amazing icon

?uestlove To Teach NYU Class, College To Get 1000 Times Cooler

If there were anything to make you want to go back to college again “ besides the socially acceptable binge drinking, sleeping until noon, and wearing sweatpants to dinner “ it would probably be taking a class with ?uestlove. Yes, that’s right. This spring, The Roots drummer will be teaching a two credit class on classic albums at the Clive Davis Institue for Recorded Music at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The course’s tentative syllabus involves the analysis of time“tested albums such as Led Zeppelin IV and Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall in order to understand the many factors that go into making those select albums designated classics. Billboard reports that ?uestlove will be co“teaching the course in conjunction with Harry Weinger, the vice president of A&R at Universal Music Enterprises.

(more…)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sound And Vision: The Diminishing Returns of the No. 1 Single

No. 1 with a bullet: Ah, that once-relatively elusive and exclusive room at the top. The holy grail for the pop single, it used to be as high an honor and as highly desirable as gold and platinum albums. But what does it mean when a star as marginally talented as Katy Perry can hit No. 1 five times on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the space of one album (six times in one and a half albums, if you count Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection)? Or when Rihanna, who still hasn’t scored a chart-topping album in six tries, can do in less than six years what took Madonna a dozen (hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 one time short of a dozen)?

Does Teenage Dream have, well, a dream of ever being as iconic as Michael Jackson‘s Bad (which spawned five No. 1 hits and thus shares the record for most No. 1 singles from one album with Teenage Dream), George Michael‘s Faith (which produced four) or even Adele‘s 21 (a contemporary that launched three), none of which had to be re-released as a special expanded edition in order to pad its hit list and sales tally? For all her No. 1 singles, will any Rihanna album thus far ever be considered as landmark as Madonna’s 1983 self-titled debut through 1989’s Like a Prayer, which covered a comparable career time frame? Rihanna’s yet to even break through the double-platinum glass ceiling.

Then there’s Carly Rae Jepsen‘s Call Me Maybe, which just spent nine weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, making it the biggest song of the summer, if not 2012. It also makes her a surefire nominee for Best New Artist at the 2013 GRAMMY Awards ceremony. She’ll face stiff-ish competition from Gotye and fun., who spent eight and six weeks at No. 1, respectively, with their respective singles, Somebody That I Used to Know and We Are Young. (more…)

The Sound of Science

In the latest innovation from personal genomics company 23andMe, consumers can not only see their genetic code; they can hear it. The California company is now offering a feature that allows users to convert the information from their DNA into a unique melody. In addition to a complete report on a customer’s personal genetic makeup, the company’s new lab transforms each aspect of a person’s DNA into a musical parameter. The algorithm, developed by San Francisco composer Mark Ackerly, derives musical characteristics from personal attributes, such as height or eye color, and then combines the separate musical facets to create a short, cohesive composition. Each compositional aspect, including rhythm, pitch, and note length, corresponds to a particular portion of the user’s genotype. Hear Ackerly’s example DNA melody below. While this is certainly a really cool technology, we’re looking forward to a time when our personal DNA melodies will sound more like a Led Zeppelin tune than a four“year“old trying unsuccessfully to play “Chopsticks” for the first time.

More like this:

Peace Out

NikTex

Nikole Texidore grew up listening to her father, jazz percussionist J. Habao Texidor, tell stories about sharing the stage with Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, and Jimi Hendrix. It didn’t take long for that rich heritage to awaken Texidore’s own talents, which are considerable. NikTex is the product of those talents, a collaboration between Texidor and her musical partner, multi-instrumentalist Manjinder Benning. Together, the duo composes poppy, ethereal folk melodies flecked with jazz and Eastern influences. Red Guitar combines a lulling little guitar line with the scratch of guero and Texidore’s luminous, multi-tracked vocals for a jazzy, off-kilter melody. On This Too Will Pass a simple acoustic guitar line leads to a thicket of textures: running water, chirping birds, shaken percussion. NikTex are adept at braiding together different sounds, like on Pantyhose, which features tabla, muted synth sequences, guitar, and languorous, sleepy harmonies. Next stop: blissful oblivion.

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Exclusive Q&A: MuteMath Revive Their Creativity

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsAfter a rough recording experience with 2009’s Armistice, New Orleans rockers MuteMath decided to reclaim creative control. The result is Odd Soul, a back-to-basics, bluesy record that speaks to the band’s live strengths, first and foremost. The album inspired the band’s upcoming Odd Soul Tour, which features breakthrough 3D video technology on top of stellar performances from both MuteMath and opening act Canon Blue. OurStage caught up with drummer Darren King to talk about how the band were able to revive their creativity, what gets him pumped up to perform and his goals for 2012.

OS: You had some difficulties with the making of [2009’s] Armistice, specifically with songwriting and working with a new producer. What did you learn from that experience and how did it influence your approach to recording this time around?

DK: I learned a little bit about not making things any more difficult than they need to be. I learned, through that process, the most valuable lesson I learned in my career so far. Of course, there are difficulties and parts of it that are frustrating, but you’re not supposed to hate music. You’re not supposed to hate the process. It’s fine if it’s a little arduous, a little frustrating, if you get stuck and get writer’s block…all of that’s good. But there’s always supposed to be this passion in it, it’s not supposed to be just this uphill climb, feat of strength just go get through it. From that point on, I vowed to make it fun. And whenever it gets gross, I start over again, in regards to songwriting, or the process of creating. You’re supposed to feel like you’re cheating at life by getting to do this for a living. And I try to present that, I try to fight for that now, and a big part of that, oddly enough, was not having a producer for this record, and it being just the three of us.

OS: Odd Soul is the first album you’ve made without original guitarist, Greg Hill. How did this change affectyour approach to the new album?

DK: Todd [Gummerman, guitarist] didn’t come into the picture until after the album was finished, so we had all of the guitarists that any band would ever need, and our bass player, Roy [Mitchell-Cárdenas]. [Roy] did a marvelous job of bringing all kinds of creativity and spark to the process to the process. I think he had a lot pent up in him too; he’s a talented guy.

He was a guitar player before he did anything else, so that was an easy transition. He stepped up, too. He’s a father of two, and both he and our lead singer were expecting children during the recording of this album. Roy would drive all the way from Miami to New Orleans, he’d drive through the night, and show up with a great attitude. It was really inspiring. And now we have our new guitarist. As we were finishing our songs in the studio, I would send them to him, and he would tell us that they were fun to play. He worked really hard to get ready for his audition. We were expecting to audition Todd in person, but he got to a place where he knew the songs well enough that he got tired of waiting for us, and he’d just email us his takes. He would play the songs, record himself, sing along, play along and he’d email it to me…and I thought that was ballsy! It made it easy; definitely our first audition via email!

OS: It’s rare to see a drummer that is so involved in the songwriting process. Does Mutemath have a certain method for how you write together?

DK: I think I’m more involved than you even know! Right now, I’m putting together our live video show and it’s time consuming, but I love it. This is probably the first time I’ve mentioned this…we’re doing a very exciting, 3D video show on this next tour. It’s been very tedious, but we’re working with some people in New York and some people in Nashville and we decided to try and go all in on this tour to make it big. So currently, my days are spent programming and animating video for this live show…it’s a new-found interest of mine.

OS: Odd Soul has a more blues-influenced sound than Armistice. What was the cause behind this shift in sound? Were there any particular artists that influenced you while writing this record?

DK: It’s so funny how the influences that I think I’m going for the most, don’t really seem to be the ones that come through in the end product. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, either. But Roy’s playing opened up a lot of opportunities for us. All we were going for was something that would go great live. All the bluesy-ness didn’t so much come from us saying, “Let’s try to do something a little Jimi Hendrix-y,” or, “Let’s do some Led Zeppelin riffs.” It was really that we didn’t want to make a sleepy album. We didn’t want to make something that would be convoluted, live. We wanted to make something that would allow us to play to our strengths as a live band. The whole idea behind the record was to set up the tour that we’re about to do now. The big tour, with the video show and the lights and all of the antics. After Armistice, we released a live record, and I remember reading a review of it that said something like, “Why is this MuteMath’s best record? Why is their best record this live record?” And I thought, well, it probably makes sense that it is, to them. There’s probably some switch that we turn off when you go into the studio. Music can be a little like taxidermy. You can start replacing the real stuff with the glass eyeball and get real meticulous with making things seem real. And I think it has to be that way, to an extent, whenever you do music in the studio. So we tried to make [Odd Soul] sound more real.

OS: You’ve had your songs featured on the soundtracks for major motion pictures like Twilight and Transformers. How have these placements changed or impacted your fan base?

DK: Don’t forget The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2! Yeah, we did get some younger fans through Twilight, and I loved it. We got some hatred through Transformers. Some people loved it, but there were some hardcore Transformers fans that were livid that it wasn’t heavier, like…[metal growl]

OS: Before the new album dropped, Mutemath played some smaller clubs on the Odd Soul Introduction Tour. How will this upcoming tour be different from those shows?

DK: It will be longer. Right now, I’m not making any promises, but right now, the setlist we have has about twenty to twenty-two songs in it. We’ll have a great opening act in our friend Canon Blue, he’s out of Nashville, on Rumraket Records. He’s great. A great musician, great songwriter. We just decided, at this point, not to take out bands that we don’t like, but will sell tickets.

I’d just really rather not subject our fans to that anymore. Actually, we’ve done a pretty good job at taking out artists that I like. But we had a couple opportunities to tour with bands, and we’re gonna go for quality. We do want to make this the most absurd show we can and I want everyone to feel like they got way more than their money’s worth after the show, and I want to make it the best tour we’ve ever done. I’m certainly excited about this 3D video. We’ve got this really neat set behind us, and I think it’s technology that’s going to be pretty common in a year. I’m glad that we’re doing it now…I feel like we’re ahead of the game if we do this tour this way. If we did it next year, someone else will have done it before us.  I know [electronic musician] Amon Tobin has done crazy stuff with projecting on 3D structures…you see it a lot with electronic artists, but I don’t know a band that’s done it yet on a tour. So the goal, unless someone sneaks in there next week, we’ll be the first band to take that kind of stuff on the road.

OS: You mentioned Canon Blue earlier…what can people seeing him for the first time expect from his performance?

DK: He’s an electronic artist. He’s opened for Miike Snow, I think that was a really good fit. So, stylistically, fans of Miike Snow will also enjoy Canon Blue. He’s done a good job with mixing a lot of really beautiful elements with some intense, glitchy electronics, as well. I know he got the Amiina Quartet to play on his record, the same group that played for Sigur Rós. So he’s got a lot of pretty strings on his record, and he’s a good singer too…it’s going to be my favorite tour, I’m pretty positive of it. Unless something goes wrong! [laughs]

OS: You guys are known for having a pretty wild live show. What inspires your stage presence? Do you tendto be more consistent with the performance aspect of the set, or more spontaneous?

DK: I’ll only speak for myself, because I think the other guys would give you a different answer… but I’ll tell you what makes me wild on stage. I’m a little hungry for attention, and you certainly get it whenever you perform. People clap for you after every single song. I can’t think of anything else where I get that much attention. From the very first show we ever did, God, it got me really excited. I’m not an only child, but my brother and sister were both teenagers when I was born, and I was just alone a lot. I would spend hours in my bedroom playing drums, pretending there was an audience in front of me. Or I would put on my Paula Abdul record and dance as a background dancer and pretend there was an audience. I look back and realize that a very large portion of my time alone as a kid was pretending I was in front of a bunch of people.

I’d even do speeches. I memorized the Gettysburg Address and I would do it in my bedroom for, I guess, a bunch of soldiers? I was raised in church, and Paul did this too, he’d preach, his family would make him preach for people…and I would preach to no one in my room. That was just my thing, I guess…pretending I had an audience. And when I finally got one, I think I got way too excited. I just get pumped up. It’s exhilarating. And to be honest with you, I’m addicted to it. Sometimes I play hard because I love it. If I’m tired but I’m still playing hard, it’s because I don’t want it to end. I’m scared of the day when I don’t have an audience in front of me. I don’t like myself when I go too long without playing a show. I’ve gotten a little bit better about it, I think being married helps [laughs]. If one person approves of you after seeing you at your worst, then that does mean more than a bunch of people who think you’re cool whenever you’ve got a bunch of smoke and mirrors. I used to go through intense withdrawal, really bad, whenever we didn’t tour enough [laughs]. So yeah, it’s kind of an addiction thing. I get excited about people, I’m like a dog! [laughs]

OS: Since we just started a new year, what’s something you hope to accomplish this year that you haven’t done yet?

DK: Like my resolutions? My New Year’s resolutions are: to not sit down to pee, because I end up playing Words With Friends on my phone…just sitting on the toilet for too long. It’s just such a waste of time. Being on the toilet for five minutes after you’ve gone to the bathroom is just dumb. I’m also going to stretch daily. As a band, we’ve already made a couple music videos, we want to make another one. We get to go to Australia and we want to make a good impression there. And I want to be a good son, a good sibling, a good husband, a good drummer. OK, here’s the real one: to get into a creative habit with music. When we’re control freaks like this and we’re working on video and working on the tour so much, I’m starting to miss getting to make new songs. So just to do a little bit every day, with songwriting, so it doesn’t take too long to come out with the next record.

This is definitely a show you don’t want to miss! Catch MuteMath’s Odd Soul Tour on these dates:

01/26 Houston, TX at House of Blues
01/27 Austin, TX at Stubb’s
01/28 Dallas, TX at House of Blues
01/29 Tulsa, OK at Cain’s Ballroom
01/31 Denver, CO at Gothic Theatre
02/02 Los Angeles, CA at Club Nokia Live
02/03 San Diego, CA at 4th and B Concert Theater
02/07 San Francisco, CA at The Regency Ballroom
02/08 Sacramento, CA at Ace of Spades
02/10 Seattle, WA at Showbox SoDo
02/11 Spokane, WA at Knitting Factory
02/12 Boise, ID at Knitting Factory
02/14 Salt Lake City, UT at Club Sound
02/16 Kansas City, MO at Beaumont Club
02/17 Chicago, IL at House of Blues
02/18 Minneapolis, MN at First Avenue
02/28 St. Louis, MO at The Pageant
03/01 Grand Rapids, MI at The Intersection
03/02 Detroit, MI at St. Andrew’s Hall
03/03 Columbus, OH at Newport Music Hall
03/04 Cleveland, OH at House of Blues
03/07 Boston, MA at House of Blues
03/08 New York, NY at Best Buy Theater
03/09 Philadelphia, PA at Trocadero
03/10 Washington D.C. at 9:30 Club
03/11 Norfolk, VA at The Norva
03/14 Charlotte, NC at Amos’ Southend
03/16 Ft. Lauderdale, FL at Revolution
03/17 Orlando, FL at House of Blues
03/18 Atlanta, GA at The Tabernacle

Vocal Points: What Makes A Great Rock Voice?

There are plenty of components that make up an outstanding rock band. From a great guitar sound, to a killer bass line, there is so much rock greatness out there to grab your attention. But what makes a great rock vocalist? What kind of singer can produce a sound that shapes a generation and even other singers to come? And most of all, what does it to take to have a voice that flat-out ROCKS? Well, lets look at a few of the most well-known, respected voices in rock history.

Freddie Mercury, Queen‘s phenomenal frontman, is one of the rock voices that has always impressed me. The texture of his voice, his low growl, and the ease that he would glide from one vocal register to another are all truly remarkable. Unlike many rock singers, Freddie Mercury had an incredibly versatile voice which was raw and ferocious, while still being incredibly melodic and listenable to a wide array of music fans. His voice was  huge part of what made Queen such a huge success, as well as the reason why they’ll continue to be an important piece of rock history.

(more…)

Exclusive Q&A: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Go Hysterical

Starting from their plebeian beginnings in Philadelphia and Brooklyn to their meteoric rise to fame, indie rock darlings Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have gone through tremendous periods of flux. After rising to indie rock stardom through their critically- acclaimed self-titled debut album, CYHSY’s sophomore album was deemed a disappointment by critics while various side-projects threatened the band’s very existence. Despite all of this, the group is back with their third album Hysterical, which they are releasing today. To aid us in understanding the manic being that is CYHSY, drummer/percussionist Sean Greenhalgh stopped by to give us some insight into the album, what went into it and the Internet’s effect on the success of the band.

OS: Members of CYHSY have been involved with pretty diverse side projects in the past few years.  What kind of influences did you guys bring back to the table after those different experiences?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

SG: Yes, everybody’s been really busy over the past couple of years. Alec made two records with different groups of people, Lee has been working on soundtrack material, Tyler’s been studying composition and playing in a band with Robbie called Uninhabitable Mansions (also an awesome record label!). Robbie’s been playing in UM and also Radical Dads where he sings and plays drums. I’ve been producing records with artists like Gabriel & the Hounds, Conversion Party and Tom McBride. I think these experiences lent themselves to making Hysterical in intangible ways. The more you’re involved in making records or any collaborative endeavor, the more you learn what works and what doesn’t. If nothing else, I think the time spent on other projects helped us to appreciate the kind of chemistry we have together when we play.

(more…)

Sound And Vision: Pop Goes the Previews — The Best and Worst of Fall Movie-Trailer Music

Whoever invented the movie preview must be some kind of genius. Because of them, half the fun of seeing a movie on the big screen is getting there”to the main attraction, that is. It always takes a few good trailers to put me in the mood. But sometimes, if the words don’t get in the way (damn, bad screenplays!), the music does. Too often terrible songs ruin perfectly good trailers”or make bad ones worse.

That said, movie-trailer music has come a long way. For a brief period in the early ’90s, nearly every other one seemed to feature the soothing new-age sounds of Enya floating by in the background. Nowadays we get a larger assortment of musical backdrops (pop, classical, rock, hip hop, techno and, of course, vintage Motown), some of which can actually turn must-avoid into must-see — at least until the coming attraction is over and sensible thinking once again prevails.

Variety, however, hasn’t done away with predictability, and recently, while screening trailers for some upcoming autumn releases, I noticed a few rules at play.

1. No self-respecting Oscar contender stoops to the tops of the pops. David Fincher may have gotten Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to score The Social Network last year, but he knew better than to use Radiohead’s 1992 hit “Creep” in the trailer. Instead, he used a haunting cover by Belgium’s Scala & Kolacny Brothers. This year, for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (December 21), he punctuates the sneak-peek action not with Led Zeppelin’s classic version of Immigrant Song but with a near-equally exhilariting remake by Reznor and Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

(more…)