jeudi, avril 27, 2006

Ani DiFranco news

Ani DiFranco Salutes New Orleans

Singer-songwriter to release politically tinged "Reprieve" this summer

ani difranco Photo

Rub two sticks, make a fire

Last summer, prolific folk singer Ani DiFranco had just begun to record her latest album in her New Orleans apartment when Hurricane Katrina began closing in. Sent packing, DiFranco gathered up the initial recordings and evacuated to her other home, in Buffalo, New York, and watched with the rest of the country as the Crescent City was devastated.

Shaken by the storm and its terrible aftermath, DiFranco has put together Reprieve, an unflinchingly political album, due in August, that expresses her frustration, sadness and sense of displacement. The way she tells it, after Katrina DiFranco could not wait to return to New Orleans, which she did as soon as possible. The serene, crisp sound of Reprieve's thirteen-song cycle sonically reflects her travels over the past year.

In New Orleans, producer Mike Napolitano had taken a loose approach, laying down tape of DiFranco and bassist Todd Sickafoose performing. "Mike, my sweetie, recorded Todd and I just playing live in my old apartment," she explains. "And then the wind picked up and all the shit hit the fan, and New Orleans turned into a war zone. I ended up in Buffalo, stranded for a few months with a cheesy synthesizer and an Omnichord." So, like everyone displaced by the storm, DiFranco improvised.

"I swear to God," she says, "I brought all my cool stuff down, and then I couldn't get back to it. So I fleshed out the record, overdubbing almost entirely on this cheesy synthesizer. It was a challenge, like, 'Two sticks, rub them together and see if you can make a fire.' It was like trying to make cool sounds out of something that's inherently not."

With DiFranco's voice front and center -- buoyed by lush piano, pump organ and acoustic guitar -- Reprieve flows, creating something organic from its live music and the synthesized samples. "From the beginning, I was thinking of building segues," she says, "not having it just be a collection of songs but a journey, somewhat seamless."

But the soothing soundscape does little to mask the political convictions underlying some of the songs.

"This record, it really speaks of this time and place: New Orleans, 2006," DiFranco says. "Like 'Millennium Theater' ends with the line 'New Orleans bides her time.' That song is a rant about the insanity of the spectacle, as opposed to what's really happening underneath. It was written and recorded months before the storm hit. So I would say it's, like, 'divinely prophetic' -- if we all didn't know that shit was coming. Including the Levee Board. Including FEMA. Including the government.

"I think it's funny how easily duped we are by the propaganda machine these days," she continues. "We're still connecting Iraq with 9/11, even though that's a complete fallacy. And it's horrific down here for many, many people, and people are saying, 'Katrina, yeah, that was a big one.' . . . But the flooding -- that was the Levee Board. That was the pump stations. That was FEMA. That was the local, state and national government. That was human neglect, racism, incompetence and greed."

As she prepares to release the album, DiFranco will once again hit the road with a stripped-down band for a series of intimate dates. While an Ani DiFranco tour is not an unusual event -- she is constantly on the go -- last year, she discovered she had tendonitis and was told by doctors that if she toured or played guitar she'd risk permanent damage. DiFranco, however, is looking forward to the trek, which includes a stop at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
"It's been weird for me to be quiet and still to begin with," she says. "So it will feel good to get back in the saddle."

Ani DiFranco tour dates:

4/25: Nashville, Mercy Lounge
4/26: Atlanta, Variety Playhouse
4/28: New Orleans, Fairgrounds Racetrack (New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival)
6/17: Bridgeton, NJ, Donald Rainier Amphitheatre
6/19: Pittsburgh, Rex Theater
6/21: Cincinnati, OH, Moonlight Gardens
6/22: Columbus, OH, Lifestyle Communities Pavilion
6/23: Ann Arbor, MI, Power Center
6/25: Taos, NM, Taos Solar Music Festival
7/8: Montreal, Spectrum De Montreal
7/11: Florence, MA, Pines Theatre
7/13: New York, Central Park SummerStage
7/28: Edmonton, AB, The Windspear
7/30: Calgary, Prince's Island Park (Calgary Folk Festival)
8/11: Regina, SK, Folk Festival
8/14: Veneta, OR, Secret House Vineyards
8/15: Portland, OR, Aladdin Theater
8/16: Spokane, WA, The Met
8/20: Lyons, CO, Rocky Mountain Folk Festival
9/15: Arcata, CA, John Van Duzer Theatre
9/16: Laytonville, CA, Earthdance Peace Festival
9/18: Saratoga, CA, Historic Mountain Winery

BRIAN ORLOFF @ Rolling Stone

mercredi, avril 26, 2006

Alice in Chains

Alice in Chains Reunite to Tour

Velvet Revolver's Duff McKagan to join the band live, with guest vocalist in tow


alice in chains Kinney, Cantrell and Inez (from left) Photo

Kinney, Cantrell and Inez (from left)

When the three remaining members of Alice in Chains -- guitarist Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez and drummer Sean Kinney -- return to the stage at L.A.'s Roxy May 18th to kick off a world tour, the reunited band will have some friends in tow, including Velvet Revolver bassist Duff McKagan and Comes With the Fall vocalist William DuVall.

"These guys are my bros from way back, and for me it's kind of a dream come true to play with Alice in Chains," McKagan said the other night at a viewing party for the VH1 Decades Live tribute to Heart featuring the new Alice. McKagan will be joining the band for selected gigs, including England's prestigious Donington festival. "It's a band I've always wanted to play in," he added. "I played with them in their first gig in L.A. I got up and played 'Man in a Box.'"

DuVall, who will be touring with the band full-time as a guest vocalist, is also thrilled to join the group. He and Cantrell actually became friends on tour around the time -- April 2002 -- when founding Alice vocalist Layne Staley died of a drug overdose.

"Cantrell and I suffered through touring through Layne's death and the aftermath of that," says DuVall. "We were on the road, so that was something I experienced in very close proximity to him. One of the first gigs we did was at the Key Arena in Seattle right after Layne had died. It was a really emotional thing. So you go through those kinds of things together, and when something like this comes up it kind of settles the score a bit."

DuVall believes the fans will welcome back the Seattle grunge band, who during their mid-Nineties heyday scored four straight Top Ten albums -- including two consecutive Number Ones, 1994's Jar of Flies and 1995's Alice in Chains. But more than their commercial success, Alice in Chains were one of the more influential groups of the Nineties, an outfit to which bands like Godsmack, Days of the New, Creed and Taproot owe some of their sound.

Fellow Seattle-ites Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson have been close friends and big supporters of Alice for some time, and they share Duvall's optimism. "What happened with Alice is they could've been so huge, but then the singer died," says Ann. "They were like [Led] Zeppelin, where they decided they weren't going to come together with another person until now."

The new Alice in Chains have been rehearsing in L.A., and DuVall says the band will have some treats for fans when they hit the road. "We're going deep into the catalogue. I've made up four sets, and there's very little overlap between them," he explains.

"I think it's overwhelmingly positive," DuVall predicts of the response to the reformed group live. "It's going to be a cathartic thing for everybody. There's going to be a great outpouring of emotion -- from the stage and from the audience."

Alice in Chains North American tour dates thus far:

5/18: Los Angeles, The Roxy
5/19: San Diego, CA, House of Blues
5/21: Chicago, Cabaret Metro
5/22: Boston, Avalon Ballroom
5/23: New York, Bowery Ballroom

STEVE BALTIN @ Rolling Stone

dimanche, avril 23, 2006

Eddie Vedder

Addicted to Rock

Pearl Jam's : leader on the difference between surfing and crowd surfing, and the best advice Bob Dylan gave him


AUSTIN SCAGGS @ Rolling Stone

Pearl Jam Photo

Better man

Photograph by Danny Clinch

"There's so much information in the songs and the lyrics that it felt like one more title was almost pretentious," says Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. That's just one explanation for why the band's eighth studio album is simply called Pearl Jam. Another would be that it is the group's most democratic effort since its massive 1991 debut, Ten. On songs like the laid-back acoustic beauty "Parachutes" (music written by Stone Gossard), the eight-minute trip "Inside Job" (lyrics by Mike McCready) and the first single, "World Wide Suicide" (which is killing at radio), PJ brought a live feel to the studio, laying down tracks that showcase tasty guitar interplay and a heavy backbeat. "When you collaborate, you still have this urge to stay in the studio after everybody's left and do things the way you want to," says a chilled-out Vedder on a cold, dark day in Seattle. "But you can't do that."

What was your first musical memory as a kid?

There was a group home of sorts in Chicago, and they had a turntable in the basement. Because it was kids without parents there was a large range of ages, and some of the older kids had more mature tastes. So I was listening to Jackson 5; they were listening to James Brown and Sly Stone. I remember everything on the Motown label seemed to be great. Little basement, that's what I remember. I can still smell it, too.

What did it smell like?

Like a basement in Chicago. Dank. One of those basements that never gets dry. And maybe some Afro-Sheen that some of the kids -- a kid called Maurice -- had in his hair. I think it was called the Lake Home for Boys. It was just on the wrong side of the tracks. The tracks were right there, we were just on the wrong side.

Speaking of smells and stuff like that, what does Pearl Jam taste like?

I don't . . . uhhh . . . I have no idea. That's like saying, What does Pink Floyd taste like?

No, no, no, dude. I mean your grandma Pearl's jam.

I never had it. It was apparently a recipe that was handed down. It's mythological now. I never saw the recipe, I just kind of heard about it.

What was it?

I imagine it was regular preserves with a bit of mushrooms in it . . . a peyote kind of deal. It's the whole Mary Poppins theory of tripping out -- a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. It's so typical that an American woman in love with an Indian has to add sugar to something to keep herself totally culturally intact.

So did you have a piano growing up in your house in San Diego?

Well, my brother got the guitar and we got a stand-up piano, and then I got a Les Paul copy guitar. He excelled immediately. He was playing blindfolded, and I still couldn't get my fingers to push down a chord. I was very disturbed by that. It took about a year, and then one day, all of a sudden, it felt like a friend. I'll never forget it.

Was there a moment?

Yeah. It was "Cat Scratch Fever." All of a sudden, the guitar felt right underneath my hands. My hands had finally gotten strong enough.

What were the circumstances of you getting the guitar?

My birthday was on December 23rd, and the one time I used it to my advantage was to beg and plead to put the two presents together to afford the $100 guitar. And it worked.

Was it from a Sears catalog?

No, I remember it was a Memphis Les Paul copy. It kind of looked like the guitar that Ace [Frehley] really played.

That's what you were going for, I'm sure.

It's interesting, because I had only had a few lessons. The guy was great, his name was Bud Whitcomb, and I'd do weeding in his backyard to get a few free lessons here and there. At the time he was teaching me bar chords, he wouldn't let me do anything but bar chords, and I hated him for it. It was a lot to ask twelve-year-old hands to do at that point, it was very frustrating. He went on vacation, and I went to church and they had this little booklet of songs that had little charts with open chords in it. And I stole it!

Oh man!

They had a lot of them. They were hymnals, there were a lot. It had songs like "Black and White." So he left, he went on vacation and I learned these open chords and all of a sudden these open chords made me feel like writing. Early on, I didn't see becoming a lead player. I just wanted to write, I just wanted to have patterns that I could write on top of. So once I got those open chords, I started writing pretty quick.

Since I've always had so much respect for your songwriting, I want to know what is the deal with the instrumentation in the band. Only recently, you've added B3 keyboard stuff. Why have you never used horns, or strings, or girls?

I think we're always trying to find new ways to play within the group. I know that Stone Gossard just picks up the guitar and refuses to play something he's played before. It can be frustrating to collaborate with him, because he wants to do something different at all times. I think that the band is made up of a certain number of colors, and we need to see how many variations we can come up with. The keyboards come up in some of the records. "Black" might even have some piano on it, but it felt like that was the next shade to add. Horns and strings and background singers are things I might reserve the right to do in the future. But we're still plugging away with the ingredients we have and trying to be as progressive with our thinking within those boundaries. Do you hear room for horns?

Perhaps. I was just wondering if you had ruled it out?

I think you go into a record thinking that you can try anything, and that you will. That's before the sessions over; by the end, even when you take a long time, it's time to finish and you're working with what you got. Just like making film clips or arrangements, working with horns and stuff is just time consuming stuff. And I think, we've used up all our time on the clock working within our own groove. The communication in our own group is fairly exhaustive, at least with songs.

Jeff [Ament] had mentioned that you guys were thinking of doing a video for this record?

I think it's a great art form if it's approached the right way. But it's time consuming...just like interviews! [laughs] It seems like the time spent playing live and organizing shows, and putting the record and the artwork together seems to take up all the time we have. Until we can do it right...we'll see. I found a guy I'd like to do it with, but we'll see.

Is it a secret who that is?

A young guy called Fernando Apagapa who's an artist. He's all-around, refuses to be pigeonholed, works with every medium there is. Line drawings with hair to stitching up leather bodices . . . everything is very organic. I think the only reason he hasn't made a name for himself in the art world is that he holds the art world in contention. I've talked to him and I think the fact he has a high respect for us is a high complement.

Do you have a favorite obscure Dylan song?

He did a record of covers.

Good As I Been to You!

Yeah. They're not his songs, but I was listening to that record on a tape recorder that had only one speaker working. A tiny, little thing . . . and it worked so well with the music -- it sounded like a Bessie Smith or Robert Johnson record. I just can't think of the names.

"Frankie and Albert" . . . "Jim Jones" . . . "Sittin' on Top of the World" . . .

That's it. "Sittin' on Top of the World."

Also, at that Nader benefit in 2000, you came out and you did "The Times, They Are A-Changin'" and you said you had permission from the author. How did that channel open up to you? Was it at his thirtieth anniversary at Madison Square Garden?

After that show at the Garden, everyone congregated in a corner of this Irish Bar in New York that's no longer there. I tried to find it, and it's gone. Some real history took place that night at the table. The oldest Clancy brother was reciting these long Irish poems about war, and they were eight minutes long, and he knew every word. Then a guitar came out, and it was getting passed around. Ronnie Wood was there with George Harrison. It was a great night. When I went up to introduce Chrissie Hynde, which I was there to do, for some reason this really large guy who looked like he walked out a Spiderman cartoon -concrete-bald head and shoulders like a shipping crate -- he lifted me off my feet by this ski jacket I had. He said, "You don't belong here." That was still at the beginning of our recording career, so I couldn't really argue that fact with him! I was like, "Alright, my friend!" I was standing next to Willie Nelson's guitar. Someone saw him dragging me off the stage, and they stopped him just before I had to go on. Later on that night, he turned out to be a great English guy. We were good friends by four in the morning -- he was Bob's security guy.

We were about to record our second record, and Bob passed on a few lessons to me in the corner, one of which was, "Don't read anything in the paper. Don't watch TV. Get away." I felt that same thing at the time, overly inundated and somewhat like a commodity -- you'd watch TV or open the paper and our band was there as some kind of commodity. Our band had become part of the pollution.

You bootlegged concerts growing up. Still have the tapes?

I've still got them. I listened to them a lot. In a way, music for me was fucking heroin. It was something I needed. And to see a live show was something I needed, it gave me strength through adolescence and through this young adult life -- to feel like there was a purpose to get through this whole thing. After a live show, the high could wear off in a day or two. The bootleg recordings and listening back at them with your eyes closed and headphones seemed to make a crappy recording actually sound pretty good. It was like getting high again. I was a user.

Was there one you played a lot?

An earlier X show I listened to an infinite number of times. The early Who shows, at Golden Hall. The Pretenders. Bands like the Tubes. I'd record everybody but there are certainly ones that lasted forever.

Where'd you position the recorder?

It depends what kind of machine. A lot of them were early Walkmans. I had a CostClub-ten-percent deal. This was when they first came out, the first stereo recorders, so they were rather cumbersome compared to a whatchamacallit -- an iPod. You'd have to hold the whole cassette player up, but 4 or 5 years later you could plug a mic in and sneak it on your lapel. For every good bootleg I got, I probably got caught half the other times, because I was usually close to the stage. That's why I just wanted people to record a show and not be hassled by The Man.

So you got kicked out?

They'd take my recorder and rough me up. A lot of times, they'd take the tapes, which is a little nicer. Some guys were overly aggressive. I never once sold a tape. On very few occasions, if someone was very into it, I'd make them a copy.

Is there any comparison between surfing and crowd surfing?

The crowds are much more dangerous, because of the germs and bacteria in a sweaty mosh pit circa 1992. Now that the ocean has become fairly polluted, they might be about even.

As far as the feeling?

It's hard to get momentum standing up in a crowd, because people grab your shows. That's one of the exciting things about a wave-you're standing up and you have real good peripheral vision. There's something about surfing...these waves come from 2,000 miles away sometimes. These swells, they crack in a kind of firework, and you ride the firework and give it meaning and you're connected to nature. It's like no other thing I've felt except for maybe music. And holding your newborn.

How much fun did you have getting onstage with the Kings of Leon?

It's a great record, and the song "Slow Night, So Long" -- I had disappeared onto some little island to write and surf and the only record I had besides the Pearl Jam stuff I was working on was that [Aha Shake Heartbreak]. I played it for some of the locals, who didn't know anything outside of their local traditional music, and they had such strong positive reactions to the record. It was a clean slate to bounce it off of. I was excited, and when they opened up for U2 -- I hadn't met them, but I wanted to tell them that story -- that their record transmits really well to unbiased ears. We started hanging out, and the second night we bashed some tambourines and it felt exciting.

Are they the cream of the crop as far as younger bands?

They certainly hit a reflex in me, and the new Strokes record is just a great piece of work. The sounds, and his vocal delivery is really great. Both those guys...

Caleb and Julian.

Yea, Caleb's vocal delivery is so unique and his phrasing; it's like what they used to say about Sinatra -- his phrasing is what really made it. I'm not into Sinatra, but I get that. George Jones is another thing, and even McCartney and Lennon. You listen to these songs, but it's unconscious the way they phrase things. Joey Ramone as well.

What kind of wine do you like onstage? As long as it's red?

As long as it's red and there's a spare in the back. There's this homemade stuff some friends have been making for me for the past few years, and I can't do without it now.

What kind of grapes?

I can't tell you; there's a bit of variation there. On the first leg of our last tour, I had been drinking regular wine, but I got the good stuff for our last show, and I don't know what kind of grapes they are but it's twice as potent. I realized this about halfway through the show. It was a political fundraiser, so I was like, "Damn I really gotta sober up!"

Why do you think the musical community has been so quiet recently about the war, about the president? Or maybe you don't think that?

I'm not sure what's out there. People like Steve Earle are a great example. He goes on Bill O'Reilly. It's beyond commendable. It's gutsy and I think a lot of it, it doesn't get heard. Or maybe people don't like to mess up a good time. I mean, we could talk about it in this interview, and it might not be the part that gets in. We could talk about Democrats and why they aren't leading an anti-war movement, are they waiting for a shift in the polls? We could talk about our country in ways outside the war, like why they refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, in regard to environment. Why aren't we agreeing to strengthen the conventions on biological weapons? Why haven't we signed the ban on landmines? Why haven't we banned the use of napalm? They refuse to be subject to the jurisdictions of the International Criminal Court. They can get away with anything. If you highlighted the classic aspects of this war, find out who's fighting and who's dying, and why are there billions of dollars being spent on this war and schools are crumbling and 45 million people in the US don't have health insurance? This is all stuff I've been reading in a book on Iraq called The Logic of Withdrawal by Anthony Arnove. It seems like it's a class issue, because there are things going on underneath this spectacle of war, and the Bush administration is using it as a distraction for the ills of this country that are being not only ignored but exacerbated. But, is anybody else saying that in interviews, and are they being edited? I'm not sure. Right now, we are in a situation where the "Worldwide Suicide" song is getting airplay, and three years ago that might not have happened. After 9/11, they took "Imagine" off the air! It's interesting...I'm not sure why.

Do you have a favorite self-titled record out there?

Ha ha. The first 3 Zeppelin records were untitled. Those are great.

Cool. But, your self-titling was the biggest group effort as a record.

It was meant to be. It was similar to how the first ones were: absolute democracy. When you collaborate, you still have this urge to stay in the studio after everyone's left and do it the way you want to. But you can't do that. Going back to what we were talking about, the Bush administration, they think they're making a solo record, leading our government and representing us to the rest of the world. And they're not allowed to do that, it's actually criminal.

They're the new Presidents of the United States of America.

Yeah! Where no one else is allowed to contribute. You had 15 million people in February 2003 come out to the largest global protest that the world has ever seen and they were treated as a special interest group. That's the lack of respect we have to fight against. Going back to the record, in a way it feels like our first record, and also there's so much information in the songs and the lyrics and it felt like one more title to sum it up was almost pretentious.

Do you feel better listening back at this album more than the others?

There's a grace period after you make a record, and you know what went into all the songs. And I don't think we've ever made a record where it didn't feel like our first record. Looking back, you can say, "that record is a little mid tempo" or "why was that the single?" I can't necessarily answer objectively, but I think, melodically speaking, the songs are pretty strong. I think the drumming on it is impeccable. Some of the players in the band like Mike and Matt, we figured out a way to create space for them to get to that level of energy that they have when we play live. I'm not sure how that happened -- it could have been released even more, but I think it's a step in the right direction.

Were you ever secretly pissed about Billy Ray Cyrus' Achy Breaky Heart keeping Ten out of the Number One spot?

No. I never even realized that. I'm sure there were other things to worry about at the time. I might even have been thankful that it wasn't Number One. I might reject the idea now. I'm mature enough to handle it, but at the time I couldn't handle it.

What do you remember about your first gig, as Mookie Blaylock?

The very first show we played was after my first trip to Seattle. On the 6th day we played a show, and on the 7th day we recorded. I know we were supposed to rest, but we recorded. What I remember is the sound check, because we were opening for two other bands on the bill, and they opened the doors during sound check, and I had my eyes closed and it was an empty club -- called the Off Ramp -- and I opened my eyes for the last chorus and the place was full. I had played for a number of bands, but I never played for a full house before. It's a good analogy, it happened kind of quick for us.

Do you remember who headlined?

No. No idea.

What's the most amazing thing you've seen from the stage?

I probably have an answer for each tour, if not each show. I remember a gig in Florida, it was a big baseball stadium, maybe towards the end of our second album tour. You always saw people get passed around the pit, it was the Norelco Razor with three pits going in the middle of one mass. That was the beginning of my lifeguard career -- I never felt like I looked up past the front, I was memorizing the faces and making sure you didn't lose anybody. I remember this wheelchair was being carried to the front. We got him up onstage...

There was somebody in it?!

Yeah. We got him up onstage during "Rockin' in the Free World." And I heard last year that that was one of the guys in the movie Murderball.

No way!

I feel like I have a Polaroid of him in my archives somewhere.

What was the first record you bought?

I remember how much it cost -- $5. It was probably a Jackson 5 record. It might have been Got To Be There -- the Michael Jackson solo like a liquor store.

In Illinois?

Yeah, in Chicago.

What about the last?

The Joe Strummer and the 101ers -- his early stuff. I got a batch though. I got the new Crosby record, which is genius. I bought another copy of the Evens record for my friend. When I finally get down to the store, I buy a lot. They know me down there. It's called Easy Street, which we played recently.

You played a benefit there, right?

All the independent record store owners were in town in Seattle, of which the owner of Easy Street is part of that organization. So we thought it would make him look good and he'd be proud if we played his shop.

Do you get ten percent off now?

He sent me a gift certificate, which I still haven't used. I feel like I need to be paying for music.

What about the record you've spun the most times or listened to the most?

It would've been a Who record until I discovered Fugazi, and now they've caught up. All the time through my adolescence I spun Who records, but Fugazi caught up.

Which one? 13 Songs, Steady Diet...?

13 Songs. But I think of their whole body of work as one record.

You've seen the documentary?

Instrument. Yeah.

Isn't it great?

If you go see the Evens play, it's one of the highest examples I can think of. Of course, Neil Young does it, and Pete Townsend does it, but the level of communication that takes place and the amount of respect Ian has for his audience -- even the guaranteed four knuckleheads in the audience. He really cares for their opinion. And at this point, he's mixing himself from the stage -- there's no house mixing guy. He and this woman, Amy, do it from the stage as a two-piece and it sounds full. And he asks, "Should the vocals be louder?" and he turns it up! The amount of communication that takes's certainly not fucking Storytellers or something, but it's a reminder of how powerful the stage is and what responsibility comes with the mic. And this is from a guy who is a punk rock legend. It's evolved into a different form of communication, which is as deep as anything I've ever seen.

Cool. You mentioned Neil Young, have you played with his model trains?


Is that exciting?

That's Neil's private thing, I'm not going to say anything about it.

What's the best song you've ever written?

Matt Cameron thought that "Thumbing My Way" was the nicest chord progression I had ever devised.

What about you personally, and lyrically?

I have a few on ukulele that I like. For me, I judge it by melodic substance these days. It's something Johnny Ramone drilled in my head. I think it's where we came from with the first few records, you took a piece of music and added your throat to be part of the noise-if there was any melody there, it was unconscious.

A song like "Black", for instance?

I imagine that has some melody to it. I think being conscious about it, really focusing to make something beautiful...there's a difference between a song and music. I think it's the melodic structure. I think the songs that connect are the melodic ones, they are the really musical ones. I haven't figured the theory out yet, but there's a difference and music is the goal.

Was there something unique about the "elderlywomanbehindacounter" song?

I remember it only because it was so quick. We were recording the second record, and we stayed in this house in San Francisco, and I was outside the house in my own world and the little outhouse had a small room. I'm talking the size of a bathroom, I was able to fit a Shure Vocal Master, which is a 1960's PA, and two big towers of PA and a little amp and a 4 track. I slept in there too. I remember waking up one morning and playing pretty normal chords that sounded good, and I put on the vocal master to hear myself and it came out right quick. I don't even think I scribbled the lyrics down. It took 20 minutes. Stone was sitting outside reading the paper, and he was like "I really like that." So we recorded it that day.

Did it spring from a dream?

It's funny you say that, because in my head I was going back to where I lived in San Diego but picturing myself older. Exactly right. It was bizarre...I forgot that.

For some reason, right now, I'm thinking it's the greatest Pearl Jam song ever.

The thing is, the dream was still alive...sorry. I had just woken up and started playing it, so the content was still in my brain.

Jack Johnson's dad told me some story of you almost dying on some outrigger adventure?

At no point did I think we were going to die while it was happening. About 2 weeks later I took a boat out to the scene of the crime, quite a ways off shore with some pretty heavy current, and the swells were pretty big and we got knocked off a sailing canoe, and it was only then, seeing where we were and the conditions, that I felt the need to vomit. Survival instincts kicked in, though, and I knew we might be out in the water for maybe 8 hours, but I knew for sure we'd get in. I might have been wrong, because the currents were going one way and the wind another. I didn't know that at the time, so instead of hitting the spot in the island where it juts out with a little port there, we were probably headed to Tahiti. After what seemed like a pretty long spell, the sole fishing boat in the water that day-a guy and his 8-year-old daughter were out, and she saw us waving paddles. She couldn't have seen our heads, they were like coconuts. It was a good night on land that night.

You tied one on?

It was interesting hearing everyone's experience. We went around the campfire and talked about what everyone was thinking. And the two girls I was with in the water, they said they actually saw the headline in their minds...

Right? On MTV. "Eddie Vedder and two others die in canoe!"

What's-his-name dies with...

Yeah! Eddie Vedder -- what's-his-name -- dies along with two others.

So I'm glad for everyone's sake that that didn't happen.

Posted Apr 21, 2006 4:39 PM

lundi, avril 17, 2006

Zappa and Varese

Los Angeles Times,0,3589253.story?coll=cl-music-features

Uneasy listening

Composer Edgard Varèse was father to Frank Zappa's iconoclastic ways as well as the focus of the rock and jazz hall of famer's swan song -- which may finally get to be heard.

By Richard S. Ginell, Special to The Times

FRANK ZAPPA — composer, rock star, satirist, visionary, curmudgeon, iconoclast — would have turned 65 on Dec. 21.

That milestone did not receive nearly as much attention as another sad reminder of mortality, the 25th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. But the symbolism was just as poignant, for both Lennon and Zappa were unfinished portraits, cut off in midcareer. Born in the same year (1940), they spent their lifetimes saying plenty of pointed, trenchant, often humorous things about the human condition and left plenty unsaid upon their premature deaths.

In the case of Zappa — who died of prostate cancer in 1993, less than three weeks before his 53rd birthday — one crucial piece of his portrait remains partly hidden: his touching reverence for the French American avant-garde composer Edgard Varèse (1883-1965). Indeed, the last completed project of Zappa's life — an album of Varèse's compositions selected, supervised and, after a fashion, "conducted" by Zappa — has yet to be released.

Recording sessions for the Varèse album took place over 10 days in July 1993, five months before Zappa's death, on a Warner Bros. soundstage in Burbank not far from Zappa's home in the Hollywood Hills. The musicians involved were members of the German new music group Ensemble Modern, which had greatly impressed the demanding Zappa on a recording of Zappa's classical compositions, "The Yellow Shark." The Varèse album was to include "Hyperprism," "Octandre," "Intégrales," "Density 21.5," "Ionisation," "Déserts" and Varèse's original tape of "Poème Électronique" — which is roughly half of Varèse's total published output.

The Zappa Family Trust, which controls Zappa's musical legacy, announced the impending release of the album on its website back in 1997, complete with a listing of the selections and even brief sound bites from each composition (except "Poème Électronique"). Little has been heard about it since.

Yet fear not, oh Zappa legions. The long-awaited Varèse album may be coming out after all, possibly by the end of this year. "The Varèse album is on hold for a very specific reason," Zappa's widow, Gail, said in December. "We documented three recording sessions with a film crew, and they absconded with the film and tapes, and it took me eight years and lawsuits to get the sucker back. And even so, they did not return the DAT. They were bad guys. I would never call them men; men don't behave that way.

"Now my plan is, I would love to get it out next year [2006], to put out a recording and a film on DVD because I really believe in the power of the music as a visceral experience without the visual aids."

Why is the Varèse project so significant amid the miles of unreleased tapes of original Zappa music still locked up in the vault? (Zappa was a congenital workaholic; one person who has combed through the archive claims that a new album of studio or live Zappa music could be released every year for the next 100 years.) The answer is that this may have been the project that was dearest to Zappa's heart, for it was Varèse's music that had made Zappa want to become a composer in the first place.

In his quirky autobiography, "The Real Frank Zappa Book," and in an article written for Stereo Review in 1971, Zappa vividly remembered how a 13-year-old R&B fan living in El Cajon discovered this then relatively obscure cutting-edge composer. It was in a chance reading of a magazine article about record retailer Sam Goody, who bragged that he could sell anything, even a crazy, noisy thing like Varèse's "Ionization," as it was spelled. A nonconformist even at that tender age, Zappa figured that this stuff was right up his alley but soon found that apparently no self-respecting dealer in San Diego would stock it.

Finally, after searching for the record for more than a year, while approaching the checkout counter at a hi-fi store in La Mesa, Zappa spotted an LP with a picture of what he thought was a "mad scientist" on the jacket. It was the coveted album he had sought, "The Complete Works of Edgard Varèse, Volume One" on the tiny EMS (Elaine Music Shop) label — the only album of Varèse works available in the 1950s. (There was no Volume Two; the owner of the label, Jack Skurnick, died in 1952 before he could continue the project.) The shop had been using the record to demonstrate hi-fi systems, but shoppers were driven away by the percussive racket it made. So the cashier let Zappa have the album for whatever he had in his pocket (the price was $5.95 and the boy had only $3.80) — and he devoured it, playing it over and over, gleefully alienating some uncomprehending friends along with his mother.

Zappa's subsequent devotion to Varèse never flagged. When he turned 15 or 16 (there is some question about the exact age), his idea of a birthday present was a long-distance phone call to Varèse, who was listed in the Manhattan phone book. On the inside jacket of his first album, "Freak Out!," Zappa prominently printed a Varèse saying (slightly misquoted): "The present-day composer refuses to die!" The younger man's compositions used Varèsian techniques such as the electronic manipulation of real-world sounds on tape (musique concrète, or "organized sound" as Varèse called it), big blocks of dissonant orchestral writing and novel deployment of percussion — and he saw no distinction between using these techniques in classical or rock contexts. He was invited by conductor Joel Thome to host a Varèse tribute concert in New York City in 1981, and even appeared as a conductor in an Edgard Varèse Centennial Memorial Concert at San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House in 1983.

Zappa may not have been the first to put Varèse on the map; Robert Craft's spectacular-sounding pair of LPs for Columbia in the early 1960s gave the composer some big-time exposure before his death. But Zappa was certainly Varèse's most prominent advocate, spreading the word to places that otherwise would never have heard of the composer.

A pleasure amid the pain

ZAPPA'S Varèse album was to be his most direct homage to his idol, undertaken while he was struggling with the painful later stages of his terminal illness. "He never intended to do the recording of Varèse," says Gail Zappa. "But I just said, 'Let's take the quantum leap and do it,' because I wanted him to have something to do to get up every day for. This was a really inspirational opportunity to do right by Varèse — to get him [Zappa] up and going."

Rip Rense, a journalist and friend of Zappa's, was present at the session that yielded "Ionisation" and some Zappa improvisations with the Ensemble Modern that remain unreleased. "He was in great discomfort and had difficulty getting through the sessions," Rense recalls. "The cancer had spread to his bones. It was obvious that his love of Varèse and the opportunity to realize the music with Ensemble Modern was sustaining him. He eschewed pain medication, because he wanted his mind clear. He only made one exception. As he told me, 'Motrin has been my friend.' "

The noted new music conductor Peter Eötvös actually wielded the baton at the sessions, while Zappa rested on a couch directly in back of him, conferring frequently with the conductor, speaking directly to the musicians, using facial expressions to get what he wanted.

"Frank shaped the interpretations as much as one can without actually wielding a baton," says Rense. "I do remember Frank stopping the proceedings a number of times and more or less encouraging the players to have a little more fun with their parts, to be more playful. Frank's term was 'putting the eyebrows upon the music.' "

Not exactly a secret, the sessions were attended by some celebrated contemporary music figures. John Adams showed up at the "Ionisation" session and according to Rense looked "utterly delighted" by the goings-on. And the 99-year-old Nicolas Slonimsky, who had conducted the premiere of "Ionisation" in 1933, briefly took the baton and led the musicians in the piece, an event that was captured on film (Slonimsky would ultimately survive Zappa by two years).

The result is an album that is bound to stir up some controversy, for Zappa and Eötvös put a spin on Varèse that differs from that of almost every other Varèse recording. Humor was always a part of Zappa's musical lexicon, even in his most serious and stupefyingly complex pieces, and he lets his irreverence spill over into Varèse. You can hear Zappa's slapstick touch in the way the trombones wobble comically at the beginning of "Hyperprism," the abruptness of some of the attacks and releases in "Octandre" and other pieces, the madcap percussion and saucy clarinet and oboe in "Intégrales." It's as if Zappa were merging his unique persona with that of Varèse, fusing them together in a throwback to a time before the Jet Age when performers routinely stamped their personalities onto the music they played.

Yet there is some textural justification for a humorous approach to Varèse. The composer sometimes put weird instructions in his scores (for example, in "Amériques," after an orchestral cataclysm, the solo trombone line has the words "Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!" written underneath the notes). Also, if you listen to the 1950 LP that introduced Zappa to Varèse — which was supervised by Varèse himself — you can detect some of the roots of Zappa's humor in the rough-and-ready performances of "Octandre" and 'Intégrales." Something has gone out of our understanding of Varèse in the half-century since that record came out, and Zappa can be seen as trying to turn the light back on.

"That's the true taste test for me — if I hear Frank's music that made me laugh," says Gail Zappa. "It's not that he wasn't serious about his art — he just didn't take himself seriously."

Channeling Varèse's style

THE mix is unusual too, with sometimes extreme separation of the instruments on the stereo channels, and the sessions were recorded with all-tube microphone preamps connected to a digital tape machine in another studio. Zappa "wanted to record it the way he thought Edgard would want it to be recorded had he been a record producer," Gail Zappa recalls. "We had to find a place that could record the way Frank intended and mike it the way Frank intended. Warners had one old studio that we could set up the instruments in, but the control room wasn't up to the task, so we built a special snake [a cable that accommodated all the wires] from a brand-new control room to the old studio with the wood floors."

Did Zappa want to record the complete Varèse? His widow doesn't think so. ("His days were severely numbered at that point, and he couldn't manage the larger pieces," she says.) In any case, the remaining works demand either huge, expensive orchestras ("Amériques," "Arcana"), voices ("Offrandes," "Ecuatorial," the unfinished "Nocturnal") or some hard-to-find instrument such as the obsolete electronic ondes martenot.

So, like the Varèse album of his youth, Zappa's thank-you letter to his idol was limited by fate to one volume. But if it manages to raise Varèse's profile to a new level — and show us a good time in the process — Zappa's mission will have been fulfilled.

The essential Varèse, in its available interpretations

For those who cannot wait for Frank Zappa's Varèse tribute to come out, there is a distinguished, if limited, selection of recordings of Varèse's music. Varèse's published works are compact enough to fit on only two CDs, making a thorough immersion in his unique sound world possible in only half an afternoon.

Essentially, the top Varèse choices come down to three conductors: Pierre Boulez, Riccardo Chailly and Kent Nagano. Chailly's two-CD collection with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and ASKO Ensemble (Decca) gives you all 12 published works and some invaluable extras available nowhere else — the only surviving fragment of Varèse's pre-American output, the song "Un Grand Sommeil Noir" (in piano and orchestral versions); "Tuning Up," a hilarious sendup of American tunes and Varèse's own music; and the tiny, antic "Dance for Burgess." There is also a reconstruction of the original massive version of "Amériques" by Varèse expert Chou Wen-Chung. Chailly's performances are bright and explosive — the best things he's ever done on recordings — and the sound is terrific.

Boulez's two CDs with the New York Philharmonic and the Ensemble Intercontemporain (Sony, available separately) contain 10 of the 12 works, leaving out "Nocturnal" and "Poème Électronique." His rendition of "Déserts" uses the composer-authorized instrumentalportions-only version, which robs the piece of its contrasting tape interpolations (Boulez claims that Varèse's tape is no longer usable, but that's not true — it sounds perfectly good on the Chailly set). Nevertheless, Boulez's superhuman ear for color and pitch produces performances of razor-sharp precision and often enormous power. Boulez also remade "Amériques," "Arcana," "Déserts" (again without the tape) and "Ionisation" with the Chicago Symphony (Deutsche Grammophon); these performances are more refined and better recorded but not quite as viscerally thrilling.

Nagano's Varèse discs with L'Orchestre National de France (Warner Apex) have recently been reissued as a bargain-priced two-disc import. This is Varèse for those who might want a less extroverted, more elegant approach; the essential explosive violence is present but not in such heaping quantities as in the Boulez and Chailly recordings. The set contains 11 of the 12 pieces (omitting "Poème Électronique").

Out of print, but worth seeking out: Zubin Mehta's exciting, blunt-force performances of "Arcana," "Ionisation" and "Intégrales" with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (London).

— R.S.G.

jeudi, avril 13, 2006

Augie March

Augie March Waltzes Into The Charts

Augie March

by Andrew Tijs @ Undercover

April 13 2006

No one would’ve expected it, but a mellow and introspective Melbourne indie band have scored an unexpected coup by hitting number 10 on the Australian album charts with their third album “Moo, You Bloody Choir”.

This intellectual and moody quintet, led by the literary lyricism and loping waltzes of singer/ guitarist/ songwriter Glenn Richards have never bothered the charts previously but the consistent touring, critical acclaim and positive word of mouth seems to have inspired Australians to action in purchasing their oddly-titled album. It’s been almost four years in the making, building up almost fevered anticipation with their dedicated fanbase.

The band seemed surprised by the result but remain resolutely independent in their outlook. Manager Matt High insisted that the band weren’t looking for chart position and assured fans they would never use their music for commercial purposes.

Augie March are beginning an extensive Australian tour in April with Dan Kelly And The Alpha Males, including Canberra, Byron Bay, regional NSW and Victoria, and Tasmania, as well as major cities. They plan on touring the US in the near future.

samedi, avril 08, 2006

Blur news

Boo For Blur


by Paul Cashmere @ Undercover

April 7 2006

Damon Albarn isn’t the only Blur member with a side project. Bass player Alex James has teamed up with 90’s popette Betty Boo for a thing they call Wigwam.

Boo and James have been working on the project for the better part of the last year and have recorded the song ‘Checking Out My Wigwam’.

The notorious BOO is best known for her fast food fade dance hit ‘Doin’ The Do’ and even better known for dropping her mic during a live performance in Melbourne, Australia only for the audience to discover she was miming the song.

She “retired” from the music industry after the incident and probably hopes that all has been forgotten (no, it hasn’t Betty)

Betty Boo made somewhat of a comeback in 2000 when she wrote the song ‘Pure and Simple’ for reality TV show stars Hearsay.

Alex has had a life outside of Blur previously. He also moonlights in a comedy act called Fat Les. They had a number two UK chart hit in 1998 with the song ‘Vindaloo’.

As a writer, Marianne Faithful recorded his track ‘Hang It On Your Heart as well as various tracks on the first two Sophie Ellis-Bextor albums.

The single ‘Checking Out My Wigwam’ was released this week in the UK.


Future tents

Look inside legends-to-be WigWam and you find two proper pop stars, says Peter Robinson

The description “side project” is the “most annoying term in music”, declares Alex James. With ventures such as Fat Les and Me Me Me behind him, the Blur bassist has had his fair share of extracurricular pop escapades, but he sees his new project, WigWam, as something else. “This is not a bit on the side,” he declares. “It’s a full-blown bigamous marriage.”

His blushing bride is Alison Clarkson, known to connoisseurs of bobbed hair and Bacofoil as the platinum-selling Nineties spacewarbler Betty Boo. Clarkson quit pop stardom in 1995 at the precise point that Madonna was about to sign her to her label, Maverick.

As it happens the pair met directly below where we sit today. “I was playing snooker,” James says. “I didn’t know who she was. We had a right giggle.”

“We got on quite well, didn't we?” says Clarkson.

“Well, I did try to . . . er . . .” Pause. “But it was vetoed.” A pause, in which minds boggle.

WigWam’s debut single, Wigwam, sounds as if Clarkson and James have set out to create a piece of music that defies comparison — a celebratory, three-minute explosion of triumphantly daft bouncy guitar pop replete with cat noises, wibbly basslines and Clarkson intermittently trilling “Checkin’ out my wigwam, checkin’ out my boo”, which sounds absolutely filthy.

To imagine this record’s place in the pop cosmos, picture it as the exact opposite of James Blunt. “Right now it’s all sensitive males singing about their weaknesses,” sniffs Clarkson. “You’re Beautiful is the new Lady in Red, just not as good.”

At a point when pop-by-committee is the order of the day, WigWam arrive with an explosion of colour. “EMI did a focus group on Blur after the last album,” James chortles. “The verdict was that it was too slow. Also it turned out that Stereophonics are better- looking than Blur.

“Then again” — and he adds this in what might be termed a victorious tone — “we were better-looking than Oasis.”
He seems particularly taken with statistics. Being in a band is 90 per cent turning up, he says, while Wigwam, apparently, is 90 per cent sugar, 7 per cent cheese and 3 per cent explosives. Pop music itself is 99 per cent confidence and 1 per cent drums.

“I’m basically a scientist,” he decides, launching into a lengthy explanation of the fact that we are experiencing a golden age of space exploration, how there’s not enough spaceship content in records, and how the best pop music comes from outer space anyway.

Along with the single there are plans for WigWam podcasts, which Clarkson claims will feature “a cookery section! And a sheep section, and a bulldozers and diggers section. And a tennis section.”

“This is basically everything punk rock wanted, digitised and beamed into your iPod,” James says. “It’s a subversive notion, WigWam. It represents a counter-cultural ideal. It’s not saying ‘Wear Prada and look like an advert’, it’s going, er . . . WigWam. Go and live in a tent.”

While Clarkson is clearly ready once again for the whole Top of the Pops experience, I ask James whether he has accounted for WigWam showing up in the charts. With Blur due back in the studio this year, will there be time for it all? “Success always fits with a glove,” he splutters, then suddenly becomes quite serious. “Failure is the hard one to stomach. Although it’s really complicated being rich. It’s so high maintenance.”

With this in mind, might either of the WigWam duo care to predict where Wigwam will enter the hit parade? Clarkson, suddenly, is speechless. James rises to the challenge. “Ooh. Wow. I don’t know. But I can smell a hit. Or is it s***? It’s a fine line.”

Wigwam is released on Instant Karma.

The TimesApril 07, 2006

jeudi, avril 06, 2006

Yeah Yeah Yeahs news

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Show Your Bones | Interscope

SURPRISE: The rumors of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' impending flameout were greatly exaggerated.

In his recent review of the Strokes’ First Impressions of Earth, Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield quipped that when the Strokes emerged five years ago from a cloud of designer denim, no one expected that the band would be around long enough to make a third album. Well, if Impressions was a surprise, prepare to have your socks knocked off by Show Your Bones, the second full-length by the Strokes’ NYC pals the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Even more than with the Strokes, early signs indicated that the YYYs — a thrashy, live-wire trio whose charismatic frontwoman, Karen O, established a reputation for endangering herself on stage — would succumb to the rock-and-roll excess they indulged in as a kind of performance-art parody. But they didn’t (or haven’t yet, as recent interviews with the band suggest), and the dark, sprawling Bones reveals that they have bigger plans for their music than volume and speed.

At a time when most Big Apple bands are making follow-up albums that sound like their debuts, this one takes a left turn into textured art rock full of acoustic guitars and keyboards and layered vocals. “Gold Lion,” the funky lead single, could be a Beck B-side; “Way Out” sounds like something from the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa. Yet the music isn’t without the tense energy that defined the old stuff: in “Phenomena” Karen O quotes LL Cool J over a swaggering beat, and “Honeybear” breathes new life into the post-punk revival. Bones is an unexpected success from these hard-boiled survivors; they should stick around long enough to surprise us again.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs + Blood on the Wall | April 7 | Orpheum, 1 Hamilton Place, Boston | 617.931.2000

4/5/2006 10:44:05 AM

Rating: 3.5 stars

lundi, avril 03, 2006

Green Day

Green Day Voted King of the Kids

Green Day (photo by Ros O'Gorman)

by Paul Cashmere @ Undercover

April 3

Green Day picked up two awards this weekend at Nickelodeon’s 19th Annual Kids’ Choice Awards.

The band was voted Favorite Music Group and also won the favorite song award for ‘Wake Me Up When September Comes’.

The Favorite Female Singer award went to Kelly Clarkson and Favorite Male Singer was won by Jesse McCartney.

The kids voted in Will Smith as the Favorite Male Actor and Lindsay Lohan as Favorite Female Actress.

Other awards were

Favorite Movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie: Chris Rock (Madagascar)
Favorite TV Show: Drake & Josh
Favorite TV Actress: Jamie Lynn Spears (Zoey 101)
Favorite TV Actor: Drake Bell (Drake & Josh)
Favorite Cartoon: SpongeBob SquarePants
Wannabe Award: Chris Rock
Favorite Athlete: Lance Armstrong
Favorite Video Game: Madagascar: Operation Penguin
Favorite Book: Harry Potter series

dimanche, avril 02, 2006

The Rapture

New York's the Rapture Plot Return

Disco rockers turn to Danger Mouse, but keep that "DFA style"


luke jenner Photo

Feeling like sunshine

Photo by Josh Reed

It hasn't stopped raining since the Rapture arrived in Los Angeles for two weeks in the studio with hip-hop producer Danger Mouse (Gorillaz, MF Doom) to record the follow-up to their 2003 breakthrough, the DFA-produced Echoes. This is sort of ironic, considering that the New York disco rockers' new album, due late this summer, is feeling some different weather.

"The early demos we've played for people, they've said it's a little more 'like sunshine,'" says drummer Vito Roccoforte. "You know, a little brighter. Because of the headspace we were in." Bassist Matt Safer adds, "People thought that the songs were really dark the last time around, but I don't think anyone would walk away thinking that now. We wanted to do more of a fun, upbeat thing -- as cheesy as that sounds."

After two years of touring Echoes, the Rapture -- Roccoforte, Safer, frontman and guitarist Luke Jenner and multi-instrumentalist Gabe Andruzzi -- took a much-needed break. "We were burnt out," Roccoforte confesses. After several months, the band felt ready to rent a rehearsal space on New York's Lower East Side, churning out some thirty songs in six months.

But before laying down any of the tracks, the Rapture tested them out in a series of one-off gigs. "You sit around in the studio wondering if people are going to like it, and then you play it for people and you know right away," Jenner says. "They can't fake it. It's really obvious. So we spent two months making the record, but a year getting ready to make it."

In an attempt to retain the feel of their work with New York's legendary underground production duo the DFA, in early February the Rapture entered New York's Sear Sound studio to lay down twelve tracks with the production team of Paul Epworth (Bloc Party) and Ewan Pearson. Says Jenner, "They're more from, like, our world of DFA-styled things." The not-so-sunny L.A. experience followed, where the band is still at work with Danger Mouse.

"Danger Mouse is definitely the most far-out thing we've done," says Jenner of the producer they met after both playing a party for late-night animation program Adult Swim. "This is the closest to a collaboration we've done -- and it's definitely not a traditional approach. He just treats us like samples. Instead of me going in and playing a guitar part -- he'll take a little loop of it and use it to sound like something's exploding. It doesn't even sound like a guitar after he's done with it sometimes. That's new for us."

"We've grown together as a band more. We are a lean, muscular funk unit now," says Safer. "If the last [album] was a lonely Saturday night walking around the city, lamenting life and love lost, then this one is where Saturday night's alright for a fight with your buddy."

While the band reveals that the album sports more vocals from Safer this time around -- as well as plenty of keyboards from Andruzzi -- song and album titles are still in flux. "We thought about Taco Party for a while," says Safer. "In L.A., we've all had at least a taco or burrito a day.

"Then there's The World's Greatest," he adds. "OK, fine, I just made that one up."