It has been written…

DSCF4225-RedigeraThere’s this famous quote that’s been attributed to various people over the years (Laurie Anderson, Steve Martin, Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, Thelonius Monk, Clara Schumann, Miles Davis, George Carlin, to name a few), but was probably coined by Martin Mull; ”Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

While I can see the point the quote is making, I’m inclined to disagree somewhat. It is true that the experience of music does not really transfer into writing, but there is still a lot one can learn about music through reading. I am a passionate reader of biographies and musical literature, and it’s been a constant source of insight and knowledge to me.

thedirtUsually, my favorites are the ones that take you inside the creative process of an artist, let you inside the recording studios, the rehearsal rooms, the philosophy and the inspiration. The more gossipy ones that focus mainly on the private lives, addictions, divorces and scandals of the artists are generally less interesting to me, but of course there are exceptions. I mean, ’The Dirt’ is obviously a highly entertaining read.

In the Billy Momo mini-documentary ’The dirt road to Seven Rivers Wild’ Orren jokingly refers to me as a ”human encyclopedia”, which is quite an exaggeration of course, but I do enjoy collecting little nuggets of musical trivia, connecting dots, and discovering context. So it was with great pleasure I came home the other day to find a new book in my mailbox, Andrew Greenaway’s ’Frank talk: The inside stories of Zappa’s other people’. Basically it’s a collection of interviews with various FZ alumni, and I’m devouring it like a dog attacks a sausage.

I usually share a list of ”recommended listening” in my posts, but today I thought I’d share some of my favorite books about music, so that you may also have the pleasure of reading them.

Daniel_LanoisSOUL MINING: A MUSICAL LIFE – DANIEL LANOIS A beautiful memoir by the legendary producer/musician/artist Daniel Lanois. It has atmosphere dripping from every page, much like the man’s music.

A CHANGE IS GONNA COME: MUSIC, RACE & THE SOUL OF AMERICA – CRAIG WERNER
A thorough analysis of how music has been part of the civil rights movement in the U.S. Deeply fascinating, should be required reading in school.

ONE TRAIN LATER: A MEMOIR – ANDY SUMMERS
The Police guitarist writes poetically and beautifully, he could easily have pursued a career as an author instead of playing with one of the biggest acts in the history of popular music.

ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE: THE BAND AND AMERICA – BARNEY HOSKYNS The story of one of the most influential music groups of all time, written by one of the best music writers around. Very insightful and revealing.

BODY AND SOUL – FRANK CONROY This is a novel, unlike the others, but it is by far the most beautifully written book about the experience of being a musician I’ve ever come across. This one actually manages to dance about architecture! Warning: You will cry. A lot.

keith moonDEAR BOY: THE LIFE OF KEITH MOON – TONY FLETCHER Speaks for itself, really. A crazy ride through a life lived in the fast lane. Entertaining, legendary, and also surprisingly moving.

TRAVELING MUSIC: THE SOUNDTRACK TO MY LIFE AND TIMES – NEIL PEART The drummer/lyricist of Rush literally takes a road trip as well as a trip down memory lane as he listens to various albums along the way. A combined travel book and memoir.

IN COLD SWEAT: INTERVIEWS WITH REALLY SCARY MUSICIANS -THOMAS WICTOR
Exactly what it says on the tin. Gene Simmons, Peter Hook, Jerry Casale and especially the truly one of a kind Scott Thunes in personal portraits of a lifetime in music.

LORDS OF CHAOS: THE BLOODY RISE OF THE SATANIC METAL UNDERGROUND – MICHAEL MOYNIHAN AND DIDRIK SODERLIND A modern classic, investigating one of the most truly bizarre subcultures to ever emerge in music. Remember the early 90s, people?

rednecksREDNECKS AND BLUENECKS: THE POLITICS OF COUNTRY MUSIC – CHRIS WILLMAN
The political landscape of the U.S. viewed through the Country music industry. An often surprising read, tremendously insightful and educational.

THE REAL FRANK ZAPPA BOOK – FRANK ZAPPA AND PETER OCCHIOGROSSO
Not exactly a memoir, but rather part behind the scenes revelations, part political manifesto and part pure entertainment. Funny as shit.

BILL BRUFORD: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY – BILL BRUFORD
Typically British dry wit and a generous dose of sarcasm make Bruford’s recollections bitingly funny, while at the same time displaying a never-ending quest for musical discovery and progress. Inspiring!

CHRONICLES – BOB DYLAN Beautifully written, as one would expect, a real treasure chest of musical history, and language that flows like wine. Supremely good.

FARGO ROCK CITY – CHUCK KLOSTERMAN Hysterically funny and strangely clever writing about being a metalhead back in the 80s. You will laugh your ass off while being nostalgic for an era you thought you despised. Possibly the funniest book you’ll ever read.

There should be something here for everyone. Enjoy!

/Gramps

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The Purjocopter Concept

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Tony Lind, aka Gramps.

My bass player friend Mats, who I play with every now and then, once made a remark regarding my faiblesse for cymbals (I often tend to bring quite a few to any kind of gig). He asked, cheekily: ”How many cymbals does a drummer really need?” I answered: ”Exactly as many cymbals as the stage size allows.” After a moment’s pause he said: ”That’s really a perfect answer.” And I’d have to agree.

All kidding aside, I really do enjoy having a rather elaborate setup, not just with cymbals, but the overall drum kit. I never truly arrived at any definite setup that I felt was the ultimate one for me, I like to keep changing it around, moving pieces, and adding new ones.

Billy Momo_Marcus Landström
Billy Momo – photo: Marcus Landström.

With Billy Momo, I have taken this concept to a new level (for me), when I started my work-in-progress, The Purjocopter. In the early days of the band, there were quite a lot of Hiphop-influenced beats on the recordings, some played, some programmed, and the challenge for me was to try to recreate the feel of those beats live, not always by playing them exactly the same way, but to interpret the recorded version in a way that would translate well in the live situation.
I tried many different kinds of setups in the beginning, acoustic, electronic, and combinations thereof. But after a while, I decided that it would be a much more satisfying thing for me to have an acoustic kit (so that I wouldn’t have to rely on great monitors to hear myself), but to still try and have many different sounds, as if I had a sample library, and have many of those sound sources not being strictly a classic rock’n’roll-style drum set. I began by replacing pretty much all the regular crash cymbals with different effects such as chinas, EFXs, splashes, bells, and all kinds of ding-dongs and bang-booms. I also added some more snare type sounds with very different pitches (for instance, if you listen to the song ’Swim’, I played that on a 10” TAMA Mini Tymp snare, cranked way up, to get an almost drum machine kind of sound, which The Head beefed up a little more by triggering a sample on top).
And then there were various percussion instruments added, as well as roto-toms, an 18” hihat, and much more, in combination with the typical meat-and-potatoes kinds of drum sounds.

What this does is allow for me to keep some of the quirkier beats from the albums and do them justice live, even if they’re not truly identical. And also, I enjoy improvising a lot with all those different sound sources at my disposal. If you’ve ever seen us perform songs like ’All we were’ or ’Billy Slomo’ live, you know what I mean. It also allows me to be a bit orchestral when I solo.

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Gramps (drums). Photo: Niklas Månsson.

Now, I don’t want to give you the idea that this was a concept that I came up with on my own in a vacuum, hell no! The Purjocopter was influenced by many of my drum heroes, probably starting with Neil Peart’s expansive kit with Rush, but also guys like Terry Bozzio, Michael Blair, David Van Tieghem, Tony Oxley, but more than anyone else, Bill Bruford. His different setups (and the ways in which he used them) with King Crimson were endlessly fascinating to me, and I can tell you that the Thrak album with Bill and Pat Mastellotto on double drums was life changing for me. If you can get hold of a copy of the November ’95 issue of Modern Drummer magazine, and you read the article on Bill and Pat, and you look at their setups from the Thrak tour, that’s pretty much where the main inspiration for The Purjocopter came from, I think.

So, the next time you see Billy Momo perform a full blown set with all of our own gear on a stage that allows for it, you will probably see quite a lot of drums up there. And now you know that it’s not just for show, although a big drum kit is probably among the most beautiful things you could see, next only to… well, it’s a pretty sight, let’s leave it at that.

/Gramps