Thursday, December 31, 2015

Four Short Poems, March 2010

Four short poems, March 18, 2010

1. Running down
a jealous moment
Locked in the
arms of shifting
torn between
how I feel
and what I want.

2. The lights fizzle
in the haze of the evening,
peering out
over the distance
between there and here.
Motion hints at other
letting us know
where something else resides,
and where I stand.

3. Once
I passed a friend's house
in the night, each of us
knowing nothing
of the other.
If I had never met them,
what would I have
thought of their place,
their possessions,
coupled with my assumptions,
Would I have moved on,
taking it as another
distant light in the darkness?

4. I hear
your voice again,
and I am there,
the thoughts of that time
thrown back in my head.
I am reminiscent,
unsure of the footing,
and how to proceed
from here.

-Daniel Coston

Ranger Doug/Riders In The Sky Interview, 2010 Online Redux

Riders In The Sky: Always In The Saddle
Introduction, interview and photos by Daniel Coston

For nearly 35 years, Riders In The Sky have carried on the traditions of original country and western music, while marking out their own place on the musical map. With 700 Grand Ole Opry appearances, movie soundtracks and over 6,000 shows performed by the time you read this, Riders In The Sky are to today’s western music what Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters were to first generation Americana music. Night after night, from albums to CDs, this Nashville quartet has been the living, touring embodiment of western music, and the ones that have helped to keep this music in the here and now.

Made up of guitarist Ranger Doug, fiddler Woody Paul, bassist Too Slim, and accordionist Joey The Cowpolka King (who also produces the band’s records), Riders In The Sky are also to many kids through their work on the Toy Story soundtracks, and two Grammy winning children’s CDs. However, any band that proudly endorses the slogan, “Always drink upstream from the herd,” shows that there’s a little something there for kids of all ages.

Along with their annual shows at Tweetsie Railroad, the band recently made a stop at the Old Time Threshers Reunion in Denton, NC, which is where I talked to Ranger Doug.

Tangents: When did you first start traveling to North Carolina?

Doug: We first started playing in North Carolina  some thirty years ago. We’ve always enjoyed playing here. It honestly ranks as one of the best states for us to play in. The folks in this state have always had a fascination with cowboy music, which has benefited us.

Tangents: Do you think that the fascination is due to the fact that the cowboy landscape is something different to the people in this state? That it seems a bit exotic to us?

Doug: Yes, to a degree. But folks in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, even, haven’t responded to western music the way that this state has. The state of North Carolina has always has the most fascination with western music. I really don’t know why.

Tangents: How do you guys come up with material? Do you find songs together, or separately?

Doug: That’s a three-pronged answer. One, we write our own songs. All three of us write. Second,  we introduce classic cowboy songs into the set. Woody just picked a song for us to play that we’d known forever, we just had never learned it. The third is when we have a project. We’ve been writing for a new project, which is an inspirational album, which we’re going to start recording next week. People have been asking us to record an inspirational album for some time, and we’ve been putting it together.

Tangents: Is it easier to write for a project, as opposed to on your own?

Doug: Yes, it is. It was easy to write for the Disney album we just did. The characters were already laid out for us, and we had a really good time.

Tangents: You’ve been doing your own show on cowboy music for XM. How has that been to do?

Doug: Great. We were just in the XM offices yesterday, and the guy that runs a couple of their channels told us that Willie Nelson had just been in there, and he wants our show to be on 24 hours a day! There just aren’t enough shows to do that.

Tangents: How do you put those shows together?

Doug: We usually record three of four of those shows at one time, at [producer] Joey’s studio. It takes at least an hour to record the introductions, and edit them. The recordings depend on when we can fit them into our schedule. We discuss tunes what tunes we’d like to play, and then we make a CD of those songs, so that I can have them on my computer. It sometimes takes us a few different takes to get the introductions, as we sometimes mess up a word, or something else. We leave a lot of the goofs in the show, if it wasn’t too bad.

Tangents: Which sometimes give the show some of its character. You know that you’re really listening to you guys talking about the music.

Doug: That’s true, and we want that in the show.

Tangents: Has the way that people discover you guys changed with technology? Are more people discovering you via the internet, or records, radio or TV?

Doug: It has always been a word of mouth thing. Radio helps, when we can get it. The Disny movies have helped,TV appearances do help. Basically, its still people seeing us, and telling their friends, “You’ve got to see this.”

Tangents: Where are you recording your new album?

Doug: In Nashville, where we live. We were going to record in Nashville this paast May, but we got flooded out. We weren’t home at the time, our wives had to deal with that. I made a reference to that during our afternoon show, and nobody in the crowd got it. A lot of jokes are like that!

Tangents: Have you gotten to explore some of the more famous music spots throughout the Southeast?

Doug: Not much. People mostly assume that we got to do a lot of sightseeing. We see the highway, we see the hotel room, we see the venue, and move on to the next place. It’s not always a glamorous life. We did recently get to visit this radio station in Virginia that Flatt & Scruggs played at for a couple of years, and met with the crew. But mostly, it’s getting to the next show.

Tangents:Tonight’s show is show number 5,964 for Riders In The Sky. How in the world do you keep up with that?

Doug: When you start it with show number one, you just count up from there! It’s been 35 years, coming up on 6,000 appearances and counting, its more and more amazing as it goes along, and we’re very thankful for that.

My thanks to Greta Lint and the Old Time Threshes Reunion for helping to set up this interview.

Bruce Hazel Interview, 2010 Online Redux

Bruce Hazel: Classic Sounds For The New League
introduction, interview and photos by Daniel Coston

For over a decade now, Bruce Hazel has put his stamp on rock n' roll throughout the Carolinas. Be it with the Noise, Bruce Hazel & Some Volunteers, Temperance League, or under his own name, Hazel has merged his love of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits and other classic sounds to form his own version of what Rock can be. His current project, Temperance League, joins him with longtime local starwarts Shawn Lynch, Mark Lynch, Chad Wilson and D.K. to create an inviting merge of garage rock and classic-sounding guitars riffs. Temperance League are now touring throughout the East Coast of the U.S., in search of the wider audience that they deserve.

Hazel is also well known in Charlotte for heading up the Fool's Brigade, an annual event that covers a famous musician or band for charity. This event has become that many look forward to, and has packed whichever venue its held in every year. Hazel is also a fun frontman and an all-around good guy, a frontman you can root for when he's onstage.

Tangents: How did the Some Volunteers evolve into Temperance League?

Hazel: The Bruce Hazel & Some Volunteers moniker was something I could put on anything I was doing at the timeThis is something differentThis is a band.

Tangents:  How do you feel about this lineup now?

Hazel: I remember Mark and Shawn talking about the early days of Lou Ford. How they were a gang. I wanted to be part of a gang.

Tangents: You've been writing and playing a lot of new songs, and you have been recording with this new lineup, as well as the Volunteers. What's your plan for the next record?

Hazel: There are a ton of songs. We have enough completed material for a Volunteers record. We should have probably put it out by now. But at least I have it. Currently we are trying to make something that represents Temperance League. I want to capture the raw energy with minimal overdubs. The Volunteers record is layered. I want the Temperance League record to be stripped. I want all the records I make to be something I'm excited to listen to. I would like to make something that represents us and our live show.

Tangents: Talk about your role as a frontman. What do you have to do to get people into what you and the band are doing?

Hazel: It is the simplest thing that took me the longest time to realize... to just be honest and be myself.

Tangents: What has been your favorite Temperance League gigs so far?

Hazel: It's always nice to be home at Snug Harbor.

Tangents:. The League has been playing more out of town. Do you hope to continue that for a while?
Hazel: As much as possible.
Tangents: What changes have you seen to the Charlotte scene over the past several years?

Hazel: More beards.

Tangents: Between The Journey And the Destination (released in 2004) is still one of my favorite records to come out of Charlotte in the past ten years. What do you think about when you hear that record?

Hazel: I'm very proud of that record. We had a blast making it. Justin [Faircloth, of the Houstons]  was the most comfortable producer to work with. I just invited all my favorite players to stop by Cougar Camp [Studios]. We had DK, Chad [Wilson], Benji [Hughes], [John] Morris, [Chris] Lonon, Rodney [Lanier], Joey Stephens, Michael [Anderson] and [Brent] Bagwell. We had everybody. Somebody was always hanging out or stopping by. Mark [Lynch] came by to offer his sage advice. But I don't think we ever got Matt [Faircloth] or Mark on tape. 

It was easy. Very casual. We'd have lunch and some drinks and just play. Shawn was living at [Cougar Camp] at the time, so when he'd get home from work I'd say, "Get in there and play this guitar part," or, "We need you to play drums on this." I think the record reflects how much fun we were having. When I listen to that record I picture us hanging out in the kitchen listening to someone tracking in the next room. They'd come out and say, "How'd I do?"  I'd yell to Justin in the control room "How was that?" He'd say, "Perfect." I'd say, "Sounds like you're done." But you were there, you know?

Tangents: How did the annual Fools Brigade shows start?

Hazel: Just thought it was time to get involved in my community. It was during the time the Pillowtex factory closed down outside Charlotte in 2004. I organized a fund raiser for those families affected. It happened quick. I made some calls and everyone responded. We raised a little money and had a good time. Later that year I got involved with Rock The Vote, and put together a show to get people registered. Again the neighborhood responded. There is a mission statement on the Fool's Brigade site that Phil came up with so we could sound more official. But really The Fools Brigade Annual Benefit is as much for us as it it is for the charity. It's fulfilling and satisfying that feeling of knowing you belong to a community.

Tangents: Do you have any favorite years of the Fools Brigade shows?
Hazel: Luckily each show we've done has been a success. All have had memorial moments but something really special happened in the room the night we did Bowie. 

Tangents: What records are you listening to these days?
Hazel: I can't stop listening to Reigning Sound. I'm going thru a huge Greg Cartwright phase right now. 

Tangents: Okay, here's the scenario.... Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits are gonna settle things once and for all, but they're gonna dance it out, like the gangs in West Side Story. Who wins, and why?

Hazel: I never saw West Side Story.

Tangents: Was there any person or show you saw, or met when you growing up that made you want to be a musician?

Hazel: Some I've know personally and some I've just admired as a fan but I continually seem to discover them just when I'm ready to throw in the towel. 

Tangents: Any questions for the interviewer?

Hazel: Of all you've interviewed who was the toughest to get a straight answer out of?

Tangents: There's been a couple... and I'll tell you about them the next time I see you.

Houston Brothers Interview, 2010 Online Redux

The Houstons: Back To The Future
The Tangents interview by Daniel Coston

For nearly ten years, brothers Matt and Justin Faircloth have pulled off a musical tightrope act like no other. Simultaneously playing multiple instruments while singing two-part harmony, the brothers perform with a dexterity that often leaves first-time witnesses in awe. The Houstons, as they now go by now (after being shortened from Houston Brothers), have recently returned to their original-two piece lineup, and released a new EP, The Archer, an excellent showcase for their ambient, literate sense of pop music.

Justin Faircloth is also a longtime veteran of the Charlotte and North Carolina music scene, with a resume that includes Jennyanykind, Flyweb, Goldenrods, Les Dirt Clods, and several others. But its the music that he continues to make with his brother that both friends and fans clamor for. 

Tangents: After playing with other bands, what led you to form the Houstons with your brother?

Justin Faircloth: Matt and I had been bouncing this idea of a two person band for a long time, back to probably '97 when we were living in Wilmington.  We didn't know how we wanted to make it happen and started out experimenting with a drummer and some keyboard bass, then I learned to play bass, then drums and guitar, acoustic guitars, you name it.  Then I moved to Asheville and I was playing in a sort of country-punk band called The Rich and Famous and started to work on this keyboard and drumming thing, only it was with a snare, a small tom for kick drum and a Casio.  

Matt and I booked our first show at Vincent's Ear and coming right up to it we didn't have a name, so our buddy Jeremy Boger named us the Houston Brothers.  We played acoustic guitars and did some beat looping, etc.  Maybe a little Rhodes.  After I moved to Charlotte, and Matt moved to Asheville (!), we started in with the Goldenrods, which was a larger 6-person outfit and became this traveling entourage of everything rock and roll.  Matt and I decided that we could make the Houston Brothers happen as a 2 piece and travel really light, and go for this really minimal sound that still had all the essentials to fill a room with tons of vibe and character.  We bought some old Crumar bass synth pedals--the ones we still use today--and we were off.

Tangents: You play keyboards with your right hand, while drumming with your left band, all while singing. 1. How did you come up with that? and 2. How do you DO that?

Faircloth: Well, I touched on this above, but we were just trying out different ways of being able to create a full band sound without the extra members.  Our fans and press have always made a pretty big deal out of the piano-drum-sing thing, but it's not much different than a good piano player that has a developed left hand for walking bass and comping chords.  It all becomes one thing, not several, at least in the way that I hear it.  I have to say that what Matt does, walking bass with his feet and playing guitar and singing has got to be just as difficult.

Tangents: Contrast the music of this new EP with the first two Houston Bros. CDs (pre-Still).

Faircloth: The first record, I Take Care of You, was very different.  It's out of print now, and is soundtrack music with a dark bent and perhaps a preview to our eventual Houstons vibe.  The Houston Brothers, or the blue record as we call it, is probably the most similar to our new release The Archer.  Matt and I play nearly everything, with a few guests here and there.  We use the instrumentation that we use live with only a few extra parts, usually supporting guitar textures, synth bits or percussion.  Thematically, though, we're talking about two records that are about 8 years apart and the songs really illustrate that span of time in ways I couldn't hope to describe.  Matt wrote two songs on the blue record, and that is something we intend to bring back on our next release.

Tangents: How did The Archer come together? And describe the music on this EP.

Faircloth: Matt and I had a collection of songs that we wanted to release as a more stripped down production, relative to Still.  Our friend Mark Lynch got involved with pre-production and insisted that we track the songs as we play live, the keys/drums and bass pedals included.  Two of the songs were years old and the other four were new tracks.  I'm not going to tell which ones are which!  But they all fit cohesively and were a good representation of where we are with the Houston Brothers, ten years from when we started.

The songs are a bit more outwardly aggressive in some ways than ever, but I'd like to think also more refined in scope and in theme.  We have always wanted to relate our lives through the music and I think these do just that.  For now.  It's more appropriate for me in my life now to rely on love rather than be angry with it, for example.  We are celebrating life and at the same time targeting some aspects that we find provocative.  That's the art, I suppose.

Tangents: After starting as a duo, you spent a few years working with other musicians in the band, culminating with a six-piece lineup for the 2006 CD Still? How did the music change during that time?

Faircloth: The songwriting changed a bit before we put he band together. . . I was in a more introspective place and trying to put some pieces of my life together.  The songs on Still basically chronicle those times, or as much as I would want to put out there.  Matt and I also felt that we needed to try some different sounds and new directions so we put together a band packed with badass musicians.  We made the record with very little rehearsal and some highly charged-up creative days, mostly at my house in Charlotte.  The recorded music became quite a bit more arranged and dense--interestingly, on a collection of very personal songs.  Our live shows were fun, I got to really focus on singing and improved at that quite a bit, and we had great rhythm sections and textures.  We were both able to open up quite a bit relative to having to do so much at once.  I think this was a time of really learning about who we are and what we really want to do.

Tangents: What brought you and Matt back to the two-piece lineup?
Faircloth: We felt that we had lost some of our uniqueness. To be honest, a bunch of our friends and fans demanded it. And it's really hard to even hold a band together when you're not 20 and everyone has tons going on in their lives. It's so easy for Matt and I to travel together, find the vibe we want, learn songs really fast. . .whatever.  It's what we do naturally at this point.  As much as we want to break free of the constraints sometimes, they can become what sets our creativity free. My wife would call it Tantric.

Tangents: What's next for the Houstons?
Faircloth: We're taking most of the summer to quiet down and write, record, experiment, play new instruments.  I think that whatever we accomplish at the end of the day, I want it to constantly grow and change around our minds and what we find interesting, provocative, outrageous, compelling.  I don't want to ever make the same record twice and I don't want to regurgitate issues or themes.  I'm learning how to write an unbridled love song and a song for nothing but dancing.

Tangents: How has your fanbase changed over the years?
Faircloth: They've grown up with us.  Which is awesome.  I mean, we attract fans of all ages and I am still surprised by some folks that love us, who I thought would hate us. 

Tangents: How has the Charlotte music scene changed?

Faircloth: It's larger and more diverse.  More than ever when traveling I hear other artists, musicians and otherwise, asking me about what is going on in Charlotte.  I think our Southern town is almost a city.  But what I really love about Charlotte musically is the people--there's very little hate and a whole lot of love.  We support each other no matter what the opportunity or style of music.  Our label, Chicago-based Chocolate Lab, just signed another Charlotte artist (our friend Jon Lindsay), so we are seeing more and more interest.  And the successes of folks like The Avett Brothers and Benji Hughes are pretty awesome.

Tangents: So what happens if and when your kids form their own band?

Faircloth: We're already on it!  Their first experience will be our family band.  They are both incredibly musically talented already and writing original music.  So it's on.  Whatever they do later. . . what can I say?  Dad's seen it all.  Well, most of it.

Terry Manning Interview, 2010 Online Redux

Terry Manning: On the way to Big Star
introduction and interview by Daniel Coston

While countless people now state themselves as Big Star fans, there were only a handfull of those that can say they were there from the beginning. Terry Manning is one of those people. Along with an amazing producing and engineering career (which we’ll cover in a forhtcoming article), Terry was part of the late 1960s Memphis scene that created their own sound at Ardent Studios. This included Manning, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel, and a couple of others. When Alex Chilton joined Bell, Stephens and Hummel in 1971 to form Big Star, Manning was there to see it all happen, and how their first two albums came together. 

While this interview with Manning was done before Chilton’s recent passing, what still comes through is the love and respect that Manning and others still have in the music, and for the music they were a part of.

Tangents: Chris Bell played with you on a couple of singles for different bands, and on your Home Sweet Home album. How did that come about, and describe playing with Chris at this time. 

Manning: In addition to my band Lawson and Four More that I played and recorded with, I also played music often with some guys in my neighborhood. And in fact, my good friend Steve Rhea lived right across the street from me. Steve played drums, and we would play along with albums, write songs, record on little home tape recorders. I went to Central High School at the time, but Steve went out East to MUS ,a private boy's school.  One of his classmates there was Chris Bell, and before long we had all hooked up to practice and play together.  

It's pretty well known now that Chris had what we called the "Back House" on the property that his parents had built a large new home on. Steve and me and Chris and a few other guys would hang out there and practice. We could play as loud as we wanted to without disturbing anyone, and also had a darkroom that we could use for our photography any time of the day or night.

Chris was VERY interested in the fact that my "real band" had been recording at Ardent and other studios, and he of course knew that I was working at Ardent and Stax, engineering recordings by professional artists. He would always ask me to take him over there, show him the equipment, etc..

I was constantly recording my own things in Ardent, and occasionally in Stax, when other things weren't already happening in there, and Chris was very interested in this.  He would bring me songs he was writing for input on how he was doing.  So when I wanted some guitar playing on these recordings that would be better than what I felt that I could do myself, it was natural to have Chris come in to play.  He was thrilled, and very excited to be in "the real big time studio."  

I first got him to do first very short harmony guitar in a Beatles' song I was working on (One After 909), but then the "big thing" which became his first professional appearance on a released record was getting him to play on a few of the tracks on an album that I got to record for, and license to, Stax Records with me as artist. This became the Home Sweet Home release.

Tangents: Describe working with Alex Chilton on his solo album (later released as 1970) Did Chris and Alex ever run into each other at that time? 

Manning: Alex and I had become friends when I was an engineer (and sometimes player) on The Box Tops' recordings.  Alex had become disillusioned over time with Producer Dan Penn and Executive Producer Chips Moman, feeling that they were mostly just telling him what to do, rather than ever giving him much of a chance to be creative himself.  I recall on a couple of the vocal overdub sessions that Alex was constantly making faces behind Dan's back, and he started talking to me about wanting to do his own thing, rather than just be The Box Top Guy for his whole life. Remember, he was barely past 15 when the band had broken with "The Letter."  I commiserated with Alex, listened to his songs, and agreed that he should be trying some new things.  So we finally decided to just do it, and started recording the album that later became "1970" (I had actually named it the much better "1969," but it got changed when some people were worried about the timing of these recordings, relative to the official exit from The Box Tops).  

We recorded pretty much on our own, under a veil of secrecy to the outside world (as if anyone would have cared).  The whole thing was done with very few outside people.  The fabulous Richard Rosebrough played drums, and Alex and I did most of the rest. He played guitars and did lead vocals, I did bass and keys and harmony vocals, and then we got in Paul Cannon to do a solo or two, and a great steel player from Nashville, Jeff Newman, to do a couple of crazy rock and roll steel guitar leads.  

We had talked to Brian and Carl Wilson, and had a plan to release this on their Brother Records label, but then we changed plans, and took it to Jerry Wexler at Atlantic in New York. Jerry loved it, but was afraid to release an album first, wanting to start out with "Free Again" as a single to test the waters.  This angered me and Alex, as we were looking to be album artists, not single artists, and he thought he saw "Box Tops Syndrome" starting up again with the record labels.  So we just didn't completely finish the album (there would have been a few other overdubs like horns and maybe a bit of strings, and a couple of more guitars), ad put it away in a box. Never even made real mixes at the time.  

And pretty soon, we would be moving ahead to Big Star anyway, so there was no need to pursue this album further.  I don't strictly recall Chris being around for these recordings, I think maybe he was away at his first year of University in Knoxville maybe, or maybe he did come by a bit. Not sure exactly, but I don't remember him being at all involved in this.
Tangents: What was your impression of the Big Star formation? And describe the recording sessions for Number 1 record. Did you do some engineering on the overdubs, as I’ve heard elsewhere? 

Manning: Big Star, as has been written elsewhere, was an extension of a couple of other groups that Chris and I, as well as Jody and Tm Eubanks, and a couple of other guys, had been messing with, mixed with Alex after the 1969/1970 sessions doing his own thing...really just the Ardent Crew of the time.  The very earliest recordings that became part of Bg Star were several of us just continuing on with the same things we were doing already.  So the "first impression" of BS to any of us was more of the same, moving ahead.  

On #1 Record, Chris became the main motivator after a bit.  I was working on several things (had a Day Job at Ardent and Stax), and by this time Chris had learned a good bit of engineering and production technique from John Fry and me, and his own studio experiences. I engineered some of the tracking and overdubs, Chris did a good bit, and of course John was doing some (later on the mix, John was in complete control, with Chris' wishes at hand).  I had played keys and bass on 2-3 tracks previously, and then Andy re-overdubbed the bass parts ion those, but we kept the keyboards.  The #1 sessions went on over a long period, none of it was "just played.” It was carefully crafted, with many overdubs.  Chris was a perfectionist, and would do and re-do things until he felt it was right.

Tangents: You sang backup on several songs on number one record. How did that come about? 

Manning: That was just from our previous studio relationships. When Chris wanted a certain vocal sound (and later Alex), we just all sang together. The backing harmony vocals were pretty intricate, and very much a necessary part of the sound, so more voices were a good thing. I don't recall Jody singing much in the early days, nor Andy as well, I suppose, so it just seemed the best thing to do to have the three of us do most of it.

Tangents: You also played the Moog on “Give Me Another Chance,” and “Feel,” I’ve heard, is from an Icewater track, which you played on. 

Manning: Yes, I had gone to Robert Moog in Trumansburg, New York, and had bought a Moog IIIC synthesiser (in fact, with George Harrison's former keyboard, the one he actually used on some Beatles recordings). I had played this on a bunch of recordings, including Leon Russell's "Stranger In A Strange Land," and Chris had been fascinated by the Moog. In fact, we had done a recording together of his composition "I Created A Monster" for a school class he took in music. So he asked me to put "stringy" sounds into "Give me Another Chance" with the Moog. The only thing I think slightly negative about it all now is that the Moog is awfully loud in the mix. But in the day, it seemed important!

Yes, "Feel" was tracked first by Chris and me and Tom and Jody as the band Icewater...the same band track with most of the instruments (bass replaced by Andy), and with a new lead vocal was included on #1 as Big Star.

Tangents: I saw you sing “When My Baby’s Beside Me” at SXSW with Big Star. How was that experience? 

Manning: That was a lot of fun. Alex and I sang that together on the original recording, but hadn't sung it together since until that show!  On the "Radio City" sessions, Alex had asked me to sing "second lead" on "When My Baby's Beside Me" because he said I sounded a lot like Carl Wilson, and that's the tone he wanted.  He sang the first verse alone, and then we come in together on dual lead in the first chorus. After that, we are both in there in varying degrees, but always in the chorus equally.

To repeat this 30 years later at SXSW was a real treat, and it's always good to play or sing with Jody, who just really pounds the beat live!

Tangents: At SXSW in 2004, you told the story about how you switched the master tapes to Number 1 record, so that Chris wouldn’t destroy them. Why did he want to do that? Do you stil have the tapes? 

Manning: Chris had decided, being the perfectionist that he was, that #1 wasn't good enough. He had "performance anxiety," in my current opinion. Plus he had probably gotten mad at John, or at me, or at both, over some perceived wrong (something that happened from time to time). He actually did do away with the multitrack masters (eight tracks). They do not exist today. I got word that he was coming up to Ardent to destroy the stereo mix masters, so I beat him there, and changed them to a different box. When he destroyed "the tapes" they were really something else that didn't matter. It turned out that there were probably a couple of "copies" anyway. An original, and a safety, so the album might well have been OK anyway.  But I do still have that original stereo tape. I recently transferred it to high quality DSD 5.6 digital tape.
Tangents: What was your involvement, albeit limited, with the band during the Radio City, Third period? I’ve heard that you sang back-up on “September Gurls.” 

Manning: Not as much involvement as on #1 of course, but a bit. Sort of like Chris himself, who ostensibly had left the group, but was "included" without any credit in a place or two.  I sang co-lead on “When My Baby's Beside Me" as mentioned previously, and yes, did also sing some of the harmony on "September Gurls." Alex wanted to keep some of the "sound" of the first album on that one.  There was a piano part or two I recall that I played, but I would have to listen back directly to remember what that was.

Tangents: What comes to mind when you think of Big Star, and those records? 

Manning: For many years (over 25) I did not listen to those records at all, ever.  The very first emotion I always have is sadness. Sadness primarily about how it ended for Chris, but also that the world did not "get it" for so long.

There was a lot of emotion involved in the day, a lot of conflict. Conflict amongst band members, between Chris and me at times, Chris and Alex, Chris and John, Alex and John, as well as all the good times.

But I can also now listen with joy, joy because of the quality of the songs, performances, recordings, and spirit, and that the world did finally "get it."  And that everyone did really appreciate and love each other.

Stephen Perry/Cherry Poppin Daddies Interview, May 1998 issue

by Daniel Coston and Carl Fulmer.

After years of being relegated to the memories of our parents and grandparents, the "swing" music of the 1930s and '40s has recently begun to catch fire again with a whole new generation. Among the leaders of that rebirth have been the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, whose song "Zoot Suit Riot" has been all over the radio airwaves in the past three months.
Despite their ode to the suits worn by the likes of Cab Calloway, the eight-member group is anything but a retro band. Formed in Eugene, Oregon in 1989, the eight-member band has spent years building a loyal following with a head-spinning mix of swing, ska, soul rock, topped off by their enigmatic lead singer and songwriter, Stephen Perry.

After years of constant touring and releasing their own self-produced records, the band worked out a record deal last fall with the Los Angeles-based label Mojo Records. Against the band's initial wishes, Mojo released "Zoot Suit Riot" to modern rock stations, which spawned a flood of sales for their CD, "The Swingin' Hits Of...," and garnered the band heavy airplay on MTV.
If the band's summer plans are any indication of the future, the Daddies won't be going away anytime soon. Along with recording their next record, the band has recorded "Fly Me To The Moon" for an upcoming Frank Sinatra tribute album, as well as the Harry Belafonte classic "Jump In Line" for the upcoming Zucker brothers comedy, 
Baseketball. The band will also be a part of both the Warped and HORDE tours, and recently turned down an offer to do "The Love Boat" theme song for the resurrected TV show.

Sitting down with us before the Daddies' red-hot show at Tremont last March [1998], Perry talked about the band's recent success, planning for the next record, and a little bit of history on the song "Zoot Suit Riot."

Tangents: How did your deal with Mojo Records happen?

Perry: We met the head of the label last fall while we were on tour, and we said, "Look, we've been doing this for years. We don't need tour support. We always make our own records on a budget. The problem is that we can't get our records in certain stores." We'd call ahead and say, "Hey, we're coming to your town. Can we put in the store some of our records?" And they'd say, "Sorry, we've never heard of you." So we had pretty much done as much as we could do on that level. We were hitting a glass ceiling, and we were getting tired, and it was frustrating to not get our CDs in stores. So we told the guy that, and he said, "I want to sign a deal with you, but I don't have much cash." We said, Hey, we don't need cash. We've got a record done. [The Swingin' Hits Of..., 1997.] We'll give you the damn record. It's no loss to you, just get us into stores. And we'll tour like crazy for it, like we always do." So we put it out on a national level, and it started to sell. Our whole idea was, "Let's keep it small-time. We don't want to go to radio. Maybe college radio, so that people would know that we were coming to their town." Since the record was doing so well, [Mojo] decided at some point to take it to modern rock radio. And we were like, "I don't know. I think it's a waste of money." We tried to talk them out of it. So we compromised. We said, "Put it out on some stations, just to put a toe in the water." And every one of the stations where they tried it immediately added it.

T: You once told us that you were hated in your hometown for your name.

P: Yeah. At the time that we started was right at the apogee of that political correctness. It was part of curriculum at colleges, at that point. The idea was that language controls thought. If you said something like "Cherry Poppin' Daddies," you were actually contributing to all sorts of goddamn things.

T: What do you think is going to happen with this resurgence in swing?

P: I think that there will be a tiny swing blip on the screen. But it's good that it's opened up music a lot. The problem with swing music, I think, is that there's only a few bands doing it, and there's a lot of nostalgia shit involved. You have to do something new with it. We inoculate ourselves against the Swingwasi kind of people, and we'll play a ska song, and what not. The third-wave ska fans have followed us throughout our careers. They've not worried about whether we were a ska band or a swing bad. But when the swing scene started happening, they were way more elitist. It is 1998. To do something totally retro really isn't that interesting. We're essentially a pop-rock band with swing influences. And ska influences, and soul influences, and stuff like that.

T: What's your next record going to be like?

P: It's going to be swing, but there's a lot of weird songs. We just recorded 15 songs, and we're going to do two more recording sessions, so we'll have about 45 songs, total. It's [hard to] pare it down to 12, but the question is what songs do I like the most. A lot of the stuff I've written is weird pop. We're trying to branch it out some, so we don't have to make "Zoot Suit Riot II." We've already done that.

T: What's the writing process like for you and the band?

P: It's just totally random. I just write whatever's in my head, and I try not to make myself go, "Oh, that's not a Daddies song." That's the big danger. The big trick is to not make yourself a marketing tool.

T: After nine years of doing this, is it strange to be considered by some as a "new" band?

P: Yeah. The trip behind the record was so different to begin with, because the expectations were so low. Now I'm told that it's gonna go gold, easy. We made that record at our home studio. In fact, on "Zoot Suit Riot," after I did the vocals, I said to the engineer, "Okay, I think I'm ready to sing it now." And [the engineer] said, "Hey, Steve, you should come here and listen to it. It didn't sound bad." So I went in, and he said, "I think that you should keep that in there," cause we know that it was the first take. We were recording it for our fans, and our label, so we left it in. And now, it's being played on Top 40 stations. [laughs]

Ashley Hutchings and Ken Nicol Interview, 2010 Redux

Ashley Hutchings & Ken Nicol
Interview and introduction by Daniel Coston

Look at any folk record from the past forty years, and the names Ashley Hutchings and Ken Nicol will pop up in some prominent places. Hutchings was the founding bassist in Fairport Convention, leaving after fabled 1969 album Liege & Lief to form another legendary folk/rock act, Steeleye Span. He is still very active today, with the Albion Band, his series of Morris music albums, and the Rainbow Chasers.

Ken Nicol has been Hutchings’ longtime partner in the Albion Band, and has been the guitarist in Steeleye Span since 2002. Now the two have released their first album as a duo, entitled Copper, Russet and Gold. The album, available through Park Records (, is a fun and eclectic collection of songs that are not bound by any one genre. 

Coston: How did this record come about?

Hutchings: The record came about through Ken contacting me and suggesting we write and record an album of newly written songs. He said (quite correctly) that we write good songs together, and had composed many fine ones for The Albion Band, and wasn't it time we composed together again?

Coston: What surprised me is the diversity of the music on the CD. Some rock, folk and jazz mixed in. Was that something that evolved during the writing process?

Nicol: Both Ashley and I are very eclectic in the way we view music. Largely it’s a case of, the way you think, is consequently the way you write. If there was a process that could be described as evolvement, it would be less of one that just sort of happened by itself, and more a case of wanting to give the album a breadth of expression and colour that could be achieved effectively by using a whole mixture of musical genres. 

Coston: Both of you keep busy schedules. Was it hard to find time to write and record this album?

Nicol: Yes, I mentioned earlier that it slowed down the recording process quite considerably. I should add also that, for me at least, it’s not just a case of grabbing any available time you can get you hands on. With anything I become involved with, there is always a period of time within which I have to ‘think my way’ into it. I have to capture a feel for that task. This isn’t an issue so much if it’s, say, recording or mixing, but when it comes to writing, it takes me a while to get my head into that zone. It can actually be quite difficult when you have a number of things on the go at the same time.     

Hutchings: The album took some time to record, probably two years, during which we would do a bit, have a few months off, do a bit, record some more after a long break, etc..

Coston: Do you find that the writing process is different in working with each other, as opposed to writing on your own, or with others?

Nicol: It’s quite different. If I write alone, often melodies and chord progressions initiate the subject matter of a song. Ninety-something percent of the time, when writing with Ashley, he’ll send me his lyrics, and I then set them to music. 

Of course, there’s little difference between the two when it comes to reaching deep within for that spark, that essence of something that gives one the sense of having found something inspirational, or at least something that inspires oneself. But one of the reasons I believe our partnership works well is because our songwriting roles are clearly defined. Ashley writes the the words, and I write the tunes.    

Hutchings: The writing process is inevitably different when we work together. Put simply, I write the words and send them to Ken who sets them to music, just like Rodgers and Hammerstein!

Coston: Ken, Steeleye just finished a lengthy 40th anniversary tour, and a new album. What's next for the band?

Nicol: I’m not 100% certain just at this moment, but my guess is that there’ll probably be a couple of tours in 2011.  

Coston: While it's been many years since Ashley was in Steeleye, did he have any advice for you when you joined the band?

Nicol: Keep your head down. And always carry an extra pair of boxers. 

Coston: Ashley, you've been a key part of four legendary groups. Fairport, Steeleye, Albion and Morris On. What would you say has been the keys to your success?

Hutchings: I've absolutely no idea about the key to success. I just do what I want to do and hope for the best!

Coston: How would you describe your bass playing? Does it change, depending on the project?

Hutchings: My bass playing is pretty conventional nowadays. It was more adventerous back in the Fairport and Steeleye days. I think of myself as a writer, producer, band leader first, and bass playing comes well down the list.

Coston: When I interviewed Dave Mattacks last year, he told me that playing on the first Morris On record [Morris On, 1972] changed the way he thought about what he could do on drums. What have you gotten out of the Morris On series?

Hutchings: Constructing the Morris On series of albums, and there have been six, has been fun and therefore a relaxing change with all the strongly emotional songs I've recorded.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas, And Happy New Year

Hello All-

On behalf of everyone here at Tangents Magazine, Merry Christmas, and stay tuned for news for new adventures and new issues in 2016. Best wishes and safe travels,
December 21, 2015

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Announcing The Return Of Tangents Magazine In 2016

When we put together the surprise 20th anniversary issue of Tangents Magazine, I intended it to be one last word on what that magazine was capable of. One more chance  to have fun, shake some things up, and say, “We did this, and we’re proud of it.” To my surprise, many of you welcomed us back with open arms. You wrote us to ask when the next issue would be. You asked if you could buy ads in the next issue. When Tangents originally folded in the doldrums of 1998, I thought that someone would surely figure out the formula that the magazine had concocted, and create something to fill that void. Nearly 20 years on, it turns out that it was us all along that would pick up where we had left off. And so it goes…

With that in mind, I’m happy to announce that Tangents Magazine will return in 2016. We’re still working out how many issues we’ll do, but we are looking to return to the newsstands in the spring of 2016. Yes, I said newsstands. We’ll be posting new and archival issues at, but we will once again be print-based, in glorious high-end ‘zine quality. Just the way that you, and we like it.

All of that being said, this new era of Tangents needs you, in many ways. While many of us that oversaw Tangents back then wil be back onboard, the magazine has to be more than nostalgia to be relevant. Tangents was, and is a loose collective of people that wanted to create something different. Something that speaks to the collective experience of our lives, what we’re interested, and what makes us want to speak up. Be it now, or in the days to come.

So, if you would like to write, or contribute to Tangents, welcome. Email us at, and feel free to send us articles, essays, poetry, ideas, or just general thoughts and outbursts. If you contributed to Tangents the first time around, welcome back. Email us, and let the conversation begin again. And if you would like to buy an ad in Tangents, email us. Because creativity and commerce can co-exist, if we allow it to do so.

Thanks for your time, and please check back soon for updates. The future is un-written, so let the story begin, all over again. 
See you on the journey.
December 2, 2015