A Conversation with Roger Daltrey
Mike Ragogna: Roger, how are you?
Roger Daltrey: Fine, Michael, how are you?
MR: I'm very good, thank you, and thanks for taking the time for this interview. You've been so busy lately, especially with Who Cares, the Teen Cancer America Foundation that you and Pete [Townshend] put together. How did it get started?
RD: Well, Teen Cancer America is a foundation that we started with the same name as the foundation called the Teenage Cancer Trust that both Pete and I have been supporters of for the past twenty-three years. What the Teenage Cancer Trust and Teen Cancer America aim to do is to provide specific hospital facilities specifically for teens between the ages of thirteen and twenty-three with cancer. Not medicine, facilities. Environmental support so that they can be more closely knit communities within the system. At the moment, the emergent system when they talk about teenagers and young adolescents and young adults, they talk about a system where everybody's lumped together from the age of thirteen to thirty nine, and I would suggest to you that 13-year-olds have got nothing whatsoever in common with a 39-year-old and the other way around. It can only be detrimental in a psychological way to their health when they're struggling to get through this dreadful, pernicious disease.
MR: Right. Well what's interesting, also, is that within the culture, you're pointing out something that lots of people aren't aware of. When cancer is detected in one's youth, it's treatable in different ways and should be approached in very different ways.
RD: And, of course, ultimately, although we don't do the medicine, by isolating the group you will be able to focus the medicines much, much more. It's written that because Teen Cancer Trust was there, pediatric oncologists decided to give a 19-year-old with Leukemia a pediatric dose of chemotherapy, and the success rate of curing that particular leukemia now in that age group has improved something like twenty-five percent. That could not have happened in the old system, because up until the age of sixteen, you're a child, and then you become an adult, that's how it works. That's how they delineate in the medical system.
MR: I imagine there's a lot of joy with the positive results, but has it also been frustrating as far as the educational process?
RD: It's frustrating for me because it's very hard for me to understand your system. It's so different from ours because we have a social system. It's kind of been very beneficial for us because now we can compare figures with places that have been through our system and been through the system before we were there or while we were there. It's proving quite an eye opener and there is quite significant improvement on the test rate of the medicines.
MR: There's a UCLA connection here, right?
RD: Yeah, we had our first two in UCLA, one inpatient and one outpatient. We're very proud of that. An outpatient's going into Yale, they recognized the need, and we've got twenty-five other hospitals we're in talks with. What we're trying to do is to make this a gold standard that hospitals take people with cancer will use for this age group. They're certainly competent and they've got the facilities for it.
MR: You're focused on keeping things within the community, but you're also promoting things like better living and eating healthily. You even have recipes on your website.
RD: [laughs] I think we've got to be realistic about the way medicine's going and the cost of everything and the more we're educated to be responsible for our health, the better. The decision to go Allopathic was a political decision. Previous to that, you had your medicine men and allopathic medicine and it all lived very comfortably together. I'm a great believer in homeopathy myself. There's no doubt that acupuncture has its benefits. These things should all have their place and they should all work together. The allopathic side wants to eradicate the other side. I think that's nonsense. They lead us into the belief that they can do everything, but every drug they give you has a shadow. Some of these alternative treatments from the homeopathic world, some of the kinesiologists who diagnose these can really help the body. There's no doubt about that in my mind. They all say, "Oh, no, it can't be, it's all sugar tablets," but it's only because they don't understand that view of energy. That's my opinion, anyway.
MR: Right, and the mind-body connection. And the main problem probably being you have multiple industries competing for the same dollar.
RD: That's one of the problems. Like I say, what's so great about this is that the treatment is getting quite significant improvement in the success of their medicine.
MR: What can a person who's reading this interview do to help?
RD: Talk about it. Discuss it in your communities and think about someone who's thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, think if you were that age and if you'd have been diagnosed with cancer. Cancer is the number one killer disease in teenagers. They tend to suffer more than most from that diagnose because they're so active in the sports arena and those other things. They also tend to get very rare cancers. Cancer in teenagers is very rare, but it's still the number one disease killer of teenagers.
MR: That's a very little known fact, Roger
RD: You've got to remember in every high school in every state, you'll have two people, a boy and a girl, going through it with cancer. It's not quite like that, but those are the numbers; it's one in four hundred twenty girls and one in three hundred sixty boys will get it.
MR: Those statistics are frightening. Do you see progress that's been made in the last few years, especially since your organization has come into play?
RD: We've only been going two years, but we're doing remarkably well. We've got to raise a lot of money, but there are foundations over here that, again, the more publishing that we can get, they'll recognize the sense of this issue and I'm sure we'll get there.
MR: What's nice is that people like you and Pete have large voices in whatever causes you get behind because of your celebrity and your musical credibility; you're musical icons. I don't want to distastefully segue into something else, but there is more news on your front. The Who has a new four-disc box set plus a triple-disc and double-disc versions of Tommy coming out on November 12. Interestingly, considering our earlier topic, that rock musical basically centered around the plights of a young person.
RD: Well, I think it's the plight of us all.
MR: Right, in the bigger sense. But after all these years, when you look at a work like that and the impact that it's had generation after generation, it's obvious there's something special about that music. What do you think about the work Tommy after all these years?
RD: I don't know. There's a wonderful kind of knowing naiveté about it, but it works. It speaks to something inside of us and that's all I know. I can't analyze it any more than that. Everybody's on the same inner journey, and that's what Tommy has always been about for me.
MR: In the beginning, when you guys first recorded and released the work, did it feel like you were on the track of an important piece?
RD: We didn't really care. We just went into the studio with the ambition to put out as good a music as we could do and we didn't really worry about whether it was going to be successful. We put it out there and it catches the public's imagination.
MR: And it's still resonating. This is still one of the essentials.
RD: Well it seems that way. Again it was just the chemistry of the time, something in the stars, who knows?
MR: The Who also has created other amazing works like Quadrophenia, et cetera, and classic anthems, contributing to rock and popular culture in a historically important way. You've got to feel proud about that.
RD: Of course, I do. And I feel more proud than anything that there's something about The Who's music that doesn't seem to date us. I can't explain what that is but the records still sound as fresh today as when they were made. I don't know the reason for that, I can't analyze why that is apart from that a lot of the stuff that we do is kind of classic.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
RD: I haven't got a clue. [laughs] I do not understand the music industry today. It's so different from what we did in those days, it's such a different world now.
MR: Is there something on the creative level that never really changes?
RD: Hang onto your publishing and dare to be different.
MR: "Dare to be different." Nice. Well, The Who was definitely different, yet people all over the world and over the decades have learned a lot from you, taken your works and grown with them. In a way, you're the mentors of a couple of generations of music.
RD: We got lucky.
MR: [laughs] Is there anything big for Roger Daltrey in the near future? Maybe some more acting?
RD: I'm doing a few things, but I don't like to talk about anything I'm doing until it's done because I'm just as likely to say, "I don't want to do this anymore."
MR: Roger, are there plans to develop more Teen Cancer America facilities in America?
RD: We're talking to twenty-five hospitals at the moment and we've only been going two years. There are a lot of plans, but ultimately, we need good will and cooperation from the hospital administrations. We need them, if they need to, to come and see what we do and how we do it in Britain, because that's our flagship. Teen Cancer America has got the same ambitions as Teenage Cancer Trust. When the medical staff understand what they do, they are usually a hundred percent gung-ho for it. But it can only happen through the good will of the hospital administrators and the doctors.
MR: Are there other artists and music industry supporters who can help?
RD: Well, I'm hoping. The whole music industry is kind of founded on the backs of teenage support. This is something that the music industry, I think in particular, as well as certain other sections of the economy, are hugely focused on--teenagers. I think it's one of the ones that should look at giving something back.
MR: Beautifully said, never thought of it like that before. And of course, music is supposed to be a great healer.
RD: That's right.
MR: All right, I don't want to take any more of your time, Roger. This has been wonderful and I do appreciate it. All the best of luck with Teen Cancer America, Teenage Cancer Trust, and everything in the future.
RD: Michael, thank you very much.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
CONTROL ON CHIC-A-GO-GO
Here's some post-Halloween lunacy with Control who played their single "Hardwired" on Chicago's popular TV show Chic-A-Go-Go. Looks like everyone was just a little "hardwired for combustible love" that day. Check it out...
For more info: http://controlxoxo.bandcamp.com
A Conversation with It's Casual's Eddie Solis
Mike Ragogna: Hey Eddie, how are you and what's up?
Eddie Solis: Hey, Mike, I'm good. It's a day at the grind here. I've got my own label now, Stoked Records, and it's distributed through RED, which is a distribution arm of Sony, so I get up and my day is pretty much like working at any other label--calling stores, sending out POP, doing call ops with reps and working on my radio show and emails.
MR: You're covering a lot of bases, both on the business and music ends.
ES: Yeah. Actually, you know the message behind my music, it's all about being car-free, and to me, that's Los Angeles, and to be able to connect to the people of your city and your community. After last year came and went, I looked back and I had a lot of attention on the band to give media outlets like LA Times and NPR, et cetera. I was really in a mood to challenge myself and say, "Hey, I don't want to get too comfortable, I want to keep my skills sharpened, so I want to create another platform for myself, to have public transportation and have it be my style." I created this audiovisual brand called Los Angeles Nista. It's a talk show where pretty much the format is so wide, I can have someone who maybe owns a bakery, or the mayor of the city. For the first hour, we talk about who the guests are in the community and the city and the second hour talks about their favorite areas and places in LA. I felt compelled to get there by public transportation. So that was the new platform that I created and it's been going well.
Tonight I produced my seventy-second episode. It's a weekly thing. It's been going strong since last November. So yeah, pretty much, when someone asks me what's going on, for the most part, it's like I work in an office. Half my day goes to putting together all the components of a record label, working with people like Todd and my distributor and calling stores myself and being in the trenches. Obviously, because I own the label, there are a lot of artists that I'm going to be working with, so the other portion of my day is really booking future guests and solidifying dates and doing the research of the guests and promoting past episodes because I have such a big catalog now and always trying to create a fresh new idea. So yeah, that's what's going on.
MR: So you and your buddy have continued the New Los Angeles project, and this falls under the genre of "greencore." I love that name. However, the topics on this new album don't stray too far from the first one except this time out, It's Casual is being less casual and more immediate about the subjects. For example, now you're like, "Keep the children occupied, man, don't take away after school funding," and really, well, hardcore about things.
MR: Were you conscious of that when you were making this project?
ES: Yes. It's funny you should say that because New Los Angeles I, when I installed the songs on the record, it was like, "Okay, New Los Angeles," and people would ask questions like, "Why is it "new" Los Angeles?" Well, because in a very car-favored culture, you forget what your city's like when you actually take a light rail train underground or aboveground or different bus lines. I got really re-inspired by the perspective duty I have as a bus rider. That's why it became New Los Angeles; it became a new city to me again. It was a rejuvenation. For instance, and just to finish up the cohesiveness from The New Los Angeles I, another component to the rim of the framework was The Red Line. It's a line that gets you from LA to Hollywood. Going to New Los Angeles II, you're right, there are more direct targets. "Less Violence More Violins" is the lead track. What that simply means is that there is, unfortunately, less focus in the community for kids to have a platform to do the arts. Everything is such a special event, but why can't it be consistent? I think when kids are not occupied, it trickles out into different outlets for them and some kids don't have guidance, so unfortunately, it is violence.
MR: I think this time out, rather than simply introducing the concept of a greener and more educated LA, you're going, "Okay, look. This is the problem exactly." You're getting more to the roots of the problem on this one.
ES: Absolutely. Part two is, on public transportation, and I see different walks of life. It's no mystery about childhood obesity. In the song "Live Food," the lyrics promote eating the right food, fruits and vegetables. California even has programs to promote that to lower income families. They make it so easy, it's part of the food stamp program. In that song, when I link childhood obesity with heart disease, it doesn't mean to be so harsh, it's just a fact. If people keep their bad habits, it's going to trickle down into bad health and possibly death. I use that aggressive hardcore approach that I come from musically. I shouldn't say musically; the hardcore approach in music is how I choose to express myself. It's second nature to me, so when I'm screaming that, it's not about harshness, it's about concern. It's urgency.
MR: It's urgency. That's exactly what I was about to say, turning hardcore into greencore seems like the most appropriate way to get the message out, because, well, people have a hard time "hearing."
ES: It's true. That's a whole other subject. With everyone having a smart phone or iPhone in their hand, there's access to everything so you can't even get a message across directly. You've got to do it ten times and make it attractive and then these people will chew it and finally figure it out. Let's be honest, while I take the bus and the subway around and choose to be car free in a city that's known for having a very bound-to-car lifestyle and packed freeways, to me, it's very exciting because you see what you can't on a congested road. You see all walks of life; you see different kinds of people taking public transportation. In a morning when you're on the bus or the subway and you see obese kids--I don't want to go overboard but I want to generalize for the sake of creating a simple picture... There are issues in this neighborhood that I go through. There are corner liquor stores and at the front of the door, there are Cheetos and soft drinks positioned. Pure sugar. That's where that comes from.
MR: One of the major issues is also people losing sight of their own interests, emphasized in your song, "The Gap Is Widening," I think you've really nailed it. In Los Angeles, there are large demographics of people in poverty and the gap is widening.
ES: Exactly. That's something I see. In the Boyle Heights neighborhood yesterday, I was walking into Food 4 Less. Luckily, I have a bus that takes me right from my house to the market there. I took my skateboard and I got my groceries and I saw in the parking lot a middle-aged male and female couple with three kids holding a sign. The sign caught my attention because it wasn't just "Hungry, Need Food," it was an explanation that was written out so they didn't have to explain themselves to people. But it said, "Looking for work, there's no luck, we can't get government aid and we need to feed our kids, please help." To go back to the song titles, it's all pretty cohesive. There's a thread that ties everything together and translates into the last song. I believe if all of these components, if they were turned around for the better, the gap wouldn't widen. Does that make sense?
MR: Yes, absolutely. But the gap widens because of the disparate proportion between those that have and those that don't. The middle class is disappearing.
MR: What's happening is less and less people have a shot at this alleged American Dream. I'm not advocating socialism, but I think we're kind of screwed up on how we're looking at the basics right now.
ES: Of course. When you listen to the first track, "Less Violence More Violins," that's all the lyrics. That's me crying out what I want, for the day-to-day SoCal and around the world. I believe the basic needs in life are universal. Anywhere in the world. The statement that I scream out is just that. That comes from a lack of prioritizing children and the funds being gone so that they're not able to learn art and other things that are considered unconventional. So then immediately, you go into a song called "Keep The Children Occupied." That's the sentiment off of "Less Violence More Violins." It's all very cohesive. And again, "Live Food," I think if there's no after school programs--and it doesn't have to be at the school, it can be at a YMCA or other community place--you have bad decisions being made. Not everybody's going to make bad decisions; hopefully, most do make good decisions and keep themselves occupied constructively and are productive with creative output. But there's always going to be a trickle down effect and I believe that bad habits will develop and that goes into not eating live food. Everything's effective.
MR: Eddie, do you think in your lifetime, you'll see greater strides towards making things better with administrations or on the ground level? Do you see progress being made?
ES: I do. I'll be positive. I'm thirty-eight years old, and when I was growing up in the nineties, there was a huge gang problem in LA. Huge. It was double the problem that anyone recognized or the media talked about. As a Mexican-American teenager growing up, it was hard not to go down the pathways of gang life or tag banging, which was another subculture. That's what I mean by the double magnitude because nobody really took into consideration that there was another subculture where these taggers were not in gangs, but they were gangs. So that made it double influential, the challenge to stay away from that. Back then, it was so infested throughout SoCal and so many violent crimes happened and I had so many friends die and get hurt. You grow up with them, they quit skateboarding and then the peer pressure kicks in. Now what I see in the youth scene--what's happening on a street level in music and skateboarding, because I'm involved--I noticed that there's a huge difference in gang members coming out and causing problems in neighborhoods where there are known gangs that didn't exist for decades or longer. I don't know exactly where it comes from, but I know that the LAPD have really cracked down on the gangs. You don't see them as much anymore. At all. They did a really good job of stopping that. That subculture is doing whatever they do on an inside level. You don't see gang members walking down the street anymore like in the eighties or nineties. For whatever reason, the LAPD take them in and they'll be violating probation. That's an actual huge improvement, the street gangs of Los Angeles not combing the streets like they used to.
I say this because I live in Boyle Heights. I've got two of the biggest East LA gangs, one in front of me and one behind me, one called White Fence and one called VNE [Varrio Nuevo Estrada]. I can walk outside any time and it's not like it was growing up in the suburbs, where people in cars were passing by and they would stop and ask you, "What gang are you from?" Now, it's more that they're operating indoors and doing what they do and staying out of the way of the police. That is a huge thing because I could bring my nephews to Boyle Heights, which used to be infested and we can wait at the bus stop to go and see an NBA game at the Staples Center. It was once known as a dangerous area, but it's gotten a lot better all over the place. That whole aggressive approach from gang member to civilian does not exist anymore. I haven't seen it. I've been on foot a lot lately and I haven't seen any kind of red flags go up. This has been for the last four years. I've chewed on this new information that I've come up with and it's different. It's all due to the way the police are operating, and that's a big improvement and that gives kids a little more wiggle room to do things a bit more comfortably without looking over their shoulders. Does that make sense?
MR: For people who want to jump on board, and let's say they're only minimally educated in doing something to help with green causes and participating in social activism, what things can they do? Are there two or three things that everybody could be doing right now?
ES: Right now, there's a family planning a weekend. Say they live in Pasadena or Sierra Madre and they want to go downtown and culture the kids and go to museums and the Grand Central Market and the new Grand Park and everything else there is to offer, watch a movie screening or walk in the fountain, you could plan and take ten minutes or even less to enjoy the weekend without a car. If you are coming from an area which is a suburban sprawl like Sierra Madre, you could get day passes for five dollars each and take The Gold Line to the mecca of downtown and from there, you could go across the street, cross Alameda and immerse yourselves in Mexican culture, Californian culture, and on those premises is where the Chinese-American museum is. You could enjoy that just by coming into Union Station. Then when you're done, there you could jump on the red line and go to Hollywood and do all the tourist things. LA's so gigantic that people that live in the suburbs kind of walk like tourists. One thing that people could do is plan a weekend with their family without a car. It's cheap, it can be done, and it's efficient. The rail lines run so quickly that you don't even need a schedule. You've just got to know where to show up. There's a train every seven to twelve minutes depending on the time of day and the day of the week. That's one thing. One thing I believe is that when preparing a meal for your child, you can look where this is coming from.
Last month, Walmart had a huge core campaign promoting their frozen dinners. It was the most absurd and disgusting thing I've ever seen, let me tell you. Keep in mind that this was along the freeways. I don't know if I missed anything here, but I was coding the research and said, "Wow, everyone is in their gigantic SUVs, one person per SUV, stuck in traffic, costing eighty-eight dollars per gas tank, not connecting to the city or feeling their feet on the ground walking and breathing. They're looking up in that situation and reading a billboard that says, "Effortless Dinner" and has a microwave pizza and a two-liter Pepsi. Exactly, it's effortless. That is cohesive to the live food track. That's what being promoted. I think that people are so clouded and disruptive with their habits that they think that's normal. The thing that would be in reaction to that is just try to add fruits or vegetables to your diet. It's simple. People don't realize that you're on a bad diet and you're all over the place with pain in your body. Live food is the best cure for anything. It's all there, it's all you need. Not to hone in on a whole other topic, but it's one of the simple things that can quickly become a good habit. So number one was plan a weekend with your family car-free, number two is take away the carbs and put the live food in. If you eat dead food you're going to feel like death. If you eat live food you're going to feel alive.
MR: It's an interesting period because there are so many years of miseducation to undo.
ES: Yeah, and the first thing that people could change right away is to look at taking public transportation in Los Angeles as a pro and not a con. I see a lot of people with their heads down. I've got to tell you, one time, I was on the bus coming downtown from the East Side. You see the same faces to and from sometimes, and this one guy was kind of eyeballing me and then he picked me out and asked a question. His question was, "Why are you on the bus?" This was someone that I would profile and say, "Hey, this guy is maybe a former gang member, he'd never get out of the East Side and he's on the bus because maybe he got a DUI." But he asked me, "Did you get a DUI?" I said, "No." "Well why are you on the bus? You can't afford a car?" He was just really blown away with how I was sitting on the bus over there with my Apple laptop cracked open writing an email. This was probably about four years ago. I go, "No, I take one bus from my home straight to downtown and then a subway and I buy an EZ Pass, which is good for all Southern California agencies. It's eighty-four dollars a month, that's 2.85 a day. So for 2.85 a day, I can travel unlimited. It's so funny because when I'm having a conversation with someone in a more progressive area like Silver Lake or Echo Park--places where different professional people are moving in and are very open minded and very progressive in their diet and their spirituality and their profession and business--and if I'm introduced to someone and say I travel mostly by public transportation, which is so rare in LA these days, they say, "Oh, really, tell me about it." I just think LA's so gigantic that there are different mentalities in different areas. I think the third thing people need to do is be open. Get out of your SUV, stop looking at the Walmart ads, get a Metro day pass and go connect with you city and connect with people. Put the phone down.
MR: Absolutely. And Eddie, what advice do you have for new artists?
ES: You have to remember something. If your work is going to be here and you're actually going to sustain a living off it, you have to be patient and build a foundation. Facebook and Instagram and Twitter are great tools. They're a great tool for my record label, for my band, and my talk radio show. But you still need to translate things into sales. I think a lot of people get hung up on their numbers on social networking and I believe that that is a huge component in today's age and you have to pay attention to that, but you also cannot be putting out crap content. You've got to put out quality. One thing I've learned with collaborating with people, making videos, getting distribution deals, if you really have something that's great, people will reach out to you. I think that artists really, really have to back track on where certain sounds come from and certain artists who are their influence. I see a lot of hollow art being created these days. There are a lot of shells floating around with no substance and no roots inside. I think that is all connected to people waking up and saying, "Hey, I want to start a band of this genre," and they just learn about that genre and they see how bands dress immediately because they have that on YouTube and then they let that resonate and be that instead of living and becoming who you are through real life connection with people and places.
Back in the day, when punk rockers had tattoos, that was a heavy thing. "Whoa, that guy's got his whole arm tattooed." Now you walk in a guitar center and you've got a 21-year-old trying to sell you something, and it's great that he's got a job, but you talk to him about music and he doesn't know anything and he's got this huge tattoo across his chest. He asks, "Oh yeah, you got ink?" cause he's trying to make small talk with you. But no, I'm proud to say that I don't have one tattoo. That's never been my style. Not everybody's tatted up. "Well here's my first tattoo." He shows me his first tattoo, it's his whole arm. What happened to the life story? You get one here, you get one there, then finally your arm is fully tattooed. I think that artists, just being a part of society, are not living enough. I think people are trying to just be what they see. If a certain sound connects with you, that's great, but try to translate your real life experiences to your art and see what comes out the other end.
MR: So the band name is "It's Casual," but it's really not all that casual at all.
ES: [laughs] That's true. Growing up in Southern California, I was always in the middle of all these different cultures. I totally grasped onto the Fast Times At Ridgemont High culture--music, skateboarding and vans, you know what I mean? As someone who was always trying to one-up everyone with movie knowledge and stuff, I discovered this movie that was like the unofficial sequel to Fast Times At Ridgemont High, it was called The Wild Life. It was put out by Cameron Crowe, who did Fast Times..., and it was also put out by Universal. The main character was Christopher Penn and whenever someone asked him a question, he'd answer, "It's casual." I thought that was so great because it's just the ultimate even-keel response. I think that by having a band name like that, unless you have heard it, you don't know what it's going to be, and I don't want to alienate or scare anyone off. I want it to be approachable. When you hear a name like "Ramones" what is it?
MR: What's up in the band's future?
ES: As far as the future goes, we've got The New Los Angeles II coming out. That's going to be out digitally and on vinyl and CD, so I've got to hold up my end of the deal and promote it. I'm going to be looking to book tour dates worldwide and that's going to be happening all next year, so we're really excited about that. That's all being worked on now, and there'll be some music videos made for the new record this year in November and December, so all of that will be coming out before the new year. In addition to that, my audiovisual brand Los Angeles Nista, we do the seventy-second episode, but what we're going to do different in 2014 is that I'm going to be actually facilitating Los Angeles Vista walking tours. On the shows, we get very geographically specific of LA County per episode. So what I want to do is every three months, I'll put together the Los Angeles Visa tours where you're going to meet me at a designated subway stop and I'm going to take everyone on a day-long voyage across Los Angeles without a car. When we get off at all these stops, I'm going to be able to explain to you what certain landmarks are, kind of like a tour guide but more of a "life guide" because this is where you live.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
STRANGEHEART INTRODUCES "HOW TO FEEL RIGHT"
According to the good folks at Strangeheart Central...
"Strangeheart, a new indie pop duo from Los Angeles, premieres its video for their newly released single, 'How to Feel Right.' The video, directed by Zak Stoltz, mimics the song's giddy sound while highlighting the band's danceable electropop sound. 'We really wanted to make a performance video that portrayed good versus evil in a light hearted and fun sort of way. It definitely draws inspiration from the movie "super" and the 1960's Batman' TV series, said Jeff Thompson, frontman for Strangeheart.
"Strangeheart is an LA-based indie pop band consisting of singer/songwriter Jeff Thompson and multi-instrumentalist Brandon Queen and draws inspiration from bands like Empire of the Sun and Crystal Castles. Their first single, 'In Another Life,' generated plenty of recognition, having climbed the HYPE MACHINE popular charts (no remixes) to reach #24 and charted on We Are Hunted's 99 Hottest Tracks, ultimately securing spot #25. Their second single, "How to Feel Right," produced by LA-based producer Ran Pink at Fonogenic Studios, was released on October 22."
For more info: http://strangeheartmusic.com
A Conversation with INVSN's Dennis Lyxzen
Mike Ragogna: Hi Dennis. What part of the world are you in right now?
Dennis Lyxzen: I am in Stockholm, Sweden. I just came from the American embassy, to get my visa so I can make it to the States.
MR: Hey, please would you go the origin story of INVSN?
DL: Me and the drummer and the guitar player have been playing together for more than ten years now in various outfits and then a couple of years ago, we decided to change our name to INVSN and we released two record in Swedish in Sweden. Then we got signed to Razor & Tie when they heard the second record and then we recorded the third record, which is the first record to come out in English, and that's the one we're talking about. So it's not that exciting of a story. It is what it is, a couple of friends playing music and recording records.
MR: Beyond the music, what joins all of you together?
DL: The thing that joins us together is that we're all from a small town in the north of Sweden. We all used to play in punk and hardcore bands, and we've all just known each other from really far back. If you're an artist and if you're serious about playing music, you constantly want to evolve and constantly want to push your own limitations. Me and André the drummer and Anders have done a couple of records together, kind of punk stuff, and then the last thing we did was more post-punky and Anders and me took that to the full extent. We just wanted to try and see what we could do with it.
MR: What were your group's musical inspirations?
DL: If you're totally into music it's not like there's a certain band that inspires you to do a certain record, it's usually a mixture of everything that you would ever listen to. If you listen to our record and you hear it and you know a thing about the musical history of pop culture for the last forty years, you'll hear our references. But at the same time, it's pretty free from trying to be another band or trying to sound like someone else. All of us grew up on punk rock so we just dove into all different subgenres and categories and most of us in the band were already record collectors and just loved music. It's a very broad horizon on the stuff that we like and the stuff that inspires us.
MR: What's the process when you guys get together? How do you create your music?
DL: Usually, when I write songs, it's on the acoustic guitar and they're very simple chord structures and melodies and vocals. Usually it's our drummer André who write a lot of the music, he sits at home and writes on his computer but he writes really simple melodies and simple arrangements and he sends it to me and I'll add vocals to it and kind of arrange the songs. Then we meet in the practice phase and Sara adds her part and Anders adds his part and we add the different layers to it. So it's usually small ideas that we expand on together. I guess it's the way a band does it, you have an idea and you expand it together. That's usually how we do it.
MR: You have a video for "Down In The Shadows" plus you have a new single, "Distorted Heartbeat," that premiered on MTV Hive. What's the story behind the song?
DL: I've always been a restless, kind of crazy person, in a good way. Not all the time. So when I got into music as a young kid, it was a way to have an outlet for the insanity within. But when you're a young kid, you're like, "One day, I'm going to be like everyone else." Things are going to straighten out and you're going to be like a normal person and then you're forty years old and you're like, "Nah, it didn't happen." I guess the song is like, "You'll grow up in the end, but the s**t that you carry with you is the s**t you're going to carry with you for life." Hopefully, your mistakes won't be as many as when you're young. But you'll see the same mistakes when you make them, hopefully, fewer and farther between. Otherwise, you're not going to grow up. [laughs]
MR: You start the album with "Number Sixty-One," which is a nice way to kick off the project. Would you say that sort of encompasses the theme of the album?
DL: Not really. I think if you listen to the first two songs of the record, "Number Sixty-One" and then "Down In The Shadows," I think that's sort of a good representation of the two opposite poles of the record. "Sixty-One," when we wrote it, was a very different song. We didn't really expect it to be on the record, but then when people heard it, they were like, "This is great, it should be on the record!" It's not a super-representative song of what we sound like or what we are, but I think with "Down In The Shadows," those two compliment each other in a good way. If you hear those two songs, it's like, "Okay, now I know what this band is about." I think that's a good thing.
MR: Love the song "Hate," your song bullying. How do you feel about that topic?
DL: I grew up as a complete outsider. I think most of us in this band had similar experiences that draw us to punk rock music. For me, I think it's important, as I said earlier, to find an outlet for that rage or that alienation that you feel when you're a young kid. And music was definitely something that saved me from becoming a completely crazy person. Music also legitimized my insanity. "It's okay if you're a crazy person." I just wanted to write a song about how when you grow up and you're a young kid, there's a s**tload of bullies, there's a s**tload of people putting you down, and once you grow up and you become your own person, it's not that bad. For me, that hatred towards the people that tried to put me down because of who I was made me strong and made me focused and made me start up the band and made me come into my own. So I think that in that sentiment, it's kind of a basic song. I'm not a hateful person, I'm a pretty mellow guy. But if you have those sort of emotions, just embrace them and put something constructive into it instead of just hating.
MR: Dennis, what advice do you have for new artists?
DL: Get a real job? [laughs] It's not worth it. No, the thing that I always do, try to stay true to what you want to accomplish. Find yourself an identity, find yourself an idea of what you want to represent and what you are as a band and a person and an artist. I think that's important. Other people start a band because they want to become famous or they want to get girls. I think that's kind of the wrong reason to start a band. I think if you want to start a band, if you want to play music, if you want to be an artist, find out what you want to represent, what you want to be, what you want the world to become because of you. I think that's a good starting point. There are too many bands and too many artists that are just bad imitations of other artists. They just do it for the wrong reasons. That's the advice that I would give, apart from "It's not worth it."
MR: [laughs] How do you envision INVSN about a year from now?
DL: I don't know; it's tricky because I've been doing this a long time. I put out my first record twenty years ago. There's no guarantee for anything. You can have a f**king super solid record come out and nothing happens or you can be a crappy band and become the biggest band there ever was. I love the people that I play with, so hopefully, in a year, we'll have toured and made a bunch of new sounds and will be working on the new record. That's kind of the routine of things. Hopefully, this new record people will have been heard with an open mind and some people will be really excited about it. That's all you can ask for.
MR: I took a look, you have a very packed touring schedule for the rest of the year.
DL: Yeah, it's very good. I don't mind touring.
MR: Excited about any first time destinations on the tour?
DL: Me, I've been everywhere already. I've done two thousand shows. The deal is I'm excited because we get to play these songs in English for the first time and the band gets to tour the States for the first time and that's very exciting. I get to meet some of my friends in Chicago and New York and so on and so forth, but I've toured the States twenty-five times, I think. For me, the allure of, "I'm going to America!" is not really there. But there are two people in this band that have never even been to the States before and it's their first world tour, so I'm very excited about that. It's going to be an interesting adventure. I can't f**king wait to get out and play these songs live, I'm excited about that!
MR: And you're probably a month away from renting a Brooklyn apartment. Everyone gets one, you know.
DL: [laughs] We'll see. I live in the sticks north of Sweden, so it's a bit of a contrast to Brooklyn, and I like it up there, so we'll see.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne