Dean and Scott Blackwood
One of the most curious stories in the history of American music is documented in a box set called The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records 1917-1927, Volume 1. The set includes 800 songs, 2 books, 6 vinyl LPs, 200 original hand drawn ads of the period, all housed in an oak case modeled after phonograph cases of the 1920's. This collection is produced by Jack White's Third Man Records & John Fahey's Revenant Records, and brothers Scott and Dean Blackwood joined us to talk about the set which documents how a Wisconsin chair company, producing records on the cheap and run by men with little knowledge of the music business, built one of the greatest musical rosters ever assembled under one roof. Paramount had an amazing roster of performers including Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Son House, & Ma Rainey.Go to episode 422
In the 1980s, Slayer redefined the metal genre by bringing more speed and intensity than many had ever heard. But the band's musical virtuosity was often overshadowed by their lyrics and imagery, which at times referenced violence and satanism. That made them the target of groups like the Parents Music Resource Center, which was cofounded by Tipper Gore. But despite critics, they've been going strong for over three decades, despite personel changes and the tragic death of Jeff Hannenman earlier this year. In 2010, founding members Dave Lombardo (who has since left the band) and Kerry King sat down with Jim and Greg to talk about their favorite Slayer moments, working with Rick Rubin and what they'd say to parents concerned about their music.Go to episode 421
Immediately after giving double Buy It ratings to Parquet Courts' full-length debut Light Up Gold, Jim and Greg knew they wanted to invite them on the show to perform. The band made a trip to Chicago to perform at this summer's Pitchfork Music Festival, and the night before they treated a Sound Opinions audience to a live recording with Savages. Guitarist Austin Brown, bass player Sean Yeaton, guitarist Andrew Savage, and his brother, drummer Max talked about their early years (including the "Knights of the Round Turntable"), their speedy recording process and side jobs. If you weren‘t able to make it, don’t fret. We've got photo and video. And while you're at it, check out the Savages set.Go to episode 415
In LCD Soundsystem's 2005 debut album, singer/producer James Murphy says he's "Losing His Edge." Well, 2 years after the project disbanded, we wondered if this is the case? Murphy has gone from punk and dance clubs…to Broadway? He's composed original music for the Broadway revival of the Harold Pinter play Betrayal. But if you're going to lose your edge, this isn't a bad way to do it…the play stars Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, is produced by Scott Rudin and is directed by Mike Nichols. James talks about working with such luminaries and shares a tidbit on the forthcoming Arcade Fire release.Go to episode 414
Singer/songwriter Neko Case is back with a new album called The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. This is Neko's 6th release, and over the past few years she's let the world see a little more of her humor and unique point of view. Granted, she still lives quite privately on a farm in Vermont, but the songs on this album, not to mention all the tweets, are more revealing than ever. The album is also poised to bring Neko the biggest profile of her career, so Jim and Greg thought it would be fun to bring her back to the place where it all started: the Chicago music club, The Hideout. She worked as a bartender there in the early 2000s, and even bunked upstairs. She performs songs from the new album with Eric Bachmann & Kelly Hogan.Go to episode 413
Willis Earl Beal
Willis Earl Beal has had quite a career trajectory. Born in Chicago, he joined the army, only to quit shortly thereafter. He then moved to Albuquerque, NM, where, while homeless and working as a security guard, he started recording music in a very crude way—on a karaoke machine with a microphone. He left CDs of these recordings and flyers around town until they were discovered by Found Magazine. That led to a deal with XL Recordings and two releases, including the most recent, Nobody Knows.Go to episode 411
After seeing Savages at SXSW, Jim reported back that he“saw god.”So imagine how thrilled we were to have god…er…Savages perform live in front of an audience at Lincoln Hall in Chicago. Jehnny Beth, Gemma Thompson, Ayse Hassan, and Fay Milton played songs from their Matador debut and talked about drummer warm-ups, rock and roll PhDs and why we should all“be here, now.”Couldn‘t be there in person? We’ve got video!Go to episode 409
35 years ago some boys from Rockford, IL headed over to Japan to play some shows. Since they didn't have much fame in the U.S., they never expected to be mobbed by 5,000 fans at the airport, a la The Beatles. But, now, of course, Cheap Trick is a household name in its own country. The live recording At Budokan went on to sell over 3 million copies. Cheap Trick members Robin Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson and Nielsen's son Daxx (sitting in for Bun E. Carlos on drums) give us live At Budokan live on Sound Opinions and talk about the decision to travel overseas, meeting idols like Fats Domino and why they are the band that will steal your guitar, but never your girlfriend.Go to episode 407
While only just 40, Josh Homme is already a rock ‘n’ roll veteran with a ton of projects under his belt. The most famous of those is Queens of the Stone Age, the Palm Desert band who is touring behind its most recent release, Like Clockwork. But before Queens, there was the pioneering stoner rock band Kyuss. That band broke up in 1995, and Josh quit music altogether. But, it was The Screaming Trees and his stint as“youth pastor,”that brought him back to his fans. One of those fans is none other than Dave Grohl. And, while celebrating Grohl's 40th birthday at, where else, Medieval Times, he linked up with John Paul Jones. The trio formed Them Crooked Vultures over a turkey leg, and thus was born one of the greatest rock creation myths ever.Go to episode 403
Jim and Greg have admired Lindsey Buckingham's solo albums for years, but during a stop on Fleetwood Mac's recent tour, the guitarist was willing to indulge all of our burning questions about the band. Jim was out of town, so Greg took the reigns on this one and covered everything from his unique guitar style, to the Buckingham/Nicks years to the effects of all that '70s drug excess. Lindsey reveals that in today's music environment, the band would've never lasted and credits the label with letting them tweak and reconfigure before hitting it big. He also talks about his ability to compartmentalize his relationship with Stevie Nicks and the work. Rumours is either the mark of insanity or courage! Lindsey also agrees with Greg that Tusk is the stepchild of the band's catalog, and you can either fault or credit him for that. And on the Stevie front…you‘d think their dynamic would’ve flatlined by now, but he admits that although married with children, he's still writing songs about her!Go to episode 402
Johnny Marr is something of a serial collaborator. First, there's his most famous partnership: with Morrissey in The Smiths. Then there's Bernard Sumner, Billy Bragg, Bert Jansch, The Cribs and Modest Mouse. So perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that it took three decades for him to go solo. On The Messenger Marr isn't afraid to harken back to his Smiths sound. Mostly, he explains to Jimand Greg, he thought about all the fans he meets at shows (all but one fan). He admits that some of the lyrical content isn't that far from the songs he wrote as a lad, but lucky for us he was weened on great guitar pop from T. Rex. Greg asks Marr about the almost insane decision to quit The Smiths at the height of their fame. But he insists that the band wouldn‘t have lasted another two weeks; musically, they achieved everything they could. That’s not to diminish the band. He also credits them with inventing "indie."Go to episode 399
This week Indians is in the studio. It's the alter-ego of Danish artist Soren Juul. He began as a classically trained musician, but was also schooled in pop music by his record-collecting father. So, inspired by unique pop bands like Pink Floyd, he abandoned the classics for synths and a laptop. His viral hit "Magic Kids" caught the attention of critics like Jim and Greg, After retreating to the Danish countryside to write, Soren recorded the songs for Indians' debut release Somewhere Else. He and bandmates Heather Woods Broderick and Laurel Simmons perform songs from the album.Go to episode 397
In his 4 decade long career Bryan Ferry formed the hugely influential band Roxy Music, launched a successful solo career and became a style icon. Now, he's gone "jazz." He joins Jim and Greg to talk about his new album The Jazz Age, which features reinterpretations of his songs in a 1920's big band style. The album reunites Ferry with his Roxy co-founder Brian Eno, and despite previous creative differences, he says Eno pushed him to places he couldn‘t have gone on his own. Plus, Mr. Eno has even stated that the Roxy album released after he left is the band’s best.Go to episode 395
Last year was a big one for Wild Belle. Built on the brother-sister duo of Elliot and Natalie Bergman, the quintet released a terrific single "Keep You," shopped a self-financed/self-produced album and signed a 3-album deal with Columbia Records. You can hear the fruits of their labor as they perform songs from that major label debut, Isles. But if this music thing doesn't work out, Elliot always has this to fall back on.Go to episode 391
Joy Division only recorded two proper studio albums before lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980. But those releases, a string of fantastic singles and Curtis‘ own legend continue to impact fans today. But, as is often the case with legends, there’s a lot of fiction amongst the fact. And Peter Hook, the hugely influential bass player in Joy Division and New Order, wants to clear a few things up in his book Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division. First, there's the tragic image of Ian itself. True, he struggled with depression, a failing marriage and a debilitating case of epilepsy that would lead to his death. But, Peter describes a beer-drinking prankster full of joy when it came to the music. He also admits that he and the band weren't initially crazy about the sparse, moody sound Joy Division fans so love today. Much of that credit goes to producer Martin Hannett. For more on Joy Division listen to this episode.
Then of course we come to New Order's bitter divorce. Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and Peter achieved more success than Joy Division. They disbanded in 2006, but recently reunited without Peter. Listening to the interview you can hear the hard feelings, but Peter admits he‘d play with those amazing musicians anytime. So how did New Order fare on their recent release without Peter Hook? Check out Jim and Greg’s review.Go to episode 390
Last year Lonerism took top slots on both Jim and Greg's Best of 2012 lists. Now we've got Tame Impala performing those new psychedelic classics live in our studio! And along the way, lead singer Kevin Parker talks about the band's influences, both expected (The Flaming Lips) and not (Supertramp), and his desire to work with producer Dave Fridmann. The Australian musicians also debate whether actual psychedelic substances contribute to a psychedelic sound. Certainly you don't need them to enjoy the result.Go to episode 389
For the most part we think that rock ‘n’ roll artistry and commercials don't mix, but in the case of Nick Drake, it worked out. A 1999 TV commercial featuring his 1972 track "Pink Moon," made the English singer/songwriter a household name. It was success Drake couldn‘t enjoy in his lifetime. He died at age 26 of an overdose on anti-depressants after only releasing three albums. But the small catalog lives large today, with Drake’s work influencing R.E.M., Elliot Smith, Beth Orton and many more. He's remembered on the new tribute album Way to Blue, produced by the man who discovered him, Joe Boyd. In addition to working with Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd and the Fairport Convention, Joe Boyd produced Nick's first two albums, Five Leaves Left in 1969 and Bryter Layter in 1970. Jim and Greg talk to him about Nick Drake's own influences, his style and his legacy.Go to episode 387
First there was the myth of blues legend Robert Johnson meeting the devil. Now we have the myth of a fork lift driver turned guitar virtuoso and poet. But as Kurt Vile explains, his rise to success has actually been quite slow and methodical. After leaving the band The War on Drugs, he has released five albums and earned the respect of music peers (not to mention a reputation for being an A+ rock student). His latest is called Wakin on a Pretty Daze.Go to episode 386
Last week fans of movies and criticism in general felt a big loss. Roger Ebert died at age 70 after a long battle with cancer. Jim and Greg remember their friend and colleague and talk about how Ebert and his partner Gene Siskel provided them inspiration for their own show. Jim worked with Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times, and Greg worked with Siskel at the Chicago Tribune. And whether it was in print, on TV or via Twitter, Roger Ebert was full of Sound Opinions. In 2006, the three critics sat down to talk music movies and Ebert's own rock ‘n’ roll past, which includes a remarkable meeting with the Sex Pistols. This ended up being one of Ebert's last recorded interviews before losing his ability to speak.
First, Jim and Greg ask Roger Ebert to rate music movies. He calls Woodstock the greatest rock documentary ever made. In fact, he thinks it's just one of the best movies ever made. He also recommends Hard Day's Night and Gimme Shelter. One movie he did love was Martin Scorcese's film Don't Look Back. In Roger's original review, he took Dylan to task for being kind of a jerk. He reconsidered the movie years later.
One of Jim and Greg's favorite rock ‘n’ roll movies was actually written by Roger Ebert himself, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. He and Russ Meyer followed that up with a Sex Pistols movie entitled Who Killed Bambi. The movie never came to fruition, but it provided memorable experiences meeting Sid Vicious and John Lydon.Go to episode 385
Emeli Sande went from virtual unknown to performing at the 2012 Olympics closing ceremonies, and in between she penned songs for Leona Lewisand even Susan Boyle. She's also made it her personal mission to put the poetry back in pop music. It's a mission that has caught on in the U.K. Emeli received a Brit Critics Choice Award (previously won by Adele and Florence + the Machine) and was asked to open for Coldplay on a recent American tour. So Jim and Greg were eager to have this rising star perform in the studio. They describe her music as a mix of Nina Simone and Lauryn Hill.Go to episode 384
While the performer gets all the glory, sometimes it's the producer who shares the guts. This week Jim and Greg revisit their conversation with one of rock's great behind-the-scenes men, Tony Visconti. Visconti has worked with everyone from The Moody Blues to Alejandro Escovedo, but is primarily known for the albums did with glam rockers T. Rex and David Bowie. Visconti relays how he was lucky enough to meet both men shortly after moving from Brooklyn to the UK; both were relatively young and undiscovered. Marc Bolan of T. Rex was still performing hippy folk songs as a member of Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Bowie was beginning song writing but had no direction. Visconti established long-term relationships with both Bowie and Bolan and helped them carve out their identities. In fact, he was tapped to produce Bowie's latest release, The Next Day which Jim and Greg review below.Go to episode 381
For almost four decades, Lucinda Williams has been writing and performing music, without ever really fitting into any music industry labels. During this time she's moved cities almost as many times as she's moved labels. She's released 10 studio albums, including the critically lauded Lucinda Williams for Rough Trade and Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Many of her songs have tackled love, loss and liquor, but people have been noticing a sunnier side of Lucinda in recent years. She named her 2011 album Blessed, perhaps a nod to her 2009 marriage to manager Tom Overby. But, Lucinda insists she still has plenty of material, even if she's in love. Maybe she's just channeling the always optimistic, Tami Taylor. You can still hear the fire in songs like "Born to Be Loved," "When I Look at the World," and "Something Wicked This Way Comes."Go to episode 380
Singer-songwriter Jimmy Cliff walked away with his second "Best Reggae Album" Grammy last week. Rebirth is Cliff's 30th reggae record in a career that spans the history of the genre. Talking to Jim and Greg, he traces the evolution of reggae from party music celebrating Jamaican independence, to a more introspective music about roots, spirituality, and identity. While he may not be as famous as countryman Bob Marley, Cliff was instrumental in breaking reggae in the U.S. As the starring actor and songwriter for the cult film The Harder They Come, he introduced Americans to Rastafarian culture, dancehall music, and his own hits "You Can Get It If You Really Want" and "The Harder They Come." Cliff might be a reggae founding father, but he's no purist. He talks approvingly of punk's adoption of reggae sounds and even returns the compliment: Rebirth features a cover of The Clash's "Guns of Brixton," a song originally inspired by The Harder They Come.Go to episode 377
This week the dB's, one of power pop's great underexposed bands, stops by the Sound Opinions studio for an interview and live set. The group came together in 1978 as part of New York City's punk and new wave scene, and put out two classic, but minimally distributed albums before singer/guitarist Chris Stamey left the group. Two more low profile records followed before the group broke up in 1988. Now the original dB's lineup is back with a new album, Falling Off the Sky. Jim used to frequently go see this band live in their earliest days, and it's clear that they haven't lost a step in their few decades off. During their visit, the band rips through three songs from Falling Off the Sky, and Stamey and co-frontman Peter Holsapple talk with Jim and Greg about their early days in North Carolina, their label woes in the '80s, and their decision to reunite not for a paycheck, but just because they were itching to play again.Go to episode 375
Trey Parker and Matt Stone
It's time to "Man Up" for a visit from Trey Parker and Matt Stone. They are the dynamic duo behind South Park and the hit Broadway musical The Book of Mormon.“What are they doing on our rock and roll show?”you ask. Well, some of the greatest moments of satire (see last week's show) on South Park are musical. In fact, check out our favorites here.
Plus, you could argue the show itself is quite punk rock with it's no holds barred attitude and lo-fi animation. The show even spawned a Rick Rubin-produced album. Now we have an equally outrageous musical, The Book of Mormon. It tells the story of two Mormon missionaries sent to a remote village in northern Uganda. It's even“bluer”than South Park, but despite this, or perhaps because of it, it's a smash hit. Trey, Matt and collaborator Robert Lopez have won a slew of Tony Awards and a record-breaking slot on the Billboard chart. So, how'd two Ween, Primus and Prog Rock fans from Colorado end up the toast of Broadway? Trey and Matt explained this and their songwriting philosophy during their visit to our studios. They were in town for the Chicago opening of the play.Go to episode 374
This week Jim and Greg are joined by Aimee Mann. On her latest release Charmer, we get a series of character sketches all about charmers-from the charismatic to the completely narcissistic. As a veteran of the music biz, it's a topic about which we're sure Aimee knows a thing or three. But, she insists that the album isn't just an L.A. story. She does, however, pull in some impressive celebrities for the vidoes. Check out Jon Hamm and Jon Wurster in the Tom Scharpling-directed "Labrador," which is a shot-by-shot remake of Aimee's classic hit "Voices Carry." Then there's Laura Linney in the title track. Amy talks with Jim and Greg about spoofing herself, her affinity for comedians and her feelings about piracy. She also performs songs from the new album, as well as her Oscar-nominated tune "Save Me."Go to episode 372