August 16th, 2014 by Russ
Get to know Barfield with us. We sat down with The Tyrant after Sinners Brunch at Jo’s. The team this time was John Grubbs , Caity Shaffer and I. We had a good time. Make sure you see the Barfield show live. Trust me, you will be entertained!
Daze: When and how did you know that you’d be a channel for funky soul music? Tell me a story of how it all started?
Barfield: It kind of morphed over years. I started out in a garage band when I was in junior high school. I came from the school of thought of how the classic 60’s guys like Mick Jagger and James Brown fronted those kind of bands. Then I grew to love country music too, so I sang in some country bands, country rock bands.
I was born in Houston and was around a lot of that kind of music–high school soul, funk. It was all mixed, everything was kind of no holds barred. It was like you can like anything. So my dad didn’t play an instrument, but he liked whatever he liked. He might like a rock song, and he might like some classic jazz song or something. I grew up with that, but I think as time went on…
I was playing in Wisconsin with a little band when I broke off on my own, doing more R&B and blues and soul, and a little bit of funk with my other stuff. This guy billed me as Mike Barfield and said, “Hey, I hope you don’t mind, but I called you “The Tyrant of Texas Funk.” I said, “No. That sounds good.”
When I came back here, that’s been ten years ago I guess, I told Steve about it. That’s how I became billed as that. I gradually started doing more and more of it, and met Johnny Moeller, the guitar player and Mike Flannigan, who plays organ upstairs. Mike was originally in the band with me too, and when I was doing the funk thing we wrote songs together. It just kind of came that way–we didn’t really consciously plan it as such. We got into R&B and soul, then gradually started to morph it into the funk thing. I think with me it’s like if I had horns and all, all the time, you’d watch it and someone with my persona would get lumped into Blues Brother things. What we do, it’s not really pure funk and soul, it’s more of a garage approach, a small combo. I love all that stuff. The fun of it is just doing it I guess. Just being able to live life and enjoy it as much as you can.
Daze: You’ve always had a great band. How did you meet all those people?
Barfield: When I first moved back in here, in 2000, I was still playing with the Hollisters, and I was on Hightone. We had a record, and the guitar player moved to Seattle. I had to grab somebody, and I grabbed Chris Miller. He left the Marcia Ball band and came with me. Chris’s kind of open, in the genre sense, and came up liking the same things even though he was from Portland, and I’m from Texas. We did that for a couple years and I started wanting to make a record on my own. I made a record called Living Stereo with Fort Horton Studios, and it had some covers on it, some country songs I wrote, and soul, R&B, a couple blues tunes. That was kind of my stepping out thing. I did a soul tune by a friend of mine and Chris and Dave Miller were on that.
I was playing one night with Chris Miller doing a little thing I don’t normally do, playing an acoustic gig at Flipnotics. And Chris said, “Oh, Johnny Moeller is here, “ and was talking about Johnny’s guitar playing. So, I went out to the Poodle Dog Lounge where Johnny happened to be playing and Lazy Lester came out. That was the first time I met Johnny and his brother Jay, and Mike Flannigan. I started hiring Johnny a couple times, and we just got to know each other. I never believed that much in cornball destiny things; but, in some ways, you wonder why you connect with certain people or not. It’s just happenstance. I don’t know, but as soon as I saw him play, I just knew I’d be playing with him, or I wanted to.
I met Nick Curran years ago too when he first moved to town; that’s how I met Damien. Nick and Damien were playing together, and Damien goes “hey man, I’d like playing with you, give me a call.” And, I called him. I was a big champion of Nick and Gary Clark Jr. I did a show opening up for Southern Culture on the Skids one time. It was just me, Gary Clark, Jr., and Jay Moeller; we all set up in the front–the drums, and then Gary, and then me. We had no bass player; I just played maracas and sang. We did the opening show and called ourselves The Solution. I’m proud of those moments.
It’s all kind of a good friendly big camaraderie here and that’s what I like–a lot of that kind of intermingling from people that play in different groups.
They (the band) are all inspiring to me. They are younger than me, and you naturally feed off that energy. I’m always looking for somebody that wants to have fun on stage too. That wants to be original. That is my thing as the band leader or front man- to have that freedom where you know that the guys you’re working with are all good at what they do. You don’t want to press on anybody too much like, “I want you to it play exactly this way,” which would be more of the James Brown approach probably. He was more of an architect in his way. My blueprint is different. I have to let somebody do their thing and thereby get even more out of it, I think. They enjoy it more ’cause everybody can take a little advice or something, but nobody wants to be told to play just “that.” They might take it for a while, but it’s more enjoyable to have freedom in music. I call it just playing from the gut. It’s strictly from your soul and from your insides. Why would you want to hold that back in anybody?
Daze: You don’t hold back much.
Barfield: That’s great because I’m hoping that’s what’s happening. If you’re not feeling as good as you normally are…say you are feeling tired and what not, that will bring you up, make you feel better. It helps the audience have a good time if you are enjoying playing, and I like whoever plays for me to always feel that. You have parameters of course on the songs you are doing…
Daze: Do you have a preference between The Continental Club and C-Boys?
Barfield: I like both. I like the small, relaxed hang out at C-Boys with the little deck in the back. So, that’s nice; it’s a little more intimate. But, the stage sound on stage at the Continental Club is one of my favorites in town. I love it, and I’m used to that site. It’s got the perfect size. The Continental has probably been my main stay and most favorite club in Austin for years. I’ve been really lucky because I’ve been working there for a long time. Without that club, I think I would have had a rough time. Steve Wertheimer is a great club owner, the guy that owns both C-Boys and Continental Club. He’s been very, very good to musicians.
Daze: When did you decide to drop the guitar and be a front man?
Barfield: I never really was a guitar player anyway, really. At first I started out as a front man only. Then, later on when I started playing with this other band, the Hollisters, I had to get a chord book and learn basic acoustic rhythm to do that music; and so I did that for years. I still enjoy that, still do it sometimes; but, when I’m doing this band, that just has no place at least right now. There is something freeing about not having that to worry about. Then, I can dance and I can do whatever I want to do.
Daze: Who taught you how to dance?
Barfield: Just watching TV. When I was a kid I used to love all of the dance shows on TV, even local in Houston–that would be the Larry Kane Show where they would just have dancers. It would be like the old Dick Clark show. You’d see kids dancing, and the bands would come on and play or they’d be taped and just had the music…and then Soul Train. I grew up with that, my age group. To me that was the epitome of free form dancing. My last years in high school, the white kids wore platform shoes, long hair, and blacks had fros, whites too. Those were the styles I grew up with in the 70s. I think it’s timeless–I don’t think it’s ever gone out of fashion.
You can be free and ridiculous; you quit worrying about what people think. If someone wants to laugh at me, that’s fine too. I don’t really care. It’s like I know that I’m going to enjoy my life as much as I can. You want to make fun of that, that’s fine. Some people just want to go “look at him” but I think it makes people relax too and they aren’t as inhibited about dancing. Some people need somebody to be that for them, so that’s what I tell them, “I’ll take care of the embarrassment for you. You don’t have to worry about it.”
Daze: Is that part of what’s behind lyrics like “Popping the Cooch?”
Barfield: Yeah, subconsciously, I’m sure that is a lot of what it is. I got that because one of my friends used to talk about this guy he worked with, who would brag, kind of joking around humor like, “This is how you pop that cooch,” and make that sound and do it (clicks his tongue). It’s nasty, but at the same time it’s harmless fun. I had a whole group of girls in Lincoln, Wisconsin. They came out and said, “We’ve got a surprise for you tonight.” I was like, what is it? “It’s about music.” And I thought, are you gonna bring me a record. So, I get to this show, and all of a sudden they’ve got this look on their face and they pull their shirts off and they all have tank top or a black t-shirt that said “Popping the Cooch” on the shirt. My point there is that some girls don’t find that offensive. It’s not my wife’s favorite song that’s for sure.
Daze: You mentioned James Brown before. How do you feel about being compared to him?
Barfield: I’m flattered if someone even thinks about comparing me to James Brown. There are only a few musicians that have been giants, Mount Rushmore type figures in music. He would be one to me. He took some musical form like rhythm and blues and soul music, and all of a sudden he accents it another way. Just by his natural instincts, and lack of formal training, comes up with this thing that nobody has come up with. He truly is the Godfather of Soul. He started out more as soul and became funk. I can’t think of anybody I would say has been more influential. There’s a movie coming out about him that Mick Jagger produced.
Daze: Did you ever get to meet James Brown?
Barfield: No. I saw him once in his later years, but even at that age, he was still very tough. He was like 70 years old and still doing a couple moves. Maybe he didn’t sing as good as he used to, but he was great. The band was machine tight. I mean, I wish I could have seen him way back. A lot of my favorite singers are people of that era. I wish I could have seen Jackie Wilson. I love him. He’s a singer, and his vocal range is so different from mine. I am naturally a baritone, but I kind of have a high end to my voice; so, I have always admired someone who has that higher range.
Daze: What is your writing process like?
Barfield: When I am writing for this band, or trying to, sometimes I will have an idea on my own; or, other times, Johnny will have an idea about a rhythm or chord progression, and I’ll put lyrics to that. Sometimes I’ll have both. “The Struggle” I wrote myself. “Popping the Cooch, I wrote. With the Struggle, I originally wanted a song that just stays on the one all the time. And that’s what that song was. Some stuff I will start off on the acoustic guitar. Lately, I am writing a lot with Johnny. And I used to write a lot with Mike Flannigan too. I like having a partner in crime. Sometimes the whole band will get in on it. Sometimes they just help arrange it. It just kind of depends.
That’s what’s fun about being in a group. Feeling like if it is really going good on stage, or if you come up with something good, you almost feel like you are part of a big wheel that’s turning. You’re making this whole thing go. At the same time, you’re just a big spoke in it, part of the thing that’s pushing it forward. When everybody is in that, and the whole band can feel it, there is nothing like that. I love that feeling. It is kind of like you are tripping in another way. You are physically involved, and mentally involved, but it’s relaxed. It’s just happening. All those things you’ve worked on before.
But “good’ and “bad’ you know. Some nights when I feel it’s not as great, that’s when everybody goes, “Man, that sounded so good!” And you’ll think, “Oh, I thought we were a little bit off.” It’s a strange thing. That makes you realize, “I don’t have a whole handle on it either. The people out there; they are the ones making it too.”
Daze: What’s next for you?
Barfield: We are trying to get a little EP out. We’ve got a recording we are waiting on to get mastered. Hopefully, we’ll make some vinyl. Some CDs. Have a release party. Try to get out more. I am looking forward to that. It’s always hard too—the waiting. I just try not to worry about things like this as much as I used to. Take it day by day…
Daze: Do you have a lot of gigs this week?
Barfield: Tuesday night, at the Continental. Just about every week.
Daze: Your gig is one that, definitely, everybody in Austin needs to go out and see. Thank you for doing this.
Barfield: Ah, you bet. Thank you, man.
August 15th, 2014 by Russ
This is the new cover by Rockslide. It features Barfield. IT REALLY FELT GOOD TO TYPE THAT!
I will post our words with BARFIELD tomorrow and a new interview every week….
August 3rd, 2014 by Russ
What is going on with The Daze?
Sweet . Thanks fôr Asking…
A hell of a lot of things are going on over here. We are trying to get in a solid groove with these conversàtions/interviews. We will get them up soon. 5 of them down so far! A new cover will hit ànd our site will get easier to use and have a new look soon. It sounds like I enjoy the word SOON becàuse I use it often here. In truth, I wish, soon was now. The way things háppen sometimes is slow but there is progress. There is alsô some tałk about a return öf Thè Daze Partièś. Asîde from thAt we are śtill out there covering things most nights.
If you want to help out or get involved, just message us…
Thanks to rockslide for the new mantra!
Vuelta del pulpo!
July 14th, 2014 by Eric Swanson
When a TV show lasts forty seasons it’s because they are doing something right. Drop into random episodes of Austin City Limits and you’ll hear an impressive scope of different genres and sounds, yet it all feels handpicked for the same audience of discerning music lovers. The music at the recent Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years benefit concert is equally diverse, yet paired well: the slickback blues of Jimmie Vaughan, the ameritexacana roots music of Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen, old school outlaw from Kris Kristofferson, the Latin funk orchestration of Grupo Fantasma, and the garage-soul of Alabama Shakes all appear to honor the show turning forty.
On the night of the taping the population of the ACL Live studio sits in anticipation. In the side stage area tonight’s key players are gathered in a moment of calm before the cameras start rolling. Host Andy Langer reads over his notes, beside him producer Terry Lickona and Jeff Bridges stand side by side talking. Sheryl Crow grins and looks up into the balcony. The music hasn’t even started but there’s electricity in the air. After quick stage introductions, the flood gates open with four hours of entertainment. Before the first notes you know it’s gonna be good, just by the talent assembled on stage for the opening song. Bonnie Raitt, Jimmie Vaughan, Gary Clark Jr., Brittany from the Alabama Shakes, and the Grupo Fantasma Horns deliver on that promise, ripping through a Fabulous Thunderbirds song. As they leave the stage emcee Andy Langer points out most shows end with a song like that, but they made it the opening shot. Did we forget to mention they are backed up by the all-star house band of Lloyd Maines, Rich Brotherton, David Grissom, Glenn Fukunaga, Riley Osbourn, and Tom Van Schaik? After sharing duties with Sheryl Crow on “Me & Bobby McGee”, and a solo take on his classic “The Pilgrim, Chapter 33”, grey-bearded sage Kris Kristofferson cedes the stage to his grey-bearded country twin Jeff Bridges. Bridges in turn plays a couple of songs penned by the late great Stephen Bruton, paying tribute to his old friend. After a couple of songs from the Alabama Shakes, the first set closes with Gary Clark stretching out on his hit “Bright Lights”. In rehearsals, Terry Lickona felt like something was missing, so he asked Gary to stretch the song another minute. The extra time allows Gary to add more firepower to his solo in a climatic first set finale. Andy Langer noted that while growing up, Gary Clark wore out a VHS copy of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Austin City Limits episodes. The circle continues as Clark now has his own guitar licks documented for history on ACL. Second set highlights include a pair of Grupo Fantasma songs that move some audience members to dancing; a triple threat of Jimmie Vaughan, Doyle Bramhall, and Gary Clark together on a blues burner; and Robert Earl Keen with Joe Ely trading verses on “The Road Goes on Forever”. The show that started big ends big, with all musicians returning to the stage. The grand finale is Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, a Texas anthem for the entire cast and audience to rally around, multiple singers taking verses, multiple guitar players trading licks.
Photo by Scott Newton Courtesy of KLRU-TV
Calling Austin City Limits a local and national treasure is not PR speak or fan-blogger overenthusiasm; it’s for real. Most telling is the respect artists have for Austin City Limits. The traditionally calm cool Johnny Cash was a touch nervous before his historic ACL taping, he knew it was a big show and wanted to get it right. We may be forty years removed from the initial pilot episode, but the core vision of the show remains pure and in place: great music, intimate performances, and attentive audiences; all captured on camera and delivered weekly to the public.
As part of the PBS Fall Arts Festival, ACL Celebrates 40 Years will appear as a two-hour special on PBS on Oct. 3.
June 23rd, 2014 by Russ
Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years on June 26th to benefit KLRU-TV, Austin PBS. This special night of music featuring Alabama Shakes, Doyle Bramhall II, Jeff Bridges, Gary Clark, Jr., Sheryl Crow, Joe Ely, Grupo Fantasma, Robert Earl Keen, Kris Kristofferson, Lloyd Maines, Bonnie Raitt, Jimmie Vaughan and more. Hosted by Jeff Bridges and Sheryl Crow. This benefit concert will be recorded and aired on PBS as part of the PBS Fall Arts Festival in October.
Doors: 6:30 PM · Show: 8:00 PM
May 27th, 2014 by Russ
Bill Frisell jams out at the Continental Club 5/23 and 5/24, 2014. This time Bill brought out a backup band with him; Greg Leisz on guitar and pedal steel, Tony Scherr on bass & Rudy Royston on drums
I was very fortunate to be able to experience this show two nights in a row. Bill went through some great material, and with ease. I couldn’t take my eyes off his fingers as they moved up and down the strings on the neck of his guitar. I like to think of myself as knowing what’s going on at a show, but between Bill and Greg, I was having trouble figuring out who to pay attention to. They were tossing back and forth leads on guitar and it was pretty amazing. These guys will be releasing an album soon, and it is definitely an experience worth checking out. A side note: I have never seen folding chairs set up in this club before.
May 27th, 2014 by Russ
Shinyribs live at Threadgills 5/24. This band blows my mind. Kevin Russell is one of the greatest performance artists around. The horns that they have onstage are some of the best around. The drummer also comes from The Gourds days. There was a mad keyboard player and a bass player on this night. I have long been a fan of the Gourds. This band takes what they were doing one step further. I think it’s because Kevin is able to write and perform material that is outside of what was the norm for the Gourds. The crowd’s faces were mesmerized and transfixed on Kevin as he performed Sweet Potato. Watching these people is almost as entertaining as watching Kevin go through the movements on stage. I was talking with my friend after a show, and he was saying Kevin Russell has “the flow.” Magic and grooves seemed to go through his body. I recommend catching these guys create.
May 9th, 2014 by Russ
AUSTIN DAZE: How did you get started in the business?
STEPHEN BRUTON: Well, when I got started it had nothing to do with business-I was just playing guitar in Fort Worth, Texas. And then, you know, one thing leads to another and the next thing you know you are getting paid a couple of bucks to do this or that and your hobby becomes your profession and your profession becomes your calling and pretty soon you’ve made a livelihood out of it. And now it’s too late to stop.
AD: Did you always know this was what you wanted to do for a living, or was there a specific time when it clicked?
SB: No I didn’t really know exactly how you make a living out of it. My dad was a professional musician-he was a drummer-but he always went to school and then had a record store in Fort Worth so he worked six nights a week and then six days a week he worked at the store. I was always surrounded by music. I got out of college during the Vietnam War era and I had a bad back so I didn’t have to go into the service. I got a degree to stay out of it and then said, “Well I’m going to try my luck.” So I wound up moving up to New York just to see. I knew there was a lot of music going on everywhere but Fort Worth, and I thought if it’s like this here it’s got to be great elsewhere. So I did that, went up to New York and lived up there, and wound up getting a job with a songwriter named Kris Kristofferson and wound working with him for years and years. Went back to Fort Worth and worked with Delbert McClinton for years and years and then back to work with Kristofferson at the time his star was born. I stayed with him for a long, long time but worked with other people-always worked with other people. So I ended up working with lots of greats and doing a lot of session work all over the place and was really fortunate.
AD: I read that you moved up to Woodstock; was that scene similar to Austin back then?
SB: It wasn’t similar at all. There was no scene in Woodstock. I didn’t realize when I moved there but everybody that lived in Woodstock during that time could afford to live there. There were a very small number of us where we wound up playing music. My friend Jim Colgrove was there. I was playing with Graham Parsons and all those guys that had been with Janis Joplin and then she died and they didn’t know where to go. They went back up to Woodstock where Albert Grossman had them up there. And there were the guys in The Band who I met. I met Levon the very first day I was in Woodstock-my roommate was working for them at the time. There was no real live music. There was only one place to play in the town. It was that everybody that could afford to live there lived there and made music there-they didn’t make music out at the clubs. If you wanted to go see live music you went into New York City. On the weekends I would take a bus there and check out what was going on.
AD: Did you know Cindy Cashdollar?
SB: I did not. And I didn’t know the great bass player Jennifer Condos. Evidently they were both around when I was there. They somehow escaped my grasp. I’m sure I would have ultimately wound up meeting them. I didn’t know Cindy during that time, no.
AD: You play in a number of formats-as a solo artist; with a band. Do you have a favorite?
SB: That’s an interesting question. I’ve always been of the mind that whatever you are doing at the moment is the most important thing that you should be working on. And so I always operated in a band format as a back up player and so to me that was my calling-I really enjoyed playing behind everybody. And then I was playing in bands and maybe doing one or two songs but I always liked the band dynamic because a really good band was greater than the sum of its parts. And I always loved playing guitar. That’s where my reputation, if there was one, came from. But as it has gone on over the years I never expected to be a solo artist and have my own band and everything but that became something that just fell in my lap-I didn’t avoid that. And I got more comfortable with that after I started doing it. The Resentments is just a bunch of guys who have their own bands but also play behind people so we’re comfortable doing either. It’s kind of interesting because one out of every four songs you get to sing a song and the rest of the time you are a back up player which is what we all really made our bones with. So in answering your question, whatever I’m doing at the moment I try to let myself do whether it’s me playing solo with The Resentments or playing with my band or backing up somebody-playing behind Malford down at Antone’s on Blue Tuesday or producing a record or playing with Kristofferson or Bonnie-it’s just whatever you are doing at the moment I think you really need to focus on. As a result, more and more things have come my way because I didn’t put my foot down and say, “This is what I do.” In this town we all know that everybody has to play in three or four different bands to make ends meet. And also as a professional, sometimes you have to do three or four different things. I’ve been really fortunate-blessed-to be able to do lots of different things and get called to do them again and again. One year there was nothing going on musically and I wound up getting a bit part in The Alamo. You never know where it’s going to come from so you’ve got to keep yourself open to it and lend yourself to whatever is going on at the time.
AD: Tell us about your writing process. Where do you get your ideas?
SB: That’s a hard question because there’s no formula. It’s funny the last album I put out the only mediocre review I got was in Austin where the guy said, “All his songs are formula.” And I started laughing because if there’s one person that doesn’t write with a formula, I’d have to say it’s me. I mean if it was a formula, if they knew the formula, everybody could do it and everybody could do it successfully. There is no formula. Sometimes it literally starts with maybe an idea-a word idea or clever phrase or something that you realize if you say a certain way can mean two or three different things. Other times, a lot of times, it comes from, say, a rhythm that you are playing or you have an interesting melodic line and you think, I don’t want to forget this, so you wind up making up a lyric so you don’t forget the melody. It’s not particularly deep or anything-I think some of my favorite songs in the whole wide world weren’t message songs or anything, they were just wonderful songs by themselves-they just express something that’s just, I don’t know, almost unconscious. Sometimes I think I’ll overwrite something, I’ll be a little heavy handed with it and then I’ll go back and you have to put your ego aside and you have to say, “Ok how can you say this where it doesn’t sound like you’re coming down with a hammer on somebody?” I think songwriting comes from wherever it comes from. It just happens.
AD: I read that you liken acting to performing music.
SB: I kind of backed into doing acting. Lets face it, I’m not exactly a household name by any stretch of the imagination, but a number of years ago I went out to LA and I was working out there playing music and I started going to this scene study class. You would take scenes from plays and you would work on a scene for a six week period and every week you would add, say, a page so by the end of that time you had worked on an entire segment of a David Mamet play or something. What I noticed about acting was that everything I had learned in music as a member of a band you could also correlate to something in acting. In other words, it had to do with the rhythm; it had to do with making whatever you were working on work. It had nothing to do with your own ego. So I really had a great time with it. This instructor said, “You seem to be able to adapt to a lot of things.” And I said, “Well it’s really the same thing as playing different kinds of music.” When it comes time for someone to deliver their lines it’s action and reaction. You’re reaction to whatever is happening at that moment is the truth. Therefore I could see a real similarity between the band dynamic and the acting dynamic.
It’s like a band situation-and I got to say the guys in my band are the greatest. My father was a jazz player and I always grew up with a jazz sensibility about how the music should go. And I’ve explained to different people that there has to be this dialogue between the three of us before I ever sing a note. Even though my songs are not jazz at all, I always approach them with a jazz sensibility-there has to be this subtext, this conversation musically between everybody before you start singing. So I think that’s where that comes from.
AD: What do you think is special about an Austin audience?
SB: Well what I’ve told friends that have asked me about Austin, I’ve said, “It’s not an industry town.” It’s good in some ways and not good in some ways. What is good about it is when you come down here you really are playing music for all the right reasons. You’re not there to get the sessions-there aren’t a lot of sessions. Everybody is trying to help each other along. If somebody is out of town I’ll get a phone call to come play somewhere. You might get a call to play western swing one night or you might get a call to plays blues one night-even though that’s not what you do per se. What else is cool is that I’ll go out and hear different bands because it’s not a competition. You’re out there really enjoying what somebody else is doing because they are much further ahead in it than you are.
AD: Do you think other towns have a greater sense of competition?
SB: I don’t know. You could say some pretty catty things about different scenes. The real guys, the true players are always going to be the same in every town. But if this was more of an industry town, if there were more sessions or what not, people would be a little bit more competitive. That’s not always a bad thing because that really makes you sharpen your skills. There are two ways to look at every town. Somebody could say, “Oh Nashville, I don’t like Nashville because it’s too this or too that. But there are some of the greatest players in the world that come out of there, and some of the greatest songwriters and it’s an incredibly good music scene. It didn’t used to be that way. When I first started going there, I don’t think the music scene was nearly as viable as it is now. But it’s easy to ride off other areas. You hear, “He plays like an LA guy” Well what does an LA player play like? The guys in LA I know are incredible. Any town would be proud to have them join. I think you have to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Sometimes I think if there is a down side to Austin, it’s that it becomes a little exclusive; it gets a little too inside and a little too hip sometimes. But then again I love it here for the reasons that people really are inspired by each other and that’s really inspiring, the fact that it’s not an industry town, and no one is looking over your shoulder and telling you what you are doing wrong. You are able to grow at your own rate.
The audiences here, I find to be really great and lets face it, it’s great to be able to play several nights a week. You have to realize you’re not going to get rich quick-you may not get rich at all but you are able to play. And if you are a player, that’s what you’ve got to go do.
AD: What is the best thing and the worst thing about being a musician in Austin?
SB: Lets talks about the worst thing: sometimes I hear this town referred to as the “velvet rut” and I think that can be true to a certain extent. Because you get comfortable here; because it’s so comfortable climate-wise and at least until recently, so easy to get around and smaller and friendly, good quality of life-it’s easy to become complacent. Any time you have a town that gets content with itself, it’s not growing. If you become complacent, you’re not growing. So you have to constantly guard against becoming satisfied with what you are doing and how you are doing it. There’s a difference between acceptance of where you are and what you are doing and procrastinating what you want to do or how you are going to do it. You have to keep furthering yourself. I think the worst thing about Austin is that sometimes it gets a little full of itself. It’s easy to live here and take yourself a little too seriously and have a little too much respect for yourself. You can wake up in twenty years and still play the same whatever.
A number of years ago I started getting into producing, and when I would get off the road that was a wonderful place to be. I would get off the road with Bonnie or whoever I was working with and then go into the studio and produce somebody and it would be the flip side of the road-you know what I’m saying? You’re sleeping in your own bed but you’re playing music every day. So it was a wonderful place to be. But then the advent of the home studios: record companies went by the way-side, budgets have fallen drastically and now you’re asked to do the same amount of work for much less money. It’s just the way the industry is. It’s not like you’re not working or anything like that-it’s just the way it is. So that’s kind of the downside for somebody that likes to produce and be on the road. For awhile there I was having a ball. It seemed to kind of dovetail together.
Now the best thing about being in Austin: even with the growth we’ve seen in the city it still maintains a community vibe-there’s a great community here. I don’t know, maybe I’m insulated and see what I want to see rather than what is actually going on but I feel pretty strongly about it. I feel that the music community is still really, really strong and real insular and protective of each other. I think that’s fantastic. I also love the fact that somebody calls up and says they are having a benefit and 99% of the time you’re in. That’s not found in a lot of towns. I really think that’s something special here. It’s one of the reasons I love it here. And it’s still easier to get around than New York.
Austin is a double-edged sword: for the same reason you can argue for it, you can argue the other side of it.
AD: What kind of changes have you seen in the music business since you started?
SB: It’s really changing shape in the fact that the recording industry is different and what’s changing in the actual business. When it started out with 78s it was a singles oriented situation and it lasted until 78s became 45s and then if you had enough successful 45s or 78s you got to do a thing called an album which was all your hit singles and then three or four other sides that made an album. With the advent of CDs, record companies got really greedy and they were charging close to $17 for something that cost them a buck. Well now because they were greedy and because it was a self-fulfilling prophecy it’s gone back to a singles market. It seems like the younger and younger crowd that are buying music are buying single songs. It’s interesting to see it come around. A couple of years later it’s exactly where it started off in that sense-a higher technological sense that somehow doesn’t sound as good.
AD: Speaking of change, what do you think of SXSW?
SB: I enjoy SXSW because I get to see a lot of my friends that come to my town but still get to sleep in my bed. I think when it first started what I really think was great, and it seems to still go on, it was basically started for people to exchange information about things that they didn’t have-independence in the late ’70s and early ’80s. You could exchange publishing information and touring ideas and how to do things for less money and how to get your songs out there. This was right when the industry started shifting so it was a great thing and a great service, the original SXSW. And of course like anything else, it breeds success but also breeds its own failure. But if you take a look at the Convention Center every year, they still have the original thing: you can still find out about publishing; you can still find out about putting out your own CD. There is a lot of information that is exchanged that is for free.
About 18 years ago I was really hating SXSW and I was down at the old Austin Rehearsal Complex (ARC)-they were opening it up for a showcase-and I hung around there and saw all these different young bands from New York and LA and I said to myself, “Man you are really becoming one of those old guys that hates everything. These young guys are great and they have driven all this way and are just trying to get a chance. They are all hanging out and they are just as nice as can be.” I looked at those guys and thought, there you were. There you were. What are you going to put down about that?
On the other hand, I think it has a tendency to take itself way too seriously.
It’s kind of an interesting deal. One of the things I noticed when it first started getting big and a lot of the national acts started coming down here and playing and it got to be a little Hollywood, was that this town wants it both ways. This town wants to be its own isolationist, hipper than thou, we’re Austin and the rest of you guys are something else. But then at the same time it also wants to be recognized. Welcome to Austin. Now go home. They’re not going home. That comes with the territory. It’s all changing.
But I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s motives; I have to worry about my own.
AD: What wisdom would you offer musicians starting out in the business?
SB: You have to do it for the original reason that you started out which was that there was something in there, some magic element that was not tangible-not verbal. I’ve always told guys playing guitar, “This is your best friend, this is your shrink, and this is your better half, your mistress. This is the one that holds the mirror up to yourself.” The greatest thing about playing music is that you have an outlet that not a lot of people have. Anybody that is able to do that is completely blessed anyway but to do it for a living, come on. Let’s take a look at the world: we’re not stuck in Baghdad, we’re not stuck in Eastern Europe, and we’re able to do what we do. So don’t take it for granted ever because it is a gift. To sound like Yoda, “You must use this power only for good.” A lot of times if you are a musician you really don’t have a choice-this is what you are going to do. It doesn’t matter if you do it on a big scale or a small scale. My dad worked in a record store during the day and played music every night. I was able to go on the road and fortune shone my way but I know that if I was working in a store I would be playing music on the weekends. That’s just what you do. You just got to do it. The main thing is do it for the right reasons. If it gives you joy keep doing it; if it’s causing you a lot of pain you might want to take a look at it and back off for a minute. If things are going haywire, I don’t think it’s the guitar that is treating you wrong.
AD: Any new recordings coming out?
SB: I’m sure there will be. I haven’t been recording anything lately although I have been writing quite a bit. I’ve been testing new songs out at the Resentment gigs much to everybody’s chagrin. I’ll just finish them and bring them in on a piece of paper, lay it at my feet, and see if I can get through it. I think I have an album well under way right now but I want to keep writing until I can cherry pick it and find the best ones.
AD: One of our staff saw you with the Blue Tuesday Band. Is that going to be a regular thing?
SB: I don’t think so. I got the call to come play when Derek was out of town or couldn’t make it one night which I was happy to do. It was a couple of Tuesdays within a two or three week period. David Murray also played guitar and David’s an incredible guitar player so we had a really great time. Riley was gone last week, he was out in LA doing the Jay Leno Show so it was me and David playing two guitars rather than having a keyboard player. When I’m in town I love to play, I’ll probably go down and play a bunch more but I’ve got things going on. I sure had a good time playing down there.
AD: Anything else?
SB: I think we covered it all. I’m pretty long-winded.
May 6th, 2014 by Russ
This is a super cool festival. I love the grounds. Remèmber when the east side meant culture. This fest retains that.!
win a pair of tickets by being the first person to write: Viva Pachanga
on the Austin Daze Facebook page
May 6th, 2014 by Russ
Adrian and the Sickness
“Be Your Own Saviour”
2014 Fantom Records
Produced by Alex Lyon and Adrian Conner
There are many things that set Adrian Conner apart from most rock musicians today (assuming the term “rock” even applies to the current musical landscape) but the most important is this: Adrian Conner understands what a ROCK SHOW is, the way rocks founding fathers did. The early pioneers of the genre knew that first and foremost they were entertainers putting on a show, and rock music was the vehicle that got them there (obviously no longer common knowledge). Perhaps it’s all the time Adrian has spent nailing the role of Angus Young in the all-female AC/DC tribute band “Hells Belles” (Angus being a master rock showman himself) but also I think it comes down to basic work ethic. How happy do you want your audience to be? How hard are you willing to work for that? This is a time when work ethic is in short supply, and Adrian has a very happy audience… Coincidence? Nah…
In 2006 I picked up my box of CD’s to review from the Austin Daze office, containing an offer from the dread-headed wonder I didn’t know about yet. I looked at the cover of “Adrian for President,” she seemed pretty cocky, so honestly I expected her stuff to suck… but I was wrong. Instantly it was obvious that AATS were a band with talent, vision, and a professional level future- just not much of a budget at the time. But they won me over with abundant heart, soul and attitude, and I had big hopes and expectations for them. Guess what folks, they have delivered and continue to deliver… Bigtime.
2009’s release “B.F.D.” is big, solid and powerful. Produced by Kathy Valentine of the Go Go’s, it has that polished “We’ve been signed to a major label” kind of sound. Smart songwriting, thick and lush production, it proved that this is a band to take seriously. I really thought it would put them on the big stages and big tours they deserved, but the music business these days doesn’t often reward those who are so deserving of success. But their local popularity grew, and in 2011 they were awarded Austin’s Best Punk Band by the Austin Chronicle. (Punk band? Uh, well, okay…)
2014’s “Be Your Own Saviour” is a big move for AATS. Raw, edgy, filled with unstoppable confidence, Adrian delivers her best songwriting to date. Her guitar work puts her alongside some of Austin’s best known 6 string heroes, and in this setting she gets to show off her lead vocal skills (something she doesn’t get to do as Angus). The album goes into unpredictable territory, sometimes ambient, sometimes acoustic, then full out hard rock. Longtime collaborator Heather Webb lays down the best bass tracks of her career with masterful chops and a monster retro tone, and drummer Aaron Nicholes is solid and in the pocket throughout. Former AATS drummer and Austin stalwart Ric Furley supplies percussion.
Stand out tracks are: “We Got It All,” “Take The World,” “Dark Force” and “Turn Off Your TV.” You will be happy and a better person with these songs in your life, and the karma you will receive for helping them out is immeasurable…
May 4th, 2014 by Russ
Tom Jones live at ACL Moody Theatre. 5.2.2014 I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to cover this show. The seats were higher up than I’ve experienced at the Moody, but the sound and view were perfect, proving to me that there is no bad seat in the Moody. Tom Jones rolled through all his hits with ease. He still has a very strong voice and was able to fill the room with emotion.
His enigmatic stage presence was impressive, but I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.
From this vantage point, I was able to see something I’ve never seen before. I watched the 73 year-old superstar surrounded by women’s underwear. Tom has been performing for over 50 years and each night he plays, he receives this kind of reception. I can’t help but wonder, what does he do with all the panties? Does he keep them in a large warehouse? Throw them away? Donate them? Recycle them? It must be distracting to be surrounded by 40-50 panties and he women who threw them. Does he ever slip or trip on them, I wonder?
I plan to ask Tom Jones for an interview so I can answer some of these pressing questions. I had a new photographer, Robert Smith, capture some photos of Tom Jones. Keep posted for a slideshow of his work.
April 24th, 2014 by Russ
The Whiskey Sisters live at the Continental and then Dumpstaphunk live at Emo’s 4.18.2014
My FUNKY Friday night with Bobby “Giant Man” Perkins began with The Whiskey Sisters. He played bass with them making everybody smile. I dig it when he fills in for Lonnie Trevino, their regular bass badass.The Whiskey Sisters played two nights in a row to a packed audience. That is really just fuckin awesome. This band continues to fill rooms and get better with each show. Word is getting out about them. Soon they will be doing a European tour. See them in intimate clubs while you still can.
We then headed over to Emo’s to see some funk. Dumpstaphunk has two basses, an organ, a guitar and drums. This band needs to be seen live. This experience needs to be felt. The double bass riffs really hit your soul and force your body to move. It’s a very cool thing. The Groove Line Horns were sitting in and the room was filled with much soulful dancing. Ivan Neville captains this ship of funk from behind the keys. I make it a priority to catch these guys whenever they are in town. We hung out with these guys after the show, the party never seems to end for New Orleans musicians.
The New York Times stated, “Dumpstaphunk is the best funk band from New Orleans right now.”
We always keep the spontaneity going, that’s something I love about this band,” says Ivan. “We can funk it out with the best of them, but we also like to showcase how all sorts of music can come together and push the boundaries of what funk music is.”
Check out what these guys are doing at www.dumpstaphunk.com