Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Lauryn Hill, Snoop, A Tribe Called Quest, Preemo added to Rock The Bells line-up

Now that's more like it.
Rock The Bells organizers announced additions to the 2010 lineup, with the biggest news being Ms. Lauryn Hill added as a "Very Special Guest." Prime time names Snoop Dogg and A Tribe Called Quest were announced as new headliners.
The new headliners will keep in tune with the festival's theme of artists performing classic albums.
Snoop will perform his debut album "Doggystyle," with guest appearances by The Dogg Pound, Warren G, Lady of Rage and RBX, aka the Death Row Inmates. Key missing ingredient: Dr. Dre.
ATCQ will perform their third and arguably beststudio album "Midnight Marauders."
And DJ Premier will do a special tribute to Gangstarr.
RTB is scheduled for Aug. 22. at Shoreline Ampitheatre in Mountain View.

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Video: MC Lars - "Twenty-Three" (in conjunction with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Peninsula native MC Lars released his new video “Twenty-Three” today in partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
You can find out more info on AFSP and MC Lars here.
After the jump is the press release regarding the partnership and more about the video.

The Bay Area’s self-proclaimed “post-punk laptop rapper” MC Lars has teamed up with AFSP in an effort to spread awareness about his new single and video, “Twenty-three.” The track appears on his latest album and is a sobering, emotional tribute to Lars’ college roommate Patrick Wood, who took his own life at the age of 23 while attending Stanford University.

Last October, Lars was supporting Grammy-nominated pop-punkers Bowling for Soup in the UK. BFS frontman and record label head Jaret Reddick and Lars were sitting backstage, discussing plans for the rapper's next video.

"We decided it had to be 'Twenty-three,'” Lars said. “We both felt strongly that we could reach a lot people.”

"We contacted AFSP, an organization that had helped Patrick's mother as she dealt with the loss of her son. We told them we wanted to make a video for 'Twenty-three' and asked if they wanted to join forces to spread our message of suicide prevention and survival after suicide. They loved the song and graciously pledged their support,” Lars said.

“Sadly, every 15 minutes someone in the U.S. takes their own life. More needs to be done to raise awareness about this national health problem,” AFSP Executive Director Robert Gebbia said. “That is why we are pleased to partner with MC Lars to launch the premiere of 'Twenty-three.' We feel the song and video will help raise awareness about depression, but we also believe that many who have lost someone they love to suicide will relate to the song’s powerful messages.”

The video for “Twenty-three” was directed by Heath Balderston, who donated his time to create the clip. Click here to watch the exclusive premiere of MC Lars' “Twenty-three.”

On June 22, the digital Twenty-three EP, which features the song, the video and various unreleased material from MC Lars, will be available for purchase on iTunes, at Amazon and elsewhere.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Interview transcript: Bela Fleck (Part 2)

Part 2 of the interview with banjo master Bela Fleck, who performs with Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain June 23 at the Sunset Center in Carmel. For information, visit www.sunsetcenter.org.

I want to take it back to when you started the project. Tell me a little bit about that structure, working with the symphony and the three of you, with your unique and varied styles. What were the initial challenges in working within that structure and utilizing your gifts for improv?
This project, the orchestra piece has no improvisation for Edgar or I. Every single note we played for 30 minutes was scripted. Zakir has set structures he has to work in, but nothing is written out for him. He's going to play it the way he feels, but he has to know every bar change — when I say bar change, a lot of the music is rotating between different time signatures constantly, so he had to be as intimate with the music as Edgar or I, perhaps even more so, because he had to be able to freely improvise between it as a percussionist. And he also had one improvised solo, which he would play and he would cue us out with a pre-arranged musical cue.
Creating the piece was really interesting, because normally when you think of an orchestral piece, you think about one guy sitting in a room composing, and all of the great work has tended to be done that way. So this was a different animal, in that we got three people that have all composed, trying to figure out how to do this together. And the way the structure worked, Edgar was our conduit. He was the one who sort of organized all the thoughts and made it all cohesive, although we all worked together and we all contributed melodies and suggestions and all of it, the same things we do on our own music. But Edgar was the guy who had the skills to translate it into a score that an orchestra could play.
The orchestra had no input until the day we showed up with the piece for them to learn and play for the performance. We wrote every single note for them to play. There was no improvisation for them either.
But creating that work was an immense job. Edgar has done it quite a few times now. He was our resident expert, although Zakir has been involved in writing orchestra pieces too. I had done one with Edgar before, a double concerto we had written together. And we learned that structure, where we come up with melodies together, he'd fish for ideas from me, we incorporate them into the piece, we'd listen back to them together, and make changes together. But he was the guy who put pen to paper and put it all down. And he was really gifted. And for a guy who was such a great composer, to stand back and say ‘Okay, now I'm a composer, but now I'm just making sure that all three of us are equally represented in this music,’ was quite an incredible challenge. Everybody got their licks in and everybody got something to say about every note. And it all happed with a lot of warmth and ease, which is such a great testament to how good Edgar and Zakir are. They're both great guys.

Take it back to your relationship with Edgar and your decision to bring in Zakir. What lead up to that?
I met Edgar , I think it was 82, maybe 83, and he was an amazing young talent. We met in Aspen, Colorado, where he was going to school. We started playing together and from then on, we were in constant contact, always listening to each others music and always playing together when we could.
And as I watched him, he sort of reawakened my interest in classical music. When I was a kid, there was a lot of classical music going on, especially in my teens. My father's a cellist and I was in a music high school, so I was hearing a lot of it. But it wasn't my thing.
So being around Edgar made me realize there was actually a place for the banjo with that music, and there would be an interesting challenge that I could learn from. We made a record together called “Perpetual Motion,” which was, basically, the banjo playing classical works, and Edgar was my co-producer.
He really knew classical music, so he helped me not do dumb stuff that a banjo player would not know was dumb. And helped me to arrange the music for the instrument that we were going to play, and oversee (everything), while letting me do a lot of the work, keep me out of trouble. The album went really well. I learned so much from doing it about playing the banjo. It was a great thing. So I was eager to stay in touch with Edgar musically.
The first orchestra piece was the double concert for banjo and bass and orchestra in Nashville, with the Nashville Symphony. They were building a new concert hall. They were looking for something for Nashville composers to write a piece for the opening of the new hall, which is an incredible classical venue just built in Nashville. They invited us to do it because we had done that piece together, and they suggested we make it a triple concerto, and come up with someone amazing to do it with. We had a very short list and Zakir was at the top of it. And I think the reason he was at the top of it was because he was the guy we thought we could learn the most from in some sort of extended interaction.
Edgar and I, we're equally psycho about music, in that we don't want to give up learning. We don't want to give up the wonder, and we know what happens when we are stimulated, great things come out of us. Or at least greater things happen then when we're not stimulated.
(Zakir) was just a guy we thought was incredible and we'd been hearing about him And we're real curious about Indian music too, and we both have a lot of respect for Indian classical music. It was sort of trying to be well-rounded musicians. If you're a well-rounded musician, you really need to be listening to music from around the world and find out what you can learn from and what skills they use. You need to know about Indian music, African music. You need to know about music from different parts of the world.
So this as a way for us to learn a lot, and we could learn something from Zakir. And luckily he was interested. And we had something to offer Zakir, a major commission for good money, with a good orchestra. with a great conductor
When we first got together, we first started playing as composers, hardly at all actually playing together. It was all three of us sitting together in front of a computer and writing stuff, getting out instruments out and sharing ideas.
But we kind of put off the point when we would actually sit and play and jam and become a trio until later because we needed to write this piece.
So that's what started to happened in October. That is when we started to find out what the trio was, because most of the gigs we have been doing has been as a trio, and just a few with the orchestras. And the trio is really a wonderful thing. It's completely different from anything we have done, and it's very warm and acoustic and earthy, and it's subtle and complicated and simple all at the same time. And it's a lot of fun.
I think we're all pretty high on it and pretty happy that we found a new context for ourselves. Its' like a reinvention when you find new people to play with, and it puts you in a different light, and you can use your gifts in a different way.

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Interview transcript: MC Lars (Part 1)

MC Lars has a new single and EP coming out, both titled “Twenty-Three,” about a friend who committed suicide. Lars has been working with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to promote the single and shed light on depression and suicide.
MC Lars is scheduled to perform Saturday, June 5 at The Catalyst night club in Santa Cruz. Show starts at 8:30 p.m.
He spoke with “The Beat” in advance of the show and the single/EP release. Below is part one of that interview.

Talk about the song “Twenty-Three” and the story behind it and everything. I know it's a personal record for you.
Thank you. Around the time I first met you, I was living in this freshman dorm with this guy from New England, from Connecticut. This real interesting, quirky guy named Pat. We became friends, because he was kind of funny and sarcastic, and we were on the humor magazine together.
Then sophomore year, we were roommates after I came back from Oxford. And we became really good friends. But he was gay, and it was hard for him to come out of the closet. I didn't know until I was a sophomore that he was gay and he told me and I was real surprised. But I thought it was cool that he was able to come out and find his identity.
But he was also battling with depression. I knew he was having trouble with it, but I never knew the severity of it. I would see him whenever I was back on campus, and then during my senior year, I was gone. I was on tour.
In 2006, my mom called me and told me he had committed suicide. He was in Berlin. He had gone through some emotional thing with a breakup and he was just having a tough time. And he was so isolated from all of us. He felt so alone. It was such a heavy thing to deal with, and I wrote the song just to tell the story and make people aware (of depression).
It's a very serious thing and people need to be treated for it. It can't be taken lightly. We've been working with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. They're debuting the video on their organization's web site (on June 8), and that's really cool because they're taking it to the classrooms and different events to try to talk to people and show that it's a serious thing. Their whole message and the message we're trying to get across is that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And that's what people need to know.

This is a more revealing portrait than I've seen from you during your recording career. What was it like recording that song and writing the lyrics? Talk about the message you're trying to convey with your words and your relationship with your friend.
It's a personal song and it almost didn't make the album. I was afraid, because people who have heard (my) music know that sometimes it's funny or sarcastic and pop culture focused.
Pat was a really good friend of mine. And I knew he was always kind of on edge and he was always kind of, there was a lot going on because he was an incredibly intelligent guy. But he was also really sensitive. So he turned to his school work, and all of his classes were a way to deal with some of the pain of what was going on in his mind. He really had a lot of things that came together that made life really hard for him.
So when I wrote that song, I wrote the song a few weeks after it happened. And I just sat on the lyrics for probably about a year and a half. And when I was doing demos for the record, I rediscovered it and I got the courage to approach it.
I originally was going to use the chorus from the Death Cab for Cutie song, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” I was going to arrange the verses around that, but it seemed to non specific and too grim. Plus, it would have been hard to clear the sample or whatever.
So the song, I was working on it for a really long time, but it finally found its place, and when we put the sample of his voice from the “Radio Pet Fencing” album, it all came together.

It's like your having a final conversation with him at he end of the song. When you did get that sound bite and put it on there, when the song was completed, emotionally, what was your mind state? Was there any difficulty in completing the song?
People really, when they listen to the song, they cry a lot. And it's a heavy song because, I wouldn't say it was a fun song to make, but it was really satisfying. And what was fun about the song, or I should say,what was cathartic, was that so many people were involved in it. There were 10 different artists that contributed to the song, and that made me feel like people identified with it, and it was less of a lonely thing (to record). So many people have come to me at shows and said “I have had friends or family members who have taken their lives.” Bart Copeland, he works at the record label, he's one of the business managers, his dad committed suicide. So there's a lot of people who identify with it.
What makes the whole situation so hard is that Pat was really young. He had this huge life in front of him. He was such a hard worker. He had his graduate degree from Stanford , and someone like that who had so many possibilities, who was so effected by mental illness was horrible.
Writing the song was really cathartic and it added emotional balance to the record. It's probably one of my favorite songs on the record and I'm really happy my friends encouraged me to put it on, because my instincts were it was something personal that I didn't want to release. I didn't want to bum people out.

The way you present yourself, you're obviously true to your talent and voice, but you're a fun guy. Was there any concern about people not taking this seriously?
The last thing I want in this whole campaign is to make people think that I'm trying to capitalize on my friend's tragedy by doing this as a single and making a video for it.
First of all, I wanted people to take it seriously because it comes out in a funny place (on the album).
I didn't want people to think i was joking around, but if you listen to the song you know that I'm not. And I didn't want people to think I was trying to capitalize on it. Those were the two concerns.
It's a very real moment, and I've learned as a writer and performer, tapping into a real emotion is really powerful. Sometimes I think it's easier to hide behind the joke or the pop culture reference, because it's really anonymous. But when you really expose yourself, that's when you reach people.
One of the really powerful, heavy things that happened was earlier this year, when we were putting the video together. In one of the scenes, I'm in the lecture hall, and there are photos of all these peoples faces in the seats around me. I'm in an empty lecture hall with pictures of friends and family members of fans who have committed suicide.
That was really intense, because there was a period when I was asking (fans to send) pictures of friends who had committed suicide, and everyday there was like five e-mails from kids talking about it, and there were these long stories to go along with the pictures.
That was cool because it felt cathartic, but it also got really heavy. That's dark, talking to people about that all the time. And having pictures of younger kids, like teenagers, and these younger people, and in the photos they look so happy. That was crazy.
But the song and the video, both of them are going to help some people feel some closure, hopefully.
One of the beautiful things that has happened from the song is I've forged a really close relationship with Pat's mom. We e-mail a lot and we talk about him. When I opened for Nas in Connecticut, she came out wearing an MC Lars shirt. That was cool.
They've been really nice. I met his brother, who lives in Tacoma, Wash., where my girlfriend went to college. We had coffee together. We had never met him. And I met his sister. I've gotten really close to his family as a result of the song, and that's been a really cool result.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Audrye Sessions/Judgment Day play Sunday at East Village Coffeehouse in Monterey

It's hard to think of a more disparate lineup than Sunday's at East Village Coffeehouse.
Harmonic indie-pop rockers Audrye Sessions will be joined by heavy metal string trio Judgement Day.
Country/roots soloist James Hunnicutt and the unclassified Poor Bailey round out the lineup. Show starts at 8 p.m. Sunday. The show is all ages.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Interview transcript: Bela Fleck (Part 1)

Banjo superstar Bela Fleck talks with "The Beat" about his upcoming gig at The Sunset Center in Carmel.
Fleck is scheduled to perform June 23 with composer Edgar Meyer and classical Indian tabla player Zakir Hussain. For tickets, visit www.sunsetcenter.org.

Where are you calling from?
Believe it or not, I'm at a laundry mat in Glenside, Pennsylvania. I just really like going to laundromats when I have time off (laughs) I'm at the point of the tour where I ran out of clothes. So while they're setting up the sound and stuff, I'm doing my laundry.
We're playing in Glenside, Pennsylvania. It's called the Keswick Theater. I've been playing her for years. It's a good place.

Have you been out this way to the Monterey Peninsula?
I'm not sure if I ever have. I'm not really sure. I don't think I've ever played Carmel itself. I've been in that general region before, but never in Carmel

Tell me about your work with Zakir and Edgar, and where you guys are at on the tour and what it's been like playing this recent round of gigs.
It's been great. We haven't done it enough to have it remotely be normal for anybody. But yet, it' feels so comfortable and fun. They're both great guys and incredibly inspiring to play with.
This will be our third show on this trip, but the last time we played was September and October. That's when we actually did our first real touring together. It's sort of like a fresh start when you play again. You kind of pick up where you left off. In a certain way, you're trying to relearn everything and get it all back under your hands. But there's something that steps up and goes to the next level as well, so we're all enjoying that, the freshness of it. Feeling new again. It still is pretty new. We've only toured a couple of months so far, and then we're going to be touring all summer. So it's like the beginning of the main touring we're going to be doing together.
The music itself, there's a lot of improv and a lot of structure as well. When you're improvising a lot, the show is only good as the improvisation. You want to get your head around everything. You want to figure out how you want to play each song, what you're going for to make each song different. That's my personal goal, because I have a lot of solos, more than I deserve, but since there's bass and tabla, I tend to always have a solo, and my goal is to figure out how to make them all different from each other.

Talk about the dynamic of the three of you. Edgar would appear to be from a disciplined corner being a composer. Zakir on tabla would appear to be more rooted in improv, and you are like a bridge. How does that play on stage?
I think Zakir may even be the most trained of us, because he went through intense training starting as a young child from his father, who is one of the greatest tabla players ever. And so Indian music, although it's highly improvised, is highly, highly trained. In other words, they're trained with the tools it will take to improvise in a glorious manner. He has stuff in his DNA that is beyond anything Edgar or I will ever be able to play or understand. And I'm serious. I'm not being coy or self-effacing.
By the same token, Edgar has that kind of information, from western classical music and he has just created his own creative, compositional gifts. He also has a lot of information that Zakir and I don't possess. And he contributes to the thing that makes it different from other things that Zakir has done
For me, I've played withe Edgar before, so I've been privy to that information. But not in this context. Not in a rhythmic context with an incredible lion of percussion and rhythm.
And what I add... I'm not exactly sure what I add (laughs). My instrument is a banjo, and I've been trying to play it and soak up as much information from all kinds of musical worlds for so long, that it all kind of globs together into just being me. And that's what I have to add to it. As an improviser, I'm probably more comfortable improvising than playing set music. But this music challenges all of us in different ways, and yet it's not so much that anybody is overwhelmed. The amount of challenge is very welcome.

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Video: Rey Resurreccion “Spaceships”

South Bay representative Rey Resurrecion's new video "Spaceships" for your viewing pleasure. Check out the homie Solis Cin sporting the fresh NY fitted at the end of the clip.

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