Preview: Maya Jupiter Record Release Show 10/6/11

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, October 2, 2011 10:19am | Post a Comment

Maya Jupiter is a classic example of the international influence of Hip-Hop. She was born in La Paz, Mexico to a Mexican father and a Turkish mother. Her family moved to Australia where she lived until a few years ago. Her first release in 2003 received much critical praise that lead to steady career both as a rapper and a radio host for the better part of ten years. Wanting to explore her Mexican roots, Maya moved to Los Angeles where she started to collaborate with L.A.’s Chicano/Latino community. Her new self-titled album is a result of those collaborations. It is a mixture of Soul, Dancehall and Son Jarocho, which she calls, “World Hip-Hop” Maya Jupiter will be performing on October 6th at the Little Temple in Los Angeles with an all-star band that includes Aloe Blacc, Martha Gonzalez and Quetzal Flores of the band Quetzal, and many other great L.A. based musicians. I caught up with Maya to discuss her new album, her upcoming show and about life in Los Angeles.

Your new album takes a different route than your previous releases. What was behind that?

I wanted to push myself vocally and artistically and I wanted to make an album that reflected all the music styles that I enjoy, not just Hip-Hop. My brother-in-law, Victor Valdes, is a harpist from Xalapa, Vera Cruz and introduced me to the world of Son Jarocho ten years ago. I knew it was a style I wanted to incorporate as well as Soul and Dancehall. All of these genres come from the community and have a history of being socially conscious.
There are many Afro-Caribbean influences in your album such as Son Jarocho, Dancehall Reggae and Cuban Son. What was the process of writing like?

We had some jam sessions with Aloe Blacc as well as Quincy McCrary (keyboard player for Mayer Hawthorne) Juan Perez (bass player for Son De Madera)
Quetzal Flores made songs out of the jams. The music came from the heart and is a reflection of everybody involved.
You left behind what seemed to be a promising career in both music and radio in Australia. At one point you were a host of a Hip-Hop show on Australia’s Triple J Radio network. What was behind that move? What do your fans in Australia think of the new album?

I needed a new challenge and felt I wasn't growing as an artist in Sydney. I also wanted to be around the Mexican community; I felt it was something I missed out on growing up in Sydney. Even though we are very multi-cultural, I couldn't speak my musical language with many people there. I feel that I'm much better understood in LA, in terms of music. I'm not sure what people think in Australia but they are very open-minded people so I'm sure they'll give the album a listen!
You recently posted on Facebook that you were “so excited to perform this album the way it's supposed to be performed. That's you threw away the CD in favor of real humans. Will you try to keep a band together for future performances?

I would love to always play with this current band. They are truly all-stars.  Making live music is so much more rewarding, you can't deny the energy on stage.

You’ve toured the better part of two years with Aloe Blacc, both as an opening act and as part of his group. Now that you have seen more of America than most Americans have, what do you think of it?

I think the United States is a beautiful big country, full of opportunity. There are many people who really care about the world and their fellow human beings. I think there's a great movement happening across the world right now, an awakening of sorts where people are coming together for a better quality of life. 

Now that you have lived in Los Angles for a couple of years, what do you think about it? What do you love about it and what would you change?

I love L.A. I'm lucky that I am a part of a loving community of conscience thinkers. I love that it is a crossroads to the world. All kinds of people come through LA, you never know who you can meet or what can happen. It is very exciting in that way. It is also cheap living; rent and food prices are much lower.

I would improve the public transportation system; it is a joke right now. People should be able to walk and ride their bikes safely. There should be more parks and spaces for people to gather. When you travel around the world you realize how LA lacks public spaces. The health care system is ridiculous and the public school system worries me. Those are things I think about if I were to move here permanently.

You can buy Maya Jupiter's S/T release at the Amoeba Hollywood store (in the Hip-Hop section) or via mail order
Maya Jupiter Will be performing on Thursday, October 6th
at Little Temple
4519 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90029-1906
(323) 660-4540

Nu-Thursdays presents
Maya Jupiter Album Release Party
Thursday October 6, 2011 Live Performance by
MAYA JUPITER w/ special guests Quetzal Flores, Martha Gonzalez, and Aloe Blacc, Marisa Ronstadt & The Know-It-Alls
DJ Destroyer & Ethos 21+ 9pm-2am $10 cover

Spray Paint The Walls: The Story Of Black Flag

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, September 18, 2011 11:25pm | Post a Comment
By now most most Amoeba customers know about our expanded book section. From time to time I'll be pulling out some books from the section and recommend some I find of interest. The First one that caught my eye was Spray Paint The Walls: The Story Of Black Flag, written by Stevie Chick. Here is a small review of the book, which you can currently buy at Amoeba Hollywood.

By the time I finally saw Black Flag live it was early 1986, shortly before the band broke up. Fenders Ballroom in Long Beach, which only held 500 people, was only a quarter full. I had just seen The Circle Jerks at the same venue a few weeks before and the place was packed. Still, the band was amazing and everything I thought it would be. The band was so loud that the vibration from the speakers shook my clothes as if I was caught in a windstorm. Henry Rollins looked like a younger Charles Manson in his running shorts and tattoos, trying to sing between bouts with a group of skinheads. He just glared at them and kept singing, occasionally swatting at a few of them when they came to close to hitting him. Greg Ginn stood away from Henry, eyes closed, obliviously playing guitar and shaking his long hair as if he was Carlos Santana. This version band was light years away from the band that had released the Damaged album, which was released only five years before. It was indicative of the progression of the band, a decision to progress musically rather to continue to play the same music and retain a fan base. In the end, that choice ultimately destroyed one of the most influential bands of all time. Black Flag’s music was not the only legacy they had. The way Black Flag toured, release records independently and even the sound systems they took on the road are still linked to modern day bands to this day.

In Stevie Chick’s biography of Black Flag, Spray Paint The Walls: The Story Of Black Flag, Chick explores the phenomenon of Black Flag through exclusive interviews with the former band members and people closed to the band. He also uses quite a bit of outside sources from fanzine interviews to other books previously written about the Black Flag experience. The book story predates the actual formation of the group, outlining the story of Hermosa Beach, the small once liberal town where the band grew up that was soon run over by defense contract conservatives. It brings back a time when people were actually scared of Punk Rock and how the police treated punks as bad as they treated minorities from the inner city.  Chick’s ability to link the conservative 80’s back-story and how it affected Black Flag music is a story that 80’s retro babies need to hear; The days of Black Flag and other outsider artists were far from the MTV/John Hughes version of the 80’s. It was a time when individualism labeled one as crazy or worse, dangerous.

Chick covers the band from the formation of the group, through their grass roots uprising, harassment from the police, their constant touring, legal problems and changes in music styles and personal through the eyes of former band members. It through their story you get a glimpse of what it was link to be in Black Flag. All the hard work, sacrifices in having a life outside of being in Black Flag and their mutual respect for the band’s creator, Greg Ginn. But it also their falling out with Ginn that eventually gets each member replace until the last line up of the group, in which rather the fire the popular singer Henry Rollins, quits the very band he created, knowing full well the band can not continue without him. For the exception of Ginn and Rollins (both are heavily quoted through past interviews and through Rollins own book on the Black Flag days, Get In The Van) Chick manages to interview almost every past member.

Chick makes a point to dismiss what he calls; “The hipster version of Black Flag” which is that Black Flag started to suffer (or as the hipsters say, “suck”) once Henry Rollins became the lead singer. He does this by showing how the band's energy is never lost once Rollins is in the group, the energy is only transfered. Albums such as My War and Slip It In are just as influential to musicians such Mark Arm and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (both interviewed for this book) as Black Flag's early releases. Chick makes the connection from later Black Flag to the Grunge movement and Stoner Rock groups of today. Not to mention the independent tour circuit started by Flag that is still used today. Even if you had never been a fan of Black Flag music, it was their popularity and money that brought to the mainstream such bands as Husker Du, The Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur JR., Soundgarden and The Descendents, bands that are hugely influential to modern rock music today.

This is another fine publication about Black Flag to go with Henry Rollins account, Get In The Van as well as Joe Carducci's Enter Naomi: SST, L.A. and All That... and Michael Azerrad chapter on Black Flag in his book, Our Band Could Be Your Life. I think the fact that Chick is an outsider from England and not someone in the band or who had covered them over the years gives a fresh outside point of view of the band.

Still, no matter how excellent most of these books will read, I would love to hear the story from Greg Ginn’s point of view, no matter how crazy he might come off as. That hopefully will be the next publication about the band that would make the whole story complete.

Spray Paint The Walls: The Story Of Black Flag
by Stevie Chick: Omnibus Press 2009

Venezuela's Bituaya Live At Tropical De Nopal 7/24/11

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, July 25, 2011 12:59am | Post a Comment

Bituaya’s first show in Los Angles wasn’t met with much fanfare. Roughly sixty people came to their show Saturday at Tropical De Nopal gallery, hosted by Eclectica deejays Reyes and Glenn Red. After their seventy five minute set briefly stalled by power outages and a complaining neighbor who called the police, I can gladly say that I was there to witness one of the best shows I’ve seen this year, if not in the last few.

Bituaya hails from Venezuela, a country known by most Americans more for their oil, baseball players and of course, their leader Hugo Chavez, who is overly hated by the right and overly loved by the left. Venezuela has a rich music history, from the Joropo music that reminds me of Mexico’s Son Jarocho, to Latin Pop stars Richardo Montaner and Jose “El Puma” Rodriguez. In recent years people all over the world have been getting down to the alterna-house sounds of the legendary Los Amigos Invisibles. Venezuela also has a rich history of great Salsa artists such as personal favorites, Oscar D’Leon, Federico y Su Combo, Los Dementes and La Dimension Latina. One cannot deny the influence of Caribbean music on Venezuelans or for that matter, on Bituaya as a band. Bituaya continues the trend of recent Latin America artists perfecting the mixture of Merengue, Salsa, Cumbia, Reggae, Hip-Hop and Electronica effortlessly and without sounding contrived.

The six -piece group consists of two rappers, a singer/multi-instrumentalist, a percussionist, keyboardist and one of the smallest deejays I have ever seen, no joke. This guy had to stand on a box just to use the deejay table! From their first song they got everyone up and started dancing, as they played tracks from their ElectroCaribe release. Right away you can tell that these guys are well trained in music. These aren’t guys stumbling through genres; these guys have studied the various styles they play. It’s not shocking to find out that Bituaya are linked to many community-based art programs in Venezuela. Each song seemed to get better than the next. I especially like the mixture of  Joropo and Hip-Hop, with Aquiles Rengifo playing the cuarto underneath the Dub Reggae samples the solid flow of Miqueas “Piki” Figueroa. It’s something that I hoped that Son Jarocho groups would do more of, but it seems to be met with a lot of resistance. Bituaya made it seem so easy. In fact, every song came out so easily. Their Salsa was pure, the Merengue pulsed and the Cumbia/Reggae hybrids felt natural, all with that electro-sheen and Hip-Hop mentality that makes the music relevant. The night ended with a long jam, which included Raul Pacheco from the O.G. genre-bending band, Ozomatli, on guitar along with various Venezuelan nationals joining in on percussion and flute.

I had the daunting task of following the group with a deejay set. I tried my best but with the sound turned down due to noise complaints and an audience exhausted by Bituaya, I couldn’t do much besides play background music to the people trying to talk to the band. I would have to if I weren’t behind the turntables. I really enjoyed the band. Sometimes when I witness a band that is that good, I want to leave the show halfway through so nothing tarnishes the feeling that I am having at the moment. Because of the deejay set I was forced to stay and I’m glad I did because Bituaya did nothing tarnished that feeling. I guarantee just by word of mouth of the people that were at that show that Bituaya will play to a larger audience the next time around.

Wanna get their CD, ElectroCaribe? It is now available at Amoeba Hollywood for the low, low price of 7.98!

Omar Souleyman At The Echo 7/12/11

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, July 18, 2011 07:45am | Post a Comment
When I heard Omar Souleyman was playing in Los Angeles, I knew I had to go. Not only do I love his music but also how many times do you have a chance to see anyone from Syria perform in the U.S.? All those who cry about what a disappointment the Obama administration is can thank their liberal visa policies towards international artists. Do you know how many artists’ visas were denied during the Bush administration, especially if they’re from a country deemed a threat to the U.S.? 

Truth be told, there are many places you can hear music like Omar Souleyman across the Los Angeles area. In various Arabic restaurants in Glendale, Alhambra and the West Hollywood you can find someone like Souleyman’s collaborator Rizan Sa'id on a couple of keyboards playing behind a group of belly dancers or at a wedding reception. However, comparing Souleyman to those restaurant musicians is the equivalent of comparing Junior Kimbrough to some hack wearing a fedora playing slick Chicago-style blues. Sure, they both play blues music, but with Kimbrough, you felt the blues.

I had a feeling what an Omar Souleyman audience would look like: The hipster boys who travel to places like Indonesia and buy cassettes of local artists with their ambiguously ethic girlfriends? Check! Arabic people, mostly Syrian nationals, checking out a guy from their home country? Check! The “way too cool” musicians and deejays, who never say anything to you even though you see them everywhere you go? Check! Aging hipsters, still on the brink of discovering something new? Check! Ok, we can proceed.

From the first beat people were ready to dance. The Syrians and the new and older hipsters, all lost it when Soulyman hit the floor. Dabke, the Syrian party music in which Souleyman and Sa'id are famous for, is a mixture of high-energy Arabic music that sounds like gritty house music mixed with echoed vocals. Souleyman, dressed in jalabiya with sunglasses, looked like he stepped right out of the desert night and onto the stage. I wondered if he looked at the sold out crowd and thought, “What the f*^k? Who are these people?” Even the various Middle Eastern people, who went to dance on stage and spoke to him in Arabic, were far more westernized than they would like to think, at least compared to Souleyman.

In the end the show was perfect. Syrians may go all night but the L.A. audience just started to lose steam right about the time they stopped. This show reminded me of Konono No 1 first show in Los Angeles a few years back. A show that was mixed bag of Africans, hipsters and the aging World Music enthusiasts, all dancing till the very end, but barely hanging on compared to the Congolese who can go all night.

The Autographed Bin Cards Of Amoeba Hollywood's Latin Section

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, July 11, 2011 07:37am | Post a Comment
There is a tradition in the Latin section that doesn’t exist in the rest of the store. It’s the autographed bin cards. The bin cards are the separators between the CDS, DVD, and LPS that help you find your favorite releases. When I started working at Amoeba Hollywood several years ago, there was only one autograph bin card. It was from Alex Lora from El Tri. Legend had it he came into the store before a show and some fans recognized him and started a mini-ruckus in the Latin Rock and Pop section. A former co-worker and Amoeba favorite, Joyanne Troutman, decided to get Alex to autograph the bin card. Although being mobbed, he thought it was funny to be asked to autograph his bin card, so he did. That’s how it started.

We now have over two-dozen autograph bin cards throughout the Latin section, most of them, acquired by Paul Vasquez, World Music employee since 2006. I asked him a few questions about why and how this happened.

What was the first autograph bin that you had signed?

It was Rodrigo Y Gabriela. They did an in-store performance and I thought they were so cool that I wanted an excuse to talk to them. By then we had a few autograph bins that Joyanne and other World Music employees have gotten so I told them it was a tradition, which it is now.

How do you get the autographs? Are they all from in-store performances?

Some are, but most of them come from the artists themselves shopping at the store or people they are with introduce us to them. For instance, a friend of Los Tres Reyes introduced the members to me while they were shopping at the store. I love their music but I wouldn’t have recognized them.

Was there anyone that refused to autograph the bin card?

No, but there were some awkward moments. When Enrique Bunbury came into the store, I tried my best to communicate our tradition but he looked at me blankly. I think it was a language barrier thing, with me not speaking Spanish and him not speaking English or maybe he thought I was a random fan jacking the bin card to get his autograph.

Speaking of which, has anyone ever stolen an autograph bin card.

Yes. We had and autograph bin card from Roco from Maldita Vecindad and someone stole it. Now we have security tags on all the autograph bins.

Has anyone ever offered money for the bin cards?

One guy offered me a hundred bucks for the Enrique Bunbury bin card. I had to tell them it was not for sale.

So why just the Latin Music artists? Why not other artist from other sections?

Partly out of tradition and partly that many of the touring Latin Music artists make a stop at Amoeba while on the road. Almost all the artists that sign the bin cards say how much they love the store and wish their was something like Amoeba in their home city or country.

Below are a few more autograph bin cards. Among others are Ozomatli, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Benny Ibarra and many more.

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