Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

16Sep/141

Del Amitri Reissues, Free Tickets For You

In an interview with ATV pal R. Todd Richards, Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie spoke about his latest solo disc, Lower Reaches, which was released earlier this year.

He also indicated that there are plans to put out expanded reissues of the band's last two albums, Some Other Sucker's Parade and Can You Do Me Good?

For those of you who already picked up the expanded reissues of Waking Hours, Change Everything and Twisted, you'll know that this is good news. Those reissues were packed with nearly all of the appropriate B-sides from the period...and even as somebody who had personally accumulated all of those B-sides, it was nice to have them collected in one place.

October will bring the release of Into The Mirror, the first official live album from Del Amitri -- you can pre-order signed copies (autographed by Justin and Iain) from the band's website.

Currie launched his U.S. solo tour on Sunday with a show in Nashville that was apparently broadcast on the radio (and I'm looking for a copy -- do you have one?).

He'll be out on the road for a few weeks and you can check out the tour dates, including a long awaited Cleveland date tonight at the Music Box Supper Club.

Speaking of that, if you'd like to go see that Music Box show tonight --- drop me an email here with "Justin Currie Cleveland Concert" in the subject line for your chance to win.  This contest will expire not too long after you read this, so move quickly and good luck!

14Sep/141

Del Amitri’s Justin Currie Explores The ‘Lower Reaches’ With His New Album

Justin Currie
It’s been a good year for Del Amitri fans. The Scottish alternative rock group played a series of highly anticipated reunion shows in support of expanded reissues of three of their finest albums from the ‘90s, Waking HoursChange Everything and Twisted (with each album adding a second disc of bonus tracks).

Prior to that, frontman Justin Currie had spent a month in Austin, Texas, working with producer Mike McCarthy on songs that would eventually land on the solo album Lower Reaches, which was released first in the U.K. late last year prior to receiving a U.S. release in the early part of 2014. Surrounded by a band of seasoned musicians -- including guitarist David Garza and members of Heartless Bastards, White Denim and Phosphorescent -- Currie knocked out a satisfying set of songs, recording 15 tracks that had been carefully selected from an initial batch of 40.

He wrote the material prior to coming to Austin, renting a cottage where he completely unplugged from the distractions of modern technology, sequestering himself with only an acoustic guitar, piano and what he describes as a “ghetto blaster” (now, there’s a flashback) to record his song ideas.

As you’ll read in our conversation below, McCarthy took his producer title very seriously and put Currie through the paces to capture the songs that you’re now hearing on Lower Reaches, but it was a creative struggle that paid off handsomely.

Currie is on the road for a short run of U.S. tour dates, including a Cleveland date at the Music Box Supper Club, his first appearance in the Cleveland area in nearly 20 years. We caught up with him for a Skype conversation as he was getting ready to leave for the tour to talk about the new album, his songwriting process, Del Amitri and quite a few other subjects.

I don’t know if you know this, but it’s been close to 20 years since you’ve been to Cleveland. That’s pretty incredible.

Yeah, I’m aware it’s been a while. Probably the mid-’90s would be the last time that we were there, maybe.

Yep, I think it was in 1996 at the Odeon, perhaps.

Perhaps. That sounds about right.

Are you at home still?

Yeah, I just had a couple of gigs around Scotland the last couple of months and I’m just kind of getting ready to come over.

Besides the new album that came out earlier this year, which we’ll obviously talk about, what have you been up to the past few months while you’ve been home?

I mean, I’m always writing songs, but I haven’t really made my mind up what the hell I’m going to do next. I’ve done three solo records, I mean, I’ll do another solo record at some point, but I’m not sure if I’m going to do one next year -- it’s kind of up in the air for me, really. I’m trying to think of something more interesting to do than just doing another solo record. [Laughs]

When it came to recording the new album, how did you end up recording it in Austin, Texas?

Well, because the first two solo records that I made, I produced them myself. By the time we got to the third one, my manager said, “Look, I think maybe you should get a producer” and he didn’t really have to talk me into it. I thought it was about time I got out of my comfort zone, basically. I had made a little list of producers in the previous four or five years, which was a grand total of three, because I’d only heard three records that I liked the sound of. [Laughs]

One of them, I couldn’t afford and another of them passed on it and then the other one was Mike McCarthy and he got back to us and said, “Yeah, I’m up for it -- when do you want to start?” So we just told him how much money we had and it all came together very quickly. I had heard the solo record by Craig Finn of the Hold Steady and I really liked that and that was produced by Mike.

The previous two albums, had you recorded those at home?

Mainly. I’d done bits in a studio just around the corner from my house run by a guy named Mark Freegard who used to work with Del Amitri quite a lot in the ‘90s. The first album was nearly done all in the house. I’ve got quite a big room upstairs which I can use and record piano and drums there. The second one, The Great War, was probably mainly done in Mark’s studio, but I mean, it was all done within a few yards of my house. [Laughs]

It seems like these last couple of records especially, you’ve kind of moved back to a lot of stuff that’s more band-oriented in tone.

Yeah, that wasn’t particularly deliberate on Lower Reaches. [With] Lower Reaches, I just handed the whole project to Mike and he was very much the producer. So I didn’t have much of a hand in the arrangements of any of those things -- he got the musicians and that’s what they played and I was perfectly happy with it, so I didn’t really get my hands that dirty in terms of changing what they did.

Whereas the album before, I’d sort of deliberately gone back to a band thing, because I didn’t want to do anything remotely like Del Amitri on the first solo record -- I wanted to sort of draw a line in the sand and do something really different. But the second solo record, I thought “Well, I’ve done that now -- I’ve moved away from the band thing, so it’s probably safe now to go back to it a little bit.” Lower Reaches was really all Mike’s thing. I gave him like 40 songs and he picked 15 and I just kind of did what I was told, which was extremely difficult at first, I have to say.

I was going to ask about that -- after doing the first two on your own, essentially, what were the difficulties that you encountered working back in a producer situation? Certainly, it’s not the first time you’ve done it, but it’s probably the first time you’ve done it that you weren’t in a band situation.

Yeah, that was really different for me, because I didn’t have any allies. I was completely on my own and I was surrounded by Americans who were doing things their own way. You know, it worked, but it was hard for me to relinquish all of that control. I put up a bit of a fight the first couple of weeks and then I just gave up because I didn’t think there was any point in compromising what Mike was trying to do. So I just kept my mouth shut, basically.

It was hard work as well, you know, when you’re producing yourself, you can track a couple of vocals and then go and watch a film -- especially if you’re working in your house. Whereas if you’re in a studio situation with musicians waiting around and a producer ready and waiting [that’s not really an option]. Also, Mike does lots of takes and I don’t -- I mean, I did quite a lot of vocal takes, but I wouldn’t do like 40 vocal takes.

We were doing quite a lot -- he was trying to cut a lot of stuff live and we did end up using quite a lot of the live vocals. That was hard work -- that was like going back to being 18 or 19 again and working with your first producer. But it had to be done, because otherwise I would have made a very similar record to the first two.

If I’m understanding the process for this album correctly, did you go in with Mike and essentially cut the songs somewhat acoustically initially and then did he start to flesh those recordings out with additional musicians?

We spent the first week retooling the songs, going through the songs with a fine-toothed comb, taking things out that were redundant and he had me write a new verse on one song. So that was the first week. We recorded quite a lot of that stuff, but that wasn’t ever going to be the record -- we just recorded that for reference. Then we brought the band in -- all of them sort of knew each other -- they were Austin musicians and they played on the Craig Finn record and they knew each other.

They’d had the demos and then he had me sit down at the piano or the guitar and sing them the version of the song that Mike and I had arrived at in the first week. Then they just played along, so they’d had a bit of prep with the demos and then I’d kind of communicate the songs to them. He was very insistent that I sang the songs live to them, which I think probably was a really good idea. So it was a bit like having your own band in sort of a microcosm, except that you had a producer earlier on in the process and then just the post-writing process.

Normally with Del Amitri, I would write a song and take it to the band and we might do a bit of nip and tuck there and we might cut a chorus out or we might add something in. So I did that with Mike and then I played the songs to the band and then they sort of banged them [out]. That’s pretty much how it worked.

“Every Song’s The Same” is one from this new album that I really like a lot. It seems like you’re someone who is pretty good at not letting a song overstay its welcome -- it’s done when it’s done, even if it’s shorter, like that one is, clocking in at about two and a half minutes. How difficult is it for you to let go of a song and call it finished and resist whatever temptations might exist to tinker further, write more, etc.?

Once a song’s finished, I don’t find it particularly easy rewriting any of it. I would rather just abandon a song if it doesn’t work then try and rewrite it. For example, when Mike asked me to rewrite the last verse for “Every Song’s The Same,” that took me about two and a half weeks just to write three lines. I do find that quite difficult. When I walk away from the piano after spending a couple of days writing something, that’s it. it’s kind of written in stone for me.

As soon as I’ve demoed something, I feel like it now belongs in the sort of public domain so I don’t find that easy. Some people I know rewrite and rewrite and rewrite, people like Leonard Cohen will write 40 verses or something and hone it down. When I start writing a song, it tends to have an inherent length and form and it sort of tells you when it’s finished in a way.

I would think that would be hard. Because certainly if you’ve handed it to him, it probably feels pretty finished in your mind. I think probably you have to be able to see what they’re seeing that’s not finished about the song before you can really start to attack it again and even then it’s still difficult.

Yeah, as soon as I learn a song by heart and play it to somebody else, it’s finished. But the good thing about Mike, especially the first week that we were retooling the songs was that I kind of understood everything that he was saying to me. So even if it went against my instincts or wasn’t within my skillset to do what he was asking me to do, I still went ahead and did it. Because I actually understood where he was coming from. He had really gotten inside the songs.

Some producers will just sort of listen to the surface of a song and they’ll be looking for the hook or they’ll be looking for things that are just kind of catchy or shiny on the surface. He wasn’t about that at all -- he was interested in things just being better and he was really obsessed with how things felt rather than anything else. That’s probably why I hired him. I’m not really good at how things feel at all. I tend to sort of write from the heart but then arrange everything with the head.

He was more into the record feeling good in that kind of physical way. That was quite new for me. So there was a lot of vocal takes that we ended up keeping that we argued and argued and argued over because for me, they just weren’t technically good enough. Eventually, he won a lot of those arguments, because I just thought “You know, I can’t keep being really uptight and holding onto the technical side -- I’ve got to actually trust the producer when he says it feels good.”

Technically, there are a whole lot of things that I would have fixed, but actually, I think at the end of the day that Mike was right not fixing them and just letting things be. If it feels good, then it’s right. That’s a really different attitude to a lot of the way that other producers work. I was brought up with the really technical British production thing where like all of the drums have to be massively in time and the bass has got to be massively in time with the kick drum. All of the vocals have got to be pitched perfectly -- I mean, I’ve spent months and months and months on those things in the past and you don’t necessarily end up making a better record -- you end up making a record that’s technically pristine but some things can be sort of soul dead.

With this album, you definitely left room for things to breathe. It doesn’t seem like you guys deliberated things to death.

No, we didn’t do any overdubs either. There are very few overdubs. I mean, a lot of the guitar solos were done live as they went down. So yeah, there was very little time spent overdubbing. Honestly, it was maybe three days out of the month that we spent actually glueing overdubs on. Whereas in my career in studios, it’s all been about overdubs. You know, you track the drums, you replace the bass, you replace the guitars on the basic tracks and then you start overdubbing like fuck. You can end up with a very layered and interesting record, but you can also end up just strangling the songs.

Thinking about the three Del Amitri albums that were recently reissued, Waking HoursChange Everything and Twisted, it doesn’t seem like you guys overdid it, but those records definitely sound like you spent the time that you spent making them.

Well, I mean that was the kind of university years -- it was the university of rock. [Laughs] We were on a major label that gave us pretty much unlimited time and unlimited budgets and pretty decent recording studios with great engineers and great producers. That was just us learning how to making records. So for example, Waking Hours has got quite a lot of sort of ‘80s guitar effects going on -- it’s got a lot of overdubs and it’s quite a shiny sort of pop record. By the time we got to Twisted, we were just about managing to make records that were two guitars, bass drums and organ cut live in the studio. Some Other Sucker’s Parade, the album after Twisted, that was all cut live in the studio. So we just learned as we went along and then we finally got to the point that we wanted to be at, which was being a rock band and cutting songs live in the studio. So yeah, it was a long process!

I was talking with my wife last night and she was working on a list of one-hit wonder bands that really weren’t one-hit wonder bands. I threw out Del Amitri and I said “You know, first of all, when ‘Roll To Me’ came out, for anybody who had been listening to the band, it wasn’t really the best representation of what the band was all about.” Also, for those of us who had been fans, we had heard a lot of Del Amitri songs before “Roll To Me.” I can remember when you guys were playing shows as that single was really starting to hit and suddenly you have people showing up at the shows wanting to hear “Roll To Me” and maybe they didn’t know anything else. I was curious to know, when the band went back to make Some Other Sucker’s Parade, what kind of position did that leave you in, making that next record?

Well, it was quite odd. Because “Roll To Me,” even though it was a really big radio hit, it didn’t really sell very many more records. The touring and doing a bit of television sold a few more albums -- the radio hit was odd, because most people didn’t know who it was. They weren’t particularly aware that that song was by a Scottish band called Del Amitri. So we could have been playing in some nightclub down the road and people would be hearing that song on the radio and they wouldn’t put two and two together and come to see the show, so our audience didn’t really expand very much by virtue of being a Top 10 Billboard [charting band]. It was quite odd.

So by the time we came [back to make our next album], partly because A&M was a pretty decent label in those days, both in the U.K. and the U.S., amazingly, neither the U.S. label nor the British label put us under any pressure on the follow-up record to make another sort of “Roll To Me.” In fact, we were all quite convinced that the first single from Some Other Sucker’s Parade was going to get on the radio, even though it sounded nothing like “Roll To Me” and of course we were proved completely fucking wrong. [Laughs]

In a sense, in terms of American radio, we are a one-hit wonder band, because that was genuinely the big radio hit. The royalty statements that I still get are a testament to that fact. Being played on the radio doesn’t really make you that visible or famous. People can be familiar with a song but not really familiar with a band at all. So we always had an audience that knew the albums and then there was this kind of weird separate audience out there that we never really saw that would recognize that song on the radio. It was quite strange.

What that made me think of on the heels of that, was that with “Always The Last To Know” and “Kiss This Thing Goodbye,” in America, those did chart Top 40.

They did…

I hadn’t ever really thought about it, but on the surface, it seems like you had something that least charted on each one of those three records and I wondered if that kind of kept the record companies off your back a little bit from album to album.

I think in the U.S., [that helped] because we had a little bit luck at radio on various formats -- I mean, the formats kept changing. And you know, we really worked it as well -- we would come out for month-long promo tours and we were more than happy to do all of that work, because to be honest, it was just a good laugh. We kind of established a relationship with the regional radio promo guys that we’d go out there and do the dinners and the meet and greets and we’d do all of the radio shows and then go out at night and have a few beers and have a laugh.

I think that just kind of encouraged them to keep on it and [the label] kept spending money. They were spending money getting us over there and driving us around and getting us into those radio stations and all of that sort of stuff. We made a lot of money on those records, especially “Roll To Me,” [and] they made a ton of money, because they were getting played a lot on the radio. I’ve never felt particularly guilty about it, because we really worked our socks off and there was a point when we were on tour that we were doing I would say, between five and eight radio stations a day, singing a couple of songs at every one, maybe doing a bit of television in the big cities and then doing shows every night.

You know, I think that’s something you could only do in your twenties or early thirties. I could not do that now -- I’d have a fucking nervous breakdown. But back then, it was good fun and even the CHR radio thing, which to us seemed like lunacy -- we’d go and do these morning zoo-style shows that were just crazy. But even those things, we sort of enjoyed in quite a perverse way. Because we kind of knew that we were just like a rock band that went on the road and we knew that we didn’t really fit into that sort of light entertainment format.

But it was quite interesting seeing that side of the world -- it was quite an eye-opener in a way seeing that really hard commercial side of the American music business. I found it all quite fascinating. I suppose if we had to do that for 10 years, I think eventually we would have said “Look, no, we’re not doing this.” But at that age and at that time, we put the work in and we had really good fun doing it. You know, it probably paid more dividends for us than it did for the record company. Because the record company, they didn’t sell millions of albums off the back of having those hits.

After the first self-titled album was released, the band later came to America and spent six weeks touring and it sounds like it was an important experience. Did the record deal with A&M come about as a result of that touring? How did that come about?

That was later on. We came back off that American tour, which was really just a last ditch attempt to be professional musicians. With a bit of charity from the audience, we just about got around the States and back again in one piece. But when we came off that trip, we were destitute -- we had absolutely no money left in the bank and we all just went and got full time jobs for about a year. Then we managed to sign a publishing deal in the U.K. which gave us a bit of money to sort of start doing demos.

The material that we were touring in America in 1986, I would still say was sort of part of our “indie band” period in the ‘80s and then America did really change our outlook and it definitely changed the way that we wrote. Iain and I started writing songs separately rather than with the band. The songs that we were writing started to become much more mainstream and much more influenced by Americana, for lack of a better expression. Then suddenly, we made five or six demos that were quite obviously something that should have been on a major label, I think only because the music changed. It changed organically -- we weren’t sort of chasing a marker -- we just changed because America had been an enormous influence on us and the way we were writing changed. That just led us into a completely different world, really.

I’ve heard you talk about how listening to Tom Petty’s Pack Up The Plantation provided an important spark. What was it about that record for you that really inspired you?

Well, we were never a particularly good live band. I think we were a pretty bad live band until the mid-’80s and then going to America made a lot of difference with that. It happens with a lot of British bands, where going to America really forces you to get better, because the audiences are quite demanding and they tell you what they like and they tell you what they don’t like, which they don’t really do so much in the U.K.

So we came back from that and we thought, “You know, we can sort of play now.” You’ve got to have something to aim for, I think. The reason we really liked that record is because [it was] really great quality songwriting [from a] mainstream rock and roll band. They’re not showing off and being virtuoso musicians, they’re being something that’s just pretty solid and pretty unpretentious. We kind of thought, “Why can’t we do that?” You know, that’s a perfectly honorable thing to do something like that.

You don’t need to be subversive and underground and play in a sort of weird madcap way to be proud of what you’re doing. You can actually do things in the mainstream and do them well, which is kind of what Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were doing. So that became something that we kind of aimed for. I doubt we ever really got there -- we probably went off on a slightly odd tangent. But it was just something that we thought it was an honorable record. It wasn’t uncool but it was mainstream.

Del Amitri was known for being a solid live band. So it’s interesting to hear that wasn’t always there. The first time I saw Del Amitri, that was something that was really a shock, hearing you sing those songs, it was like, “Holy shit, he can actually sing like that live!” Because as I think you know, there are singers out there that just aren’t great live singers. So sometimes it falls down right there, because they can’t reproduce it vocally live. You guys had the package.

Well, we’d been playing live since 1980 -- I’d been playing with Del Amitri since 1980. So yeah, we’d done a lot of gigs. But it did take us a long time to get sort of even passably decent. [Laughs] Partly because I’m not a great bass player and playing bass and singing is quite difficult. We had a run of different drummers as well. It wasn’t really until I’d say the mid-’90s when we got a drummer that was really shit-hot and that really helped. That’s another thing -- in the ‘80s, there were really very few decent drummers in the U.K. and sadly, very few in Scotland.

When we went to America, we were quite shocked that we’d go to a bar and you’d see a cover band and they’d have a great drummer. We always thought the reason for that is because a lot of American kids have got basements in their parents’ houses and they can set up a bloody drum kit and they can play. Whereas in Glasgow, for example, you can’t play a drum kit in Glasgow, because everybody lives in tenements and you’ve got neighbors above you and neighbors below you and you just can’t do it. So there are sort of simple practical reasons why there are lots of great drummers in America. All of those things, it took us long time to think [that] actually, we’re okay. In fact, I would say that we never really considered ourselves a particularly great band -- we just did a lot of work and we got better.

For this upcoming solo tour, will it be just you acoustic or will you have somebody playing with you?

I’ve got a guitar player [Stuart Nisbet] that plays a bit of lap steel and a bit of electric guitar and sings backing vocals, so he comes on about a third of the way through and I play a wee bit of piano and guitar. I’ve done tours on my own and to be honest, I don’t really enjoy it. I find it really hard work and there’s kind of nowhere to go. Once you’ve strummed the guitar and plunked away on the piano for an hour, it’s like, you can’t really take it anywhere. And I’m not a great musician -- I can’t play the guitar properly and I can’t play the piano particularly well, so it’s really good for me to have another musician along.

It’s great that you have The Mastersons opening on these tour dates. I think they’re a nice fit -- and some people have asked me whether they would be backing you and I said that I didn’t think that was the case. But it is a nice match -- it’s a good bill.

Yeah, we’ll try and do something together, but I haven’t actually thought of anything yet. But no, technically, they’re opening and then me and Stuart are coming on.

When you look at the three solo albums that you’ve done since Del Amitri, is there a certain line of progression that you can trace?

I don’t think there’s any progression. I think they’re all quite different. I mean, the first two kind of belong together in my mind, because they were done in Glasgow and similar kind of environments and a lot of the same musicians play on both records. Although the first solo record is much more of a solo record than the second two and I played most of the stuff on it myself, whereas the second album, The Great War, I played very little on it, actually. I didn’t play the bass on it and I didn’t play a lot of piano.

I think in the future, I might go back to that real solo sort of thing where it’s really just me with a couple of musicians. But yeah, I think of them all as being quite different. I kind of keep them in my mind visually, because the sleeves sort of represent what they are to me. So the first one’s quite brown and the second one’s quite blue and the last one’s sort of brown on blue. [Laughs]

Are there things that you’re still working to improve on as a songwriter?

I’m sure there are. Yeah, there’s a whole way of writing that I would like to get into that I haven’t been able to get into. I don’t know whether it’s honesty or the appearance of honesty. I was really impressed by that last Sun Kil Moon album which all sounds sort of seemingly autobiographical. I suppose it’s only a matter of whether it is or it isn’t, but it feels like it’s real and it’s like a sort of stream of consciousness and it feels conversational.

To do that within the structure of a song and still rhyme and still scan and still have a tune is quite remarkable, I think. I mean, I’d love to be able to do that. You know, you’re always trying to push….no matter how structured a song is and no matter how carefully put together it is, you’re really trying to achieve the appearance of an effortless conversation between you and the listener and that’s something that I’ve always found quite unattainable, but it’s something you definitely try and pursue, I think.

I think you’ve hit that honesty though. Certainly, if you hear a lyric like “Nobody’s helpless/ Although I’ve never felt this helpless before,” that’s something that everybody can identify with, because everybody’s felt that way.

Yeah, obviously you’re trying to sing from the personal and achieve the universal. Otherwise, there’s no point in doing it at all, really. It’s just a fucking diary. Because songs are constructed -- they don’t just happen spontaneously in the way that conversation happens spontaneously. But if you can make them sound conversational, that can be quite a good thing.

If you can sneak a fair amount of poetry into a song without it sounding like poetry, I think that’s also an achievement. So again, that’s something that I don’t think I’ve done very well and I’d like to try and get better. So yeah, I think that’s a good question, there are definitely things as a writer that I’m trying to improve on, yeah.

This album came out in the U.K. last year and it seems like almost immediately, the Del Amitri reunion tour dates were announced shortly after that. Was that something that was already in motion that you were aware of as you were making the album?

It was pretty much planned. Before the solo album came out, we knew that Del Amitri were going to do gigs at some point and we thought at the time that it was probably actually pretty good if the solo album came out in the autumn and then we did the Del Amitri gigs in the new year. That kind of made sense. The record company doing the solo record, they thought it wouldn’t do it any harm to have the Del Amitri stuff out there.

The band had good pockets of touring success here in the States, markets like Chicago and places like that. But from what I’ve heard you say, it seems like the idea of a U.S. tour with Del Amitri, even a really small one, seems unlikely. Is that really the case?

I mean, we just couldn’t possibly fund it. We couldn’t get the fees in the States to cover even doing one gig, let alone a run of gigs. It’s just so expensive to get bands over to the States now. I mean, just your visas alone. We did look at it and we just couldn’t [make it work] at all. In the ‘90s, our tours in the U.S. were all heavily underwritten and supported by the record company until I would say, around ‘96 or ‘97 [when] we managed to just about cover our costs.

By that point, we bought our own equipment in the U.S., which we would just put in the bays of the bus and we’d just honed everything down to a really small setup. But again, that was when we had records on the radio and all of that kind of stuff. Sadly, it’s not something that we can do as much as we’d love to.

I know there’s a double live album on the way. Was that show filmed as well?

Well, we did, yeah. We’re not going to release the film of it commercially -- we didn’t film it for commercial reasons, we just filmed it as a kind of document. So we will throw up a few clips on Youtube, but the main thing is the live album. So there will be some video footage out there, but we’re not going to sell it.

When is that live album coming out?

Imminently. I believe it’s the next few weeks. I mean, I’ve very little to do with it, much to my shame. [Laughs] I’ve just let [guitarist] Iain [Harvie] look after it, which he’s done extremely capably. I think it’s the next few weeks from what I hear.

[A few days after this interview was completed, the band announced the live album's release date officially. You can pre-order signed copies here.]

Do you guys feel like there’s unfinished business there? Would you want to do another Del Amitri record?

I would, but again, I just don’t think we could get funding to do it. We would need a bit of money to record the damn thing, just to rehearse it and record it, you know, pulling five people together, all of them in different cities and all of that sort of stuff. It’s just not really feasible. I mean, there’s a whole lot of stuff that we’ve written that’s sitting in the can [that has been] demoed, and some stuff that’s been mastered.

But we’re still really unsure what to do with all of that stuff. We’ll put the live album out and see what happens. But we live in such a strange time, where music is essentially free. I think eventually what may happen is we will just end up posting all of the stuff that’s there online for nothing. Because I don’t think there’s any value in it.

Have you ever thought about doing a Kickstarter or PledgeMusic campaign to accomplish something?

That’s not for me at all. I mean, I would rather make a record for no money than make records with money that comes from the audience, because audiences have expectations. The very fact the audience puts money upfront means that they like what you’ve done before. Which means that you’re kind of beholden to the audience to do again what you did before.

So I couldn’t take X amount of thousands of dollars from the audience and go and make a reggae album or Metal Machine Music or something -- I just couldn’t do that. So I think that’s quite limiting, because you would feel an obligation to the audience to give them what they expected. You don’t have that with a record company. With a record company, you’re in partnership with a commercial organization that is trying to get you to achieve the maximum that you can achieve artistically with an eye on the commercial side.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a record company make arguments from a commercial perspective while the artist makes arguments from a creative perspective. I do think there’s slightly dodgy about an audience who have liked what you did before, giving you money and presumably expecting you to make more of the same. It’s just not the kind of model for me. I understand why people do it -- I think if you’ve got a great idea and you’re really doing something from scratch, fine. But if you’ve already got an audience and you’re asking for money from that audience upfront, I think it’s a very limiting thing.

The reason I brought that up is because you mentioned what a weird place the industry is in and I think that part of that weird place is that bands and musicians and people are wrestling with the question, asking themselves, “Is it okay to run campaigns like that? Is it siphoning money out of our fans and is that right?” There seems to be two school of thoughts, and one is that side where they are questioning whether it’s right and then the other side, where it’s like, “Well, these are people that are fans of ours and they’re just pre-ordering our new record.” I’m generally okay with that second point, because if I’m a fan of the band and the artist and I’m going to buy their new record anyway, I’m okay with putting out the money upfront to do that. But I can totally understand your position and how that would put you in an odd place, creatively feeling like you would have to deliver something that falls in line with what they grew to love about you in the first place.

Yeah, I think that’s always going to be in the back of the creator’s mind, you know, the people that make the music. Also, it’s a strange model where people can’t get their money back if they don’t like the product. I think that’s quite odd. Whereas if you’ve got a record company there, the record company puts a single out to test the waters so that the fans can hear something new from that record and see whether they like it or not. I think paying upfront for something you haven’t heard yet is kind of dodgy. [Laughs]

I mean in a way, because what it is, it’s an investment that you don’t really get paid back on. If that record went onto generate lots and lots of publishing money by virtue of the fact that it got picked up by a big movie or it was played a lot on the radio, shouldn’t the fans get some of that money back? Because they’ve actually invested in the product in the first place. The whole thing seems a bit crazy. But of course, at the end of the day, it is always the audience that pays. So with the old model, the audience paid because CDs were very expensive and that was the only way you could access albums -- you couldn’t really listen to albums on the radio, so you would have to go and buy a CD, which used to cost 20 bucks or whatever. So all of that money was swimming around in the recorded music industry, which then got invested in young artists. But the money was all coming directly from the fans and it’s still coming from the fans.

Because what’s happened is that because the money’s gone out of the recorded music industry and it’s gone into the live music industry, because that’s where all of the money is now and ticket prices have gone through the bloody roof. I mean, in this country, ticket prices are crazy. It’s the audience that pays, that’s where the money comes from. So you’re right, in a way, what’s the argument against fans of an artist paying the artist directly to make the record? Well, there isn’t an argument against that -- it’s funny, you’re kind of cutting out the middleman. It’s just with the middleman, fans can pay and get their money back. They can take the record back to the shop and go, “Look, I don’t like this -- this doesn’t sound like the last album!” [Laughs]

I don’t know, it’s really kind of crazy to me. I would feel a lot better about it if it was partly an investment and everybody got paid back with [a certain] percentage of whatever the sales are or the earlier you get in and the more you put up, the more you get out of it. That would be a much more interesting model, or say, I want to raise 10 thousand dollars to make an album, so whoever pledges the most amount of money in the quickest amount of time will get X percentage of the profits. I mean, that would make sense.

Earlier this year, you told me that there’s no existing recording of “Drowned On Dry Land.” I’m really surprised that Del Amitri didn’t record that one. I’ve got a somewhat rough recording of that song as it was performed on Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight and the band played it live at least a few times in that era while touring. I wondered what it was about that song, because obviously it seems like you were invested enough in that song that the public heard it live.

Well, we tried to arrange it with the band quite a lot and it just never worked. Partly, because it’s a bit long -- it’s got six verses and the middle eight, which is a bit long and we could never find a style in which we could set it. We tried to kind of go down a Tom Waits avenue at one point, which just didn’t work. It’s just weird -- it’s a very linear thing and it is just one of those things that it just works well at a quiet moment at a concert and it comes across well. It just always died a bit on tape whenever we tried to record it and arrange it. Some songs are just like that, they just come alive in a room in front of people and they just die on tape and there’s no real rhyme or reason for why that’s the case.

I know you also played “Medicine” in that same era before it made it to a record. Was that common for the band to air material that hadn’t been recorded like that?

If we were touring an album for long enough, we would start testing new material. I don’t think we would ever...we would rarely do more than two new things. That was a way of just getting stuff tight and arranged. I’ll tell you the funny thing about that was, on the second A&M album, Change Everything, there were four songs that we played quite a lot live in 1990 that ended up on Change Everything and they ended up being by far, the hardest things to record.

Because the newer songs, we were recording them to the tape machine, which is kind of what you want to do in the studio. Whereas, the ones that we played on the road, we just played them as we played them to an audience and they’re completely different things -- the studio obviously is a different environment. So the performances were sort of too big and too slick and kind of weird. They ended up being much more problematic. We always thought, wouldn’t it be brilliant to actually write a whole record, tour the record before you actually record the damn thing and then go and record it live, but actually I’m not sure if that theory holds any water, because the studio is a completely different environment -- it has completely different demands.

Promo picture used with permission courtesy of Compass Records

3Sep/132

Del Amitri Returns In 2014

Even as Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie continues to make music (including his brand new solo album Lower Reaches), I've never stopped wishing that a band reunion might come to pass someday.

Apparently, the waiting will not last a lifetime -- it will come to an end in January of 2014.

Over the weekend, I saw the following tweet from @delamitrinews, an account which had recently followed me, while beginning to favorite all of my Del Amitri-related tweets from over the past few years:

Guess Who Is Back? #delamitri Please RT!

Of course, I had to tweet back:

@delamitrinews I would love for this to be true!

A visit to their official Facebook page (I forgot they had one!) revealed a message which made things even more clear:

Well now. Get a load of this...
It looks like the three Glasgow boys (Justin, Andy and Iain) are going to be able to get together with Kris and Ashley to do some shows early next year. UK only at the moment, I'm afraid (but we are working it). There should be a details later this week.

Are you getting excited yet? Okay, so as I feared it appears to be "UK only at the moment," but if this train really gets rolling, surely we can hope for a small smattering of U.S. dates that would bring them to some of their old familiar stomping grounds like Chicago, right? That's what I'm hoping for.

Just having these guys back on the same stage would be enough for me....was it really 1996 when I last had the chance to see the band? Yep.

I did a short email interview with Justin around the time of his last solo album (The Great War) and spoke a bit about the Dels, including this bit:

Around the time that you were preparing What Is Love For for release, there was word that you also had an entire band album in the can recorded with Iain Harvie that you were trying to get label interest for. Whatever became of that material?

That is inaccurate. Iain and I have written an album’s worth of material in the intervening years but there is no band thing at all. We’re still working on it occasionally. It’s very good but we can’t see many fans of the Dels liking it. For that reason we’ll probably stick it out as Del Amitri just out of badness.

It's hard to say what will come out of this forthcoming reunion, but I'm excited by the possibilities...

UPDATE: We now know a few more things, thanks to what appears to be a newly launched Del Amitri website:

Here's a press release about the tour:

THE A TO Z OF US
With a cast of original members and even the original crew, Del Amitri return from a ten year sabbatical to wheel out every hit from every era of their lengthy recording career. Justin Currie and Iain Harvie will once again be joined on stage by Andy Alston, Kris Dollimore and Ashley Soan.

It's been thirty years since Del Amitri’s debut single, ‘Sense Sickness’ – their contribution to all things early 80s and jangly. “The A to Z of Us will take a retrospective sweep of our entire output, from indie art-pop through folk-tinged balladry to hairy Brit-rock chuggery”, says front man Justin Currie.

Formed in Glasgow in 1983, during their distinguished career Del Amitri had four Top 10 albums and a string of memorable hit singles. Their million selling breakthrough album ‘Waking Hours’ (1989) included the hits ‘Nothing Ever Happens’ and ‘Kiss This Thing Goodbye’. The follow-up, 1992’s ‘Change Everything’, featured the massive radio single ‘Always The Last To Know’ and reached No.2 in the albums chart, only being held off the top slot by the might of ‘The Bodyguard’ soundtrack. 1995’s ‘Twisted’ charted at No.3 and included their biggest ever single ‘Roll To Me’, which reached No.10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Del Amitri’s most recent album was 2002’s ‘Can You Do Me Good?’, and the band have been on hiatus since finishing the subsequent tour.

“Whenever anyone asked if Del Amitri would ever re-form,” says guitarist Iain Harvie, “our standard response was ‘We never broke up - the phone just stopped ringing.’”

It has started ringing now and Del Amitri are picking it up from where they left off.

The initial tour dates are here.

I'll leave you with Justin's latest video from Lower Reaches, "Half of Me."

27May/133

Good Listening: Got Some Live Stuff If Ya Want It

From time to time, I get emails about some of the more popular live shows that I've posted here at ATV for download, either because there is a broken link or because they want to thank me for the post. (Gratitude on the internet, folks. It really does happen occasionally.)

Two of my personal favorites come from the same club in San Francisco and were broadcast back to back at the end of April in 1995. On the first night, the Jayhawks took the stage at Slim's for a set in support of their latest album at the time, Tomorrow The Green Grass. The following night, Del Amitri were onstage playing songs from their entire catalog including Twisted, which was their most recent disc of the moment.

I have a special affection for the Del Amitri set, since it is very representative of the tour, which I saw three times. I also caught the Jayhawks in this same time period, but their performance was abbreviated, since they were performing as part of a three band bill with Soul Asylum and Matthew Sweet (and it was an awesome night, indeed).

The Del Amitri recording is sourced from a DAT of the FM broadcast. Before it was so easy to download live shows on the internet, I did a lot of tape trading, eventually moving into the digital realm with DAT tapes. I did a string of trades with a San Francisco taper who had great recordings of a lot of the local broadcasts. A lot of those tapes of mine have disappeared into the ether, including a dada live performance from the El Subliminoso era which I really wish that I still had. It clocked in at about seventy minutes and although it had quite a bit of static, it was awesome. Wish I could hear it again, so if you have it, drop me a line!

The Jayhawks recording is one that I had for quite a few years and then discovered that when I had burned CDs of the show, I somehow ended up with gaps in between the songs on the second disc. That has been fixed with the newly revised post (linked above) which uses a new source that as I recall, came from a pre-FM recording and if memory serves me correctly, it includes some songs in the encore which were not broadcast. Either way, it's the complete set and captures a great performance.

(And wouldn't you love to get another Jayhawks bootleg from the Louris era 'Hawks? You got it.)

Hall & Oates has been another topic of recent discussion and a show that I get a good amount of email about is their "Acoustic Power" bootleg, which I had a recording of for quite a while that was several cassettes removed from the master, as all good bootlegs are. I upgraded with a better source which sounds like it's almost directly from the original Japanese television broadcast (which again, I'd love to have a copy of.....). I'll kick myself for a long time for missing this tour, but it's nice to have this bootleg to enjoy at the very least.

So there's a few things for you to listen to....hopefully you'll enjoy at least one of them!

16Dec/1120

Del Amitri At Woodstock ’94 +

Former Dels drummer Ashley Soan is the source of these videos from the 'Twisted' era....and indeed, how "twisted" it is to see Del Amitri performing with such a happy backdrop behind them.

This apparently was one of Soan's early gigs with the band - on a tour that I was lucky enough to see several times and each time, they killed. Vocally, Justin Currie seems a bit off his game here, but he was rock solid every time I saw the Dels, which always made me happy - their ability to reproduce the songs in a way that was true to the album, but pleasantly rough enough around the edges to make it rock and roll.

I went to Youtube in search of audio for 'It Might As Well Be You' to post here and while I didn't find that, I did come across these instead, which was a happy surprise.

Here's the "+" part of this post.

21Jan/1123

Joey’s Song

I'm not afraid to go out on a limb to let you know that the new Joey's Song: Volume One compilation is easily destined to be in my stack of favorite releases for 2011.  I know it's early, but this compilation and the companion Joey's Song for Kids: Volume One release are both loaded with a wealth of material, most of which is unreleased, from artists including Del Amitri, Cowboy Junkies, Neko Case, Michael McDermott, Lowen & Navarro, the Crash Test Dummies, Matthew Ryan and tons more. Both CDs are really an incredible listen and perfectly sequenced.


You can order the CDs now via the Joey's Song website, priced at $11.99 per disc or both for $19.99.  Proceeds from the sale of the CDs will go to benefit the Joseph Gomoll Foundation, established in the memory and honor of Joey Gomoll to "fight epilepsy through music."

I'll go more in-depth about these releases with Joey's father Michael Gomoll in an upcoming post on Popdose.  In the meantime, the CD release show for these albums is tonight in the Chicago area featuring Michael McDermott, Freedy Johnston and others.  Check out details for the release show right here.

Here's a video that will explain more about Joey's Song and also a new music video from Matthew Ryan for his version of "You Are My Sunshine," which can be found on Joey's Song for Kids: Volume One.

17Aug/0944

The Monday Morning Mix – House of Dub Winterfest 92 – 8/17/09

atv_mix_tape_02.jpg

Graphic by Rachael Novak

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We've got some great mixes in hand and on the way - where is yours?

A Note From Matt:

Today's mix comes from ATV's own Kevin Brennan - As many of you are aware, the Foo Fighters dropped one of their first jams on unexpecting radio listeners across the planet, a little ditty called "This Is A Call."  While there is no Foo Fighters to be found in today's mix, I do believe that THIS is a call.  You'll want to answer this particular call, and musically educate yourself a bit, or perhaps revisit a stack of old favorites that you already know, and haven't heard in a while.  This is one man's view of what mattered musically in the dawning moments of 1993.  In your hands, you're holding a jam tape loaded with 80 minutes that emphasize the jam part of "jam tape."  From the opening chords of Living Colour's "Cult of Personality" to the closing moments of the Georgia Satellites classic "Dan Takes Five," this sucker never lets up for a second.

As a final note, Kevin happened to mention that all of these tracks were merged on his original tape.  To stay with that feeling, I took the CD tracks and mixed them so that the entire mix segues from track to track, as it did on the tape back in the day.   This mix might be digital, but man, I swear I hear moments where the "tape" is worn out from playing it over and over.  Perhaps you'll hear it too!

P.S. - Note the Smithereens, Del Amitri, Matthew Sweet, and Social D tracks, and you'll begin to see why Kevin and I are friends!

Mix Notes:

Hey everybody, I guess it’s my turn at sharing the love of mix tapes with the flock.
Mine is a gem that I actually put to cassette tape on January 5, 1993 as I moved into my senior year of college. The name “House of Dub” comes from the fact that my two roommates and I had about 2,000 various titles on record, cassette, reel-to-reel and CD and any time there was an occasion for music, we got the call. There were about eight projects which comprised the “House of Dub” series and maybe we will get to more of them in the future.

This one brings forth many of my favorites from the 80s and early 90s.

Download complete mix (link is good for one week only.)

#1 – “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour from Vivid – Loved these guys from the day I first heard them. This song is just as relevant today as it was in 1989 and will continue to be so as long as there are leaders and followers. Stunning guitar by Vernon Reid, thunderous drums and bass by Will Calhoun and Muzz Skillings respectively and the power and glory of vocalist Corey Glover. The band is recording again and should be on your list of must-see live acts.

#2 – “Orange Crush” by R.E.M from Green – One of many excellent tunes from this album and one of the most interesting due to its commentary on the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Great production, great mix, great energy and unfortunately for me, the last album by R.E.M. that I really liked. By the way, Orange Crush is my favorite pop in the world.

#3 – “When the Love is Goob (I Mean Good)” by the BoDeans from Home – These guys had a fresh sound, catchy songs and were a lot of fun to listen to. This song leads off the album and sets the tone for what should have been a breakthrough project after the interest shown in their debut, “Love and Hope and Sex and Dreams.” It was to some extent but the sales didn’t match the quality they put forth. Guaranteed to stick in your head after one listen and that’s a goob, I mean good thing.

#4 – “Blood & Roses” by the Smithereens from Especially For You – If you have ever heard this song, you know it has one of the greatest bass lines in rock history. Besides that, it is very representative of what makes the Smithereens so good – Pat’s great songwriting and sad sack vocals lamenting the loss of love, Jim’s stinging lead guitar, and Dennis’ underrated drumming. These guys were schooled by the Beatles, the Who, the Kinks and AC/DC and that is all evident here.

#5 – “You’re Gone” by Del Amitri from Waking Hours – Another song of lost love by a group of guys who deserved better than what they got. Very interesting lyrically as the lonely guy observes that life goes on in the face of his breakup. Beautiful arrangement, great pacing, a masterful vocal by Justin as he brings the light and the dark to the front at just the right times and also one of my favorite Del Amitri passages ever: “They say that it's better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all/But if you sit down and count the cost of/All those losses/There's no profit at all.” True that.

#6 – “Worldwide Brotherhood” by John Doe from Meet John Doe – The angry punk grows up a bit, realizes that the world still sucks in many ways and he decides to sing about it. There’s more than that here as the song is one of disillusionment and knowing, one of anger and laughter and above all, it flat out rocks. The song comes from Doe’s overlooked solo debut in 1990 which is a tremendous record. If you liked later-day Johnny Cash or always felt that John Hiatt should have been a bit more cynical and dangerous, then you need to find this out-of-print gem. This also includes the awesome Tony Marsico on bass from the Plugz and the Cruzados. “Life is so beautiful with the butterflies flying in the cotton-candy clouds/Whoo, I’m telling you that I love my life…”

#7 – “Under the Big Black Sun” by X from Under the Big Black Sun – The John Doe vibe continues with the title cut from X’s third album. This song has a bouncy hook and feel that belies its detailing of Exene Cervenka’s struggle to reconcile the death of her sister in a car crash with her religious beliefs and the fact that she has spent years with “plaid perfume on my breath” while waiting for stardom to come. It sounds heavy and it is thanks to X, the thinking person’s punk band.

#8 – “Girlfriend” by Matthew Sweet from Girlfriend – This tune came out of nowhere in 1991 and blew me away. Killer guitar, drums up high in the mix and a driving bass line all built around a pop song about a guy who misses his girl. It’s rock and roll the way it should be. This tune also features the work of Richard Lloyd on guitar who contributed heavily to the Meet John Doe album.

#9 – “Blues Before and After” by the Smithereens from 11- The band was primed for the big time and put out their best overall album led by “A Girl Like You,” but this song was the real jammer on the record. It’s heavy, it’s tight and it’s also a fantastic video that didn’t get much run on MTV. The subject matter is a guy who takes the abuse of a semi-interested woman and can’t get enough of it, not much of a stretch for Pat to write about but always interesting nonetheless. Great vocal by Pat as well. The guitars are crunchy and piercing, the drums pound and the bass walks along like a net keeping it together. Ed Stasium is the producer (Ramones, Living Colour, Motorhead, Soul Asylum, Hoodoo Gurus) and it sounds beautiful.

#10 – “Let It Be Me” by Social Distortion from Social Distortion – This song is nothing but energy, energy and more energy. An absolutely killer song that is representative of the best the band has to offer. If you don’t have this album, go get it now!

#11 – “You Don’t Move Me” by Keith Richards from Talk is Cheap – Keith’s now famous ode to Mick that is biting, sincere and shows that Keith still wanted to rock in a serious way. Steve Jordan’s drumming is always top-notch and he carries this song while Keith lays down some nice guitar. Keith’s production skills are also tremendous. This guy has a feel that is undeniable and he himself is indestructible despite the best efforts of drugs, alcohol and island trees.

#13 – “The Morning” by the Call from Reconciled – A confused man tries to sort out where he is going, what he should do and why it all matters. Again, it speaks to the struggle we all face at one time in our lives and does so with great conviction. One of Been’s best vocals ever backed by stomping drums and some wicked and wiggly slide guitar. “I’m standing at the edge of my mind/If I look in, I might fall in, I sense danger/I’m divided but I’ve decided it’s my nature/But if I look back I might fall back into yesterday.”

#14 – “I Wanna Be a Flintstone” by the Screaming Blue Messiahs from Bikini Red – A fun novelty song from a wickedly rocking band. Produced by the late great Vic Maile (Godfathers, Motorhead, Girlschool, Kinks and more), this tune recounts the entire Bedrock scene with vocalist/guitarist Bill Carter sounding like a speed freak playing manic guitar. This band suffered the double hit of being dropped by its label after its third album and Maile dying of cancer in 1989. Check them out as they have much more to offer besides this track. If you saw them live, you know what a wacko Carter was and how much fun they were.

#15 – “Love For Sale” by Talking Heads from True Stories – The album was David Byrne’s sardonic look at American culture and the song sums up the state of electronic media circa 1986. While still a pop song, the guitars are tough, the drums are loud and the message is clear: “I grew up in house with the television always on/Guess I grew up too fast/And I forgot my name.” As much as things change, they often stay the same…

#16 – “Jesus & Johnny” by the Havalinas from The Havalinas – A tune about a drug deal gone wrong that comes off like a good short story with a driving beat. It slaps and grooves its way along with ultimate cool until moving into overdrive. The band includes former Rockats members Smutty Smith and Tim Scott along with drummer extraordinaire Chalo Quintana (Plugz, Cruzados, Izzy Stradlin’s Ju Ju Hounds).

#17 – “Whiskey Talk” by Guadalcanal Diary from Flip-Flop – An in-your-face riff and a lesson about the dangers of being a stupid drunk. Cleverly written and loud, there’s depth in the song which shows that this band had what it took to make it but yet never quite did.

#20 – “Walkin Talkin Johnny Cash Blues” by the Godfathers from More Songs About Love and Hate – A rockabilly tribute to the Man in Black that cooks all the way through. The always great “I could care less” vocals by Peter Coyne are here and all else rocks. The late great Vic Maile produced the album and it was their best.

#21 – “Glamourpuss” by the Hoodoo Gurus from Magnum Cum Louder – It’s all about the one who’s the star and she’s all over this song. Played at a full throttle pace and noisy in good way, this tune helped drive the album to the top of the College and Modern Rock charts in 1989. Frantic vocals by Dave Faulkner and furious drumming by Mark Kingsmill set the tone.

#22 – “Six Feet Underground” by Jason and the Scorchers from Thunder and Fire – Likely the heaviest song laid to tape by the band and it is epic. Warner Hodges is monstrous on guitar and everyone runs to the finish in organized chaos. Lyrics by Perry Baggs are among his best and Andy York played on this album and toured with the band until their breakup.

#23 – “What Side of the Door” by the Paladins from Let’s Buzz – Very cool mix of organ and a big fat riff power this song about a guy who wants to know where he stands with his girl and then ultimately doesn’t care as long as he’s somewhere. Dave Gonzalez is lean and mean on guitar and vocals. A fine blues/rock band that appeared on Alligator Records in the 1980s around the same time as then-labelmates Johnny Winter, the Kinsey Report, Tinsley Ellis, Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials and Koko Taylor.

#24 – “Dan Takes Five” by the Georgia Satellites from In the Land of Salvation and Sin -
Dan breaks up with his wife/girlfriend, feels like he got screwed and wants to shout it out. This one burns from front to back, start to finish and everything else. Rick Richards is a guitar god and Mauro is a machine on drums. Nothing fancy, just rock and roll that any guy can empathize with.

Nearly two dozen songs in 80 minutes for your listening pleasure. Until the next time.

P.S. - A few omitted tracks that were on the original cassette mix - trimmed due to CD running time limitations:

#12 – “Everywhere I Go” by the Call from Reconciled - Lead singer and bassist Michael Been is a songwriter who brings simple yet insightful lyrics together with some great grooves and turns out wonderful cuts like this one. Yeah, I know the band had a religious angle that the label always tried to downplay and that was always cited as a reason for them not breaking out but don’t let that scare you. This is a song of faith that translates into everyone’s need to depend on someone for strength at some point just to carry on. The rhythm section is relentless and Peter Gabriel is back there somewhere singing along.

#18 – “Drive South” by John Hiatt from Slow Turning – A landmark album in Hiatt’s career, this song is the first cut and opens the door for a slew of tunes that together cemented his place as a great songwriter. Nice bouncy feel, makes you think of driving and summertime and that’s always good.

#19 – “Sweet Guy” by Paul Kelly & the Messengers from So Much Water So Close To Home – A great riff that doesn’t go away in the vein of “The One I Love” by R.E.M. and a story about love of an abusive type. Truly an excellent song that was radio ready. A legend in his native Australia, he never made it here after signing with A&M in the 80s. Thankfully, I worked at a record store and got a copy on cassette which led me to 5 other Paul Kelly albums.

6Jul/096

The Monday Morning Mix – Don’t I Look Like The Kind Of Guy You Used To Hate – 7/6/09

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Graphic by Rachael Novak

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About Today's Mix:

Today's mix comes from me! (Matt) We're now 10 mixes deep, and I thought I'd jump in with another one of my own mixes. At the time that we launched this series, I was deep into a mix making addiction, and made quite a few that have been sitting on my hard drive. I burned one of them randomly at the end of last week, and after driving around this weekend listening to it a couple of times in the car, I thought I'd share it here. I'm thinking that I'll jump in periodically with the occasional mix, in addition to the great mixes that you all have been submitting. I can play too, right? And when I say you all, it occurs to me that about 99 percent of the internet, hasn't sent me a mix yet. So if you are in that category, get to it, and make it snappy! Submit, submit, SUBMIT!

Don't I Look Like The Kind Of Guy You Used To Hate (download - link is good for one week)

1. "Nobody's Hero" - Rush, from Counterparts - I associate this album with my junior high/high school buddy/former bandmate Jim. Rush got some good radio action with Roll The Bones, the album prior to this one. With Counterparts, not quite as much love from the radio, but Rush fans bought it anyway, and as I've come to learn, Rush fans are dedicated like that. Counterparts continues to be an album that comes to mind from time to time, and it always sounds good when it comes up on shuffle.

2. "Carmelita" - Warren Zevon - from Warren Zevon - Credit once again to Kevin for taking me beyond the hits with Zevon, and helping to point me towards the albums that I needed to hear. If I were to do the same, I'd suggest that I'll Sleep When I'm Dead is a good primer that goes deeper than the single disc compilations. A few of my random favorites in the catalog - Life'll Kill Ya, the Hindu Love Gods side project, and the absolutely epic live album Stand In The Fire, which is FINALLY available on CD. Hopefully someday they will put out an expanded version of that bad boy. Honorable mention to the acoustic live album Learning To Flinch, and further mention is deserved for Enjoy Every Sandwich, one of the best tribute albums I've ever heard. Solid.

P.S. - You're right, I can never just recommend one...

3. "Kamera" - Wilco - from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - Last weekend, I saw a great Cleveland trio of young 'uns called Standing on Friday. Appropriately enough, I saw them on Friday night, playing their special blend of rock and roll during an opening set for Chris Allen and Don Dixon. Seven shows into their young career, they impressed me with covers of "Honey Bee" by Tom Petty, and "Jesus, Etc." by Wilco. They introduced the Wilco cover as a choice that "we might pull this one off." They shouldn't have worried - they pulled it off, and then some. Secretly though, I was hoping they might tackle this one, since it had been on my mind from listening to this mix. I love it when a band unexpectedly blows my mind with a set of music - truly one of the great joys of going to live shows. But yeah, if we're talking about Wilco, "Kamera" is one of the few songs that I actually prefer the studio version instead of live.

4. "Better Off Without Me" - The Gathering Field - from The Gathering Field - God, I love this band. These days, everybody and their brother has a home studio, but in 1994 when The Gathering Field was released, things weren't exactly like that. Hearing this album from these Pittsburgh based locals was one of the first times that I was really impressed with production from a local band that sounded major label. The drums, always a pet peeve of mine, were well recorded and actually sounded like drums! What a concept!

The Gathering Field were part of a scene in Pittsburgh that had a lot of promise, with emerging artists that included The Clarks, Brownie Mary, and Rusted Root. I feel like lead singer Bill Deasy was still finding his voice with this album, which is not a knock at all on Deasy. With the release of the band's next album Lost in America, Deasy found the mark, and the band released an instant classic for those that were lucky enough to hear it, and snagged a record deal with Atlantic Records. While the record deal didn't work out so well, the band created a body of work spanning four albums deep that still holds up today, each and every one. I credit a lot of that to the pairing of Deasy with guitar player Dave Brown, who also recorded/produced the band's albums. You can still catch the occasional reunion date from The Gathering Field in Pittsburgh, and you can snag their entire catalog on Itunes. "Better Off Without Me" isn't my favorite song on The Gathering Field, but it's certainly one of the early ones that caught my ear.

5. "Serenade" - Steve Miller Band - from Live from Chicago - Big credit to my high school friend Dana who made me go see two shows in the summer of '93. One of those was Jimmy Buffett, because "I had to experience it." The other one was Steve Miller Band, with Paul Rodgers opening. I was on the lawn at Blossom Music Center for the first time ever, for both. For Steve Miller Band, it rained hard for most of the night, and we got soaked, but the music onstage was worth getting drenched. I became a Steve Miller fan for life, and with his extensive output, I'm still catching up!

6. "You Must've Been A Beautiful Baby" - Bobby Darin - from Twist with Bobby Darin - Not a lot to say about this one, except that it came up on shuffle from my Billboard collection, and Bobby Darin is classic stuff, right? This one put a smile on my face, and sometimes that's more than enough!

7. "Common Reactor" - Silversun Pickups - from Carnavas - Silversun Pickups are one of my favorite "new" bands, and yeah sure, I guess they have a lot of Smashing Pumpkins to their sound, but as much of a Pumpkins fan as I am, I think the lack of actual Corgan is one of the things I like best about SSPU. I waited anxiously hoping that Swoon, their new album would not suck, and you know what? It's awesome. Props to yet another band here and now that actually manages to consistently deliver music worth hearing. I'm looking forward to seeing these guys when they come to Cleveland for a show at the Lakewood Civic on August 7th. Plug plug plug.

8. "The Never-Never" (demo) - Scout - from The Drummer on the Cover - Next to The Gathering Field, Scout is my OTHER favorite band. They're in the unique category of bands that I spent my own money to bring them to Cleveland for a show, convinced that they'd never make it here otherwise. On that particular night, I was excited to learn that they were selling an EP of demo versions of songs slated for their forthcoming second album This Soft Life. This Soft Life = one of the coolest album titles ever. Perhaps you saw Scout performing on The Sopranos as "The Miami Relatives"? After a short hiatus, lead singer Ashen Keilyn is currently in the studio finishing up tracks for the band's next album which will hopefully be released in late 2009. And, as it happens, several songs from This Soft Life have been used this year on Canada's Degrassi: The Next Generation. Thanks a lot for the support, eh!

9. "Mr. Wrong" (live) - Cracker - from Garage D'Or - I tell people that I hate to meet people, and while it might not be apparent, it's quite true at least with my inner me. I guess it would be appropriate to quote Clerks here - Dante: "You hate people!" Randal: "But I love gatherings. Ironic, isn't it?" Enter "Mr. Wrong," the tune that sums up for me the most nerve-wracking exercise of them all: meeting the parents. Why is it such a big thing? I dunno. When stressed, it often helps a lot to embrace my David Lowery - a quick thought of this song removes all stress. So yes, keep that in mind when I'm meeting your parents, I'm thinking of this song! P.S. - catch Cracker on tour right now supporting their new album Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey - there's a Cleveland date on August 28th at the Beachland - yay!

10 - "Bi-Roads" - Mudpie - from Mudpie - My friend Chris Akin and I like to talk about some of the great "one and done" projects - bands that released one album and then went bye-bye. Mudpie is in that category, and came my way via the rock and roll collective that also introduced me to ATV yakker Kurt Torster. My buddy Marko told me about this Mudpie band, and said that I needed to hear it, and that I'd dig it. Over 10 years later, this is still one of my favorite no-name bands that I don't know a lot about. I know a little bit more about the band now thanks to this Melodicrock.com interview with vocalist Keith Slack (Michael Schenker, Steelhouse Lane.) Of Mudpie, Slack reveals that the CD contained "some of the first songs I had ever co-written." If that's the case, let me tell you that these are some of the finest "first songs" I've ever heard. I picked up the Schenker live album featuring Slack, and lost track of his music after that. Turns out, he's got a solo disc that came out a couple of years ago that you can snag via CDBaby.

11. "I Will Be Here" - Steve Winwood - from Refugees of the Heart - Seeing Winwood onstage with Clapton at Crossroads in 2007 reawakened my Winwood addiction in a big way. I went out and got everything I didn't have in the Winwood solo catalog, and also picked up the 90's Traffic reunion disc Far From Home. Refugees of the Heart was one of those albums, previously known to me only via the single "One and Only Man." Winwood is good for at least one tune per album that hits you right in the gut emotionally, and "I Will Be Here" snags the victory on Refugees. I'm glad that Winwood is back out there and actively touring in the past few years, but I wish he would pay more attention to the hits that he had in the 80's and early 90's. Not only were they hit records - they were good tunes, and good albums. Back in the High Life and Roll With It will always be two of my favorite albums from the period.

12. "Miss William's Guitar" - The Jayhawks - from Tomorrow The Green Grass - This is a great, great week for anyone living in Minneapolis: You've got the unique and special opportunity to see the Tomorrow The Green Grass lineup of The Jayhawks for the first time since 1995 at the Basilica Block Party on July 10th. I understand that they are playing at the same time as The Black Crowes, and I was consulted on what the appropriate choice would be in the situation. My answer: You can see The Black Crowes anytime, and another time - get your ass over to the stage to check out The Jayhawks with Gary Louris AND Mark Olson. There will be no regrets, and while you are at it, you can pick up the brand spankin' new Jayhawks anthology Music From The North Country, tomorrow!

13. "If You Were Here" (Thompson Twins cover) - Cary Brothers - from Who You Are - There is no "the" in front of Cary and there are no "brothers" - just Cary Brothers, the artist. I'm a big fan of the cheapie album deals on AmazonMP3, and when I saw that Who You Are was the deal of the day, I had to check it out. I had heard the name, and the price was right. After downloading, I noticed "If You Were Here" and wondered if it could really be the Thompsons Twin track of the same name, and indeed it was.

When I first got Greatest Hits from Thompson Twins in 1996, I heard "If You Were Here" and flashed back hard. It's one of those moments when you hear that song, and while I didn't know it was Thompson Twins that did the track, I immediately recognized it from a Molly Ringwald movie of my childhood that I couldn't recall. Answer: Sixteen Candles - another great John Hughes movie, and another great soundtrack. The Thompson Twins version always takes me to that place, and Cary Brothers manages to capture that same feeling, while updating it a tad. I really enjoyed the whole album overall, and look forward to hearing future stuff from Brothers, and maybe, just maybe, I'll even see him live one of these days?

14. "Don't I Look Like The Kind of Guy You Used To Hate" - Del Amitri - B-side from the "Nothing Ever Happens" import single - So take a look at these flash-lit photographs, you beautiful fake. Don't I look like the kind of guy you used to hate?

God, I love Justin Currie!

23May/0912

Good Listening: Justin Currie – Seattle, WA – 5/13/08

Today's post is dedicated to my good Chicago-based pal David Lifton, host of the fantabulous Wings for Wheels podcast and blog of the same name. I became a Wings for Wheels fan long before I started this blog, and I'm thrilled that he's back with a new episode of WFW featuring Chart Attack/Mellow Gold fiend Jason Hare as a guest, talking about Pete Townshend.

I was drawn initially to WFW once I found out that it was hosted by a big Bruce fan (duh!) and as I got to know Dave, I learned that he was not only a Bruce fan, but a fan of my Scottish faves Del Amitri as well! I was surprised to find out that he hadn't heard DA frontman Justin Currie's solo debut What Is Love For, and urged him to give it a spin at his earliest convenience.

After a long period of recording silence from Del Amitri, fans were rewarded in late 2007 with the release of Currie's What Is Love For. I wasn't anticipating a lot after hearing the final Dels album (so far) Can You Do Me Good (2002,) and song samples of the solo album on Myspace, but as a die-hard DA fan, there was no question that I had to pick it up. And I'm really glad that I did - what came off as a few dreary songs on a Myspace player made a lot more sense in the context of a full album. What Is Love For offers up the standard amount of sunshine and puppy dog lyrics that you expect from Currie - i.e. not so many at all. And that's just the way I like it!

With an album finally out on the shelves, it was time to go out and promote said album, which Currie did, accessorized with only a keyboard player (an approach that reminds me a lot of the touring that Michael Penn did for Mr. Hollywood, Jr. 1947) and a great catalog of both solo and DA chestnuts to pick from. With no Cleveland date on the tour schedule, a road trip was my only option to catch a show, and try as I did, I didn't manage to connect the dots to get out to a show.

Lucky for me, an ATV reader recently got in touch with me and shared about 2 GBs (!!!) of assorted audio Dels odds and ends with me, including a bunch of Currie stuff from the promotional cycle for What Is Love For. In that batch of stuff was this show recorded at the Triple Door in Seattle, during May of 2008.

Imagine if you will, that Justin Currie, with guitar in hand, decides to drop by your house to play an intimate show for you and a group of friends. In fact, let me help you out, because I imagine that it would go something like this:

*phone rings at Matt's house*

answering phone

Matt: Hello?

Justin: Hey Matt, it's your old mate Justin Currie. I was thinking that you should invite some of your friends over, and I'll come by with my one buddy that plays keyboards, and play some tunes for you all.

Matt: Well, you know that I'm a fan and all, and we really did have a good time last time, you and I. But I still feel kind of bad that two of my friends ended up filing for divorce mere days after you came by. That couldn't have been a coincidence, could it?

Acting as if he didn't hear Matt's question, Currie moves on

Justin: Hey man, I know you're a little bit sore that I wasn't able to fill your request last time for "It Might As Well Be You," so Keytar Boy and I have worked up a version this time that I think you'll really enjoy.

Matt: Really? *interested look* Can we minimize the amount of tunes from What Is Love For? That album is kind of a bummer, and with the recession and all, I really don't want more of my friends on the hook for alimony.

Justin: Oh, for sure, my American brother from another mother. Ha, I barely play tunes from that album as it is!

Currie has clearly just dropped "the big lie," but Matt seems blissfully unaware....

Justin: You're really going to dig the unreleased stuff I stick in the set - you know, the stuff that SHOULD have made the albums...but didn't!

Matt: Damn bro, you mean stuff like "As Long As You Don't Come Back?" I'm still kind of pissed about that one. Hey, how about pulling out "Drowned on Dry Land?"

Justin: *chuckling* I don't know about that one man, but I'll see what I can do. Hey, is Lifton coming by for this one?

Matt: Nah, I haven't talked to that dude in months. I think he's podcasting or something. Anyway, I'll see you when you get here, and just a simple request - try not to kill my entire stash of Scotch this time around. That was totally not cool.

Justin:
Alright man, my connection is breaking up - I'll see ya later. Looking forward to this.

It's guaranteed that you'll totally feel the house concert vibe while listening to this Seattle show from Currie. This show really makes me wish that I would have gotten out to see one of the tour dates. One of the things that you will truly appreciate is the overall quality of Currie's songs and Currie's talents as a songwriter. And in the live setting, Currie reels off one winner after another with ease, mixing a heavy dose of tracks from the new album with both Del Amitri favorites and some great oddball picks from the DA catalog.

If you're a Del Amitri fan, you'll enjoy this one without a doubt! Several of the tracks are tracked together as one track, but they are full versions, not a medley!

Big props to Currie for including "It Might As Well Be You" - one of my alltime Del faves (from Twisted) in the setlist! Nice attempt - glad they at least gave it a shot!

God save the Dels!

justincurrie.jpg

photo by the pepper tree

Justin Currie
Triple Door
Seattle, WA
5/13/08

soundboard (probably from webcast)

complete zipped download

1. What Is Love For/Not So Sentimental Now
2. Always The Last To Know/Tell Her This
3. Make It Always Be Too Late
4. Something In That Mess
5. Still In Love
6. Be My Downfall
7. Chat
8. Chat
9. Gold Dust/Not Where It's At/As Long As You Don't Come Back (unreleased!)
10. Chat
11. In The Frame/Driving With The Brakes On
12. No, Surrender
13. Being Somebody Else
14. Wanna Be Your Boyfriend/This Side Of The Morning
15. If I Ever Loved You
16. What I Think She Sees
17. It Might As Well Be You
18. No Family Man/Don't I Look Like The Kind Of Guy You Used To Hate
19. Sleep Instead of Teardrops

Relevant Links:

Justin Currie's Myspace page

Purchase What Is Love For from Amazon - CD or MP3