“To be an artist is to create your own happiness and surroundings…” 7 Questions with Perry Porter

One of my favorite local hip hop artists is Perry Porter. Perry is one of the few artists that’s recognized both for his hip hop ability and also for his work as a painter in the fine arts community. The first time I saw him perform was at the 2019 Capitol Hill Block Party. He had decorated the stage with tarps, easels, brushes, and a number of his paintings. As part of his set, he invited members of the audience to come up, and paint his clothes while he performed his set. It was as if we were at his mini art studio and he was the canvas. The show was great, his songs were fun, and it motivated me to continue following his work. His artwork is amazing as well and there’s a chance you’ve probably seen one of his murals around the city. This past Spring, Perry was part of the team of local Black artists who provided their talents for the “BLACK LIVES MATTER” street mural near Cal Anderson Park (Perry did the first “L”). His work also hangs in the office of former Seahawk, Marshawn Lynch. I reached out to Perry and had an opportunity to do a short interview.  Here’s my short interview with Perry Porter:

1.) The first time I saw you perform live was last year’s Capitol Hill Block Party. At that set you invited the audience on stage to paint on you while you were performing. To me, it felt very punk rock in approach, especially when you decided to jump off the stage and try to make a mosh pit, while still covered in wet paint. What was your inspiration to have a show with this level of audience engagement?

Oh, Local punk shows for sure! I skated as a kid so my friends always brought me to wild ass shows (haha). I never knew the bands but I really enjoyed the energy. I’d also have to say hyphy music and crunk music played a really big part. Three6 to Mac Dre.

2.) I read a prior KEXP interview of yours where you talked about how, since you are both a modern arts painter and also a hip hop artist, that you at times will refrain from discussing both within the same circle. Like if you were at a modern art show, you might not bring up that you are also a hip hop artist. In the same interview you mentioned about how your works are an expression of your creativity and they just manifest as paintings and hip hop, but you’re open to trying movies or other mediums. I would say your work blends mediums, like the “color wheel” that accompanies your album “Bobby Ro$$”. It’s both fascinating and admirable. You’re an artist with definite ownership of his expression. With that mind, how would you personally define what it means to be an “artist”?

That’s a loaded question (haha). To be an “Artist” is to “create” and that can be as simple as the food you make to the house you build, down to the job you have. To be an artist is to create your own happiness and surroundings, ya know? That’s what I’ve learned from all this shit. I’ve got the freedom to explore my own thoughts and question my own behavior fully.

3.) Speaking about your paintings, everything from the “L” in the Black Lives Matter mural on Capitol Hill to the sketches you post every now and again on your Instagram, some of the common themes I see are a Black person intermixed with images of butterflies, sharks, striking colors, among other themes. Were there any artists that helped shape your style, and are there any underlying regular themes you try to express in your work?

Man, I’m pretty much inspired by every artist in one form or another, but here’s a few Kerry James Marshall, Nosego, Agnes Celie, James Jean and Soey Milk. Some underlying themes – The sunflower shark (Leo the LemonHead Shark) is kind of a self portrait, the grenade butterflies are a concept based off the idea “Butterfly in my stomach” Ya know? “love at first sight” vibes (haha).

Something I like to do to create a through-line for all the folks I interview is I ask the prior interview subject to provide 3 blind questions for the next interviewee with no knowledge as to who I would interview next. These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview subject, Claire George. Claire asks:
4.) What albums have you discovered lately that you love or old ones you’ve revisited?
Old Stuff: Jay-Z “Reasonable Doubt” , Curtis Mayfield “Superfly”, Snoop Dogg “Doggystyle”, Whitney Houston “Whitney”
New Finds: The Movers “Kansas City”

5.) What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you on stage/tour?
We stopped at this one bar and the only black in the bar asked us why would we choose to stop here? And we should’ve kept going… lol, We stayed.

6.) If you could make a record with one other artist, who would it be?
Erykah Badu or Curtis Mayfield

7.) As my final question, something that comes up in previous interviews and also in some of your songs is a fandom for Anime. In your opinion, what is the best Anime of all time and why, and what is the most underrated Anime of all time and why?

Some of my favorites: Cowboy Bebop, My Hero Academia, Fullmetal Alchemist (Brotherhood), and Samurai Champloo.
Underrated: Paranoia Agent, Michiko and Hatchin, and Monster.

(I want to thank Perry Porter for taking the time to answer my questions.  Check out Perry’s work on his website www.perrypaints.com/.  T-Shirts, Art Prints, and Albums are all available on his site. Follow him on social media at “perrypaints“. Check out his albums “Bobby Ro$$” and “Grey” (in collaboration with Oldmilk) on all streaming platforms. And if you have an opportunity, check out his recent (streaming) performance at Refill Music Fest.)

I turned 32 this past month.

This past month I turned 32. I was trying to think of some cool lesson or piece of advice I picked up this past year but when I looked back I realized between my last birthday to now, 6 months were spent pre-pandemic and 6 months were spent (where we are currently) experiencing a global pandemic, so I tried to think of any underlying piece of advice that loomed over both those periods.

If there was any one lesson I picked up at 31 it would be: The world can be overwhelming, take time to stop, get away from the norm, and indulge in your personal interests. I don’t know how many times 2020 got the better of me, and I just had to stop, step away, and for a period of time just focus on something I love. I feel like I wouldn’t be able to maintain a day job, remind folks that Black Lives Matter, support local businesses, and attempt to maintain any friendships that I had before the pandemic froze the world, if I didn’t have those side interests.

People who know me personally know that I’m a big fan pro wrestling, music, comic books, podcasts, and the Disney company. Three other more specific things I’m a huge fan of but I rarely ever talk about that this year have become my mental refuge are:

Retro Sci Fi – I’m a fan of sci fi and fantasy stories not only from the modern era, but also from as far back as the 20’s. Frank Reade! Amazing Stories! Astounding Stories! Wonder Stories! I love the art, the writing styles, and the eventual radio plays these stories were turned into. If you told me you had an old sci fi radio play adapted from an Asimov story originally released in a December issue of Amazing Stories Quarterly, that kind of thing gets me excited. There’s something about old sci fi that just seems hopeful, and I like to have that mindset. As long as you’re alive, you’re heading towards the future. It would be terrible if you weren’t excited about it.

Deathmatch Pro Wrestling – I’ve been a fan of Deathmatch Pro Wrestling since my sophomore year of high school. I remember being a fan of the hardcore matches at Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), and when I would go to video stores I would collect ECW DVDs (and a VHS or two). One day I found a copy of “Unscarred: The Sick Nick Mondo story”. I bought it and was blown away by the violence. Light tubes! Weed Whackers! Salt and Lemons! That DVD motivated me to find Combat Zone Wrestling DVDs, which led me to IWA Mid South DVDs, and eventually I was just into Deathmatch Pro Wrestling. I recently downloaded both the “King of the Deathmatches 2020” and “Tournament of Death 2019”. It was just the best nostalgia.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Comic) – The greatest comic book series of all time is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I rarely ever talk about this because the immediate follow up is someone fan person-ing over the movie adaption. The comic book is a massive art piece that has a huge internal lore and intriguing history. I enjoy the movie but it barely scratches the surface of the source material. The series concluded last year, and I still spend time re reading all the issues trying to figure out the thousands of references spread throughout. I’ve spent hours just browsing “The Black Dossier”, or trying to decipher the “The New Travelers’ Almanac”. There’s no easier way to impress me than to demonstrate some knowledge about this massive series.

Looking forward to what 32 has in store!

“Only one of these songs is NOT a Disney song” Mini Challenge

9 of these songs are Disney songs and 1 of them is not.  Have a listen to this selection and see if you could spot the non Disney song without looking at the album covers (Spotify playlist provided below).  Even when you figure out which song is the non Disney song, it’s still pretty unbelievable that some of these songs are Disney songs.

“Only one of these songs is NOT a Disney song” Playlist
1.) “Derezzed” – Daft Punk
2.) “Destiny” – Louise Warren
3.) “Sanctuary (Opening)” – Utada
4.) “In a World of My Own/Very Good Afternoon” – Jhene Aiko
5.) “Down to Earth” – Peter Gabriel
6.) “Pretend” – Scott Porter and the Glory Dogs
7.) “So Close” – Jon McLaughlin
8.) “Never Knew I Needed” – Ne-Yo
9.) “A Whole New World” – Yuna
10.) “How Does a Moment Last Forever” – Celine Dion

 

Answer (highlight):
Number 6 is from the film Bandslam which is not a Disney film
1.) “Derezzed” – Daft Punk –  from the film TRON: Legacy
2.) “Destiny” – Louise Warren – the musical theme for Mission Space (EPCOT ride)
3.) “Sanctuary (Opening)” – Utada – the theme song for Kingdom Hearts II (the video game)
4.) “In a World of My Own/Very Good Afternoon” – Jhene Aiko – Cover of the Alice in Wonderland songs
5.) “Down to Earth” – Peter Gabriel – from the film Wall E.
6.) “Pretend” – Scott Porter and the Glory Dogs – from the film Bandslam
7.) “So Close” – Jon McLaughlin – from the film Enchanted
8.) “Never Knew I Needed” – Ne-Yo – from the film Princess and the Frog
9.) “A Whole New World” – Yuna – Cover of the song from Aladdin
10.) “How Does a Moment Last Forever” – Celine Dion – from the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast

 

Photos of My Hometown: Seattle March to June 2020

I stopped writing when COVID-19 hit. I just didn’t feel the drive to write. 

The concert scene had dried up around the country.  I got 3 shows in, in the first week of March. I was in attendance at the last show at Neumos.  The headliners Brent Amaker Deathsquad knew how big of a deal this event could have been so in front of a 50% capacity crowd they put on one last send off before the order to shelter in place was put in place by Governor Inslee the following day.

When it became more and more apparent that not only were any plans folks had made for concerts, festivals, or conventions going to be put on hold indefinitely, but also the world would forever be changed by the virus spreading across the globe affecting the most vulnerable in our communities, I got nervous.  I feel like everyone was a little optimistic in the beginning.  We always wanted “time”, “time” to pursue hobbies, to exercise, to develop a skill, and now we had “time”.  The world is having a mini “Oldboy” moment.

It’s been 3 months, and I’m just tired.  COVID-19.  Racial Tensions.  Protests.  BLACK LIVES MATTER!  The world is different.

I think I circled back and I’m optimistic again, but who can tell what else 2020 will have in store for us?

Here’s a photo recap of Seattle from March to June 2020:

(Bands in the first 4  images: Leone, Summer Cannibals, and Brent Amaker Deathsquad)

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“I feel in general my solo work feels more true to who I am as an individual.” 7 Questions with Claire George

When I go to a music festival I always do my best to discover new music.  It’s one thing to go and hear your favorite bands but, unless you knew every act on a lineup, more than likely you’ll have gaps in your schedule.  What I’ll do is chat up some of the crowd or some of the local photographers and ask who’s a performer I should check out today?  It was Capitol Hill Block Party (CHBP) 2018.  Of the people I spoke to, many suggested I check out Claire George.  Prior to that CHBP performance, I had not heard of Claire, but after seeing her set I was mesmerized.  Her set was a mixture of great vocals interplayed with synths, fascinating lyrics, and danceable beats.  I was instantly a fan.  Recently, I reached out to Claire and had an opportunity to do a short interview.  Here’s my short interview with Claire George:

1.) The first time I saw you perform was at Capitol Hill Block Party 2018 as a solo artist, but through research it looks like you were the lead singer of an indie rock band called HEARTWATCH. Hearing your work as a solo artist and the music presented by HEARTWATCH, I’d say the two present very different music styles. Was it a challenge to transition to a solo artist, or was your solo work always something you had in mind and were hoping to get out?

It was definitely a challenge to create my solo work as I had never made music on my own, but I definitely feel it better represents my musical tastes and my life more. Learning how to produce electronic music on my own presented a lot of challenges for me but also felt the most rewarding because I put so much more of myself into making it. I felt pretty worried about the reception of the solo work after the band’s material, and there were definitely some fans who want me to make something less dark, but I feel in general my solo work feels more true to who I am as an individual.

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Capitol Hill Block Party 2018

2.) Your latest release, “Alone, Together” and it’s quasi remix “Alone, Together (Forever)” are fabulous both in composition and message. “Alone, Together” was described on your site as the different seasons in the lifecycle of a failed relationship. I personally love how the song ends with a sense of hopefulness. On the flipside, “Alone, Together (Forever)” carries some of those same feelings, but is more reminiscent of Robyn’s “Dancing on my Own” in that it’s very danceable but with a very relatable message. Would you mind speaking to the creation of both songs?

I wrote the first version as a piano ballad by myself, but when my friend Josh from Yumi Zouma saw me perform it live he asked if he could help me produce it out. When we got into the session the song took on a whole new light and I loved it so much that I wanted to share both versions with the world. I like that the version that I wrote solo feels pretty isolated and intimate and the version with Josh feels much more collaborative and dancey, something you want to listen to with another person.

3.) Regarding your 2018 EP, Bodies of Water, one song in particular that pulled my attention was Orbits where you have these poetic lyrics of what sounds like recognizing potential but you also mixed in references to the Voyager space program (which launched a literal Gold Record into space). When it comes to song writing do you approach each song with intention in that “with this song I hope to convey (blank)” or do you let each song flow into what they eventually become in that there’s no real plan, it comes together on the page? How would you describe your approach?

I create both ways, sometimes with a general intention, sometimes with a phrase or idea in mind, and sometimes with a whole concept in place. Orbits came out with an intention for sure, and I knew I wanted to connect the romantic idea of the Golden Record into the song. A lot of my music comes from just sitting down and letting things spill out of me though. Sometimes when I try too hard to have a plan or intention behind it, it can feel forced, so I try to let things flow however they want once I sit down to write.

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Barboza, October 2019

Something I like to do to create a through-line for all the folks I interview is I ask the prior interview subject to provide 3 blind questions for the next interviewee with no knowledge as to who I would interview next. These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview subject Icelandic Singer Songwriter Asgeir. Asgeir asks: (Claire: Love this!)
4.) When you were young – What did you want to become when you grew up?
Mariah Carey, but my own version haha! I was obsessed with her. I wanted to be a pop star when I was little, but that got buried for a long time and the desire to be an artist only came bubbling back up for me after college.

5.) What was the best advice someone gave you?
Start now, you will never again be younger than you are today.

6.) How do you think popular music will sound in 50 years?
I think we will be even more integrated with technology and perhaps there will be machines assisting in creation of music but I don’t like to think that they will take over the process completely. Perhaps we will have machines that can tune into our emotions and feelings and adjust/create music that suits us. I think there will be even further development in electronic music but will get the hang of making things sound more natural. We will probably have even busier more distracting lives so the songs may be even shorter and to the point than they are today!

7.) As my final question, I follow you on Instagram, and earlier this year you shared your first “Clairetoon”. Were these “Clairetoons” something you’ve always done, or something new you wanted try and share? Can we expect more “Clairetoons” throughout the year?

This is something new I’ve wanted to try out and share, and yes! I will definitely be sharing more throughout the year 🙂

(I want to thank Claire George for taking the time to answer my questions.  Check out Claire’s latest single, Alone Together, and the song’s remix, Alone Together (Forever), on all streaming platforms.  Also check out Claire’s debut EP, Bodies of Water, also on all streaming platforms.)

Do Anything Cool Lately #2

Escape Pod Log 13.

It’s been 13 days since catastrophe hit the space metropolis, Seattle.

It’s hard to believe that what started as a minor leak in the giant protective glass dome escalated to a full evacuation of the massive interstellar city.  After 13 days of floating in open space, I’ve slowly become accustomed to this new lifestyle.  It’s isolated, but not alone.  It feels overwhelming and sudden, but as long as the power continues to remain active within the pod, it’s easy to remain hopeful that we can return to the city and continue life where we left off.  Lines of communication have remained unfettered by the disaster.  The abundance of water and rations in the pod were never an issue.  Corporate run supply lines have been developed, creating an active delivery network to individual pods no matter how far they drift from the prime disaster site, and if supplies were needed immediately, each pod is equipped with an “exploration suit”.  The suits allow for evacuees to leave their pod and explore for a little over an hour.  

While we float in space it’s hard not to turn to the arts as a way to cope.  Cope with the hours spent floating.  Digital interaction can keep us connected, but I find myself listening to music files I haven’t heard in years.  Five “albums” I’ve felt drawn to in this time of contemplation are:

1.) Father John Misty – Off-Key in Hamburg – 2020
The only officially released live album of Father John Misty released as a charity album on Bandcamp to help artists in need in this hectic time.  
Check this out: I Went to the Store One Day

2.) Grandaddy – Sumday – 2003
I first heard this album while walking around Everyday Music.  It’s a great indie album that probably flew under a lot of radars. 
Check this out: Now It’s On

3.) David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars – 1972
Lyrically this whole album is fascinating.  The opening track, “Five Years” should be more than enough to hook you into hearing this whole album all the way through.
Check this out: Suffragette City

4.) The Ataris – Hang Your Head in Hope – 2011
If I had a pop punk band guilty pleasure, that I would go to a concert and scream sing all their songs, it would be The Ataris.  This album is unique in that, it’s just the lead singer, an acoustic guitar, and each song was recorded in a single take.
Check this out: All Souls’ Day

5.) Jakob Dylan and friends – Echo in the Canyon soundtrack – 2019
A collection of covers that will make you remember (if you had forgotten), how great the creative spirit was in Echo Canyon in the 60’s.
Check this out: Never My Love

I hope anyone who reads this log entry stays safe and takes time to rediscover music.

(To anyone who doesn’t get it, we’ve been in self quarantine due to Coronavirus for 13 days.  Here are 5 albums I’ve been falling in love with while we’ve had time to step away from society for a little bit.  I always liked old Sci-Fi stories so I pictured a great space city just getting blind sided by a major catastrophe, and everyone being forced to change their plans in order to cope, which is essentially what happened here. Stay safe everyone!)

 

“Soup is overrated” 7 Questions with Ásgeir

The third album “Bury the Moon” by Icelandic singer-songwriter Ásgeir is an album I would describe as an folky atmospheric dream pop album with lyrics that feel deep and meaningful.  On the day the album was released, Ásgeir detailed the experience of leaving Reykjavik to go write at a friend’s summerhouse with just a guitar and piano, in an effort to bring his music back to it’s roots and make it more honest.  He also detailed writing the lyrics with his dad which added a more personal uniqueness to each song.  I really enjoyed the album, and was happy to have the opportunity to interview Ásgeir.  Here’s my short interview with Ásgeir:

1.) I enjoyed your new album “Bury the Moon”. In particular I enjoyed Pictures, Eventide, Youth, Lazy Giants, and Rattled Snow. There were a lot of themes of memories. Were there any main themes and or motivators behind the album as a whole, or were the songs more of a collection of ideas? 

There is no one thing or theme that ties the whole album together. I would rather say that it’s a collection of songs that I’ve made through the years but the lyrics were all written in a similar time period and maybe that has something to do with why they sound unified.

My idea and motivation behind making this album was to try and see if I could have fun again recording and writing. I felt like at times in the past I’ve been struggling with pressure and stress and not been able to enjoy the process as much as I should have. That’s why I wanted this album to be all about the songs and not the recording process as much. These songs were just simply recorded and I didn’t let my head get in the way of what I felt when I was in the studio.

2.) As a bilingual artist, does it change the creative process, when creating music that is going to be translated to both Icelandic and English? Is this something you have to keep in mind constantly when creating your work, or do you feel some themes are broad enough that they translate well no matter the language?

I never think about that when I’m writing a song. I always start by writing the song (melody and chords) first and then the lyrics come after that. They are usually written in Icelandic first and then translated into English. It’s just a step by step process. Never thinking about the obstacles ahead, only what is being worked on in the moment. Sometimes we struggle with the translations and it’s not always easy to find the right words and rhythm but it usually works out in the end. But obviously the lyrics change a little bit from Icelandic to English but that can also give the songs more depth in my mind.

3.) I read in an interview that when you’re home in Iceland, you enjoy going to the countryside where things move slower and the air is fresher. When you’re on tour do you seek these seemingly tranquil places out also, or do you try to take in as much of a new city as possible before heading to the next stop?

There is never really time to do much outside of the schedule when you’re on tour, and when you have a day off it’s usually spent at a hotel in some city.

I’m usually not that eager to go out and explore in my off time, I just like to rest
and take it easy.  But when and if I go out I try to get to know the city a little by tasting something from the food culture or just walking the streets to sense the vibe from the cities.

Something I like to do to create a through-line for all the folks I interview is I ask the prior interview subject to provide 3 blind questions for the next interviewee with no knowledge as to who I would interview next. These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview subject Hip Hop trio, New Track City. New Track City asks:
4.) If you had the ability to communicate one message to a newborn baby and they could understand you, what would that message be?
Soup is overrated

5.) What’s one decision you made that you think shaped the person you are today?
There have probably been many that have shaped me but one was to give up on a career in sports and put all my focus into my music. I think also to move out of my parents home when I was 16, from the countryside into the city, it was challenging and something that made me who I am today.

6.) What cartoon, movie or TV show character do you think describes you the best?
Bilbo Baggins, Just want a quiet and simple life when I’m done with my adventures.

7.) For my last question, I’m born and raised in Seattle. I heard your cover of Heart Shaped Box and was very impressed. What do you feel is the quintessential Nirvana album and why?
For me In Utero was their best album. I loved all the songs and the sound on that record and I know that for them that was the sound they were always after. It had the rawness of their first album but songs that were more like something that could’ve been on Nevermind.

 

I have to thank Ásgeir for taking the time to answer my questions. Check out his website for news about upcoming shows, and check out his latest album Bury the Moon on all streaming platforms.

Do Anything Cool Lately? #1

(In between show reviews and interviews, every two weeks “Do Anything Cool Lately?” will be a compilation of short thoughts and musings I’ve had while attending a number of shows in the Seattle area.)

On DEFY Kings of Crash…
(Above Image) Don’t get me wrong, I love that Randy Myers is the new DEFY Pro Wrestling Heavyweight Champion, but I feel like we missed out on a real “Hero’s Journey” style storyline for Randy.  My only knock against DEFY since I’ve been a fan of the company has been how erratic some of the company’s main storylines can be. Randy made a passionate speech where he pledged to get the title and within a month and a half he got the title. To really build his story, I would have thought he would have lost this first attempt, Schaff go on an epic title run, with Randy coming back more focused and dedicated at getting another shot, and then at a big summer show Randy try again and gain the title after re climbing that mountain. Randy winning the title clean was probably one of DEFY’s biggest title picture twists since the company’s inception.

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(clockwise from above left) Entendres, Early Warnings, The Bitter, Corbin Louis

On how expensive it is to go to concerts regularly…
In February, I went to 4 concerts between the 13th and the 27th:
– Seattle University’s Battle of the Bands
– Marshall Law Band at Chop Suey
– The Early Warnings Album Release Show at Barboza
– Atomic Rust at Cha Cha Lounge
The combined ticket price for all four shows was $21.

On Early Warnings’ and The Bitter’s debut EPs…
I recommend checking out the debut EPs from local Seattle bands, The Early Warnings, and The Bitter. I would describe The Early Warnings as a mix of classic rock, country rock, and a little bit of dream pop. Their debut EP “Breakfast Club”, exemplifies the qualities that made me a fan of their live show, well balanced musicianship that support the very strong vocal style of lead singer, Danica Winkley.  On the flipside, The Bitter is Seattle’s next big afro punk band.  Folks who’ve seen their live show, would compare their music style to Rage Against the Machine. Their debut EP “Venom and Rage” feels like a frank and angry post punk critique of government and society at large mixed with stories of growing up in pre gentrified Seattle.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more of these two bands in the years to come.

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(Clockwise from top) Divine Comedy Club, Grace Stuewe, Goodwill Gold

On Seattle University’s Battle of the Bands 2020…
Of the bands that performed at Seattle University’s Battle of the Bands 2020, I believe Goodwill Gold, Grace Stuewe, and Divine Comedy Club are ready to make a play at the Seattle music scene. Obviously, stay in school and get your degrees, but I wouldn’t mind seeing these bands perform more around the Seattle music community. Divine Comedy Club felt like psychedelic rock from the 60’s and 70’s mixed with modern dream pop (the drummer really stood out to me). Grace Stuewe played a lyric driven style of indie pop mixing guitars and synths. She was the only one with physical CDs on sale at merch (I bought one).  Goodwill Gold ultimately won the competition with a rock style that bordered on punk, in line with a number of bands currently playing around the current Seattle music scene.

“Lose sight of the shore, it’s never too late to go after what you want no matter the circumstance…” 7 Questions with Hip Hop Group, New Track City

In 2017, when I started going to live shows on a weekly basis, one of the first things I decided to do was post a picture or video on my Instagram from every set I attended.  After a month or two of doing this, a handful of bands started to reach out and ask if I had any interest in checking out their music.  New Track City was one of the first bands I remember reaching out.  Not only was I impressed by the work that brothers Bem and Chi Stone had already released, but I was impressed by how authentic they were.  Interacting with them on social media, listening to their music, and seeing them perform live, you get a sense that they’re being themselves and are willing to put in the work to be successful.  With producer Dru rounding out the trio and news of an upcoming album, I’m excited to see where this evolving hip hop group will go in 2020.  I had the opportunity to interview New Track City recently.  Here’s my short interview with New Track City:

1.) Each of your albums have a fairly distinct feel from one another. My introduction to New Track City was the “The Damn Gina Tape”, but the album I find myself listening to randomly on the regular at my day job is “Lose Sight of the Shore”. The album has the great flow from Bem and Chi Stone, but Dru’s production really makes that project shine. How did you approach the creation of “Lose Sight of the Shore” different from your other work? Was it business as usual or did you have a concept for what you wanted the album to be when it was completed?

Man, “Lose Sight of the Shore” came out in August, 2017 and we remember being like yo… This is our first album with all original production, everything from the ground up is gonna be all us. We wanted the sounds to be colorful with live instrumentation showing everyone who our influences are, a throwback album with new school inflections with the overall message of motivation. Lose sight of the shore, it’s never too late to go after what you want no matter the circumstance and we feel like we accomplished that.

2.) I’ve always enjoyed the group’s Instagram page. It’s a mixture of cultural pride, and a celebration of modern hip hop. Every now and again you’ll say “this artist is one of your favorites”, but I always wanted to know, who do you feel are the top three best hip-hop artists of all time and why?

Wow, well it would be different for all of us and it changes but we all agree on Jay Z, Kanye West, Outkast or A Tribe Called Quest depending on the day. Reason being, Jay Z is every rappers blueprint to greatness musically and in life. He says bars that make sense years after you first heard them. Kanye West because he shaped the sound of music time and time again and opened the door for folks like us to even pursue music plus, he’s witty as hell! Outkast because they may be the most unique Hip Hop Act of all time from style, to how they rap, to their overall sound. Tribe’s PRODUCTION IS EVERYTHING, so we had to throw them in there.

3.) Kind of going off the last question, I heard in past interviews you mentioned what music styles inspired your style. There are styles that definitely permeate in your work, definitely jazz (Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, etc.), but what kind of blew my mind was that you gave shout outs to ABBA, and also mentioned trying to rap over Butterfly by Crazy Town. Do you feel that it’s important that emerging hip hop artists today should explore styles outside of hip hop, and who are your favorite go-to non-hip-hop artists?

It’s definitely important for Hip Hop acts to explore outside of the genre because although Hip Hop is running things, it incorporates everything! To us, it only makes sense to reach outside the genre because that’s how you develop your own sound and keep the culture fresh. We have a huge list of artists we listen to outside of Hip Hop. Amy Winehouse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Joss Stone, James Brown, Davido just to name a few.

Something I like to do to create a through-line for all the folks I interview is I ask the prior interview subject to provide 3 blind questions for the next interviewee with no knowledge as to who I would interview next. These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview subject, Whitney Petty and Molly Sides from Thunderpussy. Molly and Whitney ask:
4.) If you had to choose one thing to go away forever, would you choose vegetables or the wind?
Well, since we need wind to create renewable energy, we’d have to say get rid of Vegetables because fruits would still exist so that would take their place.

5.) Would you rather be in the air or in water?
Flying in the Air!!!! On some Superman / Thor stuff, that would be INCREDIBLE!

6.) If you knew the world was ending in 48 hours what would you try to accomplish?
This question is insane! Where do we even start!?!?! We’d tell our family and friends we love them. Leave all our valuables to them. Take a final drive listening to our catalog, take in one last view of nature catching a beautiful sunset reflecting on the life we lived and then yeah. Go meet Nipsey and Kobe in the sky.

7.) For my last question, I heard in a past interview you mentioned movies and television were art forms that inspired some of your work. What are three must see films or television programs each of you recommend checking out?

Not a fair question, too many to name but if we had to. “Kill Bill”, “The Matrix”, ” Bad Boys 2” and “Rush Hour 2” and “Supernatural.” ‘Dragon Ball Z” dang this question! (lol)

I have to thank New Track City (Bem, Chi Stone, and Dru) for taking the time to answer my questions.  Check out their website for news and events, follow them on Instagram, Youtube, and other social media, and keep an eye out for their next album some time in 2020.

A Night with the Howard Jones Acoustic Trio and Rachael Sage at Benaroya Hall (1/28/2020)

Before the Howard Jones Acoustic Trio took the stage, the theater manager got on the mic and said, “Welcome to Benaroya Hall. We would like to remind everyone, please no flash photography during this live performance.  If you need help turning the flash off of your device, please ask the closest Millenial.”  The crowd laughed.  The Howard Jones Trio entered.  Howard gets on the mic and the first thing he says, “Before we begin, serious question, are there really any millennials in the audience tonight?”  Myself and five other people raised our hands.  The crowd laughed, while the band smiled.

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Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to see Rachael Sage and an acoustic performance from the Howard Jones Trio.  Howard Jones is an artist I would hear occasionally when riding in the car with my parents.  I don’t think people realize how many of his songs are still in circulation on radio stations that play 80’s hits, or are used random in television shows (pretty sure I heard a song or two of his in Family Guy).  I was pretty excited to see him perform live, and the prospect of seeing him play a full acoustic set had me intrigued.  I mean c’mon.  The guy performed at Live Aid (in 1985).  Who wouldn’t be at least a little excited?

Rachael Sage
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The night opened with Rachael Sage.  Her music style I would describe as a mix of pop, folk, and a little bit of country.  Rachael’s piano playing and her collaborator’s skillful violin playing blended well with her snaps and smooth vibrant voice.  The whole set was mesmerizing.  Her “stage patter” was fun and really made the show more personal.  Seeing how willing she was to let the audience know about her past relationship proclivities, or how she was a cancer survivor, really added another layer of expressiveness to her performance.  The lyrics of the songs already had feelings and themes of hope and perseverance, but hearing the perspective she was coming from, it was very reflective and if anything more captivating.  You could really feel the emotion in her performance.

The Howard Jones Trio
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Howard Jones is a seasoned performer.  You can tell he and his bandmates have been performing for years.  What I love about these acoustic sets, it allows for the performers to be more casual with the audience.  Hearing his admiration for Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson, his opinions about Ed Sheeran’s performance at Glastonbury, or how it feels to still make new music today, were just fun.  Regarding the music, he performed a handful of songs form his new album, two or three covers, and as a seasoned performer would, he played the hits.  Most of Howard’s hits were originally performed on synthesizers or contained some sort of electronic aspect to them, so seeing the creative interpretations of the songs by his acoustic trio really made the songs feel almost new and fresh.  I’m sure the audience loved the takes as many took the opportunity to sing along with Howard, which at times even took him by surprise.  The other members of the trio, Nick Beggs and Robin Boult, really stood out in their musicianship.  Beggs especially continually drew attention with how rapid he would play his instrument.  I was sure to pick up Howard’s latest album after the show wrapped.

Overall it was a very enjoyable evening.  Speaking from the perspective of one of the six millennials in the audience that night, I recommend checking out The Howard Jones Trio with Rachael Sage.  Millenial or not, I feel like there was something for everyone to enjoy at this show.