King Khan takes over the airwaves and previews his Sun Ra-inspired new record

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It’s been a long time since we’ve had a radio takeover, but there’s no one worthier to dominate our airwaves than King Khan.

Joining us all the way from Berlin, Khan talked about the many projects he’s taking on, including his initiative with Malik Rahim (part of the Black Panthers and co-founder of the Common Ground Collective in New Orleans), a campaign called “Just Insulin,” his new short film Rat-tribution Now dedicated to the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls of Canada, and the creation of his Black Power Tarot deck with the guidance of Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Holy Mountain), designed by Michael Eaton (“Game of Thrones”).

We also get to hear some exclusive new tracks from King Khan, the songs on his personal playlist and the world premiere of some songs off his upcoming album “The Infinite Ones,” coming out in fall on Khannibalism. It includes collaborations with Marshall Allen and Knoel Scott of the Sun Ra Arkestra, Martin Wenk and John Convertion from Calexico, Brontez Purnell from Younger Lovers, Torben Wesche from The Shrines and Davide Zolli from Mojomatics.

King Khan | Courtesy of the artist
King Khan’s 88Nine DJ Takeover

So King Khan is taking over our airwaves for the next hour, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been a fan for a long time, and I’ve been inspired by your confidence, presence, talents and prolific enthusiasm in music and culture. Also, you may be the fiercest collaborator out there, constantly creating with the people you love. Thanks so much for joining us. We recently met over a tarot card reading which was an experience that was so energizing and mobilizing. I’m excited to share more on that later in the hour, but first you have a brand new album coming out in the fall on your label, Khannibalism, called “The Infinite Ones.” If you’re able to tell us, who is on the record and how did this all come together?

So when I moved to Germany about 20-something odd years ago, I met an artist who was a painter and an American, and he was actually moving back to America while I was moving into the small town called Castle. He gave me as a gift a videotape of three Sun Ra films, “Space is the Place,” “Joyful Noise” and another French documentary. And basically I watched that video tape over and over again. And I actually fell in love with my wife because she was the only person in the world who could actually keep up with me and just watch Sun Ra all day and night. Sun Ra became a really huge inspiration for me and spiritually I felt that I’d never heard music that was so in tune with my own psychic kind of vibrations. And so I started listening to a lot of Sun Ra and then fast forward to, I think it was about 2005 when I played the first time with the Shrines in Canada. We crossed paths with the Sun Ra Arkestra and I wound up sleeping on a couch in their condominium for three days. I got lessons about discipline from Yahya and I met Marshall Allen and so the alliance was forged way back then. Then I actually wrote a poem about space called “We the People of the Myths” and Marshall Allen really, really loved the poem and then invited me to recite a poem with the orchestra.

It was a really beautiful, kind of organic process of me admiring them from afar and then actually becoming a part of this incredible movement. This album, “The Infinite Ones,” is the first time I’m really doing jazz music. and one of the lessons I learned from sun Ra was that it’s very important to find the inner music or the music inside of you because that’s what will heal and help you rather than listening to the crappy music that is offered in pop music or because all of that music is basically just, it’s like fodder for the sheep. They just want you to be mediocre and not excel and not go beyond your boundaries. So, yeah, so this album is a huge tribute to jazz music, to Sun Ra, to Ennio Morricone who is also a huge influence on me. There’s a lot of movie soundtracks that really influenced me too, like John Carpenter, for example, “Assault on Precinct 13” or Bernard Hermann’s “Taxi Drivers” soundtrack. I basically started every track playing my bass guitar. And for me that bass guitar is really magic because I actually stole it from my little brother when my first punk band was looking for a bass player and I had never played bass even so I followed the inner bass player in me. And then I recruited Martin Wenk, who is a German trumpet player who actually plays with Calexico. Through him, we got John Convertino from Calexico involved and started really up. And it was during the pandemic so they were able to really concentrate and just send me tracks very quickly and eventually it got to the point where I realized that the people that I really wanted on this album were Marshall Allen and Knoel Scott from the Arkestra. I got in touch with them and they were quarantining in Sun Ra’s house. I had to find a way to record them without of course getting them infected, I reached out to the guitar player from the Sun Ra Arkestra and who has a beautiful baby and is married to a singer, one of the singers of the Arkestra, Jupiter blue. He went in there and we actually used the original microphones, you know, that Sun Ra had lying around and we made some really beautiful magic and it’s coming out very soon, end of August, I believe.

So, are we the first about to hear some of the songs off the album?

Yes, yes, indeed. I actually have started a used it. I used some of these songs just recently because I’m producing a spoken word album for my Black Panther buddy Malik Raheem who’s living in Algiers, La., and I’ve actually started a non-profit organization in partnership with him and some really amazing people in New Orleans. And so, yeah, this is the international world premiere of this jazz record.

So tell me about “Tribute to the Pharaohs Den” off “The Infinite Ones”

This is a requiem I wrote for Danny Ray Thompson who was a baritone and flute player of the Sun Ra Arkestra and he passed away during this crisis, not of COVID, but of other things. And he was really important to me because when I played with the Arkestra or just hung out with them, he would always ask me to read his tarot cards. He’s the one that gave me the uniform, his extra uniform for me to wear on stage. So I was really connected to him and he was a very brilliant, wonderful person. And so I wrote this tribute, “The Pharaoh’s Den” which actually was a store that he started in the ’70s right next to the Sun Ra house where he would actually give lessons to the kids in the neighborhood about space. So yeah, this is a requiem and I got my daughter Saba Lou singing on that track too.

Oh man. That’s so special. King Khan is taking over the radio for this hour and as I mentioned earlier, we met over a tarot reading, which we’re going to talk about a little later. We’re just coming out of the track “Trail of Tears” off “The Infinite Ones.” Did you want to speak to that?

Yes, “The Trail of Tears” is my tribute to the first nations Indians of America. As you know, the trail of tears is a very sad tale and unfortunately, you know, it continues. The government is attacking first nations people all over, including in Canada, and there’s the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls movement which is trying to find justice for women and girls whose cases are just simply thrown away. I want to give a shout out to Lissa Yellowbird-Chase who is actually an amazing first nations woman who was going to reservations and actually doing detective work and finding out about missing people. “The Trail of Tears” song is my kind of heartbreak tribute to them.

It’s amazing and we’re going to talk a bit about more of what you’re doing on that advocacy later in the hour. And as I understand it, I wanted to talk about this because I thought this was so interesting. We met over a tarot reading. You have kind of been guided to learn and understand tarot under the guidance of Alejandro Jodorowsky, which for our listeners, if you have seen “El Topo” or “Holy mountain,” you know this man, but he’s created a lot more than film. Then you went on to create the black power taro deck. And I wanted to hear kind of your history about that.

Sure I’ve been working on a soundtrack for a Civil Rights movie called “The Invaders” and it’s about a group from Memphis, a militant Black Power group. I got offered this job to score the whole soundtrack by the leader or one of the members of the Invaders, John B. Smith. The director and I just worked hand in hand, as I said, like eight or nine years and I was just flooded with this imagery and footage of like, for example, Martin Luther King’s wake and seeing a lineup of children waiting to see a deceased with the King. And it was really harrowing and it was really had put a hole into my mind. I’ve been Jodorowsky’s student for over a decade now, but my first kind of interactions with him were in dream. And every time I would dream about him, something very substantial would happen the next day or even right after the dream. Then in this dream he asked me a simple question. He said show me a card that was weird and I had no idea what he was talking about. I looked at my pocket and I found a terrible card and we both stared at it and we both nodded our heads. And we’re like, yes, that is weird. So when I woke up from that dream, I knew exactly what I had to do. I had to make the tarot for African Americans and the number of the tarot, is basically the path of the fool to consenting of the world. So my challenge was to not use my ego but to choose people that actually represented the archetypes of the cards. It took me a long to really figure out who belonged to the cards. At the same time, I was really looking for an artist who would accomplish this properly and low and behold, Michael Eaton wrote me and he’s an artist from “Game of Thrones.” He also has really incredible portraits of rock and roll and blues musicians. So it was just like that. He wrote me at that time and boom, he sent me the initial drawings. I sent them all to Jodorowsky to be approved and on the first round, we already got 15 cards out of 22 approved. Then we had to make my minor alterations to the other remaining five.

It’s been really a wonderful ride with these tarot cards because there’s a lot of people out there, especially people of color. And one of the biggest compliments I get about the cards is that people are saying, wow, we’ve never seen tarot cards with brown people in them. So I took that to another level and I made a giant prints of the cards that are about six feet tall and three feet wide and I started doing art exhibitions all over the world. I would get the people from the galleries to invite John, and he would come and talk at the exhibition. He’s a very motivating speaker, very intelligent, you know, civil rights leader. I mean, he was in meetings with Martin Luther King shortly before he was assassinated, you know? So I’ve taken this as an opportunity to the gospel of Black Power which is very misunderstood and scared of a lot people are fearing Black Power. The beautiful thing about black power is that it’s about helping everyone no matter what you look like, no matter what gender, it’s all power to all the peoples.

So I met Malik Rahim, the leader of the Louisiana chapter of the Black Panthers at my exhibit because I made two exhibits in San Francisco, and one in Oakland at the same time as the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther party and I did it on purpose because I wanted to see if I would get some people from the Panthers to come to my exhibit. And lo and behold, he was there and I asked him to speak and he spoke really beautifully. Then we became really great friends and I recently contacted him and he told me about what was going on in his neighborhood. It just really broke my heart and that’s when we started the “Just Insulin” initiative.

King Khan and Malik Rahim


Yeah. And can you speak to that, the Just Insulin and the Global Solidarity foundation?

So the just insulin campaign is very simple. We are trying to get insulin to the neighborhood of Algiers. Algiers is an amazing place in New Orleans, very historic. In fact, it was very important in the beatnik movement because William Burroughs lived there in this neighborhood from 1948-1949. Jack Kerouac actually wrote about that neighborhood and that house is in “On the Road” so the government actually has a giant plaque in front of William S Burrough’s house even though he only lived there for one year. One of the initiatives that we have is to try to recognize Malik Rahim’s house as a site of consciousness. It was a depository for the Black Panthers in the ’70s and then in 2005, it became the place where thousands of volunteers would live and help with the efforts after the Hurricane Katrina. We have these wonderful people that we’re working with and I’ve already been getting calls from people in New Orleans who are sitting on insulin because they get it for free from companies and all this kind of stuff. The fact of the matter is that most COVID victims in that neighborhood, and I’m talking about hundreds of people and just in that neighborhood, the problem was that they were diabetic and they weren’t receiving insulin. So we’ve started this campaign and it’s great. We’re really, we’re really making a lot of headway every day.

And what a perfect pair of you and Malik Rahim. I couldn’t have thought of a better pair to make a difference together in such creative ways. And I’m glad that New Orleans has mobilized. And I feel like you’ve had reach really globally that has helped mobilize these efforts.

So we started the Just Insulin initiative and the Malik Rahim house initiative but then I got really inspired and I decided with four partners in New Orleans, I’ve got Malik Rahim, Dennis Kyne from Veterans for Peace, John Henry Kelly and Heather Vins. We decided to start the Global solidarity Foundation and that was completely inspired by Malik Rahim having conversations with us about what we should be doing globally. Malik was really impressed by the way I was mobilizing people in Berlin so quickly and was saying that what we should really be fighting for is actually global solidarity so that’s the birth of the Global Solidarity Foundation. It’s the first time I’ve ever been a CEO for anything.

That’s amazing. What a great first thing though, to be CEO of.

I know, I know, I can’t even believe that. I didn’t know what CEO meant even.

Well, what an incredible come together. We’re going to keep rolling with this radio takeover. The next track that you picked is Screaming Jay Hawkins, who I would say is maybe one of the most original punk rockers out there. Do you want to do the honors for introducing this track?

Screaming Jay Hawkins, his birth name was Jalacy. There were rumors his mother actually was chased out of town by jealous wives. Apparently his mother had a lot of affairs with men. She was chased out and she gave birth to him and gave him away to some Blackfoot Indians, I believe. I really sympathize with people who have been through that struggle. It’s basically running away when you’re born, you have to run from your home. That actually happened to me when I was 17 years old. Also my father was a cocaine addict and he spent my scholarship money on his habit and stuff so I ran away from home with the blessings of my mother when I was 17 so I really identify with Screaming Jay and musically, I love how he mixes in voodoo and Indian folklore into his songs. He was probably one of the big inspirations for me to change my name from Blacksnake to King Khan.

I love that. And I do, I can hear that for sure. So I have King Khan with me who has taken over the frequencies for this hour on 88.9. We’re coming out of the track, “Never Hold On” by King Khan. Tell me about this beautiful song

“Never Hold On” is all about the heart that could never hold on and it’s the sad truth about a lot of activists. They’re not allowed by circumstance to continue their movement because of assassinations or jail so this song is a very heartfelt kind of tribute.

That’s such a beautiful song, and I love that there’s so much thought in concept into everything that you do now on top of everything we’ve already talked about. Speaking of, you’re an advocate for indigenous populations, like we talked about earlier, more specifically, the thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls of Canada in which you dedicated your new project “Rat-tribution Now” to, which is part of the 2020 Pop Kultur Festival based in Berlin, where you’re currently joining us from. Thank you for that. And you mentioned Joe Coleman as an inspiration for this project. Tell me a bit about that because he’s quite a character.

I’ve been Colemanized actually. When I met Joe in 2005-2006 in New York City, we’ve been really tight since then.I call him Uncle Joe. He’s adopted me into his family and he’s kind of canonized me in his art form. He did a portrait of me recently. I remember when I was a kid, I was about 18 years old and I saw his performance where he’s talking about his mother and father and their deaths and he’s got these live mice roaming around coming out of his suit and he’s like biting their heads off. So I wrote this story and I dedicated it to him. And I said this is dedicated to Uncle Joe Coleman, the only rat eater I have ever loved. The reason I say rat eater is because the film actually is being illustrated by my daughter. She’s also singing on it.

The film is actually a short film and it’s all about showing lives. The daily life of rat eaters in India who are actually under the untouchable class. So not a lot of people know about this story and it’s a fictionalized tale, but I basically relate the origins of Kali to the rape of a child in India. And then the revenge that the child takes on the captors and on the rapists where she chops all their heads off and adorns her body with their body parts and then decides to walk into the city as a goddess. So it’s a very heavy story. It’s actually my father who told me this story a few years back and I think that I relate it to the plight of indigenous people everywhere. They’re considered untouchable in all these places in India. There was even, they were called the Dalit Panthers, which was a faction of the Black Panthers but for the untouchables. They are still with no electricity or running water and they survive on rats and bugs. I tell this tale to show the true suffering of people in India.

That’s just incredible. I’m really excited for this film. Now we’re going to keep rolling with the radio takeover next we have Iron Knowlege’s “Showstopper.” I feel like there’s not a lot known. It’s almost like it was like a deep find so I want to know more about this

I got this compilation which was made by someone who worked at Shangri La Records in Memphis and basically the compilation was called “Chains and Black Exhaust.” This was one of the major influences on the shrines. I guess you could call it in a way black biker rock. If you could imagine Jimmy Hendrix doing some kind of crazy soul and mixing it with a kind of like almost punk. So this compilation, I just played this over and over, and I love this song by Iron Knowledge. This was one of my go-to compilations. There’s like maybe three compilations that I really like. One of them is called “Shaken Fit” released by Candy Records of R&B songs and “Hanging Out to Dry” is another comp released by Satan records. It’s all R&B garage music.

And, you know, when I listened to this song, this music, it really dawned upon me about how many amazing artists were killed in Vietnam. It was young people who played all this music on these compilations. There were the poor kids who had little and they would just get some crappy guitars and jam in their basements or in their garages, you know? And then those were the kids that were sent to Vietnam, not the Donald Trump’s and those guys. Just imagine how many Curtis Mayfields, how many Jimmy Hendricks, how many Roky Ericksons you know, all these Black and white kids were exterminated. And the reason was because the government was so afraid of the uprising. So you’re just seeing the same happen now and they’re using the same tactics that they did back then, sending you a bullet in the mail or putting bricks in your way so that you’ll pick them up and bash a cop’s face. They want this to happen, you know? And so I feel like that compilation really, really struck something deep in my soul as well as the other comps I was talking about because I believe that that music is the sound of the youth.

So I’ve been joined by King Khan for this full hour of incredible stories, projects, and music curation. So you have a new punk rock group called King Khan Unlimited and I’m so stoked to share this final song. What inspired this incredible track?

This song is about gay conversion. I’ve actually recently signed a contract with an Australian label called Bargain Bin. And it’s the label of The Chats who are some really amazing young kids from Australia and they’ve been big fans of mine for many years. I put this punk band together. It’s called, “King Khan Unlimited” and this song, it’s about Mike Pence. I’ve never been kind of, I wouldn’t call it hateful, but let’s just say Mike Pence his behavior, I find completely deplorable.

Thanks so much for joining us. Any last words for your hour?

I’m, I’m always kind of weary when someone says last words.

Last sentiments, thoughts?

I would like to say that I love Milwaukee. I’ve had some great people there. We spent a lot of time in Milwaukee back in the day. I don’t remember the sandwich shop, what it was called, but it was really cool. We used to play some live shows there and I just want to reach out to people and say that a lot of people are struggling right now, not knowing to do. You’re sitting at home, staring at yourself. I just want to say that this is a time that you can be a better person and it’s very easy. It’s just a couple of steps away. If you want to help out any of our causes, buy some T-shirts buy some tarot cards, and I’m not joking that the tarot cards are very therapeutic. The stuff I’ve learned from Jodorowsky, it took me 12 years to understand what to do, but I like to help people. If you need help, then reach out to me and yeah, ET phone home.

Awesome. Well, thanks so much for taking over our airwaves King con. Thanks so much for being here.

Oh, my pleasure. And as-salamu alaykum

Wa alaikum as salaam!

Tracklisting:

Mr Floyd – Benni feat. King Khan (8:46)

Tribute to the Pharaohs Den – King Khan – The Infinite Ones LP (world premiere) (3:39)

Trail of Tears – King Khan – The Infinite Ones (world premiere) (2:43)

Screaming Jay Hawkins – I hear Voices (2:36) 

Never Hold On – King Khan (4:36)

Showstopper – Iron Knowledge (3:37)

Yeah Yeah – Black Rock (2.59)

Foaming at the Mouth – King Khan Unlimited (2:44)

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The Beths talk to us on New Music Friday

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All the way from Auckland, New Zealand, The Beths talk to us about being able to tour in their COVID-19-free country, their journey so far since the 2018 release of “The Future Hates Me,” and their highly anticipated sophomore album “Jump Rope Gazers,” out today on New Music Friday.

Photo credit: Mason Fairey
Interview with Liz Stokes of The Beths

Thanks so much for joining me all the way from Auckland. I feel like the last time I saw you was in New Zealand and you had just released the single “Whatever.” I know you guys have been on quite a journey since then from signing to Carpark Records, touring with Death Cab for Cutie in Europe and the U.K., touring through America, lots of touring and now you’re releasing this sophomore album. I’m so stoked for the new record, but before I ask you about the record, I saw that you guys announced a tour in Zealand as it’s safe there to do so and COVID free. Up here in the north, we’re all sincerely missing going to concerts and of course we’d love to have you up here in the studio once it opens up. I wanted to ask, what does that feel like to be able to tour after not being able to for so long?

It feels… it feels amazing and pretty surreal to be honest. I think like everyone a few months ago, we were kind of facing down the potential that it could be years before we get to play again and we feel extremely lucky and grateful that things have worked out the way they have here where we’ve managed to kind of eliminate the virus. And apart from the borders being very, very strictly monitored life was kind of within New Zealand, just kind of managed to go back to a kind of normal, which is great.

That’s so exciting. I may have to pop down for summer and quarantine myself just so I can come and see a concert. I’m looking forward to it.

Well it’s coming into winter now so it’s getting a bit miserable. So it’s going to be a launch of a lot of miserable touring just because, why not?

So you’ve probably been asked this before, but I need to know “Jump Rope Gazers” what does that actually mean to you?

“Jump Rope Gazers,” I mean it’s like, it’s a made-up thing where in my head it’s got kind of a specific etymology to do with me picturing a specific situation but I’m hesitant to say exactly what it means just because whenever I speak to someone or show them the song “Jump Rope Gazers” to somebody who hasn’t heard it and then I ask them what it means I get a different answer and I really like every answer that I’ve heard. So I’m reluctant to kind of just be like, well, this is what it means because I kind of like when songs or phrases or just any kind of art–I like that it kind of can mean different things to different people cause I know that’s the way I listen to music. I’ll listen but I’ll be protecting my own life cause I’m hugely self-centered into the song but I think it comes from just trying to relate. And so, yeah, I like when people have their own interpretation.

I feel like there’s a lot of vulnerability in the first record, “The Future Hates Me” Do you feel this record is a continuation or an expansion on the subject?

I feel like it’s a…. did you say vulnerable vulnerability? Yeah, I feel like it’s an expansion on it because I feel like it was there in the first record, but there’s a bit more of a kind of sincerity and earnestness in this new record. I wonder if it’s, maybe I’ve gotten more sad, you know, and just more like, I feel like I have more of these conversations where I’m trying to just be like what, what what’s going on, what’s happening? But yeah, I think just there’s a lot of still some tongue-n-cheek stuff which was more of a theme in the first record but it’s not gone.

I wouldn’t say it’s sad. I think almost more like self-exploratory or more like open honestly, but that’s for you to tell me really!

That’s, that’s good. That’s the way that I feel. I do feel like more of a bummer lately and I don’t know if it’s new or if it’s always been that way.

There’s a lot going on in the world so I understand that. What’s a track then off of this new record that means the most to you or really resonates with you at this moment in time?

I mean there’s a song called “Out of Sight” which we released a single of. I mean they all mean different things to me but with “Out of Sight” I remember just writing the guitar part when we were out on tour and normally I don’t write on tour so I think I was just quite emotional.  But I think just back then, we were away and felt separated from everybody, but also a lot of our friends and family all were living in different places and have moved away in the last few years and I think I was particular feeling like all of everyone I know and loved was kind of scattered everywhere and people were going through different things and I needed help as well. And we’re all just trying to be there for each other in a way that was hard sometimes. I don’t have a solution of how to stay in touch with people when they move far away cause I find it really difficult, but you just know that you all love each other. I think that’s the kind of the mindset I was in when I was trying to write this song.

I understand that wholeheartedly and  I absolutely love that.

Is there anything else you’d want our Radio Milwaukee listeners to know about the record?

It’s good. I think if you listen to it, maybe you’ll find that it’s good.

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Paul Banks talks about Muzz, RZA and Leonard Cohen

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Paul Banks has been the lead singer of the band Interpol since he formed the band in 1997. But Interpol hasn’t been his only passion. He’s released a solo rap album, “Everybody on My Dick Like They Supposed to Be.” And he’s collaborated with friend RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan for a project called Banks & Steelz (when RZA came to 88Nine for an interview in 2018 he said he had to change flights in the morning because he was out celebrating the release of the new Interpol record with Banks the night before. We get into that in the interview.)

Now Banks has teamed up with Josh Kaufman, who Banks has been friends with since they were 15 years old, and Matt Barrick, who has been a touring drummer for The Walkmen and Fleet Foxes. Together they have started a new band called Muzz, and, for me, it’s probably my favorite thing Banks has ever done. It’s more toned down than Interpol and has more heart than I’ve heard from Banks before. The album is set to be out on June 5, and it is excellent. Let’s get into it with Paul Banks who called us from a park in Edinburg, Scotland.

Driely S.

What brought you to Edinburg, Scotland? 

I was over here visiting my girlfriend and then I was going to go to Spain to see my mom and basically on my flight over, is when they announced all the travel bans. So I just said, I’ll stick around. I have a UK passport, so I’m kind of good to hang and it’s really not a bad place to be. 

That’s good. How are things, how’s everyone handling it right now?

You’re allowed to go outside, I think it’s an hour a day, for exercise. And to be honest, nobody’s gonna check when you left home. So I’ve been good for exercise since I’ve been here, which is kind of like the key to my sanity. I get three runs in and doing a lot of exercise to be honest with you. And I feel extremely fortunate cause I know my mom wasn’t allowed to leave the house for like seven weeks. I have another friend in Barcelona, same deal, and I cannot imagine that. I cannot imagine being stuck indoors. I just find myself to be very fortunate. Couldn’t really pick a better place for this kind of event. 

In your life being, being who you are, things move twice or three times as fast. So now, everything has slowed down. How has your world changed or how have you felt about things slowing down? 

To be honest, when I’m not touring, I’m really a creature of habit and a homebody and if anything, I would probably beat myself up normally for not going out at all. So, to not have to make an excuse why I’m not going out is actually kind of comfortable for me. I stay home and watch movies and make music and that’s really my lifestyle when I’m not on the road, as well. I mean I also feel like being a touring musician does prep you a little bit in the sense that I don’t really follow a fixed schedule anyway. Weekends don’t matter, holidays don’t matter. Nothing really matters when you’re on tour. To me, my whole world isn’t so turned upside down by this. I think that’s just another aspect of why I would count myself one of the really lucky ones. 

I love Muzz. It is such a great project and a great record. One of the things that I’ve loved about your career is you just following your passions and going into being able to do what you want to do and you’ve done several different sounding things and so now we’re on Muzz. I feel like each one probably reflects something differently about you or where you’re at, or whatever it is. What does this sound and this project reflect in you and in your life? 

I think it reflects musical tastes that I’ve cherished since the beginning of my career. In the spirit of sort of like folk music and artists like Neil Young and Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, which are all kinds of touchstones for this band. I also feel like it marks a point in my life where I was really ready for this particular collaboration and in spite having known Josh for most of my life and having worked with him in the past, I think outside of Interpol, I wasn’t really equipped or ready for collaborations. I think I was kind of honed in on doing my solo projects and it just kind of came at a point in my life where I was working with Matt, the drummer, already on some solo stuff. And he had worked with my old pal Josh on other projects and he said, why don’t we bring Josh in on this? So for me also, I think it kind of reflects just this wonderful timing in my life, where it was like, “I’m absolutely open and ready to a rock collaboration.” And what a better way to do it than with an old friend who’s someone that I love and has been basically a guitar mentor for me since we were 15. I moved to New York and joined Interpol and he was upstate studying composition at SUNY. Our paths diverged at that point and although we stayed in touch and jammed from time to time, this was really the first time where it seemed kind of possible to actually do something or just kind of came up right at a moment where it felt like a great idea.

I’m sure that people come up to you with great ideas all the time and are like, “We should work together on this thing.” What is the story of this coming together? 

Josh and I knew each other from high school and Matt was my drummer with RZA for Banks and Steelz and Matt and Josh have done session work and known each other through that. So it was when I was jamming with Matt and he mentioned Josh and then we did one rehearsal together, and we’re working on one of my songs, and it just kinda felt like that old familiar, “Oh yeah, Josh can just kind of make everything better.” And then simultaneously to that, when we were talking about just playing together, Josh had done a recording with Matt a few years prior, which became Knuckleduster. And so he sent that to me and I was like, “This is amazing. I could definitely work on that.” And Josh also had a couple other compositions he’s done by himself. I had compositions I’d done and we just put them all in this pool of songs and realized that there was something that felt cohesive that could come of it. And I felt like I really liked the vocals that I’m writing to the songs that Josh has submitted. So we kind of knew early on that it would work. And then when we went to the studio, every time we went to the studio, we sort of unlocked a new dimension or refined what our sound would be a little bit more. So over the course of it, we probably recorded like 30 songs. It was a process of figuring out how should Muzz sound and which songs make the Muzz sound as opposed to which songs need to find some home elsewhere. 

How did you know what that direction was? Did you know coming in that you wanted to make something that had kind of like a Neil Young or Leonard Cohen background?

That was kind of through conversation about things that we love. Josh and I have shared a passion for Leonard Cohen since we were kids and Dylan as well. I kind of discovered Dylan with Josh. So that came from conversation, but then also, to be honest with you when it’s the music that Josh had written with Matt, it just was awesome regardless of genre and the music that he submitted to the collaborations at the beginning, to me, was like awesome and compelling and I had vocal ideas so it’s not so much like, I want to do something only if it’s like this. It’s kind of like the music and the chemistry sort of dictates how motivated I am and what the sound is going to be. And that was something that just kind of came organically over time. And then through a process of filtering what we don’t like, like there were certain vocal posturing or vocal styles that I would try and put or lyrics that didn’t work from us where the guys kind of said, I’m not really feeling this one moment or this approach. And then we’d rework it. And that kind of filtering out of what isn’t right, also helped us to define what was right and that was all just fun. So it just kind of happens by itself. 

So you’ve known Josh forever, when you’re that young and you meet someone, there kind of like has to be something that sticks out about them to you at the time. What was that for you and Josh?

He was funny. We cracked each other up a lot in English class, disruptively so. That sense of humor for me has always been a real bonding aspect. He’s a funny guy. He’s a very sensitive and intelligent dude and he was back then and very funny. And then he performed at the school talent show, he’d only been there for a few months, I think. And he was a far superior guitarist than I was at that time and that became another thing. I had a lovely period of my life, at that time in Spain. So I was kind of set and very happy, but I didn’t have anybody else that was following a path of becoming a musician. And so suddenly appears this guy who’s way better than me and also cool. So it was sort of like the gravitation then kind of went to let’s play guitar together and let’s like make music. 

What’s his sense of humor?

It’s absurd. We have a lot of running jokes. I mean, one of the things that just kills me, I mean Matt is actually probably the funniest guy in the crew, but the two of them are such talented musicians.

We have something on our Instagram where they’re kind of butchering classic rock riffs and it tickles me to no end. The idea that these sort of masters of their craft and their instruments would take the time to become good enough to play AC/DC, only to play it wrong for the tiny little gag of the let down of the person who wants to hear the hook played right and then they play it wrong. And it’s such a petty, absurd concept that requires years and years of training to even be able to execute that show. And the fact that they do that, just kills me. Things like that is real, real silly stuff.

That is such a good bit because it’s not really silly. It is silly. But there’s so much that goes into the tiny joke that that is.

Josh said one of the nuances is that you have to be really confident while you’re doing it. Like, ”Oh, I got this” and then just butcher it.

That is brilliant. I was talking to RZA because he came into Milwaukee. He was doing a soundtrack to a movie as it was up and he was late to the plane or I think they had changed, he was supposed to leave out of LaGuardia and he ended up leaving out of New Jersey cause he said that he was at the party for your album release. What is that relationship like? 

Oh yeah, maybe that was the Marauder album release that he was at. He’s a really special human being. The reputation or how do you say it, he kind of is what the aura that’s projected about him is. Which is this kind of like enlightened sort of the Abbott, and he really is that. He’s sort of someone who has clearly spent a lot of time in spiritual examination and meditation and he’s super bright and lives a very positive creative life and was kind of a big brother to me and someone that I really admire and look up to. And I think I learned a lot from him.

One of those things is just that, that dude is always positive. I’ve never heard him speak ill of anyone ever once. And I feel like even that is like such a rare and beautiful trait. 

That is great. What are you reading right now?

Good question. You know, the answer is “Sapiens” or whatever it’s called, that book that everybody’s read. I mean, everybody’s read it and that made me want to poopoo it, but then I forgot a book and bought it at the airport and then my girlfriend’s sister got me another copy for my birthday. So that’s what I’m reading, and I like it. I like this kind of stuff. So, it’s good.

You had also mentioned Leonard Cohen and I love Leonard Cohen. I own like every Leonard Cohen album and I think he was one of the greatest songwriters ever. What is your favorite Leonard Cohen song?

Historically, I’m going to say “Famous Blue Raincoat.”

Why is that? 

It was really speaking to me when I was finishing high school about to go to college and making the decision to move to New York city.

“It’s four in the morning, the end of December

I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better

New York is cold, but I like where I’m living

There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening”

All of that imagery and stuff was just kind of on blast in my mind as I was ending high school. Just a very special moment in my life. Such a good song. 

Did that help push you to move there? 

It did, yeah. I was actually applying to a lot of schools in a lot of places and as soon as I set foot in New York at NYU, I was like, okay, this is the place. And I think, it would have factored in kind of just knowing his work at the Chelsea Hotel and there was a lot of mystique to New York for me back then. 

The first time I went to New York, the first place I went was Chelsea Hotel. What does Leonard Cohen, what is that special thing that he does for you? 

I think he’s a sensualist and I think that kind of resonates with me. I think he’s just an insanely good poet and a great guitarist. It is the first time I’ve used that, but yeah, he’s not a lot of artists bring sexuality into their work and I feel like it’s this big facet of his work and it just kinda speaks to me. He’s like someone I would have liked to have hung out with, and also the words are just so beautiful. Probably “Suzanne” was the first one I ever heard and I mean, come on. He’s so good. 

One of my favorite examples of that is on “Death of a Ladies’ Man” where there’s a big ramp up to the chorus and the chorus is, “Won’t you let me see your naked body.”

I listened to that song like an hour ago, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I went up to the tallest, blondest woman in the room and I said, baby, let me see.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

The indelible energy of Jehnny Beth

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I remember seeing Savages set at Pitchfork Music Festival in 2016. It was a muggy day and they played in the middle of it. Their bassist starting rumbling off the riff to “Adore” and I’m not sure how it happened, but by the middle of the song, Jehnny Beth, dresses in all black, hair slicked back, was 30 feet into the crowd. Held up in the heat she flexed her arm into a clenched fist and belted a surprisingly gentle statement for such a dark moment, she repeated again and again, “I adore life.”

That is the energy that captured me with Savages. Jehnny Beth has an energy that few people have. Maybe more people have it, but few people have harnessed it and handled it like she has. Jenny Beth has an album, and a book of erotica coming out this summer. She called me from her apartment in Paris.

Andreas Neumann

How is Paris?

Paris is, you know, like everywhere, it’s locked down. So we’re not allowed to go out without a paper. It is very uncertain how the future will evolve. Paris in itself is very quiet and very nice. It’s been lovely weather and there’s been no cars and no people in the streets. So it’s been quite quiet and nice. Paris itself is fine. 

Do you have a timeline on the restrictions? 

They said that the government restriction will go away on the 11th of May, but I doubt it. Tonight they’re supposed to make an announcement about reopening schools at that date though. It’s kind of like everywhere. It’s very unsure, uncertain, you know? 

What have you been doing to fill your time?

I’ve been working a lot. I’ve been doing a lot of interviews. I’ve been doing a lot of editing, a lot of writing, a lot of filming, taking pictures. Whether it’s for magazines and just for ourselves with Johnny Hostile. We’re confined in Paris and we take this opportunity.

We like to be creative together or separately, but it’s kind of natural.

It’s the way we lead our life, so not going out on Saturday night doesn’t really impact our life at all. For me like a Saturday night filming my hand is usually how I would spend the night anyway with Johnny. So it’s not really changed our way of life. The thing that has changed is obviously the planning of the release of the record, which had to be moved. But also the touring is completely uncertain, when we’ll be able to go back. And obviously touring is part of putting out a record and going out and playing it live. And I was very excited about that.

I think if I have, one negative, it would be that the touring, it’s definitely what’s breaking my heart, but I tried to not think of it and I try to just think that it will come back and I’ve got a wonderful team. They’ll get me back on track whenever they can. So I just think I just tried to concentrate on the details of the work I’m doing, whether it’s writing or editing.

Yeah. What’s a thing that you’re doing that has been giving you the most joy? 

Boxing. It’s definitely helped a lot. So when I moved to Paris three years ago, I was 12 years in London before I moved to Paris, we have a studio here. So it’s good, new life. I don’t know anyone here, so I’m sort of isolated, and that’s how I wrote the song “Innocence” actually, on the record. I was sort of not really feeling connected with the rest of the world. 

Why did you move to Paris?

We had a studio there. We had the opportunity to get a studio. Me and Johnny Hostile. I felt I needed a change. I knew I wanted to make a solo record. I had the studio in Paris. Me and Johnny Ho had been living in different cities for years. I was still in London. And he was in Paris. So I felt that after 12 years in London, it felt needed to change.

I wanted to reconnect with my family.

I left London when I was 20 and I didn’t really spend time with my family. I really went away, ran away. And all I did was music and art and everything I was doing in my life was surrounded by that or evolving around that. And I thought that it was time to go to therapy. I started seeing a therapist in my native language because I started to forget about my French. Not forget, obviously, but like I started to speak really badly in French and use English words all the time. And I felt a bit like a dick.

I had spent a decade developing my artist identity, obviously Savages being the loudest expression of that. I felt that I’d left behind my, my childhood identity or my roots, you know. And I feel a bit fragmented. I think I needed to reconnect those parts. I felt quite happy, to be honest. Part of the journey of making the record was to reconnect with myself, but also with my past self. I remember admiring artists who could talk about their parents. My dad, my mother, and being proud of their roots and I was completely unable to do that. It was like if you asked me something about my roots, I’m like, that’s not important. It’s not who I am. In my twenties, I was completely obsessed with the idea of escaping my conditioning, escaping my education. Thinking that where you come from doesn’t have to define who you are. And trying to find my own identity, my own voice, because there’s truth in both. I think it’s important to say “no” in order to find out what you want, what belongs to you. I was very much in that energy when I was younger. 

Do you feel that you came back because you had found that identity in Savages and now you’re comfortable with that?

I don’t know if I felt comfortable. I don’t think I did. Nothing felt comfortable about going back to France. Even making this record. I promised myself I was going to do this record, but it was definitely not that because I had found out why or how I was going to do it. It was all uncertainty. I had no idea. It was just an impulse and the gut feeling and intuition that this is what I need to do. It’s like a survival mode. Musicians, and artists in general, are very fragile, sensitive people, let’s say. Like you are, I’m sure like a lot of people are. But I think when you are an artist, there’s always, this is going to sound very dramatic, but at the end of the day, if you’re not connecting with yourself, you’re in danger. Why do you think there’s a lot of musicians committing suicide? I have to feel I have to be sincere and say that this is what I try to escape. This is why I try to avoid, I try to do what’s right for me because I know that at the end of the day, to feel fake is very dangerous. Life is too short to not do what you want to do, and at the end of the day, you risk a lot, I think, to not listen to that inner voice. If that makes sense.

Yeah, let’s bring that back to boxing, that’s where we departed. How does that connect to boxing? 

So I moved to Paris and I don’t know many people and then I do this sort of filming for a film. Like we shoot a trailer for an action movie that I was supposed to act in. And I am trained for weeks by these guys who usually do the James Bond training. They’re amazing guys and they tell me I’ve got an ability for boxing. They say, you should really try to find a boxing club. So in the end I don’t do the movie because I didn’t like the trailer, but I had all these amazing experiences, and I was trying to remember the advice. And so I tried to find a boxing club. So I first go to clubs and I don’t like the vibe. I don’t like the people who train, the coaches, nothing there. It’s a natural vibe and it’s not really what I’m looking for. And then I found this amazing club called Le Hall boxing, like five minutes from where I live. And suddenly, I find a community that I didn’t know I needed. I found amazing people, women, men and children even sometimes. They train children as well. And it’s becoming my home and I go all the time and I just start to feel that what I needed from the stage, I was so missing from not touring. And boxing was bringing it to me. It was giving me that physicality, that energy, that building up, also sense attitude that boxing has. The frights as well. It’s a bit scary. I get into this and then now that I’m in confinement, and you ask me what I do that is saving me or whatever, I started free online boxing classes. So I can still do it and do my training like four or five times a week and I wouldn’t be able to survive without it. Being completely honest. It’s good for mental health.

What are you getting out in boxing? Because I feel like, in listening to the album and Savages and seeing you live, it doesn’t seem too far of a stretch to say that you’re releasing something in both of those. 

Well, it’s separate self-expression isn’t it? I’m glad you feel that because that’s how I wanted the record to sound like, an expression, you know. Even from the people who participated in it. Because it’s quite a collaborative record and it was my desire to bring people in but not be controlling. Like I really left the space for them to express themselves and for the record to belong to them for a while, completely. Whether it was Atticus or Flood, John Hostile or Romy Madley Croft, they had ownership of the record for a while and I wasn’t really feeling scared. I mean, I would sometimes, but in general I felt I have the last word anyway. I’m the artist. I did want the album to be quite emphatic and quite contrasted with a very strong release of energy but also sort of stark, quiet simplicity. But it has to be composed of light and darkness. Because that’s what life is.

As a musician and as an artist, you can express that in any way and your album has a sound that has that release of energy. You could release that in a way that is quiet or some artists do it in a way that is soft but yours is a loud expression of that. Why do you think that when you go to make sounds that that is the sound? 

Because I think energy is my best quality. If I’m honest, and I’ve been told that since I’m a kid that I have an energy and I’d say that’s probably my best quality.

I think that that is why, when I am listening to you or seeing you, that’s the thing that comes through. Where it’s like, this person is something different. I think that you really are using your special gifts. You are shining a light on that. You found that and you’re expressing it. I think that’s kind of where an artist becomes themselves, when you find that and you don’t make it up or you don’t try to have it be something else, but it is there. 

It’s funny you said that cause I do believe that everyone has a light. Everyone has a light. And I think when I was a kid, I used to see that light in people. In people my age, I used to see that in my siblings my and, and whenever I would see that they would give up on it. I think nothing would make me more sad, you know, give up on their talent and it can come back and you can revive it, but it’s so much waste. I think society and schooling, it destroys the energy and that light that we all have. 

I think so too. And I think that when you go to the right things and they push that or you hit that and it makes that develop. I think everyone has that light and sometimes you’d go to a place that shuts out that light and then you will become a different person, but if you go to a place that encourages that. That pushing really brings it out stronger than ever. And if you can find a way to constantly be bringing that out, that is the greatest expression. 

But it means you have to make hard choices sometimes because we’re talking about freedom really. This sort of ability to choose what’s right for you, to know that even if you don’t know it from intuition, but it doesn’t come for free. There’s a price to pay for that and sometimes you have to say goodbye to a part of your life or even some people. Freedom teaches you that you’re not entitled to everything, which is a paradox. 

What is a song that’s been speaking to you right now? 

There is one. It’s absolutely amazing, it’s a gem. It’s 10 minutes. So the music I’ve been listening to, weirdly is instrumental, in this time of confinement because I think it’s easier to feel like I’m in a dystopian movie, and it helps. I know a lot of people might want to play a lot of music to cheer them up at the moment because of the situation and I tend to want to go the other way. I tend to try to feel that mood even more. I found the perfect music to do that. At the beginning of the confinement, Nine Inch Nails have released two hours and a half of music, in the names of ghosts. And so there’s Ghosts VI: Locusts and then there’s Ghosts V: Together. And I’ve been obsessed with these two records. It’s literally some of the best music. I mean what Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor have been doing in film, music and otherwise in Nine Inch Nails is just incredible to my taste. Really, really spot on to me. But this is just like the soundtrack of confinement basically. I’m not kidding. It’s like in total maybe two, three hours of instrumental music and it goes to different moods. But I think one particular track stood out for me and it’s 10 minutes, 52. But it’s the track “Around Every Corner.” And for me, that’s exactly like being in a film noir. You know, I feel like I’m in a Melville movie or something and I just put it on in my little white headphones and just walking around the streets whenever I’d go to my office, from my office to my house. Or just writing some things and doing that. And it’s great for if you’re taking pictures and you want to be in the mood, it’s just really incredible. So that would be my recommendation for confinement to feel it even more. Let the confinement sink in. 

I find myself doing the same thing where I see some of my friends are like, I want to listen to something that’s going to take me out of this. And I’m like, we need to honor what this is like. That’s just as important as saying let’s recognize this and feel this feeling. 

In the spirit of what you just said, I’ve been writing every night, one page, like a diary. Because I felt that’s like a historical moment and I need to be the historian right now and just write down what’s going on and what it is like to feel and to be in this moment and just keep a trace of it. I think it’s important. 

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Perfume Genius on conjuring the physicality of modern dance on his beautiful new album

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Perfume Genius is the project of Mike Hadreas. His last two albums, “Too Bright” and “No Shapes,” have been masterpieces in making a sound and a statement that is uniquely the work of Perfume Genius. Since the last album, Hadreas worked with choreographer Kate Willich to create an interpretive dance piece called “The Sun Still Burns Here” that he debuted at the Joyce Theater in New York City.

On his new album “Set My Heart On Fire Immediately” he brings the physical presence from that performance. “The songs were very physical and present and so we wanted the recording to be the same,” he says. He has worked again with collaborator Blake Mills, who pushes that sound even further, and he says he’s finally comfortable bringing others in on his creative process while still projecting his own personality. The whole thing comes together in his beautiful new album. We caught up with him in his home via Skype.

Camille Vivier

I was in New York a couple months ago at the Joyce Theater and I was able to see “The Sun Still Burns Here” in person. It was such a joy to be able to be in the crowd and to see it. That performance was so physical and in listening to the album, I feel like the body itself is a part of the album. What you learned from that experience and that performance and how it comes through in this album?

I mean, I think it was a heavy influence even the way that we worked and the way that we created.

That kind of shifted and shook up how I think art making can be. Traditionally, well actually, always, writing music, I start by myself and the map is all created and written on my own and in as much isolation as possible and I’m very dramatic about it usually. So I thought that was required of me. I thought that that’s how it worked. If I wanted to access that part of me that can write and the kind of dreamy, kind of supernatural things that I feel happen when I’m writing that I need to be alone and be given space and time to do that.

When we were making the dance, I felt it happening in a room with people. I felt it happening in my body, in a very physical way. I was watching the dancers to move and I realized that they are doing what I do by myself, but they’re doing it with each other and they’re doing it with the air and with the chair, and it shook a lot up for me and I started to experience that and I became really greedy for it and really happy for it.

I’ve been doing this a long time and I am constantly trying to push myself and be uncomfortable and level up, but it’s always been within a specific framework of singing or playing, and to have these other opportunities to be really uncomfortable and push myself in all these different ways and then have that bring so much joy and magic was really powerful. And I think it really informed what I was writing about too and how I processed a lot of the ideas into songs. If I was dealing with like an abstract feeling or something that I didn’t have figured out, so I was just talking about it, I funneled it into something or into a story that was made real and was very physical and something I could talk about, something you could touch and using names and stuff like that. 

It looked like you were in your element. Seeing you on the stage, it felt like, this is what this person is meant to do. Whenever I listen to a Perfume Genius album, there’s nothing else that sounds Perfume Genius. How did you achieve that kind of other worldliness in the album?

I think we recorded it with sort of the same, almost like a manifesto. Like the songs were very physical and present and so we wanted the recording to be the same. I wanted us to record as much live and as much all together and with the same group of musicians as possible, so that you could hear the performance and feel the room and it felt like a captured moment in time. My other recordings are more layered and can go into space because there’s lots of technology and layers and all kinds of stuff everywhere. I didn’t want to limit how expansive it can be or how big and huge it can be or how small and intimate it could be. But using that as a framework, I guess. 

Most of the time I just have no idea how. I’m less surprised now when I write a song. I used to, every time I would write a song and be like, how did I do that? Where did that come from? And I’m not surprised anymore. I know that I can at least, I’m not guaranteed to write a good one, but I will go into my room and I can make one. And then I keep up the good ones to share. I still don’t really know how it all works. I think the key is really just to do it. That’s what I’ve found. Just making something, just actually doing it. 

What do you want the listener to feel when they’re listening to this album? 

I mean, the same things that I’m looking for when I’m listening to music. Why make it?

Either something that is so heavy with mood that you immediately almost chemically shift or like your whole body just sinks no matter where you are.

Like you could be at Denny’s or something and then the song comes on and you’re immediately in this dreamscape or in this hyper-intimate or claustrophobic or whatever the vibe is, is so heavy that you’re just immediately there. And then beyond that, I tried to keep conflict in the music and a lot of mess in it. Have dark and light be there at the same time. Have joy and sorrow be there at the same time, because that’s how I feel. I feel all those things shifting and worming around all the time.  So I’m hyper-specific about my experiences and about the things I want to share and I leave things in that are vulnerable or are confusing because that’s what I feel life is. And I want people to be able to listen to my music and feel, even if they don’t feel better, at least feel like they have a companion in not feeling better.

The Quarantine Gauntlet

What’s the number one podcast you’ve been listening to in quarantine? 

Want to know a secret? I’ve never listened to a podcast! Like 10 years ago I listened to the first two episodes of Serial. 

That’s perfect. Google Hangout, Zoom Meeting or Houseparty? 

I’ve only done a Zoom meeting once. Houseparty!

Have you made a sourdough starter or bread yet? 

No, but there was this thing my mom made called Amish Friendship Bread and one of her friends had to give her some weird slop to start it. If anybody nearby has that, the mother of that. Whatever, fermented, yeast-y, goop. I’m craving that right now. 

What is the best movie that you’ve watched so far?

We rewatched “Hanna,” the movie “Hanna.” I’m not going to say her name! Cate Blanchett is in it. But it’s good. It’s like a really intense, fight or flight, music video, hyper-stylized. It’s good. I would rewatch it. It’s cathartic. 

What is your go-to junk food item? 

Peanut butter. I don’t know if that’s a junk food, is it? The amount I eat is definitely a junk food. I go through a jar in like two or three days. This is like my healthy treat. I crush up a rice cake with peanut butter and maple syrup and I just mash it all together. And it’s like a slop. Super good. 

What is the best thing you’ve cooked? 

I don’t think I’ve made anything! I sound like I don’t do anything! I’ll tell you what I do like, that is a good snack. I make a tuna salad with horseradish and dill, and I eat it with watermelon radishes that I cut into little chips. 

That sounds amazing. What is a song that you have listened to the most in quarantine? 

Probably “Tower Song” by Townes Van Zandt. Over and over and over for months. 

Why’s that? 

The way that he writes is so resigned. It’s just this sort of acceptance of how horrible things are. It’s sort of easy acceptance. It’s calming to me because it’s not letting go of any it, it’s just resigned to it. I feel like I spend so much of my time scrambling and trying to soothe and figure out, that it’s nice to listen to somebody that is just accepting that this is over, or that this isn’t working. 

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Thundercat on where you tie your durag and what it says about you, Dragon Ball Z and Lil Uzi Vert

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Thundercat is known for his virtuosity on the bass. Born and raised in Southern California by a musical family, he got into it early. When Kamasi Washington came into the studio at 88Nine he was talking about a jazz band that he had with Thundercat when they were in high school. That is also the time where they played back up for Snoop Dogg. Kendrick Lamar saw his talents and brought him in to play on “To Pimp A Butterfly” in 2015. After that Thundercat has been pushing the ceiling with 2017’s “Drunk” and “It Is What It Is” which he released this year.

One thing that I didn’t really know going into this interview was that Stephen Bruner is funny. I knew he was a bit of an oddball, which we love, but there is just a lightness to his being that I found infectious. Because of that I am going to post the audio to this interview too. There were a lot of laughs and it’s nice to hear them.

Interview with Thundercat
Parker Day

How are you doing? 

I’m okay. I’m only taking it one day at a time, as I can. Everything’s doing what it does, basically. We’re just in a place of trying to maintain. I’m watching a lot of cartoons, which is really good. I’ve written a little bit of music, but  just kinda taking it easy, somewhere between the video games and Naruto I’m chilling.

Right on. I do want to talk about anime. When did you start watching anime in your life? 

I started watching anime at a really young age. The reality is a lot of our cartoons, even from my childhood are Japanese animators. A lot of them are very influenced by Japanese culture. Even the Thundercats had Japanese animators. I feel like the safest way to say it would be that I’ve always watched anime, I feel like that’s the actual reality, right. From like the Silver Hawks to GI Joe, that was Japanese squads doing that. But the part where I first consciously made a decision to watch anime would be probably around 10, between the age of 10 and 13. 

What was your first favorite show?

Dragon Ball Z. 

Dragon Ball Z means so much to so many people. What does Dragon Ball Z mean to you? 

Dragon Ball Z, for me, was like if somewhere between really enjoying how the characters looked, it was like “Wow, these characters are drawn so much better than what I’m used to,” and the types of powers they had. It all seemed like it was within reach. It was not something far fetched. 

To be honest with you, I’ve thought about this a lot, but I don’t know why it’s such a strong thing for a person like me. I’ve always pondered this question, what makes Dragon Ball Z so imperative to a person? I think it’s somewhere between the lines of, it’s inspirational, but at the same time you empathize or you become one of the characters in the story. On multiple different levels you connect to it and at different phases in your life you connect to it. 

It feels like it’s your story, your struggle. 

So I don’t know, something about it really resonates like that.

Who’s your character in Dragon Ball Z?

Vegeta. Vegeta is definitely my favorite. 

Why is that? 

It’s funny, I tend to get into arguments about why Vegeta is a favorite. This is a real thing. Every now and again, I get into arguments with my friends about it cause they’re always like, Nah, it’s not Vegeta,” it’s somebody else. 

But the reason why I love Vegeta is because I feel like Vegeta genuinely learns what it means to be human. 

He has more of a struggle than Goku does. Goku just kind of dumb. He’s kind of like a child. He’s a bad father. Vegeta is an amazing father and a great husband, like Goku’s really bad at it and Goku’s the most absent father of absent fathers there could ever be. Trunks is the raw super saiyan, right? And everybody’s like, “Man, Trucks is so raw.” But it’s because Vegeta taught him to be that raw. Gohan kind of fizzles out a bit. Gohan’s really good at math and science and couldn’t fight, but he’s nowhere near Trunks and it’s like, you can tell who was the better father. Vegeta, to me, got more of the human experience than Goku did. Even though Goku was raised on earth since he was a boy. He’s a great protector, don’t get me wrong. He does a great job, protecting but he’s kind of removed. He doesn’t process it like Vegeta. There’s one scene in Super where literally, was it Beerus? Who slapped Vegeta’s wife and Vegeta loses his mind and it was the right reaction. It was tight. Goku’s whole entire life could get destroyed and he would still be worried about training. His fights destroy planets, it’s one of those things, he can’t fight on the same planet cause he’ll destroy it. It’s insane. We can talk about Dragon Ball all day!

We gotta talk about durags, too! Who is your durag inspiration? Who rocks the durag like no one else rocks the durag? 

Slump God. 

Slump God definitely rocks the durag. And as you know, has changed the game for durag rocking. Slump God is the raw deal. He’s the one that tied it to the front. He let everybody know he was crazy. The different places you tie a durag says a lot about the type of person you are. And we tend to believe that when you tie your durag in the front, you’re a little bit crazy. 

So where do you tie yours and what does that say about you? 

In the front. I tie mine in the front too [laughs].

Who’s another durag inspiration?

Kip from Napoleon dynamite. 

Slump God

Okay, I’ve got some questions about how you are doing in quarantine. 

Where are you, where are you holding up? 

I’m at home on my couch. California, Hollywood.

When’s the last time that you wore real pants? 

Real pants? It’s had to have been like months at this point. Maybe New Year’s or Christmas. 

What is your go-to junk food item? 

I’m vegan now, so I think my go-to junk food would be spinach or I don’t know, like every now and again I get real crazy and take a wild sip of some fruit juice. 

Have you read a book? 

I mean, I’m always reading comic books, so yeah. I definitely have read a comic book or two. I also read Dr. Sebi’s books. He’s kind of somewhere between a holistic and actual full on [doctor]. He put out several books and it’s kind of speculated that he was killed because he claimed to have the cure for AIDS and herpes and all these different things, back in the day. Nipsey Hussle was literally doing a documentary on him before he was brutally murdered. I’m looking at the cover of one of the books now, and it’s like “how to naturally detox the liver, reverse diabetes and high blood pressure through Dr. Sebi alkaline diet.” He’s kind of a guy that changed the game for stuff. He was around in, I think it was in the early nineties and every now and again you hear somebody saying, I’m going to Africa to get something fixed. It was because they were going to go see Dr. Sebi.

What’s the best nugget you picked up from that book?

Stop eating trash. It’s kind of like the consensus of Dr. Sebi. He’s just like, “Stop being a piece of shit.” 

What’s the best thing that you’ve cooked in quarantine?

Lentils and spinach. I like to poop a lot. So it’s like one of those things, any food that makes you poop. I really enjoy beans and lentils. Kale and spinach, I like that stuff. Stuff that makes you get on the toilet in the morning, get another type of exercise. 

If you could do the soundtrack to a video game, what video game would you make the soundtrack to?

 The first thing that comes to mind is Mario Kart. That would be so much fun. I love Mario Kart. I love the music there and I kind of feel connected to the music there, but I also would say Super Smash Bros. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or like Smash Bros. I like the music from Smash Bros.

What is the song that you’ve listened to the most? 

That’s a good question cause I think it kind of goes between Lil Uzi, “You Better Move.” I’ve been listening to Lil Uzi’s joint, it’s pretty raw. So, Lil Uzi, “You Better Move” off of the new “Eternal Atake” album. The other thing I’ve been listening to is Shooter McShootem. And he had a song on his album called “Istbu.” I’ve been listening to that a lot. So between Eternal Atake’s “You Better Move” and Shooter McShootem’s “Istbu.”

Can we just talk about Uzi for a second? What is he doing that grabs you? 

Uzi’s just dope. He’s funky man. He’s just a vibe. He’s a dope vibe. He can rap and on top of the part where he can rap, his albums be dope. Like it just be killer. 

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Radiohead guitarist EOB talks recovering from COVID-19 and the magic of songs tuned at 432 hertz

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Ed O’Brien is a founding member and guitarist in Radiohead. After fans asking him what he would make if he made a solo album he said he would make “an existential dance record.” And he has finally released that record, it’s called “Earth.” And it is out now. EOB dropped off the grid for a while and has lived all over the globe in Wales, where we reached him, and in Brazil, which he wrote a song about on this record. He is a global thinker as well. In this interview he pulls back and talks about subjects as big as the meaning of life, but he also pulls all the way in and describes why he tunes at precisely 432 hertz and his obsession with Quincy Jones.

How are you doing? I heard you had COVID-19.

I’m well, thank you. I had the virus I think and I’m getting over it, but I’m all good. I feel like I’m coming out of it. I mean, it does hang around a bit, but I’m all right. 

Yeah, I saw you lost smell and taste? 

Yeah, exactly. And I was very fluey. I didn’t get tested because it’s very hard to get tested here. I don’t know how you do it. I didn’t want to turn up at a hospital, you know, there are far more deserving cases, with very few testing kits. I’m pretty set. My symptoms are the symptoms that New York Times said is COVID-19, right. 

 Well I’m glad that you are feeling better. You made this album and it’s called “Earth,” as we’re going through this thing and figuring out that we are a planet together now. What was the meaning of the album going in? And has that changed since we’re in this thing now?

No, not really. I wanted to make a record. When Radiohead fans would ask me what I was doing and I said, I’m making a record. What kind of record, is it going to be? And I said I want to make an existential dance record. And they were like, “Whoa.” And I’m like, “Yeah.” I guess fundamentally, I’m really interested in the bigger picture. I’m interested in the detail of life and the fact that people will feel lonely. We feel lost at times. We feel happy, we feel sad, but I’m always so interested in those questions that used to fascinate me as a teenager. And I think many teenagers, it’s like, hmm, what are we doing here? 

And I love that photo that was taken of the planet from Voyager One spacecraft. It’s the furthest photo. It’s this tiny, little, pale, blue dot. And they call it the Pale Blue Dot. And the wonderful American cosmologist Carl Sagan writes these incredibly beautiful words that accompany this. It gives the pictures like this, this pale blue dot, this dust drifting in space. This is home. This is us. I was trying to sort of zoom in and out, so there’s a detail and the nitty gritty of life. But also I was trying to zoom out and go look, there’s a sort of wonder to life. There’s a beauty and almost a divinity that is very hard to see when you’re embroiled in the drama of, for instance, urban life, of living in a city and it’s busy. I’ve lived in London for like the last 25 years and everything is a hundred miles an hour. When you pull back and you look at nature and you look at this planet that we live on and you really, you wake up. You’re awakened and it’s an extraordinary thing. What we’re all doing here. It’s not all great by any means. We’re going through a terrifying phase where things are being reduced at the moment because life has changed immeasurably in the last few weeks. But there’s also a bigger story there. And so that was where I was coming from. I wanted to look at the nitty gritty of life, but I want to see the bigger picture because there’s real beauty there and there’s light and also there’s light in daily things in our lives that are providing light. That’s what, that’s what inspires me. 

I love that we ask those questions and I think it’s so important to think of that. What do you think that we’re doing here?

That’s the big one. I mean, what are we doing here? 

We’re having experiences. 

I resonate a lot with a lot of Eastern philosophies, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism and that whole idea of we have many lives on this planet and the human spirit lives on after our physical body dies and we come back and we’re here to have an experience, to have experiences in certain lifetimes. 

The way that I made sense of the depression that I had for years, was coming from almost seeing it from a higher place. I was like, “Well, I can carry on drinking, doing drugs, falling in with the same kind of people and what am I learning?” I’m learning it makes me unhappy and I’m depressed. So I have a learning here.

My learning is how to find peace of mind, how to find happiness. For me that feels like one of my journeys. 

One of the things that I have to do on this planet for me. I think as a planet, as a whole, we have to get to a place which is not where we currently are and where we haven’t been, but we have to move to a place of respect, kindness for one another for the planet and we have to find a system that embraces that. Because the system that we have, and I’m not an anticapitalist or anything, but it doesn’t work for the planet and it doesn’t work for most of humanity. It pits you against one another. So we have to find a system that works. People go, “Well, what system is that? There’s gotta be a better way.” I fundamentally felt like in a thousand years, human beings are going to look back on this time and we who in the past, before this pandemic, of being all powerful or mighty, look at these incredible buildings and these things that we can do and aren’t we brilliant? I’ve always thought that people will look back on this time and go, “You know what? They had their heads up their asses, they really couldn’t see the wood for the trees.” And I really fundamentally believe that. 

I think what’s interesting is, so many people think that now. The conversations we’re all having now, there’s a shift in consciousness and there’s a shift that’s happening and I don’t know how you explain that, but there’s something happening and for all the horror and the fear of what’s going on in pandemic at the moment, to me fundamentally feels that this pandemic is part of that shift, that’s part of the necessary shift that we have to get to, to fully awaken. That’s what people are doing. They’re fully awakening about the fragility and the importance of life and being on this planet and all those people who’ve been undervalued in our country and probably in America, the health workers, the key workers. Whereas we’re in societies that worship the billionaires, the Warren Buffetts of this world, the Jeff Bezos, these are people to aspire to. They don’t mean shit at times like this. 

It’s the ordinary person. 

The person who’s delivering your groceries who is risking getting Coronavirus and dropping. It’s the postal worker. It’s the people working in our health system. And that’s the positive stuff about this time.

When we come together, we can be an incredible force for good. 

I do want to talk about music as well, on the album. I think the songs that are eight minutes on this album are always going somewhere, and they’re always moving. What did you want that movement of those big long songs to be?

It’s a bit like a trance. 

You get into that trance, that hypnotic state and it’s a combination of  the tempo, the rhythm, and also the melody. 

I love music like that. It was interesting living in Brazil, and experiencing Carnival because Samba at Carnival’s very similar to that. You get into a trance. They’re an hour and a quarter and it’s this revolving, hypnotic. I love that. There’s something very powerful about that. So on a song like Brazil, there’s an argument that says, once the vocal is finished at the end, that’s it and it’s out. But I’m like, no, you need to have the other three and a half, four minutes at the end. It’s like tapping into a very primal and also quite a cosmic side of being and dancing. 

I’m fascinated by exploring different tempos. 

So a lot of the songs we’d only really been focused when I found that tempo. What I realized was that tempo, it’s like a pulse. And as a human being, you resonate. There’s a reason why dance music coming out of Britain in 1989 was all at 120 BPMs. And similarly, now a lot of EDM is like at o127-129. It’s because there’s something about those tempos. There are tempos that you have that really worked well. So a 123 doesn’t work, but at 120 or 127, it’s like it’s in focus. You just feel it so much more. It resonates. So I’m really fascinated. I’m exploring tempos. And that’s what I did and that’s what I want to get into a lot more as well.

And also I do this whole thing with tuning the music. So the music is tuned down, slightly standardized tuning is at like 440 Hertz acres. I tune at 432. Most of my music, not all the songs, but some of them are tuned at 432 and there’s a whole thing where, again, music and the science behind it, that resonates. Tones resonate more at 432 and they do at 440. 

How did you find that out? 

It was at Glastonbury Festival and I was told about this old scale called the Solfeggio scale. 

So music, in the middle ages a lot of it happened in churches and it was before churches became too sinister. So the music they believe that came there didn’t just uplift, but it had a kind of a healing quality. And they talk about music being 432. So of course you Google it and the beauty of the internet is you get this whole, it’s like entering a parallel universe and then you’ve got the conspiracy theorists who jumped on and said music only went to 440 in the 20th century and it’s slightly out and it’s meant to be at 432 and I did this whole thing. You can read about it, but there’s nothing like trying it out. So when I demoed, I demoed a song at 440 Hertz, which is standard, slightly flatter at 432 and then slightly sharper at 444. I did a blind test and then I said to the engineer, just play me the things and I’ll tell you which ones resonate. And I said 432, I was like, “What is that one? That’s the one that I feel it.” And he said that’s 432. It’s pretty cool. Listeners might want to investigate that. There’s a friend of mine who’s a musician in LA and he does a lot of work with children who are in comas. He does a lot of sounds. And I said to him, Joe, have you ever considered re-tuning? And he said, “My tuner to 432 Hertz?” And I said, “Yeah.” He said, “All the music that when I work with these children, there’s something more powerful and more resonant about that.”

That is fascinating. The life sciences of music like that is just so, it’s so incredibly interesting. It’s just as magical as it feels. I feel like once you get into the science and the technicality of music, there’s a group of people that kind of feels like that takes them out of it. Like kind of knowing that. But I think that that being there is just as wild. 

And you’re not actually removing the magic because actually what happens when you make the music, you scientifically change it. 

It’s like that’s part of the craft. How can you optimize the magic because what you’re doing there is you’re optimizing magic. 

I’ve always loved being inspired by people like Quincy Jones. 

I love that whole West Coast thing that they do. And you have this in America, you kind of try and get to the science behind the magic and the craft. 

He talks about the theater-wave states, the brainwaves you go to in sleep, he said that’s where creativity comes out of, that wave state. So he’s really interested and that. 

There’s lots of stuff out there now, you can get these little kind of binaural apps you can listen to and the brain slows down to get to that state. And that’s the state that also a lot of athletes get to when they visualize. It’s almost like you visualize and you feel you make contact and then then you sort of awaken and you step into that in a way. I’ve always loved that. 

America’s so good at this, Americans are so good at taking the creative process and like, How can make it better? How can we make more money from it? How can we optimize it to make more money?

What is brilliant about Quincy Jones?  

He’s obviously an extraordinary human being. He’s just got a knack of seeing and feeling great songs and how you get there and the process. There’s one thing, understanding. It’s one thing taking a band, but how do you maximize the potential of that song? And I think Quincy Jones is a master of that. I became obsessed with Quincy Jones for about 10 years. I would devour every interview. I’d go online and see everything, I’d read. He works so beautifully. He has his team. When he was making the Michael Jackson records, he’s got his engineer, Bruce Swedien, who’s a key component. He’s the best engineer, and then he has his musician. So he has his keyboard player and I momentarily forget his name. He’s a British guy and he’s a keyboard player. And I’m going to be crucified now for not remembering. He has his team and he involves everybody and he brings a lot of love. But he brings a lot of science. He brings up craft. He brings up musicianship. His whole mantra is, “I’ve got to work with the best,” and that’s what he does. He also creates an environment that works really hard, but they’re really supportive and it’s really open. It’s really creative. And it’s not judgmental. It’s not like, “Oh, that’s a shit idea.” He understands the bigger picture. And he always has a lovely phrase, someone would ask him, “Well Quincy, why is it that take four was better than take five or whatever?” And his description of it, he says it’s that, that’s the moment when God walks through the room. And that’s the magic. And that’s the divinity. That’s the magic and the godlike quality that happens in that music. I love people like Quincy Jones. 

He’s like the Buddha of our industry. 

He’s the wise old sage now. 

What’s a favorite Quincy Jones track?

He produced The Brothers Johnson “Strawberry Letter 23.” That’s just a beautiful production. It’s the cover of the Shuggie Otis song. It’s brilliant.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

What swimming in the ponds of London can teach you about music: An interview with Porridge Radio

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Porridge Radio released what might be one of my favorite albums of the year so far. It’s swirling and searching. It yells out, but is incredibly soft. At one point, lead singer Dana Margolin yells, “I want us to be kinder to ourselves and to each other” over and over and over again.

So we reached out to Dana Margolin to talk about this incredible record and how she’s doing in London.

Let’s start at the beginning. How did this band come together? How did you know that you wanted to do music and how did you find the people to make it? 

It happened in a way that I didn’t realize that it happened until like long after I was deeply committed to it. And then I realized that I had somehow unconsciously decided that was something that I was doing. At the beginning when I was about 18, 19, I started learning guitar and just writing songs and sending them to like one or two people. And then a few years later I was in Brighton, I’ve moved to Brighton by that point, and I had a friend who really inspired me, a lot, and we would like make music together in his living room and he kind of got me to start going to open mic nights and I would go to those on my own and just like enjoy screaming at the old men. And then I kind of, Georgie who’s in the band, she saw me play once. No, she’d heard one of my friends who I’d sent my music to, sent it to her and she got me to play a show. She used to put on like the IOI festivals in Brighton. She got me to play one and then I guess that was my first real gig and then kind of met the others by accident. Kind of was like, “Oh, should we see if we can start a band? I’ve got all these songs that I’ve written,” and then we kind of did that and then, and then it just became what it is today. It kind of like evolved over the years and we played loads and loads of shows and I was writing loads and loads of songs all the time and spending all my time with my band mates. And now, here we are. 

Perfect. I remember when “Lilac” came out and I was listening to it and I love the sentiment of someone just screaming, I want us to get better. I want us to be kinder to ourselves and to each other. I love the core of the message and those lyrics and then the kind of desperation at which they’re delivered I really enjoy as well. Did those lyrics come from like a particular experience? 

Yeah, all my lyrics come from specific situations and I like to make things, I guess simplify them in my lyrics and just kind of take out that core feeling from something and see where it can go as a cell and see how repeating it and screaming it and whispering it can change the feeling and the meaning of something that’s actually quite simple and basic and even cheesy. But I think, yeah, it did come from a specific time and a specific relationship.  

I love the waltz-y feeling in “Circling.” How did you put that melody together?

I think when I’m writing songs I don’t think about how I’m doing it or what I’m doing. I just kind of let things fall out and then I look at them and I’m like, cool that that fell out. I guess I’ve never been a very proficient guitarist or keyboard player. And I just like playing around with things and focusing on very basic ideas and I’m not that good at playing. I mean, I’ve gotten a lot better over the years and I am confident in how I play now. But like I think when I wrote that I was still kind of figuring out how, I guess on keyboard especially. I was just playing around with an idea and I just stumbled upon it. And I think that’s kind of how all the best songs are written. It’s when you’re not overthinking about how to get to a specific idea, but you just think, “Oh, that like popped into my head now, now I’m going to go with it.”

For “Every Bad,” was there one cohesive idea or a thing that you wanted to say with the whole record? 

There wasn’t, but I think that’s because I write so much. I’ve always got a lot of songs and so when we came to record it, we kind of had this huge backlog of songs and were thinking what songs go together. But I don’t think I ever thought about it in terms of like how they go together thematically until I think it was maybe a week after the record came out. So I guess that’s actually a couple of weeks ago. I write songs but I always bring them to the rest of the band. And Sam is kind of my main collaborator and we arrange a lot of songs together and I usually bring things to him first to figure out how they’re going to go. And we were kind of talking about how I can keep being us. Like, was there one theme of this record and then kind of realized that like with hindsight, the things that tie all the songs together are depression, empathy and the sea. And that actually, even though we didn’t kind of choose those songs on purpose, they all sent around those things. I guess the sea was the one that is more specific. But the other things are just the place where I write songs from. 

I think that sometimes when you write something and then look back, it is like you were trying to say something. I feel like you kind of discovered that. Why is the sea part of that equation?

I was living in Brighton. I lived in Brighton for five years. That was where I met everyone in the band and that was where we were playing shows all the time. Brighton is in the South of the UK and it’s on the coast. So I spent five years living really close to the sea and I guess like, you meet your friends on the beach and you go for a walk on the beach and in the summer you go swimming and you just hang out at the sea. And I feel free as I lived really, really close to the beach, just like a five minute walk away. So it was constantly in my mind and also I was quite sad and I spent a lot of time when I was sad I’d go to the sea and I find that very overwhelming and powerful force and it’s this amazing thing because it makes you feel so small, it’s so terrifying and you’re so fragile, but it’s also like this huge sense of calm and peace and I guess like the endlessness is at the same time as being terrifying, It’s also kind of affirming and I think that was just like a really inspiring feeling. So I ended up writing a lot of songs about that feeling and about the sea. And sometimes it was more explicit and sometimes it was less explicit. I think it comes into a lot of the sound. 

In Milwaukee we have a gigantic lake right next to us called Lake Michigan. And it’s the second biggest lake in the world, so it kind of feels like a sea and I am like two blocks away from it and I’ve been going on walks a lot and even before this, there is something about sitting there and I am like, “You know, there’s this huge Lake next to us every single day and we never talk about this thing,” you know? And it’s powerful. 

I really, really get that. It’s like the feeling as well of actually going into the water and you completely immerse yourself in it and it’s like washing away your feelings or washing away your entire sense of self and you can just imagine stuff dissolving into it or being washed away by it. It’s so amazing. It’s beautiful. 

We do this thing here. I mean it gets cold here, especially in the winter and I’m not a spiritual person. I mean, I grew up religious, but I’m not anymore. But we do a thing on New Year’s Day. On like the coldest day of the year. There’s a big thing where people jump into the Lake and you have to break the ice to get into the water. And I do it every year and it’s like the one time where I feel like this is as close as I get to some kind of like spiritual experience where I need to be covered in that in order to restart. 

I really get that. Actually, with my friends, we go swimming in the ponds in London and we kind of mark it symbolically in the year, like in the spring and in the autumn. We kind of make a whole ritual around it. It is spiritual, but it’s a very personal kind of spirituality. It feels really powerful and really cleansing for sure. 

The Quarantine Gauntlet

I made a list of questions. I’ve been calling it the Quarantine Gauntlet. They’re just dumb and they are fun and I just wanted to have something silly. Where are you? Where are you holding out? 

I’m sitting on the floor in my bedroom, in my house, which is my parents’ house. Where I grew up. In London, in the United Kingdom.

What has been your favorite podcast that you’ve listened to while you have been in quarantine? 

The only one that I’ve listened to has been Reply-All, so I guess my favorite by default. 

Did you listen to The Case of the Missing Hit? 

Oh my god, I love that one so much. 

Google Hangout, Zoom Meeting or House Party? 

Which ever one people want to talk to me on. I guess I like House Party. I like them. I’ve also been WhatsApp calling people. You can have four people in the chat. Whatever anyone wants to talk to me on. I’m just like, “Of course.” I downloaded Skype recently. You know, just tell me to download it and I’ll download it. That’s how I get so many viruses.

Have you made a sourdough starter or made bread? 

No, neither, but I’d been baking constantly and I made so many cookies and cakes. And then on the fermented stuff side. My dad actually has been brewing kombucha, so I guess you can combine it and we’re good. 

What’s your favorite cookie? 

I made some hazelnut chocolate chip ones the other day that were really, really good. I’m not fussy. I’ll eat anything. I’ll download any app and I’ll eat anything. 

What’s the best movie you’ve watched? 

I watched “Whisper of the Heart” about a week ago. It’s a Studio Ghibli film and it was so beautiful and made me cry. 

Oh that’s great, I should watch that too. 

Yeah you should, it’s on Netflix now. 

Oh great, I’ll watch it tonight! Have you gone live on Instagram? 

Oh my God. Too much and it’s wearing me down. But I will keep coming back for more, hone my livestreaming skills. 

Now you’re in it, you’re committed. 

And people keep being like, “Can you just do this other thing?” I’m like, “Yeah, okay, sure.” and I’m like, “Oh my god, here I am again, live streaming.” I’m a live streamer. 

There you go. I’ll download any app, get on any live stream!

What is your favorite junk food item? 

Oh, it depends on what they catch me. I mean I’ve been really enjoying crisps, which you will know as chips. 

What’s your favorite flavor? I have strong opinions when it comes to crisps. 

I like a lot of crisps. Yesterday I had some cheesy ones and then I had to lie down for like five hours cause I had so many of them. So I would not say those ones. They were Quavers, I don’t know if you know what Quavers are. They’re like crispy, cheesy, puffy. 

Do you know what flavor I had and London that we don’t have here, that was an absolute delight? Prawn flavored.

You don’t have prawn cocktail? 

We do not have prawn cocktail. I was like, what the hell is? 

That is an amazing flavor, so good. I’ve actually never eaten a prawn in my life, but I love prawn cocktail crisps.  

I thought it was so strange and I had a bag. 

Did you like it? 

Oh my god, I loved it. 

So tangy and ugh! Maybe that’s my favorite flavor. I haven’t had one in years. 

Have you started and finished a book? 

I have. I read the Jon Ronson book about shame because I kept feeling really ashamed. And then I stopped feeling ashamed and then I started this other book about insects, which I’m reading at the moment. Hugh Raffles “Insectopedia,” and it’s like essays about insects and their place in our world. It’s like from an anthropologist perspective. 

What’s the name of it?

 “Insectopedia.” It’s really good. By Hugh Raffles and yeah. I want to get some novels, though. I need to read something a bit less. 

I’ve been trying to get into my science side a little more. I read Jon Ronson last year. I read Them. He’s just a great writer. 

It was so easy to just pick it up and then read it all in like a few days. And then I was like, “I don’t need to be ashamed! Wow!” I felt it really hard, it was great. 

The last one is, what is the song that you’ve been listening to the most? 

Oh, I’ve had two albums on repeat for the last week, which I guess between them I would have listened to one song the most. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been listening to the new Waxahatchee album and the new Nnamdi album. 

Both are incredible. 

Yeah, they’re so good. And so I’ve kind of been rotating those two and that’s been really nice. This morning I was listening to the Nnamdi record and I would choose “Semantics,” I think. 

Why do you like Nnamdi? 

I actually only started listening with this album. It only came out like a week ago, right. But I just saw somebody recommended it and I started listening to it, and then I just couldn’t stop. It’s like this compulsion. It’s like listen to the album again and again and again and again. And again, and like, I never know why I like anything, but when I have that feeling, I know that I like it. So I just go with it and then I listen to things until I can’t listen to them anymore. 

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

M. Ward takes the Quarantine Gauntlet and recounts his grandfather’s migration story

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Matt Ward’s new album “Migration Stories” was inspired by his own family’s migration story. His grandfather paid $5 to become an American citizen when he crossed over from Mexico to Texas in the 1920]s. Ward spent some time talking to his aunts, uncles and any other family to learn the story of his grandfather to see how his migration story compares to migration stories today. That mini ethnography set the groundwork for the new album. We talk about that and his favorite niche Trader Joe’s brand snack item, among other things in the interview below.

Wrenne Evans

On the last album we talked and you were freewheeling, shooting from the hip, no label, putting it out wherever he wants to. And now we’re back on ANTI- for “Migration Stories.” How did being back on the label kind of change the way that you were making this, if it did? And what have been some of the benefits and some of the things that you learned from that experience, freewheeling? 

I was a little bit in limbo a couple of years ago. I just wanted to try something new. I think it’s every artist’s fantasy to be able to put out a record without having to do any of the promotional stuff. And I wanted to try it. And so that was the record I made a couple of years ago called What a Wonderful Industry and it was a fun experiment. It’s not something I’ll ever do again. But I got it out of my system and now I’m really happy to be working with ANTI-. 

How did it feel to get it out of your system and why would you never do it again?

It’s a funny thing. I work hard for these records even if sometimes they sound like they were recorded really quickly. But you want them to have a bit of staying power. And when you put out a record, when you surprise release it, it’s not on anyone’s blackboard, on Monday morning, if you know what I mean. So yeah, it was an experiment. I’m now happy to be working with a team of people instead of completely flying by the seat of my pants, as far as getting the record out to people, which is what I did on my very first cassette tapes that I did. So it was fun to revisit that, but then you realize, “Okay, it’s great to have a great team behind you to keep the fire burning.”

For “Migration Stories,” it’s like a folk record and it also has those great synthesizers in it that I think normally when you’re like, “Oh, this has this kind of thing that is not traditionally thought of in sound.” But how did you manage to kind of pull those into your sound and what were you aiming for in how you wanted this album to sound?

 I knew I wanted a lot of space on the record and I’m working with different musicians on this record. I went to Montreal to work with a few of the guys from Arcade Fire and they are experts at a lot of these old keyboards that I had never heard of. And my ideal situation is going into a production of a record  with some things left unprogrammed and left to chance and left to your collaborator’s creativity or impulses. They were able to just create these incredible textures that I could definitely have never done on my own. So I’m really indebted to them for a big part of the spirit of the record. 

And then lyrically, I love a folk songwriter telling their own folk story, it’s like a discovering of yourself and being able to tell that story. For those who don’t know, can you tell what this record is about and that story and the people in it? 

It’s mainly inspired by newspaper articles that I’ve been reading over the last couple of years about movements in the world and consing maybe too many articles about the migration crisis in North America and the one in Europe. And being able to have the opportunity to talk to people out there, and here, about solutions. And if there is some sort of a spiritual, hopeful angle to migration, then I wanted to try to illustrate it or shine some kind of light on it by using music in this record.

I heard that a bit of the inspiration was, was it your grandpa, coming up from Mexico? Did you know him? 

Yeah, he lived to be about 102, and yeah, he’s a lifer. So he died when I was a teenager. But he had kind of a big family and over the last couple of years I’ve been hearing stories about his crossing from Mexico to Southern California by way of Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona. His own migration happened in 1920. And because there’s no photos of his journey or journals or anything, we are left to fill in the blanks and I can’t help but compare his story to the articles that I’ve been reading over the last couple of years about the migrant experience and trying to color it in, in a hopeful way. And music also can help with that. There’s a song on the record from that era called “Along the Santa Fe Trail” that I heard on the radio a couple of years ago and it seemed like a good song to try to cover and try to include in the record. So that made it on there. It’s the only cover song. 

Why did he move around so much? 

Work, work, work.  

What was he doing? 

He was a rancher. He and some of his family found work in El Paso, Texas and eventually made it to Southern California, where my mother was born. I read Grapes of Wrath years ago, but it also seems like there’s echoes of those stories too. A lot of hardship, but also some hope and I feel like hardship and bad news is very easy to find right now, in any website and newspaper. I feel like music is a place that can give you something to stand on, tomorrow. 

And so without any photos or articles. How do you find out the stories about him?

Family, uncles, aunts and that’s basically all there is.

So you had to call them up and sit down with them?

Yeah, I have an uncle who lives in Riverside, California and some of my family have done the 23 and Me thing where you find out about your genealogy. So that’s been happening also the last couple of years. And it’s been an eye opening experience. 

What was your favorite story that someone told you about him? 

Just the fact that he was able to become an American citizen for $5. It was that easy and that simple. And the country was welcoming and it seemed like the borderline almost didn’t even exist. I like to think that it’s a better way of looking at humanity to me, than in the divisions. 

In that system, the system is to encourage people coming in. 

Yeah, it’s an incredible story and it sounds like it happened in some foreign country, but not at all. It’s all true and it’s partly my story because it was my own family. 

The Quarantine Gauntlet

Well I’m glad that we get to hear his story and your story and the larger story too. I have like a lightning round of questions that I’ve got because I think it’s fun just to have a little bit of fun while we’re in this. 

Let the lightning strike. 

Where are you holding out? 

Glendale, California. 

What has been the best podcast you’ve listened to in quarantine? 

I don’t listen to podcasts. 

Google Hangout, Zoom Meeting or House Party for video apps? 

Unfortunately, Zoom Meetings. I still really don’t like the computer. It’s still my last resort. But it still takes the cake I guess, because it’s the only one I know how to do. 

Have you made a sourdough starter? 

No, I’ve basically been eating food from Trader Joe’s. 

What’s the best movie that you’ve watched? 

I have seen a lot. “Gone With the Wind” has been on my list forever and it’s not anything I’ve ever felt the urgency to do because it’s so long. But I did watch it this weekend, I finished it and it’s not a perfect movie by any stretch, but I really recommend the first half of it. Just for the cinematography. It’s a beautiful film. 

Have you gone live on Instagram?

Yes, the day the record was released Spin Magazine asked me to do a couple of lullaby songs and a few hours earlier, I heard that Bill Withers passed. So I sang a couple Bill Withers’ songs. 

What’s been your go-to junk food, or since you already revealed that it’s Trader Joe’s, what’s your favorite, niche Trader Joe’s item? 

They have these almonds that are covered in sea salt in dark chocolate. I recommend those to everyone. 

Oh, I know what ones you’re talking about. Have you started and finished a book?

Not during quarantine. But I took up Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” about a month ago and I’m about halfway through. And similar to “Gone With the Wind,” the first half was really great and now I’m in this sort of difficult second house, that is still good. But yeah, that’s another book I recommend, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” which everyone has probably read already. 

What’s the best thing that you’ve cooked? 

Well there’s this thing in the neighborhood that people are doing where you go to the coffee shop and farmers are bringing these big boxes of fresh vegetables for like $20. You get this giant box of vegetables. So I guess the first thing that comes to mind is roasted beets with very simple sea salt and olive oil. 

What song have you listened to the most? 

I would say the record I’ve been spending the most time with is this John Coltrane record called “Ballads,” which I’m sure is probably my favorite record of all time because it’s the one that I have played the most. If I had to pick one song, I would say a song called, “Say it Over and Over Again.” 

Why is it your favorite album of all time? 

It’s like medicine. Whatever emotion you’re feeling, it will support that. And show you the light.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

The 88Nine Radio Milwaukee Radio Special with U.S. Girls

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Hello friends, Dori Zori here. Back in February, thanks to the generosity of 4AD records I had the opportunity to spend a fun-music packed 36 hours in New York City to learn more about one of my NEW favorite bands… U.S. Girls. After checking out their live show the first night, I spent the next day at Bunker Studios in Brooklyn with a handful of other DJs from around the country, watching the band play songs from their thought-provoking new album, “Heavy Light.”

After, I got a chance to chat with Meg Remy about her vocal training, sharing the stage with powerful women, her self-care routine while out on tour and, of course, what her childhood smelled like.

Listen to the whole session below

Session and interview with U.S. Girls
88Nine Radio Milwaukee