Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A birthday haiku

Here I am again
A signpost of where I am
and how far to go

Nov. 30, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dom Flemons, Carolina Chocolate Drops interview

Dom Flemons: A Conversation About Music
Introduction and interview by Daniel Coston

Over the last five years, the Carolina Chocolate Drops have helped to bring the music of our past into our present. Sure, there are many that play what is often referred to as old-time music, but very few make it theirs the way that the Drops do, injecting the music with their own heart and spirit. While the band's fanbase has steadily grown, and the group received a Grammy for their 2010 album Genuine Negro Jig, it is this regeneration of the music that puts them ahead of others.
Dom Flemons is possibly the most recognizable member of the group, and has a scholarly knowledge of the music he plays. With this knowledge, I set up this story as a less of a interview, and more of a conversation about the music. Read on, listen and enjoy.

Coston: How did first hear some of the music that you play now?

Flemons: I first heard folk songs in choir in elementary school but I didn't really take any interest in playing the music I play now till I was about 22 years old or so. It was my third year of college and I had been playing guitar, harmonica and banjo for about 6 years and had gone through many musical and artistic phases. I first got into 50's, 60's and 70's rock and from there I got into Bob Dylan and that lead to me getting into the 60's folk revival and the different musicians that formed the whole of that music scene.  Also I began going to the local folk festivals in Arizona, and began learning songs from the older players that jammed in the parks. I had also picked up records and songs of various genres and tried my best to play in those styles. I got into singer-songwriters and I wrote my own songs for quite a while but by the time I reached college I had lost most of my inspiration to write songs.

Looking for new means of expressing myself through writing I began to write prose and short stories.  As it happened I began to get interested in doing slam poetry and became apart of the local poetry scene in Flagstaff.  I helped form the NorAZ poets and performed in two National Poetry Slams.  I enjoyed my time performing my poems but I really wanted to play music again.  I began to pursue different old-time blues, jazz and country music and began to perform those. I had a few years of playing in those styles until the Black Banjo Gathering where I found a new outlet to explore the music that I loved.

Coston: What instruments did you play first?

Flemons: I started out playing percussion in the school band. I also played the bass drum in the marching band. When I was 16 that was when I began playing guitar and harmonica.

Coston: Early on, which performers did you hear, or see that just blew you away?

Flemons: The first musician that made me want to play was Bob Dylan who I first saw in the documentary The History of Rock 'N' Roll.  Also in that documentary I saw two musicians who visually took me to another level.  That was Louis Jordan and Muddy Waters who were featured in the first episode.  Their exuberent performances in the film footage made me want to look up their music in the library.  In an era of 90's rock, I had never seen such dynamic performers before and had to pursue their music.

Coston: Would you say that American music is not a genre per se, but a collection of various sounds and influences, much like America itself?

Flemons: I'd say its both. American music can be very specific in some ways.  American music is a collection of various sounds and influences but those various sounds can come out very different from one another.  There is always in thread that goes through each of these styles but jazz, blues, country, zydeco, native and chicano musics are all very distinct genres of music even though they all fly under the American music genre banner.

Coston: How did American music change from the era of Stephen Foster and Dan Emmitt, to the jugband music of the '20s and '30s?

Flemons: There was a huge transition that happened between Stephen Foster and Dan Emmett's era (1850's-1860's) to the jug bands of the 20's and 30's. I mean there were big events that changed the way Americans lived in general and the music also reflected those changes. The minstrel show had grown from a small string band creating a caricature of what was perceived to be black life on the plantation to an overblown international phenomenon. Though this institution was known as a white musician's institution blacks all the while were building up ways to express themselves on the popular stage including making their own minstrel troupes. Over the years, blacks found different styles of music to adapt to create new forms of music that would influence American culture. Ragtime and Coon Songs would make way for Jazz, Blues and Black Musical Theater. There is a great book called Stomp and Swerve which talks about this transition.

In the teens, folks like James Reese Europe and WC Handy had established bands and orchestras to play for various events in the communities and this practice was used all over the country. The jug bands were an offshoot of this musical practice.  Though they were based more on the novelty of using unconventional instruments, these groups were actually well trained orchestras that were prepared to play at whatever social events were needed for the upper crust of society. These groups were found all over the South in particular but the most famous ones to record were from Louisville, KY and Memphis, TN.   

Coston: How much did the mainstream discovery of American and "hillbilly" music in the 1920s and 1930s, via performers such as the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and Charlie Poole, change American music itself?

Flemons: It changed everything. One thing that is hard to imagine is that at a certain point human being had no way to preserve their music.  Also folks had never heard themselves either so they had no idea to know the way they sounded when they sang or played music.  With the invention of the audio recording, people had an infinitely useful way to preserve their culture. Like all technology, the rich and elite were the only ones who had access to this technology. Over time, it made its way into the hands of regular folks but for the first few decades, the records made were records of classical music and elite music.  It was only by accident that PR people from the record companies began to find out that there was interest in these musicians that were a little rough around the edges.  Nowadays these recordings made in the early part of the century, along with the many field recordings made by scholars over the years, are now the foundation of what we as modern people define as our American folk music.   

Coston: It's obvious that while some wanted to separate black and white music, the two shared some similiar influences, and often converged. What are the common bonds in black music (for lack of a better term) and white music?

Flemons: The easier way to approach this question is to make the answer a little broader. Black and white people have had common musical cultures in America just because they have needed to live side-by-side for so long in both hostile and not hostile situations.  Because the context of the music making in American society was and is so varied you have different combinations of musical cultural everywhere you go.  Before there were definitive musical genres that defined a culture, people played music that reflected their local culture which in many cases were far more varied than we would think today.  The common bonds are the cultures that the musicians came from.  For example, take a song like "John Henry".  The song is found in both black and white culture but the way the song is approached varies based on the function of the musician in their local culture.  Dance bands keep the text at a minimum and the dance beat in the forefront while ballad singers do the opposite.  Again, its all about the function of the musician and the song.  The racial implications are not as important as the broader social implications. 

Coston: What is it about Joe Thompson and his collection of songs that makes him so special?

Flemons: Joe Thompson is special because he is a living example of a musical style that is rare in the old-time community and even more rare in the black community.  He plays a set of tunes that he learned in his family and played in the square dances in his community of Mebane, NC.  He also sings very old Primitive Baptist songs that have nuances in the singing that reflect the church singing in his community growing up.  During Joe's lifetime he saw the way that the music in his community changed from the more community-based string band and spiritual styles to the more individualistic blues and gospel styles. The fact that he kept playing the fiddle during that time is a rare and important link to an era that has faded in the black community.   

Coston: Dom, what instrument or instruments have been the most fascinating to you, and why?

Flemons: I'll name a few different instruments here because one of my great loves are the unconventional instruments used in American culture:

The jug- Though it is thought of as a novelty instrument, I have been amazed at the versitility of this instrument.  With just the right technique and imagination, one can cover a lot of ground in a group setting with a jug. 

Bones- The bones have changed the way I approach my music rhythmically.  Taking away the melodic pieces of old-time music can be very liberating.  I enjoy being able to join a jam and making the music jump up a whole other level by adding the right rhythm to accentuate the melody instead of just doubling it which is very common in old-time music.

Quills-  First being inspired by Mike Seeger to play this rare instrument, I love the way this amazing panpipe instrument is just so out there.  It has piercing sound but it is pleasing to the ear and the pentaponic scale that I use make for another wonderful sound that changes the sound of any song.

Coston: I saw the Briarhoppers play at my elementary school when I was 11, and I never forgot it. What do you hope that the kids take away from your shows?

Flemons: All I hope for kids to take away from our shows is just the experience of seeing this music played live.  There s nothing better than experiencing music live.  Also as the teachers are tending to prep the kids for our shows, it is great to be able to give them a history lesson that is accompanied by great music. Also being black musicians playing this music it is also great to be able to give kids a real example of blacks playing the music instead of just talking about it.

Coston: How have your interests in music evolved for the Drops' history?

Flemons: My search for interesting and amazing music has just continued to grow as we've gotten out there more and more.  I learn little tidbits that just my knowledge and love of the music.  I first got interested in the old-time music through the old-time songsters and that search just continues on and has lead me to more doors than I can open at one time.  With each new discovery I make, my interests have grown to share this information with others as well as promote or make people aware of others that are making similar musical discoveries.  Our group is not the only one out there and the more people that are playing this music, the better.

Coston: If there were to recommend an artist to someone whom they'd never heard, who would that be and why?

Flemons: I would recommend people to not one but many performers.  I would recommend they look up the companies that I loolked up and make the decisions themselves.  It has always amazed me what I miss when I go through material and what others pick up on when they look through the same material.  I would recommend folks look up Yazoo Records, Old Hat Records, Music Maker Relief Foundation and Sun Records and that will give anyone plenty to start with and hopefully will lead people to many more discoveries.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A working holiday

Hello Everyone-

Happy Thanksgiving, and happy holidays to you all. I'm spending the holiday the way that many people seem to spend their holidays these days. Getting caught up on all the things I've been meaning to work on the past few months. I spent a good part of yesterday (when I wasn't grilling the turkey- yes, I said grilling) finishing up a series of photos from my archives for a NC record label's upcoming anniversary. Today, I'm hoping to finish an interview with the British folk band Heron (which you'll see soon on this site), and then start scanning my archives of a band that I used to work with several years ago, for reissues of their albums next year.

Generally, I set the scanner up, and have it running while I'm away from my desk. But still, is that wrong? I mean, it is a holiday, after all. The odd part is that I usually enjoy working on projects like these over the holiday, so that I don't veg out in front of the TV, and I generally get a lot done. What did I do on Memorial Day? Scanned and edited a friend's photos for an album that's coming out next year. What did I do for Labor Day? Create this site.

I think it's the change in schedule that I tend to enjoy. The chance to work on MY projects, as opposed to working on everyone's else. That being said, I usually feel like I need a break when the holiday is done, but Lord knows what I'd do during that "breaktime."
-Daniel Coston
November 25, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Travels With My Camera: Ernest Withers, Sound And Images

Travels With My Camera: Sound And Images

In the fall of 2004, I found out that Ernest Withers was going to be doing an exhibition at the SECCA Gallery in Winston-Salem, NC. I was aware of Ernest and his work through his legendary photographs of musicians, as he had documented the Memphis scene for decades. I immediately wanted to be there. I called the publicist at the gallery, and talked my way into the opening night party, via one of the newspapers that I was contributing to at the time. Above all else, I wanted to document the evening, and meet Withers in person.

I have always felt a kinship to the photographers of past century, much more so than the photographers of present day. Most of those great photographers, Withers included, were freelancers, strong individuals who worked without benefit of a major benefactor, and living and working from job to job. As a longtime freelance videographer, and then still photographer, I knew this sense of work ethic like the back of my hand. Freelance work is not for everyone. It requires confidence in your work, and a willingness to embrace the day-to-day possibilities of the next job, or the next idea. And there is nothing more intoxicating than a good shoot, and a new idea.

I arrived early, and carried with me one roll of black &white film, and a couple rolls of color film. Ernest Withers was already there, doing interviews with local TV crews. He was sitting on a chair in center of the gallery, his photos lined up behind him on the wall. You couldn't have asked for a better position to get photos of him. I loaded my black & white roll into my camera. As I starting taking photos of him, he began taking photos of me. No questioning who I was, perhaps just a recognition of a younger, yet same-minded traveler with a camera. We exchanged mischevious smiles, as I realized he seemed to be enjoying catching my photo as I was catching his.

What struck me the most about Withers' work was the diversity, and longevity of his archives. Withers had started working in Memphis in the late 1940s, and still kept a busy schedule when he came to SECCA. His photos of B.B. King with Elvis Presley sat alongside his photos of civil rights marches, and numerous photos of Martin Luther King, who had been a good friend of Withers.

Withers worked the entire room, and seemed to float from one end of the huge gallery to the other, chatting and taking photos as he went. You could have easily forgotten that Withers was 82 years old at the time. I stayed nearby, getting photos of Withers, and the party. At one point, Withers started handing me his camera, to get photos of himself with other patrons. I would get their photo, hand Earnest back his camera, and a few minutes later, we repeated the process. Throughout the rest of the evening, we passed each other's cameras back and forth. I took photos with his, he took one or two with mine. All while Withers continued to hold court.

I didn't say 20 words to Ernest the whole night. But I didn't need to. He was working, and to a different degree, so was I. We were both looking at the world around us with our cameras, capturing what we were seeing as we went. I would like to think that Withers saw a little bit of himself in me, moving and scrambling to get the shot we wanted. At that point, I had not met many photographers that had shared my view of the world, and our craft. It sometimes made my love of photography feel like a slim minority. And yet, here was Ernest Withers, a man I greatly admired, sharing an understanding of what made photography so exciting. All without saying a word.

At the end of the evening, the president of SECCA invited me to breakfast with Withers the following morning. I drove home to Charlotte that night, and then drove back to Winston the following morning for breakfast. I talked a little bit to Withers, but I was aware that he was still charming SECCA's president, and his family, so I didn't press too much. Near the end of the meal, Withers looked up at me, and said, "Do you have another roll of film?" Thankfully, I did, and passed it over to him. "A good photographer always has a spare roll of film," he said with a smile. Thankfully, I still had enough film on the roll I had in my camera to finish the morning. Withers and I said goodbye, and he was off to another shoot, another day of work back in Memphis.

We move through our lives with varying speeds, all the while thinking (or over-thinking) our own actions. We want to leave something of ourselves behind, and say things that will be meaningful to others. One can spend a lifetime trying to impart these wisdoms. But sometimes, actions alone can reveal so much. They can show that you are not alone in your path, let alone serving as a reminder that you are in fact on the right road. And it is a road that I am still on, and enjoying the ride.
-Daniel Coston
November 22, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bruce Hazel interview, 2010

Bruce Hazel: Classic Sounds For The New League
introduction, interview and photos by Daniel Coston

For over a decade now, Bruce Hazel has put his stamp on rock n' roll throughout the Carolinas. Be it with the Noise, Bruce Hazel & Some Volunteers, Temperance League, or under his own name, Hazel has merged his love of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits and other classic sounds to form his own version of what Rock can be. His current project, Temperance League, joins him with longtime local starwarts Shawn Lynch, Mark Lynch, Chad Wilson and D.K. to create an inviting merge of garage rock and classic-sounding guitars riffs. Temperance League are now touring throughout the East Coast of the U.S., in search of the wider audience that they deserve.

Hazel is also well known in Charlotte for heading up the Fool's Brigade, an annual event that covers a famous musician or band for charity. This event has become that many look forward to, and has packed whichever venue its held in every year. Hazel is also a fun frontman and an all-around good guy, a frontman you can root for when he's onstage.

Tangents: How did the Some Volunteers evolve into Temperance League?

HazelThe Bruce Hazel & Some Volunteers moniker was something I could put on anything I was doing at the timeThis is something differentThis is a band.

Tangents:  How do you feel about this lineup now?

Hazel: I remember Mark and Shawn talking about the early days of Lou Ford. How they were a gang. I wanted to be part of a gang.

Tangents: You've been writing and playing a lot of new songs, and you have been recording with this new lineup, as well as the Volunteers. What's your plan for the next record?

Hazel: There are a ton of songs. We have enough completed material for a Volunteers record. We should have probably put it out by now. But at least I have it. Currently we are trying to make something that represents Temperance League. I want to capture the raw energy with minimal overdubs. The Volunteers record is layered. I want the Temperance League record to be stripped. I want all the records I make to be something I'm excited to listen to. I would like to make something that represents us and our live show.

Tangents: Talk about your role as a frontman. What do you have to do to get people into what you and the band are doing?

Hazel: It is the simplest thing that took me the longest time to realize... to just be honest and be myself.

Tangents: What has been your favorite Temperance League gigs so far?

Hazel: It's always nice to be home at Snug Harbor.

Tangents:. The League has been playing more out of town. Do you hope to continue that for a while?
Hazel: As much as possible.
Tangents: What changes have you seen to the Charlotte scene over the past several years?

Hazel: More beards.

Tangents: Between The Journey And the Destination (released in 2004) is still one of my favorite records to come out of Charlotte in the past ten years. What do you think about when you hear that record?

Hazel: I'm very proud of that record. We had a blast making it. Justin [Faircloth, of the Houstons]  was the most comfortable producer to work with. I just invited all my favorite players to stop by Cougar Camp [Studios]. We had DK, Chad [Wilson], Benji [Hughes], [John] Morris, [Chris] Lonon, Rodney [Lanier], Joey Stephens, Michael [Anderson] and [Brent] Bagwell. We had everybody. Somebody was always hanging out or stopping by. Mark [Lynch] came by to offer his sage advice. But I don't think we ever got Matt [Faircloth] or Mark on tape. 

It was easy. Very casual. We'd have lunch and some drinks and just play. Shawn was living at [Cougar Camp] at the time, so when he'd get home from work I'd say, "Get in there and play this guitar part," or, "We need you to play drums on this." I think the record reflects how much fun we were having. When I listen to that record I picture us hanging out in the kitchen listening to someone tracking in the next room. They'd come out and say, "How'd I do?"  I'd yell to Justin in the control room "How was that?" He'd say, "Perfect." I'd say, "Sounds like you're done." But you were there, you know?

Tangents: How did the annual Fools Brigade shows start?

Hazel: Just thought it was time to get involved in my community. It was during the time the Pillowtex factory closed down outside Charlotte in 2004. I organized a fund raiser for those families affected. It happened quick. I made some calls and everyone responded. We raised a little money and had a good time. Later that year I got involved with Rock The Vote, and put together a show to get people registered. Again the neighborhood responded. There is a mission statement on the Fool's Brigade site that Phil came up with so we could sound more official. But really The Fools Brigade Annual Benefit is as much for us as it it is for the charity. It's fulfilling and satisfying that feeling of knowing you belong to a community.

Tangents: Do you have any favorite years of the Fools Brigade shows?
Hazel: Luckily each show we've done has been a success. All have had memorial moments but something really special happened in the room the night we did Bowie. 

Tangents: What records are you listening to these days?
Hazel: I can't stop listening to Reigning Sound. I'm going thru a huge Greg Cartwright phase right now. 

Tangents: Okay, here's the scenario.... Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits are gonna settle things once and for all, but they're gonna dance it out, like the gangs in West Side Story. Who wins, and why?

Hazel: I never saw West Side Story.

Tangents: Was there any person or show you saw, or met when you growing up that made you want to be a musician?

Hazel: Some I've know personally and some I've just admired as a fan but I continually seem to discover them just when I'm ready to throw in the towel. 

Tangents: Any questions for the interviewer?

Hazel: Of all you've interviewed who was the toughest to get a straight answer out of?

Tangents: There's been a couple... and I'll tell you about them the next time I see you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Andy The Doorbum interview

Andy The Doorbum: In Through The Out Door
The Tangents Interview
Interview, introduction and photographs by Daniel Coston

Even if you’ve never seen Andy The Doorbum play, you’ve probably met the man behind the moniker. Andy Fenstermaker works the door at both the Milestone and Snug Harbor, depending on which night you are at either venue. Working at the Milestone pushed Andy to create his own music, which he has done now through several releases, and numerous live shows. It’s the wide-eyed energy that Andy brings to the shows that make you stand up and take notice, and that energy also comes through in his recordingings. Andy is always working on another album, and may well have another in the works by the time you read this. Whichever CD or cassette you catch him on, Andy is somebody you should catch up with, as I recently did via email.

Tangents: How did you first start writing and playing songs?

Andy: When I was about 8 or 9 years old I had these stuffed animals. I had given each one a distinct voice that I would do for them and I got a hold of a cassette boom box with a record button and made a 'band' for the stuffed animals. I would hit a cake pan for drums and sing along in the various voices, making guitar noises with my mouth when there weren't any vocal lines.  I did 3 tapes and most of the songs were originals that I came up with. After that, I realized that I could write songs so I continued.

Tangents: How did the Andy The Doorbum moniker come into being?

Andy: The Milestone is one of those places where, if you sit around for long enough in one of its nooks or crannies, strange things will start growing on you. The Doorbum moniker is one of those things.

Tangents: How has being the doorguy at both the Milestone, and Snug Harbor influenced what you’re writing?

Andy: The Milestone really shaped me into the adult that I am. I started working there when I was 20 and so it really taught me about the music game and fostered my pursuit of a certain lifestyle that I had dreamed of having.  Snug carries that on in the same way.  Both places give me the time to reflect and to observe people in an extremely uncensored environment.  I am not only allowed to express myself and take the time off I need to travel and perform, but I am encouraged to do so.  Everyone I work for and with are supportive and understanding of that lifestyle that is necessary to be an artist and pursue that passion.  They're the best 'jobs' I've ever had.

Tangents: Has being the doorguy helped you get gigs, and meet other bands?

Andy: Abso-fucking-lutely.  Almost every single contact that I have and band that I know is a result of working in a rock club.

Tangents: You released the album Art Is Shit earlier this year. Describe that album, and how did it come together?

Andy: Art is Shit came about like most of my albums do. I record and write pretty much continuously, and when I have enough material (or actually, way too much) I decide that it must be time to arrange it into a record. That was the process with Art is Shit. It’s by far my favorite album. I did 98% of all the playing myself, and recorded, mixed, and mastered it also. With the upgrade I made in recording equipment, I was able to realize all of the ideas I came up with, which used to be hard to accomplish due to a limited number of tracks and mixing capabilities. I didn't feel like I had to compromise or settle with anything on that record, which is a nice step in artistic evolution, in my opinion.

Tangents: You're already recording your next album. How is it going, and how has your sound changed for this new project?

Andy: The new album is coming along rather well. It tends to be a lot more lyrically oriented and most of the songs are slow, stripped down, and more along the lines of ballads.  This wasn't intentional, I just happen to be writing more songs like that lately.  Its definitely on the darker side.  Someone once told me that Art is Shit reminded them of funeral music. If that's the case, this new record would be the purgatory that follows the funeral. It should be out within a few months, if all goes well, and will be released to vinyl only with a digital download card.

Tangents: You’ve done a lot of four-track recording in the past, but this new album was recorded in a studio. Talk about the pros and cons of working with both ways of recording?

Andy: I actually recorded the newest record myself, but with much more studio-like equipment.  I've recorded in a studio one time, the results of which ended up as the B side of the limited edition cassette that was just put out on Slanty Shanty records.  David Childers had the studio slot booked and right around the time he was thinking about retiring, he gave it to us.  It was a fun experience and studio sessions always seem to come out sounding 'better,' but ultimately (and this is just a personal preference) I like doing things myself.  I am unlimited in my capacity to explore ideas and when it comes down to it, when I do it all myself, its 'me.'  Art is a perspective.  Its the same reason some painters like to build their own frames or mix their own colors.  Whether it comes out good or bad, I have no one to blame but myself.

Tangents: What subjects drive you to write songs? Things you witness, emotions, etc..

Andy: Any number of things. Mostly real life situations. The grit and grime that makes up the beautifully chaotic world we live in. I like striking images. I find beauty in the worst of things, just as in the best of them, but I tend to focus more on exalting the uglier side of life...  Maybe because its far less traditionally appropriate to find beauty in those places which seems odd to me.  I think I'd go insane if I couldn't find some sort of magic in tragedy.

Tangents: You’ve also traveled quite a bit, which has shown up in some of your songs. What has your favorite countries to visit, and/or be inspired by?

Andy: I have been extremely fortunate to travel the places I have, given my financial disposition. My favorites were: Iceland, mainly because I was fresh out of high school and made the decision to just get on a plane, hitchhiking and staying in a tent in a country I knew nothing about, which was a really intense and intimidating experience that grew me up awful quick. The other was Chiapas, Mexico. That place is amazing and the people there, along with the political and military situation, are things I feel I needed to experience in my life.  That harsh reality is essential and incredible. One of the prettiest places I've seen.

Tangents: You’re part of a healthy stable of musicians, all of whom have their own bands. How many bands are you also involved with at the moment, and do all of the bands help out each other?

Andy: My only other project at the moment is Appalucia. Its a country/drinking music band.  We do help each other out, because the bands share members and most everybody in that band has other bands that they're in. So the chain of possibilities is endless and those collaborations always lead to other opportunities.

Tangents: Is it hard to keep track of the schedules of all those bands?

Andy: Very much so.

Tangents: How important is it to play out of town, and build a regional or national base?

Andy: That all depends on what you want to get out of it.  In my case, I feel like music is the best thing I have to offer and at this point have dedicated my life to pursuing it. I don't aim to get rich, but I aim to live this lifestyle regardless, and so for anyone with those ambitions I think playing out of town is extremely important. You gotta go tell it on the mountain to create an echo.

Tangents: For one day (earth time), you get hold of the Tardis. What are you doing during that day?

Andy: See what the world was like without people. I'd like to know how she's supposed to look.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rob Lind of the Sonics interview, part one

Rob Lind: Sonic Adventures In Sound
Interview by Daniel Coston
Part one only originally published on Tangents Magazine website, 2011

Tangents: One thing that came across in talking to you guys when we did that photo shoot was , I think was it Jerry or [Larry] who said something to the effect of, “If we are gonna do this, we’re gonna do it FOR REAL..and we’re not gonna play around with this.” You were gonna do this the way you wanted The Sonics to sound….

Rob Lind: …. Or we wouldn’t have done it. Yeah, that was Larry saying that. And he’s absolutely right. We, at the time, before we did Cavestomp, which was kind of our “coming out party”, and we were rehearsing real hard to get ready to do it…and we still wouldn’t give the promoter the total, “thumbs up,” because we didn’t want to be like some of the groups that get back together after thirty years and go out and blow it. And by that I mean that we had a pretty good legacy and were pretty well thought of from when we were playing in our late teens and early twenties, the original Sonics, and we didn’t want to destroy that by going out and being idiots and not being able to play, and just picking up a paycheck and going home.

So we all thought, the three of us, Jerry and Larry and me, the originals, we had decided, look, if we’re not ready , we’re not gonna do it. We’re not gonna go out there and blow it.
And it was only up until about two weeks prior to that Cavestomp show that we finally called our promoter and told him, “Okay, we’re comin’ to New York.” We were not in a hurry.
We were not greedy or eager to get back on stage. We wanted to make sure that when we did, that we were good. And now, last year, NPR called us, “The best rock and roll band in the world.” I appreciate NPR for that grandiose comment.

Tangents: Was there ever a point in the last couple of years where you looked around at where the band was going and you thought, “wow I never thought that this would happen”?

Lind: Yeah. Absolutely. You know for us, back in the early Sonics days, with the exception of when we would open for The Beach Boys, you know at the Seattle Coliseum there would be 20,000 people in there, well, they weren’t there to see US, they were there to see The Beach Boys, but we got to play in front of them. But when people came to see US, for us 3,000 people was a monster crowd! And we played for 15,000. You know, it’s just a sea of faces when you walk out onstage. And it’s a sea of faces as far as you can see and they’re dancing’ and waving their beers. So, yes, it’s hugely gratifying and we never anticipated that we would run into that.

Tangents: What finally brought you guys back around? Was there any specific incident? Or is it something that you guys had kicked around for a while?

Lind: No, actually, we had basically talked about it, but nobody was practicing, including me. And as Larry would tell you, we’d been approached by this promoter for about three years in a row…a guy that wanted us to come back and do Cavestomp…and initially it was, “Hell no!” And the next year it was, “NO” and the next year it was, “Well, maybe we’ll think about it.” And so we thought, “I wonder if we can do it?”

So I made a lot of trips up to Seattle..and it was just Larry, Jerry and me. Just the three of us went over things, again and again and again. You know, Jerry hadn’t sung and his voice wasn’t ready for that and I hadn’t played sax in a long time and Larry hadn’t played a lot of guitar, either. So, it was just playin’ and playin’ and playin,’ and when it got to the point where it looked like we MIGHT be able to do this, then we brought in two other guys to have a full sound to see what it would sound like as a band.

And we brought Donnie in, and we had another drummer that we were working with. But we were getting close to Cavestomp, and this other drummer, although he was good, he wasn’t progressing quite quickly enough to make the Cave Stomp deadline. And I don’t mean in any respect to criticize him or to put him down, because we were all starting over and progressing. And we were getting close to Cave Stomp and he wasn’t quite ready to do it. So Donnie said, “Well I know this Rick Johnson, and he brought Rick over,  and that’s all he does is play drums. So he came in and sat down and BOOM! We were ready to go to Cavestomp. So that’s how Ricky got into the band and has been there ever since.
Tangents: So, what do the new songs sound like?

Lind: Well, they’re all different. They’re rock songs. And in The Sonics tradition, one of them is called, “Bad Attitude.” And I wrote one called, “Don’t Back Down”…and I wrote another rocker called, “Cheap Shades” about cheap sunglasses. And Freddy came in with a song that he wrote called, “Vampire Kiss”. Which is an interesting song. So they are all up-tempo, hard rock type songs.

And we’re writing for this next EP… and I wrote one called, “Get Off My Back”.
Well, we’ve noticed that with the kids in Europe, the stuff they know of ours they like to SHOUT it out and so the line is, “ Hey, hey, hey! Get off of my back!”
And so we figured, well, the European kids are gonna love that because they’re gonna be shoutin’ it and waving their beer bottles.

Tangents: Obviously this means a lot to Jerry and to Larry, too, because I know that they are just amazing talents . And to finally see them get their due, especially with some of the health problems that Jerry has had, I know that this must mean a lot to him….
Lind: Yeah, it does. And you know to give my old pal kudos, he’s singing great now and playing great keyboards - his health is good - Larry is playing better guitar than he ever did. I mean he’s really playing “above himself” now - and these four songs feature a LOT of guitar playing and he just does a great job!

He’s real … OCD…so he’ll do something twenty-five times until he gets it exactly right, ya know? Like in the OLD Sonic days, it was, “OK that’s a keeper!” Jerry would say, “Let me have another chance to make it sound better.” Well, now those days are over. Larry is in there at two o’clock in the morning.

One note that I should add is that the producer is Jack Endino, From Nirvana fame. But in Seattle he is referred to as, “Legendary producer, Jack Endino”. Jack is so good and such a great guy that the sessions where we did these four songs were just a lot of fun.
And so we are anticipating for the next songs that are coming up that going back to Jack again…

Tangents: How has it been to record now, as opposed to how you used to record the first time around?
Lind: Well, we get asked that question all the time and we get asked also what’s it like to play now? And the answer is technology. Back then we’d go in and we’d lay down the basic track, and if somebody made a mistake, you’d say, “aw, cut! Cut! Hold it! Let’s try it again from the top!” Now, you know, with digital, for instance, if I’m playin’ the sax, and my sax betrays me and squeaks in the middle of something? Jack can just take the squeak out. I’ll say, “God dang it! I’ll go back and do that part over again.” And he’ll say, “No, no, no, you don’t have to do that. I can go in and pull that outta there.  On the previous take you didn‘t squeak, so I‘ll take the good note from the previous take and replace that squeak with it.” They can do stuff like that! Which is totally different from when we recorded those first Sonic albums.

Those first Sonic albums were like the way we played, almost. We would take it from the top and blast through to the end. And the producers were like, “Aw, yeah, that’s good enough for me! Let’s move along to the next one!” We don’t do that anymore!
Tangents: One of the legends of the Sonics , those records, was that you guys didn’t even mike the drums. That Bob was just playing so loud….
Lind: You know I think they may have had some “minium mic-ing” on them, maybe like uh, Cream-type situation? Over the top of his drums. But no, that was Bob for real.And when we play live, we mike everything on Rick, you know. Because we play these big venues, these big festivals. But, Bobby Joe, we never did He just hit hard.

Tangents: You can hear that, too! He was just killin’ those drums!
Lind: Well, he would come OFF of his drum stool! I mean he literally would hit the bass so hard that he’d come off of his drum stool! Ricky was telling’ us, “I saw you guys playin’ live one time and Bob broke a bass drum-head. “ And he said, “I have never seen anybody break a bass drum-head, but Bob did!”
Tangents: Wow. That was the amazing thing about seeing you guys play in Austin, the sound, the tone of Larry’s guitar. It was just that over-amped [sound]. I don’t know how he sets up his amp, but it was just this over-driving sound that had no pedals on it, as far as I could tell…
Lind: Oh yeah, he’s got pedals. You just can’t see ‘em. He’s got like four. But he uses two amps. He uses two amps in tandem, and sometimes he uses both of ‘em. Sometimes he’ll use ONE for a clean sound and sometimes he’ll use one for the dirty sound.
Larry is very, very particular about the guitar sound that he gets. He works real hard on it.
When we go to the sound check, he starts. He goes by himself. And he and our sound man, Jim Anderson, set the amps up and then he just screws with them. He’s just down on his knees, trying a little of this, trying a little of that. Yeah, he’s very, very meticulous about it.

Tangents: Wow. What was amazing is that the sound comin’ off the stage, Oh, my God, that’s, that’s HIM!
Lind: Yeah, that’s what I mean, yeah! And it hasn’t changed!

Tangents: When you are playing, how do you see the sound of your sax, is there something that you are trying to put forth in that band, or are you just going out and trying to rip it?
Lind: What I try to do with the sax, well there’s two different parts of my sax playing: one part is being in the mix and being textured. You should hear the sax, so like when we’re playing oldies like, “Money” or when we’re playin’ riff songs like, “The Witch” or “Psycho”, it’s primarily guitar-driven, but the sax has to be in there for texture. It just makes the band sound bigger.

So, on all those songs, I play on all those songs just like I was another guitar-player. Instead of a sax player. I put the sax in all those songs in the BACKGROUND of all those songs - to put more balls into it. When I play solos, I just play like I did when I was 19. I just try to play as hard and fierce and dirty as I know how to play. I just try to play as hard as I can.
You know, I’m NOT a jazz-player. I don’t play jazz, I can’t play jazz. I’m a rock guy You know, I have to admit that I’m a rock player and I just play hard rock just as hard as I can!
Tangents: Going back, what made you pick up the saxophone?
Lind: Oh. When I was in the third grade, they had , “Music Instrument Night” at the PTA and my mom took me down there and she said, “You know, it would be good if you played something.” And I said, “Yeah, Mama! I want to play a trumpet! All the cool dudes play trumpets!” And there was a guy from a music store there, and he said, “No, Robbie, with your overbite, YOU should be playing clarinet.” And I thought, “Ah, Geez…that’s a gay instrument. But okay!”

So I started playing clarinet, and I played clarinet all through school. All the way through High School. I was in the High School Marching Band playing clarinet. And I was a GOOD clarinet player. I was classical and everything. I could REALLY play clarinet. I was like third chair out of twenty clarinet players. I got really good at it. And after school, they had practice rooms, they had a big music room where the band and the orchestra rehearsed, and then around the periphery they had these rooms that were about the size of a bathroom. They were practice rooms. There would be a music stand in there and a stool or a chair, and they were sound-proof.

So, after school one night I went in there and I was gonna practice….and there was this guy down in the main band room playin’ rock-n-roll piano. Playing Jerry Lee Lewis and stuff, and I walked up and listened to him and said, “Whoa! That’s really cool!” And I said, “Well, hold on a second!” And I thought, “God, there must be a sax around here someplace!” So there was a big shelf of music instruments. So I pulled out this tenor-sax. I don’t know whose it was. I just opened it up, put a reed on it. You know I knew how to do that from playing clarinet, and so then I went down and then we were playing rock n roll music!

He was playing piano and we were playing , probably horribly, and the band director came down, and I was one of his boys, and he yelled at us, “Hey you guys! Quit stepping on the cat’s tail!!” So this piano player dude said, “Well, this has been kinda fun! Why don’t you come on over to my house, I’ve got a piano, and I live within walking distance from here.”
So, I walked over to his house and we played some more. And that was Jerry Roslie. That’s how I met Jerry! And we were off and runnin’ from then on!
Tangents: How old were you when you met Jerry?
Lind: Sixteen? Probably seventeen, something like that.
Tangents: Is The Sonics the first band that you were in?
Lind: No! Jerry and I were in a couple of different bands. We were in a band called, The Imperials, for a while and we were in a band called, The Night People. And we played church auditoriums. And we thought we’d “really hit the big time” when we got a gig at one of the high schools! We thought, “Aw, man, we’re COOL!” It was like, HEY! I got us a gig at the high school and we’re gonna play three sets!

And I said, “Dude! What are we gonna DO? We only know SIX SONGS!”
(laughter) “Oh, we’ll just play them over and over!” And that’s what we did! Played ‘em over and over! And we were in a band called , “The Searchers.” Matter of fact, I think we were in, The Searchers and The Sonics were playin’ - it was Larry and Andy and a sax player and a drummer…I don’t remember if they had a keyboard player, I don’t think they did, I think they had another guitar-player. I think it was three guitar players and a sax player and a drummer.

So, Jerry and I went to see them. And we thought, “wow! Those two brothers are pretty cool! You know if we had those two brothers and we combined them with you and me and Bobby Joe, we’d have a pretty good rock n roll band.”

And so those two guys decided to give it a try…and so the Parypa brothers came over to Bob’s parents’ house, down in the basement and we had a Sonic practice, and then we went over and had another one over at the Parypa’s home over in Bremerton, and their dad was outside washing the windows or something and we played some songs in their living room and their dad burst through the door and he said, “HOLY COW! You guys really have something - you guys really sound good!” And then we were off and running!
Tangents: So the Parypa brothers had been playing. They had the Sonics together for a few years before you met them?
Lind: I don’t think it was a few years, but it might have been a couple of years. And they were playing little low-level gigs just like we were. We didn’t start playing good places, you know, teenage night clubs. There was a famous teenage night club in Tacoma called The Red Carpet, and that was one of our first “upscale” places to play. And we PACKED the place, they had lines going around the building.So it got to be like the Ramones and CBGB’s. You know when The Sonics were at The Red Carpet, it sold out every Friday and Saturday night - with a line going around the block. And then we’d get a deal where we’d play a sports arena and that was where two or three thousand people would show up…and we thought that that was incredible stuff! We thought, “Man! How can it GET any cooler than THIS?!”
Tangents: Initially, were you guys all instrumental?
Lind: We did a LOT of instrumentals, but, singing was coming in vogue…you know The Wailers were singing and Jerry could sing…we didn’t know HOW GOOD Jerry was…JERRY DIDN’T KNOW HOW GOOD JERRY WAS…and he started doing it, and it WORKED, and so , I would say that back in those days we were probably doing maybe half and half? Something like that…

Until the British Invasion, The Beatles and The Stones, and when we saw THAT, we started weeding out the instrumentals bit by bit and realizing that we had to do a lot of singing. Jerry couldn’t …just by force of the way Jerry sings, he couldn’t sing straight through for three hours, we used to do three sets, everybody did. So I picked up the slack. I had what they euphemistically referred to as a “blues voice,” which meant that I sang all of the Rolling Stones songs! And I sang anything where there was any kind of a blues song, I sang that. “Hootchie Kootchie Man”, and stuff like that, I sang all those, just to give Jerry a break.

We’d do eye contact across the stage and he’d kind of look at me and go, “Whew! I need a break!” And I’d go, “OK” I’ll do Hootchie Kootchie Man or “Hey, Get offa my Cloud,” or something like that.

But with the new Sonics, for three years, I started out doing, “Walking the Dog” which we started doing back in the early days because The Rolling Stones did it…that’s a perfect example. And we did it at Cave Stomp and a couple of other places and it just , because we’re only doing one set now, it didn’t ROCK hard enough…so we dropped it.
The only thing that I’m singing right at the moment is, “You’ve Got Your Head on Backwards”. I may…the boys want me to do, “Get off my Back”, I’m trying to talk Jerry into it. I told Larry that if Jerry absolutely refuses, I’ll take a crack at it! If you promise not to laugh, so we’ll see what happens!
Tangents: That kinda makes sense. Even the set that I saw you guys do in Austin, Jerry didn’t sing all the songs. I think maybe Don sang a couple…
Lind: Well, Don was a great vocalist. And so is Freddy. And so that just, for two reasons.  For one, it’s good just to have another voice, and number two, it rests Jerry. We have to. Jerry is like holding back a HORSE! We’ll tell Jerry at some of these places, “Dude! We gotta play three nights in a row, don’t go out there and blow your tubes on this first night! We can‘t have you hoarse on the next couple of nights!”

And Larry and I have to keep buggin’ him, because Jerry is gonna go out there and give it everything he’s got if we don’t hold him back. He’ll go out there and just wail and scream, and then the next day he can’t talk to you. So, if we’ve got one show and three or four days until the next one, then he can go for it. You know, go crazy. But when we have a series of them, like we get in Europe, we gotta hold him back.
He’s singing really good now! I’m proud of him!
Tangents: I love playing The Sonics for the first time for people, and they hear how he sings and how he screams and how often he screams and like the LOOK on peoples’ faces is like, ‘WOW!’
Lind: Yeah, and he still does that, the crazy old codger! (laughter!)
And Freddy does, too! You really should ..well lets’ see, Freddy does, “Cinderella” and uh, what else does he do? Oh he does our rockers…he does, “Lucille’ and “Dirty Robber”…

Tangents: Speaking of writing, when did you guys start writing those songs… and when did the subject matter come up. The subject matter of The Witches or Stricnine always just strikes me….
Lind: Oh, Jerry would come in with that stuff, like “Strycnine,” and “Psycho.” We did “The Witch,” and actually “The Witch” was supposed to be slower than that. We went in the studio and we were over-awed by the fact that we were in a recording studio and guys were lookin’ at us through the window, so Bob , we all were a little bit nervous, so we played The Witch too fast! We thought we blew it!

And when we listened to it after [the session], we went over to the Parypa’s house and laid on the living room floor and were just distraught. We all just thought, “Aww, we just BLEW IT, we just HOSED IT,  listen to that!” And it was real clean,and Jerry said, “Oh, that just really BLOWS, it’s gotta be BIGGER than that!” So he and Larry took a MagniTone amplifier and they went back up to the studio the middle of the next week, and they overdubbed, and that’s how “The Witch” came to be like that.

So “The Witch” came out in the northwest and it was being played in all the radio stations, so the record company said, “ You guys gotta follow this up! You gotta come up with something!” So we played at The Red Carpet, full house and everything, so we asked the owner, when everyone was gone, “Can we rehearse for an hour?” And he said, “Oh, sure!”
So we just hung out and everybody left and they locked the doors, and we said, “Okay, what are we gonna do, we’ve GOTTA be in the studio tomorrow?” And this is how we used to THINK back in those days, “OK, we have to be in the studio at ten o’clock tomorrow morning, we need a song…”

And so one of the songs that we played back in those days, that the crowd really liked, was a song called, “Farmer John”. And it was a three chord riff. “Farmer John! I’m in love with your daughter!” Over and over. So we said, “Okay, let’s use the “Farmer John” riff, and let’s put some drum breaks in it. Bobby, maybe we can stop it and maybe you can put something in there.” And we said, “Well, we can START IT with a drum break” And Bob said, “yeah, like this.” And we said, “Yeah, PERFECT!” So we said, “OK, we’ll do “Farmer John” with drum breaks” and Roslie said, “OK, I’ll have some words when I get up to the studio tomorrow.” So we walked in the studio and we did “Psycho.” That’s how “Psycho” came about.

Lind: And the rest of that stuff that we did, a lot of that stuff that we did on those albums was songs that we played LIVE, so , there wasn’t a lot of rehearsing to be had…like, “Have Love Will Travel,” we always played that, and so, we’re standing in the studio with our instruments and said, “Well, what do ya want to do?” “Oh, I don’t know…how ‘bout, “Have Love Will Travel”?” “OK! Two three four!” We did it and laid it all down in ONE take!
And we play it NOW and it gets HUGE results.

And there’s been a number of commercials [that have used that song.] As a matter of fact, Jerry came up with, “Shot Down” and we just…”Shot Down” is in one of those…it’s in that new Tom Cruise spy movie that’s out now and is all over the place…”Night and Day”….”Shot Down” is in it….

But yeah, in those days, we didn’t take credit. It was like, “Psycho, written by Jerry.” Well, it was actually written by ALL of us. Bob had a big part in it, BIG part in it. And “Shot Down” for instance, Jerry wrote the words, but Larry came up with the (he makes a noise like a musical instrument here) stuff… but in those days, we just credited the writer.

Like for instance the two that I wrote, “Cheap Shades” and “Don’t Back Down”, that’s fifty-fifty. And a lot of times, Larry will play something…he’ll play a riff…and he’ll say, “You think you can write words to this?” And I’ll say, “Well, play a little bit more.” And he’ll play it and I’ll say, “Yeah, I think I can, actually.” And actually, that’s how, “Don’t Back Down” came to be.
Tangents: That makes more sense, too, when you hear those records. Because it seems like all of you guys had volume and were creating the sound together.
Lind: Yeah, we all did. But a lot of those songs, like, you know, “Dirty Robber”, that was a Wailers song but we played it in all our gigs. And, “Hey! Let’s put Dirty Robber in there! And we did and off we went. The “One-Take-Sonics”

The difference was , and Larry REALLY should have gotten some credit, we had to credit Richard Berry and the Pharaohs, who originally wrote “Louie Louie” But in those days everyone was playing Louie Louie in the standard one/four/five. And we were playing it THAT WAY, too, but we were gonna play it in the studio..and we were doing it in the studio and we always, in those days, the promoters always got cheap studio time. MIDNIGHT TO FIVE! So we’re there, four o’clock in the studio and we’re all totally exhausted, and so we took a break and Larry and Jerry went outside, and sat on a log out right in front of the studio where the cars were parked against. And Larry thought, “Well, why are we doing it, ONE/FOUR/FIVE? Maybe we can do it in a DIFFERENT progression and make it sound a little bit weirder?!” And so he came back in the studio and he said, “Hey guys, I wanna try something,“ and that’s how OUR version of Louie Louie came to be. There is a book called, “Louie Louie,” and the guy who wrote it said, “Of the fifty versions of Louie Louie, no one can touch the Sonics version.” That’s just strictly because Larry thought, “Well, WHY do we have to do it like everybody else? Maybe I can think of something else!” And he DID! You gotta give him full credit for that!

Tangents: Wow. Was the whole midnight to five sort of a regular thing with you guys?

Lind: No, our first couple of sessions were MORNING sessions. You know that time when we went in there and played, “The Witch” too fast. Then it turned out to be a hit record, ya know! But, yeah, we got some cheap studio time. And you know, when I was working in Los Angeles as a director, I used to do commercials, and training films and stuff. …and we’d have to go in edit them. And we’d go into an editing facility…and the producers that I used to work with, they’d do that kind of thing. ”Alright, we’re gonna BE there at 11:30 and we’re gonna work straight through til 6:30 a.m. because it’s cheaper!” But the Sonics gave me an introduction into how to try to think straight at 3:30 in the morning!
Tangents: I love that you guys open with, “He’s Waitin’” That’s still one of my all-time favourite songs.

Lind: Oh, great! And you know the thing that is interesting about us and our original songs, is that in those days without even knowing that we were doing it, we kinda trapped lightning in a bottle. They sound as good as they did back then, they have a life. They’re not antiquated. It’s not like we’re playing some two-stringed, Fender Stratocaster, surfin’ song, they work TODAY!

We never played “Cinderella.” ”Cinderella” was a studio job. We never played it live.
We started playing it live three years ago, and we play it every show. We start our shows with three songs in rapid succession: “He’s Waiting”, “Money” and “Cinderella,” we just go from to the other like it’s just one big song to get the energy up…and then after “Cinderella” we take a break and get a drink of water and say hi to the crowd and so forth.
But those are our three openers. And, “He’s Waiting” and “Cinderella” are two of the three…and obviously those are originals.
Tangents: Wow, that’s cool. That’s the thing that always struck me, you were killin’ covers but your originals were just stunning!
Lind: Well there was some stuff that we regret doing (laughter), like, “Skinny Minny” and “Dirty old Man,” we cringe when we… that was done at four o’clock in the morning. “Well we gotta do somethin’, let’s stick something’ on here!”

“Skinny Minny,” we would play that at concerts. Like we opened for The Kinks a couple of times and we were big fans of The Kinks and we opened for The Beach Boys a half a dozen times, and there was crowd participation. We’d tell the crowd, “HEY! When you hear THIS….” You know..all bands do that! And so it worked really good at show, so there we were in the studio at four o’clock and we had to do something! Well, let’s stick “Skinny Minny” on there! Okay! So we did. Well, it was horrible. And we regret doing it! But what are ya gonna do.

Rob Lind of the Sonics interview, part two

Rob Lind: Sonic Adventures In Sound
The Sonics interview, part two
Introduction, interview and photos by Daniel Coston
Since we posted part one of my interview with Rob Lind of the Sonics, the band has released their first new album since 1967. Entitled simply, 8, the CD features four new songs (discussed further in this feature), as well as new recordings of some of the band’s classics. It is another chapter in this band’s storied history, and one that won’t be the last, if fans around the world have their say.
We now dive into part two, in which Rob takes about the new material, traveling Europe, and Rob’s adventures after the Sonics’ breakup in 1968, which eventually led him to North Carolina. 
Tangents: Tell me about the trip to Europe that you guys just did. That was your third trip to Europe now?

Lind: Actually, it was our fourth. It was a great trip! It was a great trip. We started off in Italy, northern Italy, in a really beautiful little town called Salsa Majora. And we did a show up there, a festival, an outdoor festival. And it was real hot and everybody was sweaty and there were thousands of people there. On this particular trip we played, Italy. We played Finland, we played a big show in a place called TURKU, which was a place that was on an island, off Helsinki. And it was a big festival, three or four stages, one of those kinds of deals.

We went up and played Norway. It was actually the first time I’d seen the Midnight Sun. We were up close to the Arctic Circle at a place called Tromso, and they have a big festival there every year.  And such a good setting, it was just unbelievable. The stage was backed right up to a fiord! And so, you could go to the back of the stage and throw rocks into the water. It was just a gorgeous setting! Lots and lots of people. All of our shows were virtually sold out. 

We played, Turkey, Norway. Then we came down and did two separate cities in Germany. We played a nice show in Spain, kind of in a mountainous resort area in Spain. And that was a big show, and that was a lot of fun. And then we finished up probably the biggest was in Brussels, the last show we did, and we flew home from Brussels the next morning.

And we had a show up in Stockholm, Sweden, on the previous tour, and we’re good friends with The Hives. And three of ‘em, Pelle and Nick Almqvist, and Mikael, the lead guitar player, showed up, so we were feeding them beers in our dressing room, and I said, “I’ve got a great idea, Nick, why don’t you guys come out and do the encore with us?!” And they look at each other and they go, “YEAH! That’d be cool!”

So, we brought The Hives out for our encore. Pelle sang the encore. So we said, hey, “You know how to do ‘Long Tall Sally’?” and he said, “No, but I’ve got it on my IPod!”
So he goes in the bathroom and he takes his Ipod in the bathroom, and I’m walking down the hall, and I hear Kelly’s voice in the bathroom, “I’m gonna tell Aunt Mary…!” And he’d taken a Sharpie, and rolled his sleeves up and he’d written the words to “Long Tall Sally” on his left forearm with a Sharpie, and he came out and just smoked it!

Tangents: It’s amazing that the band has reached an audience that was never available to you back then. 

Lind: You know the thing is, the challenge that we have in the Sonics is that, in Europe we are very popular, we’re real big. And that’s because we’ve been discovered by the young people over there, by the college kids and the high school kids. They know all our songs.
We go into a place like Finland where a lot of people don’t speak English or up in Sal Majore, Italy, where NOBODY spoke English and they’re singing along to, “Strychnine” or singing along with, “Psycho,” and dancing. So they all know us. Our challenge is that the opposite of that is true in the United States.

Kids who listen to the radio, high school kids, college kids, Sonics music isn’t playing on the radio, so therefore they don’t know us like the European kids do. So, our challenge is to raise that perception. And one of the ways we are doing that is we have recorded four originals and we’re gonna go back in and do some more with the idea of doing a full-scale cd. NOW, we’ve been advised that it would probably be a smarter idea to put it out immediately as an EP..and plug it, Public Relations wise, and get it out there and get it in the trades and get, you know, mailings to all the main radio-station markets in the country. And see if we can get some airplay.

We know we’ll get a bunch of airplay up in Seattle. But that’s like shooting fish in a barrel. That’s because we are from there and they like us and they know us. So we know we’ll get airplay there. The challenge is, let’s get it in Miami, let’s get it in Washington, D.C., etc.. So, right now we’re in the process of moving forward with getting this EP out. The sides are recorded, and I think what we’re talking about doing is using those four originals, they’re all originals, and then taking two live-cuts from one of our good shows and then putting them on there as bonus tracks, for a total of six.

There is some conversation about doing four and there’s some conversation about , that’s pretty slim to put out an EP, maybe we ought to put a couple more on it. So that’s what we’re talking about right now.
Tangents: Are these songs that Jerry wrote, or are these songs that other people brought into the band?
Lind: Jerry wrote one of them. I wrote two of them and Freddy, our bass player, wrote the other one. Which I should touch on briefly. When you were out with us in Austin, our bass player was Donnie Wilhelm. He just got tired of touring, and so he plays in a little band in a little waterfront bar in Seattle and then goes home every night. So we now have Freddy Dennis, who is a real energetic guy and he sings like the lead singer in AC/DC. He’s got a high rock and roll voice. So, yeah, Freddy’s a good guy. He is what you would refer to as a “good dude.” And he’s got limitless energy, and that’s kinda cool, too. So if you go on Youtube, if you look at any of our recent stuff. if you look at Sonics in Italy or Sonics in Brussels, or look around a little bit, you’ll see Freddy and be able to listen to him. He’s a real good singer and he’s a good guy to have on stage.

So, we’ve done two tours with Freddy now. And Freddy was on these four new songs. Jerry sings two of them and Freddy sings two of them.
Tangents: How has it been to have new guys in the band? You have Freddy, and I’ve forgotten the new drummer’s name…
Lind: Ricky Lyn Johnson. Well, Ricky has been with us for several years, since we started actually, so he almost doesn’t feel like a new guy anymore. And Fred is such a pro. You know anyone who is IN a rock band, anybody that travels as part of a rock band, will absolutely tell you that there are long periods of riding in vehicles, whether airplanes or crew busses or , in our case, we’ve discovered TRAINS in Europe, which are really wonderful . And , so you gotta be able to relate to each other and get along, and Freddy just fits in like a cog. It works really well.
Tangents: Back in the ‘60s, who else did you guys open for? What are some of the more notable shows?
Lind: We opened for The Beach Boys, we opened for Jan & Dean, The Mamas and the Papas a bunch of times. The Lovin’ Spoonful. God, when “You Really Got Me” first came out, that really got us in our little Sonic hearts. When I heard it for the first time I nearly drove off the road, I mean, I’d never heard anything so cool in my whole life! So, immediately we started doing that. We started doing about four Kinks songs. And they came to America and we did a little mini-tour with them, and we opened for those guys. That was cool. Jay and the Americans, we did that. 

I used to love Charlie Daniels Band and Jerry Jeff Walker and so, when Charlie Daniels would come to Los Angeles. Well this little country band would come out and open for Charlie, and I always remembered it because these guys had a good sense of humor, and they would come out and do, “Send out the Clowns to Check Out The Sound” - that was one of their songs! And essentially, that’s what we were doing for The Beach Boys: “Send out the local dudes and have them open for The Beach Boys!” (laughter) But, it’s not that way now. 

Although we did get to be pretty good friends with The Beach Boys. And we knew them real well. Got to be on a real friendly basis, and actually, a couple of years ago, when I was still flying corporate jets, I flew into Cleveland and picked up The Beach Boys, who had flown in from Rome on Alitalia,  and was taking them to Cedar Rapids, Iowa where they were doing a show. And there were only two of the originals, Mike Love and Bruce Johnson, and then they had all these side men.

But I walked into the lounge where they were and picked them up. And I walked out with Bruce, and I said, “You probably don’t remember me, Bruce, but I’m Rob Lynn of The Sonics and we used to open for you guys.” And his eyes got really big and he said, “HOLY SHIT! Yeah, of course I remember you guys!” And Mike was on his cell phone, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. Although back in the old days I knew him pretty well from having played with him so many times. And, finally, all the side men were getting off the airplane and he was sitting there and I walked back and sat back in the seat in front of him and said, same thing, “You probably don’t remember me, Mike, but uh, I’m Rob Lind, the sax player in The Sonics.” And he said, “Holy crap, look at you! You went out and got yourself a real job!” (laughter)

So, yeah, in those days we opened for just about everybody who came through.
Righteous Brothers. We opened for them. So we were rubbing shoulders with all the heavies back in those days.

Tangents: I know that for the third album you guys went on to Jerden and did a lot of recording for them and were still playing out,when everything sort of wound down, that must have been sort of frustrating for you. Did it feel like you had more to do for the band or had everything run its course? What happened?
Lind: Well, things were happening. The Vietnam War was going on, and I had to leave. And Jerry left to start a little asphalt/paving company. And so we just kind of went our own ways. But no, we were still playing all the time. We were regional headliners. We were a good regional band. We were “big fish in a little pond.” We were like a five-state area that we were real big. But nobody in Denver ever heard of us! (laughter) That’s not true, but, we still could play anytime we wanted to. It just started coming apart.

Andy [Parypa] allowed Jim Brady and his boys to call themselves, “Jim Brady & The Sonics.” And the end of the sixties was comin’ and the early seventies. so, They were a lounge act. You know, with a couple of horns, sort of like, “Murph and the Magic-Tones” in the Blues Brothers movie. (laughter!) So it really wasn’t The Sonics. So we brought the bloodthirsty Sonics back three years ago.

Tangents: I think you guys did a reunion show in like, ‘72?
Lind: Yes we did. We did three songs. I think we did “Lucille,” and maybe “The Witch” and “Psycho.”

Tangents: Yeah. What I have, and what was included on the reissue of Boom was “The Witch” and “Psycho” from the ‘72 show.
Lind: Yeah. We did “The Witch” “Psycho” and “Lucille.” Those were the three that we played. And that sounded good to us onstage. It felt good. But I was still in the Navy at the time. I was up at Woodby Island Naval Air Station flying A-6’s, and that was before I went to Vietnam. So I came down and we rehearsed and we did those three songs. 

And the big Rock Jock, Pat O’Day, at the time, came backstage and said, “Holy Crap! They’re screamin’ for ya! Do you guys wanna come out and do another song?!!” And Larry and I looked at each other and said, “YEAH!”

And Jerry said, “I can’t. I can’t. My voice is gone. I can’t do it. No way. No way. No way.”
He just put his foot down and said he couldn’t do it. So, reluctantly we had to NOT do it, But, yeah, the crowd liked it.

Tangents: You said you actually worked in Hollywood for a while?
Lind: Yeah. When I came back from Vietnam, I was a Navy carrier pilot. I got out of the Navy and I went to graduate school at the University of Southern California in film and advertising. So, by nature of being there and learning the craft and being around other people, I got to where I was. I worked as an assistant director on some training films and then somebody offered me the chance to direct, myself, and so I did. And I wound up working for a production company and I did a lot of commercials and training films with them.
And then I got hired by a chain of department stores to be the head of television and video, so I did that, and I did a bunch more things there. So, yeah, I was doing all that kind of stuff then. I did that for five years.

And I was working for the production company, but in those days, I had a daughter, and in those days it was like, being in the film business like that is like being a migrant farm worker in that there are periods during the year when you work a lot and then there are periods during the year when you don’t work at all. And you are ALWAYS on the phone trying to scramble up business. And “it’s who ya know,” and I started thinking, I was in the Naval Reserve at the time, and I was in a Naval Reserve squadron with 14 airline pilots in it, and they kept saying, “Hey, Rob, what are ya doing, man?! You should come to work with us!” And they started talking about guaranteed health care, and vacations and good wages. And I was a flying pilot, I was flying A-7 Corsairs in the Naval Reserve. So I walked away from the film business and went to work for the airlines.

I worked for Continental Airlines and then wound up down here in Charlotte working for Piedmont which became U.S. Air.

Tangents: When you were out flying, did the people still recognize you occasionally? Did you run into people who knew who the Sonics were?

Lind: Well, just The Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen. Bruce did a show in Seattle and he did one of our songs. He actually did, “Have Love, Will Travel.” He said, “I’m gonna do a song by The Sonics, and I’m NOT talkin’ about the basketball team!” And so that got back to us!

And so I flew Bruce and his wife from the Grammy’s in L.A. to West Palm Beach, Florida, where his daughter was gonna be in a horse show. And it was the middle of the night, and they were just sitting back there having a conversation, and I went back and went to the head , and on my way back, he stopped me and said, “Hey Rob, how much longer?” And I told him, and I said, “I’m glad I got a chance to talk to you, Bruce, because you did something really nice for me and some friends of mine, and I want to thank you for it.”
And he said, “Oh, really? What was that?” And I said, “ Well, I’m Rob Lind, the sax player from The Sonics.” And that was as far as I got! And he said, “HOLY SHIT! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!” (laughter!)

I sat down to talk to him, and he wanted to talk about the first albums. He said, “How did you guys get that sound, what were you thinking about???” He said, “Give me your phone number in case I need to get in touch with you! Are you guys doing any rehearsing?” And I said, “Yeah, actually, we are.” And he said, “ Well I hope you do, because there is a lot of opportunity out there for you guys!” He was VERY, very nice. Probably the nicest celebrity that I’ve flown. Just a great guy. Nobody can ever say anything bad to me about Bruce Springsteen because he is a very cool guy!

Tangents: One last thing to ask. Looking back, the Sonics had this career then, and this career now. Do you think it means more to you now, than say, when all of that was happening the first time around? 

Lind: I think it probably does, actually. Because we have a lot to be grateful for.You were around The Sonics, and you know that there was a lot of kidding around, but the one thing you DON’T SEE, we’ve done press conferences in Europe and things like that, and there’s NO ARROGANCE. We’re all grateful for the opportunity to have done something like this. We’re all grateful for the …the LUCK…that the songs that we wrote back in the 60’s still sound good today, that they are not “dated” or out-of-style, hokey songs. They still rock. They still do well. So, we’re grateful for that!