A Conversation with Dr. John on Bobby Rush and More
Mike Ragogna: Dr. John...Mac...thank you so much for the interview.
Dr. John/Mac Rebennack: No sweat.
MR: Is this the first time you've collaborated with Bobby Rush in a major way?
DJ: Actually, I think I did some sessions with Bobby a long time ago, but that's a long time ago. But I didn't sing on anything with him, I didn't sing at all.
MR: Right. Were you in the studio with him when you were recording this together?
DJ: I think so. We was in the studio, I remember now. We were in David Talkalotsky's studio. His name is David Torkanowsky, but I call him Talk-A-Lot-Sky.
MR: [laughs] What brought the two of you together for this recording?
DJ: Bobby's been my partner for a long time and he's a good guy. Any help I could give him to get out of doing any of the gigs in the chitlin' circuit would be a blessing. That's something I would feel really good about. I know he does some festivals and I know he does whatever he does, but he's old school and real deal.
MR: Yeah. Have you been following his records like I imagine he's been following yours for a long time?
DJ: Hey, listen, we know each other's maneuvers.
MR: There was something special about this record, Another Murder In New Orleans, wasn't there?
DJ: Listen, all these kids here with a piece, I'd written a line in a song on my last record about "Kids with Uzis, ice suckers, Death is a always thing." You can't get away from that mess. Whatever the kids got, the adults put them in their hands. They don't know what the hell they're doing, the kids.
MR: I think a lot of grownups don't know what they're doing with that stuff either.
DJ: The president of the musician's union, he has a kid just hanging with some bad kids and that's a wipeout course in this city. If the president of the musician's union's kid can get took off the count behind stuff like that it's not a good thing.
MR: Dr. John, do you think there can be more education for kids beyond what they're getting from the news and at home?
DJ: Listen, I was in Japan one time, and what did they show on the television when New Orleans was declared the murder capitol of the United States? They showed a TV show about that. "I'm in Japan to look at something on American-speaking TV and what I've got to see is that?" But back then that was in the days of the Desire and Florida projects guys who would shoot each other over nothing. It's just a shame.
MR: Mac, may I ask you a question that may be a little more controversial than not? Do you feel that with all this discussion about second amendment rights and gun ownership and similar things does it seem like the kids are getting lost in the middle of this discussion?
DJ: Of course they get lost in the middle of this. Any time you put a piece in a kid's hand, no matter what name you give a gun, that's still a lethal weapon. Whether it's the NRA or who, it's just sad, what comes down the pike from it all.
MR: So this song is kind of a contribution to making people a little more aware about what's going on in post-Katrina New Orleans, huh?
DJ: This thing has happened here again where there's a lot of youngsters getting took off the count, and that's just not cool. My youngest son was going down the street and I said, "Get off of that street." I had to tell him two guys got took off the count on that street four or five months before that. It's just the idea. Why you gotta tell your kids to get off a street?
MR: Yeah. Do you think they could do better with school programs keeping the kids off the street?
DJ: Listen, I give a lot of the kids credit for doing stuff like staying in school, and they're teaching the kids music. I saw some of those kids just last night. Those kids were playing at me, and I was playing it back. That was good. That's the way to feel. You don't have to worry about them kids going out there and putting somebody's lights out.
MR: So again, music is at the heart of something very positive for these kids.
DJ: Of course it is! Kids need more music in the schools. When you cut budgets, which the politicians have done over and over and over here, what are you going to do? These people don't even accept the president's thing about any of the money that could come in to help. That's not cool.
MR: It's politics over good sense, isn't it?
DJ: Well, it's always been that way. We live in a corrupt state. Bobby knows this, I know this, we've all known this for a long time. You can't get away from it. It's corruption and politics and that's the basic stupidnosity of everything that goes on.
MR: At least there's music.
DJ: Hey, listen, if we can bring something out to make people aware of certain things like music, do it. That's the lesson that I look at. I just want to mention that doing something with Bobby Rush is something special for me.
MR: Yeah, you seem like really close brothers in some respects.
DJ: We started off working on the chitlin' circuit, I finally got off of the chitlin' circuit but he still spends some time doing that stuff. I don't like to see Bobby out there doing that mess. The chitlin' circuit was more dangerous than the bucket of blood circuit up in Missouri and Kansas. How can a circuit be more dangerous than a bucket of blood circuit? That's really weird, and that's creepy. We've been there and done that and we know where it goes and where it don't, and that's all I've got to say about that.
MR: All right. Hey Mac, I've got one last question for you, what is your advice for new artists?
DJ: Hey listen, if they want to play music, listen to every music. Don't be shut down to no music. The second thing I always tell them is learn how to get paid. If they can learn how to get paid in this racket, they'll do wonderful.
MR: It's very important, isn't it.
DJ: Hey, listen, it took me a lot, a lot, a lot of years to figure out how to get paid. I started doing stuff on the chitlin' circuit, and you weren't making no money. I remember we got to New London, Connecticut, and there was a blizzard. The guy said, "All you have to do is put your newspaper under your coat," I thought that wasn't gonna work. No matter how many sheets of newspaper we put under our shirts, it didn't work. That's life, that's how it goes. You live, and you learn, and you better learn fast in this rag.
Transcribed By Galen Hawthorne
JON LANGFORD'S "WEIGHTLESS"
From those in the Langford camp...
"Acclaimed musician and visual artist Jon Langford will be releasing his newest album with Skull Orchard, titled Here Be Monsters, on April 1st. Best known for his work in the The Mekons and the Waco Brothers, Langford has been a leading pioneer in the assimilation of folk/country music into punk rock since the genre's first evolution over 30 years ago. This album will also feature a unique piece of artwork, painted by Langford himself, specific to each track on the album. "Here Be Monsters" finds Langford scanning the outskirts of popular culture, its title born of medieval cartographers term for the dragons, sea serpents, and other mythical beasties that reside beyond the boundaries of the known universe. The Welsh-born, Chicago-based singer/songwriter/bandleader/producer/painter/poet plots a clear-eyed, sharp-elbowed course through such far-flung subjects as alternative hierarchies and astronomy, perpetual war for perpetual profit, the culture of detachment, middle age, fatherhood, fame, and the fleetingness of love. Also known for being a prolific and respected visual artist, the artwork Langford will include features his unique style best seen through his compelling portraits of country music icons such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley, marking this album as perhaps the most complete unification of his dual creative careers."
And here are the "Weightless" audio and video tracks...
Mike Ragogna: Jon, you launched your single and video for "Drone Operator" and a little while back, you did the same for the single "Mars." How do you approach your later works differently than how you created projects with The Mekons and the Waco Brothers?
Jon Langford: Originally, the solo stuff came about cos it couldn't wouldn't fit comfortably into the way those bands sound and operate. The original Skull Orchard record was mostly about my hometown Newport in South Wales. Here Be Monsters is all songs I wrote on my own but it worked very differently this time. The Skull Orchard band played a lot after Old Devils came out and this really is a collaborative effort with everyone having a say. I like that better.
MR: Playing devil's advocate and examining the song's concept further, do you feel there is any value to the government using drones?
JL: I'm sure its valuable to Obama in a short term political way. He looks tough and we don't lose any soldiers. The long term cost is what I'm worried about. What do we look like to the rest of the world? Darth f**king Vader. The toothpaste is out of the tube and Amazon dropping off your new leather Gucci tote via drone is a little frightening as well. "Drone Operator" is a song about a moral vacuum. Who would do that job and what issues might they have after work?
MR: How do you feel about the government's use of data collection on US citizens?
JL: It's amazing how little most people seem to care. I am sad that all the things that really scared me about post 9-11 Bush policy have been extended by Obama. I'm sure it was much the same at the end of the Roman Empire. "Weightless" was written partly about Bradley Manning but its weird how it fits the Edward Snowden situation much better.
MR: It took three years to record your album Here Be Monsters, and now that you've had a little distance from recording it, what are your thoughts about the results?
JL: It was a sonic adventure. Me and Jim Elkington started off trying to make tiny little British Folk Revival acoustic record and it turned into Crazy Horse. I'm glad is sounds like a big monstrous rock band playing really loud. We weren't working on it all the time for three years! We were mostly eating sandwiches and talking about old British TV shows.
MR: What inspires you these days, where does your creativity come from?
JL: I'm not a great believer in inspiration. I work really hard at what I do and the constant exercise seems to keep the creative juices flowing. I really like playing music and I'm too old and pissy to get a proper job so I'd better make the most of my puny skills.
MR: Do you have an equal passion for creating in the audio and visual
JL: That's the point of this album really - a bunch of the songs came about as ideas for paintings. I can't separate the two anymore - it all comes from the same part of my brain and if you look at my tax returns you'd see that I need to do both to survive. Indegoot were really nice about letting me go bonkers with the artwork. There's a painting for each song.
MR: What is the earliest memory you have of creating something musical or visual?
JL: Drawing, doodling, cartooning, copying photographs of Newport County soccer players out of the South Wales Argus. Didn't think about making any music 'til I was much older. I can blame Marc Bolan for that!
MR: You're considered a pioneer regarding the merger of country folk with punk. To you, what is the state of each of those "genres" and do you feel that you're participating or possibly leading in their evolutions through your works?
JL: There's a great thread of musical simplicity and social engagement in the roots of both of them but the current/mainstream versions have been bankrupt for years and are stinking up the place. I still listen to a lot of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and the do-it-yourself punk ethic permeates everything I do but this album doesn't sound Country or Punk to me.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
JL: Success of someone else's terms don't mean a f**king thing...that's
actually a lyric I wrote a long time ago.
MR: What would you like to be five years from now?
JL: Lead singer in Led Zeppelin.
Chatting with Grouplove's Christian Zucconi
Mike Ragogna: Okay, you've got way too much going on, but let's start with your single "Ways To Go." It's killing the Alternative Radio Chart and its video is coming in at like four million views. Is there a back story to the song, why it's causing such a ruckus?
Christian Zucconi: We wrote that song while we were recording Spreading Rumours in Los Angeles. Or maybe one could say that the song wrote us. Usually, the best songs come to me when I least expect it; like some other subconscious force is speaking through me and I'm just the vessel, my hands knowing where to go before I really do. Does that make sense? It's being received super well because it comes from an honest place, it's got a great hook, and the lyrics are asking big questions.
MR: The song is from your latest album, Spreading Rumours. So what kind of rumours are spreading and who's doing the spreading?
CZ: You know actually the thought behind the album title was to have the songs themselves become the rumours, for kids to be talking about our live shows and spreading the word by "word of mouth" instead of by the internet. It's hard to imagine, but how it was not that long ago. This record has a lot of idyllic thinking to a time before everyone was always standing still staring at their phones.
MR: What are some personal favorites on the new album and why?
CZ: All the songs on the album have a deep personal connection for me, but "Borderlines and Aliens"is a favorite because it's the heaviest of all the songs; "Hippy Hill" because it has this crazy bridge that is probably my favorite moment on the record, and "Sit Still" because it represents the pleasure and paranoia of making the album. If I ever forget what the process was like, I put that on to remember.
MR: What was the creative process like from songwriting to recording?
CZ: Well were lucky to have a lot of songs already written before going into the studio. We necessarily hadn't jammed on them yet but everyone was familiar with a few key songs from old garage band demos Hannah and I had done, or just songs we'd all sing when we were warming up for a show. It's an incredible feeling to then all go into the live room and start playing the songs for real and hearing them come to life in the Grouplove world of sound. It's all very organic and we like to capture the songs right when they truly become alive, so we never beat it to death and capture it on tape spontaneously.
MR: Any surprising self-discoveries about the band or how you record or write along the way?
CZ: Oh man, there are too many to list! Every day is a discovery for me, and being in a band is always about growing, both musically and personally. We all have to grow and overcome personal challenges if this is going to work long term and in doing so it's actually super rewarding, even if you think you can't go on at some points. Writing for me usually comes from these darker places. A basic need to vet your soul.
MR: You also created the short film I'm With You. What went into making it?
CZ: We were introduced to Sam Erickson by Steve Ralbovsky of Canvasback Music, the head of our label. Sam had directed some amazing music documentaries (My Morning Jacket, Manchester Orchestra) and we all wanted to capture our first tour on film after releasing Spreading Rumours. It was called the Seesaw Tour, because we played two nights in each city, one electric and one entirely acoustic. New York City played a big role in the early days right before Grouplove came to be, so we thought it would be the perfect backdrop for the film, and it would give the audience a real look into our live show, not to mention the first in depth depiction of how we all met each other back in Greece in 2008. There is also a companion piece live EP that just came out, also called I'm With You.
MR: You've been on the road, are there any bands out there that Grouplove, well, loved or formed a bond with while touring?
CZ: Well if you've seen the documentary, it's obvious that we love Manchester Orchestra. Those guys are the best, and the music they put out is so damn good and inspiring. Cage The Elephant, Alt-J, and Reptar are also amazingly awesome bands and people we've toured with. We feel blessed to have met them on this journey we're all on.
MR: What are a few of the differences between how the band creates and records these days versus when you first started out?
CZ: Well when we first started out, we recorded our EP as brand new friends for the hell of it without ever knowing we'd be in a band to begin with. So it's safe to say that time and production was the most freeing recording experience because there was no outside pressure from anyone, because no one knew we existed! That being said, as we've grown as musicians and friends and built up a fan base, it's very exciting to record now because people want to hear it! But we still take that same approach as we did on the EP. Everything happens organically, we're super collaborative, and we love spontaneity.
MR: Was Grouplove mentored at one point, by whom, and what would you say to that supporter/teacher now?
CZ: We were all mentored by each other, because all of our life experiences were so different from one another we each brought a very unique vibe to the table. You can hear it in our songs. From the start though, things happened very quickly and we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a hardworking loving team that is our manager, record label, booking agents and eventually a kick ass crew. We're working together every day with the same goal in mind.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
CZ: Write honestly, never compare yourself to anyone else, and stick with it. Don't give up, and don't have a plan B.
MR: Where is Grouplove headed in the long run? Beyond success, do you all have any big plans or desires you need fulfilled either through Grouplove or personally?
CZ: We plan to be around a long time, evolving in our future records and getting in front of more and more people when it comes to our live shows. That's what we live for, and what our fans give back to us is just mind blowing. Onward and upward.
GROUPLOVE 2014 TOUR
Mar 20 - Cincinnati, OH - Bogarts*
Mar 21 - Indianapolis, IN - Egyptian Room*
Mar 23 - Pittsburg, PA - Stage AE*
Mar 25 - Philadelphia, PA - Electric Factory*^
Mar 26 - New York, NY - Terminal 5^* - SOLD OUT
Mar 27 - New York, NY - Terminal 5^#
Mar 29 - Columbus, OH - LC Indoor Stage^ - SOLD OUT
Mar 30 - Washington, DC - 930 Club^# - SOLD OUT
Mar 31 - Washington, DC - 930 Club^# - SOLD OUT
April 1 - Washington, DC - 930 Club^# - SOLD OUT
April 3 - Atlanta, GA - Tabernacle^#
April 5 - Austin, TX - Stubbs^# - SOLD OUT
April 6 - Austin, TX - Stubbs^# - SOLD OUT
April 7 - Houston, TX - House of Blue^
April 10 - Las Vegas, NV - Cosmopolitan Hotel
April 11 - COACHELLA
April 18 - COACHELLA
April 22 - Pomona, CA - The Glass House^# - SOLD OUT
April 23 - Phoenix, AZ - Marquee^#
April 24 - Tucson, AZ - Rialto Theatre^
April 26 - Dallas, TX - Edgefest - FC Dallas Stadium
April 27 - Tulsa, OK - Brady Theater ^#
April 28 - Oklahoma City - Diamond Ballroom^
April 30 - Kansas City, MO - Power & Light District^#
May 02 - Memphis, TN - Baele Street Music Festival
May 03 - New Orleans, LA - House of Blues New Orleans^
May 04 - Tampa, FL - Big Guava Fest - MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheater
June 12 - BONNAROO - Manchester, TN
June 13 - BONNAROO - Manchester, TN
June 14 - BONNAROO - Manchester, TN
June 15 -BONNAROO - Manchester, TN
June 19 - FIREFLY FESTIVAL - Dover, DE
^Supported by MS MR
# Supported by Smallpools
*Supported by Alex Winston
(Additional dates to be announced)
I'm With You track list:
1."Colours (Live From the Seesaw Tour)"
2. "Schoolboy (Live From the Seesaw Tour)"
3. "I'm With You (Live From the Seesaw Tour)"
4. "Raspberry (Live From the Seesaw Tour)"
5. "Ways to Go (Live From the Seesaw Tour)"
6. "Gold Coast (Live From the Seesaw Tour)"
LUKE WADE & NO CIVILIANS' THE RIVER STREAM
According to the band's gang...
Exploring age-old themes of love, lust and life, Luke Wade & No Civilians have long been a staple in and around Texas. With The River, Wade's first full-length record due out March 21st, No Civilians will continue to do what it loves, play at least five nights a week, surely venturing farther and farther from home. Wade speaks of often of forged connections, and connect he does.
Wade says, "The title track to the new album, The River, is an effort to illustrate a few things we all have in common: things change, we move on, we keep moving on, and just like a river we all end up at the some place at the end... as people, as souls, coming together and connecting as one. And, that's what I wanted to do with this album, connect. I wanted to use these songs and sounds to include people in my journey through life these last few years. I know I'm not alone and neither are others, and I hope these songs can help just a few people realize that even for a few seconds of their lives. Yes, its my job to make and sell music, but what is really important to me is that everyone who listens can find a song or even just a musical moment and say, 'That's me.'"
1. The River
2. Cool Wind
3. The Runaround
4.As Long as She Knows
5. Doctor Please
6. Eyes on the Horizon
7.That Damn Machine
8. Best Friend
10, The Last Round
11. Life's a Long Time to Waste
12. Trying to Sleep
13. 'Til The Fighting is Through
Follow Mike Ragogna on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ragz2008