Marc Cabrera has nothing better to do than watch a lot of movies and television, and listen to a lot of music. Luckily, he has a job that pays him to blog about local and national arts, entertainment and pop culture. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Life on the road wasn't all that for Austin, Texas-based musician Charlie Faye. The Americana singer/songwriter was weary of the road life, living out of a suitcase in one hotel to the next, barely getting a chance to settle into her surroundings before it was time to shove off for the next gig. So Faye borrowed an idea from John Steinbeck — tour the entire country and get to know the people and places a little more intimately. Faye is in the midst of her “Travels With Charlie” tour, a 10-month project where she takes up residence in a different town for each month of the tour. So far, she has stayed in Tuscon, Ari., Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., Bolder, Colo. and Burlington, Vermont. She will visit Salinas this week to participate in the 30th annual Steinbeck Festival, Aug 5-8 at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas. Faye talked with “The Beat” about her tour, life on the road and Steinbeck's influence on her work. Below is a transcript.
Q: Where are you at right now? A: I'm in Burlington, Vermont this month.
Q: When did you touch down there? A: I got here I think the 30th. My first gig was on the 1st, and I just got here the night before the first gig. I've been here almost a full month now, and I got really attached to it, not really wanting to leave. But that happens when you stay somewhere for a month. That's just the right amount of time to get attached and not want to leave.
Q: Can you run through, real quick, the cities you've been to each month, starting in January. A: January I was in Tucson, Arizona. February I was in L.A. March I was in Portland, Ore. April I was in Bolder, Colo. May I was in Shreveport, La. And June I took the month off and I went and visited my two original homes of New York and Austin. And then for July, I've been in Burlington. And by the time I get out to California, I'll be living in Milwaukee. Q: How much longer are you going to be in Burlington? A: I just have a few more days in Burlington, and then I start driving to Milwaukee.
Q You're driving to each town? A: I'm driving everywhere, But I won't be driving out to Salinas. I did drive through there once before. It was on my way from my month in L.A. to my month in Portland. I looked at a map and said ‘I'm going to be passing so close to Salinas, maybe I should stop in.’ So I decided to stop in at the Steinbeck Center, and called as I was on my way into town and see if I could get in touch with anybody, and I did. They gave me a tour of the whole place, which was amazing. And then we started talking about me coming to the festival.
Q: Tell me about the Steinbeck influence on the tour and some impressions on the writer himself and whatever impact he's had on your life, work, art, or anything in general? A: I wanted to do this tour differently, because I feel like the ways most musicians tour, you never really get to see anything or know anyone. And if you talk to any touring musician, we've traveled all throughout the country, and we couldn't give you a real impression of anywhere, because we got there, we played the gig, then we left for the next place. I had read “Travels with Charley,” and I was already thinking along the lines of how I would like to spend some more time in each place that I go to. and maybe the whole month in each of a few different cities and take time to really get to know the places and some of the people who live there, and get to know this country. instead of just kind of skimming the surface. When I read “Travels with Charley,” Steinbeck was on the same mission. He'd been writing about this country for so long, he felt like he had lost touch with what it was really about. And the music that I'm making, if you wanted to put it in a genre, you would put it in the Americana genre. Theres' a genre of music called Americana, it's so clearly comes from American roots music, and it has everything to do with living and existing in this country. But still, so many of the people who write this music haven't really experienced this country. So I really wanted to get to do that, and it has been an experience already.
Q: Tell me about mapping out the tour and the towns where you were going to take up residency. Logistically, it seems like it's an incredible undertaking. A: It is an undertaking... I think I had the idea for the tour about six months before the tour started. I came up with the idea, and I was looking at a map and said ‘If I'm going to start in January, I'm going to go west first.” I knew I wanted to start by going west. About two months ahead of time is when I'll try to book the residency, book the gig and the place. I'll have a specific city I want to go to in mind, but sometimes it doesn't work out. Sometimes the venues are booked, it isn't possible to get a residency, or a better situation comes up. So I'm kind of open to whatever comes to me as a positive situation. That first month, January, I was looking at Santa Fe at first, and then started considering Tucson when I realized there was a venue in Tucson that was really cool. I started seeing there was a great music community there, so I started booking a residency in Tucson at The Club Congress. They just totally got it. The whole concept of staying for a month and building something. And they were really supportive of me and wanted me to come there, so I ended up coming to Tuscon. The two months before I move to the city is when I usually do the booking. And then the month before, I start feeling out where I am going to live. In Tucson, I had e-mailed this woman who owns a yoga studio, and told her that I was curious about the classes there, and I was going to be taking classes while I 'm there. She said “Oh, that's too bad, I'm going to be out town studying yoga in India. ” And I was like “Do you need somebody to sublet your place.” So that's how I ended up finding my place there. And in L.A., I was subletting with a guy who plays with Iron Maiden, who was out of town doing a recording project for the month. I ended up with all kinds of housing situations, and it was really cool. Part of experiencing the place is living in a real house somewhere. A lot of the time when you travel, staying in a hotel or whatever, you don't get a real feel for what is it really like to live there. I wanted to include some smaller towns and some bigger cities on the tour. Tuscon and Boulder kind of being on the smaller end, and Burlington as well. And L.A., Portland definitely on the bigger end. I really wanted to cover it all. I only have 10 months, and I keep thinking “Oh man, I really should have gone to Alaska! I really should have gone here and there, and I needed more time in the Midwest.” But I'm spending 10 months exploring the country in depth and integrating myself into 10 different music communities. I feel like it's a pretty amazing experience already.
Q: How have you gone about forming a band in each town? A: Usually, I'll ask the musicians I already know, friends from Austin and New York, and I say “Does anybody know anybody in Burlington?” Then I may get an e-mail from one person or five people saying “Yeah, I know this one guy, he's not really a musician, he works on guitars, maybe you want to get in touch with him.” It's like following a trail of bread crumbs. So I'll send that guy an e-mail, “I'm going to be in Burlington, this is what I'm doing, this tour, I want to get involved with the music scene, and I'm putting together a band and who might be a good person to play with?” And then they'll lead me to another person, and eventually I'll find somebody who makes sense for me to work with, even if it's not necessarily someone in the really of what I normally do. I'll fine someone who I can work with, a guitar or a fiddle player, and I'll take from there. See who that person knows, and I'll start going to the little music events around town. There's this thing in Burlington, every Tuesday night at this bar called “Radio Bean.” There's this honky tonk, and just going to that honky tonk, I've met so many great musicians who are just open to playing and wanting to play and make music, and that, just going to that every week and getting involved with those people, brought me into the musical thing too. So eventually, I get the players together, and I like to build it throughout the month, since I have a residency in each city, usually a weekly gig. I So the first week, usually I'll play solo. And the second week, I'll add a guitar player. And the third week, I'll add bass and drums. And by the fourth week, I'll invite everyone I've met up on stage and play a show.
Q: What have the resulting relationships been like after getting those bands together and soaking yourself in each music scene? What have been the experiences that stick out for you? A: I think for a lot of musicians, that's how friendships are forged, through music. And being in the position I am, traveling alone for a year, these bands have been kind of like my little families, my little gang each place I go. That's my solid thing. And then, I stay in touch with those people after I leave for the month, and I know that if I got back to Tucson, I have those friends and those band members to hang out with and play with. Now I have that and by the end of the year, I'll have those little families in 10 places.
Q: Can you give me a mini-assessment of the music scenes that stick out to you? Or were there any towns or scenes that you were surprised by how thriving it was? A: Tucson surprised me the most. I didn't know what to expect going to Tucson. It's a great music town. Calexico is there. Wave Blast Studios is where Neko Case records all of her records. And there's a great, thriving music scene there. All kinds of music. Part of it is that Tucson's still very affordable. I lived in Austin, and from what I hear about Austin in the '70s, I missed it. I wish I could have been in Austin in the '70s, when it was fat, and everybody was hanging out and making music and living cheap. That's what it's like in Tucson now. Tucson is the closest I'll ever get to seeing what Austin was like 30 years ago. It's still small enough and it's yet to be discovered by bookers and hipsters.
Q: Tell me about the musicians that you worked with out there in Tuscon. A: When I was in Tucson, my band was Winston Watson on drums. He used to play with Bob Dylan for a while. He's an incredible drummer. He lives in Tucson now. Sergio Mendoza, who co-produced the recording I made that month, he was playing bass with me. He also plays keys with Calexico, and he has the young up-and-coming band in Tucson, Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta. They always win all the Tucson band awards. They're really incredible and they're making their first record now. And then, there's a few different guitar players, one was Gene Ruley, who I loved, and another was Courtney Robins, who has her own band, Seashell Radio. Read more!
So I got to interview to Garth Algar. Pretty cool. Dana Carvey is best remembered for his characters on Saturday Nigh Live, including the aforementioned Garth and the conservatively snippy Church Lady. Carvey was generous enough to share the latter character with Fred Wolf for a series of live animation clips called “Beyond The Comics,” which ran in beta on our website. On an aside, Carvey was hilarious every single minute of the interview, which ran so long that I ran out of room on my digital recorder. And the most embarrassing thing happened to me — right in the middle of Carvey doing his famous Ross Perot impersonation, my cell phone dropped the call! Right in the middle of the impersonation. I scrambled to call back, and without missing a beat, I got Ross Perot yelling into the phone “You're not listening to me!” Carvey spoke with “The Beat” about BTC and Wolf. Here's an excerpt:
Q: You've done some online production in the past, right? A: I did some web stuff, I always thought I was too young to play her anyways. Just in full disclosure, I am wearing the (Church Lady) dress right now, just to be transparent, which is a new word of the age. I want to be transparent.
Q: How did it go doing these for Fred Wolf? A: It's still fun to do. I've known Fred a long time, and I thought it was a neat way to bring her back. I thought those guys did a nice job of capturing the look and the attitude for the animation. Creatively, the sky is the limit. She can comment once or twice a week on current things. It's a fun, creative outlet. It seems like the character, what else could you do with it? I could do a one man show in Vegas. Maybe I still will (laughs). It seemed like a natural thing, with what he was trying to do and it's fun. I look forward to doing more of those.
Q: It's pretty cool that you own the character and are able to lend it to your friend for his project. A: Back in the day, when I was one of the first to do it (license his character), I had T-shirts and posters made and got some flack for that. “Hey man! We're counter culture.” Of course now you can get “Conehead” oven mitts. That was before the plethora of SNL movies. I probably could have done a movie. It was just sort of laying around. Because of her quirky role, it was changed later. I had to claim ownership of the character. Every once in a while, it's just a fun character to do. We live in an age where you reremember all of your heroes, but there's one character that lasts as a character. Whether it's Groucho Marx, or Jonathan Winters... It's a great little outlet for doing this. The technology exists now to make this expensive animation, in relative terms. All this technological advancement had to take place to make this page that Fred's cooked up conceviveable economically. It's cool that technology has allowed this sort of access.
Q: Do you read newspapers online? A: I definitely love the flexibility and expediency and variety of online newspapers. There are amazing advantages to online newspapers. The archival aspect of it is just amazing. When Fred first came up with the idea, I said, ‘Yes, of course!’ That's 21st century culture, of course. To click on and see a little animation now, of course. I hope people like it. I think the fact that everybody likes Fred, everybody's doing it with good will and voluteering. He's done all of the heavy lifting as far as running around recording everyone. It's pretty amazing. Just to let you know, while I was driving, I do a lot of pilates and yoga, so I was able to get out of the dress and wig and now I'm dressed as Hanz. Q: Any ideas for future comics? A: I want to do Barrack Obama, addressing BP saying (in a spot-on voice impersonation) "We are now forming a commission, that will study whether we need a commission.” It's my responsibility to make fun of each president...
Former CSUMB students Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck were named in Filmmaker Magazine's “25 New Faces” list for 2010. The duo had their short film “Charlie and the Rabbit” premier at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Their short film series “American Nobodies” can be viewed at their website, www.433pictures.com. Below is an excerpt from the article, along with more after the jump.
Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck
When they met as undergrads at CSU Monterey Bay, Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck had different styles but found a third when working together. "A lot of my early work was pushing what people can process with quick cuts and juxtaposition of image,” Ojeda-Beck says. And “I was really exploring duration,” Machoian adds — “what can be done in a single shot and really raw, raw sound, mainly straight off the mic.” Their short films together display a handle on classic arthouse film style. Visuals are the key, along with luscious colorful imagery and solitary characters in simple situations, with editing that tells a story that’s deep without much dialogue. Their goal was to make as many films as they could over the course of a semester, resulting in 14 shorts. Ella and the Astronaut played festivals all over the world, and Charlie and the Rabbit premiered at Sundance 2010. The collaboration is just that: After conversations about an idea, they talk each scene out on location, switching up who is filming and who is directing based on a feeling of the moment. Both share editing duties. Since graduating, they have made two seasons of their Web series American Nobodies, short films profiling people in small towns. This may result from growing up in small towns — Machoian in King City, Calif. (“6,000 when I was there”), and Ojeda-Beck in Davis, Calif., where his parents relocated to from Peru. For Ojeda-Beck, “growing up in a small town requires you to look, to see.” “The documentaries we do are secondary to the experience we get having time with the individual people,” Machoian explains. “We’ve learned that Americans are amazingly compassionate people who are looking for such a small amount of joy in life, who aren’t interested in imperialism, greed or whatever else the media wants to label them as. What they are interested in is putting food on the table, a roof over their head and having something in their life that they love to do.” — Mike Plante
A couple of things about Fred Wolf — he's a former Saturday Night Live head writer, screen writer (“Tommy Boy,” “Black Sheep,” “Grown Ups) and director (“Strange Wilderness,” “House Bunny”). He's also the nicest and coolest local celebrity I've covered. That's no hyperbole. I met Fred a few years ago, after “Strange Wilderness” was released in theaters. He called the newsroom himself, asking if anyone was interested in covering his film. I jumped at the chance. Being a SNL writer was a pipe dream of mine, and if I could never achieve that dream, at least I could meet someone who had lived it. The interview went well, although the story fell through. About a year later, “House Bunny” was coming up, and we met up again. This time, I was busy working on multi-media assignments for the paper. I had mentioned this to Fred, who took an interest in the idea, and even offered to help out if the opportunity arose. A year later, Fred visited the newsroom and talked about this series of animated comics he was working on, using the voices of his old SNL buddies and other comedians. That idea eventually became "Beyond The Comics," which ran in beta at www.MontereyHerald.com in June. He never mentioned that I had helped plant the idea for “Beyond The Comics” in his head, until I interviewed him in early-June. Below is the transcript from the interview. Fred, if you're reading this, thanks.
Q:Talk about "Beyond The Comics.” A: What we're doing is, it's going to be a bunch creative cartoons. There are a total of 12 cartoons, there will be three new ones a day. We got Dana Carvey, Kevin Nealon, David Spade, Sarah Silverman, Jack Handey, Craig Kilborn, Tim Meadows, Norm McDonald, Colin Quinn and Molly Shannon. As I showed you before, it's just scroll and click and play. Q: You're writing every single joke? A: I'm writing all the jokes for now, and if this goes well, I would have a stable of writers to make it easier for me. Right now, I'm actually going to all the stars houses and recording the jokes, and I'm doing all the crafting of the sound with “Garage Band.” This is amazing, these days, how you can do stuff. And then the ideas would be seven days a week, as many newspapers as possible, and hopefully it's a new way of viewing comics for the newspapers online.
Q: Where did you get the idea? A: From you. A year ago, you and I were talking it, you told me you took a camera down to the Apple store and you recorded people. You said you couldn't go into the Apple store, but you waited for them to come out and you said “Hey, what was your experience in the Apple store at Del Monte?” And you said you took that back to your desk and you edited that and you said you put it on the online Monterey Herald. Remember this? And, I was thinking, a guy like you, you could do stories like that anywhere and you could be picked up as a stringer for all these online newspapers. Remember we talked about that? So then I left there thinking, you have access to stuff I could never get into, special events stuff. You could get into a Pebble Beach thing, you have a press pass. And I got to thinking, what could I do that was like that. And I thought comics. I could be interviewing comics. and so this whole idea came from the interview you gave to me. I never thought of moving content on the newspapers. So I was driving away from our interview, thinking, ‘Man, what can I do?’ Well, I got access to these comics, what can I do with these voices. I've always wanted to draw comics for the newspaper. When I was kid, that's what I thought I was going to do when I grew up. Then I realized I draw like shit. And that's the truth. So I designed these strips that I had other people draw, and I got other guys to do voices for it, and for a year, I've been pouring money into this thing. It's getting insane. My wife is furious. So it came from you. It came from our talk, I should say.
Q: That sounds better, because that puts pressure on me. A: Yeah, cause if it crashes and burns, I'll call you like ‘What the f---!’ (laughs). Dan Lynch (was also involved). I drew up, really roughly, an idea for a cartoon, the first one. I drew it myself. It was terrible. But I had Norm McDonald's voice, so it made it feel fancy. So I showed it to him one day at a barbecue, and he said this is a great idea. I have a company, that does animation. We already do this sort of thing. His company's a marketing company. Between the two of us, we've been working feverishly to get to where we're at right now. He's based out of Carmel. He and his wife own Carmel Realty. The thing that's lucky, I was able to go to these guys (his comic friends) and say “I can't pay you now, but if this goes, there could be some money at the end.” In the meantime, they're just taking the ride. They're doing it all for free and just helping me out, as friends. A lot of them are happy too. It's a chance to be funny. I set the jokes in front of them, they get to read it, and they don't have to put on make up, they don't have to be anywhere at 6 a.m., or any of that stuff. And it takes about a half an hour to get the voice, and I run with it. And they've been really great about saying, ‘Hey whatever. Call us if it's successful.’ Or ‘don't call us ever again if it's not.’
Q: For you, what's the ultimate payoff? A: Truthfully, this is funny. A lot of people in Hollywood, they might try to do something like this hoping to parlay it into a TV show or a movie or something. I've already done that, so in a way, I'm going backwards. This is where I would really love to be, doing this. It truly is a lifelong dream to be in the newspapers, in the comics, and this is my way of doing it, maybe. There's this (Alfred) Eisenstaedt print, it was taken in the early '50s in Ohio. It shows these three kids sitting on a curb on the street, and they're reading the Sunday funnies. It's this beautiful photograph, and that used to be what kids did. They used to read the Sunday funnies. Well now, all these kids are going online, so I'd love to try to recreate that comic experience for the online papers. My goal and my dream is to make it exclusive to newspapers, and not have it be something you could also find it on AOL or YouTube. Just something that you have to go to the papers to see it. And there's ways to do that where it's really hard to take it out and put it on YouTube. We're going to work on that. The first person that I took it too, when I had six cartoons, was Joe Livernois. I just called him up and said, ‘We've never really met. He said ‘I know who you are.’ I said can I go down and show you what I'm working on. He freaked out. He loved them. He said ‘I think this is a possibility to go in the papers.’ With his enthusiasm, I built six more cartoons. That's why we're at 12 now. When I'm down in L.A., I stay at Spade's house, and I showed him my rough ones, and he said, ‘Hey buddy, I'll do something for this.’ I said ‘You would?’ he said yeah. So I got this idea for a rock star, and he did it, and he goes ‘I got a better idea. I got this idea for a dog in purse.’ He goes. it's like one of these dogs that stars carry around in purses, and he just hates his life. I said let's do it. So when I got Spade to do it, I went up and talked to Dana Carvey. He lives in Mill Valley. I said ‘I got this hippy guy.’ He goes, ‘Yeah, that's funny, but I got something better.’ So, every time I tell somebody something, they said, ‘I got something better than that.’ So he said let's do Church Lady. I said yeah, let's do it. He's one of the few guys that went to SNL already owning Church Lady, because he did it in his act. I went to Kevin Nealon, he said ‘Great, I'll do it,’ and then he said ‘But I got a better idea.’ And he gave me Mr. Hypochondriac. That's why they're stars, and I'm sitting in traffic in Pebble Beach. I do love it. Every time I go to these guys they go, ‘Yeah, your idea is funny, but I got a better idea.’ I've known them for 30 years. I've only screwed them over, each of them, two or three times each. So I haven't gotten to the magic number of five times of screwing them over. So they're taking the ride with me. We'll see what happens. My ultimate goal is to get these into the papers and then once it's in, there's the first tier of friends I have, but then theres the second tier of people like Christopher Walken. I know him. I can get access to him. Once it's gong, I want to go to a guy like him and say. ‘Let's do something.’ And I'm hoping he'll say (in a dead-on Walken voice) ‘I have a better idea. Your idea is not good. I have a better idea. Let's do mine." Anything he comes up with, I'll do, by the way.
Q: Have you showed it to Adam Sandler or any of the guys in “Grown Ups?” A: I showed them to (Adam Sandler and the cast of “Grown Ups”). It's funny, because four of the voices are in the movie. Spade and Meadows are in “Grown Ups.” Colin Quinn and Norm McDonald are all in “Grown Ups.” I'm going to show Sandler next week. I wanted to get Sandler to do one, but I didn't want to ask for my 100th favor yet. I want to show him and say, ‘Hey, if you ever want to do one, they're there...’ But he might be all favored out. I'm kidding, but at the same time, he's done so much. If it wasn't for Sandler, there's no house in Carmel...
I have a funny story. Jack Handey is the creator of “Deep Thoughts,” a long time writer at SNL. He lives down in Santa Fe. I went to him about six months ago and I said ‘I'm doing these comics and I'd love to do “Deep Thoughts” for them.’ And he's like a little bit of a J.D. Sallinger type of guy, real reclusive, and he goes ‘What do you mean?’ And I go ‘I'm doing these comics, and you click and play and it'd be perfect for “Deep Thoughts” ’ and for the newspapers. And he goes ‘For the newspapers? How can they be for the newspapers? They move right?’ And I go ‘Yeah, it's for the online version of the newspapers.’ He goes ‘What are you talking about?’ And I go ‘Comics. You click and you play them.’ He goes ‘I have no idea what you're talking about.’ I'm like ‘Jack, it's okay. You don't have to do them.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I'll do them, but I have no idea what you're talking about.’ I swear to god that's a true story. He's like me. I don't' know this world in terms of how to do everything, but it was hilarious. We were like two old guys sitting at the table going ‘What? It does what? The newspaper you read? It's going to move? How is that possible.’ It was this insane conversation... The most fun is having Colin Quinn and Norm McDonald in a room. Having those guys together for “Guy and a Robot.” It's a blast, because they're both crazy Irish guys. They're just saying this stuff that's raunchy and that I can't use. I have me on tape going ‘Hey guys, you can't do that on the newspaper,’ and I have them on tape going ‘But it's funny.’ They've been really good friends of mine for 25 years, both of them. I got them there eventually, but it was funny. Maybe (“Beyond the Comics) is a pipe dream, but it sure is fun.
Very interesting presentation with Arts Habitat next week, featuring local talent agent Maria Matias and her latest find, Hidden Library. Hailing from Carmel, the production duo of Nathaniel Stevens and Ross McCafferty, coupled with emcee Numerous, perform moody, complex hip-hop/electronica, with influences ranging from current L.A. taste maker Flying Lotus to North Carolina-bred hip-hop heavyweight 9th Wonder. You can catch a full dose of their funk at www.reverbnation.com/hiddenlibrary. Matias and Hidden Library will lead their presentation from 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, July 27 at the Monterey YMCA, 600 Camino El Estero, at Webster Street. Full event press release after the jump. Arts Habitat Presents Maria Matias Music, Inc. and the Hip Hop Band "Hidden Library" at Arts in Progress, Tuesday, July 27
Arts Habitat will present the hip hop, electronica band "Hidden Library", composed of Nathaniel Stevens, Ross McCafferty, and Jake Student a.k.a. Numerous, on Tuesday, July 27, as part of their event series Arts In Progress. Their agent, Maria Matias of Maria Matias Music, Inc., will discuss the behind-the-scenes role of a talent agent. The events take place every fourth Tuesday of the month at the Monterey YMCA, 600 Camino El Estero, at Webster Street, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Refreshments are served and the events are free and open to the public.
Maria Matias has more then 20 years experience in the talent agent business. She helped produce Luciano Pavarotti worldwide in concert, and later worked with Monterey
Peninsula Artists/Monterey International for 14 years. She opened Maria Matias Music in 2006, and currently has a roster of 21 acts. She can be contacted via her website, mariamatiasmusic.com.
"Hidden Library" combines elements of hip hop with digital electronica music. The two founding members, Stevens and McCafferty, began making music together at age 12. For the past ten years, they have worked closely together to develop their music making skills and have helped contribute to the evolution of hip hop. In 2009 they formed "Hidden Library". After producing a CD of superbly composed instrumentals entitled "Ending of the Start", "Hidden Library" introduced their rapper, Jake Student, a.k.a. Numerous, into the group.
Numerous has been working in the music industry for the past 4 years and has already achieved a significant amount of success with his own group "Vibrant EYEris". Together, these three musicians form the collective collaboration that is known as "Hidden Library".
Watsonville product Sincere, who now reps in The Bay, released a new mixtape, "The Wu Tape." It's a pretty nice concept: take several notable Wu-Tang Clan instrumentals ("CREAM," "Rainy Dayz," "Impossible") and add lyrics. Sincere invites his boys Smoove G, Scorpio and Ghambit to the party. Download link is available at www.therealsincere.com. (Shout out to Ineffable Music Group).
An interview with Fashawn on his latest project, "Ode to Illmatic." Q: Talk about the attention it's been getting so far Fashawn: As far as the attention it's been getting, it's been pretty crazy. A lot of people have mixed emotions about it. A lot of people are holding it close to their heart, like it's sacred. Like it's the bible of hip hop and stuff And other people are like what is Illmatic? My youngest fans are like ‘What is Illmatic.’ I'm like, I can't believe you don't know what Illmatic is. It's all good. I'm just paying homage to Nas. That's one of my favorite MC's. My first album got a lot of comparisons to his first album... I couldn't find the “One Time For Your Mind” beat. Fans would come to the show when I was on tour, they would come with the “One Time For Your Mind” beat on a CD or disk drive, trying to help me finish the project. Q: Have you reached out to Nas or has Nas reached out to you? Is he aware of the project? Fashawn: I have no idea dude. I was on tour with Nas. I did Rock The Bells 2009. I was a special guest with Ev and Alchemist. I really didn't get a chance to meet him. Every time I did (have time to try and find him),he'd be on stage rocking. But I never got the chance to meet him. I don't even know if anyone got in his ear about what I'm doing. I have no idea. I've never met him. I never got introduced to him. But the ill thing is , Green Lantern (who hosted the “Ode To Illmatic” mixtape) is the DJ now with him and Damien Marley, so I think it's too close to his camp for him not to hear him. But other than that, you never know.
Q: There's gotta be a part of you that's seeking approval from him? Fashawn: Yeah, I just want him to tell me if it's dope or not. I don't care if it gets 200 views or 200,000 views or whatever, I just hope that the heads that really appreciate the album and what the album stands for, they give me a salute on that. I really took my time with it. A lot of people are saying, “Yo, they were four years old when the shit came out.” They didn't even know about that shit. I studied that shit thoroughly, I'm a student of it.
Q: I wanted to go track by track through some of the songs on the album. Start off with “NY State of Mind.” What does that song mean to you? Fashawn: That really painted the picture of what New York was like to me. What the projects was like in Queens and every borough. I think he was not just representing for his borough, but for all of New York. It was a state of mind. The imagery — you could smell what he was talking about. You could taste what he was talking about. That shit was super vivid, there was nothing like that to come before or after that. The beat was hard, dirty and feels like, aww man, it just feels like New York. It just reminded me of New York. Walking through Brooklyn or Queens. That's how it makes me feel. Now, after being to New York and traveling to New York, it's just crazy. The epitome of story telling and rhyme, metaphors, all that. Word play.
Q: Yeah, the word play on their is incredible. Fashawn: (raps a line from the song) I ran like a cheetah with thought of an assassin... You know what I'm saying? One ran, I made him back flip... You know what I'm saying? No one had that in their rhymes, and the rhyme forms was the same back and forth rhymes, like, “I come through the spot and something, something...” It was the same old rhythm back then. I think Nas really shook the game up when he came.
Q: Talk about your version of “Life's A Bitch” and getting Talib Kweli to contribute a verse. Fashawn: Man, when I approached it, I felt like I was just at that point in my life. I was 20 years old at the time. I wrote it on my birthday. I was just in that mood, man. But I told Kweli, first of all, he's from Brooklyn, and AZ was from Brooklyn, and I always thought (AZ) was from Queens, until I did my history. So I wanted somebody who rep Brooklyn, and Kweli is one of my favorite MC's from Brooklyn. I was honored by the fact he gave me the verse, because I initially wanted somebody from the west coast — I just wanted to keep it all west coast, the whole project, CA state of mind. And I still wanted to pay homage to the album, but still make it fresh with fresh voices and personalities to it. Yeah, it's one of my favorite songs ever.
Q: I saw you put the “Buck that bought a bottle coulda struck the lotto” line on the cover... Fashawn: That's my favorite line off the album. That song applies to life to me. It's like the decisions you make impacts your life.
Q: “Memory Lane.” That was my personal favorite song on the album. I was curious to know your take on that song Fashawn: Man, that one. I thought it would be the most difficult to create. The wordplay on that is impeccable. I didn't even know how I would do it. I didn't think I would be able to do it. I got the track done, and it's one of those songs that is solid. The scratches on there, it's just so nostalgic. It just takes you back to an earlier time in your life. It's just dope man. We added Planet Asia's (voice sample) on there, because you know how its says “Coming out of Queensbridge.” We took a sample from my man Planet Asia saying “Coming out of Fresno,” just to customize it, you know what I'm saying. That's my favorite song off that album, as well. Arguably my favorite song. And he just spazzed out on the verses. I don't even think there were 16 bars. I think he was going like 24 on the verses. He was just killing it. That's a stand out joint, for sure. That's the one I really want people to pay attention to on the project.
Q: “One Time For Your Mind,” you said that instrumental was hard to find... Fashawn: Yeah, that was the hardest one to get. The label had sent me probably eight of the instrumentals. Every one except that one. I was wondering “Wow, how come they didn't bring that?” And it was like I couldn't get it. All the ones that was out had vocals on them. It had Wiz at the beginning talking about “Uo Mas, kick that..” It had all the vocals on it. So I was losing my mind trying to get a clean version of the instrumental. I even hit Large Professor and he never got it to me, man. I don't know why. I think it was because that's his, you know what I'm saying. I totally respect that, and that's the man, the architect of that, so I'm not even going to bother him about that. I just took what I could get. Some fan came to the show in Birmingham, when I was on tour with Brother Ali, and brought me the disk drive and really chopped it up. Hopefully the people will like it, man. That's just like freestyle rhymes. You're a fan of the album, the whole attitude of that record was dope. He was like, yo, send this shorty to the store to cop my Phillies. At the beginning the opening rhyme, just some fly rhyme shit, have fun with it type shit. That's what I did, and I was glad it was the last record I had to do. It was a difficult process. It's not easy to complete a classic album like that. I know it's only 9 songs, still, the album, I really broke it down to a science, did all the history. I really broke it down. It's incredible. It's a lot of work. I could understand why it would take Nas 20 years to make an album like that. Word.
Q: Were you able to reach out to any of the other producers or artists from the original? Fashawn: I met Premier, but this was before the project was started. I didn't even tell him about it. It was just an idea in the back of my head. But as far as talking about the project, I haven't talked to any producers about it, except Large Professor. He was a big contribution to the album. Pete Rock, I was actually on stage with Pete Rock at Wu Tang in New York, at Rock The Bells 2009. And we was chipping it up. He was excited to work with me. He was like “We gonna make some magic.”
Q: If you were to attempt your own Illmatic and got five super producers the way Nas got to do his, who would you enlist? Fashawn: Yeah, I would get... Alchemist. I would get XL. I would get Black Milk. I would get DJ Babu, and, um, man... My fifth? Yo, man, I'm trying to make it totally different from his vibe... probably Madlib, yo. Yeah, I think, aww, aww, naw, man. I wish I could pick six. I would add Khalil in there. I swear to you (laughs). We would make some fish, man. Thanks for that question. I think I'm gonna reach out to all those guys on the next album.
Q: Just give me credit. Say a reporter from Monterey gave you the idea for this album... Fashawn: (laughs) No doubt. You A&R'd the project man.
I keep trying to find the right term or phrase for Honeymoon. When they performed at The Rubber Chicken Poetry Slam last month, I joked that they were "Wilson Phillips on steroids." That was wrong. The “Super Friends” also comes to mind, given that the four members, Sarah Bollwinkel, Christina Bailey, Lauren Shera and Andrea Blunt all have had local success as solo artists and separate group projects. That might be too obvious. For now, it's probably best to leave it alone and let the music speak for itself. Charming, intelligent, indie rock and pop that dabbles in folk and Americana. These four women, backed by an equally gifted rhythm section of Matt Bailey and Matt Bollwinkel (also known as "The Matts") could represent a sea change in the local indie music scene. They're just that powerful. Honeymoon has a slew of upcoming dates, which you can learn more about at www.honeymoonismusic.com. On to the interview transcript:
Q: Let's talk about the convergence here, because there's way too much, I'm not even going to call it energy, there's too much female power going on here.
Lauren: You can call it estrogen. Call it what it is.
Sarah: Estrogen sandwich.
Q: Talk about coming together and this alliance. It's pretty powerful.
Sarah: There's a few ways we could swing this.
Christina: We all are connected in many different way, but I think that he six of us really started in October of last year. We sent a Facebook email to each other and said lets get together and make one song. And then we thought we could use it as an experiment in an afternoon — write a song and then we could post it on our individual blogs.
Sarah: This was a quick collaboration.
Christina: Yeah, it was just a project that would hopefully spark interest in each one of us separately, as well as together. And as soon as we got into a room, and you all can stop me if I'm wrong, but it felt like the chemistry was there. We all really liked each other, even though, I didn't really know you at all (points to Lauren).
Lauren: I didn't know you two (points to Christina and Sarah)
Christina: And it was just really easy. We ended up writing our first tune that we wrote a couple months ago in like a five-hour period...
Sarah: A couple of bottles of wine and some songs later...
Andrea: Under the title Gearl Jam.
Sarah: That's another fun fact. We were almost named Gearl Jam, spelled like Pearl Jam. But we had to put the kibosh on that. We don't know any Pearl Jam songs
Lauren: And everybody loved the crap out of that name.
Matt Bollwinkel: It would have been perfect if we were a Pearl Jam cover band.
Q: Maybe that will be a one off show...
Sarah: That's going to be a special, hidden, unadvertised performance. Matt Bollwinkel: Gearl Jam does "10." Q: Where did the relationships start:
Lauren: We had all heard each others music because we live in a tiny town that at the time that didn't have a music venue to play at. I had heard Sarah and Christina and The Matts playing Big American Family and loved it. And we had tried scheduling a show together, which never happened because Monterey Live closed. And I knew Andrea from the Monterey Live scene. And her and I kind of orbited around each others musical circles for a while. And we started playing together last August and Andrea started accompanying me at my solo shows.
Andrea: I knew Sara from Fog Box at CSUMB.
Sara: We knew each other from Fog Box, my old record label at CSUMB. She was my musical director/intern, because I had all interns because I couldn't pay anyone. She kind of stuck by me all those years at Fog Box. And that's how I met Christina. She came to a Fog Box audition. She was with my brother.
Matt Bollwinkel: She happened to be married to your brother (laughs).
Sara: Happened to be. That's a side story. We'll get into that later. (Turns to her husband, Matt Bollwinkel) And I knew you from having a crush on you. And I knew Lauren primarily from the shows, but I also worked with her dad.
Andrea: And we recorded at the same recording studio, which is owned by a good friend of ours, that we're now all recording with as honeymoon. So I had heard rave reviews about Big American Family, and that's when I went to check them out.
Sarah: And we heard that lauren and andrea were playing togheter, and we were horribly jealous, adn that's when we sent them an e-mail saying you have to play with us.
Matt Bailey: Who said jealousy wasn't a virtue? (laughs).
Andrea: And I was so horrified, I was so intimidated.
Christina: We were all really nervous.
Lauren: It was really nerve wracking. ..
Q: This project started off casually after the Facebook connection. But you guys got some pretty strong gigs, opening for Jackie Green in May...
Sarah: Yeah, in Petaluma. We did the Jackie Green date. That was our first show, ever, in front of people. Sold out.
Q: How did you swing that?
Andrea: He's represented by our agency.
Sarah: Yeah we have an agency, this is a newer development, granted we are a newer development. But that all kind of happened really quick. The interest sparked really fast.
Christina: The idea of us, even without us playing live together, merited a lot of attention.
Lauren: That's why we decided to (get together). We had that one day when we wrote together, and that was back in like October, November, and we didn't play again until January. And I had mentioned earlier that day to my father, who was in the industry, that I was going over to play music with all of you guys,and it had been a while, but we'd done it once before and we'd written this great song and I was bummed I hadn't played together again between but I was excited to play again. And he was excited about it.
Sarah: He called me up into his office — I work for the agency. I work for Paradigm (Monterey-based entertainment agency). I thought I was in trouble, but he basically brought me up there to share how excited he was about the idea, which was great...
Lauren: Because when we got together that night, we kind of talked about it, like are we going to do it, people are excited, nothing has even happened
Sarah: And we had the hands in moment ...
Q: Talk about the sound...
Sarah: In my head, Laruen Shera is one of the best friggen' folk singer/writers in the area,. That's very heavy in our sound. I would say one of the primary features is the folk aspect. And then we have the the Elton John factor over here with Andrea, who's the piano ‘Whoa-Man.’ She can do whatever she wants. So we have that aspect, which makes things hard sometimes. And then Christina definitely has the pop sensibility...
Andrea: And with Big American Family, it's got everything...
Sarah: It's like pop rock, it's like folk, indie, Americana... Folkacana. Yeah, that's it. I like it because it sounds like Chaka Khan-a. Folkacana.
Apologies for the dearth of posts as of late. I took a two week leave to help out with the Mosaic High School Journalism Workshop at San Jose State University (which was awesome) and then returned to find myself about a month behind on my regular, paying job (not so awesome).
So please forgive my absence, but "The Beat" is back and I have enough stuff stashed away to make up for the lag. Halfway through 2010 and from here on out, "The Beat" don't stop (at least until my next leave of absence).