Category Archives: L.A. Record

Jessie Jones interview up on L.A. RECORD

This was a fun one: an interview with my old pal, Jessie Jones, who I first met seemingly yesterday when she was a teenager, a member of Feeding People, and now have to stand back and admire as a full-grown solo artist!

jessiejones

photo by abby banks

Truth be told, the interview we did at Sage to prepare for this article went on FOREVER. What ended up in print is only a small portion of the rambling talk we had about all the crazy stuff she’s gone through in such a short period of time, including working in a factory in a rural town, hiding out from Bigfoot, and trying to escape society by moving off into the woods.

Of course, the L.A. RECORD folks had to trim even more off to get it to fit in the magazine, but there’s one fun part at the beginning that I wish had stayed!

… and since I wrote the darn thing, and ONLY because I like the original intro enough that I think it’s worth sharing as an outtake, I’m reprinting my original beginning to the interview here. You can read this first and then jump into the article, or just go to the article now if you think I’m already long-winded enough.

She may look it, but Jessie Jones is no longer the same shy, young singer from Orange County with the bold, weathered, jazzy old woman’s voice that she was when D. M. Collins first interviewed her in 2011. Back then, she sang with the psychedelia-tinged, Burger Records-approved garage band Feeding People, who then seemed to be just approaching the lip of the cusp of the edge of greatness. Instead, they quickly burned out; but Jones never truly faded away. After a few years in wandering the country trying out dead end jobs and engaging with supernatural phenomena, Jones re-emerged in full force in 2015, first on a triumphant tour co-singing lead vocals with Death Valley Girls, and now, as of this month, with her first solo album, which has been tickling the fancies of folks from the bowels of Gnar Burger all the way to the corridors and clicks of NPR. She speaks now, again, to D. M. Collins, who has convinced her to join him for a very candid interview at the vegan restaurant Sage in Echo Park, a place so opposed to animal cruelty that even the arachnids have started getting cocky…

 

FUCK! FUCKING FUCK! I giant spider was just in my mouth! Oh my fucking god. Did it bite my lip? It just, like, swung whole into my mouth! I didn’t swallow it; it’s climbed somewhere back up on the umbrella and disappeared….

JESSIE JONES: Maybe it’s trying to bless you?

Jessie, you are such a witch! People think you are this innocent little lamb, but you are a witch! Is that giant spider your “familiar?”

JESSIE JONES: I have weird relationships with spiders. Sometimes when I’m about to make a really drastic decision, I’ll wake up with like six spider bites! Their symbolism is tied up with the mythology of the Fates, the makers of destiny.

So, that reminds me, I’ll forgive the spider, because I have a confession. Remember when I interviewed Feeding People in my backyard in 2011 [in issue #104 of L.A. RECORD, e.d.]? You were all so young and so charming; it was obvious the band was going to implode horribly, and soon. I should have said something. Do you forgive me for not warning you that your life was about to go to shit?

JESSIE JONES: Um….. yes!

————-

Yay! She forgives me! That apology on my part was far more than casual conversation. Glad she’s not mad at me for not trying to “save” her from the future fate had waiting for her. Then again, that spider certainly did act suspiciously, as if bewitched…

Okay, with the above original text out of the way, feel free to hop to the actual article and continue reading.

And in honor of labor day, please make sure to savor her words when she starts to describe some of her experiences out there in the “eye of the storm” of capitalism. This part of her responses really struck me as both insightful and beautiful, while at the same time, you know, scary as hell:

“South Carolina, when I was just living in the middle of nowhere—that’s where it hit me: there’s so much poverty, such a lack of education, and not a lot of opportunity for people who are born without any guidance or any money. Just seeing how capitalism and consumerism really exist only when you’re in the eye of the storm. And when I was working weird jobs and stuff for companies in weird factories to keep existing, and I could see like, all this crap is coming from China. And I’m sending it to some person’s house in like Anaheim or Chicago, but they don’t see what’s going on behind closed doors. It’s like I could finally see how big America was, how small I was, how small my little bubble in Orange County was. And I had to talk about it, I guess. I had to get it out.”

 

-D. M. Collins

Kim Fowley Story #1

Everybody who’s anybody in Los Angeles has at least one Kim Fowley story, and I’ve got a million of them. Here is the first of my three most memorable. (Art by Elana Pritchard.)

Number 1: “Did you RAPE her?”

About half a dozen years ago, I was on this real strong hating rape tip—a tip I’m still on, and I think everyone should be. I mean, I hate all rape, even the kinds our culture regularly makes fun of for no good reason, like prison rape. “Oops, dropped the soap!” Ha ha. Fuck you, you rape sympathizing asshole.

Confession time: this isn’t just a hypothetical for me. When I was in my late teens, I was sexually assaulted, or, you know, technically raped, by an older guy. Despite what some might say about there not being degrees of rape, I would consider it a light rape—he just fed me full of free drugs until I didn’t know what the hell was going on, and then fucked me, when I had specifically gone over to his place adamant that I didn’t want to touch the guy.

It was only once, but it screwed me up for life. I became a crystal meth addict for about five years of my life, and to this day I still don’t know if I’m straight, or bi, or if I’m scared of sex with men because of what he did, or if I should be straight but am seeking out sex with men as an attempt to burn that trauma out of my system, or what the fuck is going on. (But don’t cry for me, Argentina–I am having a very good time figuring it out!)

And I was an adult, and male—I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a minor, or to be a woman, and have that experience in a culture that celebrates rape and trivializes it and blames the victim for wearing low-cut blouses and too much rouge.

But anyway, regardless of that one time, I am definitely bat shit crazy. And one night, about a half dozen years ago, during my usual “find any excuse at all to stay up all night and be exhausted in the morning and possibly get fired” rages, I finally got around to watching Edgeplay, the movie about the Runaways. It’s a total dish-all, no rumor left un-festered romp through the lives of the then-young women who made up the membership of the Runaways, L.A.’s first semi-punk band and a pioneering all-female band that still influences people today, especially 50 year old dudes in Japan.

Kim Fowley, if you don’t know who that is, was their manager. More than anything, that’s the reason why us hipsters—and yes, WE are the fucking hipsters, not some anonymous “them” out there listening to Mumford and Sons—that’s why we even know who he is. And in that film, Edgeplay, the story of the Runaways, there’s a part where some of the Runaways strongly insinuate that Kim Fowley had sex with them while they were minors.

This really fucking bugged me. It bothered me. It TORTURED me, because Kim Fowley was a pop-cultural icon that I really wanted to respect.

I knew that Kim Fowley was gross, and probably a perv, and had been emotionally abusive even with people I kind of know, e.g. his former assistant. But sex with a minor … that’s rape, right? A minor can’t consent. Legally, that’s certainly rape, and ethically… well, these girls might have been as young as 13. That’s beyond rape. That’s child abuse.

And then one night around 2010 I found myself at the L.A. RECORD Christmas party at Bedrock Studios in Echo Park. It was huge, and full of everything: bands and DJs and pinball machines and a creepy Santa Claus with up to 7 hot girls on his lap all night. I myself was full of ecstasy and little bit of mushrooms and maybe some cocaine and a heaping helping of free alcohol. I was lit up like a Christmas tree, wandering around all the various sound-proofed rooms.

EPSON MFP image

And in one room was a little Burger Records pop-up. Sean Burger (if you don’t know who that is, just check any recent Spin Magazine or L.A. Weekly or the NY Times) was sitting there behind crates and crates of old records, chillin’ like a rock star and letting drunk people blow a small fortune on old copies of Johnny Thunders and Parliament/Funkadelic records.

EPSON MFP image

After I was four sheets to the wind, I found myself becoming one of those people, thumbing through the records, regaling Sean over and over again about the production credits of each one, and the ones I liked, and the ones I hated, pausing every 30 seconds or so to pull out a goodie and say, so everyone could hear, “AHA! I HAVE this one!”

And then I came to the Cherie Currie solo record. Actually, it’s not her, but her and her sister, but it was repackaged all weird and had her in red leather on the cover looking all young and hot. And I paused for a minute, and I held up the album to Sean there, and I said, “I think Kim Fowley raped her. I think Kim Fowley fucking RAPED her.”

And Sean, who is a classic stoner and therefore far more relatively sober than I will ever be, calmly replied, “Well, why don’t you ask him? He’s right there.”

And I turned around, and right there in the hallway, right behind me, was fucking Kim Fowley. He was talking to some young girl, who seemed really impressed with him, and maybe a little charmed, and that made me all the more suspicious and enraged.

And so I took the Cherie Currie album and walked right out the door, right up to Kim Fowley, and I pushed it in his face, interrupting his conversation, and I said, point blank, “Did you RAPE her?”

EPSON MFP image

His response was instantaneous, and unemotional. “I never touched her. Anyway…”

And he went right back on with his conversation with the young lady! I didn’t know what to do. I was deflated.

And the thing was… I instantly believed him. Kim Fowley is many things: a braggart, a hustler, a meanie. But he’s not known for being too dishonest about his proclivities. I don’t really know the man’s soul, but I think if he had done something sexual with the Runaways, he might not have called it “rape” … but he wouldn’t have passed up a chance to say something creepy and self-aggrandizing. Whatever he called it, he would have admitted something.

And it got me thinking, “Am I just wrong about this anyway?” I mean, I hate to say it, but all my rock and roll heroes, e.g. David Bowie, e.g. Angie Bowie, e.g. Chuck Berry, e.g. Mark Lindsay, e.g. every 60s band-member you can think of, even Allen Ginsberg, had probably ridiculous amounts of sex with very young groupies, and I doubt they asked for ID first.

And on the other hand, some of my favorite authors and rock celebrities were underage groupies, people like Cynthia Plaster Caster and Suzy Shaw and Pamela Des Barres and Cameron Crowe, who (aside from Cameron) spent their entire post-adolescences seeking out sex with older men and don’t seem to feel the slightest regret, or need to apologize, for acting on what their classmates could only fantasize about. Would I be demeaning them by saying their fond recollections, their trophies, their seemingly very enthusiastic choices, don’t count? It would have been perfectly legal if they had just married their conquests first, or got legalized permission from mom and dad (e.g. Pele Massa and Ted Nugent). And if I don’t think marriage is needed to legitimize love, why would the lack of marriage de-legitimize teen lust, the kind I would have totally wanted to expend on David Bowie if he’d just visited me my teens (especially in his Labyrinth outfit)?

Yet was I a creeper for even having these thoughts? Were these the same apologetics that we’ve been hearing in regards to Roman Polanski, and Jimmy Page, and Tupac Shakur, and Julian Assange, simply because people liked their work?

Well, after years and years of just talking about it to people at bars, I finally did some thorough research on the Kim Fowley story that had so upset me. And it turns out Kim Fowley did NOT have sex with the Runaways…

But this one time, he did have them all sit in a room together while he had sex with an adult woman in FRONT of them, to show them “how to fuck.” And that is really, really, really, really fucked up. And despite the fact that Joan Jett stayed his life-long friend, and that Cherie Currie let him move in with her during his dying days, and despite the fact that as a teenager, I would have loved to see a live sex show, exposing minors to a sexual act is child abuse, right? There’s just no getting around that. They may have forgiven him, later, and he may have eventually recanted how he treated the Runaways. But there is no excuse for child abuse. Some of the Runaways ended up having real problems later in life, and I’m sure that having the man who was basically their guardian have sex in front of them did NOT help with that.

But I dunno. This all happened in the decadent 70s, which does not excuse it, but does explain it. There are monsters far worse from that era who’ve been roaming around in Thailand and neutral portions of Europe. And the Runaways DID forgive Kim Fowley. And he did apologize. And maybe, in a world where we still make a mockery of the rape and torture of young men in prison, a crime we all know about and do NOTHING to stop even as we laugh at the victims, maybe I can let an old man who just died of bladder cancer off the hook for this horrible, horrible thing he did.

It’s not because he’s famous, or that I like his music, or that I kind of knew him, or that his crimes were so long ago. It’s that, ethically, I think, I THINK, it’s the right thing to do. But I think I’ll be figuring this out for many years to come.

-D. M. Collins

BEACH BOYS – THE SMILE SESSIONS BOX SET

Here’s another blast from the past… this review appeared in L.A. RECORD in 2011. Here it is, again, a little cleaned up for a summer camp class I’m going to be helping out with.

 

Joe McGarry

BEACH BOYS – THE SMILE SESSIONS BOX SET

In 1966, in the wake of the critical acclaim from the masterpiece Pet Sounds, and coasting on the fame and fortune he’d earned for single-handedly competing with the entire nation of England for two whole years, Brian Wilson boasted to the press that the next Beach Boys album would be better still, grandiose beyond reckoning, as evolved from Pet Sounds as Pet Sounds had been from its predecessor, the goofy Beach Boys Party! album.

Finally on November 1, 2011, we’ll be getting the official, Capitol Records, Mike-and-Al-sanctioned confirmation that he was absolutely right. While Pet Sounds gets the accolades, consistently coming up number one in lists of the greatest albums of all time (Rolling Stone placed it as number 2, below onlySgt. Pepper), it’s now crystal clear that Pet Sounds was supposed to be just the wedge end of a growing block of masterful songwriting and recording genius—yes, the title “genius” is correct, despite what the elder Brian himself claims. Furthermore, it’s obvious from this box set (you can also get the gist of things in a two CD or two album set, though we know our readers will go the full monty on the big version with all the trimmings) that the Smile sessions were NOT written, arranged, and recorded by a paranoid recluse whose mental illness had clouded his judgment—that would come later for Brian. Here, the only thing crazy is how intricate and beautiful the music is. Not only the songs themselves, but the meticulous false starts, the outtakes, the bonus ditties, and even the lighthearted banter with session drummer Hal Blaine and bassist Carol Kaye all show that Brian Wilson was in complete control of a masterful vision from start to near-finish. Done right, Smile could have tossed Pet Sounds around like a tidal wave, and maybe even made the Beatles yearn for yesterday. Though we’ll never know the answer to the mystery of what might have been, this collection gives us our best guess, while at the same time shattering any myths about what was assumed never could be.

You, fair reader, probably know those myths and never believed them, though it’s hard to avoid romancing the Smile saga. To rehash a tale that’s been told to death (and which is covered far better in the box set’s liner notes), Smilemissed its historical moment, big time. Planned to be released after the Beatles’ Revolver and to make good on the promise of the “Good Vibrations” single, Smile instead became unwound and frazzled, hemorrhaging songs and lyric writers and well-wishers as its completion date got pushed further and further into 1967 (lyricist Van Dyke Parks famously amscrayed after one too many terse arguments with Mike Love, a major skeptic of Smile who likely hastened its destruction). When Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band came out, an album made by Beach Boys fans that was nonetheless far more abrasive than what the Wilson brothers were working on, it basically beat them to the punch.

And Brian effectively threw in the towel, scrapping all his hard work and instead gathering the Beach Boys together at his house to hastily bang out cheapo versions of the songs meant for Smile (the only true Smile session survivor being “Heroes and Villains”). The results, mostly recorded on the Capitol album Smiley Smile with just a few instruments and carrot-crunches, have their own oddball charm but did nothing to alert the world of Brian’s genius—instead, they seemed to confirm the rumors of Brian’s madness, and stand even now as perhaps the most goofy sounding of all Beach Boys songs (and that’s saying something–these are guys who cut their teeth writing love songs about cars!).

But those who paid attention knew that Brian was leaving a trail of breadcrumbs back to that unfinished gem of Smile. On record after subsequent record throughout the late 60s and early 70s, some of the best Beach Boys songs lifted their lyrics from Smile snippets (“Mama Says” on Wild Honey) or were outright pieced together from Smile sessions (“Cabinessence” and “Our Prayer” on 20/20, “Surf’s Up” on Surf’s Up). These gave the few remaining Beach Boys fans a taste of the masterpiece that somehow slipped through everybody’s fingers. In the CD era, we got even more treats as bonus tracks and box set extras, with great bootlegs such as the Sea of Tunes Unsurpassed Masters series filling in the rest. Finally, in 2004, a newly refurbished Brian Wilson with a new wife, new band, and new meds got his ass up on stage and took Smile on tour, culminating things with the release of Brian Wilson Presents Smile, its recorded anew in the studio with Wilson’s touring band (mostly made up of the Wondermints) and an assist from Van Dyke Parks himself.

But what about the other Beach Boys? Hearing a finalized running order forSmile was great (it certainly settled a lot of long-standing bets). And the songs were recorded well—in fact, Wilson got the Best Rock Instrumental Grammy that year for “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow.” But the Brian of 2004 was no match for the Brian of old; nor could the Wondermints surpass the original Wilson brothers’ harmonies—not even with an Idol-worthy female singer hitting Carl’s high notes. The original Beach Boys’ vocals, the harmonies that were supposed to guide us through Smile, the kind you can ONLY get from a group of siblings (think of the Bee Gees, or the Chapin Sisters, or the Chambers Brothers, or the Carter Family) were still sitting in the vaults at Capitol. We fans could splice together our own Smiles from those CD bonus tracks and a few brave Pro Tools edits, but Brian had denied us access to the rest, going so far as to say that the original “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” was terrible and would NEVER be unearthed, and might even be destroyed.

Thank GOD that’s not true, and thank GOD for this final mix, which sends the bootleggers running to the hills with crisp and clear recordings that provide plenty of surprises, at least compared to the Smile detritus we’ve heard in the past. The running order is largely the same as what Wilson gave us in 2004, but many of the details are different than what was presented then, including the song titles, which go by the names fashioned by Wilson and Van Dyke Parks at the get-go rather than what they became after Parks’ renewed participation more recently. And perhaps due to limitations in what the young Beach Boys had laid down on those Capitol sessions (there’s no cheating or re-dos, like Carl Wilson used on the 70s’ “Surf’s Up”), you’ll also hear some Parks lyrics that are different here than on the 2004 version. We’re missing a few good words, such as the megaphone bit on “Holidays,” or the “Maybe not one/maybe you too” lyrics that tied “Wonderful” to “Song for Children” on the 2004 Smile.

Actually, that’s probably my biggest complaint about the “final” Smile, mild as it is: the slightly clumsier connection between songs than what I’m used to in earlier trial mixes of Smile. I’m sure this, too, was a limitation in resources, since in a finished Smile, the piecing-together process would have happened last, and it’s far too late to get the Wrecking Crew back together for a final run-through of the xylophone intro to “Wind Chimes.” But one of the many, many ways that Smile would have been ahead of its time (or at least contemporary with Zappa), and one of the things that was to make it truly symphonic, was the fact that it was more than a collection of songs—it was supposed to be a woven tapestry, where one song became the next gradually. And I can’t help but think that some of this version’s fade-outs and decaying bass lines prevent the full cohesion of the cloth.

But a lack in connections is more than made up for by all the new revelations! Oh my god! In some places, it’s subtle, like in the extra minute of “ba de ba” meat slapping in “Vega-Tables,” or the ridiculously satiating bits of “Cool Cool Water” that show up in the background of “Love to Say Dada.” Other songs, like “Child Is Father of the Man,” contain brand new delicate vocal and instrumental arrangements that almost nobody has ever heard before. If you just put this on in the background while washing dishes and aren’t paying attention to the differences, you might just break a plate at the beauty of the sudden piano break in the middle of “Holiday,” which makes the instrumental sessions from the Pet Sounds era sound like immature stumbles by comparison.

The other four discs of the box set make this comparison even more blunt, proving how much more complex Brian’s arrangements had grown, even when compared to similar session tracks from the Pet Sounds box set. There, though the songs were heartfelt and wistful, many of the arrangements were still largely verse-chorus, the kind like “God Only Knows” that could be recreated in a live setting with minimal changes—just get a concertina player on stage with a banjoist, and let Mike shake a tambourine.

We’re far, far further through the looking glass with Smile! So much is crammed into each song, yet they feel so light! And on some of these sessions, you see that Brian had been even further out there than on the more “finished” tracks, especially on the sessions recorded while the other Beach Boys were still deep into their English tour England in 1966. Some versions of “Vega-Tables” have laughter all the way through them, like a madhouse. And one version of “Heroes and Villains” (track 22 on the first disc, if you want to check it out) is so psychedelic, you’ll drool—certainly this could have made “Tomorrow Never Knows” look like “Yesterday Already Did” if it hadn’t been usurped by the Brit guitar gods, then by Hendrix and the hard rock gang that followed to delegate vocal music to the sidelines.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Smile without some humor. Perhaps my favorite parts of the whole collection are the goofy bits between songs, when Brian and friends pretend that he’s stuck in a microphone or piano, or when you hear Brian in the recording sessions chiding his players into slapping actual chains at just the right velocity to get the desired percussion he needs for a song snippet. Actually, the goofiest part of all is the box set packaging! As though the music and all those sessions wasn’t enough, this gigantic… thing comes with a book, a bunch of photos (er, I mean “lithographs”), and the piece de resistance, a re-rendered Smile “shop” cover that lights up and is in 3D! I guess these are the features that will make the box sex $140 instead of $80? Well, as long as I get my vinyl singles, my vinyl albums, AND my CDs AND all this stuff, I’ll accept the frills and chills as part of the package, like a cigarette after sex.

Too often, history has treated Smile like the fire that Brian Wilson’s bad behavior kicked over, causing the Beach Boys careers to burn out and fade away. So perhaps it’s in some ways fitting that this Smile is the first attempt in a long time to patch things up between the existing Beach Boys—instead of suing each other, as they’ve done so often in the past, Mike Love, Brian Wilson, and Al Jardine came together on this and actually agreed to release this box set of their most celebrated unreleased songs. Maybe they knew it was too important to wait. Despite all the tacky turbans and cynical business decisions Mike Love has used to keep the Beach Boys machine afloat through the years, it’s his gentle voice that makes so many of these songs great: and yes, the final song on here is his “Good Vibrations” with Mike Love vocals and lyrics, and not the original Tony Asher ones as sung by Brian in 2004.

A collection of so many things—themes of Americana, minor key standards, English and Hawaiian languages, the four elements—this final Smile is also a collection that brings the past and present together and makes some sense out of them, somehow. Here’s to not making us wait another ten years—and here’s to the thousand times I’ll be listening to this album, and smiling, in the next month.

-Dan Collins

Dâm-Funk and Snoopzilla – 7 Days of Funk

Did you know that sometimes I teach kids how to write about music?

It’s true. And the below is a very CLEAN version of a review that originally appeared in L.A. RECORD a few months back. Hope the kids like it!

 

Dâm-Funk and Snoopzilla
7 Days of Funk
Stones Throw

Chuck D once told me, in an interview, that he envied rock ‘n’ roll for allowing artists to become established over time. “In rock and roll, there’s such a thing as classic rock. Bruce Springsteen just performed at the Super Bowl.” Whereas hip-hop has so often been about killing your father, or at least lobbing disses at him, and to the detriment of artists’ long-term popularity. Run DMC, the “Beatles of hip-hop,” built their careers on differentiating themselves from the flashy, Jheri curled party rappers who preceded them. But they no longer sell out arenas: their Def Jam style in turn was eclipsed by Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, Miami Bass, New Jack Swing, Gangsta Rap, and on and on, with few artists capable of making the transition from one new trend to the next. With all the riches-to-rags transitions in hip hop’s present-focused past, it’s no wonder Hollywood has become a refuge, almost a retirement home, for people named “Ice” and “LL.”

Snoop Dogg, whose Dre-produced G-funk opuses of the 90s made him the most popular artist in the world and a game-changer in hip-hop’s sound, has never entirely gone away—he’s had Top Ten albums all the way through the 2000s. But he’s struggled to make his gin and juice, Colt 45 everyman’s hip-hop relevant in a world where Jay Z and Kanye drink Patron and donate money to hurricane relief. This album has come on the heels of some fantastic triumphs (e.g. his Coachella appearance with Dre was great fun, regardless of holograms) and the misstep (or glorious Neil Young-style triumph, depending on your view) of his Snoop Lion reggae album. At its best, 7 Days of Funk combines the creative joy of the latter with the smarts of the former.

I think it might actually have been at Coachella that Snoop, now “Snoopzilla,” was first sighted in a Dâm-Funk audience, taking in the latter’s keytar-clad boogie rock performance wide-eyed as tens of thousands of scantily-clad rock and rollers embraced the boogie. Really no one, not even Peanut Butter Wolf, has done as much to evangelize the history of obscure flavors of funk as has Dâm-Funk. It’s smart of Snoop to recognize that in Dâm-Funk, he could have a potentially powerful ally like no other, someone both cutting-edge and funky as hell, with indie cred and a foot in a whole new scene that could lend Snoop some much-needed hipness points. And it’s magnanimous of Dâm to put his own thing aside and really engage with a project to help make one of the greatest rap artists of our lifetimes blossom with a newfound vivaciousness.
Snoop has said that he considers 7 Days of Funk itself to be a group, and not a Snoop solo album. But Dâm-Funk plays it like a producer. Rather than make Snoopzilla into a boogie funk monster pastiched from all Dâm’s favorite eras of funky music, he does what Rick Rubin might do to Johnny Cash or Donovan: he adds some amazingness, but generally plays to Snoop’s strengths, bringing freshness to a sound that people who are already fans might recognize and enjoy.

In Snoop’s case, that means G-Funk, which basically means P-Funk, including an appearance by Bootsy Collins himself on the first track. But listen closely and you’ll hear that the funk is a little more robotized than what we might have heard in the 90s, a little more Uncle Jam than Mothership, with some bonus whiffs of Zapp or Cameo or Rick James. Some critics have already been attacking Dâm-Funk’s thin synth chords here and there, as if they are somehow indicative of “cheap production.” But those who know the funk can recognize authenticity when they hear it! This is not only the keyboard sound of classic 80s R&B, but the sound of now, of Thundercat and Flying Lotus and, heck, any one of dozens of indie rock bands who now brandish the keytar unironically. When Dâm-Funk pairs that key sound with the occasional Prince-y, almost Robert Fripp-esque guitar explosion in the background, you get a friction that’s sensual with a hint of sleaze. I’m sure Dâm-Funk has hundreds of records he’s actually referencing, but it makes me think of the sexy ballads by electro innovators Egyptian Lover, Cybotron, or more recently, Squarepusher’s amazing Shobaleader One project.

But again, that’s not to say that this album feels like a grand experiment for Snoop, at least not musically: his seemingly effortless but complex rhymes, and the deep gangsta bass, if anything, hearken back more to his classic 90s works than some of his late 2000s albums. And of course, Tha Dogg Pound jumps in here and there. Kurupt seems a little confused on “Ride,” where he pops in with a bizarre four-line ramble only to have Snoop swoop down and crush him with one hand tied behind his back. But the combo is perfect on the bonus track “Systematic,” which showcases them rhyming like old friends over a heavily synthed-out tune that feels more “Dâm-Funk” than the regular album tracks.

The album is so deliciously funky that it took me a whole listen before I realized that “holy crap, Snoop is really singing on this thing!” Again, theoretically that’s not a radical departure for Snoop, who has always thrown in some soulful falsetto right into his rhymes: just think of how he lamented about other rappers stealing his flow in “Doggy Dogg World.” But on songs like “Let It Go,” Snoop’s really going for it, with not a hint of irony, just a little personal naked beauty in amongst the grooves.

Again, some of my fellow critics have lambasted him for exceeding his voice’s grasp, and he definitely is not belting it out like Smokey or Curtis Mayfield. But some of the most soulful singers of the 70s and 80s had limited ranges that they did a lot with, from Gil Scott-Heron and Shuggie Otis to Vanity and Janet Jackson, and when Snoop croons in conjunction with Dâm’s amazing production (sure, there’s pitch correction, but it sounds awesome, like a Vocoder), I find it charming rather than cloying. Like Stephen Colbert’s sing-alongs on the Colbert Report, at least Snoop is bringing ringers like Steve Arrington of Slave to join him. And unlike Colbert, he knows to turn himself down and turn them up when it’s their turn to shine.

If you’re more of a Dâm-Funk fan than a Snoop fan, and were hoping for a little more Dâm-Funk flavor than is present here, you should definitely check out the collaboration between Arrington and Dâm-Funk that came out on Stones Throw half a year ago. In a way, that one shows more love on the tracks than here, where Dâm is showing a little more restraint. But Arrington’s appearance here, on the track “1Question?” is not to be missed: it’s a joyous opportunity for Snoop to come full circle and celebrate Arrington’s music on its own terms, not folding Arrington’s samples into his own G-Funk as he did so often back in the day, but kind of meeting Arrington on his own terms, or at least the neutral turf of Dâm-Funk’s production.

Actually, I’ve just got “1Question?” to ask Snoop, which is, how do you think your audience is going to respond to this album? Let’s talk units. Will this track “bang in the club,” as you rhyme in “Do My Thang,” shortly before the alien voice comes in to deliver a Parliament-esque message of positive affirmation about being yourself during the bridge?

The album, at seven-eight songs depending on which packaging you go for, is pretty short, well under 40 minutes. Snoop has said in interviews that this was to make us “want more.” And I do. But I worry. A part of me thinks, hopes, expects that modern audiences will see this for the funky, laid-back jam that it is and that it’ll be another game-changer as big as Doggystyle, and that once promotion and word of mouth and distribution kick in, it’ll eventually go Platinum. But the cynical part of me, the part of me that watched Run DMC fade away to obscurity, worries that this original collaboration with a unique producer on an independent label might not sit as well with the same Snoop Dogg fan base that cheered him on for dancing around with the ghost of Tupac Shakur as he and Dre did quick medleys of all their hits on the Coachella stage.

Then again, that same Coachella audience also went crazy for Dâm-Funk, and that was less than a year ago—surely those tens of thousands of fans wouldn’t want to miss out on seeing both their heroes together? No matter how the album is received, Snoop, Snoopzilla, hear me out: I implore you, don’t give up on this personal and very funky reinvention. I have a feeling that both Dâm-Funk and you have a lot more ideas and concepts up their sleeves, and this record, as good and fun as it is, doesn’t even scratch the surface of what you’re capable of together.

Maybe Chuck D was right. Maybe there’s no way for rappers to grow old gracefully, like the rockers of old. But why try to be Crosby, Stills, and Nash? With 7 Days of Funk, you’re well on your way to being rap’s Neil Young.

D.M. Collins

Opening TOMORROW NIGHT! Dancing About Architecture – L.A. RECORD and the Art of Visualizing the Aural

Walt Gorecki

Dancing About Architecture
L.A. RECORD and the Art of Visualizing the Aural

June 12 – July 19
Opening Reception: Thursday, June 12
7 p.m. – Midnight

The Pickle Factory Gallery

647 Lamar (Unit C)
Los Angeles, CA 90031

FREE, All Ages

Since it began as a one-page broadsheet in 2005 (one side was a poster of the Rolling Blackouts bewigged to look like The New York Dolls album cover; the other side was the magazine), L.A. RECORD has always been an art-forward publication, one that championed great music not only with reviews and interviews, but also with paintings, drawings, and photography that honored the music of now in terms of the rock and hip hop art of old.

 

On Thursday, June 12, 2014, the Pickle Factory gallery celebrates that artistic vision with a group show inspired by L.A. RECORD, now Los Angeles’ biggest music publication.Many of the artists in this exhibit, and the art pieces themselves, first appeared in L.A. RECORD’s pages or on its website alongside features about your favorite musicians. Now, at long last, these canvases, sketches, and portraits from the past decade (including pieces that never made the magazine) are coming together in a gallery setting, alongside other art by the most talented artists and photographers in the L.A. RECORD pantheon, plus art inspired by the many musical/cultural scenes that L.A. RECORD has helped to nurture.

Artists
L.A. RECORD has always had a keen eye for up-and-coming artists. Some of the names first featured in its pages, underneath pictures of Gil-Scott Heron or portraits of the Flaming Lips, have grown into L.A.’s most-beloved artists. This group show features an exciting mix of well-known veterans alongside several fresh talents:

Drew Denny

Luke McGarry

Dave Van Patten

champoyhate

Daiana Feuer

Leee Black Childers

Aaron Giesel

Walt! Gorecki

Elsa Henderson

Zara Kand

Gloria Plaza

Alex Brown

Ammo

Dale Dreiling

Mike Stephan

Olivia Jaffe

Matt Adams

Colin Ambulance

Ward Robinson

Tom Child

Elana Pritchard

 

This exhibit is a treat for both music fans and patrons of the arts (though, we assume, most of the folks who come to see us have plenty of love for both!). If you love collecting records, going to concerts, or sweating in basement parties, you’ll find plenty of depictions of the people whose music has meant so much to you. But unlike standard rock photography exhibits, which often focus solely on portraiture, Dancing About Architecture will have art from all arenas (no pun intended), including many solid compositions that will sing to you with a harmony all their own.

There will be musical entertainment from musical artists such as Sex Stains, the Koreatown Oddity and Bloody Death Skull, L.A. Record DJs such as Daniel Clodfelter, as well as a one-time screening of Dorian Wood’s infamous self-directed video, “La Cara Infinita,” originally presented in 2013 by L.A. RECORD and almost certainly even more disturbing when projected on a large wall in a dark warehouse. This just added: rare and gorgeous videos of Pizza!, Linda Perhacs, and even Ralph Bakshi (as assisted by our own Elana Pritchard).

Make sure to get to the show by 8 p.m. to see a live interview with one of our readers’ all-time favorites, Guy Blakeslee of The Entrance Band. The festivities are all hosted by L.A. RECORD New Music Editor D. M. Collins.

No money for a big canvas? No problem! Many of our artists will be bringing affordable take-home prints of their best works. They may not be as big and shiny as some of the full-framed originals, but you can still reminisce about the time you visited the Pickle Factory for the VERY FIRST L.A. RECORD ART SHOW OF ALL TIME! There will also be stacks of the most recent issue of L.A. RECORD, plus finger food at an affordable price from the best vegan-friendly caterer the arts district has to offer.

 

About the gallery:

The Pickle Factory is more than just an art gallery: it’s also a literary salon, an improv theater, and a place where records are constantly spinning. It is maintained with love and presented with great care, for special events only. It literally used to be a pickle factory … but most people found it too JARRING. Check out their Facebook page regularly for what’s happening now and what’s still in the works.

 

The gallery is also ridiculously close to the Brewery Lofts, and is on the same street as the San Antonio Winery, Lamar, and the cross street is Main.

  • The address is: 647 Lamar, Los Angeles, CA, 90031
  • From downtown, simply go north on Main, do a little zigzag near Union Station, cross the railroad tracks, and turn right on Lamar.
  • From the 5 freeway, get off at the Main exit, go south/west on Main, pass the Brewery Lofts on your left, and then take a left on Lamar.
  • Does it feel like you’re in a weird industrial area, between a UPS lot and a cement factory? Good! You’re in the right place!

Philip Glass review up at L.A. RECORD

Disney Hall

My review of Philip Glass’ and Robert Wilson’s the CIVIL warS is up on the L.A. RECORD site.

When talking about classical music, and a composer of Glass’ caliber, of course I wanted to keep the focus on the positive. People should support music like this. And though the house was relatively packed, the trend on the horizon, around the country, is one of slumping sales even for Mozart!

But that’s why I couldn’t help but notice some of the problems with this particular production. In general, the singing and playing was great, but certain parts of the staging left something to be desired…

LA PHIL, if you must mic an operatic performance, can you at least test that the microphones and cords aren’t static-y, or have a backup, or just… just don’t fuck it up? We’re paying dozens of dollars here—which is clearly more than you paid your temps to type out the translations onto the big opera scoreboard, where “lose” was spelled “loose” throughout the evening, and other snippets of text and capitalization and punctuation seemed strangely wrong, even for a piece where everything’s up for grabs. I know this was supposed to be a “cantata-like concert performance lacking the hallucinatory visuals that originally accompanied the full staged version,” as the program so honestly described it, but doesn’t that mean it’s even more important that the few remaining moving parts stay in sync?

Still, the overall effect was rather amazing, and my brain left the hall far later than my body did.

-D. M. Collins

some more reviews are up on L.A. RECORD….

Check out my reviews of the Groms and Dum Dum Girls and the Snoop Dog/Dâm-Funk collaboration known as 7 Days of Funk.

I apologize for the review I am about to not write of your latest album.

I really do want to review your band.

But hear me out. I want to review thousands of bands. And even my close friends comprise up to maybe 40 bands. And at least a few friends became friends with me only with the goal of having me review their band.

I have a lot of music to listen to! And I have a 40 hour per week engineering job, a new warehouse that needs a lot of construction right now, a book that is still unwritten, a monthly lit event that I host, a family that misses me, lovers who need lovin’, and a dog that needs walkin’.

Something’s got to give. And this month, it’s the review I’m not going to write of your album.

And I get it. On your end, you’ve made this gorgeous album, something that you’ve obsessed over for months and have put all your thought and love into. And on my end, I want to give that love back! That doesn’t sound so hard, does it, to return a little love to you when you’ve worked so hard?

But I will inevitably have to skip some albums, skimp on some words, and even abandon some of my obligations. As a lover of music and a rampant optimist, I’m trying to tackle more than is humanly possible, in the dead of night, in the spare margins and cut-out spaces of life when a normal person would probably be watching South Park, or sleeping.

So, yeah, sometimes I fall short.

Sometimes I fall asleep in mid-sentence.

Somehow I’ve wound up being a person who stays up until 5 a.m. playing cassettes in a little boombox, worrying about whether I know enough about grindcore or 90s hip-hop or early R.E.M. to review the music I’ve been given. I feel blessed to have such a gaggle of talented people all around me, but sometimes I have to find words to describe with candor the mistakes I find with their work, which often outnumber the good things (and often at an inverse ratio to how much I like the person personally; a lot of assholes have made great music, and vice versa, and though it’s not true, sometimes it seems that really sweet people cannot make strong work, and how do you tell a wonderful person  that their work is weak?). I do this far more nights a month than I’d like to admit, often at the expense of seeing actual live music, the thing I love more than almost anything. Sleep in any form longer than five hours is a blessing. Relationships are strained. And I haven’t cooked a lengthy, delicious, stress-reducing stew or roasted vegetable medley in what feels like a decade.

And yet the albums keep coming, so many that even the good ones become forgettable when the next batch comes in. It’s gotten to the point where I often don’t remember whether I reviewed something or merely listened to it. Once, last year, I even reviewed the same album twice in subsequent issues of L.A. RECORD. And it was a good friend’s album. And one of the two reviews had actually been a full-length essay.

So I promise, if I don’t give your album the love you think it deserves, it’s not because I’m being flippant or callous or thoughtless or a promise-breaker. It’s because I just can’t. I’m full! I’m over-saturated! I’m confused, I’m in love, I’m manic, I’m scribbling endlessly like a rat trying to coax more cheese out of the world with his wits. And even just clicking on another link and downloading another track is beyond my capabilities at this moment.

Have some courtesy.

Have some sympathy.

Maybe next time, you’ll catch me at a good moment when I have a breather and am free to talk and laugh and listen. So keep sending stuff to me, and feel free to remind me once in a while what’s up.

And, hey, maybe smile at me!

But not too sweetly.

My review of Lazy’s Obsession is up on L.A. RECORD.

It’s a good album! Check it out here.

My Dream Boys review is up on L.A. RECORD.

This was a lovely little debut. Check it out.