MOKB Interview : Henry Rollins

We here at MOKB are never going to enter the 1% putting digital pen to paper, so we have to make do with advance copies of new CDs, an occasional press pass to a major festival and, only if we promise to behave, interviews with legends. Recently, we hit the jackpot and threw down with performer, writer, actor, LA Weekly columnist/KCRW radio show host and all-time hero to this lowly scribe, Henry Rollins.

MOKB: First things first. New Black Sabbath record. I know you’re a huge fan, so did you ever think we’d come this close to a full-blown Sabbath reunion? I think the record, while a bit light on memorable riffs, is surprisingly strong. Your thoughts on the record?

Henry Rollins: I have not yet heard the album. I heard one song and it didn’t inspire me. I will eventually get it. No Bill Ward kind of put me off it.

MOKB: With the exception of the Claremont Folk Festival, you’re somewhat off the grid lately. If you don’t mind sharing, where are you these days and what are you working on?

HR: I am doing more television/film/voice over stuff this year. It’s keeping me on location, soundstages and studios. There has been cartoon work, television work, a pilot and a film coming up towards the end of the year. Due to the contracts I have signed, I can’t talk about any of it. They are very uptight with all this these days. I am doing voice over work for Infiniti car.

MOKB: Any travels of interest recently or in the near future?

HR: Nothing is planned because I am so nailed to the ground with the present schedule. I will be loose to travel in perhaps December at the earliest. Before that, I am pretty booked.

MOKB: Now that we’re well into Obama’s second term, do you think the world’s perception of the United States has changed at all? If yes, how so?

HR: The perception has changed, certainly. The president has pulled soldiers out of Iraq. On the other hand, the drone strikes, which are ultimately, just another way to deliver the same stuff the America has been dropping on people for a long time, are probably not playing well in regions that have not liked the America for a long time anyway. I think many people thought Mr. Obama was a liberal or a progressive. He is neither and that’s making some people in the States disappointed. I think the NSA stuff, what people’s perception of it is, will not play well at home or abroad. How the president plays Syria will be key to the perception of the America in the future. That’s a tricky one. There’s more at stake there than at first glance. There are a lot of big players in that one on all sides. The president is probably getting talked to by a lot of different people with different interests.

MOKB: I’m listening to A Clockwork Orange Stage as I type this? How many times have you performed at Roskilde since 2000?

HR: Once or twice. I will be there for all four days of it this year. It’s a great festival. Awful what happened there several years ago.

MOKB: Anything I should be prepared for in terms of the festival? Anything I absolutely need to bring with me?

HR: Not really. It’s extremely well run and I can’t see you needing for anything that won’t be easily obtainable. Perhaps having some sunscreen on hand will save you a purchase there. People in my experience there are very friendly.

MOKB: Would you say that festival audiences overseas are any different from American festival audiences?

HR: I have not done nearly as many festivals in America as in Europe. Lollapalooza, Woodstock, Bonaroo, Fun Fun Fun are the US ones I remember. They were fine. I reckon the audiences at them and the ones in Europe are both great. At least they have all been great to me.

MOKB: Are there any current bands that you particularly appreciate?

HR: I look for new music almost every single day. I have been listening to a lot of Finnish folk and drone music lately. I have a Masaya Nakahara album that I am going to listen to later tonight and am listening to an Autumn Galaxy album called An Emperor’s Garden at the moment. Noise/Drone/Avant music comprises most of my listening at this time.

MOKB: I’m pretty giddy over the Dan Auerbach-produced Bombino record. What is your latest musical discovery, past or present?

HR: The new records on http://www.castlefacerecords.com/ and In The Red I think are really good. The new Oh Sees album, White Fence, the new Kid Congo record is great. The new Steven R. Smith download albums are amazing. Those are perhaps my favorite new releases.

MOKB: For someone who has never heard you as a musical performer, what would you point them to as a “gateway” record?

HR: I can’t recommend my work to anyone.

MOKB: The As The World Burns Tour with X obviously left a bad taste in your mouth in terms of performing with a band. Is there any situation in which you could see yourself again performing in a band?

HR: I don’t think so. I have to be honest and if it’s not there, it’s not there.

MOKB: Any Rollins Band releases festering in the archives just waiting to see the light of day?

HR: Not really. There are some live shows that sound pretty good. A few outtakes but nothing to write home about.

MOKB: I’m assuming there’s a new journal/book in the works. Any other projects coming down in the pipeline fans would be interested in?

HR: There is a book I am trying to finish the edit on from 2009 – 2010. There is another photo book almost done as well as some more journal book stuff as well. I have a lot of voice over, television and film stuff that will roll out later this year and next year as well. Some is in the can and some has yet to be done.

MOKB: I always find it interesting that “former Black Flag singer/frontman” is how you seem to always be referenced by the media, when that was such a relatively short period. How would you like to be remembered?

HR: I don’t agree. As far as being remembered, I honestly don’t care.

Henry Rollins@Roskilde 2013
7/5 – Odeon Stage – 13:00
7/6 – Pavilion – 13:00
7/7 – Gloria Stage – 12:00

MOKB@Roskilde : Something is Rocking in the State of Denmark

That’s right, Mom. MOKB is packing an ol’kit bag and heading off to Roskilde 2013. What to expect is anyone’s guess, but given the list of bands (see poster), how can it be anything short of superfantastic?

Our goal? Avoid the pitfalls (mud, cholera, long bathroom lines) and temptations (local brews, local fare, half-naked Danes) long enough to cover as many acts as possible, interview a few famous (and not-yet famous) folks and even provide a little cultural commentary about our gracious hosts and their beloved homeland.

Stay tuned as MOKB gets all Hamlet on yo ass…

MOKB in Iceland : 5 Questions with Dr. Robert : Baldvin Einarsson (head of RMM, Kimi Records)

After traversing the wonderful countryside near the capitol city we took it upon ourselves to find the best of Reykjavik itself on day two. We started out with a visit to the hip new hostel Kex. This is a hostel in name only, as it is lodging, restaurant and tour guide all in one. While many have visions of European hostels as places you would rather forget the Kex Hostel was everything a hipster traveler requires. Lunch at Kex was amazing, it allowed us the ability to sample various Icelandic fares at reasonable prices (while we loved the Nordic cuisine, we are still working on enjoying the dried fish!). We would return to Kex throughout our stay for food or drinks (you gotta try Reyka vodka). The food throughout our trip was amazing we ate mostly Icelandic cuisine (Snaps and Vox were two highlights but also dabbled in Indian food during our stay). The rest of the day was spent wandering the main street of Laugavegur. With an abundance of boutiques, art shops and the Phallic museum (seriously a museum devoted entirely to the shape of male genitalia) Reykjavik, while small, has plenty to keep you busy. With sunlight nearly 24 hours a day the night time is when Reykjavik really comes alive. The weekly Runtur (Icelandic pub crawl) goes on until all hours of the night with bars staying open until 4 and sometimes 5 am. The venues for the RMM were stellar with both Club Nasa, Kex Hostel and the Faktory providing a great atmosphere to find new artists. We were lucky enough to catch up with Baldvin Einarsson, the mastermind behind the Reykjavik Music Mess and Kimi records.

Dr. Robert: How did you come up with the concept of the Music Mess? How has it changed from year 1 to year 2 and where do you envision it in the future?

Baldvin Einarsson: We were just trying to book Deerhunter to Iceland, and it did, at the time, make a lot more sense to make a festival around that show. And we came up with the concept of Reykjavik Music Mess, a strange line-up of all kinds of music, that we thought was good. The first year edition was though a bit to big in retrospect so we decided for this year to tone it down a bit and keep building it up from there. This years edition was smaller, with fewer bands and on smaller venues. Next year we are aiming at going somewhere in between those two editions. To have fewer bands, but bigger venues (but not more venues, two are enough). We are also thinking about getting an artistic director from outside Iceland, in order to enhance the international feel of the festival.

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MOKB in Iceland : Five Questions with Dr. Robert : Snorri Helgason

The Reykjavik Music Mess is a new indie music fest in the clubs of Iceland’s capitol featuring some of Iceland’s best acts as well as attracting some other European acts to the tiny island. When we first arrived in Iceland we weren’t sure what to expect. We knew that the sun stays out for 20-24 hours a day and that this time of year is treated as a party in and of itself as the doldrums of winter (4 hours of sunlight a day) were officially over. The people were all in great moods and the clubs/bars obliged by staying open until 4 am on the weekends.

When we first arrived, after an overnight flight, the excitement of being in a foreign land helped us overcome our lack of sleep. Our first impression of Reykjavik was how small it was. Not in a bad way, more that we were impressed that so much creative output comes from a country of only 320,000 people and only 180,000 in Reykjavik. We spent the day touring the natural wonders of Iceland’s geology, hot springs, boiling mud pits, geysers and tectonic plates. The natural beauty and the unusual sun patterns seem like the perfect palate to create whimsical, otherworldly music and the Reykjavik Music Mess (RMM) did not disappoint. Before we arrived I did some research checking out the bands that would play in the fest as most were unfamiliar to me. After a week of listening to Finnish noise rock, Icelandic punk and the rest I came across the artist that would prove to be the highlight of the festival and our trip in general, Snorri Helgason.

Snorri’s latest album Winter Sun took me totally by surprise and instantly became one of my top 5 records I’ve listened to all year. I was also pleasantly surprised at the level of hometown support Iceland gives its artists. On the IcelandAir flight from Denver, the in-flight entertainment included an all Icelandic music station which had Snorri’s first record I’m Gonna Put My Name on Your Door (which I had been frantically searching for prior to our departure). It turns out Snorri is two for two in making great albums. His English lyrics and bedroom, singer-songwriter style perfectly reflect the wonder that is Iceland. After seeing Snorri live I know that he won’t be foreign to American listeners for long and I’m honored to provide his North American debut here on MOKB.

MP3 : Snorri Helgason – Mockingbird

Dr. Robert: How/when did you decide music was what you were going to do with your life?

Snorri Helgason: I was 19 years old when I made the decision that I didn’t want to do anything else with my life than to become a musician. I’d always been very interested in music but I never studied anything or even learned how to play an instrument until I was about 17 years old. Then I snuck into my brother’s room and got his guitar out and found out with the help of the internet how to play the Come As You Are riff. Then I found an old Beatles chord book at home as well and studied that intensely. From then on it was just a matter of finding out what songs I liked and exactly which parts in the songs I liked the most and figure out the chord changes and melody movements in those songs. That’s how I taught myself how to write music.
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Interview : Five Questions with Dr. Robert : Ben Kweller

It’s been a while since we chatted with Ben Kweller, but luckily the good doctor found time during BK’s recent Colorado visit to grill him on all things music and life.

Dr. Robert: Changing Horses seemed to be a bit of a departure into a more alt-country vibe. Where did you wanna go with Go Fly A Kite? Did you have a particular sound in mind before recording it? was there any music you were listening to prior to recording it that influenced the album?

Ben Kweller: Oh Doc, you know I don’t listen to music, I just make music! For Kite, I knew it would be a “rock” record so-to-speak… As always, the songs dictate what kind of record I’m going to make. sometimes I feel powerless a little – as if I have no say in the matter. For Horses, I just kept writing these damn country songs. I wasn’t mad at them, I loved them! But, the point is, I just go with whatever gets pulled out of the air. My goal was the same as always – to make a compelling album that’s fun to listen to, that’s different from anything I’ve done before. Seriously though, I don’t get inspired by what other musicians are doing. I just want to do my own thing. So the music I listen to is really for pleasure (even the guilty kind) or to turn my kids on to stuff they’ve never heard before. Lately, we’ve been listening to: Megadeth – Symphony of Destruction, GnR – Welcome To The Jungle, Rick James – Super Freak, Chubby Checker – Limbo Rock, LMFAO – Sexy And I Know It, Pitbull feat. Ne-Yo, Afrojack & Nayer, T-Rex – Children Of The Revolution, Conor Oberst And The Mystic Valley Band – Cape Canaveral.

Dr. Robert: Having started out as a prodigy in Radish to now being an established solo artist, what has changed about the way you make albums and write music? Do you look at the process differently now then as a teenager?

BK: It’s funny… I don’t do anything differently – I write songs the same way I did when I was 10 years old. I guess I just got better at it over time? you certainly have more to write about as you get older and experience life.

Dr. Robert: Your website seems to have taken on a life of its own, how involved have you been in that process? What was your vision for your site?

BK: I wanted to have an official resource for my fans and fellow music nerds. I wanted it to be robust and more in depth then any other music site when it comes to my music. I want it to be a place for my fans to interact and create content of their own. We still have a long way to go, but I’m happy with the way the site is developing.

Dr. Robert: Your first Radish cassette came out in 1994. What goals do you have for your career as you approach your twentieth year in the music biz?

BK: Well, I guess my goals haven’t changed much either… I just enjoy writing songs. Seriously Doc, I reeeeally fucking love writing songs. Like, a lot. Writing makes me happy and I like to be happy. If today sucks, I want to believe that tomorrow will be better. Music helps me believe that. It does for me what religion must do for millions of people. I know my music makes other people happy too. That’s a great feeling. I’ve met people with my lyrics tattooed to their skin. I met a woman in Australia who named her son Kweller. The fact that my music has affected other lives is really a special thing to me. It’s not why I make music, but it is sacred and something I’m aware of. In the end, the goal is to be happy. If you’re not happy, do something else.

Dr. Robert: What new music should we be listening to?

BK: Beyond the weird list of stuff from question #1, there are a lot of great bands out there. Here are a few of my faves: The Murdocks, The Happen-Ins, Taurus, The Dig, Sleeper Agent, The Soft Pack, Smith Westerns, Japandroids, Yuck, The Candles, John David Kent, Mason Jennings, The Sword.

Interview : 4 Questions with Dr. Robert : The Head and The Heart

Dr. Robert is back on call and holding court with The Head And The Heart’s Tyler Williams. Maybe if you see the good doctor, you can ask him where the 5th question went.

MOKB: Having first self-released your debut in 2009 to having it re-released by Sub Pop to now, how have the songs changed in the live format? Are you itching for new material to play on the road? Any plans for a new record?

Tyler Williams: The songs have changed just by playing them every day for the last 2 years. I find myself adding in the tiniest detailed changes that may mean something only to me at that moment, but when all 6 members are doing the same thing, it adds up after awhile. I think the songs are much bigger and more impactful now than when we recorded them. We are definitely excited to try new songs out on the road this year. We’ve been playing a couple already and the feedback you get just from seeing what works and why is important. In the next few months, the core of the writing should be finishing up and we’ll take to the studio, hopefully around the new year.

MOKB: Using Denver as an example your rise has been astounding. Not too long ago you were playing the hipster bowling alley Moe’s (known more for its bowling and BBQ than its live music) to this summer sharing the stage at red rocks, how has this ascent felt from the inside?

TW: It’s been a weird thing to view from the inside. It just feels like I’m in this bubble with 5 other people and the view is hazy and perpetually changing. We managed to stay busy enough to where we didn’t even care to know how things were going, but now playing such large venues, it’s a bit more in your face. It’s definitely nice to be able to play music on whatever level this is on, but I think we tend to keep our heads down and focus on the whats important.

MOKB: You have shared the stage with several amazing acts both big and small. Please share a good story from an act you have shared the stage with. You still have a mix of shows where you are opening for large acts (Dave Matthews, the Shins) and are now starting to get stellar opening acts (The Moondoggies), how has that transition been for the band?

TW: One of my favorite memories is being in the studio with My Morning Jacket, to help with their Christmas iTunes EP. I wasn’t even doing anything besides hanging around and trying not to get in anyone’s way. It was just amazing to watch Charity and Josiah, who have now become like family to me, sing with a band who define what it means to be gentlemen while still being ridiculously talented musicians.

MOKB: How do you prepare for your second album? There will obviously be some expectations, hype, excitement for its release and how do you temper that with the musical goals of the band?

TW: I think just recently, I came more to terms with the idea of a second record. Yea, I think we’ve grown enough to where no matter what we do, it’s inherently going to be different but it’s also still us. It’s the same people who made the last record. I think the only expectations we feel are from ourselves, right now. We had the fortune of making, releasing and supporting our first record on our own terms and I think we learned a lot in the process. We really aren’t beholden to anyone but ourselves and the people who enjoy what we make. We’ve been criticized before for being what we are, but we’ll never stop doing what we want to do as a group.

Interview : Warren Zanes of The Del Fuegos

You are to be forgiven if you’re not familiar with Boston’s The Del Fuegos. Labelmates of X and Los Lobos, chums of The Replacements, the original band splintered after two stellar releases (1984’s The Longest Day and 1985’s Boston, Mass.) and called it a day after two more uneven outings. The members kept plenty busy after packing it in, but now, after nearly a quarter of a century on hiatus, the boys are back for a quick victory lap around their favorite stomping grounds in the Northeast and Midwest, not to mention some new music.

MP3 : The DelFuegos – Friday Night

Guitarist Warren Zanes (who spent his vacation earning a Ph.D from the University of Rochester in Visual and Cultural Studies, teaching college, working for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, writing several books and releasing three solo records) was gracious enough to sit down with MOKB on the eve of the tour to discuss the band, beer commercials and close encounters with Bob Stinson.

MOKB: For me, the Del Fuegos are one of the great forgotten bands of the 80s. Do you think it was just your relatively brief run that prevents the band from being mentioned in the same breath with bands like X and the Replacements?

Warren Zanes: History doesn’t have room for all of the players. As an academic, and one who deals with historiagraphy, I recognize that any history involves pruning and ordering and giving shape to something that, without it, is often without any obvious shape. There’s nothing wrong in this, of course. Wild histories would be interesting–but domesticated histories allow everyone to consider the same information and discuss it. History and fiction only appear to be different species. But the question might be this: should my old band be remembered in the same way that those great bands you mention are remembered? I’m not convinced that this is the case. And I’m not convinced that the Replacements and X feel like they ARE remembered! I think everyone feels a little like they missed the boat, like the party passed them by. And here’s my last thought: isn’t there something cool to being forgotten? Only then can you be dug up by the hooligans of the future. I mean, think of Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets compilation–the beauty there is that these great recordings got lost and years later got dug up. Why not be forgotten? There’s always going to be another party later on, and you might just be invited.

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5 Questions with Dr. Robert : Deer Tick

MOKB’s Dr. Robert is back at it, making his rounds with the who’s who of the indie scene. Next up: John McCauley of Deer Tick.

Dr. Robert: How did the Middle Brother concept come about? Does this supergroup have a future or was that record (one of my faves of the year) a one-off?

John McCauley: Me and Taylor were on tour in 2009 and thought it would be fun to write and record together. When we were finally able to get together it just so happened that Matt was free. I had never met Matt, except once when I was blackout drunk, but I had a good feeling about it. I’m not sure we’ll continue with Middle Brother. I’d like to do another record someday though.

Dr. Robert: How did recording in your home state of RI affect the new record?

JC: Well, we got to sleep in our own beds and haunt our favorite bars every night. That was fun. I don’t know, it was just comfortable. We probably could have recorded it anywhere though.

Dr. Robert: I was pumped to learn that the inspiration for the band name was a tick incident in the woods near Bloomington, IN a place near and dear to my heart. What’s the story of that fateful day?

JC: I was hiking with some friends in Monroe National Forest, or Park, or whatever it is. I had somehow managed to never get bitten by a tick before, even though there’s a shitload of them in Rhode Island. I kind of freaked out when I found a deer tick on my scalp. I thought it sounded gross, and pretty cool, so that was that.

Dr. Robert: Any Deervana shows in the near future?

JC: No, Deervana broke up. We still cover Nirvana songs once in awhile though.

Dr. Robert: Any new music/bands we should be listening to?

JC: Virgin Forest, Dead People, Cerebral Ballzy, Strange Boys, Shannon and the Clams, Knife Party, Guards. This one’s not new but we just got a copy of Kid Rock’s 1990 debut Grit Sandwiches For Breakfast – it’s really something else…

See the entire Deer Tick session at Laundromatinee.com!