A Conversation with The Presidents of the United States of America's Jason Finn
Mike Ragogna: After twenty years together, it's about time you were asked
who is or was your favorite president of the United States, you know, like you've never been asked that before.
Jason Finn: As Michael Bolton said in Office Space: "I guess I sorta like 'em all."
MR: Bill Clinton, "W" and Barack Obama. What would you ask each president?
JF: I'd ask them what specifically each would change about the track sequencing of Physical Graffitti. Obviously, it would be a trap question, since it's a perfect double album.
MR: How did you approach the material this time out and how is it different from your last one?
JF: We booked a couple of days last October with no material or preparation, purely for fun. We were truly shocked when those yielded four or five complete songs. Surely, this was a fluke! So we booked a few more in November. This time, we ended up with 6 or 7 more. Clearly, a crisis was brewing, so we gave up and admitted we might have an album here. Snuck up on us! Is that an approach?
MR: Yes. Yes it is. So you're on your 7th album, Kudos To You. Kudos to who exactly and why can't we all have kudos? Where's our fair share?
JF: Mike, you're selling yourself short. You CAN have kudos! Everyone who wants some kudos can get a dose of it with this album, and I'm enclosing some extra here for you!
MR: Whew, and thanks. No really. Jason, your first single was "Crown Victoria" with the Long Winters' John Roderick. What's the story behind the team up?
JF: John and I go way back to the early '90s, when I regularly ejected him from a bar I worked at. He dropped into the studio one day--I think we had lunch plans, or perhaps he was on the run from his bookie. He immediately announced, "Which song needs the signature John Roderick vocal treatment!?" Crown Vic only had bare-bones vocals on it at that point, so Chris ran out and did a reference track on the choruses and we were off to the races. I can't say much more because we are suing each other over who eventually picked up the check at lunch.
MR: Right on. "Lump," "Peaches" and "Mach 5." Which of your hits can you not wait to still play at your concerts?
JF: They are still in there every night, and we love 'em....if you don't get a charge from a crowd going nuts, you're in the wrong business. Plus, we keep our touring to a pace we can enjoy and handle physically, which keeps it fresh. PLUS, they are all under three minutes, so....
MR: Does Cleveland still rock as you and the song's writer Ian Hunter once suggested?
JF: We played it at the Cleveland Browns home opener this last season, and it definitely rocked. For his part, Ian has suggested in many an interview that he loves our version, and the new deck it built on his home! Drew Carey is a co-owner of our own Seattle Sounders MLS team, so we actually see him more often now than ever.
MR: If video killed the radio star--as you suggest in your cover of The Buggles' hit--what the heck killed the video star?
JF: I don't want to say anything that might get me in trouble....but definitely this guy.
MR: What are some of your favorite moments as a band over the last few years and how would you say the group has evolved?
JF: We've done so much incredible stuff. Honestly, we are simple men and every time we emerge from a plane and a bus and a taxi and show up at a theater and help 2000 people spend an hour smiling, we know how lucky we are. Again, we have achieved this by finding the level of activity that nurtures not only our band, but our lives and families. And degenerate gambling habits.
MR: Are there any acts out there right now that you would mentor?
JF: The music biz is so different now than the one in which we 'made our bones', that any mentoring we could hand out would be pure speculation on our parts. If anything, we could probably use some basic twitter tutoring from some of these younger folks!
MR: What is your advice for new artists?
JF: I suppose get your reps in....get good at your craft...take every gig until your live show is the best thing about your "brand." Also, YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!
MR: What do you think is The Presidents Of The United States of America's
most important legacy?
JF: When things started happening for us in earnest, I thought to myself that it would be amazing if at the end, we could be our decades' Violent Femmes. No idea whether we are pulling it off, but a guy can dream!
MR: How do you see this musical office five to ten years from now?
JF: We think we're in our final Five Year Plan....but we thought that five years ago too, so......
GRACE VALERIE'S "NOT FOR LOVE"
According to Grace Valerie's folks...
"Russian-born Grace Valerie has been working hard in the studio and the results will surely be felt globally with her new hit single and edgy video, 'Not For Love.' With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi just kicking off, Miss Grace chose a pivotal moment to release the edgy video, directed by Michael Stryker and produced by Busbee (P!nk, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson). 'Not For Love' is sure to speak volumes to her half million fans on social media. Giving them a voice with an edge, Grace says, 'As a Top 40 Dance Artist, I'm very excited and proud of the bold statements in "Not For Love." Both the message of the video to my fans, and bridging the two music cities of Los Angeles and Nashville together make this a very exciting time in my career and for music!'
A Quick Chat with Grace Valerie
Mike Ragogna: How would you describe what's going on in Russia with regards to LGBT?
Grace Valerie: Russian society is very conservative and is still not as open-minded to LGBT as Western countries would like it to be. A lot of my friends and fans are part of the LGBT and it's sad that they don't feel as free in Russia as they may elsewhere. However, LGBT grassroots movement in Russia is small but gaining strength, and it's making a progress with multiple gay bars and clubs across the country. Things now are much better than they were in the Soviet Union or are in some African, Arab, or Latin countries, but clearly not as good as they are in EU or the US. Love is not only the most universal language, but also the strongest driver throughout human history and I sincerely believe in its power. I'm always paying attention to the news and hoping for the best.
MR: Why do you think Vladimir Putin is taking this position against LGBT and does a majority or minority of the country agree with him?
GV: I think it's the lack of exposure and fear of the unknown that cause world leaders, countries and people all over the world to take unwelcoming positions. The law, which came into power this last summer, prohibits advocacy of gay lifestyle among the Russian youth under 18. The majority of the country indeed agrees with Vladimir Putin and the law, which doesn't help the LGBT's cause.
MR: How has it affected you and the lives of your friends?
GV: It has given me the inspiration to support my fans and friends, who are very dear to me. I am hoping to achieve that through "Not for Love" and by playing venues around the world.
MR: In your opinion, is this something reversible from a ground roots level?
GV: Absolutely. It's already there. It's already changing. It's not up to the leaders to start or hinder the change, but up to us. My new video is an expression of love. It crosses nations, shapes, colors, and forms. It's all about human relationships, about the complexity of love - something anyone can relate to.
MR: What is your advice to artists affected by Putin's stance on LGBT?
GV: My advice to all artists is to always be yourself. Whether it's now or a year from now, you will never regret being who you are. All around the world, real success finds those who are true to themselves.
MR: What is your advice to Putin?
GV: Diversity is what makes us strong. That's what I've learned here in America. All politics aside, Putin is a fighter and he might like some of the boxing scenes in the video. I hope he gets a chance to watch the video and enjoy my song!
A Conversation with Sabina
Mike Ragogna: Sabina, as a member of Brazilian Girls, your performance style has been defined as "dangerous" and your costumes "risque." Does your solo career embrace the danger and risque-fulness as well?
Sabina: I don't know that any of my costumes were ever actually dangerous. I didn't wear bombs on my back or anything. These days, I've no urge to dress up. I like it simple now. I focus on different things. I let Lady Gaga do the dressing up.
MR: Please would you take us on a tour of the creativity and recording process behind your new album Toujours?
S: The songs came together over the last two to three years. They started out on the acoustic, sort of as an anti-dote to the party music we did with brazilian girls, I suppose. Then, because Brazilian Girls were on a hiatus, I didn't really need an anti-dote, and it all became a bit more rock, again. Electric. Bzzzz. I wrote the songs, and producer Fred Rubens and I arranged them together, we really took our time and I followed my instincts on every juncture.
MR: What made you decide to do a solo project?
S: My main focus was always on the voice. With Brazilian Girls, it changed, it became much more about the grooves, it's party music. I was in a different mode. Now, I feel like singing like a little bird--ok maybe a penguin--again, without having to compete in volume with any instrument, this is not really my solo record, it's my ego record.
MR: Any songs on the project that show us a side of Sabina that's never dared reveal itself until this moment?
S: In a way yes, because I was always keen on the vocal being low in the mix, it was really an aesthetic choice, but maybe there was some hiding behind the music, there, too. So now the voice is upfront, its a vehicle for emotion, which is also more out in the open. I'm not so cool any more.
MR: Any songs you don't want or can't wait for your family to hear?
S: My family has heard them all. They're very critical about my work, but I'm not afraid, they taught me to ignore criticism completely.
MR: How soon until we get a Sabina fashion line or fragrance?
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
S: Don't waste time, be productive, never judge your work before it's done, put it out there. If you feel discouraged by it, don't listen to criticism. An artist doesn't just make ONE INCREDIBLE MASTERPIECE, it's a catalog, a process, keep putting stuff out. Be honest, to yourself and others.
MR: As The New York Times stated, are you truly the poster girl for polyglot New York pop?
THE FULL ANALOG REBELLION
According to this Rebellion's camp...
"Premiering today is a stream of the new full-length album, Ill'e Grande from Analog Rebellion, which officially drops via Dabbo Records on Feb 18th. Self-described musically as 'Stadium Lo-Fi,' the new album finds Analog Rebellion further blending seemingly disparate sonic qualities in total harmony. The resulting work is what The A.V. Club referred to as 'raucous, dischordant, and a bit psychedelic.'
"Centered around the melodic and experimental songwriting of Texas native, Daniel Hunter and drummer Cory Harvard on the new album Analog Rebellion benefits from the additional musical input of Taylor Pile (For Sleeping Or Jumping), Eric Messihi (For Sleeping Or Jumping), Dan Ellis (KidNapKin, Avril Lavigne) Jeremy Lee Given (Abadabad) as well as Anna Stromer (30 Seconds To Mars, The Dear Hunter).
"It can also be said that the recording locales themselves contributed to the final product. These included an ex CIA spy tower in Berlin called 'The Devils Tower' by locals as well as UFO Sound Studios in Berlin--which in itself used to be a WWII era bomb shelter--and Strange Weather Studios in Brooklyn (DIIV, Yeasayer).
"Speaking on the experience, Hunter says, 'It definitely got me out of my comfort zone. I write and record a lot of my music in a spare bedroom in my house where I'm obviously very comfortable, so going to another country or state to write and record is an enormous change, in a good way.'
"Analog Rebellion will be touring in support of Ill'e Grande this spring and have confirmed an appearance at this year's SXSW festival in Austin."
For more info: https://www.facebook.com/TheAnalogRebellion
Follow Mike Ragogna on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ragz2008