Tuesday, August 31, 2004

New life for the Grateful Dead

Rhino Records is releasing previously unheard recordings by The Jerry Garcia Band. The three disc live set, titled "After Midnight," is a recording of a concert set that includes covers of Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come," The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," and the Bob Dylan classics "Simple Twist Of Fate" and "Knockin' On Heaven's Door." The concert took place in 1980 at Kean College in Union, New Jersey.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

New Napster Partnership

Napster and Virgin Radio are launching an online music chart to track the most popular downloads. This is way overdue.

U2 sets radio date

U2 announced their November release date for their new cd, first single to hit radio in later September.

New York Dolls to release new cd

Punk rock icons The New York Dolls will release a new cd. Every garage band from the pre-sellout Green Day to the Strokes owe a debt of gratitude to these guys (and the Ramones!) for helping to create a new genre of rock and roll.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Another Subpop CD giveaway

As promised, today we're giving away another Subpop Records title. Today its the recent release by "The Catheters." The Boston Globe has a review here.

Be the first to email me at jeff@hotsaucelive.com and its yours.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Ted from Seattle for picking up the cd and thanks to all that emailed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Subpop Records giveaaway

Subpop Records, one of the all time great indie lables, has sent us a couple of cds to giveaway. Today we'll give away a compilation cd, featuring Subpop artists: The Shins, Rogue Wave, The Catheters, Constantines, The Thermals, The Helio Sequence, Frausdots, Iron & Wine, The Elected, Rosie Thomas, The Postal Service, Comets on Fire, The Album Leaf, Wolf Eyes and All Night Radio. Quite a collection!

Be the first to email me at jeff@hotsaucelive.com and its yours (people often think its too late to email, but if you don't see an update from me announcing a winner give it a try - and no, I don't harvest your emails.)

Friday we'll give out another Subpop recording.

UPDATE: Congrats to Dylan in Washington DC for picking up the cd and thanks to all that emailed!

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Congrats to Strata

Strata's CD has debuted at #41 on the Billboard top new artists list.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Strata Interview

One of the great indie label stories out there right now is Wind-Up Records. Given the chart-topping success many of their acts have had, its hard to think of Wind-Up as one of the little guys. But, they are and that's a large part of their successful ability to launch act after act.

Strata is the latest Wind-Up artist poised for the big time. Coming out of Northern California, the foursome consists of vocalist Eric Victorino, guitarist Ryan Hernandez, drummer Adrian Robison and bassist Hrag Chanchanian. Strata's self-titled debut was released on July 27th and they are currently on tour with Finger Eleven, Thornley and Moments of Grace. I talked to the guys after their set at a recent show at the Recher Theatre in Towson, MD.

First, I must note that having been around lawyers for nearly 10 years as a law student and an attorney, I can confidently say I can spot a phony a mile away. No one in Strata fits that bill. These are a bunch of nice guys.

When I worked around a local music scene in PA, I saw local "rock stars" walk around like they owned the Earth. Not Strata. The guys are still loading their own gear and I was surprised to find that my contact for setting up the interview was guitarist Ryan Hernandez. No assistants and no pretense. Despite touring nationally, being signed to one of the best labels going, having one of their tunes featured on Madden 2005 and the video for their song "The Panic" breaking on MTV, these guys are grounded and focused on their music. Indeed, instead of jumping off stage and hitting the bar, the guys took the time to talk to fans, sign autographs and hang with yours truly.

We first talked about Strata's origins. The band met up in their native Northern California. Two of the guys, Ryan and Eric, met at a coffee shop and after talking about their musical interests starting playing together. Hrag joined up and Adrian was playing down the hall in their practice facility with another band and eventually replaced the original drummer, who ironically taught him a few things about the drums as they were in the same band class freshmen year.

The band completed a demo and passed it to Jason Jones of Drowning Pool (who they met through a friend), who passed it on to Wind-Up. Using just "Pro Tools" and a computer for much of it, the band put together a nice demo and Wind-Up was ready to put it out as it was. They recorded it in their practice studio and its 95+% self-produced. However, the guys took their recording advance to re-mix it and out it went.

Hrag pointed out that if you listen closely to the very intro of "Never There" you can hear a band in the background called Boxlunch who was playing in the next room. In another song, you can hear a door slam. Adrian says the takes were too good to give up so they left these extra sounds in. Ryan hopes these little extras become a tradition on each recording they put out.

Eric and all the guys made it clear they are be happy to part of the Wind-Up family. The guys think much of the music industry could take a lesson from Wind-Up because the people running it care about the company and the music more then their profits and paychecks. Part of what makes Wind-Up a special label is the large amount of creative control retained by the artists. For example, Eric came up with the cd cover concept at a bar one night, sketching it out on paper. Wind-Up's art director completely captured Eric's idea without forcing any packaging views from the label. Hrag added that the circle of birds idea incorporated into Eric's concept came from a fan.

Traveling the country in a cramped white van, complete with NorCal sticker, that Adrian dubbed "Avril Le-Van," the band is as tight off stage as they are on. That closeness plays out in their songwriting. Strata approaches songwriting as a group project. Hrag says the guys are so close and open that egos don't get stepped on during the collaborative process. Eric agrees saying most songs are literally equally attributable to each guy and songs are born in practice with everyone chipping in ideas and suggestions to where no one even remembers who came up with what parts. When they discuss changes in songs no one takes it personally and the finished product is what matters. That attitude will serve them well as they go forward in their careers.

Strata recently won a viewers pick vote on MTV and the video for "the Panic" is getting some play. When I talked with them, the guys hadn't themselves seen their video on MTV yet. But, friends and family have been text messaging them to tell them its on. The video was directed by Charles Jensen (who also directed for the Von Bondies and Drowning Pool) and the band participated in the concept. For example, Adrian added a key chase scene to Jensen's treatment. The video attempts to capture some of life's seemingly random moments that have much more meaning then we often realize.

Strata put on an inspired and impassioned show, with Eric employing a megaphone at one point and the band giving their all on each song. With their combo of talent, stage presence and strong work ethic, these guys are destined for big things. Billboard has a worthy review of their cd here. Pick it up if you can, rock and roll needs more bands like this to be successful (you can sample most of it on Strata's website).

Wind-Up Records was nice enough to send me a cd to giveaway to you guys and Strata took the time to sign it for you (I watched them myself so they're not "stamp" signatures). Be the first to email me at jeff@hotsaucelive.com and its yours.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Heather from DC for picking up the cd and thanks to all that e-mailed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Kabbalah Cabal

Madonna has reportedly insisted that a special "peace room" be built for her backstage at upcoming UK shows. Obviously, its very important to meditate prior to getting on stage and grabbing your crotch and dry-humping your backup dancers.

Friday, August 06, 2004

No sleep 'til Brooklyn

This Saturday the Hot Sauce crew will be hanging at Freddy's Backroom in Brooklyn for an all day music fest that includes DC favorites Confidence Man. If you haven't done so check out their music here with some free downloads and if you want to support a deserving indie band pick up a copy of their cd. It rocks from start to finish.

If you're in the Brooklyn area come on by, find me and I'll buy you a beer. The music goes all day from 1:30pm on. I'll probably get their around 5ish, with Confidence Man going on sometime thereafter (5-6ish) and mayhem lasting until they show us the door.

Freddy's is located at 485 Dean St Brooklyn, NY 11217 and there is a map here. If you get lost you can reach Freddys at (718) 622-7035.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Rachael Yamagata Interview

Rachael Yamagata became known to Chicago music fans after joining the high energy funk/soul/hip hop band "Bumpus" as a harmony vocalist. Self taught as a pianist, Rachael started writing her own songs, which didn't quite fit with what Bumpus was doing. To test out her songs, Rachael sat in on an open mic night and the next day she ran into an artist who gave her the business card of a talent scout that led to her first showcase at the Viper Room in 2001. It didn't take long until Rachael moved to bigger rooms as she soon found her self in front of a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden opening for David Gray.

She eventually signed with the RCA Victor Group and in the winter of 2003, began working on an EP with producer Malcolm Burn (Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan). Rachael describes her initiation into solo recording as similar to her initiation to solo performance: fast and intense. Her EP garnered some great reviews in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer etc. and earned a place on MTV's "You Hear It First," and CNN's "The Music Room."

Racheal is now on tour promoting her first full length solo reecording -"Happenstance." Produced by John Alagia (John Mayer, Dave Matthews), Racheal says the disc is a collection of songs inspired by her obsessions, often love related. The comparisons to Fionna Apple's sultry delivery are plentiful. I make the comparison favorably, but note that Racheal has a style all her own. The folks over at Pop Matters have a worthy review of the cd.

Just back from Japan, Racheal gave us a little insight into her career, musical influences and approach to songwriting.

JD: How did your time playing/singing with Bumpus prepare you for where you are now in your career?

RY: Bumpus gave me tremendous experience as a live performer. We played everything from tiny clubs to outdoor festivals to huge stadiums. As a three person fronted band mixing various influences in music such as soul, funk, and hip hop - Bumpus taught me a great deal about creating diverse set lists that kept the audience thoroughly engaged and which made sense in a cohesive way as well. For me now, it allows me to know how to work a crowd through a piano ballad, but also mix in passionate, raw rock songs in the same show. They also taught me about band dynamics on the performing side and professional behind the scenes side. I learned how to lead a band and also be a part of one - inspiring the musicians you play with while also directing a vision and knowing when to make executive decisions. As a band we learned trial and error lessons regarding work ethic, fans, recording and so forth that I have carried with me for my work now.

JD: Was/is piano your first/only instrument? Did you take lessons as a child?

RY: Flute was actually my first instrument. I had a year of lessons and then stopped after feeling like I was going to faint all of the time. Piano came next - one year of lessons that I stopped after my teacher kept telling me to quit moving around on the piano bench so much. I continued to play my own music after that and self taught the rest. I have recently picked up guitar and use it frequently as a writing instrument. I am working it into my live show as well as I continue to improve. I also just picked up the bass guitar. I got lots of percussion experience in Bumpus as well.

JD: When did you start writing songs?

RY: I wrote my first song when I was twelve on the piano.

JD: Who are some of your musical influences?

RY: I have a difficult time answering this question because I was not someone to really go out and buy records or learn other people's songs. I was heading for an acting career and wrote music on the side. It never occurred to me, until Bumpus, to follow it professionally. I gravitated towards music I heard on the radio that my parents were listening to like James Taylor, Stevie Nicks, Carole King, Cat Stevens, Linda Ronstadt, Simon and Garfunkel etc. I'm more apt to know a particular song of an artist rather than their whole repetoire. When I began writing music it was really about telling a story and expressing my emotions rather than emulating a particular style of music. After I met Bumpus I was exposed to greats like John Coltrane, Stevie Wonder, Mos Def, Prince, David Bowie, Sly and the Family Stone. I love Joni Mitchell, Rufus Wainwright, Elton John, Tom Waits etc. and the first time I heard Jeff Buckley I was floored by his melodic arrangements.

JD: Who are you listening to these days?

RY: These days I'm still discovering classics that most know about already - the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Beach Boys...I love the Damien Rice record, Tom Mcrae, A Girl Called Eddy, the new Carla Bruni record, Too Many Djs, The White Stripes.

JD: If you could duet with anyone (current or past) who would it be?

RY: Impossible to choose. I would love to sing with Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright. Their vox melodies and style...gorgeous...Roberta Flack wrote one of the most gorgeous songs I've ever heard "Ballad of Sad Young Men." Tom Waits is the ultimate in cool, lyrically, musically, the instruments and sounds he creates. Eminem is brilliant. Jack White is brilliant. The list goes on.

JD: You jus got back from Japan. Had you played there before? What was it like?

RY: When I was traveling to Japan for the first time I was excited to see a new country of course and one that I am culturally connected to. I love Japanese food, beauty aesthetic, the city nightlife and was certainly interested in experiencing the world of my great grandparents, observing customs etc.

JD: Where did you record Happenstance and who did you work with on it?

RY: We went all over to make this record. We started in the Bahamas and found ourselves in L.A., N.Y, N.J., and Easton Md. John Alagia produced the album with Jeff Juliano as the engineer. Kevin Salem produced "Paper Doll" with Nico Bowles as the engineer. We had lots of great help from amazing people.

JD: Happenstance is the follow up to your EP, anything different about your recording approach this time?

RY: I was much more involved in the arrangements this time. I wrote a huge percentage of everything from horn lines, to strings, to clarinets, oboes, etc. etc. I'd track a lot of things of my BR8 machine and we'd transfer then directly into the sessions. Malcolm Burn (EP) has this intensity and drive to capture things very raw and passionate and live. John is a perfectionist in a different light with an amazing attention to detail. They both brought out great things in me that I wouldn't have discovered with anyone else.

JD: I read that your personal experiences are a writing source. Any other inspirations and how literal are some of the songs?

RY: I'm addicted to the dynamics of relationships whether they be in love, work, between strangers on the streets, or in the world in general. Some of the songs are very specific to people I have known and literal as well. However, many are not. A lot of my songs that can translate as love songs, have nothing to do with a relationship I was in or experienced personally and some aren't even about romantic love. I get inspired by phrases I catch in other's conversations, universal themes of relationships that I notice in my friends and folks around me and my journey as a solo artist in the music industry have inspired a lot as well. To me, it always comes back to this push, pull dynamic between people who are interacting with one another when something is at stake. Endless sources....

JD: You're playing one of my favorite rooms this month, the Tin Angel in Philadelphia. Do you like those types of intimate settings?

RY: I love smaller rooms. People come ready to really listen and you can share different material when it is not dependent on holding the attention of a huge stadium. It's a great forum for telling stories about the songs, whispers can be as powerful as screams and all that.

JD : You've toured all summer, are you going to keep playing into the fall? Any rough timetable for taking a break to record again?

RY: Yes - we'll start another U.S. tour in September. I'm itching to record new songs and will squeeze in any time I can to do so. They may later become the next album.. So far, no concrete time is set aside to do album 2 at the moment.

Thanks Rachael and meanwhile we'll continue enjoying Happenstance.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Finger Eleven Interview

Last Friday night I sat down with Rich from Finger Eleven and we talked a bit before they went on stage. Rich and I talked about recording their last cd, touring with Ozzy, life on the road, bands they like, musical influences and more.

As an experiment, I'm posting the recording. Keep in mind that I have a low budget recorder and by this time in the night I'd had a few beers. Also, there is background noise from their tour bus generator and if you listen closely you can here a bit of Strata's set in the background. If you turn your speakers up you should be able to make most of it out...here goes:

Part 1: (once you are done listening, hit your browser's back button to come back)

this is an audio post - click to play

Part 2:

this is an audio post - click to play

Part 3:

this is an audio post - click to play

Their show was fantastic, the crowd was really into it and if you haven't picked up their latest cd, which is self-titled, you should. "Stay in Shadow" is rockin' and "One Thing" has had deserved radio success. You can read a full review here.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!