raised by his mother and was inspired to make music with the support of his aunt who was in the music business. He grew up being influenced by producers, musicians and bass players who frequently visited his family’s house and supported his aunt, who was a songwriter. At age 9, he received an Epiphone guitar on his birthday and began writing music. He started a punk band at the age of 16 but this was short lived due to a band mate’s intense stage fright (wiki).

Pitchfork Over/Under Shamir
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Five Album Reviews

Lately it seems that the world has been put on pause. The situation with the Covid-19 virus grows ever more serious, especially so in light of our federal government shirking off their duty to act, suggesting that each state instead take charge. So fifty different approaches to a common problem. Please don’t blame me for adopting the ostrich approach. I have ducked my head and body into my home and rarely make an appearance. I am waiting for the vaccine to be home-delivered.

In the meantime, although musicians can longer play live on a local stage, they have found ways to give concerts and performances online, and also release new music. Here are some brief reviews of some new or recent albums that have been released, and that you might have heard on my radio show, “It’s a Nice World to Visit

  1. Sonic Boom All Things Being Equal

This album has been out for a while now, the first album he has released in a long number of years. It is well worth the wait. At the heart of each song, there seems to be a drone — a single note made constant, one which each song builds and dances around. It is both beautiful and dark. A record that answers your glance into it with a healthy dose of what you already have inside. If you want it to be dark, then that is what you will hear. But, if you open up your ears, you may well be transported.

I recommend the following tracks:

Just Imagine

I Can See Light Bend

Things Like This (A Little Bit Deeper)

  1. Bo Ningen Sudden Frictions

This is the fourth album by the band Bo Ningen. On this album the band experiments with their sound. The only way I can describe it is they have created more space between the instruments, while keeping something clinging to the necessary tension needed to engage the listener. The approach is less headlong, but never lacks in beauty. The lyrics are mainly in Japanese and although I have no idea what the band is saying, I do not find that to be a barrier of any kind. Music is universal. There is a groove of sorts to the songs on this record. Like one might have heard while listening to Can or The Fall. Not the sort of groove you find on the dancefloor, this is the sort of groove you find in a heartbeat.

I recommend:

AKA

Silenced

B.C

  1. Yo La Tengo We Have Amnesia Sometimes

This new release by Yo La Tengo is a five song EP, consisting of what appears to be ambient music. Much like bands that have inspired them, they have mastered the drone. Each track builds and separates itself slightly from the note at the heart of the piece. The instrumentation is minimal: organ, guitar bass, and almost incidental percussion. Pleasant to listen to, but distracting enough that it keeps my interest. Listening, I find myself waiting for the changes. 

I like the fact that while the pieces work as individual tracks, they also work in full; the EP builds from the first track to the next, with a satisfying conclusion. 

I recommend:

Georgia considers the two blue ones (Thursday)

James and Ira demonstrate mysticism and some confusion holds (Monday)

  1. Bdrmm  Bedroom

This is a new band, and this is their debut album. I think it is fair to say that nostalgia runs on a twenty year cycle; the noise generated by this quintet would fit well with your albums by My Bloody Valentine, Ride or Chapterhouse. Noting this does not diminish this album in any way; it is an album made with enthusiasm, love, care and craft. The sound entrances and intrigues. The melodic shimmer of each song is a pure delight. I have had this one on repeat for a while now and am already eager to hear more releases by this band.

I recommend:

A Reason To Celebrate

Push/Pull

If…

  1. The Psychedelic Furs Made Of Rain

 It has been a while since we had a new album by The Psychedelic Furs to talk about. In that time the band has gone through some membership shifts, while the brothers Butler — Richard and Tim — remain at the core. The sound on this album could well be just one step away, the follow up to their third album “Forever Now”. The band noise on this record has the necessary density to be recognized as their classic sound — front and center above the beautiful chaos is Richard Butler’s voice, as distinguishable as Dylan’s or Reed’s, with his imagistic lyrics, suggesting thoughts you wish you had had. A perfect return full of grand gestures and subtleties in equal measure.

I recommend:

The Boy that invented Rock N’ Roll

You’ll Be Mine

Come All Ye Faithful

200 Visits to a Nice World

Hello there. Come in, come in..

Welcome to my blog piece, in which I will discuss, as the title suggests, the 200th episode of my radio show, It’s a Nice World to Visit. Also, it seems fair to warn you here at the outset of this piece, that this is a self-congratulatory bit of prose — and I can barely get my fingers on the keyboard, after having metaphorically broken my arms in six places, patting myself on the back.

If you would like to adjust your goggles for the long view, you are welcome to do so… but I am only going to cover that ground ever so briefly here, as it has been well documented in prior blog pieces (feel free to check those earlier blog posts here). But out of kindness to us all, if you are going to leave now, exit the room quickly, so that the open door does not give us all light blindness — the period of adjustment for my pupils is getting longer every day. Now then, briefly: Freeform Portland began broadcasting in April of 2016, I was among the first group of people selected to be a deejay on the station. My show is a weekly broadcast, and seeing as how it is now 2020, simple math suggests we are now on the tea cup lip of my 200th episode.

Let me say to those of you reading this piece, that if you have been listening for a long time now: thank you! It may not be self-evident, but my show is a cooperative effort. I am the noise and you are the ears. I am the tree that fell in the forest, and you are on the other end of that vibration wave. When I am in the midst of broadcasting my show, one of the tricks I use is to imagine a person listening and focus my intent upon that imagined person. If, on the other hand, you have only recently discovered my show, I hope you are enjoying it. The show is intended to be musically entertaining, slightly informative and certainly distracting. No matter what the current circumstance, in which you find yourself, I hope the music I play will cause you to forget it all for a moment. Music should be a balm for the human condition, the busy inner voice that self-judges and pre-supposes our own decisions and choices. It should quell that voice so we can see straight — and get on with the things that make life worth living

I would also like to point out that my 200th episode will be the first episode since March that will in fact be broadcast at the regularly scheduled time. I am chuffed and visibly excited (too bad you can’t see me shaking in my seat right now) to have my show and all of the other shows on Freeform Portland back on schedule, for the first time since operations changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The return to the schedule is due to the hard work behind the scenes by a few people here at Freeform, who in addition to doing radio shows, volunteer their time and knowledge to ensure that the station runs. Sure, maybe not as precise and correct as an atomic clock, no. The station runs as well as a wristwatch, providing you remember to keep it wound. It requires a little bit of work and a lot of love to bring you all of the fine radio programs on Freeform Portland. I hope you will join me in a round of applause for all the hard work, past, present and future. 

(pause while the applause begins, builds, reverberates round the room, and grows quieter to silence as all return to their seats)

Circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the shuttering of our broadcasting studio inside the Baker Building in North Portland for the safety of all of the deejays. Since that day in March, Freeform Portland has been broadcasting a selection of pre-recorded mixes, put together by a number of our deejays, both past and present. The trick with these mixes was, although we did have the technology to broadcast them for public consumption, we could only do so randomly. Like many of my fellow deejays, I did not let that fact deter me and I continued to produce my weekly episodes, comforted in the fact that they would be broadcast over the air — and perhaps due the random aspect, hook in a few new listeners to my show. Considering the time passed since the shutdown, I must have made a dozen episodes from home; along with a handful of extra mixes to be broadcast as well, to keep the radio waves filled with music.

Working from home and producing mixes presented a new set of challenges for me, as I am sure it did for my fellow deejays. I had to figure out some program that would allow me to put songs together, which in truth, was easier than I would have thought. Working with the program, however, took a bit of adjustment. The flow of doing a radio show live was interrupted by doing a show at home. Live, the songs would play from start to finish, and the beat, the rhythm, of the song would often select the next track. But working from home, I found that I would select a track and hear only the first few seconds of the track, before selecting the next one, and the next one, and so on. It took me weeks to discover I could listen to the selected songs with the program I was using to meld them from single songs into a mix. Once I figured that out, the flow of song-to-song got better, if I can be so unhumble.

One of the oddest things for me was a means by which to record my voice, to do station IDs and mic breaks, to let listeners know what songs that they had just heard. Being a bit of a luddite, I had never used the microphone or camera that came with my laptop. Using the microphone, though, proved problematic, as it resulted in too much ambient noise (the running of the washing machine in the background…). I settled instead on an app for my cell phone, and used it to record myself speaking, then emailing that sound file to myself and placing it in the proper place in the mix, just as I would a song.

These processes have all become second nature to me now, with practice becoming routine of sorts. Although I long for the day that we can return to the studio, and do live broadcasting. What really helped me, though, while I adjusted to this new way of doing things, was my fellow deejays. Using Zoom, we all began to communicate with each other, to offer help and suggestions how to do this or how to do that. We picked each other up and carried our weight together. The fact that Freeform Portland has been broadcasting 24/7, regardless of the pandemic, is due to everyone who volunteers their time and energy to the station. And if you have been tuning in, I bet you will have noticed that during these past few months, the station has offered some of the best programming in its short, but incredible, history.

If you tuned in on a Friday, you must have heard some of that top notch programming I just mentioned. One of our deejays, Tock The Watchdog, who hosts the show, Slow Poison In Your Champagne, Thursdays at 4 PM, had the brilliant idea of making Friday an event day. She suggested that the deejays make special half hour mixes based on a theme that would change weekly. These mixes and the day soon became some of the most fun bits of radio I had the privilege to hear. The deejay response became so overwhelming that the event programming took up the day of broadcasting, and the shows were repeated the next day, giving listeners a chance to catch all of the shows, should they wish to do so. Thus, it basically encompassed the weekend of programming for Freeform Portland. And behind the scenes, while the music was playing, the station invited the deejays to an informal Zoom meeting, where we could greet each other, laugh with one another, discuss music or movies, etc. I did not know it until I attended one such meeting, but I sorely missed all of these people. 

My 200th episode (remember now, this blog piece was supposed to be about this episode of my show…) will be broadcast on Friday July 3rd, starting at Noon PST, which is the tail end of the return of scheduled programming for the station, which began on June 29th. It has taken a while, but we now have the functioning technology in place to play shows at their given time, as noted on the schedule.  As it is a special episode of sorts, I am working on a theme for the episode. I will be featuring duos, rock n’ roll groups that feature two members. Bands such as Suicide, The Vacant Lots, The White Stripes, or Moon Duo spring to mind, but I will be perfectly fine including the likes Nancy & Lee, Dean & Britta, or Fripp & Eno. I am looking forward to it. Hope you will join me.

Thanks for reading this piece. Thanks for listening. Thanks for supporting Freeform Portland. I know, as you listen, the station may seem to be an anonymous voice, but trust me: we are your friends, we are your neighbors, and together we can all move forward, to make the world in which we live a better and safer place.

DJ Ducky Interviews Toronto Songwriter Three Headed Elephant

Like any good little millennial, the first obligation I had when I heard that my co-host and I were given a show on Freeform Portland last year was to create an Instagram.

With our measly 50ish followers, we don’t have much reach, but given the current state of the nation (awful) and a growing desire to use our radio platform for more than just the same Clairo/Phoebe Bridgers/etc. on repeat, we decided to put out a call to our small group for truly independent musicians to send us music so that we could play them on our show. 

With any call to action online, you’re bound to get a few weirdos and/or nudes. 

Luckily, I got neither! We ended up with an artist we like, who deserves to be heard and known, and kindly granted us an interview – our first one ever! Needless to say, I’m excited the whole process went much more smoothly than I thought it would, but I’m also very excited to introduce the artist: Wolfgang, AKA Three Headed Elephant. 

It’s truly crazy what the Internet is capable of… 

Sometimes kindness, sometimes awful, always mesmerizing. 

You can check out one of our new favorite Toronto musicians’ music here:

Listen to Three Headed Elephant on Bandcamp or Spotify, and Soundcloud for covers and tinkerings

Follow Three Headed Elephant on Instagram

And read what Wolfgang of Three Headed Elephant has to say about the creative process below…

Ducky: Tell me about your artist name and how you came up with it…

Wolfgang: I’m Wolfgang also known as Three Headed Elephant. The name Three Headed Elephant was inspired by Buddhism imagery.

Ducky: Where are you located? 

Wolfgang: I’m from Toronto, Ontario. 

Ducky: What/Who inspired you to make music?

Wolfgang: My father is an accordion player so I grew up always listening to music and surrounded by music always… I think subconsciously this is what inspired me to make music at a very young age.

Ducky: How would you describe the music you typically create and gravitate toward?

Wolfgang: I would say my music is blues/folk/soul/funk… it jumps from genre to genre. I don’t want to limit myself to one thing…

Ducky: I listened to “So Happy” first since you sent it to me and loved the way it captured the emotion you must have been feeling when you wrote it and feels like it nicely captures an exact moment in time. Definitely a great song for summer and spending time outside with the guitar riffs! Your sound reminded me of Eef Barzelay/Clem Snide mixed with lofi (obviously)/surf indie. Is that a totally inaccurate depiction? 😂

Wolfgang: I really love what you said about “So Happy” it definitely has a beach chill type vibe to it so that is funny you said surf indie. 

Ducky: What would you say the process is and inspirations are for your songwriting?

Wolfgang: I just write… My process is very simple. Whenever I feel inspired by anything I write about it and then I try to find ways to sing about that particular thing.

Ducky: If you could play on a stage at any festival, which one would you choose? 

Wolfang: I would love to perform at Osheaga one day.

Ducky: How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business? (Good or bad?)

Wolfgang: I think the internet has impacted the music industry in a wonderful way because now anyone can put their music out there and the sense of community on social media is heartwarming, to say the least. 

Ducky: Speaking of the internet… Are you a vinyl/cd/tape or digital/streaming listener?

Wolfgang: I have a vinyl collection… but I mostly listen to stuff online these days.

Ducky: Which famous musicians do you admire and why?

Wolfgang: Some of my inspirations are Ian Curtis, Florence Welch, David Bowie and Brittany Howard. I really love Florence Welch and her energy. The way she dances on stage and sings, she is very captivating to watch. I also really admire Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes, the way she sings, you can tell she is singing straight from her soul… she really tugs on my heartstrings every time I listen to her.

Ducky: Do you have any hobbies or creative passions outside of music-making that you like to use to help you in your creative process?

Wolfgang: I love to dance. That definitely helps me in my creative process… lol

Ducky: And finally, what’s one song that changed your life?

Wolfgang: One song that changed my life… that is tough because I feel that there are so many songs that have really changed my life but one particular song I always seem to gravitate back to is “Giving Up” by Donny Hathaway.

DJ Ducky’s favorite song from the debut album by Three Headed Elephant:
Let Me Carry Something for You

This song, along with all others on the debut, have the ability to both transfix and calm the listener in their sheer simplicity. While there are lofi vibes and folksy lyrics throughout the entire debut (which a lofi lovin’ girl like me adores), “Let Me Carry Something for You” is the song that spoke to me most. It’s refreshing to hear something so bare bones and raw which reminds me of the indie folk artists in the DFW area I often listened to in college. And that raw emotion speaks to Three Headed Elephant’s desire to tap into those blues and soul inspirations. This song in particular has such a powerful emotional element in its uncomplicated lyrics and speaks to the true heart of a rock solid relationship – the willingness and longing to be a backbone and solid foundation for another human being, even when you have your own shit to carry. 

Let Me Carry Something for You takes a cliche relational notion and turns it into a beautiful portrait of that longing you feel when you empathize and sensitize to the plight of those around you. And I couldn’t think of a better song for the world today.

DJ Ducky and her co host DJ Petrie are the amateurs behind Invasion of the Indiesauruses | Fridays 6-8am.