Results for LA

interviews

Steve Wynn

In preparation for this week's guest, Steve Wynn, Jim and Greg do a little primer on the Paisley Underground music scene that developed in California in the 1980s. Jim plays a song by one of the seminal bands of this scene, The 3 O'Clock, whose very psychedelic name was inspired by Tom Wolfe's assertion in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" that if one drops acid in the early evening, the high of the trip will occur at 3:00 a.m. The 3 O'Clock was helmed by Michael Quercio, a musician who started as a punk rocker. After discovering psychedelic rock, however, his sound, and his look, began to change. It was Cuercio's affinity for the music of the '60s, as well as the brightly colored paisley clothes, that gave this scene its name. While the name did not do the music justice, the influence of the Paisley Underground on contemporary bands like Oasis and The Secret Machines is undeniable.

It may surprise to listeners who are only familiar with "Walk Like an Egyptian," but The Bangles were also pioneers of the Paisley Underground. Their original sound, with its three- and four-part harmonies and sing-songy melodies, paralleled that of The Mamas and the Papas and The Byrds. Lead singer Susanna Hoffs continues to work in this genre; she and '90s indie pop star Matthew Sweet just released a 1960s covers album featuring songs by The Left Banke, The Beach Boys and The Who.

Greg points out that the Paisley Underground sound was not a homogenous one — in fact, what bonded these bands was a punk sensibility that welcomed other musical styles. Unlike many other punk bands at the time, these acts didn't see why they had to conform to a strict policy of three-minute, Ramones-style songs. And what's more punk rock than non-conformity? One band that went above and beyond its punk and psychedelic influences was The Long Ryders. They took more of a country approach and can be seen as pioneers of the alternative country scene that now houses bands like Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and The Bottle Rockets.

The Rain Parade is the next Paisley Underground band up for discussion. While the members of The Rain Parade never saw the major label success like their peers in The Bangles or The 3 O'Clock (who were signed to Prince's Paisley Park label), many went on to work on successful projects. David Robeck formed the band Mazzy Star, which had an alternative hit single with "Fade Into You" in 1993 and Matt Piucci went on to work with Crazy Horse. The remaining bandmates reincarnated themselves as Viva Saturn.

Greg plays a song featuring this week's guest, Steve Wynn. His band The Dream Syndicate was a group that both Jim and Greg became fans of in the early '80s. They emerged in LA as one of the pioneers of the Paisley Underground sound. Steve then released a number of solo records and has spent the last few years with his most recent band, The Miracle 3. Steve and his band members, Linda Pitmon, Dave DeCastro and Kirk Swan, joined Jim and Greg for an interview and performance at the Chicago Recording Company.

The Dream Syndicate never made it into the 1990s, but its innovative sound continued to influence artists. While other LA bands at the time, like Black Flag, Social Distortion and Bad Religion, were making post-punk and punk music with a really hard edge, The Dream Syndicate stuck to a swirlier, psychedelic pop sound. For this reason, Jim and Greg explain, no matter how many solo projects he embarks on, our guest will most likely always be remembered as the lead singer of The Dream Syndicate.

After playing a track from Days of Wine and Roses, which Greg calls one of the masterpieces of the Paisley Underground era, our host asks Steve about the chemistry between two guitarists. In this case, Steve's partner in guitar is Kirk Swan, who was in another innovative '80s indie pop band, Dumptruck, Steve responds that the basic formula of guitar, drums, and bass is simple, but never gets old. He points to bands like Neil Young and Crazy Horse and Television as examples.

Jim asks Steve about why he continues on in this business after so many years. As Steve jokes on his website, this new album is one of several“comebacks,”but music is not such an easy life to come back to. After being pegged the“new Springsteen,”Steve and the band had somewhat of a difficult time. He explains how that hurt the band (and indirectly how he hurt Jim one drunken night). Thankfully they both came out on the other side.

Go to episode 21

Alice Cooper

This week, Jim and Greg talk to shock-rock legend Alice Cooper. Cooper was born in Detroit but later moved to Arizona for high school, where he was a teenage jock in a rock band. His group, The Spiders, performed around Phoenix and LA for a few years before they changed their name to Alice Cooper (Alice's real name is Vincent Furnier.) Their first couple albums Pretties For Youand Easy Action didn't gain much traction but once they teamed up with producer Bob Ezrin, they found success with the album Love It to Death. A string of popular records followed such as School's Out, Billion Dollar Babies and Welcome to My Nightmare but for a time, critics couldn‘t see past the group’s on-stage antics. Alice is perhaps most famous for his special brand of shock-rock including props like snakes, guillotines and even straight jackets. Now, he put out a 15-CD box set, The Studio Albums 1969-1983 and is touring with his new supergroup The Hollywood Vampires, which he formed alongside Johnny Depp and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. Jim and Greg were very excited to speak with Cooper and discuss his on-stage persona, sobriety, music catalogue and relationships with other famous artists.

Go to episode 513

OFF!

We at Sound Opinions thought it wise to send a noise alert to our colleagues the day OFF! visited the studio. This punk supergroup doesn't hold back, delivering minute long bursts of tightly structured punk anger. OFF! is the project of four veterans of the LA punk and hard rock scenes. They are Keith Morris of Black Flag and Circle Jerks fame, Dimitri Coats of Burning Brides, Steve McDonald, and Mario Rubalcaba of Rocket From the Crypt. Since getting together in 2009, the foursome has released two full-lengths: First Four EPs and this year's official debut, OFF! Their sound harkens back to the heyday of LA hardcore, the genre Morris helped develop in the late seventies with Black Flag. But the band firmly rejects the hardcore label. Steve explains how the term came to be associated with violence and the boneheaded, testosterone-addled teens“who were the reason I got into punk in the first place.”So what does the band prefer to be called?“We're a rock n' roll band”says Morris. "Just crank it up."

Go to episode 354

Jenny Lewis

Another California native with a country spirit is singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis. The Rilo Kiley frontwoman joins Jim and Greg to talk about her latest solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat. Last year Rilo Kiley achieved some success with their second album More Adventurous, and even opened for Coldplay and played at Coachella. Therefore, the timing of this solo project seems to be curious. As Jenny explains, however, doing solo projects and side projects has always been apart of her band's experience. She previously worked with Ben Gibbard on The Postal Service, and Rilo Kiley bandmate Blake Sennett has another band called The Elected.

One of Jenny's motivations for this solo album was her desire to sing with women. She is joined on Rabbit Fur Coat and in our studio by The Watson Twins, Chandra and Leigh Watson. Jenny explains that she grew up singing with her mother and was inspired by albums like Gonna Take a Miracle by Laura Nyro and LaBelle.

It should be noted that Jenny didn‘t just grow up singing. She was also a fairly successful child actress and appeared in ’80s movies like Troop Beverly Hills and The Wizard. She explores some of that history on the album. She also addresses people who are skeptical of her authenticity — being that she was born in Las Vegas and bred in L.A. rather than Kentucky. But, as Jenny points out and as listeners learned in the previous segment, California and towns like Bakersfield have significant country roots. Oddly enough, Jenny is not the only member of Rilo Kiley to have that dreaded“child actor”label. Blake Sennett was a regular on shows like Boy Meets World and Salute Your Shorts.

Go to episode 19

Aimee Mann

This week Jim and Greg are joined by Aimee Mann. On her latest release Charmer, we get a series of character sketches all about charmers-from the charismatic to the completely narcissistic. As a veteran of the music biz, it's a topic about which we're sure Aimee knows a thing or three. But, she insists that the album isn't just an L.A. story. She does, however, pull in some impressive celebrities for the vidoes. Check out Jon Hamm and Jon Wurster in the Tom Scharpling-directed "Labrador," which is a shot-by-shot remake of Aimee's classic hit "Voices Carry." Then there's Laura Linney in the title track. Amy talks with Jim and Greg about spoofing herself, her affinity for comedians and her feelings about piracy. She also performs songs from the new album, as well as her Oscar-nominated tune "Save Me."

Go to episode 372
reviews
Imani, Vol. 1Imani Vol. 1 available on iTunes

Blackalicious Imani Vol. 1

Sacramento rap duo Blackalicious has had a huge influence on hip-hop over the past twenty years, crafting a more psychedelic Northern California sound than their LA counterparts. Imani Vol. 1 is their first album in a decade and, to Jim's ears, they haven't lost a step. Jim praises the complex, philosophical rhymes of Gift of Gab as he explores themes of perseverance and faith. Producer Chief Xcel continues to bring in sounds from across genres to create dense but accessible backgrounds. Greg appreciates that Blackalicious is picking up where they left off, not making a forced attempt at modernizing their sound. The record maintains the optimism and spirituality always present in their music, while also addressing the continuing struggles faced by African-Americans. Both critics are glad to have them back and give Imani Vol. 1 a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 512
The Information (Bonus Video Version)The Information available on iTunes

Beck The Information

Beck released his ninth album this week, and boy, do we feel old. The L.A. rocker is also feeling more mature now that he is a married man and a father, but he's still up to his old cutting and pasting, genre-hopping ways. On The Information, Beck Hansen teams up with longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich to pump the album up with a hodgepodge of samples and sounds. For an extra psychedelic touch, the final track is a spacey outro read by author Dave Eggers and director Spike Jonze. Greg is happy that Beck isn‘t repeating himself like he did on 2005’s Guero; he's experimenting with sounds in really inventive ways. But, Greg explains that the hooks and melodies are lacking on the second half of the record. He recommends that fans cut and paste to make their own album, and he gives The Information a Burn It. Jim, however, doesn't think that Beck has ever been better than he is on the good moments of The Information. He recommends fans Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 45
Lost On the River (Deluxe Version)Lost on the River available on iTunes

The New Basement Tapes Lost on the River

Who knew that one summer in a basement in upstate New York in 1967 would become such a big deal? But fans of Bob Dylan and The Band are still poring over the material that came out of those musicians‘ one-take, slapdash recording sessions, decades later. It’s amazing considering that those Basement Tapes weren't even supposed to go public. Now, more lyrics from that time have surfaced and have been turned into new music produced by T. Bone Burnett and performed by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Elvis Costello and Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons. The result is Lost on the River by The New Basement Tapes. Greg particularly admires the bluesy, pre-rock sound contributed by Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. But, for the most part, he doesn't hear any of the magic of The Basement Tapes. And that's not surprising considering it was a contrived project with the manufactured setting of the basement of Capitol Records in L.A., not rural New York. He can only say Try It. Jim thinks Greg is being kind. He doesn‘t think you can separate Dylan’s lyrics and poetry from Dylan's music and voice. This collaboration is nothing like the successful Wilco/Billy Bragg/Woody Guthrie project Mermaid Avenue. He says Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 468
Days Are GoneDays Are Gone available on iTunes

HAIM Days Are Gone

L.A. sisters HAIM have been getting a lot of buzz leading up to their debut release Days Are Gone. Perhaps it's the hair? It certainly can't be because of their allegiance to '80s pop production values. Forget grit and grime, Greg can't find a speck of lint on these glossy songs. Jim hears yet another slick influence: Wilson Phillips. 'Nuff Said. Haim gets a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 410
HollyHolly available on iTunes

Nick Waterhouse Holly

Neo-soul singer and guitarist Nick Waterhouse made a big impression on Greg during a performance at SXSW in 2012, but unlike a lot of acts that passed through the annual music conference, Waterhouse had staying power. On his second album, Holly, the retro-rivalist deftly channels the likes of Ray Charles and pianist Mose Allison. Jim finds the occasional grittiness of the album appealing, but mostly it's too sterile and formulaic to warrant anything more than a Try It. Greg disagrees, saying Holly nails the snap-and-swing feel of old R&B records while tossing a Raymond Chandler, L.A. noir vibe into the mix. Waterhouse's first album was good, but Greg says Holly is even better: Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 434
dijs

Greg

“The New World”X

As the presidential election approaches, Greg's thoughts turn to the terrific L.A. band X. For this week's DIJ, he picks "The New World," the leadoff track on the band's 1983 album, More Fun in the New World. For Greg, this song perfectly reflects the meaning (or lack thereof) of a presidential election for society's have-nots. In the song, X takes the perspective of a politically apathetic homeless person. Whoever wins the election, he explains, nothing really changes for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. But the song's narrator doesn‘t totally lose hope. In the chorus he urges the politicians of the day: "Don’t forget the motor city!"

Go to episode 359

Greg

“Thin Line”Jurassic 5

While on a recent nostalgia trip through late 90's, early 2000's hip-hop, Greg spent some time on the West Coast, which at that time was experiencing an underground hip-hop renaissance led up by the likes of DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born and Jurassic 5. Greg especially loves L.A.'s Jurassic 5, as it was the antithesis to the better-known, yet simplistic, gangster rap coming out of the city. Throughout the group's four album run, its four MCs and one DJ (sometimes two) exercised a consistently complex musicality and often employed narrative lyrics that were at their most effective on a track like, "Thin Line." This thoughtful song about the pitfalls of a man-woman friendship turning into something more comes off the group's third album, Power in Numbers, and is Greg's Desert Island Jukebox pick of the week.

Go to episode 469

Greg

“Shake the Dope Out”The Warlocks

Ray Manzarek's death gets Greg thinking about bands that have carried The Doors' dark L.A. aesthetic into the present day. For his DIJ, he goes with The Warlocks' 2002 album Phoenix. It wasn‘t just The Warlocks’ lyrics that were dark, he says, it was also their music. As many as ten players contributed to the band's moody, wall-of-sound onstage. The lyrics to "Shake the Dope Out" could be about drugs, but Greg thinks they could also be referring to the overwhelming feeling of the band's music.

Go to episode 391
lists

Anti-Love Songs

With the ghost of St. Valentine looming over us all, this week's show is dedicated to those music fans for whom "Love Stinks." Jim and Greg discuss their favorite anti-love songs and hear some listeners' picks. Here are some songs to get you out of the mood for Valentine's Day.

Go to episode 11
news

Music News

The digital music site eMusic has angered some listeners and labels in recent weeks. They moved from subscriptions to a tiered pricing model similar to iTunes that will include higher priced major label songs. After making this announcement, three of the biggest indie labels in the business decided to take their music elsewhere. Domino Records, Merge Records and the Beggars Group, which includes Matador, XL, Rough Trade and 4AD, have not elaborated on their decision to leave, but Jim and Greg suspect it's because of this new deal with major labels. In their statement, eMusic explained that this change was necessary for their long-term sustainability.

What's the best music town in the country? Some would say Chicago; some would say Seattle; but according to Songkick.com, it's Austin, Texas. Austin has always touted itself as the live music capital of the world, and now they've got this to back it up. In their survey of live shows per capita, Songkick also put Madison, New Orleans, Las Vegas and Denver in their Top 5. Some surprising winners, especially when you scan down to find that New York and L.A. didn‘t even make the cut. And it’s interesting to note that these cities had lower average ticket prices than bigger markets.

Go to episode 261
world tours

Mexico

Fresh from stops in Japan andSweden, the Sound Opinions World Tour continues south of the border. Public radio's "The Latin Alternative" co-host Josh Norek is our guide to Mexico's music scene. As Vice President of the Latin alternative music label Nacional Records, Norek's had a chance to work with many of Mexico's pioneering rock acts, from Saul Hernandez's Jaguares, to pop-rock arena act Mana. He's seen the audience for Mexican music in the U.S. grow (as second and third generation Mexican-Americans get in touch with their musical roots), and he's seen it get more experimental. Norek argues that Mexico's musical renaissance really kicked into gear with Café Tacvba in the nineties. Tacvba fused genres like ska, metal, and punk with traditional Mexican regional music. Cafe Tacvba sounded Mexican and were proud of it. More recently, DJ outfits like Nortec Collective and Mexican Institute of Sound have adapted the same approach to techno, merging beats and norte~no samples, for example. Norek says Mexico's music scene continues to develop in spite of formidable challenges; drug-related violence has forced artists in cities like Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Tijuana to relocate to Mexico City and L.A.

Jim and Greg round out their Mexican tour stop with a call-in to Sesiones TV host and music journalist Alejandro Franco in Mexico City. Their mission? To find out what Mexican music fans are listening to right now. Franco says that while rockers Zoe are topping the charts, it's Carla Morrisson and Juan Cirerol who are packing Mexico City's hipster clubs. And check out our Mexico playlist on Spotify.

Here are the Mexican artists featured in this episode

  • Café Tacvba
  • Jaguares
  • Maldita Vecindad
  • Mana
  • Nortec Collective
  • El Gran Silencio
  • Control Machete
  • Kinky
  • Mexican Institute of Sound
  • Zoe
  • Carla Morrison
  • Juan Cirerol
Go to episode 396