Stiff Richards by Stiff Richards

This was recorded in about 3 days at Sharkbite in Oakland. One of the standout tracks for me is “Fell In And Out Of Art” by Paul Jackson. Album Typical of Paul’s compositions, the individual parts don’t make complete sense when played solo, but when they’re all played together, they create a moving tapestry of chords and melody and mayhem. Check it out:

It was so fun playing guitar on this song and the whole album. I sang lead on a few tracks as well, including our cover of “My Girlfriend Is A Rock.”

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Available in all the digital places.

From Russia With Love: English Translations of Soviet Era Songs, by Andrei Marcon

Before Moscow native Andrei Marcon emigrated to California as a young man in the 80’s, he acquired some cassette tapes of Russian underground music, which were passed around person to person against the wishes of the Soviet authorities. He has since taken it upon himself to translate into English some of these songs which he loved as a kid. They were “hits” of a kind, in the Soviet era, in that many people heard and loved these songs, and shared and sang them. But it was all on the down low. Thing is, if you got caught distributing music, you could find yourself in serious trouble. You could be arrested, charged, convicted and even sent off to “the camps” for “unlawful commercial activity and/or private entrepreneurship!” Activities like building amps, hiring a sound engineer for a recording, organizing shows – anything where money changed hands – including duplicating and distributing cassettes, were all verboten.

Andrei Marcon Photo by John Seabury
Andrei Marcon – Photo by John Seabury

But music, being the universal language, has a way of getting around. Andrei related to me that in fact, western popular music was also passed around surreptitiously in this way. 5th generation cassettes of everything you can think of, found their way to the hungry ears of Russian music fans and musicians. I had heard about this back then. But what I didn’t know, is that there were also homegrown music stars in the Soviet Union, somehow recording and releasing their material to the public. Songs that connected with people were shared widely.

In that setting, there were some notable songwriters and bands, none of whom I had heard about until Mr. Marcon generously shared this information with me a few years ago. At that time, he sang and played for me a few translations he was working on, faithfully rendering these lost gems from his native tongue in his 2nd language, English. Since then, he has recorded and posted some of these versions on youtube. The results are brilliant, and in fact, if I didn’t know these were translations, I’d easily assume they were written in English.

Without further ado I’d like to share with you a few of these songs, performed solo by Andrei Marcon, starting with “The Fiddler” by Konstantin Nikolsky. You can also find these vids and more at Andrei’s youtube channel.

This next one, “Who Is To Blame” is originally by Alexei Romanov of Voskreseniye, a famous Russian band which started in the 70’s and remains active today.

And here finally is Voskresenye’s 1979 Russian undeground hit “I Have…”.

Hope you enjoy! Please share if you like, and who knows, maybe these versions will also be covered! Music traveling beyond borders and time, as it has always done.

Today’s Lesson: Fun Playing Is Good Playing!

Jeff_BeckPart of what makes a good musician great, is just how much fun they have. “Fun” can mean the fun of playing joyous music, sad music, funny music – absolutely anything in the vast range of human emotion.

I’ve always found Jeff Beck to be one of those players who has so damn much fun it’s contagious, whether you’re in the room watching, playing in his band, or listening to a recording.

Check out:

And all of Jeff Beck’s records, really. They just get better over time.

FASHION SLAVES Went Insane with WILD ASS and The RAVEUPS

Had a great time at Starry Plough on Saturday night, here’s my recollections and raves.

WILD ASS!

wild-ass-300pxI admit I was predisposed to liking WILD ASS before seeing them, because they are called WILD ASS. But they exceeded my wildest ass expectations. Fronted by the formidable young Carla Selvin – resplendent in black satin bell bottoms, platform heels and a shiny red microphone – this sexy sextet delivered a choice set of 70’s rock covers to feather your hair to. From their scorching opener with Heart‘s “Barracuda” thru their epic closer, “Free Ride,” their show was seamless, tight, and relentlessly fun. Their lead guitarist, Jesse Cobb, is one of the best young 6-string rockers I’ve seen in a while. Dude can seriously play a Strat, and like the rest of the band, he’s also really fun to watch. Bassist Theresa Sawi (AKA Girl Named T) is always great onstage in her various acts, and she was right at home in this material. I love the hard rock / pop tunes and style from that era, and this crew owns it hard. Look for ’em!  Their version of Van Halen’s “Dance The Night Away” was amazeballs.

The RAVEUPS!

RaveUps

Man, you can’t find a heavier bunch of bay area rocker vets delivering 60’s covers with such precision and warmth. The guys in The RaveUps have all played over the years as members of Santana, The Rubinoos, Psycotic Pineapple, Dick Bright’s SRO, and too many other local champs to list. Turns out Chris Solberg – bass player extraordinaire, music educator and stalwart keeper of the rock flame – is also a superb guitar player. Known him all these years as a bassist, but Saturday night he was rippin’ some gorgeous guitar work, while Kit Newkirk held it down heavy on a vintage 1964 Epiphone Rivoli bass. Dave Seabury fronted it all beautifully on lead vocals while putting the cherry on top of their sound with a double tambourine attack. On drums was the magnificent Donn Spindt. What can you say about Donn? Drummers like that do NOT grow on trees! He was a great drummer as a young star in The Rubinoos, and now he’s a seasoned vet, doing EVERY little rock drumming thing just so right. He’s the kind of drummer singers dream of singing over, and bass players try to kidnap. It was such a joy to hear him play again. Needless to say these guys completely rocked the house. You’ll have another chance to catch them, when they play with The UPTONES at Ashkenaz, this Friday!

The FASHION SLAVES!

This was a fun night for The Fashion Slaves. Our lead singer and frontwoman Emily Jayne had just escaped from the asylum, so when she showed up at the gig, we had to help her out of her strait jacket. I have no idea how she even made it to the venue, and when we tried to ask her she yelled “JUST SHUT UP AND ROCK!” and we complied.  Eric Knight and Pete D’Amato laid into a bass n’ drums groove, while Emily greeted the audience, and we swelled into the only reasonable opener we could do under the circumstances, “Psychotic Reaction.” Then we launched into “Astral Plane,” “Your Toy”  and “Suffer For Fashion,” from our new EP, appropriately titled “Go Insane.” “Suffer For Fashion” was composed by Emily, with help from Payam Imani, the aforementioned Theresa, and myself.  It’s the song that inspired the creation of the band, and gave us our name. Miraculously, at the end of the night I still had my lab coat and guitar, and somehow, no one ended up back in the looneybin this time. You can hear these tunes on our EP, available on iTunes and other mp3 stores, or you can get a limited edition CD directly from the band.

Thanks Starry Plough Audience!!

The audience deserves the biggest applause, they were great and they stayed the whole night. I rarely see a club fill early and stay late thru three bands these days, but wonders never cease. The Starry Plough is a great venue, especially now with their Meyer Sound system and Michele Kappell-Stone‘s exemplary booking instincts. Great folks, great music. What more ya want?

Left at 1:00 AM, and I swear I saw Nurse Ratchet lurking just across the street. Just paranoid, I guess.

UP-Fest in Berkeley, Friday, August 9th!

The UPTONES are doing a one-night-only midsummer show at Ashkenaz on August 9th, with The TITAN-UPS (the best Jamaican Rocksteady style band in San Francisco) and The RAVEUPS – an awesome band with guys from The Rubinoos, Santana, Psycotic Pineapple, and other bay area rock champs. It wasn’t until we had the show confirmed and the bands booked, that I realized all three bands have “UP” in their names. So I’m calling it an “UP-Fest.” ‘Cos I can.

The Rev. Paul Jackson whipped up this cool poster and we have a FB Event Page where you are invited to RSVP and invite your friends! If ya don’t know already, Ashkenaz is ALWAYS All-Ages, and they serve beer, wine and excellent food, AND they have a fantastic wooden dance floor AND a great sound system! Fact is, you can count the number of remaining venues in the east bay that can say ALL that, on one finger. I’m proud to bring The UPTONES show, with all my skankin’ foolz, to our stalwart hometown dance hall again, and I hope you will join us!

Advance tickets available here!

Many skanks,

Din.

Punkin’ Out At The Ol’ Blues Club

Fashion Slaves joined The Plurals, The Blast!, One After Another at Eli’s Mile High Club on Friday and it was a blast.

Eli’s – the famous Oakland tour stop for every blues band that ever toured the left coast – has been doing punk and other eclectic rock shows for a while now, establishing itself as a fave over-21 punk spot. Gone is the upstairs band room – replaced by a tattoo parlor, naturally. Around 6PM bands from near and far started arriving, plopping their gear and bags on the main floor in front of the stage. I thought, this can go any number of ways! Then the self-organizing chaos of punk took form, and somehow, without a stage manager or other discernible authority, a great fun 4-band show started on time at 9PM, and went smoothly to the end. The bands helped each other on and off the stage, no one played too long or too short, it was just punk rock poetry in motion. I liked all the bands and made a few mental notes – decided to start bloggin my shows again. So here’s wha’appen:

One After Another went on first with a set of beer-fueled punky anthems which set the tone for the night. These guys were tight, and their fiery 2-guitar blend reminded me of the Stooges-worshipping West Hollywood band, the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs. Just as I made that connection, as if on cue, they played a great cover of “Search And Destroy” – the very Stooges song which gave the aforementioned ‘Cheetahs their name.

The Blast! came out next and true to their name they were LOUD! Just loud enough to please the We Like It Loud crowd, but not soooo loud as to scare away the rest of us. Their bass player Dominic – veteran of North Bay heroes Tsunami Bomb – put the show together and was a joy to hang out with. He’s also a superb bass player and their band is a hoot onstage. They have one of these lunatic animated drummers who uses maximum body effort for every single hit. I mean he is flailing, and when he isn’t falling out of his seat he’s leaping out of it, standing on the kit and bashing all the cymbals at once. Miraculously he didn’t miss a beat, and survived the performance with minor injuries. I need to get a hold of their recorded music so I can find this one tune they did near the end, which earwormed me for the rest of the weekend.

The Plurals – oh my gawd. Bless these lovely indie punky kids from Lansing, MI, touring DIY-style in 2013 with their wits and talent. They have great songs, hilarious and deep (yep, that’s the word) lyrics, and look, they are crazy enough to tour the country in a van in 2013 with today’s gas prices and widespread public apathy about new original bands. They get a medal, from me, right now, for courage and excessive coolness. You can listen to their music here.  The Plurals remind me of The Replacements and other midwest champs of a certain brew of sincerity, bleakness and humor, delivered unfiltered and raw. Did I mention they were absolute sweethearts to meet and hang out with? I’m a fan.

The Fashion Slaves – my band with Emily Jayne, Eric Knight and Pete D’Amato – played tunes from our new EP, “GO INSANE” live for the first time, plus songs from our live album. It was crazy fun, and I look forward to goin’ nuts at our next show, August 3rd at the Starry Plough.

Thanks to The Blast! for loaning us a guitar amp! Thanks to everyone who came out for making it a happening show! Til next time, you don’t have to be crazy, to GO INSANE!!

Twelve Tones, Laser Bats, Music Theory, and Inspired Fabulous Genius Fun

An absolutely wonderful study of tonality, composition, music history and theory, copyright issues and bats. It’s a half hour long and it just gets better and better every minute. The finale is as apocalyptically beautiful as it is informative. An inspired, complete, hilarious, mind-boggling bit of delightful genius. I could gush some more but it would be gushing. Have a look and a listen. Damn fine work.

Jimi’s Version Is Still My Fave. Happy 4th!

Jimi Hendrix performs Star Spangled Banner Live at Woodstock. Who needs fireworks? I love how this just melts down every which way. A gorgeous display of chaos, great use of melody and just a monumental statement. This is about as much sound as you can get out of a guitar and amp! And about as much as you can say with an instrumental interpretation of this song. Thanks, whomever posted this on the YouTubes!

The Fashion Slaves “GO INSANE” EP

This 4-song studio recording is the latest from The FASHION SLAVES. The band name was originally inspired by the song “Suffer For Fashion” which I co-wrote with young singer Emily Jayne. Recorded “live in the studio” old school style at East Bay Recorders, produced by Matthew King Kaufman and Michael Rosen, this also includes a cover of “Goin’ Down!” Written by Emily and Paul Jackson and myself, this straight-ahead rocker was originally recorded by The UPTONES for our East Bay Orbits album. Eric Knight on bass and Pete D’Amato on drums, with Emily on rhythm guitar myself on lead, made for a pretty monstrous little combo. We played a bunch of shows and made a couple of CD’s in two years or so and then, we went insane. This EP tells the story.

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Available at iTunes and all the other digital gizmos.

(Don’t Wanna Be) Your Toy! New Video From The Fashion Slaves

Here’s a vid of “Your Toy” – a song off the new Fashion Slaves EP called “GO INSANE.”

You can pick up the EP at iTunes store.

The Fashion Slaves are playing live at the Starry Plough on August 3rd, 2013. Tickets are available here!