Wooden Wand: interview

In recent years, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the music of Wooden Wand, the alter ego of James Jackson Toth. I first stumbled upon Wooden Wand’s music after much ground had already been covered — my first exposure was actually through Catherine Irwin’s version of “We Must Also Love the Thieves,” on her excellent Little Heater record in 2012. Intrigued by the lyrics, I followed the thread back and discovered an extensive collection of material already available. Delving into the Wooden Wand discography can be somewhat overwhelming, due to its varied and extensive nature, consisting of multiple collaborations, compilations, singles, on a variety of labels. 

When describing Wooden Wand to someone unfamiliar, I often pause before starting with the well-trodden term “singer songwriter,” which is inadequate and inaccurate, especially as there is so much more to the body of work.  It’s a cliche, but Wooden Wand really doesn’t fit into any particular genre, with releases stretching from the countryish to the psychedelic. The voluminous and restless nature of Wooden Wand is reminiscent of the late Vic Chesnutt or of Howe Gelb — other artists, who appear to have an endless stream of new ideas and words, seemingly defiant of the music industry in their peripatetic and irrepressible need to create new work.  Like these artists too (or like Nick Cave or David Berman, whose recent death still comes as a shock), Toth has an ability to write a line that sticks with you for days as you unravel it in your mind, such as starting a song,“They suspended mail delivery on account of all the roving dogs, twice a week I go in to collect my bills”

Continue reading →

Noah Fence Interviews Raymond Gorman of That Petrol Emotion and The Everlasting Yeah

Noah Fence First off, Raymond, thank you for agreeing to let me interview you. Please tell me about growing up in Ireland, your musical influences. What led you to pick up and play the guitar?

Raymond Gorman Hi, no problem. I grew up in Derry in the north-west of Ireland – it’s the place where all the “troubles” kicked off. I had a completely loving and idyllic childhood until the age of 7, after that things became very turbulent and I witnessed a lot of violence, living through bombings and shootings in the city until I left to go to college at 18. 

I was sent by my parents to learn classical piano at an early age and took to it very easily. I could sight read and reached a pretty good level fairly quickly however my teacher was an epileptic and one day he had a proper fit and fell on top of me pinning me to the keys whilst I played. I was completely traumatised as a result (I thought he was dead) and unfortunately was unable to ever return to lessons. Bye bye classical. Hello pop music.

Continue reading →

The NEW Sounds of Summer

By: DJ Ducky / Jessie Stepan

We’ve all heard The Beach Boys. You can’t live in America, especially on the Western seaboard, without hearing at least ONE song by the golden-haired Californians. The Beach Boys are to surf music what The Beatles were to modern pop – the perfectors, the originals, a generations-spanning supergroup. For fans of surf rock, it’s easy to think of other names in the genre. Maybe you’ve heard of Dick Dale – the unofficial inventor of the musical subgenre, The Turtles, The Rip Chords, or The Surfaris. For those of you who may have only heard “Good Vibrations”, though, grab your puka (those are back in style now, you know), your suntan lotion, and buckle up for the surfari of a lifetime as I take you into the new millennium and give you a glimpse into the modern era of the surf rock genre. Long gone are the days of the soda fountain and little deuce coupe. I love the Beach Boys & co just as much as the next dad, but it’s time for a more modern spin on the classic sunset filtered, rose-colored tinge of Western beach tunes. Turns out you don’t have to be a Trey to take inspiration from the classic sounds of summer. So in no particular order I introduce you all to the NEW sounds of summer, surf, and shakas.

Continue reading →

Dub in Effect

Summertime. The portion of the globe, on which we reside, turns its cheek to the sun. The light is bright. Brighter sometimes than the eye can stand; hence, the sunglasses. The light is warm. The light is hot. I remain amazed at the energy contained in the light from the sun. Moving from a shady spot into bright sunlight, the increased warmth on my skin is instantaneous. The hairs on my arms stand up in the heat. All from an object so far away, so far overhead, producing such massive amounts of energy, that my comprehension of it is that of a middle school age brain. Somewhere along the growth path, age continued and my brain ceased to grow along with it. 

In addition to admitting that my brain is only so big, and can only deal with issues, ideas and problems related to its metaphorical size, summertime turns my thoughts to Dub music, a version of Reggae music, originating from the island of Jamaica. I suppose it is the association of an island and the sunlight. Cliched, sure; but I celebrate cliches. At least to myself, I admit to them freely.

Continue reading →

The Importance of Odion Livingstone Records and the Impetus of Decolonizing African Music

African and Asian musicians are often living subserviently working for a white privileged man practicing homogenous postcolonialism. For decades, and to this day, African and Asian music was/is controlled by European and American corporations of the global north who impose their capitalist structures onto the south. In England with EMI, this meant: 1) pushing their products into the south to inundate and influence the markets; and 2) investing in studio infrastructure in former colonies to record and market music regionally, with no real intention of allowing it back the other way to compete globally. More often than not, these local studios employed professionals who were connected to the music scene and could find and sign talent.

Continue reading →

Noah Fence interviews Vanessa Briscoe Hay of Pylon and Pylon Reenactment Society

N.F.The band, Pylon, formed in Athens, Georgia in 1979. I assume that you moved to Athens, Georgia, to go to college; so can you tell me about how the band, Pylon, formed? Were there common musical influences that brought the band together?

V.B.H. The band was initially formed by Randy Bewley in the fall of 1978 with his roommate Micheal Lachowski as an art project. He convinced Michael it would be a good idea and they set out to choose instruments, learn how to play them, and write songs. We were friends in art school at UGA in Athens and went to a lot of the same parties. There was a local record shop, Chapter 3, within just a few blocks of the art school, that brought in all the latest things from New York, San Francisco, London, Germany. They gave parties and brought in bands, like John Cale and the Cramps. And we had the B-52s, the worlds best party band, just starting out. Atlanta was one hour driving distance away, with bands like the Brains, and a stopping place on tour for a lot of bands we wanted to hear, like the Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie and Elvis Costello. All these things were kind of swirling around.

So, Randy and Michael were practicing the same riffs over and over together in Michael’s drawing studio in downtown Athens in the fall of 1978 and early 1979. Curtis Crowe, another art student – and the one that they sublet the space from- was living upstairs in a loft that was jokingly called the 40 Watt Club, because it was lit by a lone bulb hanging from a wire in the ceiling.  

Continue reading →

Remembering DJ Anita Sarko: The Only Downtown Club Trendsetter That Mattered

by Taylor Hill

Taylor Hill’s tribute episode “Danceteria: Selections from DJ Anita Sarko” will air live on Freeform Portland Wednesday June 26th at 4pm Pacific.

There’s a random trajectory to Anita Sarko’s formative years. She grew up in Detroit and was educated in Arizona. Her first DJ gig was at a college radio station in Atlanta. But her appetite for culture soon led her to New York, where her story really starts. After firmly planting herself at the center of the bustling NYC club culture, she quickly became known for her eclectic and evocative musical mix.

In 1979 she became the VIP room DJ at Tribeca’s Mudd Club. It was here that DJ Anita Sarko became the selector antithesis to Studio 54’s blown out schmaltzy disco glam, and established herself as a genre defying taste maker, among the first to bring hip hop downtown. As the 80s raged on she became the resident DJ at the all too hip all too new wave Danceteria.

Continue reading →

How The Moog Synthesizers Helped Revolutionize the Sound of Hip Hop

by William Vance

When Robert Moog sold his first vacuum-tube theremin kit back in the early 1950s, one would scarcely imagine he envisioned the world-changing impacts of his inventions upon the music industry. We have come to love these sounds over the past half-century and can quickly pinpoint the rich and warm analog timbres of a Moog synthesizer from Eddie Van Halen to Michael Jackson records and more.

Continue reading →

Roky Erickson

Like you I am sitting here thinking about Roky Erickson. I heard the news that he passed away two days ago.  Sad news. Since I was on my computer when I heard the news, my immediate reaction was to check my ipod, and load up a few 13th Floor Elevators songs I had not heard in a while. A fairly pitiful reaction I admit. But I did not know the man personally, I knew his music; so that is where I went to find solace and a connection.

Continue reading →