Alan L. Chamberlain (axon) Fri 25 Oct 02 18:15
>your accusations of similarities are highly bogus Okay, first off, I'm not *accusing* you in any way. I thought I made it clear that I knew you weren't copping anyone else's shit. But "Bong Song" put me in mind of A2A. I'm not saying it's a ripoff or anything similar. I'm saying I picked up a resonance from a similar device in the Bowie tune. I'm not reaching; I just thought "hey that sounds like that Bowie tune!" when I heard it. Just an impression. With "Is This The Single?" I was banging my head against the desk, trying to figure out where I'd heard that figure. Then I was in the car and I just started singing along "save it for later", etc. Again, just my impression. And I wanted to know whether it was conscious or unconscious or just a weird coicidence in my perception. So I asked. And I learned that you're engaged in a dialog with music from the past. Interesting. Didn't know that before. The blessings of dialog, even filtered through misunderstanding and projections of bad faith, are manifold. Anyway, I'm certainly *not* trying to be "confrontational". I encountered this material, largely as a deliberate critical exercise (and maybe that's not a good approach, but hey, those are the cards I was dealt on this one). I write, play, and record music, myself. I'm always on the lookout for quirky stuff I can do in my bossa act. So here's this guy with all sorts of great buzz, not at all mainstream, willing to talk about the work, so okay let's give it a listen and maybe figure out what he's doing by *asking*. That's all I'm trying to do here. Call and response. Inquiry and narrative. Analysis and synthesis. Science and art.
Dennis Donley (dennisd) Fri 25 Oct 02 18:37
and, when you have the time, how about some reflections on touring with Arthur Lee and Love.
gone (scraps) Fri 25 Oct 02 18:40
Thanks for coming here, Stew. Two trivial questions and one more serious one: Any chance you'll play "Any One But You" live? I love the Kristian Hoffman album, and listening to that song was the first I really realized hom much I like your singing, even apart from your songwriting. Are you familiar with songwriters Scott Miller and Franklin Bruno? They often get accused of being more cerebral than emotional (or soulful, or sexual, or glandular, or whatever). There's obviously a more than ordinary amount of craftsmanship that goes into your work than most songwriters; have you been hit with the "too cerebral" brickbat? If so, what do (would) you say to that?
Stew (blackstew) Fri 25 Oct 02 19:00
ok axon, we are straight. i see where you are coming from and maybe you see me a bit clearer too. >I encountered this material, largely as a deliberate critical >exercise (and maybe that's not a good approach i think you hit the nail on the head. thats the vibe that was bugging me. but again, i'm cool with you now and quite frankly you must be alright cuz i think alot of BLT myself.
Stew (blackstew) Fri 25 Oct 02 19:21
regarding touring with Love, lemme get to that another day. theres alot to say about it. for now, lemme say touring the UK with someone as revered as Arthur is over there, whose music I happen to worship, and being accepted so sweetly by his audience...well, the phrase "dream come true" is overused but it sho nuff applies in this instance. As for singing that Hoffman tune onstage you mean by my self? hmmm i doubt it. Its too high for me anyway. I'm sure i'll get around to singing it live with Mr Hoffman soon enough. I'm a big Scott Miller fan and he has been generously turning what seems like thousands of people on to me for years now. Aint a corner of this nation that I dont meet someone who says Miller turned them on. The guy is a sweetheart and an amazing writer. Bruno i've heard of but never heard his stuff. I dont think i've ever been accused of being too cerebral. I think every record i've ever done has strong evidence to the contrary! I think there are more songs on my records about sex, interesting women and drugs than there are about "heavy" issues. I dont know if I even have any heavy issue songs. From a musical point of view sure, i know there are folks who can't stand the baroque nature of some of the stuff. if someone told me they didnt get Scott's music, for instance, cuz it was too "cerebral" i'd just say say "Yo, yer too stupid to realize how soulful the guy's music really is." I'm very wary of how terms like "soul music" get bandied about. There is a white liberal illusion that soul singers, for instance, just go into the studio and "let it all hang out" while white musicians tend to tinker. Few know however that Al Green was an overdubbing fiend who was an absolute genius at making his vocals SEEM spontaneous in the studio when actually he would do take after take to get those "off the cuff" yelps and moans just right.
something named (stdale) Fri 25 Oct 02 20:04
I'm about to turn this infernal machine off and leave the office, but I did want to jump in and say how glad I am to see you here, Stew. (this is Shaun from Cosmik Debris in Seattle).
OZRO W. CHILDS (oz) Fri 25 Oct 02 21:43
You know, I wouldn't ask Hunter what his songs for the Dead meant, and Lord knows no one can ask Dylan what *his* songs meant without ending up sounding like a fool. If they hook you so much you internalize the lyrics, they can have a deep meaning for you; if not, not. But I do love it when songwriters can talk, free-form, about what interests them in relation to their music and life, so this has been a great experience so far. Welcome, Stew!
Laura Proctor (proctor) Fri 25 Oct 02 22:04
I'm catching up here, and glad to hear that you're a Chocolate Genius fan. I heard him recently in concert with Ben Folds and Stephin Merritt; i had never heard him before but came away a fan. Unfortunately, the consensus among a lot of people who had heard him before seemed to be that his work was, shall we say, on the monochromatic side. Anyway, I told a friend of mine that you were hanging out in inkwell, and he asked me to forward this question: "Hi, Stew--One of the things I like most about your songs is that they often seem highly character-driven. In particular, the character sketches in your songs remind me a lot of a bunch of really great novels that Gavin Lambert wrote in the 1960s and '70s. I guess there's not really much more to it than the LA connection, and a feeling that your characters and his characters are often emotionally adrift or caught up in fringe-y environments, but I'll ask if you've read him anyway, and recommend him if you haven't."
Kosher Swan (shmo) Fri 25 Oct 02 23:05
Among Stew's panoply of gifts as a songwriter is his ability to evoke the sensation of driving through/around Los Angeles. Perhaps the ONLY way to understand L.A. is driving through it. Stew's songs capture that indefinable experience, via the point-of-view of someone in a car or a bus, and so his chronicles become a kind of sensual/spiritual atlas of the behemouth megalopolis. Very few composers/artists have been able to grab hold of the beast in just this way. It's way more than simply listing place names. The Beach Boys, for example, or more specifically Brian Wilson, don't really do it. They have a sound that has come to be associated with SoCal, yes, but it's so very tied to the whole coastal scene, which is but a fragment of the Los Angeles organism. The Eagles, too, have been ascribed this L.A.-vibe, but they also function more as a media-hyped "Industry" version of the town. The Stew canon is about the most successfully comprehensive conduit I can think of for this elusive feeling. And I say this as one who grew up here in the city and one who has spent a goodly portion of my life driving its streets and alleys. Love's "Forever Changes" nails that vibe. So does Spirit's "12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus." In a slightly different way so does Jackson Browne's first record, sometimes called "Saturate Before Using" and sometimes just called "Jackson Browne." Beyond those three, there's really only Stew's oeuvre. At least to this Angeleno. Others have attempted it, but without much success, as far as I'm concerned. Stew, perhaps you'll comment on tapping into the Pueblo de Los Angeles muse? She's a lady who has inspired you and repelled you and sticks to your music like a photochemical residue. Does it have anything to do with this being the birthplace of your imagination?
Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 01:40
Hi Shaun! >so this has been a great experience so far. Welcome, Stew! thanks OZ. its been a cool experience for me as well. >Gavin Lambert never heard of him but i'm going to look out for him. i'm at a point in my life where i'm trying to ease my way back into reading fiction. generally, a tight essay or a long, intense, well written report from some faraway land is more my speed. Harpers and The New Yorker tend to rule my little reading world. Along with the odd musician bio. as far as characters caught up in fringy environments, yeah, that sounds like my world alright. >Stew, perhaps you'll comment on tapping into the Pueblo de Los >Angeles muse? She's a lady who has inspired you and repelled you and >sticks to your music like a photochemical residue. Does it have >anything to do with this being the birthplace of your imagination? were it not so late i'd actually like to address why i'm so deeply uncomfortable with the idea of a sexualized muse! this is not a feminist issue with me but rather an attempt to think clearly about the creative process...(something i NEVER think about, by the way). i know its off the subject but i've always wanted to mention that muse thing. Anyway... I think being born in the home of the dream factory made me happily and comfortably cynical and thus CONSTANTLY aware of the fact that NOTHING was as it seemed. When i began to contrast my world view with folks from all over the world i started to see how fucked and blessed i was to be born here. A line i always carry in my head is one spoken by either gerard melanga or warhol who said after visiting LA that LA was far more decadant than NY because in NY everything was out in the open but in LA some house with a white picket fence could be shooting porno behind the door. i'm paraphrasing but you get the drift. i think my songs are often about that house.
Berliner (captward) Sat 26 Oct 02 02:14
Well, I can see that we're off to a good start here. I'd somehow taken the LA connection for granted, but yes, that's definitely something that stands out about your stuff: it couldn't have come from anyone from anywhere else. The knowing remake of Mc Arthur Park certainly proves that, but there are thousands of other details that just say LA: the story in "Re-Hab," for one, would have played out way differently had it happened in New York. And, of course, one of the signature LA musicians in your story has to be Arthur Lee. Once you're refreshed, I'd love for you to share a couple of things about him. First, what your discovery of his work meant to you when it happened (and when *did* it happen? Probably not as he was creating it) and second, what it was like touring with him. The "Invisible Jukebox" feature that ran in The Wire magazine a couple of months ago made him seem rather odd and disconnected, but that could have been t heir fault as much as his. Did you find yourself connecting with him on any personal or professional level, or did you just find yourself sitting there night after night going Damn!
Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Sat 26 Oct 02 08:59
There are some tantalizing snippets of sound at: http://www.artistdirect.com/music/artist/card/0,,649933,00.html
Ashby de la Zouch (ormus) Sat 26 Oct 02 10:43
Yo Stew, hier ist deined Freund aus Los Angeles, Bruce Hollihan. Give my regards to Chuck Pagano and Andy Sykora. -Bruce (now residing in Seattle)
Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 11:23
i discovered arthur's work when the only music that really meant anything to me was punk rock and james brown. i actually met arthur at a party, didnt know who he was and laughed as only a 17 yr old punk rocker can laugh when told he was in a band called LOVE. i literally snickered thru the whole meeting. ah, the arrogance of youth. two weeks later i copped forever changes for 49 cents took to my friend's house who also had met arthur and put it on. We sat in silence for the entirety of side one. Then the record was turne b48 d over also with neither of us saying a word. After the record was done i said "I cant believe we were just in the same room with this guy." After dealing with all the narrow minded ill informed folks who were continually freaked out by black people (read: me and my friends) playing rock music, hearing Arthur was pretty much the "fuck you and go do your homework" kiss-off i'd been waiting to give them. So now, if Hendrix wrote the rock guitar vocabulary and Arthur basically invented psychedelic pop and Tom Wilson produced Dylan, the Mothers the Velvets and also changed the direction of popular music by throwing drums onto "Sounds of Silence" then how is this not black music? Or better, how can you put a color on it? On touring with Arthur - one thing Rodewald and I are good at is not making pests of ourselves in the midst of big rock stars. The whole schmoozy "lets get personal" aspect of the backstage music world is kinda off putting to us. And I think this is why Arthur liked us so much. We actually let him come to us. And he did. Most people hound him. Everytime we talked he was always a complete gentleman and extremely complimentary. The main thing about Arthur that is probably impossible to convey via the written word is that he is EXTREMELY funny. But his humor has a very sharp edge. One time he came into our dressing room and we started to engage in some jokey chatter and he was in rare form. Now like most black americans, Arthur is bi-lingual and the more we joked the more "ghetto" the exchange became. But while I was laughing my ass off i also sensed no one else around was laughing. I have a feeling he gets into that situation alot. I guess the ice was broken early in the tour when he sent for me in his dressing room and told me how much he liked "Re-Hab." the song, i mean. And during the american tour he'd often come out and listen to our set which really meant alot to Rodewald and I.
Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 11:25
>Bruce Hollihan. Hey Bruce. Nice to know yer here.
Scott Underwood (esau) Sat 26 Oct 02 11:27
Do you have any connection with -- or see any value in -- the Black Rock Coalition?
Berliner (captward) Sat 26 Oct 02 11:36
Shit, Stew, you want to talk about black rock and roll, I have two words for you: Earl Palmer. I could get all technical about the difference between a swing beat and a rock and roll beat, but you can hear him invent the shit in the sessions for "Tutti Frutti" there in New Orleans. So it goes back even before Tom Wilson. But you knew that. And...good question about the Black Rock Coalition. I was gonna ask it myself!
Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 11:50
I'm a member of the Black Rock Coalition. In all honesty my record company at the time signed me up back in 2000. The New York chapter has been amazingly supportive of me and they are a very motivated group of folks. They do incredible work. They sponsor alot of cool shows and have an amazing electronic newsletter. Oddly enough I've never had any dealings with the LA chapter. I definitely see value in it. I think every group thats trying to do something/anything should concentrate on institution building. And in my case BRC is very helpful cuz it hooks me up with a group of like minded (or at least "like-experienced") folks who get what I'm going thru. I just taped a BET thing called "Lyric Lounge." Whether it gets broadcast or not is another story but its a joy for me to play to audiences outside the indie-rock sphere.
Berliner (captward) Sat 26 Oct 02 11:52
I've heard two weird things about some future plans of yours. One is some American Songwriters festival at...Carnegie Hall?..next April, I think. The other is that you're collaborating with Robert Wilson? Huh? Care to comment?
Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 12:03
speaking of Earl Palmer, maybe thats why after hearing most overplayed 50's tunes i'm a little bored but those Little Richard sides always make me feel like i'm hearing them for the first time. But Ed, i hear what yer saying but you've got to see that the whole "Black Presence in Rock History" wasnt the issue when I was growing up. Everybody was aware of that. It was more a question of blacks staying in there musical place. So it was ok to be bluesy but it wasnt ok to like Sparks. Some of Arthur's music had a fey aspect to it which, by stereotypical american macho standards, was not "black." If your diction was good you were singing "white."
Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 12:08
>One is some American Songwriters festival at...Carnegie Hall?..next >April, I think. >The other is that you're collaborating with Robert Wilson? Whoa Nellie!!! me and Wilson are just talking. no plans or anything. lets not start any rumours. he likes the music and thats it for now. Yeah, this American Songwriters thing is at Lincoln Center. April 3rd. I really dont know much about it yet so i cant say anything.
Berliner (captward) Sat 26 Oct 02 12:19
Fair enough, and yeah, you're right about staying over on your part of town, musically speaking. I forget sometimes that you're a bit younger than me...a good bit! When do you suppose this musical segregation really started, anyway? I mean, it's always been there in that there's been a "Rhythm and Blues" and a "Pop" chart, and those who made it from the former to the latter were "crossover" artists, but when do you think it was the audience -- those kids who laughed at you for liking Sparks -- finally bought into it?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 26 Oct 02 15:04
An aside - love was my favorite rock band through Love Four Sail, at least... but I remember when the first album came out, and Da Capo, I kept looking at those photos of Arthur and trying to figure out whether he was black, because he didn't write or sound black. I think that was when I realized how deep the ruts were in my head, even then.
Stew (blackstew) Sat 26 Oct 02 15:43
>when do you think it was the audience -- >those kids who laughed at you for liking Sparks -- finally bought into >it? i dont really know. my memories of those days are rather hazy. i suppose the racial divide within life itself eventually inched its way into the music. But thats really not my area of expertise. i do remember listening to Abbey Road the week it was released in a bedroom with about five serious teenage fellows all of whom looked like they were in the Black Panthers (one of them was my 16 year old cousin) who listened with an instensity that seemed to convey we were all receiving a serious communique from some psychedelic crypto-marxist front line, awaiting orders of some sort. I also remember the air being thick with the fragrance of something quite unlike the smell of my father's Camels. Five or so years later I suggested to a girl at my school that if she liked Bowie's "Fame" single so much she should pick up the Young Americans record. She looked at me as if i had advised her to wear a glazed donut as a hat. The idea of buying a "white" record was completely absurd to her -- EVEN THOUGH SHE ADORED THE SINGLE! Go figure that out! come to think of it, while its true that most folks bought into the racial division of music, the people that really influenced me never did. Music geeks, be they black or white, always find each other. Its a radar thang.
Dan Levy (danlevy) Sat 26 Oct 02 16:06
The flipside to that is that around the Rhino Records store on Westwood Blvd. there was a lot of cognitive dissonance around the release of "Young Americans." Rhino was the local coolboy record store for my scene (Uni Hi '75) and one of the epicenters of the "Disco Sucks" movement. It was also, of course, a major hotbed of Bowie cognoscenti, so Bowie's foray into black music (and let's face it, the Disco Sucks movement had strong racist overtones,) was viewed with derision. The problem was that "Young Americans" was a kickass album, and much disco music was marvellous, and the gang of musos who hung out at Rhino was polarized between those who knew all these things and could bask in the contradictions and those for whom it took a few years to accept what Bowie was doing (approximately until "More Songs About Buildings and Food" came out, I'd reckon.) Anyway, hi, Stew.
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