Sunday, September 11, 2022

50th Anniversary All-Star Celebration of Big Star's #1 Record!

How Ozzy Came Back From Hell

AS SOON AS a pair of silver vans arrive at the VIP entrance of Birmingham, England’s Alexander Stadium, the whispers start. “Is that Sharon Osbourne?” a squinting security guard asks her friend.

“I think so,” the other guard says. “Does that mean … ?”

The drivers keep security in the dark — literally — by turning off their dome lights as they wait for Prince Edward to finish a speech for the closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games, a multisport event similar to the Olympics that took place in early August. The vans creep toward the stage. That’s when the crowd of 30,000 hears a bass drum: thump, thump, thump, thump.

“I am Iron Man!” a familiar voice bellows from the ether, as Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi struts onstage. Fifty-four years earlier, Sabbath, whose members all grew up in Birmingham, defied their foregone destinies as steelworkers to forge their own brand of metal.

A trapdoor opens and a lithe silhouette with arms outstretched levitates to Iommi’s height. “Come on, Birmingham, let’s hear you,” the figure commands as a spotlight reveals Sabbath’s founding frontman, Ozzy Osbourne, sporting a Cheshire-cat smile.

This is when the audience recognizes Birmingham’s hometown hero, and their disbelief turns deafening as the Sabbath guys shift from “Iron Man” to their biggest hit, “Paranoid.” It turns out the performance was such a secret that Ozzy’s son Louis, who happened to be in the audience, is in disbelief as he spots his dad onstage.

I join Sharon and Kelly Osbourne in the front row, among the athletes. They appear overjoyed, and for good reason. This is Ozzy’s first onstage appearance in nearly three years, after a series of injuries and surgeries that left him thinking he might never perform again.

Ozzy’s health looked dire there for a while. But here he is uttering catchphrases like “Let’s go crazy!” and “God bless you all!” without missing a beat. As the song ends and pyro streams around him, he howls, “Birmingham forever!”

As soon as the lights dim, he and his family escape to their vans to beat the street closures Brits are accustomed to whenever a royal makes a public appearance. Forget Prince Edward — make way for the Prince of Darkness.

When I meet Osbourne the next afternoon in a posh London hotel suite, he’s just woken up. “I must have been fucking exhausted because I never sleep this late,” he says, tumbling onto a couch. He situates himself for maximum comfort and asks for a Diet Coke.

He’s dressed casually in a black T-shirt and black track pants. Ozzy, 73, stopped coloring his hair during the pandemic and has pulled his salt-and-pepper locks back into a small ponytail. He’s sporting purple-lensed Lennon shades, but when he pulls them down, his blue eyes still pierce with intensity. Occasionally, he fiddles with his hearing aids. Even though he uses a silver-filigreed cane to get around and fidgets like he’s in pain while seated for our two-and-a-half–hour first interview, the Birmingham performance has visibly brightened his spirits. He’s constantly animated, throwing pillows around and making eye contact to underscore a point. “Fuck” is still his favorite word — he uses it exactly 540 times in the few hours that we spend together, approximately two-and-a-half times per minute — and he uses it impressively in a variety of ways and inflections.

“Up until last night, I was semi-retired,” he says, lifting his head for emphasis. “For three years, I’m thinking, ‘I’m never going onstage.’ I kind of half-bought myself into the fact that [my performing career] was over.”

Osbourne’s agony began in 2018, during what was supposed to be his final world tour. He contracted a potentially deadly staph infection, likely from shaking fans’ hands at a meet and greet, which swelled his thumb up to the size of a lightbulb. He eventually felt healthy enough to headline a New Year’s Eve Ozzfest, but soon after, he fell at home in the middle of the night and aggravated a spinal injury he’d initially suffered during a nearly fatal quad-bike accident in 2003. After the 2019 tumble, the Iron Man found himself with two metal plates in his neck.

Osbourne postponed months of tour dates as he underwent extensive physical therapy and treatment for what he calls “scrambled nerves” in his arm and leg. During his recovery, he recorded an album, 2020’s Ordinary Man, which featured Elton John, Slash, and Post Malone. As he was promoting it, he revealed doctors had diagnosed him with Parkinson’s disease. Then Covid happened. Osbourne avoided the plague until this past April. His symptoms were mild, but since then, he says, his hair has been falling out and his fingernails are breaking off. “I can’t begin to tell you how fucked up I felt,” he says.

In June, he underwent corrective surgery that Sharon told the media would “determine the rest of his life.” Afterward, the screws in the metal plates in his neck were digging into his spine and leaving debris. “It was a fucking nightmare,” Sharon says. Thankfully, the surgeon removed the plates, and Ozzy has felt better since.

That paved the way for the Birmingham appearance. “I can’t really believe it happened,” Sharon tells me later. “They asked us six months ago, and we had to say no. And then they called us literally days before to say, ‘We’d seen Ozzy [make an appearance] at Comic-Con, and he seems to be doing well. Do you think he could do it?’ And I asked Ozzy, and he was like, ‘Yeah. Why not?’”

After the performance, Osbourne shared his excitement with Billy Morrison, a close friend who plays guitar in Billy Idol’s band. “He texted me, ‘We came, we saw, we conquered,’” Morrison says. “I just said, ‘I knew you would.’”

Ozzy may look like the picture of confidence when he’s onstage, but offstage he’s his own worst critic. “I never think I’m going to win,” he says. Before the Birmingham concert, he was worrying: “These kids don’t know who the fuck I am.”

In fact, Osbourne has been making comebacks his whole life. After grade school teachers slipped a dunce cap on him, he went on to co-found Sabbath and help invent heavy metal. When Sabbath kicked him out, he became a solo superstar. He thumbed his nose at Lollapalooza’s organizers when they called him a dinosaur and formed his own Ozzfest. He even survived fickle TV fame with The Osbournes, laying the groundwork for reality-TV families like the Kardashians.

He’s sold more than 100 million albums. He’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with Black Sabbath. He even set a Guinness World Record for leading the “longest scream by a crowd” at Dodger Stadium. “You got to put him right there with Sinatra and Elvis, as far as frontmen go,” says Zakk Wylde, Osbourne’s off-and-on guitarist for the past 35 years. “None of his peers does the business he does. It’s like saying, ‘Where does Babe Ruth fit in the history of baseball?’ It’s that huge.”

Now, he has a ripping new album, Patient Number 9, featuring guest appearances by Iommi, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck, as well as members of Metallica, Pearl Jam, Guns N’ Roses, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The crazy train finally seems to be back on track.

“You know Winston Churchill used to stay here?” Osbourne asks, admiring the gold-leafed ornamentation on the walls of his suite. Claridge’s opened in 1898, and the hotel is still the sort of place where top-hatted men in heavy coats open your car door for you. “Sharon loves it here,” Ozzy notes.

Following his most recent surgery, when Osbourne’s stamina was at his lowest, he told his wife, “I’m sorry if I’m a burden.” She told him not to be silly. “My family have been fucking terrific — my kids, my wife — they’ve been so fucking supportive and so patient,” he says. So have his friends.

“We’re in touch quite a lot,” Iommi, who lives in England, thousands of miles from the Osbournes’ L.A. home, told me last year. “We don’t really speak because the pair of us are useless on the phone. He used to phone me at two o’clock in the morning, and I’d go, ‘Ozz, it’s two o’clock in the morning.’ ‘Oh, oh, sorry. All right. Bye.’ He forgets what time it is in England, and of course when the phone goes at that time of the morning you think, ‘Oh, Christ. Somebody’s died or something has happened.’ So we tend to sort of just text now.”

In addition to rebuilding his body, Osbourne has been reconstituting his confidence. Sometimes he’ll tell Sharon, “Performing is the only thing I’ve done in my life that’s right or that I’m good at.”

“I tell him, ‘It’s not true,’” she says. “He’s had his struggles, and they’ve all been very public. But it’s not true; he’s hard on himself.”

Ozzy first met Sharon in the mid-Seventies when her dad, Don Arden, started managing Sabbath. “I grinned at [Sharon], but she gave me a wary look,” Ozzy recalled in his 2009 memoir, I Am Ozzy. “She probably thought I was a lunatic, standing there in my pyjama shirt with no shoes on…”

“I always thought that Ozzy had a beautiful face and was really different, personality-wise, but I was a little apprehensive,” she says now. “I’d been used to going out with lawyers and people that worked at record companies, and he was very different, and all of those people I found incredibly boring.”

Ozzy was far from boring, though, when Sharon visited him shortly after he was fired from Sabbath in 1979 for intoxicating himself to the point of uselessness. “I just wanted to get fucked up,” he says. “It was over.” Still, she saw a spark inside of him and encouraged him to try a solo career; she even became his manager. Although Ozzy was still married to his first wife, Thelma, with whom he had three children, Ozzy and Sharon fell in love.

Ozzy hired a backing band, which prominently featured Randy Rhoads. The Quiet Riot guitarist had an unusual approach to heavy metal, inspired more by Beethoven than Sabbath, and a glammy look. On songs like “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley,” they laid the groundwork for Osbourne’s next four decades — swift-moving, quasi-gothic salvos with strong melodies that you can sing along to and showstopping guitar solos. “Ozzy’s voice has always been a godsend to me,” says Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, who performed and co-wrote songs on Patient Number 9. “It’s just beautiful — the soul, the grease, the grit, and even the notes that he may struggle with are part of what makes him so special.” Sharon cleverly encouraged Ozzy to headline smaller venues, rather than open for more-established acts, setting him up for a shorter leap back to the top.

After Thelma divorced Ozzy, he and Sharon figured out how their business life would function alongside their romance. “Ozzy would say to me, ‘Are you making me do these things, especially things like TV interviews, because you love me or because you are my manager?’” she recalls. “I’d say, ‘You need to promote yourself.’ And he’d be like, ‘Are you my wife or my manager telling me this?’ And I’m like, ‘Both.’”

Thanks to Sharon’s sharp management, hits like “Crazy Train,” and a series of notorious press, uh, opportunities — like Ozzy drunkenly biting the heads off a dove and a bat — he was soon doing better business than Black Sabbath, which had continued with new singer Ronnie James Dio.

The party ended quickly, though, in March 1982, when the tour’s bus driver used a day off to entice Rhoads and hairdresser Rachel Youngblood onto a private plane. When he tried to buzz the tour bus, the plane flew into a mansion, killing everyone on board. “I had two fucking funerals in one week — it was awful,” Osbourne says. “Since then, I can’t go to funerals anymore. It just puts me in a freakout. I just couldn’t go to my family members’ funerals.”

On July 4, 1982, Ozzy and Sharon married in Maui, Hawaii. This year, they celebrated their 40th anniversary by going to a hotel and locking the door. “We had the best time, never left the room, got room service, talked about our lives together,” Sharon says. “It was perfect for us.”

“I bought Sharon a ruby, ’cause it’s our ruby anniversary,” Ozzy says. “I paid a lot of money for it — $150,000 — for this tiny ruby. I said to Sharon, ‘I think these fucking guys ripped me off. I wouldn’t pay 70 grand for it.’ Rubies are really rare.”

After Rhoads’ death, Osbourne soldiered through the Eighties with guitarists Jake E. Lee and Wylde by his side, scoring MTV hits with “Bark at the Moon” and “Shot in the Dark.” “I felt like the luckiest contest winner of all time,” says Wylde, who joined Osbourne at 19. “I’d be pinching myself.”

Meanwhile, Osbourne’s drinking and drugging escalated. While admiring Claridge’s fireplace, Osbourne twice mentions that he tried to strangle Sharon during a blackout episode in 1989. “It wasn’t my idea to go out, have a few drinks, and wake up in jail charged with attempted murder,” he says, still kicking himself.

Sharon eventually dropped the charges. “He was sent to a lockdown, and we were apart for a long time while he was in treatment,” Sharon says. “At first, I had relief in my life. But then after a couple of months, I missed him so much. The children were missing their dad every day. ‘When’s Daddy coming home?’ And I missed him. I missed his craziness.” She took him back.

Osbourne has tested the limits of his marriage since. In 2013, as Sabbath were launching their first album with Ozzy since they fired him, he became addicted to pain pills before sobering up. Then in 2016, Sharon learned Ozzy had been carrying on an affair with his hairstylist. Ozzy then sought what he described as “intense therapy” for sex addiction. The couple stuck together.

When I ask Osbourne why his marriage has survived, he shrugs. “I don’t know, but I’ve got a good wife, I think,” he says. “She’s been in rock & roll all her life. But she loves me, I love her. I haven’t been the exact perfect husband, but she’s fucking right about a lot of things.”

“I knew that I was marrying an alcoholic,” Sharon says. “So what did I expect other than a bumpy ride? We’ve had more good times than bad. So I regret nothing. I saved Ozzy, and he saved me.”

“Is it hot in here or am I  . . . fucking hell,” Osbourne says. “We haven’t quite reached America yet with the air conditioning [in England].”

After a couple of hours speaking in the suite downstairs at Claridge’s, we’ve moved into his family’s room upstairs, where he’s about to take a nap. You wouldn’t know the room was his, though, since he travels minimally. His travel philosophy is simple: “You just grab a bag and get on a plane.” But he’s also lucky to have Sharon and Kelly with him, as well as various people who work for the Osbournes. Several tell me they’ve worked for the family for more than a decade and that they wouldn’t want any other job.

Ozzy, barefoot, lies supine on a couch in front of a bay window overlooking London’s posh Mayfair neighborhood (Buckingham Palace is walkable from here) as he gripes about the country’s well-publicized summer heat wave. “People don’t believe that climate change is real,” he says frustratingly. “Look out the fucking window. Everything’s all frizzled.”

Osbourne’s politics lean liberal. Four years of Donald Trump, a man he likens to “A.H. — Adolph Hitler,” had him worried the president would blow up the planet. Yesterday, as Osbourne and Iommi were reuniting in Birmingham, the FBI raided Trump’s Florida home, Mar-a-Lago — and Osbourne gleefully watched the news reports. He has also been enjoying seeing Jan. 6 insurrectionists get indicted. “They’re dishing out some sentences,” he says. “They should do [Trump].”

Ozzy and Sharon are planning to return to their 350-acre estate outside of London next year. Although Ozzy has quipped that he’s leaving America because he’s afraid of mass shootings, he offers a more-reasonable explanation to me: He wants to be closer to his family in England and avoid high taxes that, he thinks, are coming to America to help rebuild after the pandemic.

As we’re chatting, Kelly enters to say hi. She, too, has had it with England’s heat wave, especially since she’s visibly pregnant with her first child with boyfriend and Slipknot keyboardist Sid Wilson. (They met at Ozzfest.) When she leaves the room, Ozzy beams with pride and tells me the gender of Kelly’s unborn baby. And in a delightfully Osbournes moment, Kelly yells from another room, “Dad!” His pride turns sheepish, and he says, “Sorry.” When she’s out of earshot, he tells me, “I’m kind of over the moon. She looks really well.”

Friday, September 9, 2022

UK 90s post-punk legends Country Teasers star in US screening premiere of documentary "THIS FILM SHOULD NOT EXIST"

A comprehensive portrait of the legendary art-punk outfit COUNTRY TEASERS from Edinburgh whose confrontational lyrical stylings, explosive creativity and commitment to deconstructionism have elicited comparisons with Pussy Galore, Joy Division, Butthole Surfers, The Fall and even satirist Jonathan Swift.

Led by eccentric frontman Ben Wallers - also known as ‘The Rebel’ - Country Teasers roared out of the 90s with a sound that has been described as ‘evil country’, a provocative, ironic noise unleashed in notoriously anarchic live shows that blur the line between drunken unprofessionalism and performance art. In an attempt to pin down their chaotic energy, This Film Should Not Exist blends old and new unreleased live footage with interviews with Wallers and former bass player and successful playwright Simon Stephens, plus an appearance from scene experts like Eric Friedl, Greg Cartwright and Jack Yarber from lo-fi garage trio the Oblivians, Tim Warren of garage-punk label Crypt Records, and Pat Morgan and the late, David R. Edwards of Datblygu, one the most influential bands in modern Welsh-language music and Wallers’ artistic heroes.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

A Farewell to Kikagaku Moyo, Psych Lords of Japan

The members of Kikagaku Moyo remember setting many goals when they started the band a decade ago. They wanted to see the world and play psychedelic rock events such as the Austin Psych Fest.

“Then we realized we did pretty much everything we had wanted…actually more than what we were hoping for,” drummer Go Kurosawa says over video chat from his home in Amsterdam.

“So many American bands are like, ‘Grow, grow! Next! Just keep going, never stop and never end,’” guitarist Tomo Katsurada adds with a laugh from his place in the same city. “I find that so capitalistic. Why can’t you guys just end and do new stuff?”

That’s exactly what Kikagaku Moyo decided upon during recording their fifth and final album Kumoyo Island, released this past May via their own label Guruguru Brain. Over the past ten years, the quintet—Katsurada, Kurosawa, his brother Ryu, Kotsu Guy, and Daoud Popal—became global representatives of Tokyo’s underground rock landscape thanks to their penchant for never settling. They created smoky folk jams, slow-burning sitar epics, and chugging rock blowouts delivered under waves of feedback.

“We’ve felt like, yeah, we already did one thing. It’s natural for us to think, ‘OK, when we do this, let’s do something different,’” Kurosawa says.

The pair spoke to Bandcamp Daily days after wrapping up their final European tour, including a set at Glastonbury Festival’s West Holts stage. “We were told we had the highest record sales in the history of that stage,” Katsurada says of the most special memory of this last jaunt across the continent, taking pride in how they managed that as a DIY operation.

“Our Amsterdam show…it felt like the European loop was closed,” Kurosawa says. “The first show we ever played in Europe was in the Netherlands; that’s how we started.”

Kikagaku Moyo still have a series of live shows in front of them ahead of their curtain-closing tour of North America this fall. After that, the band ends, and everyone can explore new avenues of expression. A well-deserved opportunity, as the band has created one of 21st-century psych rock’s strongest discographies.

Katsurada and Kurosawa met shortly after the former returned to Tokyo after studying abroad in Portland. “We had a lot of mutual friends from where Go was from…[Tokyo neighborhood] Takadanobaba…and I was studying at the nearby Waseda University,” he says. “I was in a skater crew made up of Go’s elementary and junior high school friends.” The two bonded over music, movies, and food, spending copious amounts of time hanging out.

“There’s not many Japanese people we found who could communicate with the outside world. The language barrier is such a thing, and if you don’t experience living outside of Japan, the world looks really closed,” Katsurada says. “Like, I have to do everything in Japan. But there’s so many options, and we talked about all of our ideas.”

The two found they had good energy and decided to give music a try. The only hitch, Kurosawa notes, is that neither of them really knew how to play any instruments. “I didn’t know how to play drums,” he says, while Katsurada compared their early days to “a high school opening band.”

They brought the other members into the band soon after and got to work playing live shows. Despite their self-professed lack of technique, they had lots of ideas and spent a lot of time simply jamming and figuring out what kind of sounds they wanted to make and how to approach singing. “We thought we didn’t have to sing lyrics specifically; we can use it as a melody or an instrument that includes a feeling,” Katsurada says, comparing it to growing up in Japan and listening to Missy Elliott despite understanding nothing she was saying.

“The first record we did was almost like a demo,” Kurosawa says of their 2013 titular debut. “We had opened for Moon Duo, and they told us to record something that we could give out to people. If you just play lots of shows, you won’t go anywhere.” The resulting release found them exploring sounds they would tinker with for the next decade, including speedy rock blazers (“Zo No Senaka”) and wisps of folk (“Lazy Stoned Monk”). Their relative lack of technical proficiency wasn’t a deterrent, but rather an asset allowing them to experiment freely.

They might have said they weren’t technically strong, but that only opened them up to further spread their sound.
Forest Of Lost Children

Kikagaku Moyo continued playing live shows across Tokyo, focusing on smaller venues that didn’t stick to the pay-to-play model common in the country (with some busking thrown in). The five-piece wanted to start touring outside their home nation, though.

“We found out that we needed an album to tour internationally,” Katsurada says with a laugh, explaining how the second album, Forest Of Lost Children, came together. “It was us rushing.”

Despite the frantic pace required to put it together, their second full-length highlights both their conceptual drive and myriad global influences. “We wanted to make music that came from an imaginary tribal island, all these sounds mixed together. Like the stress of Calcutta with rural areas,” Katsurada says. Many were written around the time of their debut, but gelled together nicely on Forest, highlighted by the shapeshifting psych rocker “Smoke And Mirrors.”

A label expressed interest in their follow-up, and they excitedly sent it over. “All of them said ‘Nope. I don’t like it.’ And we lost the deal!” Katsurada says. Still hoping to make their international hopes a reality, they found a small label in New York, Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records, to put it out. That helped them land dates in the United States, including an appearance at the 2014 edition of the Austin Psych Fest, one of their dream gigs. While still a niche band at home, Kikagaku Moyo were starting to make a name for themselves with their meditative and mind-bending music.

Whatever attention Kikagaku Moyo were getting was countered a bit by their continued frustration with labels. “With our third album, we were really looking forward to getting signed with a record label, but nobody was interested in it,” Katsurada says of what would become House In The Tall Grass. “They’d say, ‘It’s not my cup of tea.’ I heard that so much over Facebook messenger. ‘It’s not my cup of tea; it’s not my cup of tea…”

“So we decided, let’s release it ourselves,” he concludes.

By 2016, Katsurada and Kurosawa had already launched their own label, Guruguru Brain. That emerged from a regular party they held at Shibuya’s Ruby Room venue. They decided to create a compilation album of psych acts playing the event, releasing that as the imprint’s first offering in 2014. It soon became a place where they could highlight music from Japanese psych rockers like SUNDAYS & CYBELE and the Krautrock-inspired Minami Deustch, along with groups from across Asia.

“When we started, it wasn’t for self releases, it was separate from our band,” Kurosawa says. “But when we couldn’t find a label, naturally, we decided to do it ourselves. We had no choice.”

House In The Tall Grass has become important to both of them. Kurosawa remembers the album’s creation—getting out of work, heading to a studio, creating it for two or three hours, and listening to rough mixes on the train home—better than any other.

“At that point, we finally started touring internationally more than ever before. That’s when we realized we could make the band financially stable for everybody, and we could do it without having to depend on another label. House In The Tall Grass was when we decided to do things by ourselves,” Katsurada says, noting he felt his songwriting grew alongside this recording.

This album marks the arrival of the internationally celebrated Kikagaku Moyo, free to do what they want without worrying about labels reacting to demos or anything else. “If the five members of the band feel it’s good, there’s no conversation needed after that. There’s no filter,” Kurosawa says. After this, the group released EPs, collaborations, and a full-length album all on their own terms.

Many of Kikagaku Moyo’s albums emerged from touring, with the members drawing inspiration from the jams and memories made on the road. The COVID-19 pandemic, though, cut off that creative pipeline.

“It’s all from our imagination, how we play together since we couldn’t tour,” Katsurada says. “Half of the songs, probably, were written remotely.”

Unlike previous albums, Kumoyo Island boasts what Kurosawa describes as a “home recording feeling,” owing to each member being able to take their time in writing due to limitations presented by the state of the world. “It was a good balance between the five of us having to imagine how these songs would sound together, but also allowing us to each experiment. I think it shows through.”

“But I’m happy that, in the end, it still sounded like a band sound,” Katsurada says. “We tour so much and play so many shows together; even when we are writing music at home, it becomes a band thing.”

They all returned to Tokyo for one month to finish the album, recording their finale at the same recording studio where they started, resulting in sessions that felt freer to the band than usual. “It was comfortable. We know the studio, we know the sound engineer, we can fuck it up, we can do trial and error,” Katsurada says.

Kumoyo Island is the band’s most left-field set of songs to date, merging their psych side with funk (“Dancing Blue”) and soothing soundscape (“Daydream Soda”). Musical periods from their entire time together emerge, from fuzzed-out rockers like “Cardboard Pile” to a sitar meditation on closer “Maison Silk Road.” Their Japanese roots even get a more prominent place on opener “Monaka,” which draws from minyo music that Katsurada says he frequently heard while growing up in a “not gorgeous” hot spring and ski resort in Ishikawa prefecture.

It’s a fitting swan song for the band and one Katsurada and Kurosawa are proud of, describing it as the album that means the most to them now.

After their final set of live dates, the pair will focus on Guruguru Brain, which has many releases set for the future (while also requiring them to handle all kinds of Kikagaku Moyo’s smaller details such as sending money to band members, due to them owning all their rights). They also will continue to make music, both by themselves and possibly together in new formations. But first, a few more goodbyes.

“I’m enjoying it a lot, being very emotional,” Katsurada says of the farewell tour. “It’s the best experience I’ve ever had playing music.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Alison Sudol Shares Playful New Single “Playground”

American singer-songwriter and actor Alison Sudol released her third and latest single “Playground” off her upcoming autobiographical album Still Come The Night, to be released Friday, September 30 via Kartel Music Group. Sudol previously released “Peaches” and “Meteor Shower from the upcoming album.

In Sudol’s words, “Playground” is “a celebration of finding the person that makes [Sudol] stupidly happy.” The song is a collaborative effort with Sudol, London based multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer Chris Hyson, who is half of the band Snowpoet, and the musicians who make up Sudol’s backing band that plays on the upcoming album: Alex and Lloyd Haines, Welsh twin brothers, on the guitar and drums, and engineer Alex Killpatrick.

The song has a wonderful indie sound, with fun and playful lyrics.

“All the windows open and your legs around me / We were one time strangers, now we’re trying to make a baby / Oh my heart’s over-pumping and your mouth is an ambulance / Oh I can’t stop laughing, I don’t know if I can stand it,”

Sudol simply explains these lyrics as “[w]e knew we wanted to a make a baby with each other pretty much from the get go. We felt like teenagers, responsible ones.”

“We wanted to make something that we could dance to so we were trying out grooves and testing them out to see what would make us move. We added the guitar counter melodies through a Leslie Cab at Livingstone Studios in London a few months later which brought another layer of colour and texture that the song was calling for. In that same session we added percussion which we all played in the room together, some of us stopping and starting at different times in the song, following the arrangement,” Sudol reveals, diving deeper into the creative and songwriting process.

Stream “Playground” here.

Pre-Order Still Come The Night here.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Henry Rollins Explains His Food Groups and Seasons of Listening to Music

Henry Rollins has often discussed how he is lining up his next listening session. This listening is usually an exploration of new music. But are there queues for relaxing? Thoughtfulness? Creativity? Rollins explains the food groups of music and the value of seasonal listening.

I never had a good time in school, so Friday became my favorite day. Classes were not so bad because freedom was only hours away. In that brief period between school letting out and midnight, it’s like an extra day, the economy version of a three-day weekend. Those hours are the peak of the week for me to this day. This time period is for playing records.

No matter where I am, I try to play Machine Gun Etiquette by The Damned every Friday, even if it’s backstage with a show waiting. I have quite a few “take me to my happy place” records that I only play in low-stress situations as I can’t enjoy them otherwise. When I was in high school, my Friday I-survived-the-week record was Led Zeppelin II. These days, if my schedule allows and I’m not on tour or in a tricky location, I will prepare the list of listening for Friday night and usually start at 18:45 hours. I don’t know why it’s then but that’s what seems to work.

I break music down into different groups and categories. I listen seasonally, according to weather and light cycle. Also, I have two basic food groups of music: protein and carbohydrate.

The protein listening is new music, where it’s unfamiliar to me so I’m listening, sometimes taking notes, researching the band while the music is playing. I do quite a bit of this, usually during the week.

On the weekends, I will allow for some carbohydrate listening, which would be records I’m familiar with, that I’ve been playing for years. This music is not exactly background, but more of an environmental asset for elevation of mood. It’s probably a familiar idea that a record can become almost a friend. In that way of thinking, they’re a great friend. They are semper fidelis. This is one of my favorite aspects of recorded music. The songs on a record do not change. People come and go but the music remains. There are records you can play where there’s not a single person on it that’s alive, yet, there they are. John Coltrane is in your room with you when you put the record on. There is something really powerful about that to me.

I mentioned seasonal listening. All of this is completely self-invented and should be taken with the proverbial grain. There are bands and records that I only play at certain times of the year. Some examples are as follows: Joy Division is September to the end of February. The Fall’s Perverted by Language, September to November; The Infotainment Scan, that’s a warm-weather fall record. For [David] Bowie, it’s Lodger in August, Scary Monsters in September, Low in October, Station to Station in November, “Heroes” in January, live shows from the 1978 tour in February, and the rest of the catalog whenever else. Minor Threat, summer only. Same with the Rites of Spring album and Prayers on Fire by the Birthday Party. Other warm-weather favorites include Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets, 154 by Wire (Pink Flag is an October record), Psychedelic Jungle by The Cramps, and The Saints’ (I’m) Stranded album. There are a lot of others.

October, my favorite month of the year — that’s when I go for maximum carbohydrate listening. Buzzcocks’ Another Music in a Different Kitchen; Live at the Witch Trials, Perverted by Language, and Hex Enduction Hour by The Fall; The Adverts; The Idiot by Iggy; all records by The Ruts; Damned Damned Damned by the Damned; The Black Album by the Damned is an ultimate October listen, although I leave the live fourth side out and finish with “Curtain Call.”

There are records for pushing back against feeling bad that I rely on. December is a hard month for me, so there’s a lot of Raw Power-era Stooges as those songs incinerate depression. Then there are bands and albums that I can just put on any time and it’s great. Dinosaur Jr., Ty Segall, Osees, myriad Fall albums, and hundreds more. I do my best to strike a balance with all these rules and rituals I’ve set out for myself. About 99.9% of the time, I listen to records alone, so I’m not imposing on anyone. However, the people who listen to my radio show will be put through all these idiosyncratic mechanics and are probably all too familiar with them all by now. All these associations are just how my mind works, I guess. It’s not to be taken seriously at all.

Buzzcocks ‎– Another Music in a Different Kitchen (1978)

David Bowie ‎– “Heroes” (1977)

David Bowie ‎– Lodger (1979)

David Bowie ‎– Low (1977)

David Bowie ‎– Scary Monsters (1980)

David Bowie ‎– Station to Station (1976)

Eno ‎– Here Come The Warm Jets (1973)

Iggy Pop ‎– The Idiot (1977)

Led Zeppelin ‎– Led Zeppelin II (1969)

Rites of Spring ‎– Rites of Spring (1985)

The Birthday Party ‎– Prayers on Fire (1981)

The Cramps ‎– Psychedelic Jungle (1981)

The Damned ‎– Damned Damned Damned (1977)

The Damned ‎– Machine Gun Etiquette (1979)

The Damned ‎– The Black Album (1980)

The Fall ‎– Hex Enduction Hour (1982)

The Fall ‎– Live at the Witch Trials (1979)

The Fall ‎– Perverted by Language (1983)

The Fall ‎– The Infotainment Scan (1993)

The Saints ‎– (I’m) Stranded (1977)

Wire ‎– 154 (1979)

Wire ‎– Pink Flag (1977)

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Why George Michael is Never Not Having a Moment

In January 1991, from the stage of the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, George Michael, then 27 years old and among the most famous and successful pop stars in the world, spotted a handsome man in the crowd. Anselmo Feleppa would quickly become Michael’s lover, and his first real boyfriend. Soon they would be living together at the singer’s house in LA. By all accounts, not least Michael’s own, their affair was deep, passionate, and, at least at first, happy and carefree. Michael, who since adolescence had struggled with self-doubt, anxiety, and shame, felt he had finally met the man with whom he could share his life. Within months, Feleppa was unwell. Within a year of his first meeting with Michael he had been diagnosed as HIV positive and in 1993, aged 36, he died from an AIDS-related illness.

Heartbroken, Michael, an icon of red-blooded masculine sex appeal — “every single hungry schoolgirl’s pride and joy” — whose homosexuality was a tightly guarded secret at a time when to be openly gay was considered potentially ruinous to the career of an entertainer, did not fly to be at Feleppa’s side in his final moments. He did not attend the funeral. He mourned in private. In public, he threw himself into a legal battle with Sony, his record company, which he lost. He didn’t write a note for two years.

Finally, in the basement of a studio in west London, with new record deals in place, he began to write about awful events of the past few years. The songs became an album, Older, Michael’s third solo effort, released in 1996. It would produce an unprecedented six top three singles in the UK, where it became Michael’s biggest selling album, and it helped confirm his reputation as a writer and performer of supreme accomplishment.

But for all its success, and critical acclaim, especially here and in Europe, it could not compete commercially with Michael’s previous albums — few artists’ work ever could — and at the time it seemed an almost cussed change of direction for a singer-songwriter who, from his earliest days with Wham!, had always seemed in lockstep with the zeitgeist. Never again would that be the case.

Perhaps there could have been no propitious time to release a highly polished, slickly produced and utterly grief-stricken collection of sombre pop songs, expecting to repeat the global chart domination that George Michael had known — it would be incorrect to say “enjoyed” — earlier in his career. If there was a time, the summer of 1996 probably wasn’t it. At home in the UK, George Michael’s most loyal market, Britpop was at its peak. Cheeky, ironic, bolshy young scamps in tracksuit tops played beery singalongs to gangs of lachrymose lager lads. Alongside Oasis and Blur, the pop charts had fallen hard for the Spice Girls, whose cartoonish girl power anthems were about as far from Older as that album was from “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”. (The Spice Girls’ debut Number One, “Wannabe”, kept Michael’s “Spinning the Wheel” from the top spot.) Take That, the most successful British boyband since the Beatles, were on the way out, with their most vivid personalities, Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow, publicly auditioning for the position of “the new George Michael.” (Seldom one for subtlety, Williams’s first single was a cover of Michael’s floor-filler, “Freedom ’90”. He got the job.) In the US, the country George Michael had conquered in the 1980s, thuggish gangsta rap and lubricious R’n’B were the sounds of the moment.

The austerely packaged, anguished crooning of a melancholy English pop star was always likely to be a tough sell at a moment of unthinking hedonism. (To perhaps no one’s surprise, Older, released in May, did not become the soundtrack to the Euro ’96 football tournament, the following month.) Its author’s decision to return to the fray after his long layoff not as a bouffant blond sex machine in a biker jacket but with a brooding, monochrome new image, his hair in a severe, Mr Spock crop, with a Mephistophelean goatee, seemed equally heedless of contemporary tastes.

In America the album flopped and Michael would never again challenge for chart supremacy there. But everywhere else, against the odds, Older was a hit, and to the end Michael considered it his best work. Listening to it today, even as a fan of his earlier, more effervescent material, you can see his point. Older is a quietly devastating record. At least four of its songs stand up as classics: “Jesus to a Child”, as bold a lead single as any megastar ever attempted, a stately, seven-minute ballad absolutely saturated in grief; “Fastlove”, a funky love-letter to cruising, yet somehow still bereft (“I miss my baby”); “You Have Been Loved”, almost unlistenable in its sadness; and “Spinning the Wheel”, written from the point of view of a gay man in an open relationship in the shadow of HIV. (A point of view Michael understood intimately.)

“There is not one track on that album,” Michael said later, “that’s not about Anselmo, about the fear of getting AIDS.”

Recently, over drinks, a friend of mine remarked that of all the “dead ones”, as she indelicately put it, George Michael’s mortality was the hardest to accept. “It just feels wrong to think that he’s not around. You hear him all the time. He’s everywhere. And he was so young.”

I was planning to open this piece with the observation that, six years after his death, George Michael appears to be having a moment: the Older re-release; a documentary in cinemas over the summer, and on streaming services now; a major new biography recently published. But the truth is that in my house, and my life, and the lives of millions of others, George Michael has been having a moment since 1982. And even though he died in 2016, the moment goes on, with no end in sight.

My friend is correct that at 53 George Michael was far too young to die. But he was considerably older than, for example, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse and the rest of what Kurt’s mother called “that stupid club.” They died at 27, at the zenith of their fame and success. George Michael faded away, his relevance, if not quite his popularity, eclipsed by younger performers. And even though his death was a shock, his many personal troubles had long overshadowed his achievements. When he died, he hadn’t released an album of original material in twelve years, nor performed in front of an audience in nearly five. He had battled depression, drug addictions, critical illness, and numerous arrests. His career had first stalled, then stopped. Sad to admit, but he had become a tragic figure, haunted and forlorn.

That is not how we will remember him. And lately a critical consensus denied him in life, when he was often disparaged, at least by the rockist guardians of the canon, as a bland commercial confection, a phenomenon of the Thatcherite 1980s, seems to have transformed into something more celebratory. Michael was loved by his public, here and elsewhere. Now we agree that he was a major talent, a singer with a wonderfully warm, seductive voice — as well as an infectious disco growl — and a lyricist who could conjure genuine emotion, cheerful as well as downcast, from even the most apparently unpromising material. (“Fun and sunshine, there’s enough for everyone.”)
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The recent documentary Freedom Uncut, with direction credited to Michael himself and his long-time associate David Austin, could hardly be said to be unbiased. It is a star-studded effort, featuring contributions from musical collaborators including Mary J Blige, Nile Rogers and Stevie Wonder, plus an unlikely VIP room of friends and admirers in Ricky Gervais, Jean Paul Gaultier, Tracey Emin, James Corden, sundry supermodels, and Liam Gallagher. “Modern. Day. Elvis,” is the erstwhile Oasis frontman’s scene-stealing commentary on Michael’s appeal. (While Gervais desperately titters, the younger Gallagher’s contribution is respectful, and effortlessly funny.)

Freedom Uncut, which is an expanded version of a film first shown in 2017, focuses primarily on Michael’s imperial phase, from the mid-1980s to the turn of the century, with particular attention given to his legal wranglings, and the death of Anselmo. The sex and drugs and blue-eyed soul is — mostly — conspicuous by its absence.

A new hardback biography, George Michael: A Life, by James Gavin, fills in these gaps although, on reflection, I rather wish it hadn’t bothered. A joyless trudge through the very worst moments of Michael’s life and career, it has the unerring ability to locate the cloud in every silver lining. Some might argue that this was true of its subject, too, and maybe so, but still: the book really is an enervating slog. And while the documentary may lean too far towards hagiography, at least we get some of the man’s wit and charm, as well as his talent, particularly in the footage of his live performances.

In the film, Michael speaks of an early “desperate ambition to be famous and to be loved.” Almost as soon as he found fame, as a teenager, with Wham!, he discovered its limitations. “If I was looking for happiness, this was the wrong road.” Nevertheless, he took it. His moment of greatest professional triumph — 1987’s Faith — was a personal disaster. He was “terribly lonely.” And, in public at least, he was living a lie. The butch ladykiller with the aviator shades and the steel-tipped cowboy boots, his naked Japanese girlfriend writhing orgasmically in the video for “I Want Your Sex”, was a closeted gay man, unable to share his true emotions with his fans.
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Alternately elated by his success and terrified of what he had unleashed, Michael determined to step away from the spotlight, though not from his recording career. His second solo album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1 — there was never to be a Vol 2 — was a plea to be taken seriously as a mature songwriter (“Sometimes the clothes do not make the man”) but he felt its chances to connect as widely as Faith had were undermined by Sony’s bungling of its marketing. (In return they cited his own reluctance to promote the record in the traditional ways, declining to appear on its cover or in videos for its singles, or to tour widely.)

In 1990, Frank Sinatra sent George Michael an open letter advising the younger singer to get over himself. “The tragedy of fame,” wrote Sinatra, “is when no one shows up and you’re singing to the cleaning lady in some empty joint that hasn’t seen a paying customer since St. Swithin’s Day.”

Not as far as George Michael was concerned, it wasn’t. Until the end of his life he would continue to feel straitjacketed by mainstream pop stardom. Hence “Freedom! ‘90” and the songs that would follow it, not least those on Older. It is customary here to point to the supposed irony that this man who sang so yearningly about finding freedom so clearly felt trapped. But there’s nothing ironic about it. Like the proverbial caged bird, it was precisely because he felt cornered that he was able to so sing so movingly about wanting to escape. And that is why so many empathise with him, and are moved by his songs.

Michael is far from the only megastar to have mined feelings of grief, guilt, anger and abandonment for chart-topping success (Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse were both pretty adroit at that, too) but rarely can suffering have been so hauntingly conveyed in a series of pop songs, as it is on Older.

The new box set is a handsome item indeed. It’ll look smart on your shelf. And it’s nothing if not comprehensive, containing vinyl and CDs and a brochure and more remixes than a superstar DJ set. But my word, for all the catharsis of Older, for all Michael’s inspiring determination to move on from grief, to make something beautiful out of heartbreak, it is a sad and freighted document, too.

George Michael’s Older is released on 16 September, and available for pre-order now.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Neil Young / Time Fades Away and the Eldorado EP get standalone releases

Two Neil Young rarities are reissued as standalone physical releases next month, with the elusive Time Fades Away live album from 1973 back on CD and 1989’s Eldorado EP available on vinyl and CD.

Time Fades Away was recorded on tour with the Stray Gators, following the success of the 1972 album Harvest. It consists of what was unreleased material at the time and was issued on vinyl in October ’73. It more or less disappeared from Young’s catalogue for decades due to his general dissatisfaction with the rather erratic tour. Much bootlegged, but not officially reissued until the Official Release Series, Discs 5-8 vinyl box set in RSD 2014, it eventually took 43 years for it to come out on CD when the same box set was issued as a 4CD set back in 2017.

However, that CD box set is already out-of-print meaning that once again Time Fades Away is a tricky album to pick up on CD! Undoubtedly, this will be the reason behind this standalone CD release, which uses the same mastering as the 2017 CD.

The five-track Eldorado EP was originally only issued in Japan and Australia, and sees Neil Young backed by The Restless, which consisted of Chad Cromwell and Rick Rosas.

It contains different mixes of three songs that subsequently appeared on Young’s 1989 album Freedom: ‘Don’t Cry’, ‘On Broadway’ and ‘Eldorado’ and two tracks not available on any other recording, ‘Cocaine Eyes’ and ‘Heavy Love’. The ‘Don’t Cry’ track on Eldorado is longer than the later version published on Freedom, for which some of the more free-form guitar work was edited out (at the insistence of co-producers Niko Bolas and Frank Sampedro).

Eldorado was included in the Official Release Series Vol 4 box set that was released in April this year, but you can now buy it on its own.

Both Eldorado and Time Fades Away are reissued on 12 August 2022, via Reprise Records.


Following on from the searing, critically hailed “Hate”, comes the powerful, commanding sweep of “Georgetown”, a track which sees Loyle Carner continue to boldly and bravely explore new dimensions, not only in his music but in his personal history as well.

As with “Hate”, Carner moves beyond the upbeat infectiousness of the Top 3 album
“Not Waving, But Drowning” to tackle with potent, laserlike focus the social fissures and injustices he sees developing around him on both a global and personal level. The
result is “Georgetown”, a visceral examination fuelled by white hot frustration, fear and
anger which mirrors the landscape it maps – a place of isolation, loss, confusion,
danger, creativity, defiance and hope. Produced by the widely renowned and universally celebrated hip-hop producer Madlib, the new single sees Carner meditate on how his mixed-race identity has shaped his life experiences and journey as a musician. “Georgetown” also opens and closes with a sample of the poem “Half-caste” performed and written by the mixed-race Guyanese poet John Agard.

It comes accompanied with a video shot in the titular location in Guyana, South America and is directed by Machine Operated.

In Carner’s words:

“Black like the key on the piano, white like the key on the piano”

John Agard’s poem “Half-caste” had a heavy impact on me. To see someone who was
older, that looked like me, sharing a reflection of a similar lived experience made me
feel comfortable/proud to not fit in. It kinda gave me the permission to finally write
explicitly about being mixed. There's so much beauty in the gaps in-between, and in
some ways this song touches on that. For me, it’s about finding this inner confidence
through understanding of self, and spending time back home. It is a representation of
finally feeling like one whole person instead of two halves. Also another piece of the
MADloyle puzzle. More on the hard drive.

Phoebe Bridgers Appears In Court, Judge Leaning Toward Blocking Defamation Lawsuit Against Her

Phoebe Bridgers appeared in court today in Los Angeles, where she asked a judge to block the defamation lawsuit filed against her by producer Chris Nelson, who alleged Bridgers defamed him in an Instagram post. Judge Curtis Kin said he was leaning toward granting the motion to block the lawsuit, according to Courthouse News.

“It seems like a he said/she said issue,” said Kin. “It’s hard to see, looking at the record, how the plaintiff could show that Ms. Bridgers, when making the post, knew her statements to be false or had serious doubts as to whether they were true.” The judge ultimately did not make a decision one way or the other, nor did he rule on a separate motion to make Bridgers’ deposition public.

In February, Bridgers responded to Nelson’s defamation lawsuit, saying she stood by her October 2020 Instagram post statements accusing Nelson of “grooming, stealing, [and] violence.” Bridgers’ legal team also filed an anti-SLAPP motion, claiming the suit sought to suppress her First Amendment right to free speech.

“I believe that the statements I made in my Instagram story are true. My statements were made based on my personal knowledge, including statements I personally heard Mr. Nelson make, as well as my own observations,” Bridgers wrote in a sworn declaration at the time. “I continue to believe the statements that I made were true.”

In her original Instagram post, Bridgers came out in support of Nelson’s ex Emily Bannon, writing: “I witnessed and can personally verify much of the abuse (grooming, stealing, violence) perpetuated by Chris Nelson, owner of a studio called Sound Space. For anyone who knows [Nelson], is considering working with him, or wants to know more, there is an articulate and mind-blowing account on @emilybannon’s page as a highlight. TRIGGER WARNING for basically everything triggering.”

Nelson originally filed a September 2021 defamation suit against Bridgers, seeking $3.8 million, claiming Bridgers defamed him. In January 2022, a Los Angeles County judge dismissed another defamation suit of Nelson’s against Noël Wells, arguing that Wells had a free speech right to warn Big Thief against working with the producer in a private email, describing his behavior as “incredibly predatory.”

On Thursday, Judge Kin also said he was inclined to grant Bridgers’ Anti-SLAPP motion, suggesting that Bridgers’ Instagram posts were a matter of public interest, and therefore protected speech. “It seems it is a matter of public interest,” he said. “Phoebe Bridgers is attempting to provide protective consumer information… She’s wanting to provide full information to those who are considering working with Mr. Nelson.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Kim Kardashian on Her Beats x Kim Collaboration

Beats x Kim launches today and will be available to purchase at on Tuesday, August 16 EST. Starting August 17, the collaboration will be available in limited quantities at select Apple Store locations and exclusive authorized resellers.

Advancing the Myth, Dialect’s debut resurfaces

Dialect, the now long standing project of British composer and musician Andrew PM Hunt, digitally released his first album, Advanced Myth, via tasty morsels in 2015, cherished by those familiar with his work in sophisti-pop quintet Outfit and those frequenting the internet’s fringes. RVNG and Warm Winters present a remastered, definitive edition of Dialect’s early work available in physical format for the first time.

An enchanted exploration of unusual source synthesis, electro-acoustic arrangements, and found sound, Advanced Myth is its own cosmos expanding and contracting in real time, with the first single, “Waterfall End Sequence,” one of many high marks on Hunt’s earliest explorations.