Results for London

interviews

Mary J. Blige

With album titles like My Life, No More Drama and Stronger with Each Tear, Mary J. Blige's music reads like an autobiography chronicling her pain and her joy. And now she's added a British chapter to her life. Mary's 13th release The London Sessions captures her 21-day long residency at a London studio where she collaborated with some of the best young artists in the British soul and club scene—names like Sam Smith, Emeli Sande and house duo Disclosure. The result harkens back to old doo wop and soul, but it's also completely fresh. And of course, it's as honest and vulnerable as what we‘d expect from the veteran singer. Ever since her breakout with 1991’s What's the 411, produced by Sean Combs, music has been MJB's "Therapy," as she sings on the new record. This is especially true of 1994's My Life, which spoke to her abusive relationship wtih K-Ci Hailey of Jodeci. And on the positive side, 2005's The Breakthrough was inspired by finding love with Kendu Issacs, her husband/manager of 11 years.

Go to episode 477

Joe Boyd

The guest this week is Joe Boyd. Boyd recently wrote a book, White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s, about his experiences as a producer, manager and club owner in London during that psychedelic era. Jim describes Boyd as one of rock's most fascinating behind-the-scenes characters. He has worked with Pink Floyd, The Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention and Bob Dylan just to name a few.

As an American living in England in the '60s, one of the ways Boyd made a name for himself was through his club UFO. The venue only lasted less than a year, but Boyd explains that those few months in 1967 were remarkable. UFO wasn‘t anything more than a basement, but it featured light shows, films and“happenings,”and was home base to Pink Floyd. The title of Boyd’s book gets its name from track "My White Bicycle," by Tomorrow, one of the many bands to perform at UFO. The song is about the free white bicycles that were passed around in Amsterdam at that time, and Boyd explains that by the end of 1967, most of those bicycles were stolen and re-painted. The result is a“heavy-handed metaphor”for the changing times according to the author.

One of Boyd's major contributions to music is that he is credited with“discovering”Nick Drake. During a meeting with John Cale, Boyd played some of Drake's music, and immediately Cale wanted a meeting with the rising talent. The next day, Cale abandoned his studio date with singer Nico and told Boyd that he wanted to record Drake by that afternoon. The music they made that day and in the years before Drake's tragic death propelled him into this romantic, cult status that grew even bigger after his song "Pink Moon," was used in a Volkswagen commercial.

Go to episode 73

Savages

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more emotionally and sonically intense album out right now than Savages' sophomore effort, Adore Life. In fact, that record ranks high in both Jim and Greg's Best Albums of 2016…So Far lists. The London-based quartet's first record, Silence Yourself, perfectly channeled their anger and frustration at the world via good old-fashioned art punk. On Adore Life, they tackle the frequent topic of love in a fresh, fearless, and powerful way. The band was a guest on Sound Opinions back in 2013, so it was a pleasure to welcome then again for an interview and live performance.

View our exclusive photos from the taping here.

Go to episode 554

Lily Allen

British import Lily Allen is Jim and Greg's guest this week. The hosts have been fans of the 21-year-old for over a year, however her album Alright, Still, was just released in the U.S. While Lily is now launching a full-blown American invasion with major label backing and major press and appearances, she started with more humble means. The singer/songwriter initially drew buzz after posting some songs on her MySpace.com page.

While her career is grassroots, Lily's upbringing still has star power. Her father is British comedian and personality Keith Allen, and she spent many of her family vacations with Uncle Joe. (That's Joe Strummer to you and me). In fact, the singer can boast that she has performed at Wembley with The Clash before she was old enough to buy herself a pint.

Jim and Greg are drawn to Lily's sound, which is a pastiche of pop, reggae, ska and even a bit of '60s“space-age bachelor pad”music. But, it's her lyrics that really“slay”them. Lily writes about everything from an average life in London to a failed relationship with a great deal of honesty, humor, and most of all, attitude. Listen to her performances of hits "LDN" and "Smile," and check out these exclusive bonus tracks.

Go to episode 65

Glyn Johns

soundman One day in February 1969, engineer and producer Glyn Johns disembarked a flight from Los Angeles to London. He went straight to a studio to work with the Beatles on what would eventually become Let It Be. That was followed by an all-night session with the Rolling Stones for Let It Bleed. And after that, he rejoined the Beatles and jutted on over to Royal Albert Hall to record Jimi Hendrix live. Just“a day in the life,”eh? Those legendary recordings are just beginning of Johns tremendous list of credits which includes Led Zeppelin, the Faces, the Kinks, The Who, the Eagles and more recently Band of Horses and Ryan Adams. He relays this life spent recording in a new book called Sound Man. And he is as candid in his conversation with Jim and Greg, as he is in print. The aforementioned Let It Be? Johns remarks that Phil Spector“puked”all over it. Of Eric Clapton, Johns admits he initially refused to bring him into a session with Pete Townshend due to his drug-addled personality. And he talks about parting ways with the Eagles after they wanted to go in a more rock ‘n’ roll direction—something Johns says the band wouldn't know if they fell over it.

For more behind-the-booth conversations, check out Jim and Greg's interviews in the Footnotes section with Stephen Street, Butch Vig, Bob Ezrin, Tony Visconti, Mark Howard, Giorgio Moroder, Joe Boyd and of course, Brian Eno.

Go to episode 528

Art Brut

This week's guests are the members of Art Brut: Eddie Argos, Ian Catskilkin, Jasper Future, Mikey B., and Freddy Feedback. Sound Opinions was anxious to get these Brits on the show after seeing them play at the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX. The band, which got its name from a French theory of outsider art, was in Chicago as part of its first U.S. tour, and just released its first album, Bang Bang Rock and Roll, in the U.S. earlier this week.

After lead singer and songwriter Eddie Argos warns the kids to "stay off the crack", we hear a bit of music by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Richman was a major influence on Argos as a songwriter. Argos explains that his career as a musician did not really come easily. After his former bandmates all left to go to university, Argos moved to London for a second try. But there were not many takers, because, as Argos explains, he is not much of a singer and can't play an instrument. Lucky for us, an inebriated Argos was able to convince a few people to join him, and so emerged Art Brut.

What Argos may lack in singing talent and musical ability, he certainly makes up for in personality. In the vein of singers like Damon Albarn and Lou Reed, Argos knows that attitude, wit and a voice are more important than formal training. That voice comes through in songs like "Formed a Band," where he expresses delight in the sheer act of forming a band.“Why not?”he explains to Jim and Greg.“Why can't we get on Top of the Pops?”People who have seen the band (who tours in a 40-foot tour bus) play live know that is a valid question indeed.

Go to episode 24
reviews
Taking the Long WayTaking the Long Way available on iTunes

Dixie Chicks Taking the Long Way

Three years after telling a London audience, ""We're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas," Natalie Maines and her fellow Dixie Chicks are making headlines again with a new album. And, with singles like "Not Ready to Make Nice," the statement they want to make is clear. Some of their critics might have desired an apology, but on Taking the Long Way, they receive no such thing. Because of this, the band is again being rejected by certain country radio programmers. The real issue, however, is whether or not audiences will embrace the album, which is not a straight-up country record. Produced by Rick Rubin, and written with help from Sheryl Crow and members of Semisonic and The Jayhawks, it has more of a California-rock feel. Jim appreciates that they moved away from the Top 40 Country, but wishes they had taken it even farther, towards a more authentic, alt-country roots sound like Jenny Lewis or Neko Case. He gives it a Burn It. Greg is most taken with Natalie Maines‘ vocals, but also can’t recommend that people buy the album. However, he does think that anyone interested in music should hear it and gives Taking the Long Way another Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 26
Universal BeingsUniversal Beings available on iTunes

Makaya McCraven Universal Beings

Makaya McCraven is a young, Chicago-based jazz drummer who also deconstructs his own live improvisational recordings to make hip hop reworks. Makaya's latest album, titled Universal Beings, features young jazz luminaries like bassist Junius Paul, horn player Shabaka Hutchings, jazz harpist Brandee Younger, and cellist Tomeka Reid. Also featured on guitar is Jeff Parker, who is probably best known as a member of Chicago post-rock group Tortoise; but Parker is a staple on the jazz underground scene, as well. Makaya took the products of recording sessions in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and London and electronically condensed, looped, and reworked them for the tracks on the final album. Jim and Greg compare Makaya's process to Teo Macero's post-production edits of Miles Davis sessions during Miles' electric period on albums like On The Corner. Greg notes that the album has the crossover appeal of work by other young jazz artists like Thundercat, Robert Glasper, and Kamasi Washington. They both agree that Universal Beings is a great introduction to a new international underground jazz scene. Jim adds that Universal Beings "is a brilliant… and, yet easy to listen to… seductive album".

JimGreg
Go to episode 676
Babel (Deluxe Version)Babel available on iTunes

Mumford & Sons Babel

Mumford & Sons' sophomore album Babel has done gangbusters on the album charts, but how will it fare on Sound Opinions' Buy It, Burn It, Trash It scale? Mumford & Co. emerged from London's thriving folk-rock scene in 2009 with a breakout album Sigh No More that landed them a slot performing with Bob Dylan at the Grammys. With their vests, beards, banjo, and dobro, the band sticks out in the mainstream rock scene, but as Greg explains, the difference is only skin deep. The boys' folky instruments and wardrobe are just signifiers of folk. At its base Mumford & Sons are a sadly conventional arena rock band. Jim could not agree more. The band's lyrics are vague and bland-the complete opposite of the biblical stories that they claim as inspiration. Babel gets a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 358
news

Music News

Jim calls Poly Styrene one of the most important female rock figures from the 1970's - right up there with Patti Smith. And this week, she died at age 53. Marianne Elliot-Said adopted the persona of Poly Styrene after seeing the Sex Pistols play in London. She went on to front her own band X-Ray Spex. They only put out one album, Germ Free Adolescents in 1978, but it's a classic. To say farewell to Poly, Jim and Greg play a track from that record called "I Live Off You."

Go to episode 283

Music News

Last week Jim and Greg discussed the death of pop icon Michael Jackson. But the news surrounding Jackson's death has not stopped. Neither has his impact on the music industry. Just this week Billboard announced that 9 out of 10 slots on the Top Pop Catalog Albums chart are Jackson titles. But, while his estate continues to make money, concert promoter AEG stands to lose millions. They will be refunding fans that purchased tickets to Jackson's fifty London shows — $85 million worth of tickets to be exact.

In other sad music news, Sky Saxon, leader of the garage rock band The Seeds, also passed away last week. The news of his death was largely overshadowed by Michael Jackson coverage, so Jim and Greg wanted to pay tribute to Saxon during this episode. He was not a great musician, but had a tremendous attitude and a great impact on punk music. They play "Pushin' Too Hard" in his honor.

Go to episode 188

Music News

The London riots have hit the music industry hard. A North London warehouse owned by Sony DADC burned to the ground on Monday, and while Sony may have deep pockets, many of the smaller independent labels that stored stock at the facility do not. The fire destroyed CDs, DVDs and LPs distributed by the Pias Group. Pias serves over 160 indie labels including Domino, 4AD, Warp, Sub Pop and Chicago's own Thrill Jockey, which estimated a loss of $300,000 worth of inventory. For small labels dependent on merch sales to survive, it could be a fatal blow. A relief effort is underway at Label Love. Whether music fans' goodwill will be enough to keep these labels afloat remains to be seen.

Big changes are underway at everyone's favorite industry lobbying group. RIAA CEO Mitch Bainwol has announced he will cede the throne after a decade of leadership to become head of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. He'll be replaced by Cary Sherman. Word of the change came in the form of a dumbfounding open letter, in which Bainwol proclaims a“turnaround”in the music industry's fortunes and cites some interesting statistics. He claims a 20% reduction in illegal filesharing last year and a 5-to-1 ratio of legal to illegal music consumption - numbers that Greg says fly in the face of all the stats he's seen on this. Bainwol also cites a 4% increase in revenue last month - no mention, of course, of the music industry's bottoming-out over the last decade.

Go to episode 298

Music News

Another Pitchfork music festival has come and gone in Chicago's Union Park. The festival - put on by the taste-making webzine of the same name - often serves as a useful barometer for where underground pop is headed in the next year. This time around, the message was a little muddled. While relative newcomers Ty Segall and Willis Earl Beal impressed both Jim and Greg with their intensely heartfelt performances, headlining sets by established artists like Feist and Vampire Weekend made them wonder if Pitchfork is losing its edge.

Rock lost a great organist and keyboard player Monday. Jon Lord of hard rock group Deep Purple is dead at age 71. A country boy from Leicester, Lord founded Deep Purple in London in 1968 with the goal of fusing his classical piano training with American R&B and blues. This he accomplished by plugging his Hammond organ into a giant Marshall stack. The distinctive growl of that Hammond became a trademark of the band's super heavy sound (a sound Greg credits with paving the way for metal). In remembrance of Lord, Jim and Greg play the track "Highway Star," featuring a killer organ solo, from the band's 1972 album Machine Head 9.

Go to episode 347

Music News

You can‘t always get what you want, but that doesn’t mean The Rolling Stones can't. Billboard reports that the band recently grossed $21.3 million in just five concerts on their“50 & Counting Tour.”Not bad for a bunch of rockers pushing 70. This tour also saw The Stones' return to London's revered Hyde Park venue. Forty-four years after their free concert honoring Brian Jones, the band performed to a crowd of 60,000 paying customers. Clearly The Stones can still bring out the crowds, but can they deliver the musical goods? Greg's answer is a hesitant“yes.”He caught them in Chicago and admits that while he wishes they'd throw more surprises into the set-list, the boys can still play.

Go to episode 399

Music News

While more visual spectacle than musical, the MTV Video Music Awards have come and gone again, and what's most interesting is what didn't happen, rather than what did. And by“what”we mean controvery. After the Parents Television Council urged MTV to avoid a repeat of last year's Miley Cyrus twerk-fest, the watchdog group announced that they were mostly pleased with the more family-friendly content. But, the PTC did express concerns about the way women were portrayed. Guess they missed Sofia Vergara's Emmy posing.

And there were still some naked performances…Deadspin released the isolated vocals from both Taylor Swift and Beyonce's appearances. They added a spectrum analysis layer to show how well each singer stayed on pitch. Beyonce fared better, but Jim can sympethize with Miss Swift; only a capella singers sound great without musicians.

bush

Also making news, music fans around the world are celebrating the comeback of the great British singer Kate Bush. After 35 years being offstage, she received an enthusiastic response after announcing "Before the Dawn," a run of 22 shows, which sold out in 15 minutes! Fans (some say including Madonna, Lily Allen and Bjork) watched as Bush opened the first show at London's Hammersmith Apollo with "Lily," from the 1993 album Red Shoes. Bush says she was encouraged to return to performing by her son, Bertie. The show was incredibly elaborate and theatrical- hopefully not too exhausting for Kate.

We also say welcome back to Prince and his longtime frenemy Warner Bros Records. His Purple Majesty will release two new albums at the end of September, marking the end of one of the longest-running employment disputes in musical history. Prince fell out with the label in the early 1990's, prompting him to change his name to an unpronounceable symbol and appear in public with the word“slave”across his face. Now he plans to release two albums: Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum with his all-female band, 3rd Eye Girl.

Rounding out the news, Jim and Greg discuss the idea of the perfect length for a pop song. Long ago technology dictated the length of a tune. A 78 vinyl record came in two sizes—a 10-inch that held 3 minutes of music and a 12-inch that held 4. Midway through the rock ‘n’ roll era, songs like "Stairway to Heaven" blew out those conventions. And certainly, with the digital music revolution, all bets should be off, right? Not so. Brevity is the soul of Top 40. And a radio station in Calgary, Alberta is taking that philosophy to the extreme. 90.3 AMP is telling listeners they will no get“twice the music.”In fact, they'll hear half a song. The station will be editing its plays in order to keep listeners from getting bored. In effect, this is the 140 character limit of music.

We don‘t endorse this approach, but here’s our own celebration of "Short but Sweet" tracks

Go to episode 457
obituarys

Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks

Pete Shelley

Pete Shelley, the leader of the Buzzcocks, died at home in Estonia of a heart attack on December 6, 2018. He was 63 years old. Shelley's work was a major influence on a wide swath of musicians over the past 40 years. Greg points out the Buzzcocks were one of the first punk bands to eschew the safety pins and mohawks aesthetic, showing the movement ran deeper than fashion trends. He calls them "the next generation's answer to The Beatles." Shelley and Buzzcocks co-founder Howard Devoto put on the Sex Pistols' first show outside of London. It turned out to be a confluence of the future of Manchester's music scene with members of Joy Division and The Smiths in attendance as well as Factory Records founder Anthony Wilson and producer Martin Hannett. It was recreated in the 2002 film, "24 Hour Party People."

Jim points out the Buzzcocks' devotion to melody and describes their sound as“the Beatles catalog shoved into two minutes.”He also recounts how Shelley's first solo single "Homosapien" was banned by the BBC for“racy”lyrics. Fans have often wondered if Shelley's early embrace of synth-pop could have led to greater commercial success had the song been played on the radio. Jim plays "Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn‘t’ve)" as a tribute, calling it one of the greatest songs ever. Greg pays tribute by playing "I Believe," which Shelley closed many concert sets with and was an audience favorite.

Go to episode 682