quarta-feira, abril 26, 2006
Não dá para confiar em mais ninguém. Morrissey feliz, era o que nos faltava. Em seu novo disco solo, “Ringleader of the tormentors” (lançado no Primeiro Mundo pelo selo Attack em CD, CD com DVD e LP, sem perspectiva de edições nacionais), os gloriosos rocks em tempo médio ainda imperam, os cabelos agrisalham-se nas têmporas e a voz continua chorosa, mas as letras, ah, quanta diferença, até contemplam a possibilidade de a vida ser algo mais do que um chiqueiro, apesar de um título de música depor em contrário.
As letras foram elaboradas a partir de uma mudança de perspectiva na vida de Stephen Patrick Morrissey, 46 anos, ex-vocalista da melhor banda de rock da década de 80, The Smiths. Depois de amargar sete anos de silêncio fonográfico, durantes os quais alguém chegou a propor-lhe que gravasse um disco à frente da melhor banda de rock da década de 90, Radiohead, ele retornou à plena ativa com “You’re the quarry” (2004), sucesso de público e de crítica, que, logo no ano seguinte, ganhou uma versão turbinada com um CD bônus de lados B e ainda foi prolongado num bom álbum ao vivo, “Live at Earls Court”. Morrissey, então, reconquistou a confiança perdida no decorrer de sete álbuns solo nunca indignos do seu passado, mas raramente tão brilhantes quanto os da Era Smiths.
O resenhista não está, de modo algum, se comprometendo e dizendo que “Ringleader of the tormentors” é um disco à altura dos feitos com Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke e Mike Joyce. Não está. E não está porque não é. Na sua opinião, aliás, mesmo “You’re the quarry”, sobretudo na versão dupla, é superior ao novo lançamento. Este “Ringleader of the tormentors”, porém, é uma real novidade para quem acompanha a trajetória do roqueiro mancuniano desde que a agulha de diamante leu o primeiro sulco de “William, it was really nothing”, muitos e muitos anos atrás. Porque a autoconfiança recém-recuperada pode ser lida nas novas canções de quem fez fama cantando (a)os tímidos e desajeitados do mundo.
Morrissey trocou seu exílio na ensolarada Califórnia por um exílio na não menos ensolarada – e, sejamos francos, muito mais interessante – Itália. Roma, para ser específico. Trocou um produtor americano de nível médio – Jerry Finn, de “You’re the quarry” – por um produtor americano de alto nível, Tony Visconti. Famoso, deve-se lembrar, por trabalhos com David Bowie e T. Rex. E cortejou com sucesso um dos maiores arranjadores vivos, o italiano Ennio Morricone, que assina a partitura da segunda faixa do novo CD, chamada “Dear God please help me”. Il maestro não aceita qualquer encomenda.
Mais que essas notas de ficha técnica, no entanto, a confiança da meia-idade permitiu ao letrista Morrissey ousar duas coisas inéditas. A primeira, já mencionada: insinuar-se, disco afora, como um homem feliz, um quarentão que, nas entrevistas de divulgação, admite ter encontrado o amor. Verdadeiro ou falso, quem há de saber?, despista o artista. “Uma vez pensei que eu/ Tinha numerosas razões para chorar/ E eu tinha – mas não tenho mais/ Porque eu nasci, nasci, nasci/ Afinal, eu nasci”, anuncia na derradeira faixa do novo CD, “At last I’m born”. Tá certo, é uma maneira tergiversante de se declarar feliz, mas, ora bolas, estamos falando de Morrissey, o ex-rapaz constantemente atormentado.
A segunda coisa inédita, que, sem trocadilhos, vem a reboque da primeira: tirar do armário os pronomes pessoais masculinos. Morrissey já não esconde sua orientação sexual sob palavras comuns aos dois gêneros. É uma jogada ousada não por ele ter-se, afinal, assumido homossexual (alguém aí acreditava naquele papo sobre ser celibatário?) e sim porque o culto a ele era, em parte, fomentado pela neutralidade (pessoas de todos os quatro ou cinco sexos podiam se relacionar sem grilos com as suas letras). Em “Dear God please help me”, Morrissey não deixa margem para interpretações pessoais: “Então, ele se move para mim/ Com as suas mãos no meu joelho/ Querido Senhor, este tipo de coisas acontece com você?/ Agora estou abrindo as pernas dele/ Com as minhas no meio/ Querido Senhor, se eu pudesse, eu Lhe socorreria”. Homoerótica e blasfema, é uma linda balada orquestral.
A banda que acompanha Morrissey é composta pelos seus velhos asseclas guitarristas Boz Boorer e Alain Whyte, mais Jesse Tobias, da banda de Alanis Morrissette, co-autor de cinco das 12 faixas de “Ringleader of the tormentors”; pelo baixista Gary Day, pelo tecladista Michael Farrell e pelo baterista Matt Chamberlain. Também fazem bonito no disco os nove italianinhos de sete anos de idade do coro de “At last I’m born” e de “The youngest was the most loved”, cujo refrão proclama “não há na vida nada normal”.
Morrissey, definitivamente, não é normal. É o melhor letrista de sua geração, bem como seu personagem mais bem bolado, aquele que sempre declara “não conseguiria deixar de ser eu mesmo”. É o cara que compõe uma “You have killed me”, com citações a Luchino Visconti e a Anna Magnani, ponto alto e grudento do novo CD. Sua foto em preto-e-branco na capa de “Ringleader of the tormentors” substitui o gângster de “You’re the quarry” pelo violinista de música erudita – a moldura azul do título remete à moldura amarela do selo Deutsche Grammophon – e gravata borboleta. Hoje, Morrissey já se sabe clássico.
Nando Reis gosta de começar: quando, em 1994, ainda integrando os Titãs, ele lançou seu primeiro disco solo, batizou-o com o dia de seu aniversário, “12 de janeiro”; ao deixar o grupo e partir para a vida à frente de uma banda, também considerou que sua carreira estava em um início, daí “A letra A”, em 2003. Agora, depois de ter a carreira alavancada por um “MTV ao vivo”, com sucessos como “Mantra” e “Por onde andei”, ele se sente confortável para... recomeçar, com “Sim e não” (Universal).
— Não é só um retorno, há um começo aí também — insiste ele, sempre explicadinho. — Quando lancei “A letra A”, eu era herdeiro de uma situação, estava acostumado a trabalhar na banda, de outra maneira. Agora, depois do “MTV ao vivo” — um disco em que regravei várias músicas da minha época nos Titãs — tudo é novo: é uma sonoridade minha com os meus músicos. A maioria das canções foi composta nos últimos meses.
Nomes esquisitos como “Espatódea”
Sem qualquer medo de misturar a vida pessoal e a profissional, ele logo aborda um assunto que faz parte do processo.
— Parei de beber há um ano — diz. — Também por isso tudo é novo para mim. Sempre cantei e compus sob o efeito de drogas e álcool. Agora estou aproveitando tudo muito mais. Eu me diverti muito antes, não nego, mas acho que já preenchi a minha cota. Aquilo estava acabando comigo, fiz shows muito ruins e outros de que não me lembro. Hoje estou muito mais ligado em tudo, acho que posso dizer até que tive um surto criativo.
No mínimo, está claro que ele não aparou arestas: “Sim e não” tem músicas com nomes esquisitos (“Monóico” e “Espatódea”, por exemplo), uma faixa escondida, uma canção cuja letra é apenas uma frase em italiano (“Ti amo”), várias menções a sexo e bons pedaços de sua vida pessoal.
— É claro que um disco de sucesso faz você ficar mais à vontade para dizer o que quer — admite ele. — Mas o “MTV ao vivo” e sua turnê me ajudaram a juntar os meus caquinhos, o que também me deu mais segurança. Tive sucessos meus cantados por mim pela primeira vez! Mas, também, por outro lado, vendi cem mil discos, não um milhão. Acho que, além da necessidade profissional, senti uma urgência existencial de falar.
E o fez de maneira absolutamente pessoal, a começar pela temática botânica-malacológica (referente a moluscos) da arte e de algumas das letras do disco — como as esquisitas “Monóico” e “Espatódea”.
— Já fui colecionador de caramujos e membro da Sociedade Brasileira de Malacologia — confessa ele. — Gosto de botânica, dessas coisas, tenho alguma familiaridade com esses assuntos. Quis mostrar, na arte do disco, a semelhança entre as plantas, os caramujos e os órgãos sexuais humanos. Algo como misturar animal, vegetal e mineral.
Apesar de tantas referências a sexo — “Acho que estava na hora, acabou o recreio!”, define ele — a tal “Espatódea” é uma bela homenagem à sua filha Zoé, de 6 anos, aquela mesma que reclamava de “O mundo é bão, Sebastião!”, feita para seu irmão mais velho, hoje com quase 11 anos.
— Eu dizia que “Púrpura”, de “A letra A”, tinha sido feita para ela, mas ela não acreditava, e não era verdade mesmo — admite o pai. — Espatódea é uma árvore que dá uma flor laranja, como a Zoé, que é ruiva. Na casa dela tem uma árvore assim, que eu plantei.
Em “Caneco 70”, o espírito bicho-grilo
Um outro bom momento do disco está em “Ti amo”, uma cantiga italiana composta pelo menos carcamano dos compositores paulistas. A letra diz apenas “ti amo” e um grande “lárará” em coro se segue.
— Realmente, não é nada de herança genética — diz ele. — Mas eu adoro esse tipo de música, de se cantar em estádios, na noite de Natal ou na cantina. Deixei bem claro para a banda que não se tratava de uma paródia, eles entenderam e tocaram muito bem.
A música que possivelmente melhor resume o espírito setentista bicho-grilo de Nando e seus Infernais é “Caneco 70”, em que ele conta seu romance (hoje terminado) com a produtora Ana Butler, diretora da MTV: um rockão solto que se estende por quase sete minutos (ou seja, dificilmente tocará no rádio) em que ele fala do casal em cidades como Goiânia, Uberlândia, Lauro de Freitas, São Paulo e Rio, sem medo de dar detalhes demais: “Sei que não devia nunca ter feito aquilo/ (...) Não sei exatamente por que fiz aquilo/ Só sei que foi uma puta duma cagada”.
— Deixo algumas pistas, mas sem informações precisas — diz ele. — Tenho várias versões para cada uma delas. Não sei se a Ana já ouviu a música, mas acho que vai vai gostar, ela é bem-humorada.
O show “Sim e não”, com novos cenário, luz e repertório — inclusive no bis, o famoso “Bailão do Ruivão”, em que Nando cantava pérolas de artistas como Wando e Roupa Nova, e onde ele promete novidades — só estréia em agosto, mas Nando segue, como sempre, na estrada. No feriado do dia 1 de maio ele participa de um show do Kid Abelha na Praia de Copacabana.
Belas imagens e sonoridade pessoal
Nando Reis não faz feio, é claro, mas não chega a ser um cantor primoroso. Mas o compositor vale pelos dois. Acompanhado por uma banda que justifica o nome, Os Infernais, o ex-Titã faz um disco absolutamente autoral com belas imagens e uma sonoridade bastante pessoal que mistura o rock setentista com a country music . Ele tem uma qualidade que o difere de quase todos os músicos do cenário pop nacional: a música que ele faz tem identidade.
E “Sim e não” (Universal) é a confirmação da maturidade de Nando tanto como letrista — o mais gravado da atualidade — como melodista. Passeando por temas como separações, encontros, sexo, ele vai soltando sua verve roqueira, desfiando pérolas, criando situações poéticas inovadoras.
“Sim” abre o disco como uma declaração de amor: “Sim/ desde que eu te vi/ Eu te quis/ Eu quis te raptar/ Eu fiz um altar/ Pra te receber/ Como um anjo que caiu lá do céu”. Em “Sou dela”, algo de auto-biográfico, como, por sinal, boa parte de sua obra: “Sempre olhei a mim nos outros/ Estava em toda a multidão/ Sendo muito e tendo pouco/ Dando muita explicação”. “Espatódea”, feita para a filha Zoé, é delicada, realçada pela harpa de Cristina Braga. “Como se o mar”, em contraposição, é densa, metafórica. A viola de dez cordas de Walter Villaça dá um colorido especial na bela “Pra ela voltar”. Se “Sim e não” tem um destaque, este é “Caneco 70”. Uma música de quase sete minutos, com cara de diário, feita especialmente para não tocar nas rádios. Afinal, Nando é um artista raro, desses que não esqueceram que antes, de rádio e de gravadora, existia ele, o artista.
"There's so much information in the songs and the lyrics that it felt like one more title was almost pretentious," says Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. That's just one explanation for why the band's eighth studio album is simply called Pearl Jam. Another would be that it is the group's most democratic effort since its massive 1991 debut, Ten. On songs like the laid-back acoustic beauty "Parachutes" (music written by Stone Gossard), the eight-minute trip "Inside Job" (lyrics by Mike McCready) and the first single, "World Wide Suicide" (which is killing at radio), PJ brought a live feel to the studio, laying down tracks that showcase tasty guitar interplay and a heavy backbeat. "When you collaborate, you still have this urge to stay in the studio after everybody's left and do things the way you want to," says a chilled-out Vedder on a cold, dark day in Seattle. "But you can't do that."
What was your first musical memory as a kid?
There was a group home of sorts in Chicago, and they had a turntable in the basement. Because it was kids without parents there was a large range of ages, and some of the older kids had more mature tastes. So I was listening to Jackson 5; they were listening to James Brown and Sly Stone. I remember everything on the Motown label seemed to be great. Little basement, that's what I remember. I can still smell it, too.
What did it smell like?
Like a basement in Chicago. Dank. One of those basements that never gets dry. And maybe some Afro-Sheen that some of the kids -- a kid called Maurice -- had in his hair. I think it was called the Lake Home for Boys. It was just on the wrong side of the tracks. The tracks were right there, we were just on the wrong side.
Speaking of smells and stuff like that, what does Pearl Jam taste like?
I don't . . . uhhh . . . I have no idea. That's like saying, What does Pink Floyd taste like?
No, no, no, dude. I mean your grandma Pearl's jam.
I never had it. It was apparently a recipe that was handed down. It's mythological now. I never saw the recipe, I just kind of heard about it.
What was it?
I imagine it was regular preserves with a bit of mushrooms in it . . . a peyote kind of deal. It's the whole Mary Poppins theory of tripping out -- a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. It's so typical that an American woman in love with an Indian has to add sugar to something to keep herself totally culturally intact.
So did you have a piano growing up in your house in San Diego?
Well, my brother got the guitar and we got a stand-up piano, and then I got a Les Paul copy guitar. He excelled immediately. He was playing blindfolded, and I still couldn't get my fingers to push down a chord. I was very disturbed by that. It took about a year, and then one day, all of a sudden, it felt like a friend. I'll never forget it.
Was there a moment?
Yeah. It was "Cat Scratch Fever." All of a sudden, the guitar felt right underneath my hands. My hands had finally gotten strong enough.
What were the circumstances of you getting the guitar?
My birthday was on December 23rd, and the one time I used it to my advantage was to beg and plead to put the two presents together to afford the $100 guitar. And it worked.
Was it from a Sears catalog?
No, I remember it was a Memphis Les Paul copy. It kind of looked like the guitar that Ace [Frehley] really played.
That's what you were going for, I'm sure.
It's interesting, because I had only had a few lessons. The guy was great, his name was Bud Whitcomb, and I'd do weeding in his backyard to get a few free lessons here and there. At the time he was teaching me bar chords, he wouldn't let me do anything but bar chords, and I hated him for it. It was a lot to ask twelve-year-old hands to do at that point, it was very frustrating. He went on vacation, and I went to church and they had this little booklet of songs that had little charts with open chords in it. And I stole it!
They had a lot of them. They were hymnals, there were a lot. It had songs like "Black and White." So he left, he went on vacation and I learned these open chords and all of a sudden these open chords made me feel like writing. Early on, I didn't see becoming a lead player. I just wanted to write, I just wanted to have patterns that I could write on top of. So once I got those open chords, I started writing pretty quick.
Since I've always had so much respect for your songwriting, I want to know what is the deal with the instrumentation in the band. Only recently, you've added B3 keyboard stuff. Why have you never used horns, or strings, or girls?
I think we're always trying to find new ways to play within the group. I know that Stone Gossard just picks up the guitar and refuses to play something he's played before. It can be frustrating to collaborate with him, because he wants to do something different at all times. I think that the band is made up of a certain number of colors, and we need to see how many variations we can come up with. The keyboards come up in some of the records. "Black" might even have some piano on it, but it felt like that was the next shade to add. Horns and strings and background singers are things I might reserve the right to do in the future. But we're still plugging away with the ingredients we have and trying to be as progressive with our thinking within those boundaries. Do you hear room for horns?
Perhaps. I was just wondering if you had ruled it out?
I think you go into a record thinking that you can try anything, and that you will. That's before the sessions over; by the end, even when you take a long time, it's time to finish and you're working with what you got. Just like making film clips or arrangements, working with horns and stuff is just time consuming stuff. And I think, we've used up all our time on the clock working within our own groove. The communication in our own group is fairly exhaustive, at least with songs.
Jeff [Ament] had mentioned that you guys were thinking of doing a video for this record?
I think it's a great art form if it's approached the right way. But it's time consuming...just like interviews! [laughs] It seems like the time spent playing live and organizing shows, and putting the record and the artwork together seems to take up all the time we have. Until we can do it right...we'll see. I found a guy I'd like to do it with, but we'll see.
Is it a secret who that is?
A young guy called Fernando Apagapa who's an artist. He's all-around, refuses to be pigeonholed, works with every medium there is. Line drawings with hair to stitching up leather bodices . . . everything is very organic. I think the only reason he hasn't made a name for himself in the art world is that he holds the art world in contention. I've talked to him and I think the fact he has a high respect for us is a high complement.
Do you have a favorite obscure Dylan song?
He did a record of covers.
Good As I Been to You!
Yeah. They're not his songs, but I was listening to that record on a tape recorder that had only one speaker working. A tiny, little thing . . . and it worked so well with the music -- it sounded like a Bessie Smith or Robert Johnson record. I just can't think of the names.
"Frankie and Albert" . . . "Jim Jones" . . . "Sittin' on Top of the World" . . .
That's it. "Sittin' on Top of the World."
Also, at that Nader benefit in 2000, you came out and you did "The Times, They Are A-Changin'" and you said you had permission from the author. How did that channel open up to you? Was it at his thirtieth anniversary at Madison Square Garden?
After that show at the Garden, everyone congregated in a corner of this Irish Bar in New York that's no longer there. I tried to find it, and it's gone. Some real history took place that night at the table. The oldest Clancy brother was reciting these long Irish poems about war, and they were eight minutes long, and he knew every word. Then a guitar came out, and it was getting passed around. Ronnie Wood was there with George Harrison. It was a great night. When I went up to introduce Chrissie Hynde, which I was there to do, for some reason this really large guy who looked like he walked out a Spiderman cartoon -concrete-bald head and shoulders like a shipping crate -- he lifted me off my feet by this ski jacket I had. He said, "You don't belong here." That was still at the beginning of our recording career, so I couldn't really argue that fact with him! I was like, "Alright, my friend!" I was standing next to Willie Nelson's guitar. Someone saw him dragging me off the stage, and they stopped him just before I had to go on. Later on that night, he turned out to be a great English guy. We were good friends by four in the morning -- he was Bob's security guy.
We were about to record our second record, and Bob passed on a few lessons to me in the corner, one of which was, "Don't read anything in the paper. Don't watch TV. Get away." I felt that same thing at the time, overly inundated and somewhat like a commodity -- you'd watch TV or open the paper and our band was there as some kind of commodity. Our band had become part of the pollution.
You bootlegged concerts growing up. Still have the tapes?
I've still got them. I listened to them a lot. In a way, music for me was fucking heroin. It was something I needed. And to see a live show was something I needed, it gave me strength through adolescence and through this young adult life -- to feel like there was a purpose to get through this whole thing. After a live show, the high could wear off in a day or two. The bootleg recordings and listening back at them with your eyes closed and headphones seemed to make a crappy recording actually sound pretty good. It was like getting high again. I was a user.
Was there one you played a lot?
An earlier X show I listened to an infinite number of times. The early Who shows, at Golden Hall. The Pretenders. Bands like the Tubes. I'd record everybody but there are certainly ones that lasted forever.
Where'd you position the recorder?
It depends what kind of machine. A lot of them were early Walkmans. I had a CostClub-ten-percent deal. This was when they first came out, the first stereo recorders, so they were rather cumbersome compared to a whatchamacallit -- an iPod. You'd have to hold the whole cassette player up, but 4 or 5 years later you could plug a mic in and sneak it on your lapel. For every good bootleg I got, I probably got caught half the other times, because I was usually close to the stage. That's why I just wanted people to record a show and not be hassled by The Man.
So you got kicked out?
They'd take my recorder and rough me up. A lot of times, they'd take the tapes, which is a little nicer. Some guys were overly aggressive. I never once sold a tape. On very few occasions, if someone was very into it, I'd make them a copy.
Is there any comparison between surfing and crowd surfing?
The crowds are much more dangerous, because of the germs and bacteria in a sweaty mosh pit circa 1992. Now that the ocean has become fairly polluted, they might be about even.
As far as the feeling?
It's hard to get momentum standing up in a crowd, because people grab your shows. That's one of the exciting things about a wave-you're standing up and you have real good peripheral vision. There's something about surfing...these waves come from 2,000 miles away sometimes. These swells, they crack in a kind of firework, and you ride the firework and give it meaning and you're connected to nature. It's like no other thing I've felt except for maybe music. And holding your newborn.
How much fun did you have getting onstage with the Kings of Leon?
It's a great record, and the song "Slow Night, So Long" -- I had disappeared onto some little island to write and surf and the only record I had besides the Pearl Jam stuff I was working on was that [Aha Shake Heartbreak]. I played it for some of the locals, who didn't know anything outside of their local traditional music, and they had such strong positive reactions to the record. It was a clean slate to bounce it off of. I was excited, and when they opened up for U2 -- I hadn't met them, but I wanted to tell them that story -- that their record transmits really well to unbiased ears. We started hanging out, and the second night we bashed some tambourines and it felt exciting.
Are they the cream of the crop as far as younger bands?
They certainly hit a reflex in me, and the new Strokes record is just a great piece of work. The sounds, and his vocal delivery is really great. Both those guys...
Caleb and Julian.
Yea, Caleb's vocal delivery is so unique and his phrasing; it's like what they used to say about Sinatra -- his phrasing is what really made it. I'm not into Sinatra, but I get that. George Jones is another thing, and even McCartney and Lennon. You listen to these songs, but it's unconscious the way they phrase things. Joey Ramone as well.
What kind of wine do you like onstage? As long as it's red?
As long as it's red and there's a spare in the back. There's this homemade stuff some friends have been making for me for the past few years, and I can't do without it now.
What kind of grapes?
I can't tell you; there's a bit of variation there. On the first leg of our last tour, I had been drinking regular wine, but I got the good stuff for our last show, and I don't know what kind of grapes they are but it's twice as potent. I realized this about halfway through the show. It was a political fundraiser, so I was like, "Damn I really gotta sober up!"
Why do you think the musical community has been so quiet recently about the war, about the president? Or maybe you don't think that?
I'm not sure what's out there. People like Steve Earle are a great example. He goes on Bill O'Reilly. It's beyond commendable. It's gutsy and I think a lot of it, it doesn't get heard. Or maybe people don't like to mess up a good time. I mean, we could talk about it in this interview, and it might not be the part that gets in. We could talk about Democrats and why they aren't leading an anti-war movement, are they waiting for a shift in the polls? We could talk about our country in ways outside the war, like why they refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, in regard to environment. Why aren't we agreeing to strengthen the conventions on biological weapons? Why haven't we signed the ban on landmines? Why haven't we banned the use of napalm? They refuse to be subject to the jurisdictions of the International Criminal Court. They can get away with anything. If you highlighted the classic aspects of this war, find out who's fighting and who's dying, and why are there billions of dollars being spent on this war and schools are crumbling and 45 million people in the US don't have health insurance? This is all stuff I've been reading in a book on Iraq called The Logic of Withdrawal by Anthony Arnove. It seems like it's a class issue, because there are things going on underneath this spectacle of war, and the Bush administration is using it as a distraction for the ills of this country that are being not only ignored but exacerbated. But, is anybody else saying that in interviews, and are they being edited? I'm not sure. Right now, we are in a situation where the "Worldwide Suicide" song is getting airplay, and three years ago that might not have happened. After 9/11, they took "Imagine" off the air! It's interesting...I'm not sure why.
Do you have a favorite self-titled record out there?
Ha ha. The first 3 Zeppelin records were untitled. Those are great.
Cool. But, your self-titling was the biggest group effort as a record.
It was meant to be. It was similar to how the first ones were: absolute democracy. When you collaborate, you still have this urge to stay in the studio after everyone's left and do it the way you want to. But you can't do that. Going back to what we were talking about, the Bush administration, they think they're making a solo record, leading our government and representing us to the rest of the world. And they're not allowed to do that, it's actually criminal.
They're the new Presidents of the United States of America.
Yeah! Where no one else is allowed to contribute. You had 15 million people in February 2003 come out to the largest global protest that the world has ever seen and they were treated as a special interest group. That's the lack of respect we have to fight against. Going back to the record, in a way it feels like our first record, and also there's so much information in the songs and the lyrics and it felt like one more title to sum it up was almost pretentious.
Do you feel better listening back at this album more than the others?
There's a grace period after you make a record, and you know what went into all the songs. And I don't think we've ever made a record where it didn't feel like our first record. Looking back, you can say, "that record is a little mid tempo" or "why was that the single?" I can't necessarily answer objectively, but I think, melodically speaking, the songs are pretty strong. I think the drumming on it is impeccable. Some of the players in the band like Mike and Matt, we figured out a way to create space for them to get to that level of energy that they have when we play live. I'm not sure how that happened -- it could have been released even more, but I think it's a step in the right direction.
Were you ever secretly pissed about Billy Ray Cyrus' Achy Breaky Heart keeping Ten out of the Number One spot?
No. I never even realized that. I'm sure there were other things to worry about at the time. I might even have been thankful that it wasn't Number One. I might reject the idea now. I'm mature enough to handle it, but at the time I couldn't handle it.
What do you remember about your first gig, as Mookie Blaylock?
The very first show we played was after my first trip to Seattle. On the 6th day we played a show, and on the 7th day we recorded. I know we were supposed to rest, but we recorded. What I remember is the sound check, because we were opening for two other bands on the bill, and they opened the doors during sound check, and I had my eyes closed and it was an empty club -- called the Off Ramp -- and I opened my eyes for the last chorus and the place was full. I had played for a number of bands, but I never played for a full house before. It's a good analogy, it happened kind of quick for us.
Do you remember who headlined?
No. No idea.
What's the most amazing thing you've seen from the stage?
I probably have an answer for each tour, if not each show. I remember a gig in Florida, it was a big baseball stadium, maybe towards the end of our second album tour. You always saw people get passed around the pit, it was the Norelco Razor with three pits going in the middle of one mass. That was the beginning of my lifeguard career -- I never felt like I looked up past the front, I was memorizing the faces and making sure you didn't lose anybody. I remember this wheelchair was being carried to the front. We got him up onstage...
There was somebody in it?!
Yeah. We got him up onstage during "Rockin' in the Free World." And I heard last year that that was one of the guys in the movie Murderball.
I feel like I have a Polaroid of him in my archives somewhere.
What was the first record you bought?
I remember how much it cost -- $5. It was probably a Jackson 5 record. It might have been Got To Be There -- the Michael Jackson solo record...at like a liquor store.
Yeah, in Chicago.
What about the last?
The Joe Strummer and the 101ers -- his early stuff. I got a batch though. I got the new Crosby record, which is genius. I bought another copy of the Evens record for my friend. When I finally get down to the store, I buy a lot. They know me down there. It's called Easy Street, which we played recently.
You played a benefit there, right?
All the independent record store owners were in town in Seattle, of which the owner of Easy Street is part of that organization. So we thought it would make him look good and he'd be proud if we played his shop.
Do you get ten percent off now?
He sent me a gift certificate, which I still haven't used. I feel like I need to be paying for music.
What about the record you've spun the most times or listened to the most?
It would've been a Who record until I discovered Fugazi, and now they've caught up. All the time through my adolescence I spun Who records, but Fugazi caught up.
Which one? 13 Songs, Steady Diet...?
13 Songs. But I think of their whole body of work as one record.
You've seen the documentary?
Isn't it great?
If you go see the Evens play, it's one of the highest examples I can think of. Of course, Neil Young does it, and Pete Townsend does it, but the level of communication that takes place and the amount of respect Ian has for his audience -- even the guaranteed four knuckleheads in the audience. He really cares for their opinion. And at this point, he's mixing himself from the stage -- there's no house mixing guy. He and this woman, Amy, do it from the stage as a two-piece and it sounds full. And he asks, "Should the vocals be louder?" and he turns it up! The amount of communication that takes place...it's certainly not fucking Storytellers or something, but it's a reminder of how powerful the stage is and what responsibility comes with the mic. And this is from a guy who is a punk rock legend. It's evolved into a different form of communication, which is as deep as anything I've ever seen.
Cool. You mentioned Neil Young, have you played with his model trains?
Is that exciting?
That's Neil's private thing, I'm not going to say anything about it.
What's the best song you've ever written?
Matt Cameron thought that "Thumbing My Way" was the nicest chord progression I had ever devised.
What about you personally, and lyrically?
I have a few on ukulele that I like. For me, I judge it by melodic substance these days. It's something Johnny Ramone drilled in my head. I think it's where we came from with the first few records, you took a piece of music and added your throat to be part of the noise-if there was any melody there, it was unconscious.
A song like "Black", for instance?
I imagine that has some melody to it. I think being conscious about it, really focusing to make something beautiful...there's a difference between a song and music. I think it's the melodic structure. I think the songs that connect are the melodic ones, they are the really musical ones. I haven't figured the theory out yet, but there's a difference and music is the goal.
Was there something unique about the "elderlywomanbehindacounter" song?
I remember it only because it was so quick. We were recording the second record, and we stayed in this house in San Francisco, and I was outside the house in my own world and the little outhouse had a small room. I'm talking the size of a bathroom, I was able to fit a Shure Vocal Master, which is a 1960's PA, and two big towers of PA and a little amp and a 4 track. I slept in there too. I remember waking up one morning and playing pretty normal chords that sounded good, and I put on the vocal master to hear myself and it came out right quick. I don't even think I scribbled the lyrics down. It took 20 minutes. Stone was sitting outside reading the paper, and he was like "I really like that." So we recorded it that day.
Did it spring from a dream?
It's funny you say that, because in my head I was going back to where I lived in San Diego but picturing myself older. Exactly right. It was bizarre...I forgot that.
For some reason, right now, I'm thinking it's the greatest Pearl Jam song ever.
The thing is, the dream was still alive...sorry. I had just woken up and started playing it, so the content was still in my brain.
Jack Johnson's dad told me some story of you almost dying on some outrigger adventure?
At no point did I think we were going to die while it was happening. About 2 weeks later I took a boat out to the scene of the crime, quite a ways off shore with some pretty heavy current, and the swells were pretty big and we got knocked off a sailing canoe, and it was only then, seeing where we were and the conditions, that I felt the need to vomit. Survival instincts kicked in, though, and I knew we might be out in the water for maybe 8 hours, but I knew for sure we'd get in. I might have been wrong, because the currents were going one way and the wind another. I didn't know that at the time, so instead of hitting the spot in the island where it juts out with a little port there, we were probably headed to Tahiti. After what seemed like a pretty long spell, the sole fishing boat in the water that day-a guy and his 8-year-old daughter were out, and she saw us waving paddles. She couldn't have seen our heads, they were like coconuts. It was a good night on land that night.
You tied one on?
It was interesting hearing everyone's experience. We went around the campfire and talked about what everyone was thinking. And the two girls I was with in the water, they said they actually saw the headline in their minds...
Right? On MTV. "Eddie Vedder and two others die in canoe!"
What's-his-name dies with...
Yeah! Eddie Vedder -- what's-his-name -- dies along with two others.
So I'm glad for everyone's sake that that didn't happen.
Posted Apr 21, 2006 4:39 PM
Jazz Fest is on. Clubs are open. The water's receded. The stakes remain high. (por Larry Blumenfeld para The Village Voice)
Stick to the "Sliver by the River," the high-ground neighborhoods along the Mississippi's banks, and you might think New Orleans is healing. Take a taxi from Louis Armstrong Airport to the French Quarter and you'll find scant evidence of Katrina's wrath. Sluggishly approaching its former self, the Quarter again boasts coffee and beignets, music and mystery.
But the Gray Line Hurricane Katrina bus tour reveals miles of destruction, still stunning six months past the storm. And the Gray Line doesn't run through the devastation of the Lower Ninth Ward: houses impaled by cars and reduced to rubble that stretches as far as the eye can see. Signs tacked to lampposts voice suspicions: "Saw Levee Break? Witnesses Wanted." Spray-painted notes from house-by-house search teams bear gruesome details, like one marked simply, "Possible Body." Graffiti scrawled on the side of Fats Domino's house reads, "R.I.P. Fats—You Will Be Missed." Domino is still with us, thanks to a dramatic rescue; his new CD will benefit the Tipitina's Foundation, one of the many local organizations working with musicians to rebuild their lives.
New Orleans is two cities now—one inching toward renewal, the other caught in what David Winkler-Schmidt of the local Gambit Weekly called "the horrible unending of not knowing." Already Gambit's music section lists my favorite clubs hosting my favorite bands, many of whose members travel from Atlanta or Baton Rouge for gigs. But the great body of culture that long inspired and still shapes the sound of American music—in the form of jazz musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, Social Aid and Pleasure Club second-liners, neighborhood brass bands, and up-from-the-projects MCs— remains stuck in that unending.
There is one hard, good fact. The annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will take place at its customary Mid-City Fair Grounds site. When I passed by Gentilly Boulevard, cranes lined the grandstand. Hasty restorations aim toward April 28, the start of Jazz Fest's two consecutive weekends. Headliners include Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello, but more than 90 percent of this year's participants are Louisiana based. Familiar favorites, from Buckwheat Zydeco to pheasant-and-quail andouille gumbo, will be served up.
Jazz Fest's downtown offices now buzz with orderly energy. But producer Quint Davis's staff first set up shop in the Sheraton and W hotels back in the fall, and thought about mounting this year's event elsewhere—Houston, or even Madison Square Garden.
"New York has a jazz industry, but New Orleans has a jazz culture," Davis said. "And we knew that if we put this big soul-generating battery on and, for two weekends, people could plug in, it'll mean something." The festival also generated $300 million in city revenue last year; that should mean something too. Still, the event was in doubt until January, when American Express and Shell kicked in key funding. "Planning began," Davis said, "with 'the Big Finding'—tracking downall the artists involved, who were scattered to the wind, literally."
Jazz Fest is both symbol and spark for cultural renewal. "But will these cultural communities knit and hold together enough?" Davis asked. "I'm not sure. Children have to grow up in it. The kids who find themselves in Houston won't have Mardi Gras Indians and brass bands coming down the street. They can fall out of the well."
By 7 p.m. on a warm Sunday, I was deep in the well on St. Joseph's Night, one of three times each year that Mardi Gras tribes gather en masse. The intersection of Washington Avenue and La Salle Street was packed with Indians, decked out in feathers and beads. Across the street, A.L. Davis Park, named for a reverend and civil rights activist, was filled with FEMA trailers housing displaced families.
Looking fierce in his African-inspired green-and-red mask, Victor Harris of Fi-Yi-Yi shouted, "They spit us all over this land. They told us we had to evacuate. But they didn't say we had to stay away." Spy boys led the way. Flag boys bore identifying colors. Chiefs haltingly greeted fellow chiefs. Suddenly, drums and feathers were overpowered by sirens and flashing lights. Police cars drove straight through the procession, enacting their own now annual ritual. Some officers wore uniforms emblazoned with SWAT team logos. Representatives of the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild signified too, with armbands marked "Legal Observer." It's true that some recent Mardi Gras events have been punctuated by shootings, but there's also growing opinion that the city's hard-line challenges to these assemblies right now mean to send a message to participants: You're not welcome back.
At Monk Boudreaux's temporary apartment, overlooking FEMA trailers, the Golden Eagles chief opened a suitcase and pulled out the stark white costume he began sewing shortly after Katrina hit. "The police can't stop the Mardi Gras Indians and neither can Mother Nature. This tradition dates back to the 1700s, and it's weathered far worse." But Donald Harrison, well known as both a jazz saxophonist and the Congo Nation big chief, sees the moment as pivotal. "What's happening in New Orleans right now is a test for the soul of America," he said at Tipitina's, where he teaches foundation students. "If we say the cultural roots of this city are unimportant, then America is unimportant."
Later that night at Donna's on Rampart Street, the city's most glorious hole in the wall, trumpeter Irvin Mayfield placed his horn on the bar and sounded a similar refrain: "Around the country, art is considered secondary or tertiary. People don't really see how that's the biggest centerpiece we have to rebuilding. Culture defines this city."
Mayfield's grasp of Katrina's personal and political implications runs deep as it gets. He lost his father to the storm. He also directs the nonprofit New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and works closely with Mayor C. Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco as a congressionally appointed cultural ambassador. "I like New Orleans like it is right now," he said. "People are pissed off and want answers. I've never heard so many people speaking about politics, voicing concern about education. This is what the city should be like."
The next day, I noticed little storm damage at the Uptown home of Ellis Marsalis, pianist patriarch to the New Orleans jazz scene. One of his famous sons, Wynton, has distributed nearly $3 million in aid through Jazz at Lincoln Center's Higher Ground fund. Another, Branford, has joined forces with Harry Connick Jr. and Habitat for Humanity to create a Musicians' Village near the Ninth Ward.
"Our music was born from limited opportunity and developed from a hustle," Marsalis said, "and the danger to our culture isn't so much a natural disaster. It's the leadership of this country."
Funny—those same themes run through "Get Ya Hustle On," the hit from rapper Juvenile, who grew up in the Third Ward's now uninhabited Magnolia housing projects. The video, shot in the Lower Ninth, features a forlorn resident holding a sign reading, "Still Here," and local boys grinning through George Bush and Ray Nagin masks.
"I have three faces that I wear right now," Rebirth Brass Band co-leader Philip Frazier told me later, before performing at the Maple Leaf Bar. "One is worried about what's going to happen to the culture I love. Another is angry with a government that should help the people who need to come back. But another is happy because all eyes are on New Orleans right now. People have a chance to see what this music and this life are really about."
sábado, abril 01, 2006
Imagine um mundo sem Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson (e o Jackson 5), Diana Ross e as Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Ritchie, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Temptations, Four Tops, Commodores, Smokey Robinson...
Voce imaginou um mundo sem Berry Gordy?
Isto mesmo. Sem esse genial crioulo de Detroit, criador da Motown, muito da beleza e alegria do mundo nos últimos 20 anos não teria existido. Agora, já coroa, riquíssimo (vendeu a Motown por 62 milhões de dólares), cansado de guerra, Berry Gordy resolveu contar tudo em sua autobiografia “To Be Loved” (Warner Books, $ 22.95) e o livro é uma festa.
Tudo começou da maneira mais improvável (com 800 dólares emprestados de uma “caixinha” da família), no lugar menos favorável (Detroit, cidade industrial feia e triste, sem tradição musical) e num tempo em que a música negra era completamente segregada. Mesmo assim, depois de muita luta, muito trabalho, muita sorte e intuição genial de Gordy e sua turma, tudo deu certo e hoje é impossível falar de música popular no século 20 sem dedicar um grande e reverente espaço a Motown, seus artistas e suas músicas maravilhosas. Mais do que uma gravadora, a Motown representa um estilo, uma maneira de fazer e viver a música que influenciou decisivamente a melhor música popular americana dos anos 60/80, ou seja, a melhor música popular do mundo. Mais do que isto, a Motown representa o maior triunfo da negritude no mundo branco neste século.
Todos, todos os melhores, especialmente brancos (como os Beatles e os Rolling Stones) beberam farta e alegremente nas torrenciais fontes da Motown, que estabeleceu novos padrões de criação e produção, novas idéias e conceitos, novos horizontes para a música (e a cultura) negra nos Estados Unidos e no mundo. Graças ao talento, audácia e competência de um crioulo folgado e atrevido, trabalhador e criativo, com sua capacidade de aglutinar e comandar um exército de cantores, compositores, músicos, produtores (e vendedores, marketeiros, publicitários, promotores, divulgadores) com mão de ferro e coração de manteiga. Berry Gordy, num tempo em que a música negra era confinada aos guetos e banida das radios brancas, arrebentou com tudo e levou-a aos melhores palcos, dignificou-a, engrandeceu-a e - por pressão popular - fez dela estrela de rádios, televisões, jornais e revistas de todas as cores, estilos e gerações. A Motown foi não só a maior e melhor gravadora independente da história do disco, deasafiando, confrontando e derrotando as “majors”, as grandes corporações (e no final pagando - caro - o preço de sua audácia), mas principalmente a mais poderosa e bem sucedida empresa negra da história dos Estados Unidos, e tanto que, no final dos anos 80, já sem seus principais artistas, devorados pela concorrencia, pressionado por credores por todos os lados, Gordy decide - como unica solução - vender a Motown, tem ainda que enfrentar as pressões de todas as lideranças e associações negras americanas, que não se conformam com a venda de um “patrimonio da raça”.
Através da riquissíma história pessoal de Berry Gordy, seus sonhos, realizações e desastres - que, entre outras façanhas invejáveis, foi casado com Diana Ross e outras beldades - aprende-se muito sobre a história da cultura negra nos Estados Unidos, através da música que fez gerações cantar, dançar e fazer amor no mundo inteiro, quebrando barreiras raciais e culturais e estabelecendo um novo padrão de qualidade para a musica popular do planeta.
E o mais engraçado é que Gordy diz que baseou seu estilo e método de produção artística nas linhas de montagem da Ford, onde foi operário nos anos 50, de onde saiu para montar, num barracão de Detroit, um estudiozinho de dois canais que, atrevidamente, chamou de Hitsville USA e onde nasceram os maiores sucessos populares das últimas décadas.