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Members of Pearl Jam, Guns N’ Roses and Screaming Trees Form New Supergroup

March 4, 2013

Supergroups invoke a certain fascination about them that, naturally, any other new band could not muster.

When current and former members of major acts band together, ears gravitate to the project to hear brilliantly composed new material, or tunes that fall disappointingly short of the lofty expectations fans set.

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Martin (L) and McCready (R) are joining former Guns ‘N Roses bassist Duff McKagan in a new supergroup that harkens unreleased Mad Season material, as well as new material.

This week, news broke that Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and former Screaming Trees’ drummer Barrett Martin were collectively stepping to the plate that other supergroups stand. For fans, nothing less than a home-run is expected.

The group, which is as of yet unnamed, first came to fruition when McCready and Martin were re-working demos tracks from the unreleased Mad Season album Disinformation. McCready and Martin previously collaborated in the group Mad Season in the mid-1990s, alongside grunge idols Layne Staley (Alice in Chains) and John Baker Saunders (The Walkabouts).

(To complete the collaborative triangle, Martin and McKagan also work together in the group Walking Papers, which has been active since 2012.)

McCready and Martin are preparing a deluxe reissue of the only Mad Season album, Above, set for re-release on April 2nd.

The band is expecting to add multiple vocalists to bring life to new and old material. Once completed, the group’s album will likely be released on McCready’s Hockeytalkter Records.

“I had a whole bunch of song ideas and Mike had a whole bunch of song ideas and Duff had a whole bunch of song ideas that were not making it into Walking Papers,” said Martin. “We decided that we would go into the studio and record them. Right now they’re being sent out to different singers. Mike and Duff are overseeing that because they know everybody.”

Mike McCready also touched on the group’s origins, stating… “Duff and Barrett and I got together. We wrote some new stuff and we took some of those old Mad Season demos from that [unreleased] second Disinformation record, so we are trying to find something to do with those. We’re talking to Jaz from Killing Joke and I’ve been trying to find some singers to work on some of that stuff.”
McCready noted that no release timetable of any kind is determined yet.
“As the different singers finish their songs and turn them in, that will determine when they get put out,” McCready joked.

Nine Inch Nails to Return This Summer

February 27, 2013

Trent Reznor, the founder and creative force behind the revolving-door group Nine Inch Nails, recently revealed his intentions to revamp the band following a four-year hiatus.

A statement from Reznor mentioned a new slate of shows, beginning with select shows this Summer, including, according to Billboard, a headlining slot at Lollapalooza in August. A nationwide arena tour is expected this Fall, with international dates to follow into 2014. Perhaps most intriguing of all, Reznor noted the group’s newest starting lineup.

Trent Reznor has a busy schedule in 2013, scheduling tour dates with his latest group, How to Destroy Angels, as well as his own band, Nine Inch Nails.

Trent Reznor has a busy schedule in 2013, scheduling tour dates with his latest group, How to Destroy Angels, as well as his own band, Nine Inch Nails.

Aside from previous Nine Inch Nail’s contributors Alessandro Cortini and Ilan Rubin, new collaborators include Adrian Belew of King Crimson, Telefon Tel Aviv’s Josh Eustis,  and former Jane’s Addiction bassist Eric Avery.

NIN fans can thank Belew for the group’s sudden rebirth, as the instrumentalist was…well, instrumental in discussing new ideas with Reznor, that unexpectedly sparked the drive to return Nine Inch Nails to life.

Reznor described in his statement… “I was working with Adrian Belew on some musical ideas, which led to some discussion on performing, which led to some beard-scratching, which (many steps later) led to the decision to re-think the idea of what Nine Inch Nails could be, and the idea of playing a show. Calls were made to some friends, lots of new ideas were discussed, and a show was booked – which led to another, which somehow led to a lot of shows.

Not to be forgotten, Reznor’s latest band, How to Destroy Angels, will release its debut album Welcome Oblivion on March 5, with a supporting tour to follow. Reznor and his wife, Mariqueen Maandig, as well as longtime collaborators Rob Sheridan and Atticus Ross, make up the group.

Fans can currently stream Welcome Oblivion free at the group’s website.

There’s even hope that the revived Nine Inch Nails will lead to a new album. In January 2012, Reznor told Billboard.com that he had written new material that could fall under the NIN library one day.

Whether fans hear that material beginning this Summer will all hinge on the ever-fascinating world of Trent Reznor. One thing is for sure though, fans are now closer than they were before.

Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich Release “Amok” Stream In Reddit AmA Session

February 18, 2013

Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich, contributing members of English rock acts Radiohead (and as far as today’s news goes), Atoms for Peace, thrilled fans today with some breaking news, including a new streaming link to their latest work.

Yorke and Godrich will be making some unidentified stops this Spring in London, Berlin and New York.

Yorke and Godrich will be making some stops this Spring in London, Berlin and New York, armed only with two turntables and a microphone.

Craftily engaging many music fans who were relaxing at home on Presidents Day, the duo hosted an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit today around noon eastern time. Within the thread, Yorke and Godrich answered questions regarding their latest collaboration (as Radiohead) with Jack White and the release of the second Atoms for Peace album, Amok.

While Amok is scheduled for a February 26th release, Yorke and Godrich happily offered up a free-streaming link to the album when a participating Reddit user inquired about the album’s inevitable leak. The pair also confirmed that the group would be supporting the album with tour stops in the United States.

The official tour notwithstanding, Yorke and Godrich have confirmed they will be visiting locales in London on February 22nd, Berlin on March 8th and New York on March 14th, armed only with two turntables and a microphone.

Information is still forthcoming, with special guests and venues to come.

It is presumed that Atoms for Peace will wrap up the Amok tour in late Summer to begin recordings on the next Radiohead album in September, as Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood has already confirmed.

Also worth noting: fan inquiries regarding a visit to Jack White’s Third Man Studios in Nashville, Tennessee abound, Yorke and Godrich confirmed two unfinished tracks had grown from their recording session in Nashville, including one track entitled “Identikit.” That said, Jack White himself stated in an interview with the BBC that he did not participate in the production or performance of these songs.

Elton John Joins Eclectic Group on Upcoming Queens of the Stone Age Record

February 10, 2013

Queens of the Stone Age have always been one of the most interesting revolving-door projects in modern music. The primary music vehicle of founder Josh Homme, the band has welcomed a variety of collaborative guests over a sixteen-year, five album span.

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John and Grohl discuss their work on the latest Queens of the Stone Age album on Chelsea Lately.

The news of Sir Elton John’s participation in the latest installment of the Queens of the Stone Age saga emerged this week, on E’s Chelsea Lately nonetheless. Dave Grohl, who provided drums on the third QOTSA record, was filling in for Chelsea Handler when he teased with John about their latest collaboration.

“I was in Vegas and I flew back to LA and Engelbert Humperdinck had written me a very sweet letter and asked me to sing a duet with him,” John said. “He is part of my history and I couldn’t say no so I went and recorded a song with him. Then I drove three blocks and went from Engelbert to Queens Of The Stone Age, which was a bit of a mindf*ck.”

The latest Queens’ record, which is currently untitled, will feature a star-studded cast of former and new members. Previous members, including Mark Lanegan [Screaming Trees, Mark Lanegan Band], Nick Oliveri [Kyuss, Mondo Generator] and Alain Johannes [Eleven, Them Crooked Vultures] will join new talent in Jake Shears [Scissor Sisters], Brody Dalle [The Distillers] and of course, Sir Elton John.

A release date for the album is still pending, although Homme and company have hinted at various times of a 2013 release. The group’s last effort, 2007′s Era Vulgaris, featured appearances by Julian Casablancas [The Strokes] and Trent Reznor [Nine Inch Nails].

Are Double-Weekend Festivals the New Standard?

May 8, 2012

I Wanna Hear the Same Song Twice…

In 2010, the ninth year of its existence, the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival had expanded its horizons, so much so that organizers welcomed 75,000 music lovers, not including staffers, organizers, talent and the mounted police of Coffee County’s finest. However if you asked anyone who has ventured to Bonnaroo, they will often testify that crowds are much larger than advertised, reaching around 100,000 attendees. (Due in part to forged tickets and sneak-ins.) Regardless, those crowd numbers can make 530 acres of festival grounds shrink considerably.

Coachella's Empire Polo Grounds are spacious, up until you cram 75,000 music fans within. Festival founder Paul Follett believes he has found the best alternative to overcrowding by extending the event to two separate weekends.Essentially, the festival had grown too big for its own measuring stick. Bonnaroo’s ticket allotment has only increased by approximately 10,000 in ten years; an indicator that growth has been limited. Aside from price hikes, the Lollapaloozas, Bonnaroos and Sasquatches of the world are, like any respectable business, seeking new ways to expand their brand.

This year’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival was the first of the ‘Big Three’ to gamble with the experiment of a double weekend. To be fair, New Orleans’ Jazz Fest, among other festivals around the world, have been producing multi-weekend events for years, albeit not with repeat performances. And now, annual demand at Coachella has incited founder Paul Tollet to book some of the world’s greatest acts…for two straight weekends. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Follett explained, “I didn’t want to ruin the show by putting 40,000 more people in per day. We’ve got more land, we could’ve gone that route, but we didn’t want to do that. We found something else…I’m believing in it.”

So is the double weekend the new standard for festivals everywhere? Or will the fans deem it a sell-out?

Essentially, it was a sell-out; the kind in which all 150,000 combined tickets were purchased within three hours of going on sale in January. But while crowds came out in full force both weekends, commercial sponsors were less enthusiastic. “There is definitely a feeling of excitement associated with the first weekend, when no one knows yet what memorable moments the festival is going to bring,” said Lacoste vice president of marketing Emily Coppock. “And who doesn’t want to say they were there first?” Guess, Armani Exchange, Chevy Volt and Lacoste were just a few advertisers to keep their promotional events to the first weekend only. In an atmosphere where sponsors host pool parties and mist tents, their absence was noticeable.

There’s no denying that the excitement resided in weekend one, when long-awaited rumors and secrets were put to rest. The hologram of late rapper Tupac Shakur, which performed onstage with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, was explosive enough to garner worldwide media attention and millions of views online within the festival’s middle week. Naturally, the shock and awe was not as well replicated in the second weekend. Other ‘non-holographic’ cameos by Usher, Kimbra and 50 Cent were also restricted to weekend one.

Double-weekend festivals such as Coachella face the task of recreating magic for audiences, who in today’s digital age, are connected with every revelation of each performance.

And yet, despite featuring the same lineup, weekend two still consisted of a few new surprises. John Fogerty joined the Black Keys onstage and former Pulp bassist Antony Genn assisted in the band’s classic “Common People.” Weekend two visitors even enjoyed more fortunate weather, as rains and cold temperatures plagued half of weekend one. But it was impossible to deny the allure of the first weekend, especially with Los Angeles’ celeb culture (i.e. Rihanna, Katy Perry, Kate Bosworth) joining the pilgrimage to Indio.

It’s not an easy task to recreate the mystique of an event like Coachella in two weekends. Other festivals will undoubtedly face the same challenges if they adopt the format. Like every year, it was a major success for Coachella financially. Selling twice as many tickets and reducing production costs by leaving sets constructed over the week allowed organizers to enjoy a significant profit leap. The adjustment was a commercial success.

That said, fans have now had the opportunity to contrast weekends and the issues that accompany them and there’s no doubt that most will prefer premiere weekends in future sales. A drop in interest could be cancerous to second weekenders. But for the entrepreneurial spirit of festival organizers, is a double weekend to beneficial to ignore?

The American consumer has always been a beast in which demand precedes supply. As festival leaders recognize this new ceiling, extended events will become as real as that Tupac hologram.

That was real. Wasn’t it?

Tupac Hologram Projects the Future of Live Music

April 17, 2012

Is the Tupac hologram a mirage of live music's future?In the days leading up to the 2012 Coachella Music & Arts Festival, rumors began to spread that Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, headliners for the festival’s closing performance Sunday night, had something truly special planned.

Now consider this ‘concert spoiler’ as a token of good fortune, as hysteria could have ensued when a holographic form of the late rapper Tupac Shakur was projected onstage, accompanying Snoop Dogg on two songs, to a bewildered crowd. Within 24 hours, the videos of the performance have gone viral while news outlets across the globe discuss what the hell just happened here.

Meanwhile, I was rolling my eyes and praying that P Diddy (I don’t care if you changed your name again) was taking this performance as a challenge to recreate his own Notorious B.I.G. (Call it the Notorious CGI)

One can’t deny, the Shakur hologram appeared frighteningly realistic; a kudos to AV Concepts, a Tempe, Arizona-based lighting, video, audio and digital services company that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars producing the visual spectacle. For most, it is a stunning preview of a future in which lost musicians, artists and performers of all backgrounds can be revived onstage through the use of technology.

For a select few, it is just another wise trick; none more advanced than what we saw at the 2006 Grammy Awards, in which the cartoon band Gorillaz were digitally produced onstage to perform alongside Madonna. (It’s worth crediting AV Concepts, who also assisted in the production of that show.)

And yet, Sunday’s show still felt like a breaking wave in the evolution of live entertainment. Popular music commentator and musician ?uestlove of the Roots shared his thoughts via Twitter this morning stating…”damn: Dre Now Changed The Game 5 Times: 1) NWA 2) The Chronic 3) Col Tom Parkering Em 4) Beats By Dre & 5) http://t.co/mHD4yLdJ

Now, talks of a full-length Tupac hologram tour and online polls listing what artists fans would like to see recreated in hologram form next are a grim indicator: will concert producers treat this as a passing fad, or the sobering technology that it seems to be? The use of live holograms as part of musical performances is not necessarily fresh, as examined in this 2006 Grammy performances featuring Madonna and the cartoon band Gorillaz.

Let’s consider for a moment that the days of paying $60 to see someone turn on what is essentially a 3-D light (to the tune of music) are upon us.

Movies had the advent of 3-D in the 1950s and even today, Hollywood is riding a massive return to the 3-D productions as an attempt to lure audiences back to theaters and away from their home entertainment systems.

Who’s to say live music companies don’t need another reason to lure listeners outside again?

While the concert industry has not necessarily suffered the same hardships as film, the application of more holographic technologies feels as imminent as the early days of concert lighting (old) or performance live streaming (new).There’s no rejecting the response from fans online.

I admit, it is still fresh and we have to let this one burn out before we roll another.

Yet whether you thought Tupac’s ghost was creepy or fascinating, it is certainly a subtle mirage in the landscape of what is to come.

I guess it’s only fitting that it made it’s claim-to-fame in the desert of Palm Springs, California.

The Invisible Man: Michael Carney & Today’s Album Artists

March 11, 2012

By: Patrick Gipson

ImageMichael Carney might be one of the most forgettable artists today. Esteemed accomplishments line the last few years of his career, yet his name is as recognizable as a top selling brand of toothpicks. The man is a walking ghost of an artist.

It’s February 13, 2011. Carney is seated within the dark rows of chairs arranged inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles. His thick rimmed glasses and boyish comb over might lead you to believe he was somebody’s date. Nobody else. He waits patiently as names are called off during the 53rd annual Grammy Awards pre-telecast presentation. Few people are aware that the Grammy’s has a pre-telecast awards ceremony. Even fewer people know who Michael Carney is. Even for the Carney family, it’s not just Michael’s big night. His older brother Patrick will walk away with two golden gramophone awards on the same night Michael will be awarded his first.

When Michael is announced as the winner of the 2011 Grammy for Best Packaging, he swiftly walks towards the stage, only to have the host impatiently interject, ‘we would like to accept this award on behalf of…’ Carney’s tall frame ascends the stage stairs and approaches the microphone just in time to silence the impatient ceremony. As he reaches for the trophy, the host surrenders the award with a look of estrangement. ‘Oh wait, we have someone here to accept this award.’

Like I said. He is a forgettable man. But then again, Carney dabbles in a forgettable music industry, where digital musicians come and go faster than pre-teen fads. But Carney is not a musician. He is an album artist. The man who puts a face to records that could transcend a generation. Faces that are not so forgettable.

And so is the beauty of album artwork. To give birth to a visual world associated with an invisible art. We all can name our favorite album covers. Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground, U2, etc…but can we name those behind their design? Carney has contributed artwork to the likes of RJD2, The Black Keys, Blakroc, Dr. John and even Birdhouse skateboards. Take off your headphones and pick up that album (or enlarge that .pdf). Mr. Carney wants to tell you some things about album artwork’s place in this world.

When did you first realize that you loved creating visual arts associated with music or musical acts?

Honestly creating artwork to accompany music is something I sort of fell into. I worked on the artwork for a record for the first time when I was 19 years old and by the time I was 22, I had done something like five different album packages. I looked at it as a hobby or something all through school and around the end of my schooling I started to toy with the idea of taking it more seriously. It took me a long time to realize that a huge part of my creative process was interpreting music or at least attempting to do that.

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The cover of Carney's sole musical project, known as Deathly Fighter.

I learned how to hit a deadline and that with enough coffee you can put in forty hours of work in two days. To me, being an artist is a balancing act of being technically skilled at something and being able to solve problems creatively and CCA&D helped me nurture the technical side of things.

How do you feel Columbus and the greater state of Ohio inspired your art growing up?

My experience living in Ohio is probably really similar to anyone who grew up in a city that was not New York or L.A. or Chicago.  The cost of living is cheap and it tends to be harder to be exposed to cultural stuff, whether that is music or art or even non-blockbuster movies…that kind of stuff is there, but you have to work hard to find it.  I got into skateboarding when I was in middle school and that was kind of how I found out about punk rock and indie rock and other stuff like that. I was exposed to tons of different kinds of art and design through reading Thrasher and loitering at record stores. I could talk for days about all the different important cultural figures who came from Ohio or places like Ohio.  In a nutshell there is not a ton of stuff to do in Ohio unless you go out and make it happen, whether that is starting a band or making a magazine. As a result I think there is a really big [do-it-yourself] culture in places like Ohio because people are bored and want to do something cool or interesting and they have to make it happen for themselves.

Music is becoming an increasingly digital commodity. How would you
encourage someone to buy a physical copy of an album?

I grew up going to record stores. I remember in middle school and high school saving up money to go buy CDs or LPs that I wanted; walking to the record store, being scared to ask stupid questions to the record store clerks. In college I went to Used Kids Records in Columbus almost everyday. That is an experience that is hard to explain and hard to fully understand with out doing it. So if someone’s only goal is hearing the music then that whole process does not matter. If the goal is having a tangible collection of music, then going to a record store makes sense. Frequenting a record store gives you a chance to build a relationship with the people who work there. Before I moved to New York, certain people at the record store I went to would put records aside for me that came in that they knew I would like. I knew if I asked this guy about a garage rock record he could tell me everything about it and the other guy could tell me if the new record by whatever band was worth listening to. Digital record stores will never be able to mimic this experience and as a result it is harder to sift through the crap and find music that speaks to you. Aside from that part of the record store experience, I think it is stopping to look at owning physical records as owning an object rather than data. I think beautiful packaging helps encourage people to buy the physical record rather than digital, but not everyone who likes music wants the whole experience of opening a record and holding it in their hands.

Why is album artwork and unique packaging so important? Is it more
important these days than before?

It is a chance to set the tone for the music, to tell a story in a very abstract way that relates to the music. Whether it is more important now than before is hard to say. I think in order to sell physical records these days, you have to work harder since people could buy it digitally.

What are some of your favorite album covers of all time?

The list changes every day but right now I am into these: Atom Heart Mother by Pink Floyd, Wire by Pink Flag, 20 Jazz Funk Greats by Throbbing Gristle, the first Suicide [self-titled] album.

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Carney's most recognized work; the cover to the Black Key's 2010 album "Brothers," which earned him a Grammy for Best Packaging.

One of my friends works as a screen printer for a t-shirt factory and he was telling me about all these weird inks that one of their suppliers made. That got me thinking about what kind of inks were available for printing on compact discs. Then we went on a search for something different and found the heat sensitive ink. 

What’s is the best record you’ve heard that got the cover and/or packaging all wrong?

I can’t really answer that. I get really bummed out when I read or hear about someone saying negative stuff about my work so I would not want to publicly criticize someone else’s work. That being said, there are tons of amazing records that have terrible covers, and terrible records that have amazing covers.

You won a Grammy for your packaging work for “Brothers,” but what is another moment in your visual arts career that you are particularly proud of?

 I am just happy to be in a position to do the kind of work that I do. I never expected to do a second record cover after my first one, or to be doing record packaging 10 years later…let alone win a Grammy.

You’re a musician yourself (Deathly Fighter). What inspired you to take up music?

 I was struggling creatively about five years ago. I felt confused as to whether I had a voice of my own visually, or whether I was just a technician who created custom artwork for other people. That is an issue that I still struggle with, when someone says “you can do whatever you want.” I am always like, I need some rules, I need some challenges, I need to know what you are looking for. That is a result of the way that I learned to make art. It was always: “make something to accompany this music” not “make something”. At the time I did not feel like making visual art was creatively fulfilling. So my friend and I started a band as a creative outlet. The band ended up being really weird because we needed it to be something that we could do whatever we wanted with, no rules or restrictions. I actually have not made music in almost a year, and now spend the time that I used to spend making music, making paintings and stuff for myself. So the band kind of served its purpose of helping me work through a creative block of sorts. Although I am sure I will play music in some way in the future, right now. I don’t feel the need to.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to work in album artwork?

 That is something I get asked very often. I get emails from young artists and designers wanting to know how I got from point A to point B. To be honest, I don’t know what to tell them. In most situations, it is similar to mine where a close friend starts a band and asks you to make shirts or flyers or record covers for them. Another option is start a record label and do all the art. Your work is going to do the talking, so you have to make work and get it in front of people and there are tons of ways to do that. This is something I am still trying to figure out and I bet I will still be trying to figure it out when I am 90.

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