Houston Calling

You just keep me hangin’ on… (a report from Curiosa Festival 2004)

August 18th, 2004 · Comments Off on You just keep me hangin’ on… (a report from Curiosa Festival 2004)

Disclaimer: By now, you know I am a huge music fan. And if you’ve read Houston Calling recently, you’ll know I have loved The Cure since the mid-eighties. When I found out they were touring with three or four modern bands that I really enjoy, I couldn’t believe it. I was able to get some free tickets and was really looking forward to the show. But I was unprepared for what I got to experience at Curiosa Festival 2004 here in Houston, and I’ll try to relate as much of it as I can. You’ll just have to forgive the fawning, dorky music fan/hanger-on that I am. I’ll try not to let it happen again.

I go to pick up a friend down the street from his place, and am greeted by one of the guys from a local band I like and his girlfriend, who is an artist. My friend asks me to give them my two lawn seats (which I got for free from another friend) and that he and I are set for all-access passes at the venue?we just have to go to the production office once we get there. No, really.

I part with my free lawn tickets, hoping that the gamble pays off and we actually can get into the show.

We get to the venue, find out where the production office is located, and walk around to the side to find a kid with a walkie-talkie who lets us through the gate basically because my friend has an accent. So right there, we’re in the venue. No ticket, no nothing. Simple. Unbelievable. We head to the nearest booth and sure enough, the guy has two “working” passes for us and also two tickets for row AA to the left of the stage (we ended up giving those away to the same couple we gave the lawn seats to).

We immediately call his friend, who works for one of the bands on the tour, and he meets us and takes us to the band’s dressing room. We raid their refrigerator for drinks and meet the guys in the band. We then go to the side of the main stage and watch The Cooper Temple Clause‘s show from the stage. They were great?a lot harder live than their album. The crowd seemed to be responding positively and thoughout the day I saw several people carrying their CDs around.

Members of The Cure and Interpol abound. I try to act like I belong.

After TCTC’s set, we head off to just walk around the venue. The place was a strange mixture of people. The Cure’s been around for 25 years or more so it’s to be expected. The merchandise was outrageous?$30 for T-shirts. Seriously? You can buy them cheaper on their websites. Also, FYE was selling CDs for most of the side stage bands and if you bought them you could have the musician sign the CD?truly odd.

Anyway, with the passes we have free reign to go anywhere we want and we pretty much do. Milled about backstage a while, used the bathrooms back there (no line!), and drank for free. We also watched The Rapture and Interpol from the pit right in front of the stage. If you get the chance to see The Rapture live, you must check them out. They have a live DVD out in the UK–probably good as well. This was my second time to see them and it was unbelievably good. They put on a great, energetic performance and really got the crowd into their music.

Interpol was also good to see. It was my third time seeing them–they played some of their new songs from the upcoming Antics. Not as strong as their first release, but it’s still good stuff. The live versions of their other songs were great. Although I don’t think their suits were made for Houston in August.

By far, however, the best part of the day was the Mogwai show. We saw the guy who hooked us up with the passes by the stage so we walked back there. He introduced us to the guys in Mogwai and then took us onstage right by the sound board where we stood throughout the band’s entire set. It was amazing to see this sea of people who were really into their music. Mogwai put on an amazing performance–I wish I had it on video. It is impossible to describe how good they are live.

The Cure started shortly after Mogwai’s set ended so we headed back to the main stage area and walked down to the pit to watch from there. Unfortunately, since we had working passes and were holding beers they figured we weren’t working anymore and wouldn’t let us down on the floor. Since we had given our tickets away, we were screwed as far as actual seats go. I ran into a couple of old friends from college, one of which had front row center seats. Oh well.

We had been told to wait a few songs before coming backstage during The Cure’s performance because the band was hesitant of people hanging out (apparently they were accosted by fans of Interpol a few nights before). So we watched the first few songs from the lawn. As always, The Cure put on a great performance and played a good mixture of old and new songs. They also threw in plenty of “fan only” material–songs from early albums like Japanese Whispers, Faith, and Pornography. We hung out for a few songs and headed backstage to the dressing room area to find my friend’s friend and see what he was doing.

You can imagine my surprise when we open the door to find a member of Mogwai hanging out with some guys from a local band (hopefully I’ll have more on them in the future) and a couple of other guys. Ever the hangers-on, we took our seats, had some drinks, and watched the remainder of The Cure’s show in the dressing room. Basically we all just sat around chatting about music and various other things. It was a good time.

After The Cure’s set, we then went down to the VIP lounge, where the remaining bands were hanging out (sans Robert Smith, of course). This was midnight-ish and was pretty lame–but it was funny watching guys from bands talking to the girls who made it backstage. I am sure they have no troubles in that department…

I got home around 1 a.m., went to bed around 1:30, got up at 6 and made it to work around 7:30 a.m. A rough day at the office, but well worth it.

I am sure I’ll never get the chance to experience a show like that again. I have to thank all involved–to D & C for the passes. To L for the lawn seats. And to our wives for letting us go it alone–we owe you.

And thanks to the bands for not throwing us out.

Discuss here.

Now Playing in My iPod: The RaptureLive at Bowery Ballroom

Comments Off on You just keep me hangin’ on… (a report from Curiosa Festival 2004)Tags: Music

The week in rock

August 16th, 2004 · Comments Off on The week in rock

The new issue of Space City Rock is now online. Visit the website here for more information.

Pale’s new CD, “Here,” is ready for the masses (!) and the band will play a gig at Rudz this Friday night, August 20, with Austin’s Endochine and Johnny Goudie. The music starts around 10 p.m. The official CD release party is the 27th at Engine Room–with Endochine and Arthur Yoria.

Fresh off of their battle of the bands appearances in Dallas (and an opening spot for Plastilina Mosh), Latino rockers Volatil bring it back to Houston this Saturday, August 21, at Azteca’s Bar & Grill (corner of Richmond and Greenbriar). The show starts at 10 p.m. For more information on Volatil, visit their website.

Local jazz heroes Drop Trio opens for Mike Clark’s Prescription Trio at The Meridian. This will be a great show!

Slapshifter will celebrate the release of their 5-song CD, “Demo-lition,” with a show at Rudz on Saturday, August 21. Slapshifter brings several Houston music scene veterans together–the band includes former members of Skillit, The Joint Chiefs, and the Basics. Cover is $6 at the door and the new CD will be available. Stacey Steger & the Satellites and The James Reece Project open the show. For more information, visit the Slapshifter website.

Direct from Columbus, OH, Tom Foolery and the Mistakes are playing this Sunday night (August 22) at Fat Cat’s with Cockerspaniel and The Needies. More information on the band can be found at the Tom Foolery website. Please make sure you come out and support the bands.

Modulator, whose new EP is now available, is kicking off a fall tour with a show on Wednesday, August 25, at The Proletariat.

At The Proletariat this week, Hands Up Houston presents Magnolia Electric Company, Nedelle and Thom, and Emperor X. The show starts at 9 p.m. This is an all ages show.

Other shows this week:
Monday, 8.16.04
Bullet Train to Vegas at Super Happy Fun Land
Machinehead, w/ Chimaira at Engine Room

Tuesday, 8.17.04
Voltes w/ Slivered @ The Proletariat
ESE at Walter’s on Washington
The Minor Times, w/ Anodyne, Grave Robbers, Orca, and Gyste at Fat Cat’s

Wednesday, 8.18.04
Hybrid Soul, w/ Mans Redfire, Shortcomings, Oddzar, and Naked Content at Engine Room
Rosta Jazz Avengers w/ Civic at Super Happy Fun Land

Thursday, 8.19.04
Xiu Xiu w/ Weird Weeds and The Kants at Fat Cat’s
Jolie Holland at Rudyard’s

Friday, 8.20.04
Leo Party!, feat. Organ Failure, Muzak, P for Flamingo, Rusted Shut, & more at Super Happy Fun Land
Immortal Remains w/ Bestemmia Aeternalis, Condemned, Lacination, Dying Embrace, Brutally Mutilated, and Mortal Suffering at Cardi’s
The Derailers w/ Swing Kings at Fitzgerald’s
Craig Morgan at Sam Houston Race Park
Bone Simple at The Sandbar (Kemah)
Dave Mathews Band w/ Graham Colton @ The Woodlands (also on Saturday)

Saturday, 8.21.04
Briokids, w/ A-S-H-S, Diamonds and Pills at Super Happy Fun Land
Moses Guest at The Continental Club
Organ Failure, w/ Mad Mike, Kristoph & the Communist Manifesto, and ChimCharoo at The Southmore House
Ashbury Keys (CD release show) @ Engine Room
Johnny Fiasco w/ Ayana Mack, Margaret Menchaca, Mr. Bristle, Vic Vegas, and Champa Moore at Union Bar & Lounge
Cipher at Fat Cat’s
Hollister Fracus w/ Distant Thunder at Forgettaboutit (Jones Rd. at Grant)
Posse at Trader’s Village
Make Mine Texas Music Fest, feat. Ruben Vela, Grupo Siggno, Marlissa Vela, Chango Jackson, Deryl Dodd, Kevin Fowler, Rigo, & Dusk ’til Dawn at Humble Rodeo Arena & Expo Center

Sunday, 8.22.04
Linkin Park, Korn, Snoop Dogg, The Used, and Less Than Jake at The Woodlands
Va Tuoi Tre III at H-Town’s Arena Theatre
Abiku w/ Sarkophagos at Super Happy Fun Land
Walter Suhr & Mango Punch at Trader’s Village

Local band My Own I, who play radio-friendly alterna-rock–think Creed, 3 Doors Down, Chevelle, Seether–have two shows coming up. The band plays Friday, August 27th, at The 19th Hole and again on Saturday, August 28th, at Forgetta Bout It Too. More info on the band can be found at their website: www.myowni.com.

For those who made it out to the Curiosa Festival, wow. What an amazing time. Great music. Mogwai puts them all to shame, although The Rapture, Interpol and The Cooper Temple Clause all put on great shows. And of course, there’s The Cure…

Now Playing: the ringing in my ears

Comments Off on The week in rockTags: Music

Curiosa Festival 2004

August 15th, 2004 · Comments Off on Curiosa Festival 2004

Today’s the day –> Mogwai, The Rapture, Interpol, and The Cure are playing at The Woodlands with The Cooper Temple Clause, Head Automatica, and Auf Der Maur. Muse are not playing. Mogwai will be headlining the second stage.

Read my interview with Barry from Mogwai here.

Enjoy the show!

Comments Off on Curiosa Festival 2004Tags: Music

10 Questions for Stiff Little Fingers

August 11th, 2004 · Comments Off on 10 Questions for Stiff Little Fingers

Rock reunions tours by seventies-era bands are nothing new. KISS has been playing a farewell tour it seems like 10 years now. Even the hair metal bands of the eighties are getting back together in droves these days. Sometimes it seems like you wish they’d leave well enough alone and stop even trying.

Then you hear something like this: Stiff Little Fingers is coming to Houston.

This Saturday, August 14th, at Engine Room, the late seventies punk icons will be in town to promote their new album, Guitar and Drum.

I recently asked Jake Burns, lead singer/guitarist for Stiff Little Fingers, a few questions for Houston Calling. He was kind enough to respond.

Ten Questions for Stiff Little Fingers

HC: Are you aware of the Triple Fast Action song “Aerosmith,” in which lead singer Wes Kidd namedrops Stiff Little Fingers? The line is something like, “I’ve got my Aerosmith and my Still Little Fingers…”

Jake Burns: No. I’ve not heard that one! Quite why they would position us next to Aerosmith, I don’t know though. Maybe they can hear an influence that I can’t!!

HC: Stiff Little Fingers has undoubtedly influenced dozens of bands over the years (and continues to do so). What do you consider to be YOUR musical influences?

JB: That’s very kind of you to say so. It’s always flattering when someone names you as an influence, particularly if it’s a band that you like. My personal influences would be: initially, Rory Gallagher, an Irish blues guitarist who was the first guy that made me stop what I was doing and listen to him play. Then, people like Graham Parker, Dr. Feelgood for the consice songwriting. Finally, that attitude and intelligence of The Clash.

HC: You’ve been around the music “business” for decades now. What is your take on the music industry? What do you think of the MP3 “revolution”?

JB: I fear that the music “business” is more about business than music these days. Not that it was ever much different, it just seems to be more cynical in its exploitation of young people and their dreams, particularly the hwole “American Idol” showbiz sham.

HC: What is your favorite city to play in?

JB: …past experience in America tells me that our favourite shows are not always where you might think. Yes, NYC, Chicago and San Francisco are fantastic, but you also get wonderful audiences in Santa Ana in Orange County, for example. So, you’ve got to approach the large and the small with an open mind!

HC: Do you think Dead Men Walking (with The Alarm’s Mike Peters–I’m a big fan of his, Kirk Brandon from Spear of Destiny, among others) and your 3 Men & Black projects have helped keep the music you do with Stiff Little Fingers fresh? What are some of your best experiences from these shows?

JB: Undoubtedly. In fact, the Men & Black stuff has restored a lot of my enthusiasm for actually playing the guitar, which might sound a strange thing to say, but you do fall out of love with it from time-to-time. I think the best thing about those shows has been in informality of it. It’s not as regimented as an SLF show and as a consequence, I think I’ve become a better frontman in terms of talking to the audience.

HC: Is there any band in particular you’d like to hear cover a Stiff Little Fingers song? If so, what song and what band?

JB: Anytime U2 want to cover anything of mine they’d be more than welcome. Or Eminem. Or Celine Dion. Anyone who’s going to make me enough money to retire, actually! (LOL) Seriously, I’m always flattered when anyone covers any of our songs. It’s a really nice thing to have happen.

HC: How is working/recording in the studio now compared to how it was back in the day? Do you guys have a better handle of what all is involved or do you let the “pros” handle it? How was your experience recording your latest album, Guitar and Drum?

JB: It’s much easier because we know what we’re doing now. Also, the equipment is so much better. It doesn’t break down as often! We usually work with an engineer and produce ourselves as we’ve tried working with producers in the past and there always comes a point where their idea of what SLF should sound like and ours differs wildly. It just saves a lot of arguments. After all, we know what we sound like better than anyone else!

HC: What do you think of U2?

JB: I think U2 are the most important band to have come out of Ireland. You could argue that their influence isn’t as great as, say, Van Morrison, but I’d disagree. They changed the entire musical landscape, and not just once. Look at the number of poor imitation U2 bands there are/have been from Echo & the Bunnymen up to Coldplay. They were/are immense. I don’t always like what they’ve done musically, but no one can deny their success and integrity.

HC: What’s in your CD player?

JB: Hang on, I’ll just go have a look. At the moment: The Best of Thin Lizzy. Beside the player are: Sweet Home Chicago a 3-CD set of blues originals and Irish Heartbeat by Van Morrison. (Pretty traditional, eh?)

Who would win in a fight between Paul Weller and Robbie Williams?

JB: Ah, the searching political question at the end, eh? Well, pound-for-pound you’d initially go for Robbie. But I think he’s too cuddly. I’d go for experience on this one and say that Mr. Weller’s street sense would see him triumph.

Special thanks to Jake Burns for taking the time to answer these questions. And thanks to Shirley for setting it all up. Much appreciated.

Be sure to come check out Jake & company as Stiff Little Fingers takes the stage at Houston’s Engine Room on August 14th with Throw Rag and The God Awfuls. Tickets are only $15.

SLF’s latest album, Guitar & Drum, can be purchased at most record stores or online.

If you haven’t heard their incredible Inflammable Material, you should check it out as well.

Remember that the Curiosa Festival is this Sunday at The Woodlands. Bringing together The Cure, Mogwai (read the Houston Calling interview with Barry here), Interpol, and The Rapture on the main stage, this will be the show of the summer. Some tickets are still available. Come on out and brave the heat!

This Friday, the 13th, at Super Happy Fun Land is “Split Head Revisited” Cdart by artist Shaun Kelly, with music by muzak, kairos, don walsh, concrete violin, rotten piece. SHFL is located in Houston at 2610 Ashland. For more information, visit their website.

Now Playing in My iPod: The Polyphonic Spree — Together We’re Heavy

Comments Off on 10 Questions for Stiff Little FingersTags: Music

Ten Questions for Absolute Pistol

August 4th, 2004 · Comments Off on Ten Questions for Absolute Pistol

Early last month, I went to see The Damnwells and Juliana Hatfield play at Engine Room. Opening the show was Absolute Pistol, a local act I had heard of but had never seen live. Their music was an interesting mix of funk, rock, blues, and pop, and the crowd responded to their onstage energy. I was curious enough to check out their website, listen to their album (which they handed out for free at the show), and to email the band to see if they would answer a few interview questions.

The band plays this Saturday night (August 7th) at Sidecar Pub with Skye Moore and Silverleaf.

Jazzy Sinclair, lead singer for Absolute Pistol, was gracious enough to take some time to answer these questions for Houston Calling.

Ten Questions for Absolute Pistol

HC: How did Absolute Pistol get started?

Jazzy: It started out back in the day with Johnny and Del Pez jamming together. They were writing silly songs with T.J. Hammer. Their philosophy was to have no musical boundries. This was back in 1998. Johnny and Del Pez got sick of singing and when they couldn’t find a suitable singer things kind of fizzled out. Then Johnny met Jazzy in 2001 and things slowly started moving again. Snaps answered an ad in the paper and within a couple weeks we were playing gigs.

HC: A friend described Absolute Pistol as a cross between Red Hot Chili Peppers and No Doubt. What do consider to be your musical influences?

Jazzy: Faith No More, Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz, Primus, Concrete Blonde

HC: I see your name a lot in and around the Houston scene. What is your take on the Houston music scene? Any suggestions to make it better?

Jazzy: We would like to see a little more diversity in the music scene. We think that when it comes to supporting the scene, people are looking for something different.

HC: When I first saw you play I expected a No Doubt cover, but instead you whipped out “Like A Prayer” and really got the crowd interested. Very impressive. What do you want the crowd to expect from “The Absolute Pistol Show”?

Jazzy: Something people want to hear, but not expect out of a band playing in a typical rock venue. People hear enough “No Doubt” on the radio. We like to bring something a bit more obscure to the show. “Journey” is next on the agenda.

HC: What is the one description that you hate to hear about your music?

Jazzy: “Chick Band”

HC: What’s your take on the state of the music industry? Are you for or against the MP3 “revolution”? How are you using the internet as a tool to market Absolute Pistol?

Jazzy: The Music Industry will always be bad, but hopefully we can overcome the stereotypes and cookie cutter pop appearance that has taken over the last few years. We are more than happy to give out our music for free. The more people that have our music, the more we get our name out there. Bands need to play live music to earn a living, not sell over-priced CDs.

HC: If you could have any band cover one of your songs, what song would it be and what band?

Jazzy: Probably “Picnic” performed by Air Supply. It would be amusing watching them chase that song.

HC: What’s your favorite Houston band?

Jazzy: Plump or X-Houston bands, The Xenos and, of course, Dead Horse.

HC: What’s next for Absolute Pistol? Working on a new album?

Jazzy: We are working on a new album as we speak. Looking to release this fall. It will be a bit more funky.

HC: What is in your CD player right now?

Jazzy: White Stripes, Burden Brothers, Mr. Bungle, Bob Marley

Thanks to Jazzy for answering these questions.

Please be sure to go check out Absolute Pistol at Sidecar Pub (11202 Huffmeister) with Skye Moore (whose video for “What’s Up With That?” was directed by Billy Bob Thorton) and Silverleaf (fresh off of their win for Best Alternative Band award in the 2004 Houston Press Music Awards–congrats guys).

Now Playing in My iPod: Explosions in the SkyThe Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place

Comments Off on Ten Questions for Absolute PistolTags: Music

“Embarrassed for Houston”

August 2nd, 2004 · Comments Off on “Embarrassed for Houston”

On Saturday night, while at a show featuring national touring acts, I was again astounded at the fact that a crowd member took it upon himself to “talk back” when the lead singer started talking about a concert preview written in the local press that had nothing nice to say about the headliner.

My most recent encounter with this type of unnecessary audience interaction (at the same venue, coincidentally) occurred in May when members of the audience at the Local H show responded to frontman Scott Lucas’ tirade against George W. Bush (an easy target, mind you, but still…) with jeers and various taunts.

Some of the audience–ironically the very “high-fivin’ mf“s that Lucas sings against–responded almost violently, making fools of themselves and of this city, in my opinion. One fan that yelled at Lucas to stop talking and play (his drunken tirade had lasted several minutes by that time) was accosted by several of the meatheads and left quickly thereafter–before the show even ended. Out of fear for his safety, I can only assume.

Later in the show, another audience member decided for one reason or another (I admittedly didn’t see what started the exchange) to disrupt the show and try to start a brawl with Lucas. I’ll be the first to admit that Lucas was bringing it on himself by this time, and, as a long-time fan of the band I was very unimpressed. In fact, I wish I had not even bothered to attend the show. Regardless, the whole display was an embarassment to the band, the fans who paid to see the show, and to Houston. We have a bad enough rap as it is without morons taking it upon themselves to even further distance Houston from the more musically-respected Austin or Dallas.

I don’t know if it’s the heat and humidity, the apathy, or the fact that the frat party is too often moved to the clubs on concert night, but this kind of crap must end. It’s pathetic and could hinder national acts from playing in Houston.

You morons know who you are–keep your idiotic musings on how cool you think it is to be Texans to yourselves. Let me lay this nugget of wisdom on you–no one outside of Texas gets it, and no one outside of Texas cares. Seriously. We’re lucky we get any credit at all anymore. And don’t think for one second to come at me with some idiotic “anti-Texas” BS because it won’t work. I am definitely not anti-Texas. Nor anti-America.

I am just anti-idiot.

Just reading how the music editor for the Houston Press had to write an article defending himself for an article he had previously written makes my case for me. Give me a break.

Anyway, back to last night’s show. Alex Dezen, lead singer of Brooklyn’s The Damnwells, asked if anyone had read the preview of Jesse Malin that appeared in this week’s Press. The crowd applauded and most in attendance seemed to agree with Dezen that what was written was uncalled for. The stack of papers by the door got noticably thinner as his speech went on. He went on to say a few things, the gist of which was that he couldn’t believe that it was published and that he was “embarrassed for Houston.”

Which is when some guy in the audience–who I had noticed sticking his tongue down his woman’s throat for most of the night before the show started–retorted with something like, “Welcome to Texas,” “Freedom of speech, bro” and, “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, bro.”

To which Dezen responded, “Yeah, that’s right. Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one. But they’re still assholes.”

So true.

If you’re one of the ones who feels the need to make yourself and Houston looks like the hicks we’re so often portrayed as being here in Texas, do everyone a favor and just stay at home. No one–not the fans, not the bands, and especially not me–wants you at the show.

Visit The Damnwells website.

Visit Jesse Malin’s website.

Now Playing in My iPod: The Hurricane Lamps — More, More, More.

Comments Off on “Embarrassed for Houston”Tags: Music

Weekend music

July 30th, 2004 · Comments Off on Weekend music

The 18th Annual Watermelon Festival is on this Saturday and Sunday. Featuring tons of local acts, the festival is sure to be a big hit this year.

Sponsored by KPFT 90.1 FM, the show will feature live acts starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday. Be sure to come on out and check out the bands–there is a great mixture of local bands on the bill.

On Saturday:

Us & Them (a Pink Floyd tribute band that you have to see to believe)/The Hightailers/
Potroast/Plump/Dubtex/Little Brother Project/Mikado/Darrin Kobetich/In Theory

On Sunday:

New Monsoon/Carolyn Wonderland/Drop Trio/Vibe Committee/Zydeco Dots/Fahl & Folk/St. Jubilee/Los Rauncheros/Mark Zeus/Number 6

Tickets are $25 for a 2-day pass at the door. Single-day tickets are $15 at the door. More info can be found on KPFT’s website here.

Also, The Damnwells are playing on Saturday night with Jesse Malin at Fat Cat’s. if you have not yet checked out The Damnwells, you should. They’re a great live act–their latest CD, Bastards of the Beat is available now.

Arthur Yoria will be playing at Crossroads Coffee in Rice Village around 8 p.m.

Now Playing in My iPod: Mogwai

Comments Off on Weekend musicTags: Music

Ten Questions for Modulator

July 24th, 2004 · Comments Off on Ten Questions for Modulator

Local electronic band Modulator is hosting the release party for their new EP at Walter’s on Washington this Thursday night (July 29th).

The band recently wrapped up recording their new EP with Ed Bueller, former keyboardist for Psychedelic Furs (and producer for Pulp, Suede, and Ben Lee), and is offering it to fans for the low low price of $3. Be sure to pick yours up.

I recently asked Julie and Tom from Modulator a few questions for Houston Calling. Thanks to Modulator for taking time to respond. Also, thanks to Nate from the Planetary Group for setting things up.

Ten Questions for Modulator

HC: How did Modulator get started?

Julie: After Grey, my previous band disbanded, I knew a few things:
1. I wanted to be in a band and write songs
2. I didn’t want to suck, and
3. To get 1 and 2 I was going to have to find some kick-ass musicians.

Rob was available because Japanic disintegrated. And Tom answered my
prayers by making himself avaiable when I called.

HC: What do consider to be your musical influences?

Julie: Kermit the Frog, The Beatles, Rogers and Hammerstein

HC: Your new EP, Don’t Hold Out On Me, is going to be released soon (for $3, no less). And one of your songs was featured on MTV’s The Real World in May. How was the recording experience? How was working with producer Ed Bueller? Did he help you guys in the studio a lot or just give you free reign?

Julie: Working with Ed was the most stressful, yet fun time of my life. It was a situation in which we had to employ all that what we had learned up until then, as well as learn new concepts on the spot, synthesize them, and then utilize them effectively. It was very taxing on the brain, but a wonderful musical and technical experience.

HC: Your music is electronic, without the more techno aspects one often finds in music today. In fact, it’s pretty poppy. How do you find the balance? What did you set out to do when making the record?

Julie: For years, I was a big fan of Howard Jones–a true pioneer of 80’s synth pop–who managed to balance his sometimes artificial sounds with a more organic feel to his music. I consciously try to accomplish a similar sound by writing the bulk of the songs on a piano or acoustic guitar, and then introducing the synths. Ed was very supportive of this methodology, and was instrumental in making the sounds as warm as they are on the record.

Tom: Techno music tends to be centered around a beat or some kind of electronic riff. There’s a basic repetitive figureand different sounds are layered on top. Julie’s stuff is written more traditionally–you have a melody on top of a chord progression. Even though the keyboards define our sound, you could still play our songs on any combination of instruments. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case with a lot of electronic music.

HC: What’s your best L.A. story?

Tom: Hearing Fred Durst “work” his way through Metallica’s “Fade to Black” while he was trying out a flying V-style guitar at Black Market Music. After a few misguided bars, he stood up, struck the classic “My Guitar is My Phallus” pose and asked the clerk (without a trace of irony), “Does this look cool on me?” — seemed like a nice guy though.

HC: I have heard your music described as many things- synthpop, Europop, and you have drawn comparisons to Kraftwerk and Hooverphonic. What is the one description that you hate to hear about your music?

Julie: Nothing really bothers us. It’s all subjective. But anything sorta not well thought out like a one-word description can be annoying, (’80’s’, or ‘fun’, or ‘sucks’).

Tom: I hate being compared to Stereolab–nothing against them, they are great.

HC: What’s your take on the state of the music industry? Are you for or against the MP3 “revolution”? How does Modulator use the internet as a tool for marketing the band?

Julie: The power shift occurring in the music industry has pressured the artist to go schitzo by acting as publisher and distributor, since it is becoming more difficult to get a record deal, while at the same time music lovers are more plugged-in than ever before and are actively hunting for new music on the web. We have free music samples on our website to make it easy for people to find out what we sound like, but at the same time we try to actually sell our CDs whenever possible since someone needs to pay the bills. It really is an exciting time to be a recording artist, and I love being part of the drama.

HC: If you could have any band cover one of your songs, what song would it be and what band?

Julie: The Carpenters (if Karen were alive) covering “Don’t Hold Out On Me”; Bjork covering “Avenger.”

HC: What are your plans for the rest of 2004?

Julie: Touring and songwriting.

What is in your CD player right now?

Julie: Serge Gainsbourg. Lil’ Flip.

Tom: Herbie Hancock — Headhunters
Miles Davis — Get Up With It
Tortoise — It’s All Around You
David Bowie — Ziggy Stardust
Flaming Lips — Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

Be sure to come out to Walter’s this Thursday night to see Modulator open for Steve Burns. Be sure to bring some extra cash for merchandise (they have some kooky T’s). Visit the band’s website at www.modulator.org.

Oh, and one more thing:

The new album from Caviar (website | other website), The Thin Mercury Sound, is coming out on Tuesday, July 27th. Be sure to go buy your copy! Best Buy also has it here. Support the little guys. Also, if you listen to local radio (heck, even if you don’t) please request the new Caviar song, “On the DL,” here. Thanks.

Now Playing in My iPOD: Gun CrazyDropping Like Flies

Comments Off on Ten Questions for ModulatorTags: Music

Chomsky/Old 97’s + The Week in Rock

July 21st, 2004 · Comments Off on Chomsky/Old 97’s + The Week in Rock

Chomsky and the Old 97’s are playing at The Meridian this Thursday night (July 22nd). The show starts around 9 p.m. More info on Chomsky can be found here.

Also, this Sunday is the Houston Press Music Awards, featuring Dune.Tx & more in downtown Houston. For more information, visit the Houston Press website.

Other shows this week include:

Wednesday, July 21
These Arms Are Snakes/Murder By Death/Communique/Paris, Texas @ Fat Cat’s
Always the Runner/The Alexander @ Super Happy Fun Land
Kittie/Candiria/36 Crazy Fist/12 Tribes @ The Engine Room
Commune Music, featuring The Living Dolls @ The Proletariat

Thursday, July 22
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone/Childcraft/The Buddy System @ Super Happy Fun Land
As Night Falls/Monroe/B Team Starter @ Walter’s on Washington
The Sars @ Rudyard’s

Friday, July 23
Mad Happy/Briokids @ Super Happy Fun Land
Anadivine/Blue Epic/River City High @ Fat Cat’s
The Killers/Ratatat @ The Engine Room
Greg Wood/Juan Louder/Brady Harris @ Rudyard’s
Jon Wolfe @ Walter’s on Washington
Marques Wyatt @ Gatsby
Little Texas @ Sam Houston Race Park

Saturday, July 24
Braid/Recover/Moneen/Panic In Detroit @ Fat Cat’s
Sarah McLachlan/Butterfly Boucher @ Toyota Center
Prophecy/Never Dead/Hammer Whore/Crimson Massacre/Crushed @ Walter’s on Washington
John Mayer/Maroon 5/DJ Logic @ The Woodlands
Pong/The Spiders @ Rudyard’s
Stolen Library/Super Sanchos @ Super Happy Fun Land
Seven Witches/Well of Souls @ Forgettaboutit Too
Pretty Boy Floyd @ Cardi’s
Sat., July 24 – RockFestOfAll2004, featuring Hollister Fracus, Z-Lot-Z, Azrael’s Bane, Mercury Down, & Troublemaker @ Forgettaboutit

Sunday, July 25
Briokids/Mad Happy/Philosophers/Synimah @ The Proletariat
Roy Carrier @ Traders Village

Now Playing in My iPod: Rock Mix

Comments Off on Chomsky/Old 97’s + The Week in RockTags: Music

Houston Music Roundtable

July 18th, 2004 · Comments Off on Houston Music Roundtable

The Houston Music Roundtable is a chance to meet other members of the music & arts communities in Houston. Started by John Nova Lomax, music editor of the Houston Press, the rountable meets every Tuesday at Under The Volcano, 349 Bissonnett near Rice Village. There is free admission, happy hour drink prices, and free appetizers.

Tell your friends, and come on out. If you’re interested in hosting a roundtable, please email Ian Varley (of Drop Trio) for more information.

This Tuesday night’s topic is “Getting the most out of the Internet” and is hosted by Al Delaney from Outbound Music.

Al will present some information on how to use the internet to its best effect for promoting your act, selling your merchandise, and making contact with new fans. We’ll invite several folks who do online promotion of one sort or another in Houston, and give everybody a chance to see all the stuff that’s out there.

Upcoming roundtables:

Date: Jul 27
Topic: CD Production process
Hosted by Pete Bawa and Bruce Stone of Todville Road

Pete and Bruce are in the process of putting out a record with their band, and they thought it would be cool to share info, stories, tips, leads, etc. on the CD production process. Did you know there are great CD production companies at all levels in Houston and surrounding cities? There are, and some of them will be on hand to show their stuff. We’ll also talk about everything you need to know to do-it-yourself.

Date: 3 Aug
Topic: “Spread The Word” Mixer
Hosted by Ian Varley

This will be a general ‘meet & greet’ mixer, with a twist: let’s see how far and wide we can spread the word about the gathering. Just for the heck of it. Tell everybody you know who’s involved in music, and let’s see if we can’t get 100 folks in that little bar. No formal program, just getting together to meet each other. Oh, and drink.

Date: Aug 10
Topic: Interact with the American Book Cooperative (ABC)
Hosted by Entertainment Attorney Mary Jane Hancock (www.hancockslaw.com)

This is a bit of an oddball–going to try out a non-music-themed gathering, to see how it goes. If you feel like showing up (or you’re interested in the Book business), there will be a few surly musicians hanging out too.

Be sure to come out and find out more about the music scene in Houston.

Thanks to Ian from Drop Trio for handling this.

Now Playing in My iPod: Ramones Anthology

Comments Off on Houston Music RoundtableTags: Music