First off, NIGO. I bought Nigo's (B)APE SOUNDS a while back, during a trip in Japan. I was in a Virgin Megastore in Tokyo and decided to buy a bucket load of Japanese music to take back home as fun souvenirs. I picked up CDs completely randomly and I actually ended up liking most of what I had bought. Not only that, but it also kicked off an interest in Japanese music that carries on to this day. I picked (B)APE SOUNDS off the racks for no paticular reason except that the CD cover looked really cool. I got lucky: it's a great album. The fact that I don't understand the lyrics, not being a Japanese speaker, is not really a problem to me (it could be a put off for some people I guess).
Here's a song from (B)APE SOUNDS, called "Planet of the Babes".
Now, here's another major hip-pop act from Japan that I like: M-Flo.
M-Flo is known to bring together foreign influences and Japanese sensibilities. Here's a really good example of that: M-Flo + Monkey Majik.
“Teriyaki Boyz is a j-hip hop group from
Their debut album from Def Jam Recordings and (B)APE Sounds titled Beef or Chicken? was produced by a who's who of rap and electronica producers including ADROCK of the Beastie Boys, Cornelius, Cut Chemist, Daft Punk, Dan the Automator, DJ Premier, DJ Shadow, Just Blaze, Mark Ronson, and The Neptunes. Their first single "HeartBreaker", was produced by Daft Punk and contains elements of the Daft Punk song "Human After All".
Two tracks by the Teriyaki Boyz were featured on the The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift soundtrack, the title track "Tokyo Drift (Fast and the Furious)", and "Cho L A R G E", featuring Pharrell which had previously been released on their debut album Beef or Chicken?.
In 2007 the single, "I Still Love H.E.R.", was released, which was produced by and featured Kanye West. West also appears in the promotional video, which was shot as a YouTube parody.
On March 19 2008, the Teriyaki Boyz released their latest single, "
I don't know the slightest bit of Japanese, so I'm not really sure what they're rapping about, but it's catchy and has...how you say, a phat beat? (I'm definitely not one to use that sort of lingo.) Though, I did manage to skim through the video comments and find out that "zock on" is an anglicized spelling of a phrase in Japanese slang, zokkon, which is often used to describe when one is seriously crushing on someone or something, if that helps. Anyway, I like the suaveness Pharrell adds to the track. And a slight comment on the video, I could do without Busta Rhymes's attempts on breakdancing.
Also, I've linked the other tracks to videos I found on YouTube if you're inclined to check those out too.
[Sidenote: I've updated my post on Low vs Diamond by including a recent video clip they've added to their myspace.]
This is an interview I did last summer with a musician and video artist for Toolfarm's Inspirations. I thought the Max Bumps readers might enjoy it. (And now you all know my secret identity.)
Matthew Collings, aka Sketches for Albinos, is an experimental musician and music video maker, living and working in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Sketches for Albinos album 'Red' came out in March 2007 on Imoto records and took Matthew over two years to complete. Each song is a highly-crafted piece of music and multi-textured and described by Rawkstar.net as 'an individual masterpiece's. It is available on iTunes.
Matthew put this same lush texture and intricate detail into his video for the song 'Routine'. We discuss the creative process and visualizing his music, using lo-tech and highly experimental techniques. We even touch upon the topic of synesthesia. If you're not familiar with that term, you better read the interview!
Michele Yamazaki: Hi Matthew.
Matthew Collings: Hello.
MY: When we exchanged emails earlier, you said that you use "basic things for your audio". Can you tell me a bit about your creative process for making music?
MC: I actually try to use very basic things for sound and audio. I'm not hi-tech at all.
MC: I almost always start on a guitar. I'm a guitarist, but I like computers because of their power. I use many layers of things, mostly guitars, although they may not sound like it. You find things emerge in that way, organically and spontaneously.
MC: I also do most things on a digital 8-track machine and use the computer to tear things apart and to find new textures.
MC: When I make music, I always try to visualize it in some way.
MY: How did you go about visualizing the video for 'Routine'?
MY: The video has texture as well and matches the music perfectly.
MC: Routine... I had planned it for two years, after I went to the sculpture park where it's partly filmed. I went there at sunset, it was beautiful. It had this cold industrial look to it, like a Chris Cunningham video, or something by David Fincher. I love that mix of cold, electronic, distant, alien, with something warm, human and emotional.
MC: It's about twisting things into new shapes.
MC: I had this idea of it, like the images themselves should be able to bend, twist, flip colours, and suddenly change texture... all grainy, but not in an old, battered way. Texture is an important part of that, because something can be very familiar, and classic, but if it's wrapped up in a fresh or unusual texture, it suddenly becomes interesting.
MC: More hi-tech full of rich colours, like neon lights.
MY: Were the grain effects done with plug-ins or while shooting?
MC: I filmed it over two years in different places. The main texture effects are all real-time, totally filmed. There are no plug-ins used during the editing whatsoever.
MY: No kidding.
MC: I find people get easily distracted with plug-ins, thinking the plug-ins can do all the work for you. It stops you from having to use your imagination to produce new effects.
MY: The video is absolutely gorgeous. What techniques did you use to add texture to the video?
MC: It's actually done by routing the existing footage through an old tv monitor and then filming it again, on the same camera. The screen itself creates all those effects. Filming a tv screen is fascinating because it's a convex surface, light reflects differently off it, and the colours shift.
MY: Excellent trick! It does look really organic.
MC: I didn't capture exactly what I was looking for though.
MC: That was the aim! Organic, but in a twisted way.
MC: I love films by David Cronenberg, that twist what organicity is... blending machines and flesh and the like.
MC: In terms of experimenting, I think people are quite lazy these days
MY: I think a lot of people don't have the time or money to experiment as much as they like, too.
MC: If you listen to some of the first electronic or tape music made in the 40s, 50s, which took months, literally, at a tape recorder and slicer...
MC: and the products are still much more alien and far out that anything made on computers.
MC: The instant power of it can be counterproductive, I feel.
MY: Yes, I suppose so.
MY: I was just reading an article about creativity and they quoted Jack White of the White Stripes. The quote: "If we had five people on the stage, all the opportunity of a 300-track studio, or a brand-new Les Paul, the creativity would be dead. Too much opportunity would make it too easy. We just don’t want to be complicated, it seems unnecessary."
MC: When they first came out, The Stripes, I was really inspired by that attitude.
MC: When you place limits on yourself, you have to create, to test, to bend.
MC: When you have massive power at your fingertips, you get lazy because when you can do anything, you do nothing.
MC: I know people know try to start recording music, download loads of programs, and just get so intimidated by all the complexities of it all, they give up. That's such a waste.
MY: That's so true. You spend a good part of the creative process learning the technical aspects of a program.
MY: You said, "When I Make music, I Always try to visualize it in some way". Do you have synesthesia?
MC: I don't think I have synesthesia, but I'm fascinated by it.
MC: The most common form is to see colours in music, which I feel strongly.
MY: I went to a seminar on it a while back. Very interesting.
MC: With the video too. It had to take on OTHER QUALITIES, be textural and the like, the cross senses.
MC: I released an album in March, and it had no titles, so I called it 'Red', which is a colour of that always seems to occur with me, even if I don't think about it. Red was just romantic and dark and rich and BANG!
MC: There was no way I cold find the way to sum up that period of my life, such an amazing time, with words or even a catchy sentence or title.
MY: Can you talk a bit about your editing process and the experimentation you went through?
MY: Does your final video look like what you had visualized when you wrote the song?
MC: We edited the video in Final Cut Pro.
MC: The song was actually the first song I ever did in this current setup, on my own. I wanted to do the video first, and chose that song.
MC: I had these visual ideas that I had to do...and I still haven't finished them really.
MC: The textural thing, and the synthesthia in video is the same that I want to achieve in music really, thing meshing and melting into one another in an unfamiliar but recognisable way.
MC: It feels like a big general idea, that is viscous in my mind, and it will always be there, shifting around.
MC: This the point in the conversation where I make lots of bizarre hand gestures to try to explain what I mean.
MY: He he.
MC: It kind of feels like some violent textural dough, that stretches and flips and is heavy and powerful. If that makes any sense at all.
MC: I wanted it to be even slower. Twice as slow. I just couldn't film it because I had no tripod, had to hold the camera, and it was -10°C!
MC: Have you seen 'Ganz Graf' by Autechre? It's the most amazing animation ever and helps the music to make sense, which it didn't really before, because it's so abstract.
MC: The video expresses this flipping, twisting thing, everything falling apart, coming back together, almost dancing, but it's still incredibly abstract.
MY: It does give the music a whole other dimension.
MC: It was also done years ago, maybe in 2001.
MC: I think that's one of the best music videos I've seen because it takes the music to another level, which is what video is for.
MY: That must've been crazy to animate. The timing is insane. I hope they had a plug-in to help them time it with the beats!
MC: It's incredible, isn't it! So complex.
MC: The machine comes alive...
MY: Every beat has something happen. It says the idea came from an LSD trip. I can believe it!
MC: Actually I think the texture and colour of music is one of the most important things.
MC: It's like with a painting, if the wrong shade of colour is used it just ruins everything. Same with production, everything has to feel right, be the right shape.
MY: You said it took 2 years to shoot your video. How long did your post production process take?
MC: When we actually we working on it, about two weeks, it was just that finding the time was difficult.
MY: What were some of the challenges you had in post production bring your vision to life?
MC: I actually wanted to film the whole thing again through a tv, and all the footage numerous times, to get 3 or 4 different versions of the same footage and mix them all together in layers, so they could, move and pulsate and flicker under one another.
MC: To be honest, it worked out exactly how I wanted, except the shots weren't long enough. I tried stretching the footage and slowing it, but it looked pretty crappy.
MC: Too cliched slow motion.
MY: I've got some terrific plug-ins I can sell you to smooth out your slow motion shots ;-)
MC: It should have a thicker texture, and the only reason it doesn't have it is because I gave up after two years of trying to get it done!
MC: I always work on things until they get almost exactly in line with what I had in my head at the time. It often takes 6 months to 2 years.
MC: I'm patient. Ha ha.
MY: Are you originally from Iceland?
MC: I'm originally from England. I moved here nearly three years ago.
MC: It's an amazing place. Best time of my life.
MY: I'm sure the scenery in Iceland is inspiring. It's the #1 place on my list of places to visit before I die.
MC: The thing about the scenery, especially in Reykjavik, is that it just becomes subconscious... you barely notice the sea and mountains at the end of the road, but everything just seems so HUGE, and you are part of it. It's inspiring in that way everyday.
MY: Have you started work on another video yet?
MC: Not really. I would like to do another one, but it's still forming. I should really start on another one. I have day dreams about music videos all the time, based on existing ones, but with whole new qualities over the top. A director friend of mine in Finland is making something to my music also.
MY: Very cool. Please send me a link when the video is online. I'd love to check it out.
MC: That may also take years... Ha ha.
MY: Thanks for talking with me, Matthew. It was so interesting.
MC: Thank you for inviting me. It's always a pleasure to try to explain these things. I always learn something from it
June 1 , 2007 02:06 pm EST
According to her website:
"JAYMAY is a storyteller. The narrative runs through each one of her songs, a melodic thread of self-reflection and eloquent articulation, threading through music that is both graceful and bold. The songs are chapters, tales of the young woman who stepped out onto the street one night to find and lose love and move forward, open to the dangers and wonders offered by the world."
Apparently her CD player broke and she only had access to a few Bob Dylan tapes which prompted her to pick up her brother’s guitar and start writing her own songs.
While not as interesting as the Take Away Shows, here’s another taste of Jaymay. This song is called "Big Ben." I initially wanted to put up "Sycamore Down" but this one's a bit more raw and acoustic, and you can hear all the cars buzzing around. For other clips of her London tour series, check out YouTube.
Also, you can download a free track called “Snow White” by going to this link.
Her other popular tracks are “Gray or Blue” and “Blue Skies” (yes, two more songs containing the “blue”)…though everything of hers is pretty good if you like this sort of stuff.
Where do you go when you’re lost? Not lost when traveling, but lost in the emotion of a moment and are in need of an exit. For me that exit is music, specifically certain songs that have the lyrical and vocal strength to overpower my senses and dissolve my problems. You know of course what I mean. You come home late because your boss asked you to work extra hours even though you just did a double the night before. Maybe you stub your toe on the way in. Then you walk upstairs to find your lover in bed with Eatabagel, eating a bagel. Whatever your reasons, you need to let the pain out and what better way to do so than with a good melody and some lyrical poignancy.
Below are a few songs which have helped me through some hard times. Give them a listen then drop by the forums and share some of your favorite moment-crushing tunes.
Fiona Apple - Limp
You feed the beast I have within me
You wave the red flag, baby you make it run run run
Standing on the sidelines, waving and grinning
You fondle my trigger, then you blame my gun
Arcade Fire - Intervention
Been working for the church while your life falls apart
Been singing hallelujah with the fear in your heart
Every spark of friendship and love will die without a home
Hear the soldier groan, "We'll go at it alone"
Nine Inch Nails - Something I Can Never Have (Still version)
Grey would be the color if I had a heart
You make this all go away
I'm down to just one thing
I'm starting to scare myself
This seems to be a very popular number to cover. The first cover I heard was from Casey Neill (not on The Sixty One).
Bat for LashesI was very glad to find out that the lyric was not "It's like some took a knive baby edgy and dull and put a six inch belly in the middle of my soul." and "At night I wake up with the sheets open wide"when I first heard the Bat for Lashes version. This really is a quality cover. It's dark and moody and just beautiful. Totally bumpworthy. I might even max bump it.
The ChromaticsThe Chromatics also made an interesting of I'm on Fire. This is more electropoppy and has an 80s feel to it. They don't enunciate quite as clearly as Bat for Lashes. They must be American :-) This is an interesting twist on the original and it's bumpworthy.
BabbleGrabbleBabbleRabble's cover is much more like the original. In my opinion, not bumpworthy.
SunnyvaleI liked this version because it's upbeat alt country and fun. I can picture them doing some knee slapping at a barn dance. Bumpable. Those who don't like covers would probably not care for it, nor would big Springsteen fans.
One comment I read was that covering Bruce is like covering the Beatles and you're never going to improve on it. That might be true. I think the Bat for Lashes version is beautiful and haunting and honestly, as good as the Springsteen version, but I guess that is open to debate (and that's what the comments are for.)
Hello again all! It's been a few weeks since I've been able to sit down and share my thoughts with you on the music that has been rolling into thesixtyone. In this time period there has been uproar over the limitation of songs that an artist can upload and a complete reversal (Bug were told) that allowed some piano player to upload 30 tracks before reaching level 5. Only a few things remain constant at thesixtyone. They are:
- Great music
- Glenn Case wall postings
Now that we have that out of the way, let's listen to some music.
Two Short Album Reviews (The return of Non-Fuzz)
This up and coming band has created an album that is sure to be a mainstay in a lot of peoples players.
The first single of the album is "Hummingbird" and is a catchy and frantic track that speeds down the road of suicide without blinking an eye. That's the way that I interpret anyway. Luke Lalonde has an interesting vocal style and doesn't seem to care if he annunciates well and for me that adds to the charm. I'll warn you now that that front half of the album doesn't deliver nearly enough compared to the back end. I maintain that all should give it a listen though.
I was a bit hesitant to check these guys out after I had heard their cover of Exit Music For a Film by Radiohead. No one really does Radiohead any justice and it nearly kept me from hearing this great band. I'm amazed that this band can sound like so many artists (Paul Simon - Graceland Days, The Kinks, The Police and many others) while still maintaining a very unique sound. This one has been stuck in my car stereo for weeks. Literally, when I hit the eject button it won't come out.
Can I Get Some Love?
Bye Polar Bear is my underrated artist of the week. With great covers of Neutral Milk Hotel and Leonard Cohen and some interesting original stuff I can see this guy at the top of the61 artist list.
Ready For Revival
One of my favorite acts on the61, The Acorn, have been on this site from the beginning. All of their songs have posted and should be ready for some new ears on the site. Give them a listen.
Time again to say goodbye. It seems as if we are in for many changes on the61 but as long as the music stays great I will not be going anywhere.
Hasta la pasta!
Temple Scene, a favorite of thesixtyone, has finally yielded to the demand of its rabid fan-base and finally released four songs on Amazon. Being one of those rabid fans, I clicked on over to Amazon and with great anticipation purchased their songs and immediately added them to the rotation of my favorites on my iPod. It was evident from my first encounter with Temple Scene's music on t61 that this was music that was intelligent, beautifully thought-out, masterfully created and well... excellent.
I was glad that Breathing was one of the first four songs released by the band. 'Breathing' exemplifies the beauty of Temple Scene's music. It is rich in texture and builds on layers upon layers of soft and dark harmonies that pull you for the long haul. With lyrics that are both romantic and tragic and vocals that are soft and unforced, the song changes tempos and crescendos into a melodic tour de force that can be enjoyed no matter what mood you're in. The new release of this song sounds a bit too cleaned up than the one that is posted on the site, and while as a sometime snobby audio-phile, I miss the original grit of the song, it is nonetheless one that is amazing, no matter what the production.
The other song released,Somewhere in the City is has a bit more structure, with a constant beat and a near 80's keyboard style, which translates well in this format. The same theme of tragedy intemixed with hope is played out in this song, which paints imagery that dances with the lyrical poetry and simplicity that has become the bands trademark. What seems to work well for Somewhere in the City is that it never gets boring, and yet still manages to feel as warm and comfortable as an encounter with a long awaited friend.
Half Life looks inward for inspiration and, while the theme of perseverence through loss of love can get a bit tired, Temple Scene manages to handle it with grace and not let it get preachy. Half Life is perhaps a bit more poppy and has the cool, 'tortured-soul' feel of a ballad, but it works well in blending the highs and lows into a well-rounded song.
The last song released, Everything is perhaps the weakest in this great mix. Not that it doesn't sound great, but somehow, it is missing the multiple layers of sound that define Temple Scene's music. Instead, it is a more straight-forward, nearly formulatic song, relying on a simple harmony and the strength of the vocals.
I truly appreciate this band's music and their unique sound. The creative duo of Ric Levy and Phillippe Rose have proven they can handle music with an Artist's ear and melodies with a composer's intricacy. While the newly released songs sound a bit too cleaned up in post-production and I miss the yellow bear logo of the original releases, I, for one, am grateful to finally be able to carry these tunes anywhere and listen to them all the time.
In the latest Max Bumps band interview, Willie spoke to Oli from Mad Staring Eyes and failed to tap him for £50.
Willie:Who are the Mad Staring Eyes behind those bandages?
Oli: Mad Staring Eyes are Al Jay (vocals/guitar), Dan Lee (bass guitar/vocals), Jake Hirsch (keyboards/vocals), Oli Darley (drums). We are at the centre of a London-based collective of artists and musicians associated with Retina Records such as The Bill Murrays, The Undecided Party, Hug, Vintagehead and Meatman.
The bandages are to do with the name of the band and the name of our album ('Bored Of Looking Cool'), not because we're horrifically scarred or anything...
Willie: How did the band form? Met rolling on the floor of a psychiatric ward?
Oli: We’ve all known each other since we were kids; we formed a band when we were 15. The first gig we played was soon after, at the Walthamstow Royal Standard which is quite a rough pub in East London (and a bit like a psychiatric ward come to think of it). There was a stripper on just before us and as I recall, the 'crowd' turned just after our hard rock version of 'All Along The Watchtower.' Can't blame them really.
Willie: All Along The Watchtower by Mad Staring Eyes, now there’s one for the 61 home page. How did the name Mad Staring Eyes come about?
Oli: It was one of those 4 in the morning decisions when we were all looking a bit tired and wired. We used to be called Izzy Strange and the Mad Staring Eyes which is a name we all still love but we dropped the first bit after a while as people kept saying 'Whatty who and the What??' Now the worst we get is Mad Starring Eyes.
Willie: It’s a very individual vibe you’ve got going. How do you describe your sound and who are your influences?
Oli: We have a lot of different influences because we are all into very different music, from punk to jazz to classic rock to hip-hop. Over the last few years our sound has actually become more together and focused. We will always have a leftfield edge to our music but we were definitely crazier before. Sometimes that can get in the way of great songs though so the trick is finding the right balance which on this album we think we have.
Willie: Can you tell us a bit about your song writing process?
Oli:There’s no one way. Ideas come up sometimes in jams, those eyes-closed, lights out wig-out type moments, then we build on those ideas over the next few weeks. Alternatively someone (we all write) might bring a near complete song to the jam and we might finish it that night. Dan produces most of our music so he might build a new song on his computer out of some weird loop he dug out somewhere.
Willie: On to the 61. As a listener discovering great music like yours is the first draw, but the community aspect with artist and listeners interacting seems to set t61 apart. My question is could you lend me 50 quid? And what are your thoughts from a band perspective?
Oli: We honestly love t61 and have really appreciated all the support we've received there. Its obviously useful seeing what songs listeners like the most and reading their comments. We've got ourselves some new fans which is all you can ask for! Oh, and sorry I'm skint.
Willie: Have the bumps and the feedback effected what you perform live or even the makeup of forthcoming releases?
Oli: It didn’t effect the album directly because the track listing was already decided. Also, it's never good to have your head too easily turned in a band, as that usually leads to confusion and self-doubt!
The feedback has been used though... it's interesting what songs people have connected with and it has affected what songs we play people when they want to find out a bit about the band.
Oli: Our album 'Bored Of Looking Cool' will be coming out in June.
Willie: Looking forward to that. Any other exciting news you’d like to share? International gig, anything like that perchance?
Oli: Yes, sir, we do. The album will be released to coincide with our trip across the Atlantic to Toronto to the North By Northeast festival. We are speaking to several labels in the US and Canada and are on the verge of signing a publishing deal in the UK.
Willie: That’s great news. North by Northeast should be great, I hope it goes well for you. Perhaps you could give us a report when you get back.
Oli: We can't wait for NxNE, sure we'll do a report when we get back
Willie: Do you have any favourites among the other bands on the site?
Oli: I found out about Band Of Horses and Vampire Weekend on t61 before anywhere else and they are both great.
Willie: Finally. One desert island disc, what would it be? Any artist, any era or genre.
Oli: We'd all have very different answers to this one. No way I can do one but if it was three I'd go for Television - Marquee Moon
The Clash - London Calling, The Shins - Wincing The Night Away, oh, and check out 'mush' by Leatherface. They were a 90's punk band from Sunderland and are up there with all the greats).
Willie: Thanks for your time and good luck with the album and NxNE, though I’m sure luck doesn’t have anything to do with any success that comes your way. Hope to see you on the 61 soon.
Mad Staring Myspace
Mad Staring Facebook
A flash of neon beckons the weary traveller along the winding 61. Here at IZ's the food is plentiful, comforting, and greasy, and the jukebox still costs a nickel for three plays.
I'm a dance and electronica fan, and really enjoy the trancier and clubbier side of music. I've been a fan of Aura and Trance Generation and the Benassi Bros. and many others for some time. So I was thrilled when Stella Errans thesixtyone.com/Nephie
showed up on the site with here trippy trancy repertoire. She is the Queen of Trance on thesixtyone, abundantly evident by her success. Since I'm not a musician myself, and Trance does not always - or often - have lyrics to comment upon, I can only really point to the music that gets me moving and use the old saw "I don't know what's good, but I know what I like". And I like her stuff.
I think Nephie really brought this subgenre to the fore on the site with some fime music that makes you want to move in your seat - or get out of it altogether and flow down the hall.
But if Stella Errans is the Queen of Trance... who is the King? There are only a handful of artists who have listed any songs of theirs under trance, and none of them have risen so far in the ranks as she. Perhaps ther is no king yet. But there is one yong suiter for the title - one who is to my mind ratehr underappreciated at the present time givent he obvious appreciation for the medium. That Crown Prince of trance, if you will, is Yahel.
Yahel's recent upploads examplify to me some killer trance, well deserving of a looksee from anyone looking for infectious rhythm. None of his works have broken 40 bumps yet, but if you're hungry for trance or dance, I'd recommend giving this DJ a try.
There are several other artists who have thrown the odd (and good) trance track our way. Could they be legitimate royal candidates, or mere pretenders. Only time will tell.
Mickey Jello to my mind is Yahel's chief competition, but only equals him in quality, while the good DJ trumps soundly so far on quantity:
Dynamic Interplay is a little quieter, a little hypnotic. But then all Trance has its hypnotic elements:
Andrew Ford alas has been around and tragically ignored for ages:
The others - all the other Trancers so far on the61 - include DJ CrashT, Plus+69, Mojosnake, Jack Nobody - they're all worth a listen. There's celarly enough love for Trance on the61. Perhaps we will see the kingdom rise in the future.
Earlier this month Low vs Diamond participated at SXSW and in the past have opened for Air and the Sounds. This July, they will be part of the first-ever Pemberton Festival lineup held in Canada, which is headlined by Coldplay, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jay-Z, and Nine Inch Nails.
Here's a site I found where you can preview some of their songs. "Life After Love" is the song that first caught my attention on the radio and "Heart Attack" was a single released last year in the UK.
Just saw this on their myspace and thought I'd add a clip so you can get an immediate sample of what Low vs Diamond sounds like.
I also sent a message through myspace encouraging them to check out t61. The keyboardist, Tad, sounded interested and suggested I send an email to their management...so I did, but who knows what will happen from there. At least it was worth a shot :-)
Low vs Diamond's Myspace
Hailing from Scotland but blending influences from all over the globe, the infectious rhythms of ZUBA's Bassa Beat made an instant impression on t61 listeners. Alas, Zuba - in the form that t61 listeners have come to know and love them - no longer exists. Jacob from Zuba took the time to talk to MaxBumps about thesixtyone.com, life as Zuba, and the band's direction - past and future.
silkworm: What has your experience been like with thesixtyone.com so far as an artist and as a listener?
Jacob: Woooow! That's a hard one, a lot in your question... sorry; it will have to be a long answer!
First as an artist, I've been doing Zuba promotion on the web on and off for a few years now, and t61 is really unique to me. Its originality partly comes from the fact that the spirit of it is not interested at all, business wise, thanks to James and Sam (big respect!) and devoted entirely to music. You only have listeners and artists, nobody here to "lay down", sell porn or watches. The comments here are about music and only music. The only people that can make money there are the artists, all they have to do is upload music, the rest is already done for them. If your tune is available on the web you have a link coming up to a merchant download site, etc. Saying that, I don't know if a lot of people buy those tracks, because they can listen to them for free on t61 and more than that, I'm not sure they have time to listen to anything else! I know for a fact a few of Zuba listeners bought the album though.
On t61, you're able to have a direct contact with your listeners, test their taste, and you have to try to guess which of your tracks is going to work best with them. I think Zuba were lucky enough to build an audience quickly and because we have quite a unique sound here on t61, people were quite curious first and in a way got drown into our sound. Because some of our tracks were posted [to the homepage] straight away, I got hooked quickly and since I had time to spare at the time, a bit of promotion, cheekiness and nice interacting with some top players did the rest. I guess we had the luck to be noticed by top-ranked (and therefore powerful!) listeners who were really helpful to us... iyzie for example started a topic in the forum -only a few days after we first uploaded- asking for a world music genre section naming Zuba, surely that brought some attention on us.
So, here is the biggest originality of this site: the gaming side of it... and that's where your listener's side/profile comes in! I think you do need to set up a listener's account and start playing to understand t61 world and fully enter it... I guess there different ways of playing it, but if you want to do well you start bumping tracks you wouldn't especially pay attention to out of the game, because you know they're going to work well and give you some points... and you start understanding people do the same with your tracks. It's like being Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde!
So to conclude (at last!), it has been a really interesting and fun experience so far. And of course, we even get to be interviewed!
silkworm: You've mentioned that you're back to work and that ZUBA as we hear it on thesixtyone.com doesn't really exist any more. What caused this decision? Are you working on any musical projects right now? How about the other band members? We're pleased to be able to hear Robin Miller's guitar work on thesixtyone.com.
Jacob: Zuba stayed together for nine years and most of it was fun but we were self produced, self managed, self financed, self everything really... unfortunately there is a lot of crap to go through, sometimes a lot of frustration and it's quite hard to have seven people with the same level of commitment and involvement...
When you are in a band and you get a lot of good feedback and excitement about what you do, you start believing you might get somewhere with your music, start living from it for example (!), but unfortunately music business is a hard one and after a while it becomes quite tiring, especially if you have to work and travel for gigs at the same time... On top of that you always meet people that tell you they're going to take you to the moon and it becomes clear after a while it's just bulls**t...
Robin Miller is preparing a new album and playing covers in venues around his place.
The bass player Woody plays with a rock band for a while now and started working with MATW (man at the window) a Scottish reggae band.
Jerry Boweh, the singer still carries the name Zuba with his new band Zuba Bassa Beat and prepares a new album.
Personally, I had to go back to my home country, France, where I stay now, just before the split, in 2006. For a year and a half I left the music aside and I've just started gigging again with two bands, General Purpose (pop) and Zion Crew (dub/reggae) in Paris.
silkworm: Would you tell us a bit about Jerry's griot lineage and what influence that has had on the storytelling aspect of your music? Does that also inform the politics of some of your songs?
Jacob: Well, I'll try to answer some aspect of this question for Jerry with what he told me over the years.
I know Jerry is from a cast of griots (musicians and story tellers) inside his own tribe, the Bassa people, and that he got initiated as a kid in a village in the bush. For him it was always important to sing in Bassa, when in Liberia you have a lot of people speaking English and even more in the Liberians' communities over the world, the biggest being in the US. He got a lot of feedback from his people saying 'How do you remember all that? How can you still sing in Bassa?" And I think he's really proud to carry his tribe culture further, especially after all those civil war years there, for people to remember where they come from.
I guess when you speak about politics in our songs you refer to Tomayziyi (Let there be no more war), Hail Africa and Election Day. I think those songs are meant to be more philosophical than political... or political but kind of neutral. I guess the role of the griot cast is to tell stories, for people to learn from them and live better in community.
No War is a message carried by many musicians and artists. Jerry says 'When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers' meaning that the wars are always ruled by the powerful of this world but it's always the simple people that get killed. He wrote the two others especially for the first presidential elections in Liberia after Charles Taylor's fall, for all Liberians -not only Bassa people, that's why they are in English- and they carry a message of peace and reconstruction for his country.
Jerry now runs a charity called AYDAP (African Youth Development Action Project) to help youth in Liberia to get over the war (a lot of child soldiers where used during the war) through music and sport and through the years, Zuba has always been happy to play for charities such as Amnesty, Fair Trade, etc. Just for info, you can now find a translation of Tomayziyi and a few other songs in our photos on t61.
silkworm: Please tell us about the process of creating the ZUBA sound. Did you already know at the beginning what kind of sound you were looking for, or did it take some time for those diverse elements to evolve in to the music we hear now?
Jacob: Zuba was originally formed for a one-off concert in aid of Scottish International Relief back in 1997. The singer Jerry Boweh founded the band in Glasgow. He found himself in Scotland (this damned freezing place as he calls it himself!) after civil war forced him to flee his home country Liberia. Like in most bands, some musicians had to move on with their life and some new ones were grafted, but for nine years Jerry managed to keep on his side Robin Miller, a really talented finger picking guitarist, and Andy "Woody" Wood, at the bass, big fan of The Who.
In 2001 some new influences came into board, the drummer Alasdair MacDonald with his jazzy feel, Anna Macdonald with her beautiful voice you can appreciate on "Mes Fantômes" and me with my Latin luggage.
Some other keys players stayed with us for a while, Gavin Murray and Greg Barnes, both feature on our last album "Allez!"
To answer your question, there was no real process to create the Zuba sound because there was always a really democratic way of writing songs -which sometimes took a veeeery long time!- and because everybody who wished to bring his/her own influences and background could do it, the Zuba sound was always a result of an interaction between musicians, not really planned but only happening. For example, Zuba recordings have a real strong reggae feel to them before 2003; and that's not because somebody was saying, "yeah, we are a reggae band, we have to write reggae songs" but for the simple reason that Mr Hubert 'Blackman' Hove was in the room, playing his infectious skanks on the keys. The funny thing is though, if you've heard Zuba before, you'll be able to recognize their sound straight away... you might not know how you recognize it, but you will!
I guess not looking for a particular sound has been a problem for us in many situations, because in the music business, people want to be able to describe music, to be able to put it in a precise shelf and sell it... even for gigs, they want to be able to describe your sound to a new audience... they don't like to take risks! A good illustration of that is another Scottish band -great band by the way: Salsa Celtica... they are doing really well... I'll let you guess what they play!
At the end of the day, they don't care if you've never played a gig with nobody dancing even if only 10 people are there, they don't care if your music is enjoyed by people from 2 'till 80 years old, if it brings sunshine in one of the rainiest country...
Never mind! I personally think they missed something!
silkworm: One of our blog contributors was wondering if there has been any Scottish influence on your sound? If not a musical influence, then just the influence of creating and playing music in Scotland - what is it like and does it have an effect on your music?
Jacob: Yes, there is a Scottish influence in the playing, mainly with the lead guitar from Robin. After that you have a song like "Zuba" in 6/8 which finishes with a Scottish jig, even with fiddles on the recording. And yes there is a big Scot influence in the way of thinking I guess, never taking anything too seriously especially yourself, always stay humble. Scottish humour is great: the best sarcasm is when you laugh at yourself before anybody else! Not always well understood, but... nae bother!
Video at the big green gathering
Jacob: To refer to the artists you quoted we do have an overall African music vibe and I would also add Thomas Mapfumo, Lucky Dube (for the early Zuba), Paul Simon's Graceland. But I think the real answer would be: too many to be named, just because every single one from the band would have to answer this question. I can try to give one artist for each:
Jerry: Bob Marley
Robin: Davy Graham
Woody: The Who
Alasdair: Tony Williams
Hubert: Lucky Dube
Gavin: Frank Zappa
me: Salif Keita.
That's probably why there's so much going on!!!
silkworm: There are some good videos of ZUBA playng live on your myspace page. Please talk a little bit about what playing live music to an audience means to you.
Video live at the garage
Our last gig together was in the summer 2006... What to say? I think we all miss it. We loved playing for any kind of audience and make them sweat as much as we did! Playing live was our biggest reward for all the work involved in this I guess, I think we were a live band if that makes sense... as well as a big family... but that we still are!
Thank you very much for asking us to do this, the questions were very pertinent and it's an honour to be here.
As a conclusion I will only say:
The next listener event is the Bozo Scramble on Sunday, March 23rd beginning at Noon EASTERN time (u.s.). The earlier than normal time is to allow Euro listeners and bands to participate. All Bozo Fund contributors or pledgers were invited to submit their three top underbumped favorites, and the Scramble, which will post on my wall at noon, is open to all comers. It is a chance to drop many points in a "target rich environment", and many songs have posted from the exposure in the past. There was much initial interest in the Upload Party that follows two hours later, but the recent de-pointing realignment has soured some artists, and will prevent some others from being able to upload who wanted to. Had the change not happened, it would've been the biggest joint upload event ever at triple the size.
As soon as we walked in the door, Jason, my company's president, introduced me to Chicken from Dead to Me. Yes, Chicken. I guess his real name is Tyson, so everyone just calls him Chicken.
When we came in a band was playing but I can't remember the name. The Femurs? Possibly. They sound like your average punk band with a yelling front man and lots of fast 3 chord guitar. Not bad music, but nothing to distinguish them from the herd of bands with this sound, but fun to listen to.
Teenage Bottlerocket was up next. They have two singers and when one of the guys sings, it totally reminds me of The Ramones. They were pretty awesome because they could play seamlessly between songs and were ending on the same note the next song began. The guy with The Ramone's voice was in this other band called the Wellingtons and I hear they'd do their whole show in this manner. I would think that would be tough on the forearms and neck, since they do a lot of headbanging. Teenage Bottle Rockets are out of Wyoming. It was a fun show but really loud. Maybe I'm just getting old.
Dead to Me was the headliner. The singer was very talkative and entertaining (like he might have been on speed, but I heard he's clean and sober - he's probably just one of those really hyper people). They put on a very energetic show.
It was a rockin good time. They have a really good sound system in the club, but man, was it loud.
The pictures in the post are ripped from the band's MySpace pages. I took some photos but they turned out really crappy. The Dead to Me photo is by Patrick J Stefano. Nice photo, Patrick.
If you’ve read my comments on her song, then you have probably checked out this video directed by Mattias Montero, which I described as “trippy.” It was nominated for Best Video at the Swedish Grammy Awards, an equivalent to MTV’s VMAs in the
Her current single is “I’m Good I’m Gone” and this is the video of the acoustic version featuring the following guests: Robyn, Adam & Bebban (Shout Out Louds), Daniel (The Concretes), Lars (Laakso) and Mikael (Hjalmar). Is it just me or do I see some sort of chicken dance in this one? Also, Robyn's probably big in Europe, but it's been ages since I've seen her.
So I initially liked these two upbeat tracks the most, perhaps it was the handclapping that automatically drew me in, but I found myself loving all her tracks on myspace.
Over the weekend, I caught this new YouTube clip of an artist I found a while ago on Aurgasm. Her name is Maia Hirasawa. To me, she is like a fusion of
Maia Hirasawa - "The Worrying Kind" (Originally by The Ark)
Anyhow, here are a couple of her other songs that will just brighten up your day:
And I Found This Boy
Maia Hirasawa's Myspace
Is it really all about selling out? I don't think so at all. No, I'm not a fan of hearing 'I Melt with You' by Modern English used to sell Cheesy Beefy Melts. As much as that song has been overplayed, I still think it's gorgeous and romantic. Remember Valley Girl? Man, I love that movie. I'm a total child of the 80's and as J. Geils Band would say "My blood runs cold. My memory has just been sold."
Hearing something new is an entirely different story. I tend to have the television on in the background and ignore the visuals unless something catches my ear. Hip music in your ad can make a so-so ad stand out from the rest. It can give an unknown artist a big boost.
Just last night I swear I heard Chris Merritt on a Kia Spectra commerical, performing an unknown song. It was actually Joe Purdy, who I'm pleased to say is uploading music at The Sixty One as I type. He has a great voice with a lot of passion behind it. After a few listens, I don't think it sounds as much like Chris Merritt as I first thought, but I'm so happy to have found Joe Purdy's music, even though I never plan to drive a Kia. Joe Purdy's song in that Kia Spectra Spot made me pay attention. Now, that is a good choice for ad music!
If a commercial can turn me on to a new artist, how can I be opposed to that? My mind is always in discovery mode, especially since I've been at The Sixty One. The site has trained my brain to listen to music more actively and less passively. I've been listening more to genres I've never paid much attention to previously as well. It opened my mind to so much new music.
TV adverts can also give a big boost to an artist. Bishop Allen's Click, Click, Click, Click in Sony Cybershot spots is great example. That was the first time I had heard Bishop Allen and I was immediately hooked. I've noticed ads for tech companies seem to have the best music. Other examples are Motorola Razr spot with Goldfrapp's Ooh La La and Cingular's ad with Cat Power.
Another current ad that I'm in love with the music is Sara Bareilles' Rhapsody Commercial #2. She has a gorgeous voice and I just love that type of pop song. I'm hoping to see some Sara Bareilles at The Sixty One soon.
In the same vein as the Sarah Bareillies song is Yael Naim's New Soul, used in the Mac Book Air spots. Apple's ads are almost always really slick and whoever chooses the music can really pick them. Here are two great examples:
CSS's Music is My Hot, Hot Sex used in ads for the iPod Touch.
The first time I heard Ingrid Michaelson's 'The Way I Am' was in a commercial for Old Navy.
I also like to hear older songs that didn't get the exposure that they might have deserved. For example, Donovan's Catch the Wind was used recently in an ad for GE's alternative energy solutions. I had heard some of Donovan's music - Hurdy Gurdy Man and Mellow Yellow, among others, but I instantly loved Catch the Wind. I picked up Donovan's Greatest Hits and I was really impressed. I LOVE his voice. Plus, he's a Scot and if you read my posts, I have a special corner in my heart reserved for Scots.
So, artists, if you'd like to get a big boost to your career, put your song in an ad for Apple or HP. Listeners will not thing you've sold out and new listeners will appreciate the ease of finding you.
If you're interested in finding more ad music, check out Splendad.com.
Over the weekend, listeners were treated to the melodic, atmospheric "Ice" by t61 favorite Ve. Unfortunately, Ve also revealed that "Ice" is the last track he has available to upload. We encourage you to let him know how you feel about his music, and hopefully there will be more someday soon. He was kind enough to answer a few questions from MaxBumps and share some thoughts about his creative process, inspirations, and experience with thesixtyone.com.
silkworm: Do you create all of the music in your songs by yourself or do you collaborate with other people? What instruments or tools do you use to create your songs?
Ve: No, I do everything myself, and I’m not particularly interested in co-writing songs either, to be honest. I wouldn't mind collaborating in some sort of mixed-media project though, where I do the music. That could be fun.
I have a bunch of instruments in my much too small apartment, it’s a mess, looks like a rehearsal room. And getting a digital drum set a month ago didn’t help one bit. But when writing a song I almost always just use an acoustic guitar, sometimes a piano. I’d use the piano more often if only I was better at it. It’s an amazing instrument. Other than that I use the computer and various music software.
silkworm: Where do you call home? It could be someplace different from where you're living, of course. Does that place (or places) have an effect on your music?
Ve: Oh, I like historical places. And I love history and reading about people who lived like a century ago and their adventurous lives. I’m obsessed by real-life stories. They are definitely a big source of inspiration for me and some of them end up in songs. Jimmy Angel, for example - you can find fragments of his life story embedded in “Even microbes Have To Eat.”
And the song I’m working on now have references to the life of Isabelle Eberhardt. Not sure I answered your question there, but when I think about where I’d wanna be it’s always in some exotic country hundreds of years ago :). Other than that, my home is around here I guess, in the north of Sweden. This is where I’ve lived all my life.
silkworm: I grew up when loving music meant hunting through crates for albums and cassettes, and finding new music was limited to hearing songs on the radio, or from your siblings or your friends. As a listener it seems like a dream to me to have a digital, global, social medium for discovering music. What has your experience been like with thesixtyone.com so far as an artist and as a listener?
Ve: The problem with sites where you can upload your songs has always been the massive amount of tunes and that your songs simply vanishes among them. I had no expectations whatsoever when registering at thesixtyone.com, but so far the bump system has been great. I really hope it will continue to function just as well in the future, when there are more artists, cause right now it’s just awesome.
I listen to music at thesixtyone more or less daily. I'm not very good at discovering new music, I don't have a radio or a TV, so thesixtyone suits me pretty good, always new stuff.
silkworm: Musicians always get asked about their influences, and I do want to ask about that a little, but first - it could be that someone's downloading Ve tracks right now and getting inspired to create their own music. What do you imagine your influence could be on them? People will have very individual reactions to your songs, of course, but is there something about your songs that you'd like people to feel or notice?
Ve: Uh.. I've never thought of that. That would be flattering of course. I think the fact that my music is fairly simple and that I’m a pretty mediocre musician/vocalist could be inspiring. You don’t have to be a professional to make interesting music.
I never think about what a listener might feel or notice when I work on a song, I don't picture a certain audience or anything like that. I know that much of my music is dark and introverted but if anything I hope that the listener find the songs uplifting. I always want my music to have a core of “hope”. I also think it’s very important that a song, even though it might be mellow, have intensity, a nerve. I’m not very fond of songs that are just soft and mellow and “nice” to listen to.
silkworm: In your myspace I saw a brief exchange with one of your readers about Kate Bush, and I noticed that in thesixtyone.com you commented on the fantastic Imogen Heap track "Hide and Seek" that "it's so hard to find a fresh and interesting artist that inspires me."
What are some things that inspire you in music or otherwise, and why do you think those inspirations are so hard to find?
Ve: I like all kinds of music but I’m especially inspired by music that is uncomplicated but still unpredictable and by musicians that strive to make something new. Too many musicians and bands set out to sound like their idols. That’s pointless, if you ask me. I also don’t like is how many bands aim to make a "catchy" tune, how they intentionally set out to make it sound like something you've heard before. Not to mention all those who are into music because they feel it fits their image or something, makes me angry just thinking about it :) Music has to be the most abused and exploited art form there is. That said, I know there are plenty of good artists out there, as I said earlier, I’m just horrible at discovering them.
silkworm: To me, your songs have a wonderful feeling of layers, and intricacy, and a sort of hushed thoughtfulness. But at the same time they don't feel cluttered or crowded - there's room to breathe and think and feel. How do you go about creating that sound? How do your songs usually evolve?
Ve: Hushed thoughtfulness, I like that, thank you :). I usually start out by playing the guitar and singing at the same time. I seldom try to come up with a good riff and then add vocals to it, that’s why all my songs have a pretty standard chord structure. I don't even think about what I’m playing on my guitar to be honest. Like the song I'm playing around with now for example, it took months before I even realized that I play exactly the same chords on the verse that I do on the chorus. When it comes to production I just try out different ideas. I try to relax and not force things, if you’re in a creative mood it just happens. I always create my music at night which probably has some effect on the sound as well.
silkworm: It also makes me wonder, now that .mp3 is the standard for digital music, do you ever think about the quality of the sound? Does it bother you, for example, that when people hear your intricate songs, what they are listening to is compressed and probably played on lousy speakers or headphones?
Ve: No, it doesn't bother me. They can do whatever they want with the songs and listen to them however they want. In fact, many of the songs I've uploaded to thesixtyone have been created using lousy speakers and headphones :).
silkworm: T61 listener and MaxBumps founder batface89 mentioned an interview that she conducted with a musician who had synesthesia, where different notes would appear to him as different colors. Do you ever involve your other senses in the process of creating your music? Have you given any thoughts about how you would interpret your songs visually (e.g., for a video)?
Ve: Haha, yes, when I’m relaxed and/or semi-asleep I can see sounds as shapes and interpret the tones as people interacting with each other, but that’s just the mind playing tricks with you, I can’t say I have any use of it when writing music. Anyway, when I think of what art form could be more “powerful” than music it’s always music and images/video combined. I’d like to experiment a bit with that. What it would look like depends on what song it is I guess, but you’ll never see me in a video miming a song, that’s for sure :).
Ve - The Sleep
silkworm: I've noticed that all of the songs that you've shared on thesixtyone.com are freely available to download, which as a listener I really appreciate. At this stage, do you have any feelings about starting to generate a bigger audience, about possibly selling your music instead of giving it away?
Ve: I don’t know why, but I've never cared about getting an audience. Every time I've uploaded my songs to sites like thesixtyone.com it's because someone has begged me to do so. I haven’t sent any demo to a record label or anything. I mean, I like it when people listen to my music but I've never promoted myself. Actually, most people I know have no idea I write songs and I never ask people to listen to my music. I’d love to get a record deal though, not to make a career out of it or anything like that, I just want to record maybe two albums with proper equipment and make them as good as I possibly can. That would be a dream come true, nothing less. Then I’d be happy.