Thursday, October 29, 2009


Mike Sullivan's guitar was stolen on the eve of 10/28 & 10/29, sometime after Russian Circles concluded their set at the Mad Hatter. Here's a bit more information regarding the instrument and post-show theft:

Gibson Les Paul, Double Cutaway,
Pro Custom Shop, BLACK, SN#791858

"Last night, October 28th, after a show in the Cincinnati, Ohio/Covington, Kentucky area (@ The Mad Hatter), one of my guitars was stolen off stage during load out. The guitar is exactly the same as seen in the photos but has a black finish. As the guitar is quite rare, it has significant street and sentimental value. Any information would be greatly appreciated. An eye witness confirms that an individual named Tim Carr was seen exiting the venue with the guitar (without case). The guitar was resting safely on a stand on stage before it was taken. The guitar features a unique, smaller Gibson headstock that is exclusive to this model. It's serial number is: 791858."

If you have any information about this please email:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Past Lives - Vibe'n & Chillin' @ Avast!

Avast Recording Company has long been a part of Seattle legend. Yet, over the past 19-some-odd-years, the legacy of Stuart Hallerman’s studio has far outgrown its locality. I'd be willing to wage a small bet that these studio-spaces have housed much of the gear (boards, microphones, instruments) used to record, at least, one favorite album: The Shins? Fleet Foxes? Band of Horses? Modest Mouse? How about Sleater-Kinney, Low, Cat Power or Unwound?! The client-list goes canyon length with notable examples...

Whether it’s the bands, the producer, or the studio that is responsible for the many successful albums that have been made at Avast, the reputation of the studio certainly precedes itself.

By the time I arrived, Past Lives had been anchored there a few days. Drummer, Mark Gajadhar, was absent, but the remaining members of the band - Jordan Blilie, Morgan Henderson, and Devin Welch - were there, along with engineer, Steve Fisk; all busy working through ideas, experimenting with the old analog synthesizers and other vintage equipment stacked throughout the studio's various rooms...

With the project running so far ahead of schedule, the overall atmosphere around the mixing board became one of in-the-zone studiousness, coupled with the kind of jokey-camaraderie natural to friendships passing the decade mark: everyone making shape remarks; laughing at Fisk's wheezy old pug, all blobbed out and snoring on the sofa.

Over the preceding days, Welch and Henderson, along with Gajadhar, had burned through the basic-tracks for more than 12-songs, including a couple of full band first-takes! An incredible feat, especially in this age of Pro-tooled projects, where a musician can 'fuck up a studio-take, miss something or hit a bad note, put down their instrument, and expect the engineer to fix it by cutting and pasting in a computer program, instead of being inspired to play the part correctly'...

When you put a person in front of a tape deck and they have to get it right or know where they are going with the song, their performance changes, undeniably, the end result becomes artistically different. Which is something I imagine Past Lives strive for...

Not that I've heard enough of the new album to know... I mean, Jordan has yet to complete his vocal tracks... However, if the band's recent live shows offer any indication (of direction), it's that they're staking a serious claim, working over new musical territory by crafting an intensely individualistic sound...

Personalities play heavy here... With each musician bringing their own refined aesthetic to both the songwriting and performances... I'm continually amazed that the four distinct styles mesh so well together, that these players are thoughtful enough of their craft to take care in not dominating the others...

Sitting in on a recording session can be weird. Often, there's a concentrated intensity that precludes those outside the creative circle from participating. And rightly so. Bands operate as units. Insanely complex relationship mechanisms, that develop inclusive, and mysterious processes, which they (may) use to formulate a sound. It can be intimidating to do much beyond squinting in tight-lipped silence, unsure when to remark or raise a question.

With Past Lives in Avast, the awkward lulls were traded for awed silence: Devin over-dubbing a rhythm track with an electric 'bouzouki' guitar; Morgan warming up his bass clarinet in Studio B. After nearly a year spent in preparation - dissecting material in their rehearsal space and performing along the west coast - the group's self-proclaimed 'ultimate focus' had reached its first pay-off. Mixing and mastering will be wrapped by the end of this month, everything on track for an early-spring release date...

The following paragraph is an excerpt from Hannah Levine's pertinent, local-centric column, "Rocket Queen," appearing each week on-line and in print copies of the Seattle Weekly:

"Past Lives drummer Mark Gajadhar was pretty much bursting with excitement about the new record his band is working on. "We are in the studio with Steve Fisk right now. We tracked most of the stuff at Avast [studios], but [we're] doing overdubs and vocals at Steve's house right now," he explained. "I honestly think it's going to be the best record I've ever been involved with," he told me. Coming from the man who helped forge landmark works like the now-disbanded Blood Brothers' ... Burn, Piano Island, Burn, and who is currently the brain behind the beats of Champagne Champagne, that actually means a great deal. The new Past Lives record is slated for release on local label Suicide Squeeze in the spring of 2010."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Demo Submissions: Part 2

Months have passed. Demos have been piling up. The bins fill and the task of listening becomes more daunting as each week passes. I'm amazed at the steady flow, the hard cash spent on packaging and postage... And more amazed that I'm starting to think of this as a task. Which sucks. Because I want to love them all.

I guess I have to say it - originality still counts. A lot. Many of the submissions fall into either of two categories: Bands that are heavily influenced by Minus the Bear, or music that builds toward the inevitable 'Explosion in the Sky'. I get it - it's really fun to play hyper-melodic and dynamic music - but why would a label be interested in a sound-a-like version of one of their already successful acts? Anything after the fact is formula.

Yet these clone-groups make up only a fraction of what comes in...

A great majority of the music submitted is so far from being anywhere near a thing we would release it's to the point of ridiculousness. Quick scrutiny of the label's website or MySpace page would reveal our interests (albeit on a very basic level). There's zero chance of SSR releasing a traditional honky-tonk record or placing a collection of beats by a hip hop producer... We'll listen to these along with the rest, and probably fucking love some of them... But some music remains outside this label's sphere of interest/influence/understanding. Even if the desire existed, we're simply not positioned to place it in a way that would benefit anyone - artist or label. Why burn energy and resources promoting an album of truck driver country when there's already a long list of vital music that's much closer to our collective heart?

That said, there's a fairly wide range of music that does interest us: Some of it swirling underground, still developing... Some obvious to all: I mean, what independent record label wouldn't want to release a Deerhunter or No Age single this year? Here two are current - near perfect - examples of bands that are closing on the pinnacle of their individual visions; their music is both catchy and disorienting by turns, textured, melodic, and perhaps most importantly, surprising (considered in context). They are becoming indie touchstones: the bands that younger bands emulate.

Anyway. Suicide Squeeze does get a lot of cool stuff in the mail. The best music often gets buried under an avalanche of grossness... That's to be expected... Thing is: the music I'm getting most out of is happening around me all the time... As much as I'd like to highlight a few demos, I find that there's a lot more to talk about purely on the local level.

The number of musicians hovering around Seattle and Olympia - that are playing shows and self-releasing music of extreme quality - is just ridiculous... I'm talking about bands/labels/releases that easily parallel, if not surpass, most of the albums I spend my food and drug money on...

Yah, it's like that everywhere... Iowa City, Atlanta, Portland, Los-Smell-Angeles; even fucking Brooklyn must have a wealth of sound secreted away, songs so new the Pitchfork trident has yet to pierce them...

Back when I was living in Ohio, I thought that nothing could touch the diversity of music surfacing between Akron and Cleveland, where divergent scenes developed massive potency in relative isolation. I realize now that the personal connections I had with these players - either as friends, or because I saw so many of their shows - made all the difference. You study what interests you; you move closer to the things you love: you do these things because they come naturally, because what is unforced almost always makes the most sense. Nothing in nature says no.

Which brings me to Levi Fuller and his Ball of Wax Series... Levi really does too much for Seattle. He runs with a myriad of sonic projects (all of them worthy of attention), is deeply involved with Hollow Earth Radio, and acts as a kind of scene curator/taste-maker by focusing attention on his favorite local music through Ball of Wax.

I went to Ball of Wax 16 at The Sunset earlier this month, unsure of what to expect... $7 got me in the door, plus a copy of the latest installment: a booklet and CD tucked in a cardboard folder. Unexpected, and cool.

The music compiled on the disk rolls across a landscape of varied sound... Eighteen area musicians contribute a track (including one from each of the night's performers). However, the show leaned hard on the rocking/singing material, leaving the quieter, private moments for later listening. [I'm sure Sokai Stilhed either has, or will participate in future shows]. If the billing had been better balanced, it may have more accurately reflected Levi's overall aesthetic choices... but this is a very minor gripe. Of all the live acts, BLOUSE went the furthest afield. I've played the fuck out of his song "Pimm" ever since, but I couldn't suppress a distracting fit of giggles once the yogi-spirit-wiz (in sunglasses) began to twist on stage, arms flapping, as his incense smoked off a small table.

I'll attend more of these events because they stress exactly what I was trying to convey earlier in the post - about the personal connection I feel after witnessing a performance, and how that connection intensifies when there's a musical reminder to take home... The way Levi does it, one experience illuminates another. The audio, visual and social elements are brought together in a way that encourages deeper exploration and understanding. And that rips.