Saturday, September 29, 2012

Barry Stacks/Grifs excerpt, teaser for forthcoming NC '60s book

Excerpt from Barry Stacks of the Grifs, excerpt from forthcoming There Was A Time book.

Barry Stacks: A couple of days before we recorded “Catch A Ride,” the Stones released “Satisfaction.” And I heard that fuzztone, and I went to a music store, and I said, “What is that? Whatever it is, I want one.” And they said, “We just got one in. It’s called the Fuzztone.” On the way to the studio, sitting in the back of our van, I worked out that little guitar part in the beginning of that song. We rehearsed it a couple of times, and Manny Clark, who was a DJ with WGIV, produced the song for us and got the sound just right. Just where I wanted it, which was balls to the wall on it, when the song opened up.  We actually did the music take in two takes, and then we added the vocals on top of it. And then we did ["In My Life"] for the other side.

We had booked [Arthur Smith Studios] for four hours, eight o’clock till midnight. The guy that was running the board for Arthur Smith said we had to be packed up and out of there by midnight. I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “We’re booked all night, after midnight.” We did what we had to do, but as we were packing up, this other band comes in to start setting up, and it was James Brown and the Famous Flames. And Manny knew James, he’d interviewed him many times. And James said, “Why don’t you and your boys sit up in the control room while we record.” They recorded eight or ten songs, then they headed out on the chitlin circuit. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Riders In The Sky/Ranger Doug interview, 2010

Riders In The Sky: Always In The Saddle
Introduction and interview by Daniel Coston
Originally published on the Tangents Magazine website, summer 2010

For nearly 35 years, Riders In The Sky have carried on the traditions of original country and western music, while marking out their own place on the musical map. With 700 Grand Ole Opry appearances, movie soundtracks and over 6,000 shows performed by the time you read this, Riders In The Sky are to today’s western music what Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters were to first generation Americana music. Night after night, from albums to CDs, this Nashville quartet has been the living, touring embodiment of western music, and the ones that have helped to keep this music in the here and now. 

Made up of guitarist Ranger Doug, fiddler Woody Paul, bassist Too Slim, and accordionist Joey The Cowpolka King (who also produces the band’s records), Riders In The Sky are also to many kids through their work on the Toy Story soundtracks, and two Grammy winning children’s CDs. However, any band that proudly endorses the slogan, “Always drink upstream from the herd,” shows that there’s a little something there for kids of all ages. 

Along with their annual shows at Tweetsie Railroad, the band recently made a stop at the Old Time Threshers Reunion in Denton, NC, which is where I talked to Ranger Doug. 

Tangents: When did you first start traveling to North Carolina? 

Doug: We first started playing in North Carolina  some thirty years ago. We’ve always enjoyed playing here. It honestly ranks as one of the best states for us to play in. The folks in this state have always had a fascination with cowboy music, which has benefited us.

Tangents: Do you think that the fascination is due to the fact that the cowboy landscape is something different to the people in this state? That it seems a bit exotic to us?

Doug: Yes, to a degree. But folks in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, even, haven’t responded to western music the way that this state has. The state of North Carolina has always has the most fascination with western music. I really don’t know why.

Tangents: How do you guys come up with material? Do you find songs together, or separately?

Doug: That’s a three-pronged answer. One, we write our own songs. All three of us write. Second,  we introduce classic cowboy songs into the set. Woody just picked a song for us to play that we’d known forever, we just had never learned it. The third is when we have a project. We’ve been writing for a new project, which is an inspirational album, which we’re going to start recording next week. People have been asking us to record an inspirational album for some time, and we’ve been putting it together.

Tangents: Is it easier to write for a project, as opposed to on your own?

Doug: Yes, it is. It was easy to write for the Disney album we just did. The characters were already laid out for us, and we had a really good time.

Tangents: You’ve been doing your own show on cowboy music for XM. How has that been to do?

Doug: Great. We were just in the XM offices yesterday, and the guy that runs a couple of their channels told us that Willie Nelson had just been in there, and he wants our show to be on 24 hours a day! There just aren’t enough shows to do that. 

Tangents: How do you put those shows together?

Doug: We usually record three of four of those shows at one time, at [producer] Joey’s studio. It takes at least an hour to record the introductions, and edit them. The recordings depend on when we can fit them into our schedule. We discuss tunes what tunes we’d like to play, and then we make a CD of those songs, so that I can have them on my computer. It sometimes takes us a few different takes to get the introductions, as we sometimes mess up a word, or something else. We leave a lot of the goofs in the show, if it wasn’t too bad.

Tangents: Which sometimes give the show some of its character. You know that you’re really listening to you guys talking about the music. 

Doug: That’s true, and we want that in the show.

Tangents: Has the way that people discover you guys changed with technology? Are more people discovering you via the internet, or records, radio or TV?

Doug: It has always been a word of mouth thing. Radio helps, when we can get it. The Disny movies have helped,TV appearances do help. Basically, its still people seeing us, and telling their friends, “You’ve got to see this.”

Tangents: Where are you recording your new album?

Doug: In Nashville, where we live. We were going to record in Nashville this paast May, but we got flooded out. We weren’t home at the time, our wives had to deal with that. I made a reference to that during our afternoon show, and nobody in the crowd got it. A lot of jokes are like that!

Tangents: Have you gotten to explore some of the more famous music spots throughout the Southeast?

Doug: Not much. People mostly assume that we got to do a lot of sightseeing. We see the highway, we see the hotel room, we see the venue, and move on to the next place. It’s not always a glamorous life. We did recently get to visit this radio station in Virginia that Flatt & Scruggs played at for a couple of years, and met with the crew. But mostly, it’s getting to the next show.

Tangents:Tonight’s show is show number 5,964 for Riders In The Sky. How in the world do you keep up with that?

Doug: When you start it with show number one, you just count up from there! It’s been 35 years, coming up on 6,000 appearances and counting, its more and more amazing as it goes along, and we’re very thankful for that. 

My thanks to Greta Lint and the Old Time Threshes Reunion for helping to set up this interview.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

And It's Off

Hello All-

I mailed the NC musicians book to the publisher today. 140 photos, 60,000 words, all from yours truly. This thing is going to be a heapin' big book. As has been my schedule as of late, there was no big fanfare, no celebration. Just another errand done today before an evening full of photo shoots. At some point, I hope I can give myself the chance to appreciate this.

Look for (hopefully) a spring release for the book. A blog for the book will also pop up, at some point. I'll keep you posted. Safe travels, everyone.
Sept. 19, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Hello All-

GBV's management wrote to apologize this morning, which I do appreciate. It doesn't wipe the slate clean by any means, but it was appreciated.

Finishing the book on NC Musicians has made me look differently about my photography career. I see where I have been, and what I was able (and not able) to accomplish. Last night's bad experience was one of those things that one occasionally takes as a sign, or something that tells you to change everything. Sometimes these things are a true sign, and other times they are just a bad experience, outside of any other larger meaning.

Last night, I wanted to take it as a larger sign. This morning, I was fully prepared to tell you that I was going to give up photographing music for a while. ("Like you really could," some might tell me. And they may be right.) Thankfully, I had a couple of great experiences today, photographing legendary bluesman Bobby Rush, and photographing a new Chris Stamey album. All in the span of two hours, and reminded me how much fun these things can still be. So, the pronouncement is on hold, and we'll see where the wind takes us again. Which is all we can ever do, in fair weather or foul.
September 18, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

End Of An Era

Hello All-

I'm sad to report that I will likely never attend another Guided by Voices show, or photograph them. Without going into too many details, I was not allowed to photograph the band, despite working with them for 15 years, and being given permission to photograph their show by their manger. It ended with threats of violence, and someone within the band's entourage having their own agendas.

This is really sad for me, as I've been a longtime fan of the group. You can see the tribute to the band that I wrote earlier this summer on this blog. I'm leaving the tribute up on this site, though I don't feel that way at the moment.

As I prepare to send the NC Musicians Book off to the publisher, I have been seeing a lot of signposts. Many things telling me that I'm not who I used to be, and that the world is changing. Take that however you will, but it happens. Things change, interests change. People change. And maybe it's time that some of my interests change, as well. Maybe not, but I'll see where things take me. In the meantime, take care of yourselves, and remember that the heart is sometimes a wounded warrior, looking for a place and time to heal.
Sept. 17, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Houston Brothers interview, 2011

The Houstons: Back To The Future
The Tangents interview by Daniel Coston

For nearly ten years, brothers Matt and Justin Faircloth have pulled off a musical tightrope act like no other. Simultaneously playing multiple instruments while singing two-part harmony, the brothers perform with a dexterity that often leaves first-time witnesses in awe. The Houstons, as they now go by now (after being shortened from Houston Brothers), have recently returned to their original-two piece lineup, and released a new EP, The Archer, an excellent showcase for their ambient, literate sense of pop music.

Justin Faircloth is also a longtime veteran of the Charlotte and North Carolina music scene, with a resume that includes Jennyanykind, Flyweb, Goldenrods, Les Dirt Clods, and several others. But its the music that he continues to make with his brother that both friends and fans clamor for. 

Tangents: After playing with other bands, what led you to form the Houstons with your brother?

Justin Faircloth: Matt and I had been bouncing this idea of a two person band for a long time, back to probably '97 when we were living in Wilmington.  We didn't know how we wanted to make it happen and started out experimenting with a drummer and some keyboard bass, then I learned to play bass, then drums and guitar, acoustic guitars, you name it.  Then I moved to Asheville and I was playing in a sort of country-punk band called The Rich and Famous and started to work on this keyboard and drumming thing, only it was with a snare, a small tom for kick drum and a Casio.  

Matt and I booked our first show at Vincent's Ear and coming right up to it we didn't have a name, so our buddy Jeremy Boger named us the Houston Brothers.  We played acoustic guitars and did some beat looping, etc.  Maybe a little Rhodes.  After I moved to Charlotte, and Matt moved to Asheville (!), we started in with the Goldenrods, which was a larger 6-person outfit and became this traveling entourage of everything rock and roll.  Matt and I decided that we could make the Houston Brothers happen as a 2 piece and travel really light, and go for this really minimal sound that still had all the essentials to fill a room with tons of vibe and character.  We bought some old Crumar bass synth pedals--the ones we still use today--and we were off.

Tangents: You play keyboards with your right hand, while drumming with your left band, all while singing. 1. How did you come up with that? and 2. How do you DO that?

Faircloth: Well, I touched on this above, but we were just trying out different ways of being able to create a full band sound without the extra members.  Our fans and press have always made a pretty big deal out of the piano-drum-sing thing, but it's not much different than a good piano player that has a developed left hand for walking bass and comping chords.  It all becomes one thing, not several, at least in the way that I hear it.  I have to say that what Matt does, walking bass with his feet and playing guitar and singing has got to be just as difficult.

Tangents: Contrast the music of this new EP with the first two Houston Bros. CDs (pre-Still).

Faircloth: The first record, I Take Care of You, was very different.  It's out of print now, and is soundtrack music with a dark bent and perhaps a preview to our eventual Houstons vibe.  The Houston Brothers, or the blue record as we call it, is probably the most similar to our new release The Archer.  Matt and I play nearly everything, with a few guests here and there.  We use the instrumentation that we use live with only a few extra parts, usually supporting guitar textures, synth bits or percussion.  Thematically, though, we're talking about two records that are about 8 years apart and the songs really illustrate that span of time in ways I couldn't hope to describe.  Matt wrote two songs on the blue record, and that is something we intend to bring back on our next release.

Tangents: How did The Archer come together? And describe the music on this EP.

Faircloth: Matt and I had a collection of songs that we wanted to release as a more stripped down production, relative to Still.  Our friend Mark Lynch got involved with pre-production and insisted that we track the songs as we play live, the keys/drums and bass pedals included.  Two of the songs were years old and the other four were new tracks.  I'm not going to tell which ones are which!  But they all fit cohesively and were a good representation of where we are with the Houston Brothers, ten years from when we started.

The songs are a bit more outwardly aggressive in some ways than ever, but I'd like to think also more refined in scope and in theme.  We have always wanted to relate our lives through the music and I think these do just that.  For now.  It's more appropriate for me in my life now to rely on love rather than be angry with it, for example.  We are celebrating life and at the same time targeting some aspects that we find provocative.  That's the art, I suppose.

Tangents: After starting as a duo, you spent a few years working with other musicians in the band, culminating with a six-piece lineup for the 2006 CD Still? How did the music change during that time?

Faircloth: The songwriting changed a bit before we put he band together. . . I was in a more introspective place and trying to put some pieces of my life together.  The songs on Still basically chronicle those times, or as much as I would want to put out there.  Matt and I also felt that we needed to try some different sounds and new directions so we put together a band packed with badass musicians.  We made the record with very little rehearsal and some highly charged-up creative days, mostly at my house in Charlotte.  The recorded music became quite a bit more arranged and dense--interestingly, on a collection of very personal songs.  Our live shows were fun, I got to really focus on singing and improved at that quite a bit, and we had great rhythm sections and textures.  We were both able to open up quite a bit relative to having to do so much at once.  I think this was a time of really learning about who we are and what we really want to do.

Tangents: What brought you and Matt back to the two-piece lineup?

Faircloth: We felt that we had lost some of our uniqueness. To be honest, a bunch of our friends and fans demanded it. And it's really hard to even hold a band together when you're not 20 and everyone has tons going on in their lives. It's so easy for Matt and I to travel together, find the vibe we want, learn songs really fast. . .whatever.  It's what we do naturally at this point.  As much as we want to break free of the constraints sometimes, they can become what sets our creativity free. My wife would call it Tantric.

Tangents: What's next for the Houstons?

Faircloth: We're taking most of the summer to quiet down and write, record, experiment, play new instruments.  I think that whatever we accomplish at the end of the day, I want it to constantly grow and change around our minds and what we find interesting, provocative, outrageous, compelling.  I don't want to ever make the same record twice and I don't want to regurgitate issues or themes.  I'm learning how to write an unbridled love song and a song for nothing but dancing.

Tangents: How has your fanbase changed over the years?

Faircloth: They've grown up with us.  Which is awesome.  I mean, we attract fans of all ages and I am still surprised by some folks that love us, who I thought would hate us.  

Tangents: How has the Charlotte music scene changed?

Faircloth: It's larger and more diverse.  More than ever when traveling I hear other artists, musicians and otherwise, asking me about what is going on in Charlotte.  I think our Southern town is almost a city.  But what I really love about Charlotte musically is the people--there's very little hate and a whole lot of love.  We support each other no matter what the opportunity or style of music.  Our label, Chicago-based Chocolate Lab, just signed another Charlotte artist (our friend Jon Lindsay), so we are seeing more and more interest.  And the successes of folks like The Avett Brothers and Benji Hughes are pretty awesome.

Tangents: So what happens if and when your kids form their own band?

Faircloth: We're already on it!  Their first experience will be our family band.  They are both incredibly musically talented already and writing original music.  So it's on.  Whatever they do later. . . what can I say?  Dad's seen it all.  Well, most of it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Distant Stars

Distant Stars

We fall in love
with what 
we cannot reach. 
Looking above us
at something
that we would like
to believe in,
something more 
than our
earth-tied hearts,
we are separated 
from their apparent
and we are
left to wonder
what what it would 
mean to be
somewhere else.

The stars
may never see this,
the view is 
always different
when lost
above the clouds,
drifting in the darkness
that surrounds them.
They can only 
twinkle and shine,
just out of reach
Some shine in other galaxies,
while others
died long ago,
and we on the ground
struggle to accept
that their time has passed,
marking in fading light
what used to use.

Do not hang
your emotions
on distant stars.
They may dangle
their possibilities
in the air,
but they will never
carry you along.
They can only
flicker in the distance
when darkness falls,
and fade
when the sunlight
leads them away.
They will 
leave you

-Daniel Coston
September 8, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

DNC 2012 photos

All photos copyright 2012 Daniel Coston
Top to Bottom-
James Taylor, Julian Castro, Rahm Emanuel, Geraldo Rivera Bob Scheiffer, Marc Anthony, Foo Fighters, Bill Clinton, President Obama, PBS Newshour set.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Recovery from DNC

Hello All-

My apologies for not posting in a few days. I have been busy working with PBS Newshour, during the Democratic National Convention. It was a lot of work, but I had a good time, and got lots of photos. You'll see some of these pics shortly.

In the meantime, stop by the Therapiggies site, at They're cute, they're cuddly. You need them, and they need you. More on these soon, as well. More soon,
September 9, 2012

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Small Talk

Small Talk

I heard your voice
spoken by someone else
on the radio,
your ideas spewed together
in an unfurling list
of namechecks and trainspots,
moving around me
with too much motion,
speaking to your Now,
yet carbon dated
the moment 
it left your lips.

Everyone is looking 
for another Dylan,
when they should have been
searching for themselves.
Your words 
can tumble blindly
in an infinite search engine,
leaving the listener breathless,
yet not remembering 
a thing you said,
what you did, 
or who you are.
There is no space
and to find 
a new voice
among our daily reverly.

You can speak 
to your times,
but it does not speak to me.
You can say a million words, 
yet they may not
say a thing.
The times are what
we choose to make of it,
and we must
find our own 
spaces in the air,
in our words,
in our thoughts,
and we can go 
at our own speed.

-Daniel Coston
August 29, 2012