Cincinnati is not known as an Industrial music destination. Unlike San Francisco in the late ‘70s, Chicago in the mid-‘80s and Cleveland in the early ‘90s, the Queen City has never really enjoyed a love affair with the ever-morphing genre of all things dark, mechanical and dingy-sounding.
Ilan Kaim is the man who intends to change that.
The Doobie Brothers have been entertaining audiences across the world for more than 40 years. In 2010 the band released World Gone Crazy, their first album in a decade. They continue to be an inspiration with their recordings and their rigorous tour schedule.
CityBeat caught up with guitarist and vocalist Tom Johnston by phone this week. Johnston discussed the changes the band has seen through 40 years of Rock n Roll and what guides the creative process of the band. They will be performing at Riverbend at the PNC Pavilion this Sunday alongside Chicago.
CityBeat: You guys have been touring on the road for over 30 years. Do you ever get tired of just being on the road?
Tom Johnston: You get tired of travelling. You don’t ever get tired of playing. The playing part is what makes you come out here in the first place. I think Keith put it the best, Keith Knudsen, “You get paid for all the time it takes to get to the town and then you play for nothing.”
CB: You have seen music change over the years in recordings from albums to 8-Tracks to tapes to CDs to MP3s and iPods. Do you think it sounds better or worse today, the classic analog vs. digital question?
TJ: If you have hearing like mine, it really doesn’t make any difference. There is basically the school of thought that digital recordings aren’t as warm as analog. I can’t really tell you the difference when I am listening to it. Maybe if I did a mix there would maybe be a difference in analog that I could tell the difference. They have really come a long way with digital recording. They have ways of mixing digital recordings now so it sounds more like analog. Some people still buy albums if you can get them. People are still putting albums out. In fact, this last album we put out, World Gone Crazy, there was over 14,000 actual albums put out with the CDs, and by that I mean actual vinyl records for the people that want to hear it in analog.
CB: How many guitars do you have and what is your favorite to play?
TJ: Oh boy. I’ve got a lot of guitars. Basically, everything I use on the road is PRS and that is what I play live. I use two basic guitars live that I trade off and I have a Martin acoustic that I play as well live. It is pretty much all about Paul Reed Smith right now. At home I have a Stratocaster and I have some older guitars I have had for a long time, an old Les Paul, an old 335, a couple Strats and a Telecaster. But live and when I am out on the road, it is strictly Paul Reed Smith.
CB: When you began and wrote the early hits and songs for the band like “Rockin’ Down the Highway”, what were your early inspirations?
TJ: My inspirations at the time of writing a song like that had pretty much been put in place from playing since I was 12 on the guitar and picking up singing when I was 15. Most of my early stuff came from Blues and R&B and Rock & Roll by the guy I consider the King of Rock & Roll, that was Little Richard and people like Jerry Lee Lewis. Later on, that changed, I got into Hendrix and Cream and quite a few other people I am not going to be able to think of right now. David Mason albums, old Fleetwood Mac albums, you know from the ’70s, just a lot of stuff going on then. As far as players, Albert, Freddie and B.B. King were huge in my guitar playing. I call them the Three Kings, that’s basically how a lot of people refer to them. There are a lot of singers that influenced me. James Brown was definitely one of them.
CB: Have you had a single issue or incident that has ever changed the way you approach music?
TJ: If I ever did, I am not really sure when it was. I know the first time I ever watched, one of the few times I actually got to watch, James Brown live was 1962 in Fresno and that was pretty much a life altering event, musically. I had never seen anything like that. It just blew me out of the water. I couldn’t believe someone could work that hard that consistently and put on just an incredible show. That was a big event in my life.
CB: Over the years, you have had some health ailments with your voice and other things. How do you stay healthy on the road now?
TJ: I take care of myself. Back in the old days it was the Rock & Roll lifestyle, that wasn’t really healthy. But the biggest sideline I ever had was stomach ulcers which I developed in high school but it fully bloomed when I was out on the road in 1975 when I actually had to leave the tour. That is really the only health issue I ever had, but it was a bad one.
CB: Do you consider yourself or does the band consider themselves spiritual in any way and did it ever play a factor in your music or writing?
TJ: To be honest with you, no — at least not in the secular way of any specific religion. It’s not that we are not a religious band, it is just everybody has their beliefs about the world and mankind and how we got here I suppose but it is certainly nothing we would talk about.
CB: After all these years, I assumed you guys would talk about everything.
TJ: We talk about a lot of stuff but that isn’t one that pops up. Actually it popped up this morning. I was just giving my views on Buddhism and thinking it was a little more realistic since it is based on mankind’s shallow man as opposed to strictly about a specific deity and things having to be done a certain way. But those are just opinions and I don’t really follow it that closely; I don’t think anybody in the band does, to be honest with you.
CB: Do you guys take on different leadership roles within the band?
TJ: Yeah, to a point. It is basically when we are recording. When we are playing, it kind of happens naturally. Recording it is pretty much whoever writes the tune will be leading if you will, but other people come up with ideas for the tune so it is pretty much always a group effort.
CB: Are there any current Rock bands or new Rock bands on the scene right now you would like to collaborate with or work with?
TJ: I think John Mayer is an incredible guitar player. I really enjoy his work. Another one is Bruno Mars — I think he is extremely prolific as a song writer and pretty amazing. There is a band called Mannish Boy, which is a Blues group. I really like those guys. They are new. Most people aren’t going to know them. They aren’t Pop or anything like that. They are simply a Blues band but they are really, really good. There are more, I just can’t think of them right now. There are more people I think are really good out there that would be fun to get in the studio with. It would be fun to work with Christina Aguilera or Cee Lo Green. It would be fun to work with anyone from Maroon 5. We recently worked with Luke Bryan for that TV show on CMT called Crossroads and we had a ball doing that.
CB: I love Luke Bryan and his music. He has kind of blown up recently.
TJ: He is a good guy. He is a really good guy. We had a lot of fun doing that show. Everybody was just having a lot of fun.
CB: Do you have any creative outlets or hobbies outside of playing music?
TJ: It’s outside of the band in a sense but I write music for a hobby. I love writing. I do it all the time. I have a little studio at home. A lot of the stuff I write would never be used by this band. I am starting to branch out and write with other people now too, which is something I haven’t done as much. I have always kind of just written my own songs. I have started taking the steps to go out and write with some other writers who are very prolific and very much involved with the Pop scene or the Country scene or whatever else. I just really started doing that before we came out on this tour. When we finish this tour this year, I will go back to doing that some more. It was fun. It was a new place to go. It is exciting to get in and work with someone else because they help you find a lot of stuff you don’t know you have and I think you do the same for that person. You come up with songs that you would never come up with if you were just sitting there by yourself.
CB: Do you use social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to stay connected to your fans?
TJ: There is Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff on our website. I don’t do any of that stuff. For whatever reason it hasn’t called me. I don’t have any need to be in touch with people or stay in the limelight or find out what is going on. I am kind of a private guy and I would like to keep it that way rather than blast it all over the universe. I don’t belong to Facebook. I know tons of people who do it and that’s great. From a business point of view, it is a really smart way to go. From a website point of view, it is a really good tool for getting your music out there, events out there, where you are going to be, maybe even staying in touch with other musicians, things like that but mostly I do that on the phone. Twitter, I have never even used Twitter. I know people do it all the time but I have never gotten involved with it.
CB: I still use a telephone because I prefer to talk to people.
TJ: It is alive and well in the younger generation. That’s how they communicate.
CB: My last question is do you have any fond Cincinnati memories over the years?
TJ: Yeah, playing at Riverfront Stadium, playing at where we are going to be playing this Sunday which is right on the river, Riverbend. We have played there lots of times. I was just talking to a gentleman a little bit ago about playing in Blue Ash the last time and a tornado came through and shut the show down and we never got a chance to go out and finish it. We have been playing Cincinnati since we started so we are talking 40 years of playing Cincinnati.
CB: We look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
TJ: Thank you very much. We are looking forward to being there and it will be a gas as always. This show with Chicago has pretty much been sold out everywhere we have gone. The crowds have been great and it is a good combination. The two bands, we get together at the end and do an encore of everybody in both bands playing at the same time and it is pretty powerful.
Rise Against is the epitome of Punk Rock in this era. They are as far from the status quo from society as bands get, yet record for a major label. Part of the group's mission is to promote progressive issues, both socially and politically. Rise Against recently released its sixth album, Endgame, which features the hit single “Make It Stop” (the video for which was nominated for a MTV Video Music Award last year).
CityBeat spoke with bassist and original member Joe Prinicipe in anticipation for their upcoming show in Cincinnati. They discussed the bands writing process and how they incorporated their socially active direction in their music. Rise Against will be opening Riverbend's PNC Pavilion for the summer this Saturday. A Day to Remember and Title Fight also perform.
CityBeat: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I know you are one of the original band members. You guys have been out on it for about 13 years from when you started. Where do you see yourself in 13 more years?
Joe Prinicipe: It’s hard to say with this business but I would say definitely still involved with writing music and performing. Rise Against has no intentions of breaking up. We would like to follow the same career paths as bands like Bad Religion and Social D that are going on 25 or 30 years and are still making relevant music. I hope that’s where I end up.
CB: I saw you last year with the Foo Fighters when you opened up in Columbus. I was wondering if there were any fun and crazy Foo Fighter stories on tour.
JP: It was pretty awesome when there were a group of protesters, I think we were in St. Louis, maybe it was Kansas City, and they were protesting the Foo Fighter show because they did that funny promo video where they were showering together. So this group came out, this very homophobic religious group. They were protesting and the Foo Fighters came out (before the show) dressed provocatively and they were out on a flat bed truck and performed and tried to play as loud as they could to overshadow, overpower the protestors. It totally worked and it was awesome.
CB: They seem fun to be around in general and don’t take it too seriously.
JP: Totally and they are all about enjoying what they have because being on the road and being away from your family is hard enough so you might as well make the most of it.
CB: Your music has been called protest music in the past by the Chicago Tribune and I just wanted to ask about your process to write lyrics around a cause. How do you choose a cause to support and then develop a song around it?
JP: (Singer/guitarist) Tim (McIlrath) writes all the lyrics and the process is very simple. He is just writing what he feels for that day. He writes from a personal perspective on life in general. That’s why our records are not just political, there are socially aware topics, there are environmental issues, there are songs about relationships and how hard it is to be away from our families when we are traveling. We always write music first and he will hear the tone that the music sets and he has a journal, and he will flip through the journal and see if something fits and if not he will write what he thinks will fit the music and that is how it has always been the last 12 years.
CB: Were you guys influenced at an early age or did something happen to you that kind of made you take your music toward this activism tone or did you have a kind of defining moment?
JP: No, it’s just seeing punk rock music. It’s just the nature of punk rock that seems formed as a reaction to the glam era of the 70’s. It’s just a reaction to that so it’s always been about that. It’s all we know. It was something that we didn’t even discuss. It was just kind of a given the direction of Rise Against was going to be that and we are kind of carrying that torch. Bands like Minor Threat and the Bad Brains were definitely singing for change whether it was singing against homophobia or social issues, but that’s kind of what the unspoken goal that the band has always had.
CB: What is the biggest way your music has been able to make a difference or make a change?
JP: I would say the effect that “Make it Stop” has had on young kids. Kids in high school trying to get through it all. We have gotten so many e-mails that the song is helping them through the hardest time of their life and that is incredibly rewarding. I would say “Make it Stop” stands out as that.
CB: Your new album came out last year in the spring. Do you have any new music in the works?
JP: No, we still have a whole year of touring on Endgame. I think I always have song ideas in the back of my head and so does Tim. It’s kind of an ongoing thing anyway. We won’t actually have anything, officially new until the end of 2013.
CB: Do you have any crazy Cincinnati stories from the past or any fond memories?
JP: Not really. Cincinnati is Bogart's, right?
CB: It’s Bogart's and this time you are at Riverbend which is outside.
JP: That’s right. The only thing I recall is from Zach our guitar player. His old band played Bogart's and someone was shot like 20 feet away from him. That’s really it.
CB: I think you are in a little safer place by the river this time. I have this new game and it’s a table game with quirky questions and people just give their first thoughts around it, so I have been experimenting with this a little and I have three questions from this game for you. The first question is what skill do you possess that most people don’t know about?
JP: Let’s see, nothing hidden, although I am a complete coffee snob and I have an espresso machine at my house and I take that very seriously. It has to be perfect. I have to time all my espresso shots as they come out of the machine. So I guess that.
CB: So you make the perfect espresso, that’s your hidden talent.
CB: What is under your bed?
JP: Actually nothing because my wife is a neat freak so nothing can be on the floor.
CB: If you are on the bus it is somebody else sleeping under the bed in the bunk.
JP: As far as the bus goes, our tour manager is usually in the bunk below me so I have him snoring …
CB: What song would you pick to sing karaoke?
JP: I’m really bad at karaoke, oddly enough.
CB: You don’t have to be good. I don’t think that’s the purpose of karaoke.
JP: That’s true. I don’t know maybe something from ’80s Pop like the Go-Gos or Duran Duran.
CB: What can the fans expect from the show in Cincinnati?
JP: Just high energy, just come and sing with us and have a good time. It is all about interacting with our fans and just everyone singing along. We are all there for the same reason. It is a good way to let off some steam from the week prior. Just come out and have a good time.
Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights is a Dallas-based rock band with a great southern rock sound. The band is made up of frontman Jonathan Tyler, guitarist Brandon Pinckard, bassist Nick Jay, vocalist Emotion Brown and drummer Jordan Cain. They have released one album, Pardon Me, that includes the acclaimed song Gypsy Woman.
I caught up with the band after their early Sunday morning rocking performance at the Voodoo Experience Festival in New Orleans last weekend.
Greg Dulli needs little introduction in these parts, but for those who are somehow not familiar, the now-46-year-old Hamilton native came up as frontman for The Afghan Whigs in late 1980s and exploded out of the local scene via a string of visceral, dark-hued albums (the best of which, 1993's Gentlemen, continues to grow in stature) that were equally influenced by Husker Du, Prince and moody, noir-infested crime movies. Dulli's post-Whigs output has been just as compelling, including releases by The Twilight Singers, his main project. The band performs Monday at Newport’s Southgate House.
If you wanted to, you could poke around online for about two minutes and come up with a fairly accurate list of songs Paul McCartney and his band will be playing in Cincinnati Thursday for the first major concert event at the Reds’ young Great American Ballpark. Actually, even the most casual fan could probably come up with 3/4 of the setlist off the top of their head. Despite the massive amount of classics in his catalog, there are some songs even Sir Paul knows (or thinks) he has to play.
This afternoon, the Facebook page of crucial, longtime MidPoint Music Festival supporters, Dewey's Pizza, announced the first handful of artists book to play this fall's MidPoint Music Festival. And, after early-bird discount tickets quickly sold out several weeks ago, the rest of the tickets are on sale now at mpmf.cincyticket.com.
The first batch of MPMF.13 performers is very representative of the bookings for MidPoint the past few years. You've got a Modern Rock legend, a few established acts, several current "buzz bands" and a few acts that, if past years' MPMFs are any indication, will be "buzz-worthy" by the time the festival rolls around, Sept. 26-28.
Here are the first 17 acts booked for MPMF.13, the 12th installment of the ever-growing music fest that utilizes various venues in Over-the-Rhine/Downtown. Below the list, you can check out a song by each artist on our first MPMF.13 playlist.
The Breeders (Dayton, Ohio)
One of the seminal bands of the "Alternative Revolution" in the ’90s, The Breeders are currently promoting the 20th anniversary, expanded reissue of their classic Last Splash album. Though the Dayton-based Deal sisters (Kelley of R. Ring and Kim of Pixies) have kept musically active since Last Splash, with outside projects and The Breeders, the world tour for the reissue is special because it reunites the Deals with the album's lineup — bassist Josephine Wiggs and veteran Dayton drummer Jim MacPherson, who also spent time with Guided By Voices. The Breeders are playing Last Splash in its entirety on the whole tour.
The Head and The Heart (Seattle, Wash.)
One of the top acts of the "Indie Folk" movement, The Head and the Heart formed in Seattle in 2009. An early, self-made recording the band sold at initial shows ended up becoming so popular, local record stores began stocking it and trying to keep up with the surprising demand. The recording began making the music industry rounds, leading to a bidding war for the band. They ended up signing to hometown label Sub Pop within about a year of forming. The group's self-titled album was released to critical acclaim in 2011. The band's warm, ear-grabbing sound has been used a lot on TV spots; you might recognize their "Lost in My Mind," which was the background music for the trailer for the big hit film, Silver Linings Playbook.
Warpaint (Los Angeles)
With an airy, mesmerizing take on Psych Pop, L.A. quartet Warpaint caught the attention of mad guitar genius John Frusciante, who offered to mix the band's Exquisite Corpse EP. That release and a successful CMJ festival appearance led to Warpaint's signing to the legendary Rough Trade imprint. The label released the album The Fool in October 2010 and the band went back to their relentless touring schedule, which included dates with the likes of The xx, Yeasayer and The Walkmen. The band is currently prepping a new LP.
Foxygen (New York, NY/Olympia, Wash.)
Foxygen is the engagingly adventurous duo of Sam France and Jonathan Rado, who formed the group as 15-year-olds in 2005 and self-released a dozen or so albums while learning to play as many instruments as possible. The band's skewered Art Pop (akin to that of MGMT) with retro-underpinnings has been drawing attention since the release of the Foxygen full-length debut for the respected Jagjaguwar Records, the Richard Swift-produced We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, at the start of this year.
Cody ChesnuTT (Atlanta, Ga.)
Singer/songwriter Cody ChesnuTT first came to a lot of people's attention as the lead vocalist on "The Seed (2.0)," a fairly big single off of The Roots' Phrenology album in 2002. That drove a lot of Roots fans to ChesnuTT's full-length from the same year, The Headphone Masterpiece, though what they heard on that album — an underproduced, ambling collection of demo-sounding tunes that surfed a wide range of genres with ADD-like abandon. A decade later, ChesnuTT has returned with a new focus, showcasing a balanced approach based in vintage Soul (vocally, he's quite similar to Marvin Gaye) and Rock & Roll, on the full-length, Landing on a Hundred.
Daughter (London, UK)
Originating as the "one-woman-band" recording project of singer/guitarist Elena Tonra, Daughter — now a trio, which Tonra's husband on guitar and drummer Remi Aguilella — mixes an Indie Folk base with subtle electronics, creating an emotive sound that can be whisper-quiet one moment and epically lush another. After a self-titled EP, Mumford & Son's Communion label released The Wild Youth EP. Often compared to Cat Power due to Tonra's vocals, last year, the band signed to the 4AD label, a fitting choice given the legendarily ambient sound that defined the label's artists in its early years. The label released the trio's debut, If You Leave, in March of this year.
METZ (Toronto, Canada)
Relentless in its sonic attack, Canadian three-piece METZ recalls a lot of the punchier Post Punk bands of the ’80s/’90s, drawing comparisons to Big Black, The Jesus Lizard and any number of acts on the (early) Sub Pop and Dischord labels. After a few years of heavy touring, opening for like-minded bands Death from Above 1979, Mudhoney and NoMeansNo, the band signed with indie label legend Sub Pop, which released METZ's powerhouse self-titled debut last year.
Kishi Bashi (Norfolk, Va.)
Starting his career as a violinist for artists like Regina Spektor and of Montreal, Seattle-born multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter K Ishibashi went solo — under the less-confusing moniker Kishi Bashi — and began touring. Making engaging Indie Pop touched by Classical/Chamber influence, the Joyful Noise imprint released his first full-length album, 151A, last spring. There's a pretty good chance you've hear Kishi Bashi before, even if you didn't know it — his jaunty, Shins-ish single "Bright Whites" was used in a wide-running commercial for Windows 8.
Julianne Barwick (Brooklyn, NY)
Julianne Barwick makes angelic Ambient music based entirely on loops. The Southern-born experimental artist — signed to Asthmatic Kitty Records — creates her compositions by using a loop station and crafting elegant layers of sonic haze, using mostly piano, her voice, some percussion and guitar. Barwick — who recently announced her signing to Dead Oceans and a new album set for August — is an up-and-comer in the Avant Garde/New Music world, recently scoring an invite recently to Yoko Ono's Meltdown Festival in the U.K.
Spectrals (Yorkshire, U.K.)
Spectrals was originally the work of one dude, British singer/songwriter Louis Jones (with just a little help from his brother on drums). Spectrals' wandering sound touches on everything from Nuggets-esque Garage to swaying, elegant Pop (threaded with reverbed-out, Surf-ish guitar). Jones signed to the Slumberland label in the States, which released his first album, Bad Penny, in 2011. For Spectrals' latest, the Sob Story album, Jones, for the first time, had some help from other musicians (who aren't related to him).The album is due June 18.
Dent May (Oxford, Miss.)
Singer/songwriter Dent May makes unabashed Pop music, the kind that forces a smile on your face regardless of your troubles. The Mississippi resident singed with Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label in 2008 and released The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele, which drew comparisons to the likes of The Beach Boys, The Turtles and Prefab Sprout. For last year's self-titled album, May put away the uke and decided it was time to dance. The album is a cooly eclectic collection of dynamic electronic Pop, retaining those classic Pop/Rock influences, but adding elements of Disco, Funk, R&B Electro.
Grandfather Child (Houston, Texas)
Grandfather Child was formed in Houston in 2009 by members of various other local bands. The group hit upon a compelling "formula," creating a kitchen-sink sound that is loaded with influence from R&B, Soul, early Rock & Roll and Gospel music, resulting in a pretty psychedelic vibe. The band is signed to New West Records, which released Grandfather Child's eponymous 9-track album last summer.
The Ghost Wolves (Austin, Texas)
With a blistering sound created by just two people — guitarist Carley and drummer Jonny Wolf (both sing) — The Ghost Wolves traveled many miles across the country to build a fan base one explosive show at a time. The group's debut was the raw and rugged In Ya Neck! EP, which showcased the Wolves' fuzzy take on stompin' Blues Rock expertly, like a two-piece version of The Cramps. The band is getting set to release its debut full-length, Man, Woman, Beast.
Jeecy and The Jungle (Detroit)
Known for their reportedly incredible like show, Detroit's Soul rockers Jeecy and the Jungle represent two sides of Detroit's music heritage, blending a modern-day Garage Rock energy with influence from classic Soul artists. Last summer, the band released its impressive five-track EP, Twist and Scream.
Caveman (New York, NY)
Caveman is an NYC quintet that makes atmospheric Indie Rock with the kind of soft-breeze effervescence found in everything from the best vintage "AM Gold" songs to Fleet Foxes. The band released its debut in 2010, CoCo Beware, built a following and signed to notable label, Fat Possum Records, which re-released the debut and also the recent self-titled full-length, which has been garnering great reviews.
Perfume Genius (Seattle, Wash.)
Perfume Genius is Mike Hadreas, a Seattle singer/songwriter and visual artist whose 2010 debut caught the attention of the Indie music press corps. Quickly signed to the esteemed Matador Records, Perfume Genius' latest is Put Your Back N 2 It, a gentle, intimate collection of spectral, folksy songs.
PHOX (Madison, Wisc.)
Slanted, sparse yet broad Indie/Folk/Pop band PHOX started turning heads this year with consistent touring and a knock-out appearance at South By Southwest. The band recently released its latest EP, Confetti, which also has a companion "video EP," featuring short films for every track that the group members made simultaneously with the musical recording.