#LPofDay The Beastie Boys' landmark debut "Licensed To Ill" LP Stands The Test of Time, Exactly 32 Years Later

Posted by Billyjam, November 15, 2018 04:58pm | Post a Comment
The Beastie Boys Licensed To Ill LP (Def Jam) (also on CD)

#LPofDay  The LP pick of the day today is the three-plus decade throwback, mid eighties debut album from The Beastie Boys,  Licensed To Ill (Def Jam/Columbia). Released exactly 32 years ago to the day (Nov 15, 1986) the landmark album by the young trio was reissued in 180 gram vinyl two years ago as the (still available vinyl)  Licensed To Ill: 30 Year Anniversary LP that's also on CD. In honor of its anniversary, a re-listen earlier today to this 45 minute, 13 track (inc. 7 singles), Rick Rubin produced, rock/rap hybrid by the former NYC punkers provided these ears ample proof that Licensed To Ill  has aged well. The album truly stands the test of time even if its three main makers (MCAAd Rock and the late Mike D) have since somewhat distanced themselves from it, citing instead their critically acclaimed 1989 sophomore album release, Paul’s Boutique LP, that they had more production and overall creative involvement in, as a project that they're more proud of.

Essential Records: The Mars Volta's 'De-Loused In The Comatorium'

Posted by Amoebite, October 8, 2014 05:32pm | Post a Comment

Essential Records De-Loused in the Comatorium

The year was 2003. I was a 22-year old musician living in Silverlake, playing in a band and chasing the dream. I was taking in heavy doses of Stevie Wonder and anything I could find from Salsa greats Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe. At that time, my whole musical world was Soul, Salsa and Hip Hop. The Roots' Things Fall Apart and Mos Def's Black on Both Sides were still in heavy rotation from my college Freshman days of 1999. 

I vividly remember my friend Jesus Beas telling me about this new band I should check out. He said they were called The Mars Volta and some of the guys were in a band called At The Drive-In. I had never heard of either band, but I knew it was worth my time to take a listen. Jesus and I had been friends since 9th grade and he had always turned me on to bands I ended up loving (mostly underground politically charged rock groups like Aztlan Underground and Downset).  

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Smashing Pumpkins Release Rick Rubin-Produced 'Let Me Give the World to You' From 'Adore' Reissue

Posted by Billy Gil, August 11, 2014 01:33pm | Post a Comment

When Smashing Pumpkins released their beloved-in-retrospect fourth album, Adore, back in 1998, frontman Billy Corgan couldn’t resist talking a lot about a great song he left off the album called “Let Me Give the World to You.” Perhaps to preserve the nocturnal feel of the classic 4AD indebted Adore, the song wasn’t included on the album—the title alone promised a bombastic rock single in the vein of songs like “Tonight, Tonight.” But we got another version of the song later, on the digital-only Machina II, albeit in a different version that sounded quickly recorded in the best way, with gauzy, Cocteau Twins-inspired guitars and jangly pop feel.

Now Corgan has released the original recording, produced by none other than hip-hop producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin. So it’s that over-the-top “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” thing, right? The song is closer in feel to “1979,” with muted new-wave guitars and a level of restraint not typically seen with this band, yet its Beatles-inspired arrangement is, of course, heartfelt and grabbing. Though Adore is lovably imperfect as is, I can’t help but feel this recording would’ve slotted in nicely near the end of the album and perhaps provided a crucial breakthrough third single that could’ve changed the troubled history of the band for the better. Sigh.

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18 Year Anniversary of the Death of Def

Posted by Billyjam, August 27, 2011 01:15pm | Post a Comment

Exactly eighteen years ago on this date, the word DEF was officially laid to rest. It was that day when Rick Rubin - who initially was a part of Def Jam but later broke away and set up his own Def American Records label, which in turn morphed into American Records -- supposedly officially layed the dated hip-hop slang word to rest. This he did via an extravagant funeral service and even went so far as to get a legal death certificate, buy a real life size casket, secure a plot at the Hollywood Cemetery (which is still there to this day), and hold a faux solemn, funeral ceremony with Rev Al Sharpton acting as officiator.

Rap music industry vet and author Dan Charnas worked for Rick Rubin at Def American's headquarters in LA at the time and in his recently published book, The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop, he dedicates some space to the topic of the death of "def." This week I caught up with Charnas via phone from his New York home office to ask him about this date back in 1993 when the word "def" was laid to rest.  Charnas, who had already been working a couple of years for the brilliant (but oft quirky) Rubin, recalled how, back as early as 1991, his boss had told him, "Eventually I am going to change the name of Def American to just American. And eventually I am going to bury it. I am going to have a funeral." Charnas said that then Rubin asked with a laugh, "And then what's Russell gonna do?"  Charnas recalled of Rubin, "It struck his Bud Abbott-esque need to prank Russell [Simmons of Def Jam]," and that the death of def was combined with other factors. "It was the fact that he wanted a divorce from his past. The fact that there was some consumer confusion. The fact that he could prank Russell a little. The fact that the word was very much out of style," said Charnas. "So he wanted to do a grand piece of performance art."

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Ethan Miller of Comets on Fire and Howlin' Rain Chats

Posted by Miss Ess, August 1, 2008 02:19pm | Post a Comment

Ethan Miller
is one of the Bay Area's best musicians. He formed the psychedelic/noise, super intense band Comets on Fire in Santa Cruz in 1999. The group has met with much success-- Comets was signed to Sub Pop, has toured all over the world and released four great albums. After relocating to Oakland, around 2004 Ethan brought together another outlet for his creativity, the riff-heavy Howlin' Rain. Howlin' Rain has released two exceptional records and was recently signed to musical luminary Rick Rubin's label American Recordings, which should bring the group's heavy rockin' sound to even higher highs. Check out Howlin' Rain's performance at Amoeba back in March here.

What follows is my recent chat with Ethan about songs that make him cry, his old piano teacher, and why the studio is what really winds his clock.

Miss Ess: Is there someone in particular who recognized and nurtured your musical interest/talent when you were young?

Ethan Miller: Yes, I had a piano teacher named Jean Bazemore who has been just one of those magical people that you meet in life that is a guiding force and inspiration. Most importantly, she is one of those people who helps you to understand the depth and meaning, power and spiritual activity that is going on beneath our artistic actions. Also my folks, both my Mother and Father, have been supportive and encouraging of my musical path since I was young. Parents can make the musical path very difficult if  they don't approve or don't support it and my path and road in music would have been very difficult without their support.

ME: What song or album reminds you of your childhood?

E: The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.

ME: It's funny that you say that because that record is also one of the touchstones of my childhood, and I have to say I have been revisiting Kenny lately just for a little blast from the past. He was on constant repeat when my dad was driving me around in the station wagon. So what was the first song/record you remember hearing that got you pumped and made you think about making music a major part of your life/your career?

E: Purple Rain by Prince.

You've been in bands since you were a teenager-- what was it initially that made you want to be in a band?

E: When I listened to rock music as a youngster and when I started going to local punk shows as a young teenager, the power and energy that I felt coming from the stage and the albums was like looking deep into the fire of a burning building. Something so exhilarating, powerful and beautiful but out of control-- there is something almost magical going on, like a prism of emotional resonance hitting you. Though we can mathematically explain how chords and melody work in music, we still can't rationally explain the intense emotional and resonant response that happens when we hear those melodies and chords. There is something profoundly spiritual and intoxicating happening there, at times healing, at times longing or sadness, even dangerous responses can happen. It is the most powerful unexplained force in this world and I did then and still find that completely baffling and wonderful. From those early experiences with that force, I wanted to live a life that moved inside of those energies, try to ride it, get knocked down by it, learn from it, spend my life trying to catch that shit by the tail.

When you arrived in Santa Cruz, what did you think of the music scene at the time? Did you have a vision of what kind of band you wanted to form there or did it all just fall together with Comets?

E: When I arrived in S.C. there was a music scene but it was pretty disparate. I didn't have my complete vision then. I was still heavily influenced by my older peers that I had played music with before moving there. It was the first time I was out from under those heavy older influences and once I was surrounded with new musicians that didn't come from the small town that I came from and hadn't grown up under the same influences, my own personal musical path and vision started to emerge. Once I was turned on to White Heaven and High Rise and Mainliner and Albert Ayler and Sonny Sharrock, it was all over and I knew the kind of edge I wanted to have in my next band and Ben F. and I dissolved the rock group we were in and formed Comets.

I read that you would commute back and forth between SC and Oakland for practice a while back...When I was living in SC, I used to drive over the mountain and back like that to see shows in SF all the time for years, and one of the ways I would be able to make the drive so late at night was to rock out in my car to all kinds of stuff, stuff where I could sing along to every word and stay awake. On that note...what records do you like to listen to while driving?

E: Nilsson, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison. The Boredoms' newer albums. Aerosmith. Thin Lizzy. Miles Davis - The Jack Johnson [Sessions] box set, Tony Joe White.

If you weren't playing music, what do you think you'd be doing?

E: I'd be lost. Severely depressed. I think I would be questioning what I was doing here. I would be writing and painting constantly to take the place of music. I enjoy those things as well, but not to the level of making music.

What's your favorite local Bay Area band?

E: One of my last favorites was Brightblack Morning Light but I'm not sure if they are even in the Bay Area anymore. I've been on tour for many months now and in even a short time in the Bay Area so many bands come and go-- so I'm not sure who is currently tearing it up down at the Hemlock tonight, ya know? Ask me again in November when I come off tour and I'm able to make it out to a few local shows again.

Last I heard they had skipped town to New Mexico. Speaking of Santa Cruz, the first time I ever saw them was when they were still called Rainywood, opening for Will Oldham at Henfling's Tavern in Ben Lomand! What are your favorite places to go on tour and why?

E: New York is always fun. I love Spain and Portugal and have had great experiences there. With Howlin Rain we have had some amazing experiences in Scandinavia.

What has been your peak musical experience?

E: Making albums is the tops for me I think. Getting a little more time and money and vision for each progressive record. Getting to do a little more and broaden my scope a little more each time. I love making records and always wanted to do it. A lot of people don't like them, or dread the studio environment, but I love it. It's like being in a fucking playground when you're 6 years old---you just play and play and pretty soon the day is gone and the sun is going down and you're just tearing around, climbing all over shit and playing in the dark.

There seems to be a dearth of rock bands the past few years. Howlin' Rain' is a notable exception, of course. What are some other current rock bands that you admire? Are you into the whole Japanese Rock thing?

E: Hmmm. Wouldn't it be nice if now were the time of the death of rock music? But alas, I think rock bands are like cockroaches: after the bomb they just come crawling up from beneath the rubble, banging away at those power chords and playing the "Stairway to Heaven" intro. Maybe being in a rock band has become a little obsolete because the "indie rock band" is the new Rock Rock band. A new cockroach crawling over the head of  the old one out from beneath the rubble. I guess we (Howlin Rain) run the risk of being called cockroaches also because we are trying to wring new art out of an old faithful slop rag. I admire Mudhoney, The Melvins-- those are two of the greatest rock bands ever and they are better than ever. Grinderman at its best is an astonishing rock band.

On the Japanese tip, I didn't read the Japrock Sampler. For me, the big moment in Japanese rock was the mid 80s through the mid 90s. That is where the albums I loved the most from there came from. Ghost and Boris and some of those guys still do great stuff but the 80s and early 90s PSF [Records] stuff is what shook me up and got inside of my heart and head. I don't really keep up too too much on what's going on there now in such depth.

Rick Rubin is one of the most intriguing figures in the music industry, I think. It's really exciting that you are on his label now. Will he produce any of your future records?

E: Yes, we will work together on the next album.

How will being on American Recordings change your recording/production process?

E: Larger recording budget. More time to get it right and shake out ideas and experiments.

What role do you see production work as having in your studio time-- is it a major consideration, an afterthought, something spontaneous? Does it change from album to album/project to project?

E: So far, production is usually sort of invisible because it sort of works itself out in the studio as we go and get stuff down. Mostly with Rick, I think the difference will be that he and I will focus much more on the songwriting and getting the songs in an ideal state before entering the studio, which I like the idea of. I have always felt that a songwriter cannot truly be an objective judge of the value of every part, every lyric, every nook and cranny of her/his songs. And your band members can be tricky judges also because of your already complicated relationship with them, both musical and personal. So having someone like Rick get in there with you and help define what's good, what's great and what needs work in the songwriting sounds very intriguing to me.

Do you prefer to be on the road and play live or be in the studio?

E: Absolutely without a doubt with no fucking question in my mind I love being in the studio. After the first month or two of tour it's not much fun anymore. I do love the feeling of a great live night with a great crowd---just cutting loose like you're trying to do violence to a mountain and succeeding. That energy cannot be beat, even in the studio.

What is your most prized piece of musical gear?

E: My 1964 robin's egg blue Fender Jaguar, which I've been beating the living shit out of for the last 8 years on stage and continue to to this day. A rare beauty and the instrument that I found "my sound" on.

Is there a song you love so much that, every time you hear it, you wish you had written?

E: "The Mercy Seat" by Nick Cave.

What Neil Young album is your favorite?

E: Probably After the Goldrush or maybe Everybody Knows [This is Nowhere]...On the Beach...Tonight's the Night....would be hard to take just one to a desert island.

Those are all my faves in a nutshell too! I was a lit major at UCSC too...what authors have influenced you?

E: Jerzy Kosinski, Michael Moorcock, Jim Thompson, Cormac McCarthy, Richard Brautigan, Joan Didion, Goethe, Shakespeare, Margaret Atwood, and many more.

What album do you love that you think more people should listen to?

E: Bad Brains - s/t

Is there a particular piece of music or song that can bring you to tears?

E: I can't remember lately, though I know a couple have recently...but actually you just reminded me of it when you asked about driving from Santa Cruz. I was driving from Santa Cruz to Oakland or maybe up to Humboldt maybe 6 or 7 years ago and was listening to "The Candidate" by David Bowie [an outtake song off the Rhino deluxe reissue (of Diamond Dogs) from the 90's] and though the song isn't particularly sad, one of those changes hit in the song and just moved me to tears.

What has been your best find at Amoeba?

E: One of my recent best was a beat up old copy of Ike and Tina Nut Bush City Limits. Too many great finds to mention or remember. Love those stores.

What's next for Howlin' Rain?

E: Off to England for the Greenman Festival and surrounding dates, then Outside Lands Music Festival, Bumbershoot in Seattle, and some other Pacific NW shows. We're supporting the Black Crowes in September and October. Then in November we come off tour and begin working on preproduction for a new album!