Redd Kross' Steve McDonald Talks to Amoeba About "Researching the Blues"

Posted by Billy Gil, August 16, 2012 04:02pm | Post a Comment

Redd Kross have been the quintessential underground band for the past three decades. The band has nearly always eschewed both pop and indie convention by staying true to its sound, likely angering as many pop fans with its snottiness and random references to Tatum O’Neil and Shonen Knife as they would indie purirsts with its insistence on lacing its acidic songs with undeniable pop hooks.
From Hawthorne, Calif. and based around the duo of brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald, Redd Kross first released music in 1980 with a self-titled EP, after opening for Black Flag as teenagers for its first gig. Other musicians came and went as the band released records throughout the ’80s and ’90s, hitting their stride with 1987’s Neurotica and 1990's Third Eye. Following 1997’s Show World, the band all but disappeared, with its members occasionally surfacing for other projects — Steve McDonald famously added bass parts to The White StripesWhite Blood Cells, redubbing it Redd Blood Cells, which saw thousands of downloads and press hubbub. The brothers McDonald separately produced albums by other artists as well.
The elusive band returned in 2006 to play a set at REDCAT in Los Angeles covering the band’s entire catalog, featuring the Neurotica-era lineup of the McDonalds, Robert Hecker and Roy McDonald. They toured and played a killer set of the entire Born Innocent album opening for Sonic Youth, who played all of Daydream Nation (I was there! Yessss.), at the Greek Theater in L.A. In 2008 they played Coachella, among numerous other festivals and appearances over the past few years. Now, finally, Redd Kross have released an album of new material, entitled Researching the Blues. The album has seen some of the band’s best reviews, garnering an 81% on reviews aggregator Metacritic, and it’s not hard to see why, hearing the enlivened swagger the band displays on songs like the title track (download free here), while maintaining the dynamism that has always set the band apart, also including shimmering power-pop ballads like “Dracula’s Daughter” and “Winter Blues.”

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Jovanotti Amoeba Performance Up for Streaming

Posted by Billy Gil, August 13, 2012 09:07pm | Post a Comment
Italian rapper extraordinaire Jovanotti just performed at Amoeba Hollywood, and the performance is up to stream now. For the unitiated, the dapper performer raps over over loungey Italian pop-rock, with the swagger of both a rapper and an Italian baladeer. In his words, "I mix romantic flavor in a typical Italian melody with the hip people sound of global technology." A best-of compilation of sorts called Italia 1988-2012 was released stateside last week. Watch as he wins over an enthusiastic crowd, speaking both Italian and English "like a New York City taxi driver" and even a bit of Spanish, performing songs like "Tutto L'Amore Che Ho," "Fango" and a molto italiano cover of "Rapper's Delight" near the end. Bravo!

thenewno2's Dhani Harrison Answers Questions Before Performing at Amoeba

Posted by Billy Gil, July 31, 2012 02:23pm | Post a Comment
The first time I heard thenewno2 was in my car, listening to KCRW. Their song “Make It Home” was on, and I was immediately taken with its unusual, insistent melody. It was enough to get me Shazamming the song immediately and discovering who this band was. This method of discovery is appropriate enough, given the band's fusion of electronic experimentation, programmed sounds and rock hooks. I was surprised to find out the band’s singer is Dhani Harrison, son of my favorite Beatle, George Harrison. But not only does he look like his father, his voice bears a pretty strong resemblance as well. The now Los Angeles-based (formed in London) band, which includes Grammy-winning sound engineer Paul Hicks, as well as Jonathan Sadoff, Jeremy Faccone, Nick Fyffe and Frank Zummo, will perform at Amoeba Hollywood today at 6 p.m. and sign copies sold at the store of their second album (which is out today), thefearofmissionout. Harrison even mentioned the performance on Conan — sweet! I caught up with Harrison a bit before their performance.

PST: What did you try to do differently on this time around compared to the last album?

Harrison: Write better songs. Work with more people. Get more a group vibe going, more of a collective, different heads in the game, more creative, more players on the pitch. Mash it up a bit more. The last one was being like a lonely astronaut. This record kind of like a big gang.

PST: Who were some of the influences this time around?

Harrison: I went back to listening to a lot of blues, so, like Howlin’ Wolf. Obviously, Thom Yorke has been a big inspiration to me. I love Bjork. Paul’s really into Burial. We like Amon Tobin, Squarepusher.

thefearofmissingoutPST: Can you talk a bit about the concept behind thefearofmissingout?

Harrison: Everyone suffers from some degree of FOMO and it can affect your life, detrimentally. I think I’ve tried to therapize myself from the different stages of FOMO with this record … and it’s helped to a certain extent, and it created new forms of FOMO in a way as well, but change is like the opposite of FOMO. So change can be used as an agent to help you deal with your FOMO. If you’re experiencing change and you’re going with it, then you shouldn’t be too connected to the things that you’re afraid of missing out on.

PST: How did RZA become involved for “The Wait Around”?

Harrison: We did that song four years ago in my bedroom, and it’s been waiting around … hence the name. He’s always been a big influence as a team leader, specifically … the way he put the Wu-Tang together and the way he produces and just the way he’s an all-around inspiring, genius kind of guy. I see a lot of RZA in thenewno2, in the way that it’s structured, so to get him involved seemed like a natural fit from the beginning and that’s why he was into it … because it was.

PST: Was there always the plan to feature rapping on a track?

Harrison: Yeah. I’ve always loved Wu-Tang and this is experimental music. We’re trying to see where things cross over. Blues and rap and hip-hop and guitars … where does it all meet up? There’s a place somewhere where it does, and some might think it works and some might think it doesn’t. I happen to think it works. Experiencing different stuff, that’s what it’s about.

PST: Songs like “I Won’t Go” and “Make It Home” are catchy enough to stand alongside bands like Muse on rock radio but they’ve also got really interesting sounds and ideas fitted into the radio-ready melodies. Is that a goal with thenewno2, to create something that is widely appealing but has an experimental quality as well?

Harrison: It’s always good if your music is widely appealing, especially if it’s experimental music. Bands like Pink Floyd achieved that with experimental, deeply experimental music … and The Beatles too, experimented with studio records that became highly popular and part of society. So, ideally, all music that you make you want it to be readily consumed by everyone. I don’t mind making pop music and occasionally you accidentally make something catchy.

PST: I’ve read the unusual nature of the band name was in part to have the band stand on its own apart from your background. Was it important, too, to have the band not sound “Beatlesesque” for lack of a better term? Or does that worry not come up?

Harrison: What is Beatlesesque? They went through so many different styles of music. I’m sure at some point every band can sound Beatlesesque, other than, you know … Magnetic Man.

PST: The band name and album name and way they’ve been presented also make me think they are commentary on modern language and technology, sort of the condensing of words and dropping of space and punctuation you see on social networks. It also seems to fit the band’s music and presentation as this sort of post-modern idea of rock music. Did that enter into the conceptualization of the band?

Harrison: Yes. The whole thing was started as a collective. Eventually we’ll have to write everything with no punctuation, spelling, spaces … everything now is hashtagged. I gave the band this name back in 2001, so I think that, ironically, you’re starting to realize it now. I just happened to see the way that it was going and I chose a long view.

PST: Is Fistful of Mercy (Harrison's band with Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur) still active?

Harrison: If and when the opportunity presents itself to do another record, I would. But right now we are all deep into our own projects so it’s not happening for awhile.

PST: What are the long-term plans for thenewno2?

Harrison: Lots more collaborations. Lots more records. A lot of festivals. We’d like to play a lot of festivals this year and get the music to the people that actually will appreciate it. We just recorded an acoustic EP which is going to come out, so just continuing to show the varying different styles of thenewno2. Building on top of what we’ve done, working with lots more great artists. We look forward to working with Shephard Fairey again, and Ben Eine, and look forward to working with new people that we haven’t even discovered yet.
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