Hi Y'all - hope you are having a pleasant holiday season.
The WTO business was bad enough, but the recent arrest at the nearby US/Canada border of a guy with nitroglycerin in his car has us a little spooked up here. God knows that Seattle, Bubble Economy Capital of the World, presents enough juicy targets (Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, Realnetworks, the Space Needle, several military bases, lots of software millionaires walking around loose). Plenty of Wackos are gearing up for the millennial turnover, inspired by that darned Book of Revelation, or perhaps obscure creeds known only to themselves... in any case, the Seattle power company seems confident enough about their service that no one here has installed stop signs covered by black plastic bags at all the traffic light intersections in case the signals stop working... unlike certain places on the East Coast I have heard about. Our mayor, however, has canceled the New Years Eve festivities that were to happen at the Space Needle downtown. In the UK, London's financial district will be closed and barricaded; New York's police have stocked up with a month's worth of supplies; and the US government of course says there is nothing to worry about. Never have I seen such far-reaching uncertainty. Happy New Year, and lets hope it is indeed happy.
Barrett "The Polymath" Martin (drummer extraordinaire) tells me that the Screaming Trees have not broken up, and in fact just recorded a new demo in Los Angeles, with Queens Of The Stone Age guitarist Josh Homme contributing. They have acquired new management and are going to look for a new record deal. I would not expect mega-touring (or whatever) anytime soon; but no matter how many fights these guys have, they're like a dysfunctional family that are stuck with each other. Here's hoping we hear some new music from them in 2000.
My recent sessions with the reunited Monkeywrench, featuring Steve Turner (bass), Mark Arm (vox), Tom Price (gtr) from Gas Huffer, Martin Bland (drums) from Lubed Goat and Bloodloss, and Tim Kerr (gtr) from Poison 13 and Lord High Fixers, went swimmingly. Fun was had by all. In only 10 days the record was completed and delivered to John Golden for mastering. Estrus Records will release it in April. It was a somewhat low-tech affair, being recorded 1-inch 16-track analog, 15 IPS, no noise reduction, for those who care; but like I always say, "Low-tech does not equal low-fi". Please quote me on this. People need to be reminded of it.
Mudhoney, now Lukin-less, have "probably" not broken up; Steve, Mark and Danny have left open the possibility of recording as a three-piece, someday, maybe. During the Monkeywrench session Steve revealed himself to be a very excellent bass player so it would be interesting to see what Mudhoney could do as a three piece. I'm sure Mark could play bass too, so maybe they could take turns... but right now they ain't sayin'. (But it just won't be the same without Matt's penetrating stage remarks.) Sub Pop, meanwhile, will be releasing (on Jan 15th) a double-CD, triple-vinyl Mudhoney best-of-plus-rarities with 52 (!) songs. Half of them (most of the second CD) are either unreleased or were only used on obscure comps, singles or soundtrack albums; it's a ton of stuff. Liner notes feature Mark and Steve "reminiscing" about each song to rather amusing effect.
Supersuckers have a new label (Koch, same label that the new, er, Scorpions album is on) and a new album, "The Evil Powers of Rock and Roll". Haven't heard it yet but reports are good; they did it with Kurt Bloch so you know it has to rock. I heard some of their unreleased major label album, and I will agree with Eddie Spaghetti on this: it's a good thing for their career that they got dropped by Interscope, so that record did not get released. It was so sappily produced, so cheesy and "nice" sounding, that I actually got REALLY ANGRY after hearing the first 30 seconds of the first song. It would have destroyed their credibility completely as the rock-and-roll band we all know. So they were screwed either way, whether they'd been dropped or not. After that fiasco they went in with Kurt Bloch and blew out an album in about a week like they should have in the first place! Thank goodness they came to their senses. S>P has also just released a best-of compilation for this band, including 7 tracks that I did for them oh-so-long ago.
Gruntruck... oops, I mean Mona Diesel... are officially toast. I think.
Filmmaker Scott Barbour's movie on Andy Wood is still in progress; don't know about the delay, he's probably looking for more funding or something.
The Nebula record I recorded a few months back ("To The Center") is out and kicking ass; see the feature in the December Spin. Zen Guerrilla are touring and kicking still more ass everywhere; you should see this band live if at all possible; they do not fail, period. Rather like NoMeansNo; very, very reliable shows. The album, "Trance States in Tongues" is also doing pretty well.
RC5 have a ten-inch, "Kicked Out", on Estate records.
The recent Titas record ("As Dez Mais") that I produced/recorded is out in Brazil and has already gone platinum there... yow! I like it when that happens. Too bad we'll never be able to buy it in the US.
Likewise, the Burning Heads record I worked on is out, on Epitaph Europe... only in Europe. Still haven't seen what it looks like. Sigh.
A new Eureka Farm record, "The View", is out on Loosegroove. This is the most original sounding band I have heard from around here in a while, and it is not exactly "rock". I don't know what it is. Like their last record, they recorded it themselves and it sounds unique. My only involvement is as a fan.
The band which has come out of nowhere and taken my head off here lately is Botch. They are a sort of hardcore/thrash type band that has diverged from their peers and gone weird, like kind of prog-ish, dissonant, angular, pounding, but without letting up on the energy at all. Their new album is called "We Are The Romans" (referring to the USA, not themselves) and I think it represents a whole new wave of Seattle sound, owing nothing to the grunge thing. I can hardly f**king wait. The record kicks serious butt. Matt Bayles, who has been engineering for Pearl Jam's new record, recorded it at Litho...
Speaking of PJ, they have been working with producer Tchad Blake on their new record, and another assistant at Litho says it sounds pretty different. Matt Cameron drums on it and contributed a few songs, and he seems to be pretty psyched about it, so I'm pretty anxious to hear what they have done in the studio with this team of people.
Meanwhile, Matt Cameron and John McBain have been working on their next Wellwater Conspiracy album.
Alex Newport, producer and former guitarist for Fudgetunnel, has a new band called Theory of Ruin. Skyscraper, one of my favorite UK bands, has a new album called "Shooters". Ken Andrews, formerly of Failure, has a new band called On. There's a new ZZ Top album but it is a bit of a letdown. Dregen, a former member of the Hellacopters, has a band called Backyard Babies and their new album "Total 13", is one smoking platter, similar energy-wise to the first 'Copters disc. John Robinson, former Fluid singer, has a NYC band called New United Monster Show. Even Rob Skinner, formerly of Coffin Break and Popsickle, has been playing again. Zeke's new album "Dirty Sanchez" will be out in a few months, assuming we still have a civilization then.
Some people have been asking me what I know about an eventual Nirvana box set. I've been consulted on some things, but all I can tell you is that I would compare its progress to that of the Neil Young box set. Maybe some of you know what I mean here. Sub Pop's Bleach reissue is still stalled in lawyer-land. (Please don't pester me about these... thanx!)
December 1999: The DVD-Audio spec has been delayed again, as has implementation of the SDMI Initiative. Pirates in Norway have cracked the DVD encryption code. MP3 and RealAudio are still kicking ass, with QT bringing up the rear. SACD players actually exist. Five-point-one mixing still hasn't taken off. DIVX died. MiniDisc still didn't catch on. The MPGA is not taking any new members, but are instead in merger talks with NARAS. Tascam released a 24-bit DA-88-ish digital eight-track. Protools 5.0 is out. Wish I had time to explain just what the heck all these acronyms stand for; maybe next time... ;)
I ran across a "music biz" book that I am so impressed by, I must rave. You may have noticed my sprawling FAQ which attempts to answer every question that people usually ask me; it appears another producer went somewhat further. The book, "Confessions of a Record Producer", is written by "Moses Avalon", stated to be a pseudonym of a famous producer who (for good reason) didn't want to use his real name. It's from Guitar Player Books, a pretty credible publisher. This is a very, very candid business primer, and explains the whole record business in a clear, no-BS way. His point: most "record biz" books are written by lawyers, who describe how things are supposed to work; now here's what really happens. Ah yes. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough to beginning musicians, aspiring producer/engineers, etc etc. It may be the single most realistic book on the music industry I have ever seen. As with Albini's excellent article that I have referred to before, this guy shows you the math so you can see exactly how many ways you can/will be ripped off. On the other hand, if all you want is funny stories, this is not for you.
A year ago I sent out a newsletter on January 1st, and I got a huge amount of bounced addresses back, because... duh!... people who are going to change their email addresses tend to do it on "anniversary" dates like this. So this time, I'm sending just before New Years Eve, and humbly request that those of you whose current email address is about to expire, please update me with the new address. Thanx kindly.
Of course, if Y2K ends up being as bad as Gary North thinks, it won't matter very much...
Here's to another millennium of recorded noise!