Franz Ferdinand Interview

Live in the Scottish Borders

Franz Ferdinand performed in front of 450 competition winners for the Rock Against Racism (RoAR) gig, organised by Radio Borders and Scottish Government’s anti-racism campaign. Led by singer Alex Kapranos, the band belted out a full repertoire of their hits, including ‘Take Me Out’, ‘The Dark of the Matinee’ and ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling.’

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Guitarist Nicholas McCarthy and drummer Paul Thomson revealed the Royal Burgh was their first choice for the campaign gig.

Speaking on the location of the event Paul told us: “We were given an option of four different venues in Scotland to do this show and we chose Selkirk. We recorded half of our second album in the Borders, but have never really played in the southern part of Scotland so we chose Selkirk above the other venues available.

“A friend of mine ran Domino Records in the United States, which is our record label. He was from New York and was kind of obsessed with Frightened Rabbit and ended up tour manager for them. “If you are good enough then it doesn’t matter where you are.” Nicholas added: “Everyone used to say you had to move to London to make it. If you can do it in Glasgow you can do it anywhere, but Glasgow does have a great scene and everyone is supportive of one another there.”

The band-mates agreed recent events in politics had meant their involvement in promoting the anti-racism message which the RoAR shows provides was even more pertinent. Paul said: “It is important in these times when there is a resurgence in far right groups. If you have a platform it is sometimes good to use it.”

Jesca Hoop

Jesca Hoop picks three albums for our new feature: Past (an album that influenced her growing up) Present (a new release she loves) and Future (an album recommended to her)  Her fantastic new album ‘Memories Are Now’ is available here:

Past: Paul Simon ‘Rhythm Of The Saints’

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Present: Agnes Obel ‘Citizen Of Glass’

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Future: Perfume Genius ‘No Shape’ recommended to her by Blake Mills

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Radiohead Live

Radiohead and the End of Scalping

This story has a happy ending. A mother and 16-year-old son hopelessly attempted to buy Radiohead tickets after being told the tickets they purchased on a secondary ticketing site for $1500 were no longer accepted. To make matters worse they had flown five hours to make the gig. The Shrine Auditorium (Los Angeles) informed attendee’s last week that Radiohead would not honor any ticket bought online on a secondary ticketing site. What this meant was hundreds of Stub-Hub, Vivid Seats, Seat-Geek seats going for thousands would not be accepted. Numerous sites have offered refunds but some found themselves gravely out of luck for the over priced seats they had just purchased.

Radiohead’s policy swiftly puts an end to scalping. You buy a ticket from the venue, and you and ONLY you can pick up your ticket before the show and walk into the venue. Simple. Sure this may cause a few headaches for last minute cancelations but ultimately it means that when tickets go on sale you aren’t competing with hundreds if not thousands of online ticketing bots, organized crime, and people looking to exploit your fandom.

This policy surely contributed to the fair share of tickets that became available right before the show. Numerous Reddit users posted that they had purchased tickets the day of the show online. As for me, I showed up at 7:45pm to the box office line, waited 90 minutes or so and purchased a seat as the show was just beginning. I ran into the venue having missed two songs and sat behind Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich in the 15th row of the orchestra. Behind me was the mom and son enjoying their first Radiohead show for the far more reasonable price of face value.

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Gil Garcetti is a professional photographer and UNESCO-IHE Cultural Ambassador. He is the former Los Angeles District Attorney and father of Eric Garcetti, the current mayor of Los Angeles.

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Upbringing

Gil Garcetti’s mother came to Los Angeles after his grandfather was killed in the Mexican Revolution. ‘My farther was a barber; my mother was a meat packer. I grew up in South Central, Los Angeles. As a lifelong Los Angeleno Gil has seen the constant evolution of the city. ‘Los Angeles has physically changed tremendously. I was LA County DA and that county is bigger than 43 states in terms of population. Right now is a perfect time to keep an eye on Los Angeles. Things are happening. The hope for the future is that this city will be seen as a forward thinking entrepreneurial marvelous city to do business and raise a family.’

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Photograph by Gil Garcetti

Public Transport in Los Angeles

Gil believes the light rail being installed connecting Santa Monica to downtown LA is just the beginning of a transportation revolution for Los Angeles. ‘We are understanding that cars are not the answer, we must have public transportation to move people a round. People understand to move around and take advantage of Los Angeles is more than simply using your car. You will see communities going vertical around these transit hubs that we will have around LA.

Childhood

Gil first discovered photography when his father gave him a camera at the age of 13. The last thing on his mond however was becoming a professional. ‘The first thing I wanted to do in my life was be a garbage collector. I loved watching the garbage man hang off the truck and collect the garbage.’ In 6th grade his class heard from a lawyer about their profession and Gil was intrigued. ‘I went home that evening and said I don’t know if I’m smart enough but id like to become a lawyer and things worked out.’

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A New Career

Gil ran unsuccessfully for a third term as DA and found himself unemployed. He says ‘I was 59 years old when I left office. I had a serious disease when I was 39 and met a man who was 88 who inspired me to live in good physical and mental health until I’m at least 88. I said to myself well I have at least another good 30 years left what should I do with this. I wasn’t sure until I took photographs of the then being constructed Walt Disney Concert Hall, that led to a book. The book was favorably covered by the LA Times , NY Times and that launched my career in photography.’

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Photograph by Gil Garcetti

Gil Garcetti has spent years as a UNESCO Cultural Ambassador . He has traveled the world lecturing on bringing safe water to developing nations.

Gil’s photography essay book ‘Water Is Key’ displayed the issues involving clean water in developing nations.  You have millions of people in rural communities without safe water. As a result there is death, illness and blindness. Women and young girls have to fetch water every single day. That means that women don’t go to school, and that is the tragedy of it all. Safe water changes everyone’s lives. Girls go to school and women become successful. There is plenty of safe water in West Africa but it is subterranean. They stand on then water but they don’t have the water or professional capabilities to bring the water up and maintain the well. That is what we do. Eventually it is the large governments of Europe and the U.S. that must get involved with bringing safe water to West Africa.’

Longevity

Gil credits his successful careers to the fact that he has truly devoted himself to becoming passionate about what he does. His new project focuses on photographing people in their 80’s who are truly satisfied. ‘Sure we all have faced trials and tribulations. There isn’t a person who will read this interview who hasn’t had great disappointments, great challenges in his or her life but I try, and I think I’ve fairly much accomplished an attitude on life that is positive. When you’re dealing with cancer when you’re 39, you get knocked out of your job at 59, you get knocked down but you get up, that is life. Things happen. You cannot be fearful of failing. If you fail, so what?   Every man and women has something inside them that has never come out. Find it, go with it, and live it. It will be great.

 

Disover Gil’s photography at http://www.garcetti.com

Ian Brennan Interview

Ian Brennan is a Grammy award winning producer. He has recorded albums in the Algerian desert with Tinariwen, inside a Malawi Maximum Security prison for the Zomba Prison Project, and with Flea of  the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kyp Malone of T.V. On The Radio and Lucinda Williams. 

Ian Brennan has traveled the world recording people who face obstacles getting their music heard. In his experience, it is Western Media that dictates what gets heard. He told The longplays ‘whoever invents the technology tends to have first dibs on it. Radio has been dominated by the English market. Centralization of media has made it even more powerful, monolithic. Most places in the world are silenced except within their own linguistic borders, the only exception is Spanish.’ By recording albums by musicians in Malawian prisons and gospel sings selling mice street food on the side of the road, Brennan is trying to democratize the process of recorded music. ‘If you look at the history of pop music in the South in America where all these cultures have merged it mostly came from humble and poor beginnings. More and more today, especially in indie rock, you hear music by people from extremely wealthy backgrounds. It’s become disproportionate.

     What Brennan hopes for is that listeners can give a second thought to what music they may be missing out on and keep an open ear. ‘I think if given the choice everybody would benefit from choosing to listen to a lesser represented individual. Whether that’s a woman instead of a man, or someone from a region we don’t hear about. There’s great music everywhere.’

In a world where one can make an album at home on their laptop the recorded music landscape is as wide as ever. That however does not fix the problem for those who are not ‘connected’ in the digital-era. Brennan explains ‘There’s a fantasy that there’s a freedom in the digital-era but its largely false. There’s been no increase in the international music, people aren’t listening to more artists, they’re listening to fewer.’

Brennan recorded the album Tassili by Grammy award-winning Malian group Tinariwen in the desert of south-east Algeria. The band set up was mostly live and outdoors. These type of field recordings require a simple set up based off battery powered technology. Brennan explains ‘improvisation is a big part of it. Allow the sound to dictate itself. I use battery-operated machines and as good microphones as I can. The best microphones require power. You can’t bring the charger box it s impossible. Try to keep it super simple and not mess with the sound. The concentration for me should be on the relationships, the intimacy, and the emotion. It should be fun, play music.

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Brennan describes the music industry as being greatly unequal. People at the upper echelon are making more money than ever before. People are making more money for one festival headline appearance than a large band used to make on a whole tour. For the smaller bands its almost impossible. People getting checks in the mail for 4 cents, 10 dollars it’s almost comical. Brennan finds hope though that the musical landscapes might yield more honest music done for the love of music itself. There’s a lot of truth in this idea that real musicians have day jobs. I think the best music is made by the people who are making it for the purest reasons, and that’s for the music itself. I think these ‘careers’ (in music) can be dangerous. They’re make music long after they really should be. Their heart isn’t always in it. It’s that phenomenon where the first album is so great and after that it just becomes a job, something that other people want them to do or they need to do to pay the bills.  Brennan concludes ‘at its healthiest people are playing music for their immediate audience, their family and friends. For the sheer joy of communicating.’

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Brennans new book ‘How Music Dies (Or Lives) : Field Recording And The Battle for Democracy in the Arts’ is out now and available from Allworth Press here: http://allworth.com/allworth?catid=0&id=11243

Hinds are a four piece garage rock band from Madrid, Spain.  Their debut LP ‘Leave Me Alone’ is out now via Lucky Numbers

What were the bands that inspired you to form Hinds and how did you guys go about forming the band?
The two bands that most influenced us and almost forced our minds to create the band were The black lips and The Parrots!
We started the band just because. We saw all our friends in bands having so much fun.. and we admired so deep  artists when we saw them at festivals.. we thought: why not? haha.

What is the indie rock scene like in Madrid these days?  Any Spanish bands that we should know about past and present?
Our scene is growing as fast as it can!!! You should definitely know about Lois, Los Nastys, Mujeres and The Parrots

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What explains the lack of all female bands and do you feel women come across hurdles in the male dominated world of rock.

The past explains it. It’s only a matter of time, but time is a hard thing to fight with.
I think women come across hurdles in all professions but it’s gonna be okay, some of us are working on it 🙂

Who produced your debut LP ‘Leave Me Alone’ ?
Our dream producer is our actual producer. It’s diego garcia, friend since a while now. He recorded his first song with us, and same for us. He did magic with the two first singles and the album is gonna keep the same spirit!!!

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/LEAVE-ME-ALONE-Hinds/dp/B0154WROT8

Songhoy Blues Live

Live In New York City

Born out of political chaos, Songhoy Blues’ music preaches joy, Malian cultural heritage and passion for the blues. The invasion of Islamic militants in northern Mali in 2012 had the band fleeing their homes to Bamako where the young musicians, Oumar and Aliou Toure met guitarist Garba Toure. “We couldn’t just stay shipwrecked by a crisis like this. We had to form a band,” states Garba. Nat Dembele then joined on drums to complete the quartet.

What makes Songhoy Blues unique is their eclectic blend of western blues-rock with traditional Malian music. Wide-ranging influences from Ali Farka Toure with regionalSonghai tradition, to Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles have all been used by Songhoy Blues to create true world music. Word has spread fast about the promising young group that has recently opened for both Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz) and the Alabama Shakes. One can expect to see David Byrne (Talking Heads) and Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), who produced the act, grooving along to their live sets.

Art comes first and foremost for Songhoy Blues, who display the joy and uniting power music can bring in trying circumstances. They have recently taken their music to Britain and the United States in an effort to spread the music of Mali to a wider audience. “Everyone knows America,” said singer Aliou Toure to a live audience in NYC. “So then Americans must know everyone.” Songhoy Blues’s promotion of cultural understanding is key to a band created as the Mujahidin banned western music from being played on north Mali Radio. “They see music in your phone — they take it away and break it. They see you with an instrument in your hands — they break it,” Toure explains. Their story was captured in the recent must-see documentary ‘They Will Have To Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile’.

In 2014, Songhoy Blues released their ‘Music In Exile’ to critical acclaim. Their recent New York City debut saw them turning cynical New Yorkers in a grungy Lower East Side bar into ecstatic dancers exhibiting the spirit exuded by the members of Songhoy Blues. Their music not only spreads rich Malian musical tradition but brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the blues tradition. Garba Toure’s guitar lines provide not only strong melodies, but also virtuosity and technique. Frontman Aliou’s dance moves are infectious and the rhythm section is as tight as can be. Songhoy Blues are a must-see act this summer. Check out their website for further tour dates and LP purchase.

The Zombies Interview

Legendary 1960’s rockers, The Zombies reveal their St Andrews heritage, playing at Abbey Road alongside The Beatles and their continuing cult fame.

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The hugely influential 1960’s rock group The Zombies have had numerous hit singles (“Time of the Season”, “She’s Not There”) and released an album (Odessey and Oracle)  which almost every major music magazine places in the top 100 of all time.  We had a chat with lead singer Colin Blunstone about how The Zombies got their name (from a St Andrews alumni); recording in Abbey Road directly after The Beatles exited post-Sgt Peppers recording session; and breaking up the band and getting 9-5 jobs even as their single shot to number 1.

Describe the St Andrews connection that The Zombies have?

The original bass player in The Zombies was St Andrews alumni Paul Arnold and he actually thought up the band’s name. He left the band after a couple of years…we were still amateurs, this was maybe ’62, ’63 and he said, “I can’t stay in the band and do the rehearsals and little shows because I need to study” and he came up to St Andrews to do Medicine. Before that, we’d all gone to school in a little town called St. Albans, North London.

Describe how you became lead singer?

At our first rehearsal, I was the rhythm guitarist, but to be honest I played only two chords.  We had a coffee and in the break Rod went over to an old broken down piano and he played this song “Nut Rocker” by B. Bumble and the Stringers and I was just staggered,  I’d never heard anyone play the piano like that.  I said to him “You have to play keyboards in the band”. A little bit later that same day, I was just singing a song to myself and he said, “I tell you what, I’ll be the keyboard player if you be the singer”.   I had no intention of being a singer, to be honest I wanted to hide in the back of the stage and be the very ordinary rhythm guitarist, it wasn’t in my nature to be the lead singer, but that’s how it worked out.

How did the band evolve?

Our label, Decca, immediately wanted an album, but in some ways, I think it took us three years on the road to build up a musical identity and I think that came to fruition with our last album Odessey and Oracle which had the single “Time of the Season” which was a number 1. But by the time it was a hit, the band had disbanded.

You recorded “Odessey and Oracle” in Abbey Road Studios just as The Beatles were finishing Sgt. Peppers in the same room.  What kind of impact did that have on your recording? 

It was a wonderful time to be in Abbey Road because pretty much as they left, we went in so we had the benefit of using  the same engineers that they used Geoff Emerick and Peter Vince working on Sgt Peppers.  The Beatles were very inventive in  the studio and they were always trying to push the limit technically and we benefited from that as well because we followed them literally into the studio.

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When did things start to unravel for the band?

We’d spent three years constantly on the road; we were 18 when we recorded “She’s Not There” and we relied very heavily on our manager and our agent and I don’t think we got the best advice or protection that we could have had.  At the end of three years, we all felt a bit exhausted by continual touring and especially as we hadn’t been managed particularly well.

Odessey and Oracle has grown a cult following through the years and was recently named in the top 100 albums of all time by NME.  How does it feel to get such great acknowledgement for the record?

It’s fantastic that it has got that recognition over a period of time. It’s a strange feeling really because I can remember thinking that that album was definitely as good as we could do but it wasn’t a commercial success.  It just seemed to be telling us that it was time to move on. My only regret is that if we had had just a little commercial success, just a little bit of encouragement, maybe the band would have played on. I mean, life happens doesn’t it? It is still great though to get the recognition that we get for that album. Neither Rod Argent nor myself thought that we’d still be playing live at this time in our lives. It’s been a fantastic, wonderful surprise.

London Meditation Centre

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The reputation of meditation has evolved over the years. In the 70’s meditation might have brought about images of a guru on a peaceful mountain top with eyes closed and legs crossed but is now seen as a practice praised by high performers, silicon valley CEO’s and artists alike. It is not uncommon to see meditation apps alongside Uber, Instagram and Gmail on people’s smartphones. This has a lot to do with the overwhelming evidence that meditation works and can physically transform brain matter. As the jury comes out on the addictive nature of social media and online platforms it is not unusual for people to feel edgy, restless and stressed by the modern world. Meditation however can help provide an antidote to these feelings and offer a moment to unplug and rest.

Recently I had notice that the ability to wind down had become harder and harder.  There was a constant to-do list in my mind ranging from both work and personal entertainment.   You know when catching up with a Netflix new series seems stressful that something is off.  The sheer amount of data that is thrown at us is a new process for humans and one that I’m not so sure we are prepared to deal with.   I started to consider meditation. I downloaded some apps, read some books and listened to podcasts and felt that I had a nice entry into the practice of meditation. While I would recommend all those formats I felt that to practice consistently I would need a little more help. Michael Miller of London Meditation Center commented that it is a bit like learning to swim from Youtube videos. You can surely get a nice taste and some pointers but it is most effective to learn alongside someone who has practiced for years.

With this in mind I signed up for a weekend course at London Meditation Center. Here Jillian Lavender; a meditation practitioner for over 20 years who was trained by Thom Knoles (who in turn was taught by Beatles teacher Mahirishi Mahesh Yogi) ; taught a 4 day course teaching the basics of Vedic Meditation. Vedic Meditation is practiced in two, twenty minute sessions daily with a mantra repeated internally as you sit in a chair. This differs from mindfulness and other such meditations that don’t use mantras. Here it was the repetition of the mantra that brought the mind to ease as opposed to watching the breath or body.  I found the use of a mantra helpful in focusing my active mind so that I was truly relaxing as opposed to creating more stress by remind myself to think about how my body was feeling.

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After a few months I can say I definitely notice positive affects of meditation. The greatest strength is that it helps you take a moment to consider how you react to emotions. Sleepless nights may be frustrating but what could be worse is feeling frustrated or anxious about that feeling. Meditation gives you the ability to consider how you react to things. While even sleep itself comes easier, if I do have a bad sleep I have the ability to decide to not worry about it and move on with my thoughts. While I have certainly struggled with the length of the meditation and feeling like I want to get up and start ‘doing’;  I feel that it is a barrier I want to challenge myself to overcome. When you realize you can sit still and relax for 20 minutes you begin to organize the time you are not meditating much more efficiently.  Overall I would highly recommend a weekend with the London Meditation Center as they offer not only a fascinating and worthwhile course but keep an active support network for the months and years to come to enhance your practice.

Find Out about Vedic Meditation here: https://www.londonmeditationcentre.com/