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 dynamics of being a band

header 161115Anyone who has ever been part of a creative team (and who hasn’t?) knows that within a group of people, various individuals get assigned different functions within the unit, and these roles in combination are fueling the creative process. You have leaders, you have thinkers, you have doers, you have morale boosters, you have analysts and critics, all various catalysts for moving the project ahead. The weird thing is that the same individual can perform a specific role within one group of people, yet have a significantly different function in another team. The dynamics shift, depending on the energies produced within each unique combination of people. It really is true that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And Billy Momo is no exception to this rule.

Orren is sort of the gatekeeper of the Billy Momo environment. He is often the first one to say that ”This doesn’t really feel like a Billy Momo thing to do”, and he often comes up with the initial idea for new concepts, videos, etc.

My brother Barba and I are quite alike in many ways, and yet in others, we are vastly different. Barba seems to have a constant creative drive, a slow burning kind, where he is in perpetual forward motion, which is a very good, disciplined way of getting shit done, even if it sometimes happens below the radar. My creativity seems to lie dormant periodically, and then show itself in bursts of energy, which is good for times when things need to get kicked in the ass a little bit, but isn’t very effective for actually finishing a project, being a ’closer’ takes a persistence and determination I sorely lack. Barba is, together with our manager Birgitta, the taskmaster of the group, the one who makes sure we actually follow through on what we have planned.

The Head seems to thrive within his own framework, headspace and timezone, and although he is very active when we have conceptual discussions about what we are trying to achieve, he tends to do most of his work on his own. He is very much a morale booster as well, ever optimistic and enthusiastic.

Preacher Man often refers to himself as a ”spare prick”, which is funny, but not entirely the case. It is true that he gets assigned various roles depending on the requirements of specific songs, be it percussion, vocals, guitar, dobro, but not in an arbitrary fashion, and his versatility is a very strong point within our setup, and one we always look to finding new ways to expand. Also, his unique character provides endless source material for Billy Momo folklore.

Hot Lips often comes up with quirky, creative ideas, and has a great instinct for visual presentation. He’s a gifted sketch artist, and seems to have an infinite treasure trove of old pictures and vintage equipment (not always of a musical nature) we can draw inspiration from. Combined with The Coffa’s photography and graphic design skills, as well as Orren’s visionary quality control, we have a great visual design team within the group.

I realize, as I’m reading everything I’ve just written, that most of these processes within the band are not directly concerning the music, but other aspects of being a creative team. But, being a very DIY type of organization, a lot of the work we have to perform in order to keep this beast we know as Billy Momo alive and kicking, takes place with our instruments unplugged. Sometimes the balance gets a little fucked, which can be a bit frustrating. I have had recent discussions with Barba where we both expressed an itch to get back to the actual music for a bit. It will happen, as we have a number of shows scheduled during the spring, but for now, we are currently doing a lot of other stuff. This very blog, for instance!

Peace, love and music to all you crazy kids in love out there! (Tony Lind, aka /Gramps)

Compare yourself to others

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Orren. Photo: Robert Eldrim

 

Who the hell is ” Yourself”?

We all heard it when we were kids. Over and over again. “Don’t compare yourself to others, just be yourself!” And yet, few of us thought “Oh! Yourself! Wow! It’s that easy??”
That’s because they were all wrong.
You have to compare yourself to others to know who the hell yourself is. How else would you know? Short, fat, funny, generous, grumpy, hot tempered.. it’s all relative, right?

Same goes for an artist. Did you know that kids with guitars are still playing “Stairway To Heaven” and “Little Wing”? Same tunes we were all playing when we first started. After all these years, how could they not have found anything new? Well, maybe the point is to play the same old tunes. Guitarists find their own special style in the way they play that intro to “Little Wing”. Singers find the unique sound of their voice by the way their “Hello” stands out.
We all start off wanting to be like someone else. We compare ourselves and first we find only imperfections. But slowly, slowly we find something likeably in the way we can’t seem to resemble anyone else. (Orren, lead vocal, acoustic guitar, banjo)

The importance of daydreaming

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Orren. Photo by The Coffa.

 

As musicians/songwriters/producers/music video directors/artists/photographers (and now even bloggers) like us, there’s a whole lot of extra work to be done, free of charge.
At gigs, we’re roadies and drivers as well as musicians. At video shoots, we’re actors as well as directors and photographers, and so on.
If only we didn’t love it so much, we might learn how to charge for the extra hours.
One of the things I know I should not do for free is daydreaming. In fact, I believe anybody in a creative line of business should charge for their daydreams by the hour. It is probably the most productive part of your day.
You’re doing all the things you’re supposed to do according to all of the inspirational Ted talks you’ve ever seen. You’re setting goals completely without limitations, visualising them, making them feel real in your mind. You’re pumping fuel into your creative process and you’re reminding yourself of what it is that drives you to work hard.
I almost never daydream without result. There’s always at least one new idea to work with once I get back to reality. And the ideas are real, totally doable most of the time and ready to go. One of the most common ways for me to write a song – I daydream about a stage, a venue or a festival I want to perform at and suddenly, in the middle of the fantasy, I discover that the song we’re playing has not been written yet.
When I build my home studio – in Barba’s new house, this summer – I’m getting a daydream room. (There may be an argument to be won here, with Barba’s daughter, but hey! She’s seven. How hard can it be?)
A nice enough sofa so you’re comfortable without falling asleep and pictures of the nicest stages and studios in the world. That room alone will write us the next album! (Orren: lead vocal, acoustic guitar, banjo)

Finally back in Billy Momo business

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Billy has been licking his wounds after having to cancel no less than three shows in February, due to lead singer’s pneumonia.

Billy does not normally cancel shows. Three shows are more than we have cancelled in our career so far, put together. Anyway, we’re now all back on our feet and we’re preparing two days of video shoot this weekend. As usual, we are shooting it in the middle of nowhere and we’ll be lucky if there is even electricity, so we need to come well prepared.

We’re basically doing a classic saloon fight, in a church. It’s a small and very old church and it’s beautiful. Perfect setting for a good fight! So, we’ll need to pack a thermos of coffee, a camera and some baseball bats I guess. The day after, Barba will be tied up from top to toe and Orren will be on a chair, hanging off a cliff. Keep a look out in the near future for “Following Me Following You” and “Say You’re Sorry” music videos! (Orren: lead vocal, acoustic guitar, banjo)