The best part about seeing Bob Dylan in concert in the 21st century is exactly that – seeing him. That still-formidable thrill was enhanced by the small venue size Wednesday night. Although the last-minute, cash-only downtown show fell short of capacity expectations (the venue was about 80% full at best), the “poet laureate of rock” and his incredible band played a tight, focused 90-minute+ set that relied surprisingly much on latter-day gems, including the rarity “Man in the Long Black Coat” from 1989’s Oh Mercy.
This setlist choice made Dylan’s usual gruff, garbled delivery less disconcerting. “Ain’t Talkin’” was much more enjoyable than the preceding “Highway 61 Revisited”. Instrumentally, he certainly kept up with his outstanding band, especially when his organ playing dueled with Charlie Sexton’s guitar licks during a dynamic run-through of “Thunder on the Mountain”, easily the highlight of the show. By the closer “Like a Rolling Stone”, it was clear that the Bob Weir cameo rumors were false. But judging from the crowd going apeshit when Dylan merely grinned midway through his classic anthem, it didn’t matter one lick.---David Sason
Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35
Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
Simple Twist Of Fate
Rollin' And Tumblin'
High Water (for Charlie Patton)
Man In The Long Black Coat
Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
My Wife's Home Town
Highway 61 Revisited
Thunder On The Mountain
Ballad Of A Thin Man
Like A Rolling Stone
For Gabe Meline's review & photos, click here for the award-winning City Sound Inertia.
More Photos Below.
We get mad books sent to us for review here at the Bohemian, but when an instructional manual called How To Rap showed up on our proverbial doorstep, we knew we couldn't just add it to the pile of bad poems, personal memoirs and hippie fiction accumulating in the corner of our offices.
Instead, we assigned it out to fearless intern Caroline Osborn, who was given a deadline of one week to read the book, assimilate the knowledge of the street, internalize the gift of rhyme—and learn, as it were, how to rap.
Her take on the lessons learned is the music column in this week's paper, and it's a must-read. At the end of Osborn's studies, we booked her in the recording studio so she could lay down for all posterity the fruits of her research. Behold, ladies and fellas, click 'play' for MC Oz:
[display_podcast](Ed note: Special props go to Devon Rumrill, who produced the beat, engineered the session and mixed it all down. In true hip-hop fashion, he accepted a bottle of top-shelf liquor as payment. Thanks, Dev!)
Forgive me for being terribly unhip, but Aerosmith is essential rock n' roll. The Boston quintet's first five albums from the '70s and sporadic latter-day gems ("Cryin'", the entire Pump album) hold up against the best of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. Their dirty-blues-hard-rock style was in fine form on Saturday in Oakland, the kickoff of their Cocked, Locked, Ready to Rock U.S. tour. Even with Joe Perry's motorcycle accident just days before, quite simply, they destroyed. Newer and older sons sounded amazing, especially the raucous set-closers "Baby Please Don't Go" (a Big Joe Williams cover) and 1977's "Draw the Line".
Despite his age and recent substance abuse struggles (which even prompted plans for his replacement), Steven Tyler was a dynamo. He was all twirls, scarves and still-formidable shrieks, with complete command over the audience for two hours straight. During a swaggering "Walk This Way", Tyler took a red rose from a fan, chomped it off, then spit the pedals up in a shower of red. It was magnificent and a reminder that he may be the last rock god who wears leopard-skin tights and is NOT a joke.
Locals Sammy Hagar and the Waboritas opened the show with a tight, energetic & charming hour-long set that feature numbers from his solo years, Montrose, Van Halen (Van Hagar) and his new supergroup Chickenfoot (special guest Joe Satriani joined the band for "Sexy Little Thing"). The stars of this portion were the red rocker's very successful Cabo Wabo brand of bars and tequila and the hot young waitresses serving him drinks between songs. This was an enjoyable reminder of the enduring success of party/carnival-themed rock shows. With uptempo feel-good songs and Hawaiian shirt sensibility, Hagar could be the next Jimmy Buffet. Mas tequila!---David Sason
Aerosmith setlist:Rats in the Cellar
Monkey on My Back
Love in an Elevator
Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)
Eat the Rich
Livin' on the Edge
What It Takes
Janie's Got a Gun
Lord of the Thighs
Stop Messin' Around
I Don't Want to Miss a Thing
Baby, Please Don't Go
Draw the Line
Walk This Way
Toys in the Attic*
Sammy Hagar setlist
There's Only One Way to Rock
I Can't Drive 55
Why Can't This Be Love
Space Station #5
Bad Motor Scooter
Best Of Both Worlds
I've Done Everything for You
3 Lock Box
Whole Lotta Zep
I’ve always wanted to be Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap. Ever since I’ve moved to the wine country, I’ve searched for that quintessential moment, the one where she’s driving to her dad’s estate in Napa for the first time. Pulling up to the Castello di Amorosa for the Festival del Sole brought back so many memories of that scene: a valley of grapes rolling before the father-daughter pair as a playful wind dances through Dennis Quaid’s Range Rover, a nanny with laugh lines coming to greet them when they park in the driveway.
Okay, so there wasn’t a well-tanned nanny in an easy-breezy denim tunic waiting for me and my fellow Bohemian writer Caroline Osborn as we pulled up to Dario Sattui’s neo-Medieval castle, but the winding, vineyard-lined road that led to Sattui’s architectural wonder brought me back to those fantasy-laden days when I thought I could be the next big child actress.
The castle sprawled over a large hill, reveling in the fading rays of the afternoon sun. After traversing the surrounding moat via drawbridge, my mind took another sojourn back in time to children’s books I had read of 15th-century Medieval lore, where dark, twisting turret staircases and wrought-iron doors were the order of the day. I may be over-dramatic, but believe me, this castle exudes intrigue. Which makes it a fantastic host venue for Festival del Sole, a 10-day musical pastiche of well-established artists from around the world.
The location certainly wasn’t lost on Nikki Yanofsky, the 16-year-old jazz sensation from Canada. Last night, performing in the castle’s courtyard, the singing phenom virtually bounced onto the stage in a jean jacket and simple white dress, which was—strangely enough—not unlike the garb of Lohan’s Hallie. She said she’d never been in a castle before, and that she “felt like a princess”—a comment that produced coos from the mostly gray-haired audience.
But as cutesy as Yanofsky may sound, or appear, her voice certainly marked her place on the castle’s stage. She scatted, snapped, and moved her shoulders, bringing her accompaniment and the star-struck audience along with her. The songs she sang spoke of the toils of metropolitan public transportation, unrequited love, and even “The Heart of the Matter,” in a way that sometimes unsettlingly contrasted with her age. Not like she doesn’t have time, anyway. The vivacious vocalist signed CDs after the show like she’d been doing it for ages. And she probably will.—Anna Schuessler
While the set was heavy on Wings tracks and his recent work (including tracks from electronic project The Firemen), the Beatles songs were of course the highlights. Notable this time around was the debut of the White Album gem “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, “I’m Looking Through You” from Rubber Soul, the classic rocker “Daytripper”, and a rollicking take on Let It Be’s “I Got a Feeling”. McCartney didn’t fight the consensus, with tributes to deceased band mates George Harrison (a sufficient “Something”) and John Lennon (a truly exhilarating “Day in the Life/Give Peace a Chance”).
Despite his tightly mapped-out show, McCartney did inject a bit of improvisation into the mix, first by way of his rainbow piano malfunction (“I like this one better anyway”) and a charming run-through of “San Francisco Bay Blues”.
Along with the psychedelic & Warholian imagery and personal Candlestick ’66 remembrances from the mostly 50+ crowd, the amazing songs made for a genuine 40th anniversary of the Woodstock era. Conversely, the state-of-the-art, endorsement-drenched ballpark and ticket prices to match (ranging from $49 to $250 a piece) illustrated where much of that 1960s idealism went. Last Saturday’s show was certainly light years from the primitive Beatles’ early stadium gigs, especially the pyrotechnics during “Live and Let Die”, a reminder that in a venue, big gimmicks are a necessary to a certain extent.
The explosions were also a much-needed late-show jolt before the set-closing “Hey Jude” and non-stop Beatles cuts that followed. The back-to-back “Yesterday” and “Helter Skelter” were the finest reminders of McCartney’s songwriting range and his importance in music history. When it comes to vital veteran performers, McCartney’s no Stevie Wonder but he’s absolutely worth seeing live…if you can afford it.--David Sason
Venus And Mars/Rock Show
All My Loving
Got to Get You Into My Life
Let Me Roll It /Foxy Lady
The Long and Winding Road
Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five
Let 'Em In
I'm Looking Through YouTwo Of Us
San Francisco Bay Blues
Sing the Changes
Band on the Run
Back In The USSR
I've Got a Feeling
A Day In The Life / Give Peace a Chance
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Helter SkelterSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) /The End
Many a suburban kid (myself included) learned about social injustice via Public Enemy back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The Long Island quintet galvanized hip-hop’s golden age with revolutionary rhymes, militant theatricality, the Bomb Squad’s groundbreaking dense production, and of course charismatically clownish hype man Flavor Flav.
While no longer packing arenas like their hey day, the group is more active than ever in multiple musical projects, political causes, and a touring schedule to rival Bob Dylan’s. Always innovators, the group is the first major artist to seek investors via Sellaband, which raises recording funds for musicians in exchange for shares in the finished album. On the 20th anniversary of their landmark album Fear of a Black Planet, we chatted with PE#1 Chuck D about timeless albums, the changing music industry, and of course politics in the age of Obama.*
DS: On Fear of a Black Planet, you explored many themes like black images in Hollywood. 20 years onward, how do you feel about the progress regarding these issues?
Chuck D: We set out to make records that stood the test of time, being inspired by What’s Going On and the great Beatles albums, you know, Abbey Road. We grew up in that period. It first started out in the rock world, then the soul world had great albums. Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes, and albums had themes and the themes, well, people would put their whole lives into the themes of albums. When we started recording the ‘80s, rap music had from a singles medium…and was thrust immediately into being this album medium only because the major record companies at that time only mainly operated from a profitable album standpoint.
We understood the magnitude of what an album was, so we set out to make something not only that epitomized the standard of an album, but would stand the test of time by being diverse with sounds and textures, and also being able to hone in on the aspect of peaks and valleys, so we set out to do that. And here we are, later on. The album was a statement because it actually took a college professor’s theory and turned it into a rap record, which was kind of over-the-top, but reflected where we were at, at that time and especially at that stage and our age, because we weren’t kids. I was a postgraduate college student. It wasn’t like I was 22 or 21. I was 30 years old.
DS: I was thinking about the title of the album, and I couldn’t help but think it’s more relevant than ever, what with the “birthers” and the reaction to the Obama administration.
Chuck D: Yeah, because all you have to do is take the “E T” off of it (laughing). It’s funny because E.T. was the extraterrestrial. You take off the “E T”, you have “Fear of a Black Plan” (laughing).
DS: That’s true. A lot of them are the same exact Bush plans, but for some reason…How would you rate Obama’s performance so far?
Chuck D: I think, number one, I tell people when I get tired I think about him and I get this energy, because I know he can really say that he’s tired. He reminds me of a kung-fu fighter who’s getting kicked at from 90 different angles, fending off kicks, and where does he get a chance to actually forward some of those promises? But obviously he knew what he was getting into better than most people. So he’s trying to figure out how to pace himself. I tell you this, he’s got the biggest broom in the history of mankind (laughing), cleaning up all that past shit.
DS: I definitely want to talk about the next album and the Sellaband model.
Chuck D: I not going to talk about Sellaband for more than two minutes, because it’s a 2011 record and the model was definitely influential as early as 2006 when I met Johan [Vosmeijer, co-founder] at an international music conference. It was a great model that worked in Europe. I would say, let’s see if we can work this in North America the same way, and finally I put my group up as an example that I was really putting my mouth wear my mouse was, as a believer. Really, it’s like, we can make albums in our own digital studios just like anybody can, but the thing that would make it different is somebody can invest in something that will be a uniquely different Public Enemy record, with each song brought to the table by a collaborator.
We had to present something different. We’re not going to raise some money and go back in our home studios and give you what we do for free anyway. It’s not like that. We’re trying to show that the system can work. Somebody can go, what does this mean, you guys are requesting $75,000. Well that’s just the cost of somebody investing in the 33% that’s available on the revenue end as being an investor. If somebody comes along with $15,000 after the fact, they can’t invest, so it has a cap on it. Somebody could come along with $3 million, but it’s not…it’s the process and the system that we’re trying to prove works.
DS: Well, it’s really inspiration what you guys are doing, and we’re definitely keeping track of that. You guys, especially you Chuck, are pioneers in digital music the past 15 years or so. Even longer, I think, because I remember the last track on [1994 album] Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age, where you’re talking to Harry Allen…
Chuck D: Yeah, I heard that track the other day for the first time in about 10 years (laughs).
DS: Yeah, it’s such a trip, huh?Chuck D: Yeah, it’s a trip.
DS: What do you think about the death of the music industry and all the things that are happening in our time? There are benefits, like the direct link between artists and fans, but also there’s a loss of revenue. Can I get your opinion on the state of the music industry, in general?
Chuck D: I think the state of the music industry…it’s always going to be somewhere. It’s always going to be morphing into someplace. I think the biggest issue is that some of the people who have been on one side – have they jumped to the other side or are they still raking in people to expend their dollars as being the pied pipers of the other side of the industry? (laughs) So, the music business is healthy; the record is not, because it’s still kind of holding on to old models.
But people like recordings. They might not collect albums like they used to. They might not even want an album. Today’s demographic may not think an album really has the same appeal, like sitting back in 1977 and having a pair of headphones and lounging back on your seat and envisioning what they possibly could not see unless at a concert or on an appearance on a variety show. But now, there’s so much sight to the sound that our definition of what we think is the main configuration is totally distorted by everybody’s point of view. So I think it’s an interesting time. I don’t think there’s any domination in this space of music except for maybe cell phones and maybe, in the near future even more so, Apple.
DS: I see a lot of veteran acts hesitant to the times. Why do you think you have embraced all these changes?
Chuck D: I had no other choice. I was done with the major system, so I was thinking there’s got to be a way I can deliver art to the masses without having the people at my company stop my own music or my own art. I would shoot videos and at the same time here my company comes telling me I got to change a logo in my video, which is going to me $10,000 in order for MTV to possibly consider it.
DS: Which video was this?
Chuck D: It was any of them. You had to make adjustments. So many rap videos had to make adjustments in the mid’90s, it got stupid. It’s like I got to fade out this logo, because they don’t want me wearing this Cincinnati Reds logo because they think I’m promoting the Reds and they’re not getting a piece, and you guys, at my record companies just in cahoots with them, saying well, fuck it, if you don’t change they’re not going to play your video, so it’s going to cost you $10,000 more and we’re not going to put this video out until you make this change because we’ll be wasting our time and wasting our money sending it to a company that’s not going to play [the video]. So I got tired of all those dynamics. I was like, fuck that, I got to go straight to people. That was the thing that set fire under my ass.
DS: I can’t help but think of your classic “By the Time I Get to Arizona”. I’m sure a lot of people have been asking you about it recently. When you documented the struggle to get recognition for the Martin Luther King holiday in that state, did you see any parallels with what’s going on there today with Arizona SB 1070?
Chuck D: I wrote this song that’s going to be on my solo project coming out this month called “Tear Down That Wall”. I had talked about just the one-sided bias of that U.S.-Mexico border madness, not only in Arizona, but also in Texas, New Mexico and Southern California, that that whole policy was being funded into the billions and one of the sloppiest, misunderstand reasons in all the country. A lot of people didn’t know what went on. So when Arizona enacted this racist, racial profiling, Gestapo law, this song was already done. This had already been the sentiment along that borderline.
DS: Are you guys participating in any type of boycott?
Chuck D: Not that I know of. I’m participating in the boycott virtually. We don’t have anything scheduled in that area of Arizona. Maybe in October when we allow ourselves to do a West Coast run, we’ll see where we are. The seven legs are already set in stone for this Fear of a Black Planet tour.
DS: Are you going do the album in its entirety, like you did for It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back a few years back?
Chuck D: We were trying to, but I think there will be places where we’ll do it and places where we’ll not do it. Sp we’re doing like 70 or 60% and meshing it with Nations and some new cuts. It depends on where we’re at, because a lot of times there’s time restraints.
DS: Yeah, it’s a long album.
Chuck D: Yeah, it’s a long album. Fear of a Black Planet comes into play in the area of medley and other stuff, so we rip through the first 40 minutes of it, then we drift off and come back to it, so… Nations is an up-tempo record, so it works from beginning to end, the way it comes at you. Fear has peaks and valleys, for a great album’s listening sake, but live you have to position it…or act really well within it.
DS: Many fans, including me, are wondering you’re ever going to tour again with only the turntable accompaniment. I know you guys have had the live band setup for years now.
Chuck D: Maybe if I do it by myself, like a solo rendition with DJ Lord or DJ Johnny Juice. We have components that are able to do that. After a while I get bored of it. Back when we were doing it in the Terminator X days, the biggest that we have was skipping (laughing). We had so much movement on the stage that the record would jump, so it was like the most frustrating thing ever, man. I was like, we have to figure out a way to have prerecorded music with the turntables, and that was kind of what we latched onto. Prerecorded music, turntables and the band to give differences variances of sound. But if you do it the pure way, you just can’t have a lot of movement. Most rappers don’t have a lot of movement.
DS: So do you enjoy opportunities for improvisation?
Chuck D: Yeah, of course. Flavor’s good at it. I’m good at it. I enjoy it.
DS: It was exciting to have you appear at the Green Festival recently.
Chuck D: Oh yeah, I had a good time there.
DS: How long have you been working on environmental issues?
Chuck D: About three years. A group of mine I brought out there three years ago, Crew Grrl Order, who just completed a video for an album called Go Green which is apropos for what is happening in the Gulf. It’s on SlamJamz [Chuck D’s record label] and their video will debit in another week or two.
DS: What are you and other environmental activists suggesting that people like me do in response to this terrible spill and its ongoing ramifications? People kind of feel helpless right now. What would you suggest?
Chuck D: I would just say keep spreading the word about what people can do to take care of their own environment. Maybe that’s the best balance. Look around you and try to do the best that you can. That’s my best advice.
Occasional contributor and former Boho intern Lindsay Pyle sent this to us two weeks ago! We've finally had the time to put it up. One woman's impressions of the fest.By Lindsay Pyle
I’m not sure I am going to do the last 72 hours of my life justice. I sit here on Monday evening in the San Diego airport, covered in Indio desert dust, and still smelling like Friday’s sweat, waiting to amble onto my flight back home to San Francisco, so that I may fall into a cathartic sleep. I just read an article that described the Coachella Valley Music Festival, held every year just outside of Palm Springs, as something like falling into a rabbit hole… and obviously, still stunned I am, wide brimmed hat in hand, unable to read a book or even listen to my ipod, I agree.
This is my fourth year in a row braving the sometimes treacherous, occasionally aggravating, and always stimulating experience known as Coachella. Every year is good. For those that go, the weight of the desert heat, the constantly evasive meet-up spots, the running around from stage to stage, all hold a special place in the forever changed heart of the Coachella go-er.
Since this year was the first year that the event only sold three-day passes, rather than single day passes like previous years, it is not a shock that the festival sold out. Unfortunately, on account of this, it was seriously overcrowded… For acts like La Roux and Miike Snow, both of whom performed in the smaller tents… I could only peak a view and hear the sound from the outside. For those of us that have been to Coachella in years passed, and cherished the often intimate performances from some lesser known bands in those little tents off to the side, this was probably Coachella 2010’s greatest disappointment.
However, I would argue, that you don’t really experience Coachella until you go all three days. By day three, the desert has broken you. You know better than to fight with her at this point, because she is an awful bitch, and she will always win. While on the first day, it may feel worth it to complain about the heat, or the lines, or the wait, or the walk from the car, by day three, you may realize that all the complaining is in vain, and furthermore, no one is listening. So rather than fight with mother Indio and her Coachella festival… you just comply.
By day three, the walk from the car to the festival is mapped, measured, well-traversed. Traveler beers, drank from the car to the venue gates, are courteously finished as glass is not allowed on the grounds. The bag-check is systematic as we remove all large items from bags to show the volunteers in yellow shirts all the way to the bottom. Water is drank before dizziness ensues. And we simply do not mess with the sun: we find shade, we wear hats, we carry sunscreen.
But being broken by this vast and unforgiving desert, is a right of passage. By day three, shoes come off freely, so does clothing, and the hips and joints are well greased and the muscles are broken in so that dancing feels more natural than sitting still. Joints are passed freely, so are water bottles, and your ears ring in the anticipation of music when it all stops. Plus, by day three, there are certain things you wait for… the hunger that only comes when the sun goes down, the desert winds that blow after dark, the twinkling lights that decorate the palms surrounding the field that glisten and dance beneath a smoke and rose sky.
Going any less than three days would never allow you to experience all of this. Without time to wander, without time to lose yourself, and everyone that you came with, you might never really get into the rabbit hole. Without the full three days, I would have never found the Lucent Dossier experience in the dolab— a show that I would describe as cirque du soleil meets DJ Shadow in a Nickelodeon act of fire and water. I would never have found the best slice of hot pizza pie— cilantro, onions, jalepenos, cheese and chili flakes. I would never have danced with a man in a head to toe light suit, or played the 100 foot organ, or watched the tube of fire, or put on that woman’s large bear hat. But once the desert has broken you, you learn to survive, and life in the absence of a dire need for survival suddenly feels very carefree.
Even the hippest of the hipsters, who deck themselves out in this season’s “most blogged” cut loose. They realize that by day three, nothing that they’re wearing feels as cool as a smile and a good dance break, and all of their urban outfitters uber-retro clothing is as useless as one of those beer bottles we tried to sneak in on day one.
As usual, the talent was up to par. Out of about 90 bands, I got to see around 40… and this was with some considerable running around. Thom Yorke playing with Flea would be a definite highlight, along with Fever Ray, Phoenix, and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Jay Z’s Friday night performance will live in infamy, as he began his set with a remix of “Wonderwall” which had every face in the crowd beaming and singing along. Probably more noteworthy, though, than Jay Z’s performance onstage, was his presence offstage. It became a game to find Jay and his wife, Beyonce, in the crowds of the indie rock acts in the smaller tents over the next two days. I saw him bobbing his head to the British duo “The XX” on Saturday, and I caught wind that he was also at Yeasayer on Friday.
There is something very refreshing about that. Where the newest, hippest, smallest, most obscure Indie rock bands are bookended between some of hip-hop's most revered talent (like De La Soul) and contemporary bluegrass (like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) right behind a long list of djs (like Dangermau5 and Tiesto). The list is so diverse, I ended up seeing an mind-blowing performance by Les Claypool that I actually thought was going to be a DJ set by some people called “Flying Lotus”. When I realized that I was in the wrong place, I didn’t care because he was actually slapping a stand-up bass in a top hat and sunglasses in the dark of the night behind a cool, blue light. I heard “Flying Lotus” was good, but they’d be hard-pressed to top that.
But this happens from day one all the way until the end. You hear of groups by word of mouth, or you end up in the wrong place, or you forget which stage you’re supposed to be going to, or you just get too tired and give up on getting there and stop where you are to catch an ear of something new. Often, I use Coachella as a jumping off point for finding new music. The reality is that the sets are too short to really enjoy bands you love, besides the headliners, and even still, I always leave feeling like I could have taken just a hit or two more. But with that comes the promise of new music and new life that has been once again breathed into my lungs like a hot shot of smoke, and I am ready to begin the summer festival season with fresh outlook… ready to tackle the rosters and see every one I missed last time around.
Anyone feeling like getting Coachella’d??
Saturday marked the third annual Record Store Day, the international holiday to preserve, promote and honor independent record stores (and physical music products in general). This year's exclusive release list was the biggest yet, with over 100 limited run singles and LPs from everyone from Elvis Presley to TV on the Radio. Big sellers locally were rare offerings from Dave Matthews, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Strummer, John Lennon, and the Rolling Stones. Among the elusive were the Joy Division box set and the reissue of Soundgarden's first single on SubPop. Judging from the smiling vinyl-heads and steady traffic throughout the day, this year seemed a definite success.
New acquisitions: Bruce Springsteen 10" single, Boz Scaggs"I think [Record Store Day] is a good thing. It's a way to get the albums back out there. Too many young people are buying it online. They don't get the physical property anymore, and I think that's kind of sad. I just enjoy collecting vinyl and playing it; it's just a nicer sound."
New acquisitions: Gorillaz and Them Crooked Vultures 10" singles"Probably 10 years ago I just started buying [vinyl]. The sound's warm. It's just a much fuller sound than the CD. I love Record Store Day. It brings a lot of much needed attention to the local record stores."
Employee of Watts Music
Recent acquisition: Man is the Bastard / Capitalist Casualties split single
Posing with: Ratt, Out of the Cellar"I came here in middle school and was addicted. Then I came in every day. I bugged [manager] Darin so much that he was like 'sweep or something!'"
Playing in store: Iggy Pop, Lust for Life (on vinyl, of course)"Record Store Day last year was huge, and this year looks like it's going to match it. They're our busiest day of the year now. Last year I got a ton of new customers. I get a lot of people from outside the area. My best customer today came from San Mateo."
Drabek: "We opened at 11, and there were tons of people here, just excited. It felt like that scene in Clerks. I just wanted to walk up and be like 'hey, is this guy not open yet?' Business has been great today."
Stephen Morris is so affable and naturally gleeful that it's hard to believe he was in Joy Division, the mythic Manchester band with distinctively bleak post-punk songs like "Dead Souls"&"Atrocity Exhibition". While Joy Division became New Order by way of singer Ian Curtis' suicide in 1980, the latter group's demise was awkward, with bassist Peter Hook's very public unilateral insistence that his departure was the definitive deathblow.
Thankfully, Morris (above, right) has returned as part of Bad Lieutenant, along with New Order brethren Bernard Sumner (left) and Phil Cunningham, Jake Evans (center), and Alex James of Blur fame. On the eve of their first U.S. tour, the drummer/keyboardist chats about revisiting his youth, putting a new spin on classics, and how being in a band really is like marriage.
DS: I definitely want to talk about Never Cry Another Tear, which is a tremendous album. But the last few years, you guys have been everywhere revisiting your past through two excellent films about Joy Division [2007's dramatization Control and rockumentary Joy Division]. Are you surprised that there's still so much interest?
SM: (laughing) It's a bit weird, really. There's been three films made about Joy Division. The first one was the Michael Winterbottom, 24 Hour Party People, which was a bit of a romp, really, because it was a comedy thing. It was quite funny.
DS: With Steve Coogan.
SM: Yeah, it was a bit of a laugh. And then Anton [Corbijn] made Control, which is really a story about Ian, and it's a completely different film. It's not funny really (laughing).
DS: Yeah, that's one of its strengths, I think. I remember when I saw it I was astounded by the one near-laugh being the line "I don't like hot dogs" -
SM: Oh, that's right! (laughing)
DS: - And I was like, "what a brilliantly dark film", because even with the one near-laugh, you feel guilty if you laugh about it, because it was a mentally challenged guy who said it.
SM: Yeah (laughing). No, Anton did a great job. The trouble with doing a film that's based on someone's life is that it's a film, it's entertainment, it's not...Okay, it's fact, but it's not the whole thing, it's not the whole truth. You know, if we put the whole truth in the film, it would be incredibly long and very boring. But it's still very weird seeing your life portrayed, well Ian's life portrayed, but the events you took part in, being made into a film. Very weird indeed.
And I never thought 30 years ago that that'd happen. I never thought 30 years ago that Joy Division would be as well-respected and as popular and influential, really, as they are today. I mean, I think it's fantastic. My own theory is it's because there hasn't really been...there isn't that much of Joy Division. There's three albums, well two albums and Still. There isn't that much, and I think we're kind of one of these bands...when I first got into music, it was like The Velvet Underground. You went around to someone's house and they said, "here's a record." You'd get turned on to a band, and then you'd have to find out about them for yourselves, because it's not all over the show, not widely known. It's great that Joy Division has still been kind of "cool", which is fantastic. And it's just kind of carried on without us doing anything.
DS: Was the documentary Joy Division a cathartic experience for you?
SM: Um...a little bit, a little bit, because it was all going on at the same time. They were making Control. And it was really odd to sit down and having to relive your life again for the benefit of the viewing public. I like the documentary. I think it works really well as a sort of sidepiece to Control. It's more about the band, and it fills in a few gaps that got left out of the film Control. Anyway.
DS: I think your Velvet Underground comparison is great, because both groups were subterranean, and through word of mouth it's a great discovery for the people. Did Ian Curtis have any idea about Joy Division's appeal before he died?
SM: Well, the thing was we all kind of knew it was going somewhere. Everything that we did, it was going somewhere (laughing). That was really part of the problem with Ian. I think, as we said in the documentary, that it really couldn't have carried on. It really couldn't.
The best thing we could've done was to say "right, just let's stop it now" and not carry on. But you can't do that. You can't. I mean, you can say that with the benefit of hindsight. But when you're four lads embarking on a journey and it's all you've ever wanted to do in your life, not doing it is the last thing you want to think about. So, yeah, I guess Ian...we well knew we were going somewhere, but at the same time, it was never going to happen, really.
DS: This is kind of a broad question, but can you compare the transition from New Order to Bad Lieutenant to that from Joy Division to New Order?
SM: (laughing) It's completely different. For me, it's completely different because Bat Lieutenant is basically Bernard and Phil and Jake, and they kind of wanted to do the album. I wasn't that involved for one reason or another. It wasn't that I didn't want to be involved. There was just a lot of personal stuff going on, so I wasn't really around that much while they were writing stuff. We did a couple tracks here at my studio, but I've more or less been brought in the album's been written. In some cases, the parts have already been played and everything, and it's like learning somebody else's stuff and changing it a bit.
DS: Do you think you'll be more involved with the next Bad Lieutenant project?
SM: Oh yeah, yeah. I would've been more involved, but I just had personal stuff I had to do.
DS: Do you guys write songs on the road? I know you're about to embark on a short U.S. tour.
SM: I'm looking forward to it. Writing is a funny thing. You see, in the early days, the great thing about Joy Division is that we wrote as a group. Songwriting was a cooperative affair. It was a bit of jamming, but we kind of got away with writing songs that kind of worked for everybody. And that kind of had to stop when we became New Order, because it really wouldn't work anymore. We didn't want to be "Joy Division Mark Two" or "Joy Division Lite", so we had to find a new way of writing, which is a little bit contrived but we managed to hit on something that worked again.
But as time's gone on, it's not a group thing anymore. Someone will have an idea, like Phil will have a guitar riff, and we'll all get involved and craft it. It's kind of become a long, drawn-out process, whereas with Joy Division it was a bit like doing a photograph, a Polaroid photograph. It all happened very quickly. What we've ended up doing lately with New Order and Bad Lieutenant is like taking a photograph, taking it and getting it developed, then putting it in Photoshop (laughs)...you know, that sort of thing. It's a process.
DS: What has your wife Gillian [Gilbert, former member of New Order and The Other Two, a duo with Morris] been up to? I know a lot of the longtime fans miss her. How is she doing?
SM: Gillian's fine. The reason she left New Order [in 2001] was because our daughter was really ill [from Transverse myelitis], and she had to look after her. But she's fine, she's actually (laughing)...with The Other Two's back catalog, well it's not a back catalog, it's just two records made and are being re-released. And she says she's going to sing on somebody's record, but she's been saying that for years. So I have a stick to...not actually beat her with, but I try to lure her into the studio to do a bit of work. But yeah, she's been quite content.
DS: So the first time you embarked on a New Order tour and said "Okay, I'll see you later, honey", she wasn't envious at all?
SM: Oh no, she was very envious. It's the worst thing in the world when something that you've been part of for as long as Gillian was...as soon as she was out of school she was in the ban...then when you can't do it anymore, you want it to stop, you want everything to stop, but it doesn't, and that's really, really hard, like, I don't know, some awful type of divorce. (Laughing) It's not a divorce, because she'd come and see us and everything, but it was very, very difficult for her.
DS: I imagine. Are you guys going to do another The Other Two album?
SM: (laughing) I think we might, yeah. We've got a load of soundtracks and stuff we haven't used for anything. And with some of the other ideas, it sounds like an album, so we probably will do another one.
DS: Any timeframe on that?
SM: Well, Gillian's been getting drunk and telling people it'll be finished in October, even though she hasn't done a stitch of work. (Laughing) It's good to have a deadline.
DS: You guys have always been so honest in the press, which I think is part of the appeal of Joy Division and New Order. You guys present yourselves as you are, just regular folks.
DS: And the whole Peter Hook controversy was definitely weird, but also unique when compared to other bands' in-feuding. You personally, Stephen, do you still speak to Peter? Is he still in the circle socially?
SM: Well, we've never really been big social animals, except within the group. We don't really see each other outside of the group anyway. But I try not to fall out with people. There's no point in falling out with anybody.
DS: So you don't know if he's heard the new Bad Lieutenant album or anything like that?
SM: Well, I actually would that he would've heard it (laughs). Um, yeah, I don't know. I don't really know.
DS: That's got to be incredibly weird, something you've spent all these highs and lows with, and how that relationship evolves. Would you consider band mates of this tenure to be like a marriage, like you said earlier about Gillian? Would you say that's an apt analogy?
SM: It is really. It is. I was reading a book by Bill Bruford the drummer for Yes and King Crimson. He's done an autobiography [entitled Bill Bruford: The Autobiography] and it's great and very funny, if you have a chance to read it. His take on it is, it always hurts when bits fall off bands. He's got this great thing about when bands fall apart, it's always heartache and harder than any divorce. It's hard to explain, really, but you are really, really involved in it, and there's no way it can not be painful.
DS: I imagine. How would you compare this new record to the last New Order record, which was [2005's] Waiting for the Sirens' Call? I've heard it described as a true "Manchester Rock" album.
SM: I think with Jake on board singing, being a singer, has helped a lot. And it's a bit weird having three guitars (laughing). We've got more guitars than you could shake a stick at. But Jake is really good, and he's got a lot of his own ideas and he's not afraid to let you know. Some people would be a bit in awe, I think, of Bernard, but he doesn't seem to be.
DS: You guys are still thriving and trying new things and are really vital, which a lot of veteran musicians cannot say. Do you think you guys just adapt to tragedy or changing circumstances better? Many musicians would've been disheartened after Ian's suicide and the loss of that momentum, but you guys kept going and you keep going now. What do you attribute that to?
SM: I can only speak for myself, really. My take on it is there's always something to learn, always something you haven't done. As long as it's still enjoyable, then there's a reason to do it. If you don't enjoy what you're doing, then there's something wrong, you're doing the wrong thing. Thankfully, being in Bad Lieutenant is quite an enjoyable thing. I've certainly enjoyed it thus far. I get to play the drums in a band. It's a very familiar environment (laughing). I know the singer quite well! But it's fun. We really do genuinely enjoy it.
DS: One last question, Stephen, and I thank you again for taking the time. What can we expect at the San Francisco show setlist-wise? You guys have so much material.
SM: Well, Bernard's thing about Bad Lieutenant live was he wanted to do a cross section of songs from his past, which was fine but he wouldn't tell us what they were (laughs). So we had to learn a lot of songs, which was really interesting. We did some Electronic songs [Electronic is Bernard Sumner's group with Johnny Marr]. He likes "Tighten Up" best, off the first album. And then I said "well, why don't we do 'Out of Control', that thing you did with the Chemical Brothers."
DS: Oh, wow. That's a modern classic.
SM: So we'll be doing that one. Some Joy Division ones, some New Order ones. It's about 50/50. Half of it is Bad Lieutenant. But we kind of reworked them, when we've gone back to a Joy Division song or a New Order song. We sat down and were like, "we have been playing this a long time; can we find a way to make it a bit more interesting for us?" I think the latest one that we've done that's had that treatment is "Atmosphere", and it works out really well. You shouldn't really mess with "Atmosphere", but...it's quite subtle what we've done to it, but it works really well.
DS: You mentioned the three guitars. Are the songs more heavily guitar-oriented?
SM: Yeah, that's the trouble. It's a bit of challenge when you do those sorts of things. You've got songs that weren't really written for three guitarists (laughs). And we can't have you just standing about doing nothing, so we'll have to think of something. The bits that we've come up with, they do kind of work.
DS: It must keep the songs fresh.
SM: Yeah, yeah, it does.
DS: Well, thank you so much, Stephen. We're looking forward to the San Francisco show. Give my regards to your wife-
SM: I certainly will.
DS: -and I'm looking forward to hearing some more The Other Two material.
SM: (laughing) Yeah, don't hold your breath. It won't be out in October, I don't care what she says!
DS: Last question, where are you calling from London? Do you live in London?
SM: NO, no, no, no, not in London. I'm just outside Manchester. In the hills outside Manchester.
*Bad Lieutenant will perform at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco next Friday, April 16. Run Run Run supports. Tickets are still available. *UPDATE FROM BAD LT.'S MANAGEMENT:Bad Lieutenant, scheduled to kick off their U.S. concert debut tomorrow night at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, have been forced to cancel the date due to this morning's volcanic eruption in Iceland that closed British airspace. The band members - Bernard Sumner, Phil Cunningham, Jake Evans, Stephen Morris and Tom Chapman - who all live in the UK, had been scheduled to travel today into San Francisco. When British airspace was closed this morning and all flights were cancelled, they were able to get last-minute bookings for tomorrow on a flight that would have put them into San Francisco late in the day; but just moments ago, American Airlines announced that that flight has also been cancelled.Bad Lieutenant is extremely disappointed in this bizarre turn of events as they had been very much looking forward to coming to the Bay Area. The band's management is doing everything it can to make an alternative flight itinerary for the remaining dates.Refunds will be available for ticket holders at the point of purchase.