What's cooler than being cool? Hundreds of musicians protesting ICE and Amazon

Stop, collaborate, and listen: Amazon's complicit in ICE's extraditions (plus other abuses of human rights enabled by that agency's authoritarian agenda)

That's why hundreds of musicians—nearly 500, at the time of this writing, though it was just over 100 when news broke Thursday morning—have signed onto an open letter pledging to boycott Amazon festivals, events, and other exclusive deals until the tech giant stops enabling the systematic abuses of Immigration Customs Enforcement. The list of signatories includes Guy Picciotto of Fugazi, as well as Ted Leo, Immortal Technique, Downtown Boys, Thursday, WHY?, Jeff Rosenstock, the Mowglis, War on Women, Diet Cig, Tim Kasher (of Cursive/The Good Life), and many more.

These are the demands for Amazon, directly from that open letter:

Terminate existing contracts with military, law enforcement, and government agencies (ICE, CBP, ORR) that commit human rights abuses

Stop providing Cloud services & tools to organizations (such as Palantir) that power the US government's deportation machine

End projects that encourage racial profiling and discrimination, such as Amazon's facial recognition product

Reject future engagements w/ aforementioned bad actors.

I signed my own band onto the list earlier this week, after catching wind of the movement on Twitter. (I tried to pull our songs from all Amazon-affiliated services, but our distro service makes that difficult to do.) My friends in the Kominas mentioned something about it, and then I noticed Deerhoof interacting with Sadie Dupois of Speedy Ortiz and Sad13, following up on the recent op-ed by Tom Morello and Evan Greer of Fight For The Future (both musicians and activists in their own rights). Read the rest

Multi-talented fellow beatboxes while playing the flute

My friend taught himself to beatbox and play the flute. You might want to unmute this one. from r/toptalent

Henceforth, this genre shall be known as hip-prog.

(r/toptalent) Read the rest

Elton John explains Tiny Dancer as he plays it for a TV crew in 1971

Elton John, then around 23, takes a TV crew through the structure of "Tiny Dancer," a song with lyrics written by John's longtime writing partner Bernie Taupin about his girlfriend (later wife) Maxine Feibelman who at the time was the Elton John Band's seamstress.

(via Laughing Squid) Read the rest

Listen to David Bowie hear a touching birthday message from Scott Walker

On January 8, 1997, David Bowie became quite emotional after hearing happy birthday message from the pioneering pop/experimental musician Scott Walker, who died yesterday. It was a touching moment then and even moreso now that both of these inimitable forces of avant-garde art/music are gone. Turns out that Walker's birthday was the following day:

"I'll have a drink to you on the other side of midnight. How's that?"

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Scott Walker, pioneering art rock singer, RIP

Legendary singer Scott Walker, whose journey as a musician took him from blue-eyed soul to baroque pop to heady avant-garde experimentalism, has died at age 76. Walker counted the likes of Radiohead, Pulp, Julian Cope, and Sunn O))) as fans and collaborators. From an obituary released by Walker's record label 4AD:

Noel Scott Engel (later known as Scott Walker) was born in 1943, the son of an Ohio geologist. He began his career as a session bassist, changing his name when he joined The Walker Brothers. The 1960s trio enjoyed a meteoric rise, especially in Britain, where hits like 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore’ attracted a following to rival that of The Beatles.

But the superstar lifestyle and fame was not for Scott. As an only child, he had grown up in the kind of rich, slow solitude in which imagination could flourish, and he retreated from the limelight, returning as a solo artist to release a string of critically acclaimed albums, Scott, Scott 2, Scott 3 and Scott 4. He disappeared until the late 1970’s, when The Walker Brothers re-joined for their last album together and then a solo album in the 80’s.

Another long silence and Scott then re-emerged in the 90’s and onwards with lyric-driven works that deconstructed music into elemental soundscapes. Drawing on politics, war, plague, torture, and industrial harshness, Scott’s apocalyptic epics used silence as well as real-world effects and pared-back vocals to articulate the void. Sometimes gothic and eerie, often sweepingly cinematic, always strikingly visual, his works reached for the inexpressible, emerging from space as yearnings in texture and dissonance.

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Review: What Do You Call That Noise? An XTC Discovery Book

Two years ago, I reviewed Andy Partridge and Todd Bernhardt's highly-recommended Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC, a collection of deep-nerding conversations between these two musicians about beloved XTC tracks. While that book was a wonder, it understandably focused on Andy and his contributions to the band. While deepening my admiration and appreciation for the band, it left me hungry for more.

Enter What Do You Call That Noise? An XTC Discovery Book. I didn't think I could love an XTC book more than Complicated Game, but this book just keeps inspiring and surprising me every time I poke my nose into it. This is a delightful and dizzying collection of XTC exploration, analysis, and devotion that should stoke the soul coal of any hardcore fan of the band.

Put together by Mark Fisher, editor of Limelight, the 80s XTC zine, this book is a collected conversation between dozens of musicians deconstructing XTC songs, interviews with ALL of the band members (including their Spinal Tap-worthy causality list of drummers), kids and young music students reacting to XTC music, home studio recording tips from Andy Partridge, Andy on music theory (or lack thereof) and songwriting. Contributors include Rick Buckler (The Jam), Chris Difford (Squeeze), Debbi Peterson (The Bangles), Steven Page (Barenaked Ladies), Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa), Peter Gabriel, and many more.

Also included are a piece on drummers breaking down some of Terry Chambers more brilliant moments, members of XTC tribute bands around the world talking about their music, a cultural studies professor on the genius of Colin Moulding's lyrics, a piece about a German YouTuber who's covering his way through the XTC catalog, and the (apparently) obligatory photo tour of Swindon, England (the band's beloved home town). Read the rest

"Bohemian Rhapsody" performed in the style of 42 famous musicians

Anthony Vincent impersonates 42 well known singers perform their rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," including Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, NWA, Abba, and Muse.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Watch Fred Armisen's jokes for musicians

Fred Armisen, a drummer, tells jokes that pretty much only a drummer would love and then ups the ante by going into guitarist humor. (Late Night with Conan O'Brien)

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This virtuoso panpipes player has no hands

Matthias Schlubeck is considered one of the world's greatest players of the pan pipes (aka pan flute.). Zamfir's got nothing on Schlubek who was born without hands. From Dust to Digital's Instagram:

Born in Germany in 1973 without fully-developed arms, he began studying music when he was six years old. At the Musikhochschule Köln in the 1990s, Matthiäs focused on panpipes and developed his style of moving his head to get different notes.

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You should listen to more Shakey Graves

My wife and I love Shakey Graves. Love. Him.

His music is in constant rotation in our motorhome, no matter whether we're parked or on the move. He fills our ears when we're out for groceries or driving our pooch to the park. After years of listening to him from afar, we finally had the opportunity to catch him live this past November. The show was in San Antonio, Texas. The doors opened 90 minutes before Shakey hit the stage. We were surrounded by people half our age. The concrete pad we were standing on and a chill in the air had everyone there uncomfortable in feet and temperature. Everyone drank $10 mixed drinks and buckets of canned beer in a misguided attempt to stay warm. Some folks partook in left-handed cigarettes. Those people were kicked out. The wife and I re-upped our cups with hooch from the flask I'd snuck past the doormen. She and I discovered that maybe we're getting too old for going to outdoor gigs. She and I agreed that maybe we were even too old to bother with any venue that doesn't come with theater seating. Our feet and knees hurt for a days, afterwards.

But it was totally worth it.

I've seen a lot of performers in my time. I used to be one myself. Some are terrible. Some, like me, are capable but have no presence on stage--ham and eggers looking to make a living. Others are all show and no real talent--they rely on a skilled band and tricks of the trade to sell songs and tickets. Read the rest

Profile of musician Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton

Chris Funk of The Decemberists met with Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, a blind musician from South Central Los Angeles. He is in his 20s and specializes in music of the 1920s and 30s. He plays banjo, piano, harmonica, and other instruments.

Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton is a musician bringing back the magic of a bygone era of American jazz. Drawing inspiration from the blues scene of the 1930s, Paxton has become a master of forgotten music, transporting his audiences to another time. By the time he was 18 years old, Paxton was declared legally blind, lending way to his moniker “Blind Boy.” Still, his love of music never waned. The multi-instrumentalist and musical virtuoso continues forward on his historical mission, rediscovering and spreading the genius of the original black music of America.

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Comfortably Numb on acoustic guitar

The Acoustician performs excellent acoustic, instrumental guitar covers of classic rock songs. See the solo training videos too.

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Inside XTC's "Complicated Game"

It is perhaps very telling that all of the review blurbs on the back cover of Andy Partridge and Todd Bernhardt's Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC are written by fellow musicians and songwriters. Andy Partridge has always been a musician's musician.

Complicated Game is a series of candid and detailed interviews with Andy Partridge about many of XTC's most well-known songs. Todd Bernhardt, the interviewer, is a fellow musician, XTC mega-fan, and friend of Andy's, so they don't shy away from discussing the nitty-gritty details of chord changes, instruments used, studio hacks, and other compositional and engineering minutia.

In the chapter on "Senses Working Overtime," Andy explains how the whole song came about as he was fooling around on a new Martin guitar and he played a "messed-up E-flat." He thought it sounded very Medieval so he tried to find other chords that went with it (A-flat minor and D-flat). He says the rest of the song sort of composed itself from there. We also learn that "English Settlement" was their "new instruments record." The bandmembers had all just gotten new instruments (Andy, the Martin, Dave Gregory, a 12-string Richenbacker, Colin Moulding, a fretless bass) and they were excited to noodle around on them to see what they could do.

There are many other interesting and fun revelations in the book. "This is Pop," from White Music, was Andy's way of rejecting the pigeonholing of the punk label, making sure that everyone was reminded that this is pop music, plain and simple, and that ain't a dirty word. Read the rest

New Disruptors 64: Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves with The Doubleclicks

Angela and Aubrey Webber are the musical group The Doubleclicks, bringing geeky music to nerdy folk. The sisters never intended to form a band, but when Aubrey joined her sister Angela in Portland a few years ago, her cello coupled with Angela's singing caused enough of a stir for them to join forces and write songs about Dungeons & Dungeons, the Curiosity rover, and not dissing the geek girl. We talk about all this and their absurdly successful Kickstarter campaign that just closed.

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Broke-ass band cuts an album by borrowing a giant music store's facilities and gear

Stacey sez, "In innovative collaboration between a music shop and a band with no cash that will help get an album made. The music shop is allowing the unsigned band to use the recording equipment for sale in the shop after hours. The band, Georgia Wonder, were also happy to be 'one of the most pirated bands in the world' on PirateBay

Georgia Wonder: Recording An Album With No Cash

(Thanks, Stacey!)

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