Anthrax has shaped the heavy metal movement in America. The band recently released its 10th studio album, Worship Music, which brings back the band’s early sound with the re-emergence of lead vocalist Joey Belladonna. I love heavy metal guitars, so it was a privilege to speak to one of the all time metal guitar greats, Scott Ian, to preview their performance at Mayhem Fest Tuesday at Riverbend Music Center.
CityBeat caught up with Ian to discuss the highlights of Mayhem so far and how being a father has changed his perspective on life and music.
CityBeat: What has been the highlight of Mayhem Fest so far for you?
Scott Ian: For me personally it is just the overall vibe. This is the first time we have done a U.S. festival traveling tour in the summer. We kind of knew what to expect since we are friends with Slayer, Slipknot and Motorhead, but it has been so much fun to hang with our friends. The crew and everyone who works with Mayhem have been great and it really is a big family vibe out here. It is a really great place to show up for work.
CB: What has it been like having Joey back the past few tours with the band?
SI: It’s been like two and a half years already. Hopefully that answers the question. It is obviously been going great. We couldn’t be happier with the record we made. We couldn’t be happier with the way shows have been going. I think this is by far the best version of Anthrax that we have ever had.
CB: You became a father last year for the first time. Has this changed your perspective on writing music or life in general?
SI: I haven’t really written yet since he was born because we have been in touring mode. One way that my perspective overall has changed is now having this person in my life that I love beyond anything I can comprehend. It makes me hate the human race even more because of all the pressure that comes with raising a child and wanting to protect him. People ask what do you have to be angry about and there is plenty to be pissed off about now. Look at what happened in Colorado last night with the guy shooting people in a movie theater. It sickens me to the pit of my stomach for a million reasons. What if that was my child in the movie theater?
CB: It is terrible and it is beyond my comprehension how that can happen.
SI: Up until he was born, I had my wife and close family but they are adults and are responsible for themselves. Now we have this person that is 100 percent helpless and relies on us to take care of him, so there is this protective instinct that showed up as soon as he was born. I think that will have a big impact on my writing in the future when the time comes.
CB: Do they come visit you on the road?
SI: Yes they are here right now and have been with me for 10 days.
CB: What is the longest you have gone without playing guitar?
SI: Probably way back in 1977 when I broke my wrist at a skateboard park and I couldn’t play guitar for two months because I had a cast on. I was so bummed that I couldn’t play guitar that I pretty much gave up any type of fancy skateboarding on ramps or pools. The guitar was definitely more of a priority.
CB: What is the biggest difference for you touring versus in the 1980s?
SI: Sometimes we sit around and talk about how did we ever get anything done before we had cell phones and laptops? In the ’80s no one even knew what a cell phone was. I remember the first time a tour manager had that big briefcase thing with a phone in it and it was something like $18 a minute to use it. The idea that we were able to do stuff back then and everything got done is amazing. I try to think about how it got done and I have no idea how we made it through one day let alone a whole tour without the technology.
CB: What habit would you like to break?
SI: I don’t know. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink excessively. My wife is saying talking with my mouth full so I guess I will go with that as a born and bred New Yorker.
CB: What adjectives do you hope describe you at 75?
SI: I hope when I am 75 no one has anything to say about me. I hope the only thing they say is “What ever happened to that guy?” because I am so far off the grid by that point.
CB: I doubt that will happen.
SI: No, we will probably still be playing music and people will say “I can’t believe he is still banging his head.”
CB: What has been your craziest fan story over the past few years?
SI: The craziest audiences in the world are in South America in Chile with the craziest fans overall. We do a signing every day at the Rockstar Energy Drink tent and we get to meet a lot of fans every day on this tour. Anyone who would get anything Anthrax related tattooed on their body is amazing to me. I can’t really call it too crazy because I have Gene Simmons and Angus from AC/DC tattooed on me. I understand that point of view of being such a fan that you would be willing to make that commitment but being the guy in Anthrax and seeing an Anthrax-related tattoo makes you feel great because I know the commitment and I know how much Anthrax must mean to them.
CB: What is the best guitar solo of all time?
SI: Eddie Van Halen “Eruption.”
Anthrax performs July 24 at Mayhem Fest at Riverbend Music Center. More information: rockstarmayhemfest.com.
On Wednesday night in Columbus, radio station 99.7 The Blitz had a one year anniversary party and invited hundreds of fans to an appreciation party at the LC Pavillion to give feedback on the station and meet the members of the Blitz on-air team. Die hard Blitz fans were surprised with a live performance from one of the most popular bands on the station, Bobaflex. Bobaflex did an hour high energy set for the intimate crowd performing their hits like “Bury Me with Your Guns On.”
Bobaflex is an independent metal band from West Virginia that has been grinding through the music business since 1998. Over that time, they have released four albums and been on tour with National acts like Disturbed, Filter, Sevendust, among many others. In their thirteen years, they have gained a cult following centered in Ohio and West Virginia.
CityBeat caught up with Shaun McCoy, a vocalist, guitar player, and charter member of the band before the show to discuss the single that is gaining steam across Ohio in radio play and their unconventional view of the music business. Shaun’s anti-establishment view pairs with his innovative ideas to show where he envisions the music business is heading. This is seen in the upcoming release of their fourth album, Hell in My Heart.
CityBeat: I know you guys have the new album, “Hell in My Heart,” The 15 track album that came out in February.
Shaun: Well, it’s technically not out. There was some confusion about it. And now we’re re-releasing it this summer with some extra tracks. But we still have a few copies on us. We pulled it offline and stopped ordering it until this summer. We are looking at distribution deals with some investors. So we’re almost going to do our own label which is the safest thing to do these days. And using other people’s money because we don’t have that much. So we are almost doing the label thing but having more control in the band. And working with an investor or partner but not with an evil corporate label that’s going down the tube anyway.
CB: You guys have been pretty vocal about being independent and doing this on your own because you have been in the business a while. You’ve also talked about your management team and how they’ve helped out. What’s the process to go through to get the album out on your own?
Shaun: Well people are still holding onto the old, it has to be in the stores which is going to be over in the next five years. You still have to play that game and have an official release. So, we had a couple label deals on the table. They were a no-win situation for the band. So we kind of balked at them. And now, we’re doing a distribution deal. Which you’re not locked in legally with them. They just put it out in the stores and you just kind of pay for shelf space. You do all the marketing and promotions yourself. It’s up to you to promote the album. They just put it in the store. You get a way higher split on the album. You get a majority of the money and you keep the bailments. So basically they’re just a service. We took a long time picking a good distribution company because many are in trouble right now. I think we’re in talks right now with Mega Force and they may distribute us. The band ran into marketing and promotions trouble when we paid for it ourselves and it nearly killed us. So we are looking at the option of using an investor to make it easier on the band and split things down in different percentages and have someone else’s money and do like a label does and have someone else do all the promotions and marketing. And they get a piece for putting that much in and investing in the band. But still it will be a band-friendly contract. It’s not going to be a big corporate Atlantic Records thing where they get 12% of your record and you don’t see royalties for three years.
CB: Is that what the April 20th show is partly about? Are you looking for investors at the showcase?
Shaun: Yeah. I think CDs are like 8-Tracks in a few years. I mean kids don’t want to buy them unless they want something physical to be signed. That’s really it. Adults buy CDs. And it kind of kills me we still have to put it in stores because times are changing and we like to be ahead of the curve. But we’ll play that game for this album and put it in stores. It also opens up radio and touring options. People are still using that as a form of legitimacy. So we have to put it in stores. That’s the way it’s going to be. I’d prefer to have it online and at shows and you’d have to come to the shows to actually purchase it. And that would make the shows better. We’ll have it at shows but right now we have to play the CD game so we’re going to distribute it. There’s nothing finalized, now we’re in talks but nothings done but you can say we’re in talks with Mega Force for distribution.
CB: How long have you been doing this? I know you and your brother started this together.
Shaun: Legitimately, we started in ’98 but full force and making it a profession and barely working a job or not working a job and putting a 100% into from about 2003 until now.
CB: So now it’s full time for all of you.
Shaun: Yeah. Absolutely. It’s been full time for about six or seven years since we signed with TBT, our old label who went bankrupt. Once we got with them it was a full time job.
CB: If you weren’t in a rock band, what would you be doing?
Shaun: Wow, if I weren’t in a rock band, I’d probably turn to a life of crime to make a living. I’m 40 hours short of an advertising degree. I owe the government out the ying-yang. Either I’d be a criminal or I’d just work at Lowe’s.
CB: So you guys have this interesting thing where you let everybody sing. Do you get pushed to try to pick a lead singer or do people give you pressure around that or do people accept that this is how you are going to do it?
Shaun: Early on, when we had a record deal on the table, they actually liked that idea. Years ago, people asked, “Well who’s the lead singer?” Well nobody, we switch off and on. Even our bass player is singing lead on some songs. Well now, if they’re talking to me they say “Well you’re the lead singer.” Or if they’re talking to my brother “Oh you’re the lead singer.” It’s one of those deals. We kind of squash it. It’s whoever song it is. I’m a big KISS fan and I always like Ace songs best and he only sang a handful of them. That’s where we got the idea from. I’m a big Eagles fan and I like any band that has versatile lead singers. It makes the album more eclectic and it makes for better ideas. You don’t get bored or get stuck in a rut when you have three different guys and all three have a little different vibe. That helps for sure.
CB: Have you met KISS?
Shaun: I would like to meet KISS. I have not met KISS. Well, who have I met? We met Dave Mustaine of Megadeath. And that was a big deal. I met all of Anthrax, all of original Anthrax. That was cool. We have toured with Mudvayne and Sevendust but I would love to meet KISS. Absolutely one of my favorite bands.
CB: Have you ever been star struck when you met somebody?
Shaun: Yes, Jonathan Davis and Korn walked into our dressing when we were opening for Mudvayne and Sevendust and we were the openers in the Nokia Center in Dallas. Jonathan Davis had his dressing room across from us and we decided to leave him alone since he was a huge star. I was getting my tattoo worked on drinking and he walked into our room out of nowhere. I was like “What!” He said “Hey this where the party’s at. I smelled weed, I hear drinking and partying. I see you’re getting a tattoo. Does that hurt?” I was like “Noo!” I said “Thanks for having us on the show.” And I shook his hand. He said “Great having you on the show. I’ll see y’all around.” Then he walked out. Then everybody couldn’t even talk and were like “Oh my God! Jonathan Davis just walked into our room.”
CB: Yeah, I’ve interviewed Fieldy and Ray from Korn. They’re great guys.
Shaun: Absolutely. He was really cool to us. That’s the thing with the bigger tours, I’ve never really met an asshole rock star that wouldn’t talk to me or made a rule to “Don’t look at me, especially when I’m eating.” I’ve never seen that yet. That hasn’t happened on the bigger shows like Papa Roach or Megadeath.
CB: One of the things I always say when I’m doing interviews is the bigger the rockstar I talk to the more down to Earth they seem. It’s kind of been the exact opposite of how I envisioned it. Everyone is usually very nice and very down to Earth. One of the theories is that everybody has been at the bottom of this industry and worked their way up and people appreciate it a lot when you do make it and do well. Have you ever had any boyfriend or husband issues on the road?
Shaun: Well yeah, it’s happened. We’re really cool guys, we’re cool with the fans. But there have been weird situations where somebody’s girlfriend has liked someone in the band and then they come up and we don’t know them personally and the guy never comes to a gig again and sends us an e-mail, “I can’t believe you did this to me.” I don’t even know who they are or don’t even know their name. Our ex-guitar player used to have issues with that. He always had people showing up to gigs looking for him. Many times it was due to Facebook and Myspacing and meeting girls. But I personally try to be cool to the fans and I, personally have not or very minimally had that. It’s always been light and nobody’s said anything bad. I’ve had a couple guys try to steer me away from girls via Facebook or Myspace, mainly Facebook. And say, “That chick is trouble man.” And I say, “I don’t even know you man. Why are you contacting me.” I had a guy recently tell me a girl was dangerous. And I was like, “Dangerous? What is she, Al Qaeda? She’s 120 pounds. What are you talking about? Does she have a gun on her? Does she carry a knife and stab people?” I just ignored it. It’s really not too bad. Just our ex-guitar player. And all the guys at this point in the game have girlfriends. I’m the only one who doesn’t. So, on that front, I can’t say it happens too often.
CB: Well I think dating is scary these days anyway. Just meeting on Facebook or Myspace. You talk about music changing. Dating is definitely changing.
Shaun: Oh my God! In the band, you always have some nutball or weirdo a little bit. Or I’ll get stalked multiple times where I can’t get on Facebook without a thing popping up “What are you doing? Why haven’t you called me?” I’ve had that happen several times. I had an older lady, like forty years old, who showed up to gigs crying. She was a nice lady at first and really cool and ran merch for us. I thought she was a forty year old redneck mom who’s not gonna rob us. So we let her sell merch for us. Her and her daughter followed us all over the country spending so much money to follow us to gigs. I’m like “I guess they really like the band.” And they bought us beer. She was married and she started sending me weird lovey messages like “Oh Shaun I love you as deep as the ocean is blue.” So I sent her a message saying she was making us uncomfortable and chill out a little bit. A year later she started it again. She sent me these weird messages, “Oh you don’t know how much I think about you.” I finally told her that “You’re creeping me out.” Then I got this huge message of evil after I told her she was creeping me out. “Who are you to judge?” Then her son called me. And her family was “Why are you being mean to my family?” And I’m like “You’re mom is creeping me out.” It went on forever. Finally I had to quit speaking to her or looking at her. She still showed up to gigs in the front row and call out “You don’t know what you meant to me?” I’m afraid the people would think something is going on and she’s crying at the gig. She would text me for a while and I would never text her back. She got my phone number somehow. Her texts were like I was answering her calling me baby and honey and I wouldn’t answer her and she would send me, “Baby are you sleeping?” and I haven’t answered her but she would answer back like I was talking to her but never was. That was scary. That was weird. Then I found out she pulled a gun on her ex-husband. So that’s when I told the band she had a weird past and was creeping me out. There were a couple gigs that I said they had to keep that lady out of the building. That’s one of several stories.
CB: Wow. So, did somebody inspire the song, “Vampire”?
Shaun: The song, “Vampire,” my brother wrote about a needy girlfriend who wouldn’t leave him alone and needed so much attention and was draining his life and sucking his life force out of him. He’s had a few that were very needy. Read my mind all the time draining like a vampire sucking his soul away. That’s what that song is about.
CB: I’m sure she was really pleased that’s what inspired the song. Does she know?
Shaun: The girlfriend? No she doesn’t. There’s several songs about her. “Playing Dead” is about her too. He doesn’t really tell anyone about her. He’s writing about the same stuff I think in that song.
CB: Some of the best songs come out of bad relationships. Some people I talk to that say they should never get married or never get in a good relationship because they think the band will fall apart.
Shaun: Yeah, we’ve all been divorced. I’m currently separated and getting a divorce. We’ve been separated for two years. She’s had like two boyfriends. We’re good friends and everything but it was definitely hard to keep the marriage together being on the road so much. We had a child together and it was tough. There’s a song called, “On That Night”, and that’s about being betrayed by someone you loved which we’ve never really delved into too much in the past. And this album, it’s like all the things that went on during TBT’s bankruptcy and then we were owned by a bank for a year. It was hell getting a record together. We didn’t have the rights to do it. We thought of everything that happened the last few years. Jared’s song was about his and his ex-wife divorcing. There’s definitely some reality in this record.
CB: Sometimes those are the best songs.
CB: Do you guys write everything yourself?
Shaun: Yes. we worked with songwriters on a couple that weren’t singles. On this album, we definitely collaborated on everything with each other. On a couple songs, I might write the scale or my brother or Jared might but then everybody comes in and puts their ten cents into it.
CB: Where do you guys usually write together?
Shaun: Well we usually get a rehearsal spot or sometimes we’ll put it together at home. We have a nice rehearsal spot with a studio in it. We’ll just sit down from noon to five and go over the set list and some rifts. Everybody will critique everybody’s other songs. And go over them and hammer them out. We’re at the point that we’re mature enough no one will have their feelings hurt when someone doesn’t like someone else’s idea. You either like it or you don’t. We write songs a lot faster now. We know each other so well. There are still some bastards that you have to hammer out that just aren’t right but a lot of the songs come together pretty quick.
CB: Do you guys still live in West Virginia?
Shaun: Yes. I lived in Ohio for a while. Then now I live in West Virginia. Jared, I think lives in Ohio with his girlfriend. The others live half the time with their girlfriend in Ohio and the other half in West Virginia.
CB: I heard about you guys in Columbus. There’s a huge buzz about Bobaflex in Columbus. I thought you were from Columbus.
Shaun: That’s our biggest spot. That’s one of our favorite spots to play. We owe everything to Columbus and West Virginia.
CB: I was hoping you’d be at “Rock on the Range.” That’s one of my favorite festivals to shoot and go to.
Shaun: We were supposed to. We still have the number one requested song in the city. I don’t know what his prejudice was, the guy running it. He said “Oh you won’t draw 2000.” And neither does Egypt Central. We’ll draw about a 1000. Anywhere from 700 to 1000. I know all the promoters in Columbus and we outdraw all the bands when they’re out by themselves. To say all the lower bands outdraw us on “Rock on the Range” is a lie. That’s not true. I don’t know why they won’t have us on.
CB: Well sometimes they try to mix it up and want some new people.
Shaun: Yeah. And it also goes back to that release date. We don’t have a new CD in stores, not gonna be on there. We’re on the old model forever until there are no CDs left.
CB: I love the song “Bury Me With My Guns On.” I thought it was amazing that the song is all over the radio. Then I heard that you had no label and doing everything yourselves. I found the story to be so interesting from the music industry perspective. I hear the song in Cincinnati, I hear it in Columbus, I hear it in Cleveland. So you guys are doing a good job getting it out there on the radio.
Shaun: We’re number 50 on the rock charts right now and we’re paying a radio promoter like a label would. We are paying them to keep pushing it. That’s where we’re at right now. We’re on a teeter-totter at this point. We’re getting a game plan together quickly this week and next week to get this record out.
Music Tonight: Hailing from the same Tulsa, Okla., suburb (Broken Arrow) as singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth, Saturday Night Live comedian (and South Park writer) Bill Hader and Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Warren Spahn, singer/songwriter JD McPherson's upbringing found him youthfully exploring the music of Nirvana and The Stooges right alongside Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly, a signal of things to come. Today, McPherson (now based in the Chicago area) is making a name for himself with songs that reflect the influence of Rock & Roll's breakout period. McPherson performs tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. The free show also features an appearance by like-minded locals (although with a bit more of a Honky Tonk stride) Straw Boss. Showtime is 9 p.m. Check out this potential Northside anthem, "North Side Gal," and dig McPherson's incredibly soulful and authentic ’50s vibe:
Ted Nugent has been putting audiences in a stranglehold since he started touring nationally in 1967 with his crazy, energetic Rock & Roll. He's probably best known musically for giving us unbelievable, unstoppable guitar riffs, like the one featured in his smash hit “Cat Scratch Fever.” But he's probably more recently known best for his off-stage actions and antics. The outspoken Nugent is a confident free-spirit who prefers hunting wild game with big guns and lobbying for patriotism and his Second Amendment rights than blending into society's status quo.
The Cincinnati-born, Brooklyn-based members of Indie Rock sensations The National recently announced details about their first new album since 2010's High Violet, Trouble WIll Find Me. The album is due in the U.S. on May 21 on the 4AD label. (Click here for the album cover, track listing and more National news.)
Today, The National unleashed the first song from Trouble, the warm, crawling "Demons." Check the tune and a video for it below.
UPDATE: Today (April 11), The National released audio of the first single from Trouble Will Find Me, "Don't Swallow the Cap." Check it out:
The National perform a homecoming show on July 14, headlining the final night of the three-day Bunbury Music Festival at Sawyer Point Park. For tickets and more info, click here.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals' Blues- and Folk-tinged sound is a wake-up call to the shift in the music quality that is overtaking American Rock music right now. The band continues to promote its 2010 self-titled album, which has given them their biggest spike in popularity, in part due to hit single, “Paris (Ooh La La).” Her current Country collaboration with Kenny Chesney, “You and Tequila,” is also getting heavy radio play right now. CityBeat spoke with Potter to preview her appearance in Cincinnati Friday at PNC Pavilion.
The fruitcakes have been throw away, the eggnog is spoiled, the big ball dropped, the champagne is gone and we’ve all had time to reflect on 2008. Now, chin up, sport — it’s time to start looking ahead to 2009 and what lies ahead for Cincinnati’s local music scene.
If the first release of 2009 (well, the first to cross my desk anyway) is any indication, we’re in for another great year for locally crafted CDs. The “New Year’s Eve baby” of the local CD world comes from newcomers Hazle Weatherfield, a promising trio that celebrates its debut release with a show this Saturday at The Mad Hatter in Covington.
Holidays are especially exciting times for children and, given the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., kids all over will likely be going to be getting a little extra love this season.
Zak Morgan knows kids. The Cincinnati-based singer/songwriter has already had an amazing career in children’s music, with his second self-financed album, When Bullfrogs Croak, earning numerous awards and acclaim, including a 2004 Grammy nomination for Best Musical Album for Children, a remarkable feat for an independent artist.
Morgan’s accomplishments and hard work (he notches over 200 shows a year for kids across the country) paid off with a contract with Universal Music’s kids’ music imprint, myKaZoo Music. His debut for the label, The Barber of the Beasts, came out in late October and would make a fantastic stocking-stuffer for the little ones this Christmas.
Like his previous releases, The Barber of the Beasts features artwork by famed local illustrator C.F. Payne and contains an extensive booklet of lyrics and drawings. The album also features some notable guests, from local musicians like Dan Dorff, Paul Patterson and Josh Seurkamp to nationally acclaimed artists like Robbie Fulks and locals Karin Bergquist (Over the Rhine) and the iconic Bootsy Collins.
But it’s Morgan’s magical stories and songs that are the focal point. There is a perfect formula for children’s music; like with kids’ films these days, many artists try to hard to make their albums “parent friendly” and tend to go overboard, while those who “dumb things down” tend to be the most annoying. Morgan’s gift is finding the perfect balance.
The Barber of the Beasts is for smart and imaginative kids and parents, seeming designed to be enjoyed together. Morgan is great with clever word play and he isn't afraid to drop a few “big words” (or at least unfamiliar words). That’s where the booklet’s excellent vocabulary guide comes in handy. Parents can go over words with their children, who will have not only been entertained by Zak’s fantastical storytelling, but will also learn something in the process.
Many of the tracks on Barber feature gorgeous chamber string arrangements, but there are also tunes like “Snow Day,” on which Morgan channels his inner Tom Waits (vocally), the shuffling, jazzy Pop cut “Swinging On A Star,” the Country-esque “Nancy Jane” and the great Bootsy collaboration, “The Case of the Dry Markers,” a swingin’, “spooky” Jazz struttin’ mystery with a Halloween vibe.
Here is the debut music video from the album for "The Case of the Dry Markers":
The songs and music are elegant and often downright majestic (particularly the ones with the spine-tingling string arrangements), while Morgan’s clever stories are loaded with a silliness that the young listeners will gleefully embrace.
I believe The Barber of the Beasts (which will specifically appeal to kids between around the ages of 1-8, but certainly fits the "fun for kids of all ages" bill) was released in time to make next year’s Grammy nominations. It will be a crime if it doesn’t make the cut. When it comes to children’s music, Zak is like the Bob Dylan of the genre — minus the curmudgeonly grumpiness, of course.
This Saturday at 1 p.m., Morgan and a host
of special guests will present the local release party for the album at
The Monastery recording studio (2601 Stanton Ave., Walnut Hills), the
performance/recording space owned and operated by producer/guitarist Ric
Hordinski (who also performed on, produced and co-wrote material on the album).
Tickets are available through brownpapertickets.com for $10 (or $20 for families of two-five people). Remaining tickets will be available at the door the day of the show for $15 (or $25 per family). Your ticket also includes food and admission to the post-show pizza party.
There are a couple of things that have been on my mind of late, and this always seems like a decent forum to vent my musings, particularly since I'm not in therapy. First of all, what exactly constitutes medical attention for an erection lasting more than four hours? Does a stereotypically sexy nurse, um, give you a hand? Or does a mummified doctor from the bygone era of bone saws that could drop an oak tree and hand-cranked skull drills apply leeches to the affected area and then show you pictures of Yogi Berra and golf videos to bring down the swelling, so to speak?
While we wait for an answer to arrive, let's move on to the other, perhaps more salient issue that I've been pondering. As everyone knows, the end of the year brings the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nominations, which then inspires a good deal of grumbling speculation about who has gotten nominated and, more importantly, who has not.
Look, no one understands better than I the elation that accompanies being recognized for your work. Six years ago I nabbed second place in the Non-Daily Newspapers Feature Personality Profile category of the Ohio Excellence in Journalism awards. I know, right? At the same time, I can count on fingers and toes the number of letters I've received over the years about things I've written, and many of those have been from the subjects I've written about just to say thanks.
My prized correspondence was from now-deceased Rolling Stone/Billboard editor Timothy White for getting the title of his Beach Boys biography wrong in a piece I wrote about Dick Dale. I had cited White's book as The Nearest Faraway Beach, largely due to my love of the Brian Eno song, "On Some Faraway Beach," and partially because I jotted down my notes in Joseph-Beth Booksellers when I was in the throes of a flu that would have eaten a vaccine for an appetizer. White's book was, in fact, The Nearest Faraway Place, and in it, he mentioned that Dale had been born in Beirut, Lebanon, among other interesting tidbits about the legendary guitarist. When I asked Dale about some of the entries in White's book, he countered with, "Does it say Dick Dale was born in Lebanon?" (he referred to himself in the third person, a lot). I said that it did, and he responded, "Then throw that book in the garbage."
It was a great quote so I used it in the story, which prompted White's letter, where he first corrected my idiot error and then clarified that he had interviewed Dale personally at a time when White speculated that Dale thought being born in Lebanon would make him seem more exotic (he was of Lebanese extraction), but when Beirut became synonymous with terrorism, he claimed Boston as his birthplace. All in all, though, he was very complimentary about the article.
As usual, I digress. As much as people love being hailed for their accomplishments, they are stung when they feel they've been passed over, for whatever reason, and that's completely understandable. It becomes slightly problematic when people demonize the process in an effort to explain their absence from the end result.
Here's the thing; those of us who comprise the nominating committee try not to take ourselves too seriously, but we are very serious about the task of establishing these nominations on an annual basis, for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, we love music and we respect the people who make it. We also feel it is extremely important to recognize great work and to share that recognition with the entire music community.
And that's pretty much it. We don't have an agenda to push. We don't nominate our friends (although our friends sometimes get nominated). Speaking for myself, I really try to set personal feelings aside when the time comes to look at the past year and determine who has done work worthy of CEA recognition.
Of course, that determination is open to a certain amount of subjectivity. We are human beings, after all. That's why we cast our nets as far as we can, to make sure the nominating process is as fair as humanly possible. Is it a perfect system? Not hardly. But I think we've gotten it pretty close to right. This year we involved the public in the process and that helped widen the focus even further, but there still seems to be a certain amount of dissatisfaction about the nominees and conjecture about how they got there. In the final analysis, it boils down to a few simple facts. If you're nominated, congratulations; you've distinguished yourself in a music community that I honestly feel is one of the best in the entire country. If you win, huzzah and holy shit, you've further distinguished yourself within a formidable slate of your musical peers.
And if you're just a spectator, keep working. Keep doing what you do. The accolades are nice, but put things in perspective; at the end of the day, the CEAs are a party with door prizes. Prestigious door prizes, but door prizes nonetheless. And whether you're a winner, a nominee or neither of the above, don't allow your recognition or lack thereof to overinflate or devalue your sense of what you do. What matters is the work. Your work. Whether it garners you a nomination or not.
It's the same in any field of endeavor. How many painters wind up in museums in their lifetimes? How many athletes give their lives over to the sports they love for an almost microscopic chance to get a plaque in their respective halls of fame? Celebrity, wealth and notoriety are all fairly illusory. What matters is the work.
The immortal and forever great Frank Zappa may have put it best: "Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is the best."
And there it is, in it's simplest and most potent form. If you are out there, turning words and melodies in your head into real music with your hands, heart and soul, you are contributing to one of the best things in life. Awards are the icing on a cake that doesn't necessarily need to be iced. When you make great music, we are the winners. And we'd like to thank you. And God and our families and friends and our eighth grade English teacher who said we'd never amount to anything, because he was sort of right. Thank you.
One of the coolest, more unique musical experiences to be had in Cincinnati is at the concerts presented by The Loft Society, an on-the-down-low, speakeasy-like venue housed in the top-floor loft of an apartment building on Calhoun Street in University Heights (next to Mayra’s restaurant). Programmed and hosted by Al Williams, the Loft has been featuring artists on the more exploratory side of Jazz (with occasional guests from other genres) for the past two decades. The atmosphere is relaxed and communal and set up as a great listening experience first and foremost (obnoxious chatter during performances is strongly frowned upon). If you’ve yet to visit, Saturday’s “A Tribute to MLK” concert is a great place to start.