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MUSIC is not a GENRE

MUSIC is not a GENRE

By Nick DeMatteo
Proving the exception since 2016! - I am a music obsessive & polymath. I see connections everywhere. In my podcast I discuss music of all kinds, and tie it to all kinds of other music - including my own - and other things in the world. I love conversation, so please comment and let's talk!
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TWO Hours with Shok (Part 1) - Interview Edition #11 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #29
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE This is the first of a two-part interview with Shok - music producer, multi-instrumentalist, & songwriter.  He's also the creator of the Not-So Ebb spoof on Nitzer Ebb, producer/host and DJ of the popular Twitch channel MyLiveTube, part of the electro swing band Red Light District, AND a founder of - one of the first online entertainment portals.   For more on Shok, check out these links:
May 13, 2021
Death is DUMB Volume 4: Alice in Chains - Harmony in the Dark | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #28
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Once in a while I profile a band that is a perfect example of why genres & labels don’t work. Alice in Chains is one of those. They’ve always been lumped together with the other Seattle-slash-grunge-era bands – even though if you listened to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, STP, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and whoever else back to back, you’d be hard pressed to say any of them really sound like each other. Nirvana leans punk. Pearl Jam classic rock. Pumpkins emo. STP power pop. And while all of these bands also have some of their roots in hard rock/metal, only Soundgarden & Alice in Chains took metal to its next evolution – progressive rhythmic & harmonic elements with enough breath & quietude to allow softer emotions to poke through. Of those two bands, Alice in Chains hewed to the more traditional metal elements. Which makes sense because their origins were actual metal. Both Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell started out in typical 1980s glam metal bands – playing forms of actual hair metal (seriously, just look up the photos). When they got together to form the new Alice in Chains – copped from Layne’s old band name Alice N’ Chains, they kept the melodic & hammering rhythm elements of hair metal, and made it darker. It helped that both Staley & Cantrell were incredible vocalists whose voices meshed well together. They’d often trade off lead vocals, but it’s when they came together to do those near medieval organum parallel harmonies that Alice in Chains became who they were meant to be. They somehow managed to be dark & bright all at once. Rock hard and accessible – even vulnerable, often in one song. It was a hallmark of grunge that sensitivity & major keys mixed directly with aggression & minor keys. Of all the aforementioned bands, Alice in Chain’s version was the most haunting & fully realized. Which is what makes Layne Staley’s death in 2002 so sick. Not because he OD’ed on a speedball. Not because he suffered for years before trying to kick his addiction. Those are horrific facts that should be mourned and honored as Layne should be. No, it’s because we immediately associate the dark, haunting music with drug addiction & tragic death. We forget all too easily that hundreds of other dark bands have existed without tragedy, that Layne’s death is the exception rather than the rule. It diminishes the loss to say, “Oh of course he died that way. Just listen to the music.” Like so many other bands who successfully merged disparate influences into something entirely new and endlessly captivating, Alice in Chains should not be defined by tragedy. They should be respected and enjoyed for the music they create, the new sounds & ideas they contribute, and the fact that they were and are musicians & artists just like any other artist from any other style you could possibly name. Grunge in general was a big influence on my music. It woke me up to the possibility that I could show my harder side while still keeping my usual sensitivity front & center. I evolved from that sound years ago, but you can still hear Alice in Chains in my work, especially in songs like these two: NICK – “Your Sister” (from the album Your EP) REC – “Three More Minutes” (from the album Synergy for the Weird)  AND here's my acoustic grunge set, featuring most of the bands I mentioned above:   Nick DeMatteo - Live Acoustic Grunge
May 12, 2021
Broken Windows Listening – The Reductive & Destructive Choice of Surface Over Substance | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #27
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Music is layered vertically & horizontally. You’ve got the vertical stack of ensemble music – orchestra, band, choir. Then there’s the horizontal layout of composition – chords, melodies, verse/chorus, theme/variation. Which means even an a cappella voice is layered. In each case, you’re dealing with multiple parts that shape the whole. At times one part is dominant, but rarely for an entire composition. For a musical work to make a positive impression, all these parts need to work well together. That doesn’t mean every part does the same work, serves the same function, or is even the same quality. Let’s establish that perfection doesn’t exist. Musicians & singers can do so well that they create the illusion of perfection. Then someone else comes along, does the same thing in a different way & executes it equally well. Neither one is better nor more perfect. They each succeed & each make a different impression. The same is true for parts not as close to perfect. We’ve all loved music that has less than stellar lyrics, passable rhythm, quirky singing or soloing that doesn’t follow strict technique, or just plain sloppy playing. Does this make the music not good? No. The end result is a work that makes a positive impression & contributes something valuable to the musical conversation. “Louie Louie” is no less worthy than “Moonlight Sonata” or “Blue Monk”. So why is it that some of us judge a work based on surface elements like chops or sound or precision? Why do we often dismiss works that have one or more imperfect elements when perfection doesn’t exist? To what standard are we holding these works? Answers to most of those questions are personal – based on taste, emotion, experience, upbringing. But that last question – what standard – I believe there’s one answer to that: the wrong one. When we judge a work to be inferior it’s because we’re using a standard that doesn’t fit, one that may be valid for another work or one’s experience as a listener or creator, but doesn’t apply to most other works in the world. It’s unfair. It’s reductive. And it’s damaging because it not only dismisses the differing experience & origin of that work, it overlooks its depth & its unique & extremely valuable angle of expression. This is exactly how we judge people & communities too. If what we see or hear doesn’t fit our preconception of what a worthy person or community should be – i.e. only what we ourselves have experienced & valued & expressed, we mark that as inferior, in need of help or pity or worse, discipline & control. Judging based on standards that don’t fit is A. quick & shallow; B. highly subjective & prejudiced; and C. the cause of most division & destruction in the world. That includes racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism – any negative -ism & person-based phobia. When police spend time “cleaning up” a neighborhood by scrubbing graffiti, arresting vandals, profiling with stop & frisk procedures, and more disproportionately violent responses, they’re ignoring the breadth & substance of a person or community in favor of surface elements like paint, skin color, mode of expression or behavior. Those are only the beginnings of a cycle that often ends in the most heinous & inhuman acts. This  defines how our society is structured. We're built on a foundation of judging everyone by one set of standards, disrespecting entire bodies of history, experience, work, contribution, creation, context, expression. We can change this if we’re willing to be less reductive & reactionary. ...
May 4, 2021
Love @ the Crossroads - G. Love & Philly's Special Sauce | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #26
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE I’m from Philly. Born there, lived there a little, grew up near there & was there every week for decades. It’s in my blood in more ways than one. But that pales in comparison to my dad’s experience. He was born there, lived there 30 years, and visited family there every week for many MORE decades. Why does this matter? Because place matters. Not just for family but for culture too. And that very much includes music. Now that I’ve spent over 20 years in NYC, I can tell you there’s one big difference in the two cities: pressure. Both cities are a crossroads of cultures. Both have tons of options & influences & sounds. But whereas NYC is one giant pressure cooker, constantly testing you, Philly lets you breathe, doesn’t ask you to be any more than you are. It’s why so many stage shows & musicians have historically gone there first to get into fighting shape. You NEED to be in fighting shape to thrive in NYC. Philly doesn’t just let you live, it encourages it. In NYC you can do whatever you want too, but you’re on your own until you can prove you’re worth the trouble. This is why Philly music fans, venues & radio are so much better, so much easier to find your place in and be supported. It’s also why Philly music is way more of a mix of styles than NYC music. In NYC, you have every imaginable style of music, but they’re segregated into silos that rarely mix in any significant way. And they’re way more self-conscious about it all. In Philly, every kind of music talks to every other kind just because, and the results are new amalgams that couldn’t have been born anywhere else. Does that make Philly the greatest music city in the US? Probably not. There are too many worthy competitors – New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago, etc. But it does put Philly WELL in the top 5, and I’d say even the top 3. G. Love & Special Sauce are a great example of the Philly amalgam. Led by Garrett Dutton, they mix hip-hop, funk, psychedelica, folk, blues, soul & alt rock in a way only a Philly band could do. There are so many other examples of this kind of mixing through the decades. The Philadelphia Sound itself – funk-soul-dance mixed with lush orchestral strings & percussive horns. Think Hall & Oates – folk roots turned to funk-soul-pop-rock. Lil Uzi Vert – lo-fi emo rap rock. Below is a very incomplete list of other well-known artists from the Philly area. Note the variety of styles, both among and within the artists: The Four Aces, Danny & the Juniors, Frankie Avalon/Fabian/Bobby Rydell/Chubby Checker/Nicky DeMatteo, McCoy Tyner, Todd Rundgren & Nazz, Jim Croce, Hall & Oates, Gamble & Huff/McFadden & Whitehead/The Stylistics/Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes/Teddy Pendergrass/Sister Sledge/The Delfonics, Patti LaBelle, Joan Jett, Robert Hazard & the Heroes, The Hooters, Cinderella/Britny Fox, Pretty Poison, The Dead Milkmen, Live, Ween, Schoolly D, DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince, Boyz II Men, The Roots, Jill Scott, G. Love & Special Sauce, Ape Café, Nick DeMatteo & REC, Huffamoose, Disco Biscuits, Circa Survive, Low Cut Connie, Eve, Chiddy Bang, Meek Mill, Lil Uzi Vert, Tierra Whack. Every single thing I have ever done has Philly in it somewhere. Here’s the most complete playlist to date of my solo & band work: The Semi-Complete Nick DeMatteo - Spotify playlist Do you have any ties to Philly music? Do you know G. Love? What other areas of the country are as fertile a ground for music mixing as Philly? Discuss dammit!
May 3, 2021
Some Days are Hard, Some Days are Easy - Bands with Day Names | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #25
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE I love naming things. Songs. Albums. Podcasts. Children. The list goes on. Names are powerful. So naturally I’m fascinated by them. In researching this podcast, I wanted to see if anyone has tried to make a comprehensive list of every band name ever in history from all types of music. Nope. And I was kinda happy about that because I would have probably read the whole thing. Instead, I decided we’d have a little fun. I found five CDs from bands that have days of the week in their names. I looked up ALL the bands with day names that have made any kind of impact (i.e. that I could actually find), and it turns out there are HARDLY ANY. I thought since there are hundreds of songs with day names in them that there’d be at least a few dozen bands, but I could only find 17. Of those only 6 (#s 1, 4, 11, 12, 16 & 17 below) have had any measure of fame. And really it’s only FIVE because one of them (#12) changed their name to Radiohead before hitting it big. I was shocked that the list is that small. Here it is: 1. Blue Monday – hardcore punk band from Vancouver 2. Happy Mondays – Manchester Brit pop neo-psychedelia band 3. Hey Monday – pop punk band from Florida 4. See You Next Tuesday – deathcore & mathcore band from Michigan 5. ‘Til Tuesday – new wave alt rock band from Boston 6. Tuesday – punk emo band from Chicago 7. Dead by Wednesday – heavy metal band from Connecticut 8. Wednesday – Ontario pop vocal band 9. Wednesday 13 – aka Joseph Michael Poole – lead singer of Murderdolls 10. Wednesday Night Heroes – Edmonton punk / street punk band 11. Thursday – post-hardcore, screamo band from New Brunswick, NJ 12. Friday Night Boys – pop punk electronica / power pop band from Virginia 13. On a Friday – Radiohead’s original name for their first few years 14. Saturday Looks Good to Me – experimental indie pop band from Michigan 15. The Saturdays – British-Irish electro pop girl group 16. Taking Back Sunday – emo, post-hardcore, pop punk band from Long Island 17. The Sundays – dream pop alt rock band from London As for the five that I have – one album from The Sundays, two from Thursday, and two from Taking Back Sunday – none of these bands are seriously active right now, but when they were I was really into them. The Sundays were one of the best dream pop bands to ever exist. Thursday was one of the pioneering screamo bands, and hailed from my Rutgers University alma mater town, New Brunswick, NJ. Taking Back Sunday blended pop punk with screamo, and came up with some excellent tunes. Those last two bands had TONS of energy you could feel right through the stereo. There’s absolutely no question these bands influenced me. The Sundays showed me it’s possible to be soft and cool. The other two bands gave me templates for merging melody and sheer force the way Foo Fighters et al. have done. Check out the album below for some major dream pop influence, and listen to the song after that to hear some major force: REC – Sympathy for the Weird REC – “Three More Minutes” Do you remember ANY of these bands? Do you know of other bands with days in their names? Discuss dammit!
April 27, 2021
An Hour with Fred Sauter - Interview Edition #10 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #24
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE I spend an hour with Fred Sauter, musical theatre librettist, songwriter, performer, pet care specialist and Task Rabbit extraordinaire. For more on Fred, check out these links: Fred Sauter Official Fred Sauter on YouTube Fred Sauter Live --- Bedbugs!!! The Astronaut Love Show To donate to The Rainbow Lullaby, go here:
April 21, 2021
Death is DUMB Volume 3: Beastie Boys - WTF x3 ?!? | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #23
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE WTF?!? That’s what goes through my head every time I think of the Beastie Boys. ONE because how is it these self-described funky-punky idiots were one of the main acts that changed the face of music in the 1980s? TWO because how did they then become well respected innovators, outspoken activists & legends, with a long career to rival the biggest acts of any genre? THIRD because how can it all be over?!? So much of the Beastie Boys story makes no sense that it almost DOES make sense that one of them would be dead, and almost a DECADE AGO. But no, not even that computes. These were three guys – great friends, bandmates & collaborators – who always came back together, no matter what happened in the interim. Unexpected successes. Career pressures. Explorations beyond the bounds of accepted form. Life changes. Hiatuses that seemed to go on forever but were way shorter than, say, the wait for Chinese Democracy. No matter what happened, they always came back. And then Adam Yauch died. The soul of the band the way Terry Kath was the soul of Chicago. The difference is while Chicago soldiered on and reinvented in both clever and disappointing ways, the Beasties – now Adam Horovitz & Mike Diamond – realized that carrying on without MCA would NOT be the Beastie Boys. So as usual, when Dumb Death gets in the way, we’re left with memories & reissues & the hopes for more funky innovation crushed. I respect Ad Rock & Mike D’s decision to shift gears, and love that they put out such a freakin’ comprehensive love letter to music, their awesome threesome-ness, and Adam Yauch that is their 2020 mega quad pack Beastie Boys Book, the documentary Beastie Boys Story, the compilation album Beastie Boys Music, and Spike Jonze’s photo tribute Beastie Boys. It was an explosion of beautiful energy that I can only hope results in more. As for the actual music, License to Ill is deep in my DNA. My music wouldn’t be my music without it. Their next three albums moved – LEAPED – the hip hop & general music conversation forward in three different ways, with Ill Communication being my fave because it was a distillation of all three of them. Plus I just love mid ‘90s hip hop. Hello Nasty proved they could top the charts fifteen years out, and was their personal favorite. To the 5 Boroughs reminded me why I love NYC so much, and has lyrics I remember to this day. And Hot Sauce Committee Part Two reminded everyone else that they were in complete command of both creation AND the charts straight to the end. You wanna hear their influence on me? Listen to just about anything, but start here: REC – “The Power of Repetition (Everlasting)” (from the album Syncopy for the Weird) Are you a Beasties fan? If so, what’s your favorite album? How did you feel about Adam Yauch’s death? Do you wish Adam H. & Mike D. would still create music together, and/or do you understand why they’ve all but retired? Discuss dammit!
April 21, 2021
An Hour with Rich Berta - Interview Edition #9 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #22
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE I spend an hour with Rich Berta, musician, singer, writer, and the creative force behind That New Life. For more on Rich and That New Life, check out these links:
April 15, 2021
Violent Femmes & Gender Duality - Bands with Perfect Names | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #21
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE When a new band finds the right name for itself, it’s magic. They don’t always get it right the first time. Imagine if “Jeremy” was released by Mookie Blaylock. Or if The Hype did “With or Without You”. Or the Young Aborigines scored a hit with “Sabotage”. Those band names do not support the attitude & spirit of the songs. Thankfully inspiration gave us the far more dead-on Pearl Jam, U2 and the Beastie Boys. And those are three of dozens of famous bands that took some trial and error to nail the name. Violent Femmes, however, killed it right off. Sure, it was intended as an off the cuff joke name. But as soon as the two founding members, Brian Ritchie and Victor DeLorenzo, discovered Gordon Gano, it made perfect sense. Brian and Victor had the post-punk rhythm and attitude with an extra shot of weirdness. Gordon had the singing chops - nasal weird kid-like talk-singing that fit so well, and songs that spoke openly about sensitive, painful, awkward feelings without the defensiveness that often pushes singer/songwriters to macho it up. It was raw and new and instantly worked. Their music embodied both the violent “masculine” emotional confusion all adolescents feel, and the vulnerability of undressed honesty often associated with a person’s “feminine” side. And by doing so without apology it showed all that masculine-feminine stuff is bullcrap. There’s no reason to label what a person feels, how they act, or how they express themselves. Open up and say whatever comes out. Get angry and aggressive. Get confessional and insecure. It’s all just being a complete and truly vulnerable human. Did they intend for their name to represent all this? Or their music for that matter? No. The synergy was accidental. The unadorned arrangements (acoustic bass AND drums with no kick!), vocals and words just happened to come together to embody the exact gender duality the name hints at. And they did it with an in-your-face, we don’t care what you think folk punk attitude that influenced a whole generation of bands. They were pre-emo - one of the seminal 1980s bands that gave permission for tons of other bands to get confessional without defense. And I’m included in that group. Whenever I’d write lyrics that felt too raw and revealing, I looked to the Femmes (and the Cure and few others) to reassure me that I didn’t need to hide the words behind aggressive music. Below are an early-ish song and a much more recent one that both show this. NICK – “You Can’t Touch Me” (from the album Listen You People) REC – “Lost Found” (from the album Sympathy for the Weird) Do you remember the Femmes? Did you know they just put out a new album last year? Are there other bands you like who hold this same kind of duality? Discuss dammit! NICK'S LIVE VERSIONS OF TWO CLASSIC FEMMES SONGS: "Never Tell" "American Music"
April 14, 2021
Is POP a Bad Word? - Promoting the NO-BROW Approach | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #20
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE What is pop music? Whatever your head just said is wrong. Or if not, it’s not the whole story. One definition is it’s anything popular. “Pop” is right there in the word, right? But that’s TOO facile. Let’s dig deeper. Where does “pop”/“popular” come from? The shared root means “people”. Like in “populace” or “population”. So pop music is music of the people, by the people, for the people. It’s the “people’s music”. Music made by people is pop music? That seems super broad and “duh” inducing. Well sit down, because I’m going to tell you how it’s even broader than you think. The definitions of “pop music” “popular music” I’ve found online bend over backwards to make distinctions & divisions. They are also WRONG because they all start with the base assumption that there’s a difference between “high-brow” and “low-brow” music – that classical, jazz, avant-garde, world, and several other more esoteric forms are worthy of more status & study than rock, hip hop, soul, country, folk. Not only is the assumption of difference WRONG, the distinctions of “high-brow” and “low-brow” themselves are equally meaningless. People listen to what they want & like what they like. This has never been truer, because the internet gives most of us access to almost every piece of recorded music in history, which includes music created long before sound recording. Assuming one person listens to classical while another listens to hip hop is, plain and simple, profiling. We all have tastes that go beyond our assumed demographic. And by definition, what PEOPLE listen to is POP music. This has included music from every genre & sphere, regardless of status, popularity or financial success. Music floats in & out of the zeitgeist & marketplace all the time. Just like how the stock market has nothing to do with most people’s day to day life, what songs stream the most has nothing to do with the identity of pop. The only way to describe pop music's sound is: everything. It sounds & has sounded & will sound like every kind of music that’s ever existed, no matter what scholars claim. No other definition is useful or constructive. There's no high-brow or low-brow. ALL music is NO-BROW. Is it fun to research the music of different eras? Absolutely. I love hearing the changes & evolution. But these are cross-sections of a body of work that in no way tell the whole story. They’re as representative of pop as a person’s clothing is to their existence – which is to say pretty much not at all. We constantly make distinctions & divisions. Every day – often unconsciously – we make decisions about what things, ideas & people are deserving of more status, respect, popularity, power. It’s human nature to categorize & create hierarchies. And it’s the nature of most people in power to reinforce these distinctions to create more division, to the point where we take on their way of seeing the world & start to subdivide ourselves. People who otherwise have 95% in common become enemies because of that 5% difference. It’s important we see this power play, admit our very human part in it & remain aware of it daily, so that we can consciously redirect our judgments & open our thought processes to the notion that all of these distinctions are artificial. Just like how a dance song can be as worthy as Mahler, or a hip hop song can be as deep & meaningful as Miles Davis, people & ideas & organizations & objects & all art are not defined by class or race or mode of communication or look or how much money they cost. What people love is what matters. That's pop & pop is us.
April 7, 2021
Hyper, Social, Short & Canned – They Might Be FUTURE Giants | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #19
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Pop music is wonderful. More diverse than its reputation suggests. But it’s not everything. And while it can often be very accepting of new ideas, it can also be a bully. The bouncer who passes quick judgment from a few superficial cues. That’s why it’s critical that agitators exist. I don’t mean artists who deliberately shun the mainstream and carve a more eclectic, experimental, indie path. I mean those artists who strive to infiltrate the mainstream and shake it up. Trojan horse artists who disguise themselves in pop trappings so they can sneak in more subversive elements. Hyperpop is the latest in a succession of musical styles that take pop music and turn it on its head by going to the brashest extremes. Ultra bright. Ultra fast. Ultra polished. Ultra short. Ultra weird lyrics. Cherry picking elements and mashing them together like mixing up all the Play-Doh colors. It’s brought some cool new points to the conversation, and will most definitely move things forward. But it’s not the first time this has been done. Subversive pop music has been around as long as normal pop. Wherever there’s a movement, there will always be a counter to it. A perfect example of this is They Might Be Giants. The Johns got their start in 1982 and over about ten years infiltrated the mainstream. Sort of. They were doing ultra bright ultra fast ultra polished ultra short ultra weird-lyricked songs decades before hyperpop. In particular, their first four albums stretched what a pop song - and pop album - could be, in all directions. Pop music didn’t love them. They never topped the charts because pop wasn’t ready for them. Like an early 1980s bouncer scoffing at parachute pants, pop took one look at this accordion and guitar duo playing to canned backing tracks and DID NOT LET THEM IN. It couldn’t handle the weirdness. As always, the future has the last laugh. Weirdness is just normality minus a decade or two. Slowly but surely, pop music caught up. Now so much of what they did is becoming a central part of the pop landscape. Short songs and shuffling playlists (see the “Fingertips” compilation). Songs on demand (the pioneering Dial-A-Song). Songs available only online (their Long Tall Weekend album). And so much more. And they influenced so many other artists. Think of all the “bands” that came into existence 20 years after TMBG who are just one or two people playing to backing tracks. No one was doing that in the 1980s and barely even in the 1990s. I’d say that They Might Be Giants are one of the top 20 influences on my music. I’ve performed “solo” tons of times, snuck weird lyrics into otherwise poppy songs, messed with length and form and genre - on one album and even one song, pushed pop to its limits and turned it on its head. Every album of mine has at least one song that does this. Here’s an example that sounds to me very TMBG-esque: REC -“KPS (Korean Pop Song)” (from the album The Sunshine Seminar) Do you know TMBG? If so, do you know mostly their classic stuff or their kids albums or TV/film/stage work? Did you think they were ultra weird? Can you hear their influence on any other artist? Discuss dammit!
March 31, 2021
An Hour with hot glue & the gun - Interview Edition #8 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #18
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE I spend an hour with Carrie Klein & Joel McGlynn, a.k.a. hot glue & the gun. They are a theater rock collective specializing in CRAFT music, and creators of the Gluey Zoomy Show. For more on hg&tg, check out these links: IG: @hotglueandthegun ( YouTube: website: bandcamp: And find them here on the GLUEY ZOOMY SHOW!
March 25, 2021
Death is DUMB Volume 2: STP - The Reinventor's Edge | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #17
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Grunge was a thing. Born in the 1980s, came of age in the early 1990s, and got coopted and run into the ground by the end of that decade. It was powerful enough to change the landscape of pop music and culture in general, before pop culture changed it into a parody of itself (Nickelback anyone?). If you were caught in that storm, there were only a few ways out: Quit. Double down and play the grunge circuit. Evolve into a band with more range and depth. Reinvent. This week’s band, Stone Temple Pilots, was a mix of the last two, and even touched on the second one early on and the first one years later. During the Core years, STP sounded like grunge imitators, and you wouldn’t have been at fault to believe they’d end up a footnote, like say Candlebox. But they had depth and range built in from the get-go - back when they were called Mighty Joe Young - that didn’t quite show up until they broke the grunge chains and followed wherever the music took them. Though they piqued my interest with “Vaseline” from Purple, it was Tiny Music...that blew them up big for me. It was like Scott Weiland’s voice morphed from an Eddie Vedder imitation to a punk John Lennon. Their subsequent albums showed the same depth and range, thanks in large part to both Weiland’s vocal and lyrical abilities AND the DeLeo brothers’ incredible composition, performance, and leadership. Listen to their hits compilation, Thank You, and you’ll hear all that from beginning to end. Anyone with a decent knowledge of grunge knows STP is in the Death is Dumb series because of Weiland’s tragic end. I followed his ups and downs closely, saw him try to get it together with Velvet Revolver and the STP reunion, and was crushed when he OD’ed. I’m glad STP is still at it today - despite yet another tragic lead vocalist death (Chester Bennington). The DeLeo brothers deserver more recognition than they’ve received for the success of STP. But it was Weiland who brought that band home for me. His always captivating vocals and desire to push the morphing envelope inspired me to come out of my “dark grunge vocal” period and add more dynamism and brighter, grittier inflections. You can hear the difference clearly when you listen to these two songs back to back: NICK – “Away” REC – “Some Things Happen”  Do you know STP? Were you also surprised by how much they changed through the 1990s? What did you think of Weiland? Do you know much about the several other bands he fronted? Discuss dammit!
March 23, 2021
An Hour with Gustavo Rodriguez - Interview Edition #7 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #16
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE I spend an hour with Gustavo Rodriguez - musician, talent booker, writer, producer & podcaster. For more on everything Gus does, check out these links: IG HANDLE @sandovar SILBIN SANDOVAR - music FIRESIDE MYSTERY THEATER - podcast LIC Bar - Long Island City, NY - Facebook Live Sunday Series 
March 18, 2021
When the Clash Became BAD - A Stellar Second Act That's Still SO Punk | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #15
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE One of the many great things about doing chronolographies is finding out the whole family tree of a band. For most bands, a breakup is not the end. I’m not talking about the reunion tour after the farewell tour (times infinity). The main creative forces in a band don’t just stop creating after “the end”. Some go on to solo careers – like Ozzy Osbourne or every Beatle. Some transition into non-band work – say, film & TV scoring like Danny Elfman of Oingo Boingo. Some do the retread circuit – cashing in on their own legacy like … name 1,000 of them. Then there are those who reinvent the band experience, who maybe needed the breakup to allow other aspects of their creativity to blossom. Mick Jones is a great example of this. When he left the Clash – who released one more post-Mick album before breaking up for good, he wasted no time starting a new band with a new sound. After two short & unsuccessful runs as founder of the bands General Public & Top Risk Action Company (T.R.A.C.), Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite. They released nine albums over nearly 15 years, before Jones went on to form yet another band, Carbon/Silicon. BAD had a ton of success (as well as at least three names – including BAD, BAD II, and Big Audio), peaking with this week’s album, The Globe. BAD carried on the Clash’s musical mission in many ways. Political songs. A pop sensibility that didn’t shy away from edge either lyrically or sonically. A mix of several types of music, including punk, funk, reggae & ska. But they got even weirder, more experimental, and added other styles like hip hop, dance, Afrobeat, electronica, and heavy sampling. Their lyrics went everywhere too. All in all, it was a vibrant & very successful reboot. The BIGGEST parallel between the two bands is that they both subverted conventional wisdom of what you can & can’t do with music. And once you do that, you’re also by default subverting industry standards & practices. SO punk. I just listened to all of the Clash & BAD’s catalogs. I don’t think I realized how hugely influential BAD was on me, especially from 1985-1991. At least three of their first six albums had songs that immediately came back to me as soon as I heard them – no small thing since the last time I listened to most of this music was when it was new. You can hear that influence even today, especially in one of my band REC’s most recent songs: REC – “Make Me Mic My Mouth” Do you know any BAD or Clash music? Were you aware of the connection between the two? Can you think of other incredible second-act reinventions? Discuss dammit!
March 16, 2021
An Hour PLUS with James Castelli - Interview Edition #6 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #14
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE I spend more than an hour with James Castelli, a quintessential polymath.  James is a composer, performer, teacher, astronomer, astrophotographer, vintner, family genealogist, and my second cousin once removed.   For more on everything James does, check out these links:  ORIGINAL MUSIC   ASTRONOMY & ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY   CASTELLI VINEYARD
March 11, 2021
Death is DUMB Volume 1: Fountains of Wayne - Power Pop BLISS | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #13
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Loss is a constant. Loved ones. A job. The end of a relationship. The end of an era. Your youth. It hurts the most when there’s a lot of love & desire. If we want to love, we have to accept that loss is always eventually a part of it. And so it goes with music. When a favorite band or artist is alive and well, every new album or single or show is exciting. Even if they break up or retire, there’s always hope for one more reunion, one more album. Once a band member or artist dies, it’s over. Forever. And so is that era for you. There’s no way around it. It hurts like hell. When John Lennon died, a tremendous amount of hope died with him. I still feel it. Same for Kurt Cobain, Prince, and countless others. Unreleased tracks or faux reunions like those “new” “Beatles” songs from the 1990s just don’t cut it. It’s trying to hold onto something that is over for good. Only the music and memories survive. Fountains of Wayne, this week’s band, is the first in a series I’m doing on love and loss in music. Early on in the pandemic, Adam Schlesinger, the principal architect and songwriter, died of COVID. He was in his 50s and in the midst of a thriving career. The band had broken up nearly a decade before, but with him and lead singer Chris Collingwood alive, I held out hope they’d do more stuff together. That all ended last April. And it sucks. Fountains of Wayne were one of the few power pop titans that A. influenced the fuck out of me, and B. should have been way bigger than they were. They had their big hit, “Stacy’s Mom”, and that album was phenomenal. But so we’re all their albums, and they had songs even better than that. As prolific and restless as Adam was, there’s no doubt they would have done something again. So that band is done forever. That era of my life is over. Death is dumb. But the music isn’t dumb, and it isn’t dead. It’ll be around forever, and deserves to be heard and loved by way more people. We’re lucky it was made. And I’m lucky to still be around making music. My band REC’s latest album owes a huge debt to Fountains of Wayne. Especially this song: REC – “Wake Up High” And here's a link to the tribute concert I did last April: Do you know this band? Is there a band that can never exist again that breaks your heart? Discuss dammit!
March 10, 2021
An Hour with Daniel Cousins - Interview Edition #5 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #12
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE I spend an hour with amazing singer/songwriter/producer, audiovisualist, emotional engineer & my good friend & colleague Daniel Cousins. He's also the creative force behind the supernatural electro rock band, Albatross Heights. For more on Daniel and the AH experience, go here:
March 4, 2021
Liz F*cking Phair - This Title Doesn't Need a Qualifier | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #11
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE We need to get sick. We need to be tired of the same stories again & again. History is NOW, and enough is enough. Too many artists – too many people – have been taken advantage of by those in power, pushed around & forced to either comply or risk major rejection. So many of us have been manipulated, exploited, stepped on, shunted aside – all for money & power. That includes us fans, who are force fed opinions WAY MORE than we realize. Take this week’s shining example, Liz Phair. She came roaring out of Chicago with an album that’s now one of the top 500 greatest of all time. Then she faded. NOPE NOPE NOPE. That’s the narrative we’ve been fed by critics and the industry every step of the way. Thing is, IT’S TOTALLY FALSE. I just listened to her entire catalog, and I’ve come away with one overriding impression. She’s always been herself, always done what she wanted, and always kicked ass at it. Whoever you think she is, she’s not that. Or that’s just a small part of her. Her output is kind of like Bowie’s. Every album does something different. You have the deceptively raw & off the cuff sounding debut, Exile in Guyville. Whip-Smart proved she didn’t just burn out all her creativity the first time around, and was here to stay. It added just enough tightness & difference to indicate she had more places to go. Whitechocolatespaceeggis an absolute songwriting & performing tour de force. She is the titan of making intimate, quirky lyrics & catchy pop melodies go together like they’re meant to be. And don’t overlook her guitar playing. This is my personal favorite. Her eponymous album was PANNED when it came out, because she dared to be power pop. Ridiculous. We’re all so easily duped by production values, critics & fans alike. We think a loosey-goosey tossed off sound indicates more authenticity, and a polished put-together sound is shallower. They’re both affects and it’s all total bullshit. It shows how few critics ACTUALLY LISTEN beyond first impressions. It’s why SO MANY ALBUMS that were first panned end up getting “reconsidered” years later. Somebody’s Miracle – it’s Taylor Swift before Taylor Swift even got started. She takes the stereotypical “singer-songwriter” production mode and spins lyrics, intricacies, & vulnerabilities that would come to define pop songwriting. Funstyle – experimental and going wherever she wanted to. Weird & not afraid to say fuck-you to both genre constrictions and the industry. I suggest listening to this first. If you end up liking or loving it, all the other albums will fall right into place. The point is, regardless of what story we’ve been told or impressions we get before digging deeper, she’s always been herself. Which is exactly what we should want every artist – and every person – to be. Every single thing she’s done stands the test of time, because it’s always honest & real. Dig in and give her all the listening & credit she deserves. And get ready for her long awaited new album to pop very soon. My entire last project, REC’s The Weird Objective, was dedicated to that same kind of genre fuck-you. It goes everywhere I wanted it to. And because it’s 32 TRACKS, it’s also kind of a fuck-you to the industry. Judge for yourself: REC – The Weird Objective - Do you remember Liz Phair? If you do, do you remember her as just a sexually explicit rabble rouser? Or do you know her hits more? Are there other artists you think deserve more credit for persevering despite misperceptions & mistreatment? Discuss dammit!
March 3, 2021
TWO Hours with Nicky DeMatteo (Part 2) - Interview Edition #4 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #10
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE The first of a two-part interview with the legendary Nicky DeMatteo, singer, recording artist, piano man, actor, and my father. For more from Nicky, check out these links: Nicky's live performance of Phantom of the Opera - Nicky LIVE virtual concert - Nicky's recordings -
February 24, 2021
Third Stream Music - The Jazz-Classical Alchemy of Jacques Loussier | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #9
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE There’s a frame of mind that insists that the connections between genres are tangential & theoretical at best. Of course, MUSIC is not a GENRE is out to debunk that myth. It’s hard enough to battle that mindset in the popular realm – like how country people don’t like hip hop or rock people don’t like dance. Those boundaries are blurring more & more, thankfully, because of the mish-mosh that is the internet and especially because of young artists like Breland or Rina Sawayama, who don’t see a reason to stay “pure”. When it comes to so-called “highbrow” music – a distinction I reject, by the way – the bias is even stronger. There seems to be a need for high minded people to cling to a false sense of purity in their chosen music. Lovers of classical – or more accurately orchestral – music tend to dismiss anything written from at least Stravinsky onward, if not before. Jazz heads are often so strict about what’s considered jazz that they’ll dismiss all but one or two sub-classifications. Like how Wynton Marsalis once claimed that if a song wasn’t rooted in a blues structure then it’s not jazz. There have been, and always will be, people who are open to blends & mashups & cross-pollination, and people who need very solid & high walls to keep out anything they feel doesn’t fit. But if you’re a true lover of MUSIC – the history & development, the taxonomy and Darwinian evolution – then you know that ALL WALLS ARE FALSE, and have been SINCE FOREVER. If jazz is defined by improv, then are rock guitar solos jazz? If classical is defined by a strict interpretation of written notes, then how do you reconcile the hard fact that Liszt and Chopin and Mozart and even Bach were all known for their dazzling improvisational skills? We think classical music was always set in stone because we only inherited the sheet music. SO not true. Jacques Loussier knew this, and his music is one of the greatest embodiments of the porous boundaries between jazz & classical. He was known for interpreting the works of Bach, Vivaldi, Satie and many others, adding lots of improv in with the familiar melodies, harmonies & rhythms. He was a French pianist whose melding of jazz & classical was known as “third stream”, a term that’s been around since the 1950s. Even though these venerable works don’t need a jolt of improv to make them great, the third stream approach brings them right into the present moment. It makes them feel like they’re brand new. I’ve used classical & jazz elements in many of my songs, probably none more so than “Dream for Real”, based on Pachelbel’s Canon in D. More recently, my band REC’s song “Polymath” uses a harpsichord-like keyboard sound to weave in a couple of classical inspired passages. And then there are the pair of songs I did for the film Lock-Load-Love, which combine well-known classical pieces, jazz rhythms, and space sounds. They were heavily influenced by Loussier, with a little bit of Esquivel thrown in: REC – “Polymath” (from the album Syzygy for the Weird) “Classical Space-Jazz 1” (from the soundtrack to the film Lock-Load-Love) “Classical Space-Jazz 2” (from the soundtrack to the film Lock-Load-Love)
February 24, 2021
TWO Hours with Nicky DeMatteo (Part 1) - Interview Edition #3 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #8
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE The first of a two-part interview with the legendary Nicky DeMatteo, singer, recording artist, piano man, actor, and my father. For more from Nicky, check out these links: Nicky's live performance of Phantom of the Opera - Nicky LIVE virtual concert - Nicky's recordings -
February 18, 2021
Sweet Sounds of POWER POP - Why is Matthew Sweet Not a SUPERSTAR?! | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #7
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE There are so many things in the music world that make sense. The everlasting popularity of stars like Sinatra or Elvis or the Beatles or Led Zeppelin or Prince or Nirvana or Mariah Carey or Cher etc. etc. Or the more underground and under the radar appeal of bands like Sparks – hugely influential and wildly eclectic, but only deliberately mainstream when they wanted to be. Then there are things that make a whole lot less sense. Why were Nickelback and Kid Rock so popular for so long? Why would someone as prolific and loved as Billy Joel just stop releasing new music? I’m not saying these things don’t have logical explanations. I’m saying so what – there should be different answers. The same goes for this week’s artist, Matthew Sweet. It makes no sense to me that he was never a superstar. Successful? Yes, for a few years in the 1990s. Respected and still has millions of fans? Absolutely. But he’s not like Sparks. He doesn’t do obscure or eclectic niche music (not that that’s not also awesome). He does singer/songwriter power pop based in mostly classic rock sounds. His lyrics and especially his melodies and arrangements are super catchy-hooky. He has substance, broad appeal AND his own uniquely personal take. He has a very accessible voice. He’s personable and versatile and hasn’t stopped releasing new music since his formative years in early-mid 1980s Lincoln, Nebraska & Athens, Georgia. So what’s up, America? What’s your problem? Okay so two things. First, pretty much all of those descriptors could also be about me, so I’m taking this very personally 😊. Second, I think I know what America’s problem is. And yes, I’m singling out America here because this is a pervasive issue. I even hit on this in my recent Bee Gees episode. The issue is that America – or more likely its marketing/business/money structure, has a short attention span and little tolerance for artists who don’t totally blow it out all the time. America’s PR machine wants bigness. It grows what’s already growing, and cuts off what’s chugging or waning, to the point where it atrophies more quickly than it should. And fans who’d probably really dig what the artist is doing don’t hear about it, and rarely have time or the presence of mind to search for it. So it dies on the vine. I’m counting myself in this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost track of a once popular band, only to find out by accident they’ve been touring and pumping out new music non-stop. It would have been nice to freakin’ KNOW ABOUT THIS, but the American PR/money machine has no interest in capturing even a few moments of attention. ... I can’t underestimate the influence Matthew Sweet has had on my work. He showed me how you can write personal, often not very happy, lyrics and place them in a catchy power pop context. I did a virtual concert in 2020 where I mixed his stuff with mine, and you can hear the connection immediately: Matthew Sweet & Me: Perfect Together – Virtual Concert - Do you know anything about Matthew Sweet? Why do you think he’s not a superstar? Do you agree with my assessment of America’s attention problem? Are there favorite artists of yours you never understood why they weren’t more popular? Discuss dammit!
February 18, 2021
An Hour with Stephanie Kay - Interview Edition #2 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #6
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE The full interview with Stephanie Kay, sci-fi podcaster, music lover, award winning karaoke singer, and co-founder of The Lambda Quadrant (see below).   For more about Stephanie Kay, check out these links:    THE NX7062 PODCAST   THE HAWK CHRONICLES - sci-fi audio drama      LAMBDA QUADRANT - A group for LGBTQ sci fi fans providing safe spaces and supporting various nonprofits.     BULLYING CHARITY STARTED BY STAR TREK ALUM
February 11, 2021
What is a CHRONOLOGRAPHY? - And Why Does It Make The Bee Gees Even More Awesomer? | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #5
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE When David Bowie died five years ago, I righted a big wrong. I’d been aware of him since the 1970s, knew some of his hits & ‘80s music & offshoots like Tin Machine. Someone I really respected, but kept at arm’s length.  So I fixed that and listened to his entire catalog. I was immediately hooked.  Not just on Bowie’s legendary shape-shifting music, but on the whole idea of listening to entire catalogs.  So I did it again, and again, and again.  I’m still doing it.  At last count, I’ve gone through well over 50 artist discographies.  Truth be told it’s probably more like 150-1000 if you count all the short-lived bands. I call this a “chronolography”. It’s a mashup of “chronology” and “discography”, and here’s how I do it. I start from the artist’s earliest extant recording, and proceed chronologically from album to album - including any non-album singles. I also include solo records from any prominent band member. I read up on each album as I listen - my version of liner notes - including any career or personal info that might somehow connect to the music. And I don’t stop until I reach the last recording. This can be as few as one or two albums - like with the seminal punk band the Germs, or as many as 50 or more, like if you do the Beatles and then every Beatles’ solo career. There are so many reasons why this is a worthy undertaking. Greater appreciation for the artist’s talent beyond their more popular output. Better understanding of where the artist is coming from and what they’re trying to achieve. Discovery of hidden gems and creative offshoots they may not be known for. A detailed illustration of how the artist developed through the years. Placing the artist’s work in context - both as a part of their own career and as a response to the broader music scene. Oh and it’s fun and immersive and most of the music is incredibly good. Plus it takes a lot less time than bingeing a TV show, and you can do it anywhere. Now here’s where it gets way better. A chronolography tells a story. Not just of that music or that career, but of the times they existed, the people involved both in and out of the band, music development as a whole, how the industry and other external pressures influenced the music (or definitively DIDN’T), and even a chunky slice of society and humanity in general. It’s like history meets documentary mixed with a novel and culminating in a time lapsed work of art. It’s so much more important than just a musical exercise. We all have preconceived notions of pretty much everyone and everything we’ve ever encountered. The judgments that shape those notions are largely based on the least amount of information possible. We might know a few songs or one era when the band was hugely popular. When commerce coincided with creativity in a big way. We decide if the band was good or worth liking just from that. And hey that’s fine if that’s all you want to do, because it’s just music, right? No. Not right. Why? Because for most people, how you approach one thing that matters is very similar to how you approach everything else. If you are content to settle for your own under-informed judgment on something as relatively simple as music, how likely is it you’d dig deeper when it comes to more complex subjects like politics or social or philosophical issues? Or the sum total of a person’s life? ...
February 11, 2021
An Hour with Cathryn Lynne - Interview Edition #1 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #4
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE The full one-hour interview with Cathryn Lynne, performer & co-creator of SnerkShirts by FEEK.   For more information on Cathryn, go here:  To see Cathryn in action, go here:
February 11, 2021
You Never Forget Your First - The Triumph & Controversy of George Michael's Faith | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #3
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE I found it! My CD collection has been moved twice in the last 18 months, and I have not done ANY reorganizing. Hunting through 600+ CDs to find the only one I want was not something I had any desire to do. So it was a huge relief that this one was sitting right out front on one of the shelves. And why? Because I should have started my trip down CD lane with THIS ONE. It was the first CD I ever bought with my own money. My parents spent a ton of THEIR money to get a CD player, and as I was still living with them off & on, I had access. And of all the CDs I could have bought – and did eventually buy, let’s be honest – George Michael’s Faithwas the one that moved me the most. Not enough can be said about George Michael or about this album. So much has already been said that I don’t feel the need to go into detail. I’ll just say that I can still remember the crisp, funky, pristine sound of these songs – and that VOICE. I can still remember what a revelation it was to hear his version of what a singer/songwriter/producer could be. And let’s not forget the HUGE HITS and the controversy that some of his lyrics and his not-yet-out personal life stirred up. We could say that “these days” the scandal of someone singing about sex, let alone gay sex, is laughable. And for many of us it is. But it isn’t. Not really. Because for a huge portion of the population these things are still upsetting, scandalous, sinful, and just plain wrong. So what an incredible triumph for George Michael to not just sing about this stuff, not just do videos & visuals about it, but to do it in an extremely personal way. To be both a master of pop/r&b/dance music and to do it confessionally is an incredible feat, and is what makes this album a major classic. I subsequently wrote a TON of songs inspired by this album, whether like the smash hits "Faith", "Father Figure", "One More Try", “I Want Your Sex”, and my favorite "Monkey", or like the lesser known single and jazz-pop genre exercise, “Kissing A Fool”. You can probably hear more of what he did in my music today than you even could back then. Here’s a great example – my version of singing about sex in a personal way: REC – “Make Me Break Like Everyday” (from the album Syncopy for the Weird) Do you remember this album? Can you still sing some of the songs even though you haven’t heard them in years? Do you remember how huge he and this album were? Does it make you sad to think of how his life ended? What was YOUR FIRST CD? Discuss dammit!
February 4, 2021
Everything OLD is SOLD Again - Reissues SAVE the Music Industry | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #2
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Last week we talked about audio formats, and touched on how there have been more than 50. Every time a new format is introduced and actually takes hold, the old formats start a slow process of diminishment to be strictly for collectors, fetishists, and/or nostalgia freaks. They never quite go away, but they eventually become too inconvenient to be mass consumed. Thing is, while the old formats drift into obsolescence, the music itself doesn’t. Sure, trends come and go, but old music maintains a massive fan base. Which means if there’s an album or artist you love but have stopped listening to vinyl or cassettes or CDs or your collection of mp3s, you have to UPGRADE. You have to make a firm decision to reacquire all your favorite music on whatever new format you’re now into. On one level, this sucks. If you’re a collector of ANYTHING, the thought of having to re-collect what you already have is a major money, time & energy drain. On another level, it’s awesome. You get to rediscover music you might not have listened to in a long time, and you can now share it much more easily. But there’s a THIRD level, the one that really counts in the world. And it’s that without these reissues, the music industry would have been bankrupted a long time ago. Just like how every new video format, from as far back as the 1830s stroboscopic animation, has been funded and floated in large part by pornography (look it up – it’s true), the music industry continues to thrive largely because they know they have a built-in audience for reissues of all kinds. If it sold once, there’s a 100% chance it will sell again. You can’t count on buyers to follow your lead to new territory every time the standard shifts, but you can absolutely lead them down that road with the tried & true. I’ve done this hundreds – probably thousands – of times, with every new format, and happily so. At least when funds have permitted. In our current case – CDs, I eventually collected whole band catalogs, among many other upgrades. The very FIRST upgrade I ever bought was this week’s album. It’s not strictly a one-to-one reissue. There was no previous Compact Jazz – The Sampleron vinyl. What this was is a compilation of excellent jazz songs – some well-known & some deep cuts – kind of a primer for people who don’t know jazz well but might want to, or who just want all these songs in one place. Like a mini playlist. It’s all stuff that only existed on vinyl or cassette. I played this CD a ton. Some of these artists I knew and loved. Others I was very happy to discover, even get more into. It’s a damn fine and well curated CD. And it was so incredible to hear all that stuff in such excellent condition. I recommend listening to every single cut. My own personal artist transition from cassettes to CDs happened a good decade after this was released, when CD replication became way more affordable. All my releases had been on cassette, up until this album below. It was a revelation to hear my music at such a high quality, and other than messing with sound on purpose, I’ve never gone back to the old ways. This album even includes some jazz influenced songs, particularly Tracks 8 & 9. NICK – Listen You People (1998)  What’s your experience with upgrading your collection? Do you mostly enjoy it, mostly hate it, or never really do it? Are you into any of the music on this week’s album? Are you into any of the music on my first ever CD album? Discuss dammit!
January 28, 2021
Which Audio Format is Best? - The Answer May Surprise You | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #1
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Before I started podcasting, I was blogging weekly for a long while. I started with my cassette collection. When I finished with those and got ready to transition to vinyl, I took a pause to discuss the history of music formats, from as far back as late 19th century cylinders all the way up to present day streaming. (COOL LINK ABOVE) As I transition from vinyl to CDs, we’re going to do something different. Let’s talk about what the best format is for music listening. Rather than discuss all of the 50 or so options, we’ll limit it to those formats most widely in use in the last 60 years. Namely, vinyl, cassettes, CDs and digital files (principally mp3s, wavs, and cloud-based streaming). Each of these formats has its fans: VINYL warm, crackly romantics CASSETTE tight, sizzly utilitarians CD techno- audio- philes DIGITAL FILE stone colder listeners Yes, there are drawbacks to each. Vinyl and cassettes - the analog formats - warp and break easily. They’re harder to transport, store and play. Sonic quality tends to deteriorate over time. You can only capture a certain amount of the original sound production. These formats color the sonic output in ways that weren’t intended by the artist. CDs and files - the digital formats - can sound “cold” and thin. Like the analog formats, CDs are also harder to transport & store, and to a lesser extent can degrade & suffer other damage. Digital files are harder to catalog and keep track of, and lack a tremendous amount of the other formats’ visual & textual representations. Their sound quality varies greatly, and the most compressed files (low end mp3s) sound as bad as an old tape on a crappy one-speaker boom box. Plus, while digital sound captures a much larger swath of the sonic spectrum in both breadth and depth, it misses the connective tissue that analog captures by default. The spaces between the ones & zeros. So what’s the best format?? When I was young I had only vinyl, and I loved it. When cassettes came, I flipped. I could take them anywhere, even record vinyl onto blank ones and take THEM too. When CDs came, I couldn’t believe the sound quality. I couldn’t take them everywhere because portable players were scarce, so I got around that by recording them onto cassettes. When cars started including CD players standard, I left cassettes behind. It took me a loooong time to stop buying CDs, a good 15 years into the mp3/streaming age. I didn’t like having to download files & then either rip them onto a CD or upload them to a player. At the same time I was collecting them at a rate I could never have afforded otherwise. Once I got familiar with a streaming service I liked, I stopped buying CDs altogether, and have almost completely stopped downloading files too. Which leads FINALLY to an answer. The most important aspect of ALL of the above IS ... the MUSIC. The experience of listening to, absorbing, getting lost in the sounds & the words & the world the artists create. It doesn’t matter which format you prefer, as long as it gets you to the music you want. Debate the pros and cons. Make your case for your favorite. NONE of them are “the best”. What only ever matters is the music. This is my band REC’s magnum opus, a minute chunk of the music I’ve created to be experienced: What’s your history with music formats? What’s your favorite? Discuss dammit!
January 28, 2021
Vice VERSUS - The Destructive and BOGUS Origins of Music Rivalries | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #37
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE People are passionate about the music they love. (Most people anyway. We won’t mention the others :) ). When that passion runs so deep that it becomes part of their core identity, it can cause fires. They can get insulted by people who don’t like a favorite artist or style. They can get so obsessed with their music that all other music is ignored or deemed unworthy, and that stance spreads to the other music lovers. They can let that feeling run so rampant that it goes from apathy to disdain to outright hatred. I’ve felt all of that. I’m a passionate music obsessive. I used to be so protective of my tastes that I’d be afraid to share them, so disdainful of others who disagreed that I could barely discuss music with anyone ever. I’d cling tightly to my opinions and keep them to myself, or share them only within a like-minded echo chamber. It’s easy to explain and understand the internal reasons why we can get this way. It’s what we’re exposed to as kids and young adults. It makes us feel what we want to. It reflects ourselves back to ourselves in the light we want to see. It gives us a safe space to hide our vulnerabilities from the perceived dangers of the unknown. And it’s important to note that, somewhere in our being - consciously or not, we choose to embrace these exclusionary attitudes. What often gets overlooked are the external reasons. Social pressure to belong to a certain group or demographic. Industry messages that favor one artist or type of music over another, and target those messages only to certain people. Media sensationalism that shirks factual reporting to focus solely on controversy, even when that controversy is completely made up. Critics and journalists whose bias shines through their words more strongly than any attempt at objective analysis. We’re not always aware of these pressures and influences, but they’re always there, imposing restrictions on the otherwise boundless world of music appreciation. Think of all the music rivalries. Beatles v. Stones. MJ v. Prince. Nirvana v. Pearl Jam. Mariah v. Whitney. Tupac v. Biggie. Metal v. Punk. Rock v. Disco or Hip Hop. All of these were either completely untrue, or only true because either fans let their passions divide them, or one of those external influencers hyped up differences to stir up press and money. In some cases, like Rock v. Disco, it stemmed not just from the mercenary pursuit of dollars and power, but also from flat out racism. Which shows that even fake rivalries can get ugly, even dangerous. We have a choice, one that allows us to hold onto what we believe, and still be open to others’ tastes and beliefs and opinions and experiences. Maybe even open to appreciating something they do, something we never thought we’d understand. When I was a kid, I never understood why people couldn’t like both rock and disco. But I kept it to myself, and that started me down the road of developing that exclusive, divisive mindset. External pressures and internal fear caused me to separate myself from too many people. That adopted, learned-nourished mindset took hold, and prevented me from sharing the joy of the music I love. It compelled me to judge others so harshly that I dismissed both them AND their music, as a defense against the possibility that they might do the same to me. ...
January 22, 2021
Bad Ocean Freddie 5 Whistle Bird - This is the END of VINYL | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #36
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE This is it. We are getting ready to enter Phase 3 of something that started five years ago. These Thursday posts have gone through a lot of changes. Phase 1 was all text and photos, and all about cassettes. Phase 2 was transitional - all about vinyl, starting with texts and photos and morphing into videos, which morphed into a YouTube channel, and even included a name change. Today’s episode completes that phase, and sets up the next, with lots more to come. What I’m saying is today is the last of my vinyl collection. I’ve decided to take the remaining six albums and put them all together, for a good old fashioned multi-genre music talk. None of them were hugely significant to me, but all deserve a spotlight. Below are those six, with a few short notes. You’ll want to watch the video to get more in-depth analyses. -- Bad Company - Every era has a handful of acts that are the quintessential representation of a style - no crossover or muddy waters. Bad Company was that for rock music for the 1970s. -- Billy Ocean - If you don’t like Billy Ocean, you’re missing a piece of your humanity. And how great that he’s reentering the music biz after such a long hiatus. So may hits in the 1980s, though I honestly didn’t remember this one. -- Freddie Jackson - One of those singers - like Peabo Bryson or the late James Ingram - who graced the 1980s with awesome smooth r&b. This was his biggest hit, and one I remember well. -- 5 Star - A British pop/r&b band who had several hits in the 1980s, including five from this album, of which “Let Me Be the One” was the biggest US hit. I often prefer British r&b, because it doesn’t feel the need to adhere so strictly to the genre, something that frequently limits what American r&b can be. -- Whistle - Whistle’s biggest hit. A couple of years after this, they transitioned surprisingly smoothly from hip hop to an r&b vocal group. You should totally see the video for this single. It’s one of the many fun, irreverent ‘80s rap songs that’s peppered with well-known public domain melodies, in this case played by an old-school keyboard sampler patch. -- Charlie Parker - Recorded in 1944, this is prime Bird and supreme bebop. Bebop is one of my top three favorite jazz styles, because it had one foot in early more lyrical jazz and one foot in the hard bop and more dissonant jazz to come. Right in the sweet spot. I got this in college at a thrift store, when I was diving headfirst into jazz of all kinds (other than smooth). I love the song, “Romance Without Finance”, and even covered it in one of my sets last year. And that’s it, people. The vinyl phase is OVER. Next week I’ll kick off Phase 3 - my CD collection. Here’s the link to my band REC’s box set, The Weird Objective: REC – The Weird Objective - Are you into any of these artists? Is your vinyl collection as bizarre as mine? Are you ready to dive into my massive CD collection? Discuss dammit!
January 22, 2021
Not-So HIDDEN TALENTS - Oh, the Things We DON'T Know About Shaun Cassidy | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #35
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Multitalented people are not rare. The creative brain tends to think that everything has the potential to be something. And if that brain also has talent and interest in an area, that person won’t be able to resist making something new. I can think of a dozen famous people offhand who do at least two things really well. What is rarer is people knowing how multitalented someone is. Most successful artists are known for one thing, two at most. Jamie Foxx is a comedian, actor, & singer. He’s also a songwriter and accomplished pianist. Tom Hanks is an actor and a producer. He’s also a writer & an app designer. Reese Witherspoon is an actor & producer. She’s also a singer & writer. Lupita Nyong'o is an acclaimed actor. She’s also a writer & TV producer. This doesn’t even get into all their non-creative work in business, charity, etc. And these are only four of thousands and thousands. Among that group is Shaun Cassidy. If you know him at all, first of all you’re old. Secondly, you probably know him as David Cassidy’s little brother, or the costar of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. Or as this week’s album shows, a pop singer. But he’s done way more. I loved this album. So much that I had the accompanying poster on my bedroom closet door. It was mostly because of the cover of The Crystals' "Da Doo Ron Ron". But it was the overall poppiness too. Granted, I was 7 when it came out, but I stand by that pre-teen taste even now, because if we're honest it never really goes away. Then I kind of grew out of him. His next two albums were successful too, and he did lots of TV and stage acting, but I had no interest in most of it. In the mid 1990s, I heard his name again, this time as the creator, writer & producer of American Gothic. I didn’t watch it, but a couple years later I heard his name again, as the creator of Roar, starring Heath Ledger. I loved that show. From then on I kept tabs on Shaun, who has stuck to behind the scenes TV work, including the current show New Amsterdam. And I constantly look out for other less famous things that famous people do well. I’m one of those non-rare polymaths as well. If you’ve been following along, you know that I do this podcast in part to promote my own music - most of which I write, sing, play and produce myself. But I’m also a voice actor, and have done several voice overs for commercials, films and video games. And I’m an actor actor too - stage, film and TV. I’m a writer - fiction, nonfiction and poetry. And a graphic artist and photographer. I’ll even dance if you kick me. I do all this for many reasons. It’s fun. I’m restless. I CAN. I like multiple sources of income. I like bouncing between seemingly disparate forms of art. It cleanses the palate, and in the process you can find insight and connections you never would have if you’d stuck to one thing. But mainly I do it because it’s how I absorb and interpret the world. How I make sense of life. Check out these projects I’ve created or contributed to: MUSIC: The Weird Objective - GRAPHIC DESIGN: SnerkShirts by FEEK – VOICE OVERS: my VO reel - ACTING: The Many Saints of Newark - PHOTOGRAPHY: Hands Down -
January 22, 2021
MUSIC is not a GENRE is ... NOW on PATREON | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #34
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Every so often I like to pause the madness and check in. Do a state of the onion - talk about what layers have been peeled away and which ones are yet to come. I’m not going to add my voice to the thousands of others who need to reiterate what a year it’s been - unexpected suffering discovery triumph etc. All true and all blah blah. I’m just gonna get right to the meat. The onion meat.   Nothing gets the fire burning like clarity. And nothing creates clarity like constantly working. In the last 12 months I’ve done nearly 70 podcasts, over 75 gigs, and released five albums with my band REC amounting to over 30 songs. It felt awesome, but what was it supposed to add up to? I’m a firm believer in the best way to learn how to swim is to jump in the pool. I mean, have a few basic survival skills down first. Then frickin’ get to it. And once you’re in, keep swimming until you figure out where you’re headed. It’s exhausting, but all that muscle you build will make the next leg of the journey that much stronger and easier to map out.   Toward the end of my 2020 laps - and here’s where I’ll end the swimming metaphor (you’re welcome) - a few things came clear. One is that I love talking as much as I love creating and performing music. And that there’s no reason for them to be separate. Another is that there’s nothing I’d rather spend my work time doing. All this work IS exhausting, but agar it’s resulted in is a world of music I wouldn’t trade for anything. My performances solo, with REC, and with C+N. The completion of Volume One of the Weird Objective. MUSIC is not a GENRE. MUSIC is EVERYTHING. It’s all here. and it’s all staying.   But it’s not all staying here. In 2021, I’ll be shifting my focus from YouTube to Patreon. What exactly does that mean? Well first, lots of what you see here on YouTube will still be here. And I’ll still be releasing new podcasts monthly and live shows occasionally. Except for the C+N shows, which will all be migrating to our upcoming C+N YouTube channel - more on that soon! You can still find all the REC music on my REC YouTube channel - get it right here on my Channels page.   If you’re looking for everything else, visit MUSIC is not a GENRE on Patreon. And what is everything else? Oh man, get ready. Aside from many of the playlists and special podcasts & performances you see here moving over to Patreon, most of my new podcasts will be released exclusively for Patreon Patrons. And it won’t be just the podcasts series you’ve seen here. I’ll be spinning off several new series, including live interviews, deep-dive genre deconstructions, artist spotlights, special performances, and I’ll even take some of your requests.   In the next few weeks, look for me to start posting select clips and highlights from this year’s shows - songs from artists you love spanning nearly 100 years, including REC. And I’ll keep you posted regularly on who I’m interviewing and what else I’m talking about that you might be missing if you’re not a Patron yet.  As I do that, I’ll be migrating much of my YouTube material to Patreon as well.  It’s very soon going to be the best place to find me.   In the meantime, stay healthy, find happy, enjoy the rest of this year however you can, and never stop the music.
January 22, 2021
How do you GIFT MUSIC these days? - Seriously. I'm asking. | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #33
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Every year I make a list of gifts to get people. I try to intuit their tastes and interests, and get something thoughtful and hopefully meaningful to them. Books. Clothes. Treats. Homemade things. Gadgets and games. But this list is missing something, as it has for the past several years. Music. CDs. Box sets. Vinyl. We all know that the increasing dominance of streaming has made this happened. Physical music sales drop every year. Stores - even major chains - close one by one. While I mourn the lost experience of browsing through stacks of music from all areas to find hidden gems or that one thing I’ve been looking for, I don’t dislike streaming. I love it actually. It’s opened up worlds of music I couldn’t have afforded to explore otherwise. What it lacks in imagination it makes up for tenfold in convenience and malleability. Where I really question all this though is in gift giving. Probably my favorite endeavor each holiday season is to share favorite music with a loved one - buy them a CD that introduces them to something I’m wild about and want them to get into, or one I know they’ll already love. Or every year I’d make mix cassettes/CDs if the list was too eclectic to buy that many albums. It connected me to people on a level that meant more than almost anything else. What now? How do I gift music when anyone can find any possible gift idea in ten seconds on Spotify or iTunes or etc.? You might suggest I creat a playlist and share it with them - a virtual mixtape. I’ve done that. It falls way flat. It gets consumed alongside everything else. Not being able to hold a physical product to visually explore while listening is devastating to the experience. It makes the whole thing super forgettable. You might say screw it. Get them a CD or vinyl anyway. They’ll appreciate the throwback feel and never forget the gesture. I did that too, the first few years when streaming started to take over. Inevitably the album would never be played, and would be added to a collection of other albums that are never played. Yes, even a specially made CD mix, because who takes time to connect and load a CD player anymore? And box sets or special editions are future shelf statues that cost way too much to justify the expense. So what’s the answer? Especially this year, when buying tix to a concert you can go to together is out of the question, how do you gift music? The short of it is I DON’T KNOW. I haven’t found an adequate solution. This week’s two albums were gifts to me from someone cleaning out their collection. I cherish them and will keep them. And if I want to hear their music I’ll probably go to Spotify. Have you gifted music recently? If so, HOW BY GOD HOW? Do you prefer physical music (CDs, vinyl, cassettes, wax cylinders) or streaming? Help me out here and discuss dammit!
January 22, 2021
There's NO SUCH THING as WORLD MUSIC - Except for ... EVERYTHING | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #32
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Calling something “world music” is like calling people “Earth humans”. In other words: DUH. It’s a genre name that has come to mean something simply because the music industry said it should. But when you poke it, when you dig deeper and flesh out what it’s really saying, you quickly discover that it’s nothing more than a American/Euro-centric way to marginalize any kind of music that’s from “somewhere else”. It’s like the term “exotic”. At first it seems innocuous, but when you pick at it you start to understand that it’s actually meant to DIVIDE not UNITE. It’s meant to characterize something or someone less familiar as also LESS RELEVANT than our core culture. And again, as I’ve said so many times, we’re as much victims as we are participants in this. We ALL bristle at times from exposure to something unfamiliar. It’s what we do next that counts the most. Do we accept that off-putting feeling and characterize something or someone as “lesser than”? Or do we try to connect with and understand that “otherness”? So yes, we’ve got work to do. But we’re also VICTIMS in that we’ve been fed misinformation & division at every turn.  Every step of the way, since the music industry was born, we have been told to like what “our kind” is expected to like, and to ignore or even demonize music that doesn’t fit in those preordained boxes. Once you see that – once you feel how arbitrary genres & labels are, then your senses start to pick up signs & similarities in things you never thought you’d get into. I say all this because I went through it. This week’s selections, from more or less my formative years, all seemed somehow “foreign” to me when I first heard them. Looking back now from 2020’s pop music vantage point, it seems silly. Every aspect of every one of these releases is SUPER PRESENT in the pop world today, to the point where we barely notice the dozens of non-western influences swirling around. But back then, as with just about every era before & after, music that wasn’t rock or pop or dance or country was what? … “exotic”. It’s doubly silly in these cases because all of these releases are hybrids, merging American/British music with other forms. Again pointing out the futility of trying to describe music by simply giving it a genre label. UB40, The Jets, Gloria Estefan, Nard Ranks - ALL of these put together practically define the 2020 pop landscape. Perfect examples: reggaeton is an offshoot of dancehall, which is an offshoot of traditional reggae, and it’s EVERYWHERE. As is Latin music – and Bad Bunny is at the nexus of both of these styles. That is, IF you mix them with pop/dance/r&b, a la The Jets. So yeah, this week’s five selections are basically the DNA of 2020 music. Non-western culture music has seeped into much of my work, though not prominently. I’ve done a lot of soundtrack music that incorporates styles and/or languages from other countries. The best and most recent hybrid example, though, is my band REC’s latest single: REC - “Sing Owwt” Do you remember any of these bands? Do you hear their descendants and offshoots in today’s music? Do you get what I’m saying about all this stuff being no more “worldly” than anything mainstream America (and Canada & Britain) produces? Have there been times in your music history when you were put off by certain kinds of music? Did you keep it at arm’s length, or did you give it time – and TAKE the time – to get to know it and let it sink in? Discuss dammit!
January 22, 2021
The COVERS vs. ORIGINALS CHALLENGE! - A Hazy Shade of AWESOME | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #31
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Ever hear an awesome song and find out later that it’s a remake? Or a song you know is a cover and it’s so amazingly good that you like it even more than the original? Both are incredible discoveries, not just because you love the songs, but because they also breathe new life into old tunes AND create a direct connection between eras that might have little else in common. If you’ve been following along all these years, you know that I am very picky about cover tunes. On the one hand, redoing a song because it’s good and you like it is not enough if you don’t bring anything new to it. On the other hand, ripping a song up until it’s barely related to the original might be fun, but it only works if there’s still some tangible spiritual connection between the two. Otherwise why not just write your own song. I’m not talking about repurposing: using words, chords, production elements and/or full samples of songs in service of a whole new song. That’s not a cover, and there are different criteria for when that works (see tons of awesome hip hop tunes). I’m saying that a flat out redoing of a song has to be both good on its own and still do justice to the source material. So it’s doubly rewarding when a song that fits that bill is also even better than the original. And one such song is “Hazy Shade of Winter”, originally by Simon & Garfunkel, and here by the Bangles. First off, the Bangles are an awesome band, one of the pioneering all female groups of the 1970s/80s that showed that “girl groups” didn’t all have to be just vocal pop. They rocked hard, and they brought the pop goodness too. Their version of “Hazy Shade” brings out an energy and aggressive dark side that the original only hinted at, while still sticking very close to it in both spirit and structure. Still, “Hazy Shade” is a bit of a fence-sitter re which is better. It’s a matter of taste and how your era influences what moves you most. Though I don’t think that’s always the case. For example, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” blows the original away. Even the great Dolly Parton herself says that. When I pick a cover to do, it’s because I hear something in it that I want to bring out and emphasize, to couple it with some new elements and shed new light on it. And it’s usually either a lesser known song from a popular band, or a better-known song from an obscure band. A perfect example of this is my band REC’s version of the Beatles’ “I’ll Be Back”, from the new EP, Syncopy for the Weird. It’s not as well known a Beatles song, but I’ve always loved it. I also love the music from Hamilton, one one of the slow groove songs had a beat that I knew would bring out a smoky funkiness in “I’ll Be Back” that’s not prominent in the original. REC - “I’ll Be Back” - (from the album Syncopy for the Weird) There are dozens - if not hundreds or thousands - of covers that are as good as or better than the first versions. I talk about a bunch of them in the podcast. So, like, listen if you want all the goodies. And especially if you’re ready to disagree, because all of this is subjective. I wanna know what you think. Do you know “Hazy Shade of Winter”? If so, which version do you like better? Are there covers that you prefer, such as maybe the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout”? Do you like their version of “I’ll Be Back” or mine? What about the CHALLENGE list below? Watch the podcast to see what I think – and let me know if you agree or not! Discuss dammit!
January 22, 2021
Where DISCO Went When It STOPPED BEING DISCO - The Evolution of Dance Music 1978-1987 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #30
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE FEATURING THESE SONGS: 1978 - Arpeggio - “Love & Desire” 1979 – French Kiss – “Panic” 1983 – Rags & Riches – “Land of 1,000 Dances” 1983 – Pamala Stanley – “Coming Out of Hiding” 1983 – Lime – “Angel Eyes”/”Guilty” 1984 – Temper – “No Favors” 1984 – Wish, Featuring Fonda Rae – “Touch Me (All Night Long)” 1985 – The Bar-Kays – “Your Place Or Mine” 1986 – Eastbound Expressway – “Knock Me Senseless” 1986 – Regina – “Baby Love” 1987 – Herb Alpert – “Keep Your Eye On Me” 1987 – Left Lane – “Bam Bam Bam (I Came Here To Jam)” 1987 – Cyre – “Last Chance” 1987 - Will to Power – “Dreamin’” Yes, it’s time for another mega blast of vinyl. I’ve been saving this set for the right time, and this is it. If you’ve been following along all these years, you know that I was a live DJ for a while in my teens, and have been creating mixes ever since.  That teen period was SEMINAL for so many reasons, and because it required my partner and me to have actual vinyl (and cassettes) to mix with at dances & parties, I inherited a LOT of that collection. I’ve highlighted some specific songs & albums that were more significant and/or meant more to me. These 13 12” records – comprising 15 singles – did not individually mean enough to me to spotlight in one podcast, but they were all mainstays in our sets. I’m not going to go into detail here for each one, since that would take PAGES of text. You’ll have to watch the video for that. Instead, I’ll focus on the main point. Dance music is dance music – meaning if you hear a song you think you can dance to, then that’s what it is. BUT there’s a narrower definition of “dance” which originated in the 1980s. And that specific, eponymous kind of dance music grew directly out of disco. Most disco music was created with real instruments – a real funk/r&b/pop/rock band lineup, and/or session musicians hired to simulate that. As the 1970s came to a close, electronic elements were woven into that, primarily keyboard sounds, and sometimes those sounds replaced actual instruments like horn or string sections. When the 1980s rolled up, disco had been considered cheesy for a few years already. Several other types of dance music rose up to fill that void, including post-punk, new wave, techno, house, electro/synthpop, freestyle, hi-NRG, and on and on. Most of these featured predominantly electronic beats & instruments. And ALL of these shared one common element with disco: the four-on-the-floor beat – four kick drums to a measure at around 120-140 bpm. Living through that period, it seemed like this music was far afield from 1970s dance music, that it was newer and fresher and innovative. The second part of that sentence is true because that’s how things always go. Listening to all of these NOW, though, the revelation is that the FIRST PART of that sentence is not true at all. Dance music of the 1980s stayed really really close to the disco form until the very last part of the decade, when darker electronic palates, heavier rock, and especially hip hop and its offshoots morphed dance into what it would become in the 1990s and beyond. So even though my timeline of 1978-1987 is arbitrary – based on my personal dance collection which STOPPED DEAD when I stopped DJing, it kind of works, because after that dance music left disco in the dust. REC - “You Make Me Wanna” (from the album Syncopy for the Weird) Are you into dance music of any kind? Do you hear the differences between dance music from each decade? Discuss dammit!
January 22, 2021
The DEMOCRATIZATION of Music - Why TRENDS No Longer Matter | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #29
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Since the beginning of popular music - and depending on how you define it that could mean hundreds of years ago, trends have been a thing. Whether due to music creators pushing through to the next or different level of composition, performance and production; or fans being attracted by something new and different, and/or wanting to jump on the latest bandwagon; or the powers that be - patrons, companies, journalists, critics - deciding what should be hot or what sells best ... what’s been constant is that new styles and ideas of music replace the old. A sound or style that was hot for a while can become cliche or passé, pushing out the old style to near extinction. It can happen subtly over a few years, or overnight in a blink. At first, modern media and the internet sped up this turnover process - like it’s sped up everything. Then about 10-15 years ago, right around when streaming took over as the dominant way to absorb music, the whole thing reached an infinity point, and exploded. Trends started running into each other, overlapping, repeating, dying and regenerating, appearing and disappearing too quickly to take hold and push out anything else. In short, trends in music up and died. When I was starting out in music, and for decades before and a little after, trends were so dominant that you had to be super plugged in to make sure you didn’t fall behind - or worse, get too far ahead. It put a whole other level of pressure on EVERYONE - creators, fans, sellers, chroniclers. You couldn’t just do or like any old thing. You had to keep track of what was currently hot, still hot but fading, totally gone, gone but retro cool again, up and coming, completely off the chart, or any number of other classifications. It was exhausting and suffocating and produced tremendous anxiety. Once you’re on that track, it’s really hard to jump off. You get addicted to believing that it’s the only way to be relevant and succeed, and you’re afraid that if you hop off the track you’ll immediately be done for. So when that infinity point explosion happened, I didn’t notice at first. Then I sensed something was different. And once I became aware, it slowly hit me that IT. WAS. ALL. OVER. And it felt fucking great. Liberating. I started hearing “out-of-time” production values – sounds, FX, ways of writing/singing/performing that didn’t fit into the trending pop landscape. This was initially just in indie music – lesser known acts out of the mainstream. So I didn’t think much of it. I figured it was creatives in their sandboxes building retro castles. Slowly – but really not that slowly – these sounds started showing up on the charts. First as novelties, and then as mini trends. At some point these mini trends bubbled up, overlapped, intertwined and burned off so rapidly that trying to call any one of them the “new trend” was pointless. This set off a wave of creation with little to no boundary. People were doing whatever they wanted as if it was all okay – because all of a sudden it WAS. Songs could sound like they were made in any recent decade, and as long as they were good they were accepted. Now there are certainly still trends or movements in all areas of music – in the sense that creatives (producers, writers, performers) always have ears to the ground listening for awesome ideas to adapt. The difference is these are not ruling taste or ruling what’s “allowed” to be heard. They’re just there. ...
January 22, 2021
Why SOUTHERN ROCK Might Just Be IDEAL AMERICA - Or How Little Feat Will Save Us All | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #28
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE First thing I gotta say is I don’t know a TON about southern rock. I know some classic bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top and Allman Brothers. More recent alt bands like My Morning Jacket and Kings of Leon, and some of the newer bands like Alabama Shakes and Derek Trucks. I’m not a southern rock expert, or even a giant fan. But I did get into it and learn to respect it pretty early on. I got into Little Feat for a brief period for three reasons. The first was at the time I was looking for any band that had similar qualities to Chicago – jammy rock with horns. The second was I was and still am very much into New Orleans music and the like. The third was I had just discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd. In fact, a few months ago I did an episode on Skynyrd, and talked about how people who don’t know them assume they were and are Confederate southern hicks. And how that’s never been the case. It’s a point worth fleshing out here this week, because the same can be said for southern rock in general, especially from the 1970s & 1980s. People generally believe the stereotypes, and I say this because I believed it. I believed it as strongly as I believed that southerners are generally dumb and racist. Bridging perceived gaps in ideology means being willing to be wrong. It means being open to hearing something you don’t like and still being open to pushing through that to make a real connection. It took a lot to disabuse myself of these notions. Specifically it took desire, curiosity, research, and connection. I had to want to believe differently. I had to be curious enough want to know if I was right or wrong. I had to do my homework and find those answers. And I had to connect to the music, and the people doing the music. And that’s why southern rock might be the ideal American music for our current world. It’s downhome enough to feel traditional and familiar and comforting, but eclectic and inclusive enough to weave together elements of rock, blues, country, folk, pop, and sometimes even metal and jazz. And in the case of Little Feat, it’s even got that New Orleans swampiness. It’s a gumbo of musical styles that has room for many tastes. And the more you learn about it, the more familiar it feels, and the more you see through the prejudices (PRE-judging) to the truth: it ain’t what you think it is. And oh it’s damn good shit. Coming from a pop, jazz/blues and rock background, it took nudges of association to get me into southern rock of any kind. Like I’ve said in other podcasts, finding common elements - things you’re familiar with in one context that you can latch onto comfortably and with some understanding in a less familiar context. For me it was Chicago, Led Zeppelin and the blues. You can hear that in the song below, off my band REC’s 2020 EP, Symphony for the Weird, in collaboration with the band America UK: REC - “No Way Out for Me” (from the album Symphony for the Weird) Do you know Little Feat? Have you ever been into southern rock? Or do you stay away from it because you think it’s for hicks? Is there other music you’ve gotten into that took expanding your mind to get there? Or non-music shit that you had to get over to join the party? Discuss dammit!
January 21, 2021
Pay MAJOR Attention to the Person Behind the Curtain - The ILLUSION Episodes Part 4 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #27
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE There are two kinds of people in this world... Okay there are way more than two kinds of people - like, for example, people who don’t care about any of this at all. But let’s forget about them and be reductionist just for fun. As I was saying, there are two kinds of people in this world: those whose enjoyment of a trick is spoiled when they find out how it’s done, and those who still love the show no matter what they know. If you’ve followed my thread up to this point, you know that I’ve been using multiple points of entry to make the argument that all music (and all art in general) is somehow an illusion. Since this is the fourth and final episode in my ILLUSION series, it’s the perfect time to get to the main point, which is that for all true music lovers - and really most of everyone else - IT DOESN’T MATTER. Knowing or not knowing how something is created makes no difference to someone who loves the music. In fact, I’d argue that KNOWING makes the listener enjoy it MORE. Having some idea - or even getting a detailed analysis of - how a musical work is put together, increases appreciation because you see how much effort and craft and thought and inspiration go into its creation, and how even an end result that seems exceedingly simple contains dozens or hundreds of decisions and skills, some of which even the creator is unconscious of. When I listen to a song, the more I relate to it the more I want to know how it came to be - from the reason for its inception to why it sounds like it does, to what the lyrics connect to, to the underlying chord progression, to how a certain passage is played or sung. The more I know, the more into it I get. And when I pull back and just listen for pleasure again, I can still feel it and be carried away by it. I’d say I’m MORE INSIDE it than if I didn’t know as much. No amount of learning and discovering, and overall tipping the scales that much more from ignorance to knowledge, is going to spoil the fun. It doesn’t take away the emotional or psychological impact. It deepens it. It makes the music stick with you longer, maybe even forever, and colors your enjoyment of and connection to every other type of music related to it. Which ultimately is EVERYTHING. We get a lot of information thrown at us from birth to death. Some central and vital. Some peripheral and optional. Some accurate and some ... um ... way less than fucking accurate. Some we want and thrive on. Some we push away and are scared of. Hell, we are still in what’s called the Information Age! Which just means that the things we can know can be found easier and faster than ever before. We all filter this information in different ways and for a multitude of reasons. Just like with music, we choose to listen more to what draws us in the most, and maybe should explore things we hear that sound foreign or less comfortable a wee touch more. Whether we explore beyond our comfort zones or not, there’s one thing we should ALL do more of: SEEK OUT KNOWLEDGE. FIND THE TRUTH. DIG DEEPER. However it’s phrased, it means not settling for a surface understanding of anything we have any interest in, or taking one person’s or source’s word for ANYTHING. ...
January 21, 2021
Psychedelic, Man. Like, So Trippy. - The ILLUSION Episodes Part 3 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #26
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE If you’ve been following along, you might know two things: 1. This is the third episode of my ILLUSION podcast miniseries; and B. I LOVE working in the studio. You might also know where I’m going with this, which is that both of these things are ... DA da da DAAAA ... CONNECTED. From the beginning of recorded sound, engineers and artists have known that it’s not only possible to capture and preserve sounds of all kinds, it’s also possible and FUN to manipulate those sounds. At first, the manipulation was mostly about volume or clarity. Then it was about splicing multiple takes together to create one great version. Then it was about layering - i.e. multitracking elements after an initial performance had been laid down. All of which points to one big revelation: ALL recorded music is an ILLUSION. There’s a vital value to capturing sound as close to pure as possible. But even THAT is illusory. It’s a way to trick the listener into feeling like they’re hearing the performer in real time, in ideal conditions, and with no barrier between sound and ears. But of course we now know the illusion goes way further. A couple of years before the two bands I’m on this week debuted, artists like the Beatles started discovering that the only limit to what you could create in the studio is your own mind. They started crafting sonic worlds that didn’t and often couldn’t exist in the real world. Not just impossible levels of reverb or layering beyond the number of parts that could be performed live, but things lack backward tracking, splicing up sound collages, manipulating vocals or other instruments to sound like something completely different. It’s an extensive list that has mushroomed as fast as technological innovations have allowed it to. These days we take for granted - often without even knowing it - that what we hear in music has come from massive amounts of manipulation (AutoTune, anyone?). It’s the default way most popular music is produced. Which MEANS that we are all basically living in an illusion. - Okay maybe not LIVING IN one so much as surrounded by the SOUNDS OF ILLUSION. And artists like the Nazz (and especially Todd Rundgren as he pushed boundaries in his solo career) and the Moody Blues should be remembered as part of the pioneering generation of ultimate sound manipulation. Swirly, psychedelic, ethereal, ambient, triply, epic, and somehow all so real. The greatest trick of all. So back to me, as always. I don’t just love the studio manipulation I’m able to do. I thrive on it. I’m always adding to my palate and skills, always looking for the limits of my mind, of what I hear in my head that I can bring into the world for others to hear and understand. Like these two songs. The first is off my band REC’s new EP, Symphony for the Weird. The second is my cover of a Moody Blues song. Both are great examples of electro psychedelic power pop, and how recordings consisting of only one performer can sound like a whole band: REC - “The Accumulate” (from the album Symphony for the Weird) The Drop - “Lovely to See You” from the soundtrack to the feature film, DEALeR) Do you remember love like hate either of these bands? Or Todd Rundgren - a hometown Philly boy? Are you into obvious full-blown sound illusions like psychedelica or electronica? Or do you prefer the everyday illusion of ALL OTHER KINDS OF RECORDED MUSIC? Will this make you hear music differently now? Discuss dammit!
January 21, 2021
That Song is SO REAL! ... No. It's not. | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #25
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Every artist gets there. For some, it’s a departure from their normal mode. For some, it IS their mode. For some, it’s a concession to age. For some, it’s a defiant statement of not being pigeonholed or thought of as less “serious”. You know the moment I’m talking about. When an artist writes & records that extra special “heartfelt confessional”, that song that reveals something truer and more personal about them. And I’m here to tell you it’s bullshit. If you watched my podcast on Thursday, you’ll know that this is the second of several episodes I’m doing that deal with illusion in art, specifically in music. This one has to do with the idea that the WAY a song is crafted and recorded tells us something about its content. THIS … is an illusion. It’s one of many forms of trickery that all artists employ for effect. I mentioned on Thursday that art IS artifice. That no matter how “true” a work is, it’s still crafted. The word “craft” itself is used all the time to indicated trickery. Think of “witchcraft”. When you “make up” a song, that song is “made up”, which can also mean it’s “not real”. So many words having to do with art also somehow mean “not true”. Even the word “create” means “form from nothing”. Nothing, meaning something not real. Okay so let’s get back to the main point here, that how a song SOUNDS indicates how true or deep it is. This really is total and complete bullshit. I can tell you as both a listener and a creator that the style – or let’s even say genre – of a song is a full-on illusion. Do certain types of instrumentation better convey certain emotional intentions? Yes. Do artists hope to make listeners feel a certain way by how they produce their songs. Absolutely. Does that mean the lyrics in those songs have the same emotional content, or the same perceived level of depth, or the same intended “meaning”? No fucking way. There are thousands of examples of songs that sound one way and have lyrics that go a completely different way. Or songs whose “deepness” goes as far as how they sound, and whose lyrics don’t nearly measure up – deliberately or not. The style of a song is its clothing. Its skin. It’s not the guts & bones. In fact, many artists get a real kick out of this kind of misdirection, this kind of illusion. For one, it’s fun to mess with people, to buck expectations, to surprise. For another, that juxtaposition adds a whole other level of meaning. It forces the listener to … ACTUALLY LISTEN. To not be fooled by the surface. Lots of songs with amazing lyrics often get short shrift because they’re produced in a way that doesn’t immediately convey “deep meaning”. Pop songs. Rock songs. Dance songs. Power pop. Hard songs that hide sensitive lyrics, and vice versa. The surface judgments miss the truth, miss the real substance. Sound familiar? We ruin our discourse, our ability to connect with each other, by judging people based on how they look or how they talk, instead of paying attention to what they’re doing or saying. How often have you heard someone with a certain accent or dialect and immediately dismissed them as dumb or incapable of meaningful conversation, or on the other side too cold, too proper, too intellectual? Or how often have you been fooled by someone’s appearance: assumed they’re rough or suspicious, or alternatively trustworthy and knowledgeable, based on how they dress or what their skin or facial features look like? ...
January 21, 2021
Do We Really Know What's REAL? - The ILLUSION Episodes Part 1 | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #24
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Fake. Authentic. Sellout. Integrity.  Judgy, aren’t we? Yes, we are. We all know what’s real & what isn’t. What has value and what doesn’t. What is substance and what is fluff. Except we don’t. It’s ALL an illusion. And ILLUSION is what I’ll be talking about in the next few episodes of BOTH of my podcasts. All art is part truth, part trickery. Even the most authentic works – the ones drawn from direct personal experience – have artifice to them. They NEED to, or they wouldn’t be art. It’s right there in the freakin’ word. I’ll be getting more into this in Saturday’s podcast. For now, let’s talk about this week’s pick, which might be the perfect entry into this conversation. If you remember Milli Vanilli, you probably remember two things, and in this order: 1. They were stripped of their Grammy because the blokes performing the songs on stage did NONE of the performing on the recording; and 2. Their album was a huge success, with several smash singles, including this one here, “Baby Don’t Forget My Number”. It was one of five Top Five US hits, three of which went to #1. The songs were everywhere. I remember being on a bus at the time, and everyone on it was singing “Blame It on the Rain”. I’m pretty sure it was the only time I’ve experienced that with any group NOT in a music venue. Things you may not know or may have forgotten. The two dudes were Fab Morvan & Rob Pilatus. Fab is a French singer-songwriter, rapper, dancer & model. Rob was a German model, dancer & singer. They attempted some comebacks, the last of which ended when Rob died from an overdose of drugs & alcohol. Fab is still out there doing music, DJ-ing, and a bunch of other things. There have been scandals in the music & general arts worlds since forever. Plagiarism. Misplaced credit. Outright stealing. Not paying artists their due. Lip syncs that were supposed to be live performances. Etc. etc. But you’d be hard pressed to find one that was as big as Milli Vanilli. There have also been tons of deliberate fakeries. Artists recording music under other names, or writing for other performers under an alias. “Classic” or “vintage” songs that turned out to be completely made up. THEN there are the deeper fakes: artists pretending to be folk or blues or country through their work – some of them actually turning that fakery into darn near the real thing. I’ll be getting more into the stuff in the paragraph in future episodes. But what about poor Milli Vanilli? What are we left with now? As always, you can probably guess my answer: THE MUSIC. I’m not excusing what the record company did, or who went along with it. And I’m quite happy that the real singers got their credit and some recognition (and money!).  What I AM saying is that there hasn’t been one scandal related to quality art that has ultimately taken away from how good or enjoyable the work is. Go listen to this week’s song, or any off that album, and I guarantee the music will get you pumping. I enjoy a healthy helping of deliberate fakery.  Here's one BIG one.  Everything below is completely made up by me.  Fake history, fake "old" song, fake bands.  All of it. “Move Ahead, Long Boy” – History of Modern Popular Music Using ONE SONG! – Live Concert -
January 21, 2021
RETRO is SO Five Years Ago - Society's MEMORY Problem | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #23
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Tons of years ago, I created this cartoon character named Feek. As you can see on this shirt, he’s essentially a big-mouthed head with legs & feet. His whole purpose for existence is to shout things into general space that you’d be too timid to say otherwise. Some of his phrases (or Snerks) are more funny than angry, some the other way around. But ALL of them are observational. About feelings, issues, or the world in general. SIDE NOTE: A couple of years ago, my partner Cathryn & I started the company SnerkShirts by FEEK. We’re now selling Feek t-shirts, and will be expanding to masks & mugs & long-sleeves. SIDE NOTE OVER! One of the phrases I had him shout was, “Retro is SO five years ago.” Get it? Yup Aside from the wordplay, what I was saying was that there’s always something we’re looking back on, something we’re revisiting or recreating. And it doesn’t take more than ten or fifteen years for us to consider an era far past enough for us to characterize it, miss it, and want to recapture it in some way. Think of the musical, Grease. It came out in 1971, barely a decade after the 1950s ended. Or how grunge adopted so much of the 1970s, again barely a decade out. Or how the Neptunes started using 1980s style production and sounds NOT EVEN a decade out. The list is extensive. It’s part nostalgia, part fascination and fetishization, part excitement and rediscovery or even brand-new discovery. It’s reductive, as all nostalgia is, and often tends to overlook the negative in favor of the fond memories. Whether it’s deliberate rose glasses or willful ignorance, the end result can range from clever repurposing or reinvention (like most of the Neptunes’ catalogue or the band Unlocking the Truth) to lovingly faithful homage (like Grease or even The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights”) to no more than an echo of substance (like Greta Van Fleet ... so far at least, or most of what the Black Keys do). But repeating the past can be something other than nostalgia. It can be a complete accident. It can be the subconscious thinking it’s created something new and revolutionary that’s been done before, sometimes over and over. It’s the old “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” schtick. Your response to all of the above says a lot about you. It might reveal your age, your era, the era you wish you lived through, or the era you have no experience or knowledge of. It might shine a light on your socio-economic upbringing, whether or not you grew up privileged or semi-privileged or super underprivileged or somewhere in the middle. It might just show how open or accepting you are to anything that sounds good to you. Or it might bring out your inner critic - the one who believes that if someone is going to repeat the past, they damn well better get it right and make it good - however you define those terms. So what’s my profile? I’ve got my eras, mainly ones I was actually a part of. I grew up semi-privileged - and more on this in a second. I get a kick out of some throwbacks, not so much from others. And I absolutely believe that if an artist is going to delve into the past, they should: A. Not stumble upon it by accident and/or with no credit given to forebears; B. Acknowledge in their work that they are living and creating in THE PRESENT; and C. Find a unique and substantive way to repurpose and/or reinvent the past elements they’re lifting. Preferably those last two coexist in a way that isn’t just a loving homage (they’re fun but get old fast) but actually move the musical conversation forward. ...
January 20, 2021
What Makes CONTROVERSY Matter - And Why Dancing is ESSENTIAL for LIFE | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #22
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE When you think of Madonna, what comes to mind first? Is it her early NYC post-punk-dance period? Her movie career? Her many relationships? One or more of her mega hits? Her near constant reinvention? Odds are it’s at least two of those things (okay, maybe not her movie career). But one thing that runs through ALL of them is CONTROVERSY. From the beginning, Madonna has been a shit stirrer. She’s made bold choices, bold statements, bold stage shows, and sometimes even bold music. She’s never stopped pushing the envelope, whether that’s worked for her or not. Over and over, she’s found what gets under people’s skin, and used that to extreme advantage.  Sex. Social issues. Politics. Female empowerment. And to all that I say: so what? Why does any of it matter? There are a ton of people stirring shit all the time, famous and not. What makes what she does matter more than anyone else? Why is she an icon? Why has she been a role model for so many? Why is she not just looked on as a contrarian poking fingers in eyes? Why has she endured, both because of AND regardless of her controversy? If you’ve been following along these 40+ podcasts, you already know the answer. It’s her music. Her art. The work she was put on this earth for. She’s one of so many examples of artists who have never lost sight of their strengths and true purpose. Who has used that to give her voice more volume, to make what she does & says matter more to more people than … than who? Than anyone else who’s lost their thread of inspiration, who’s allowed the volume to drown out the quality, who stops paying attention to the reason why anyone knows who they are, and/or who contributes absolutely nothing of value to society. Do I agree with everything she’s said & done?  Hell no! Do I even like all of her music? I’ll let you know when I’ve heard more than 20% of it. None of that matters. What matters, and what makes her controversy matter, is the diligent generosity she performs every time she creates music and gives it to the world. Would we care what Tom Hanks has to say if he sucked at acting? Would we care about Frida Kahlo’s politics if her art was shit? Would we care about Prince’s social & sexual & own-your-own envelope pushing if he wasn’t a hands down genius? No. If these people’s only purpose was giving voice to causes, that’s cool. Like an orator or writer or philosopher or journalist or politician with a conscience, it would be why their main gig. But since these artists’ MAIN GIG is the arts, it’s also the reason their controversy matters at all. And what is Madonna’s main contribution to … not politics or sex or any other conversation … but to MUSIC? She was one of the pioneers who made dance music into something more than just a beat you can move to. Like so many of the LGBTQ performers who practically invented disco & dance music as its own thing, or so many post punks who saw techno/EDM as a way to move people with big beats & big ideas, she saw the freedom in not just putting lyrics of substance into dance songs, but also that dancing itself IS SUBSTANCE. We spend too much our lives conforming to society’s strictures, or worse, to arbitrary rules we impose on ourselves. We need to break free of that. And sometimes that road to freedom can start with something as simple and visceral as DANCING. So go get it. Dance music has been in my blood from the very beginning: REC - “You Make Me Wanna” (from the album Syncopy for the Weird)
January 20, 2021
Multitasking is REAL - Ask ANY Musician | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #21
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Years ago I had a boss who told me multitasking is a myth. That it’s impossible for the brain to focus on or do more than one thing at a time. I took this in as I was mentally reviewing my work schedule for the day, rubbing my thigh casually, and chewing the inside of my lip. It was the first time I’d heard anyone take this stance, but it was far from the last. More & more people started to express this opinion, usually telling me while walking down the street or eating or writing down something else. Sometimes I’d disagree. Sometimes I’d just nod my head. In both cases, what I really wanted to do was shout: Are you crazy?! Are you not observing yourself RIGHT NOW?! Or I wanted to take an understatedly strident tone and describe to them the last time I played a gig as a musician/vocalist. There are two facets to this argument, and I’m going to refute both of them. Let’s do the second part first. I don’t think there’s anyone who will disagree that PHYSICALLY it’s not only possible to multitask, we’re doing it all the time – literally with every breath we take. The body is capable of doing dozens of things at once, and in fact has to to survive. On a more practical level, let’s go back to the musician example. For most musicians, there are at least two appendages actively doing two different things – for drummers it can be all four. Add onto that singing, and someone can physically be doing five different things at once. Yes, they’re all in tandem & in the service of one objective, but this very clearly qualifies as multitasking. I know that’s low hanging fruit. It’s the easy part of this refutation. I know that when people say it’s impossible to multitask, what they’re really saying is the brain can’t focus on more than one thing at a time. So let me dive into tearing this apart too. Let’s make it hard. Let’s dismiss the fact that the brain is running the entire body and then some, which takes multitasking to a level possibly matched only by the most powerful supercomputers. Let’s only focus on the crux of this argument: that the brain CAN’T FOCUS ITS CONSCIOUS ATTENTION on more than one thing at a time. Within the wording of that is its own counterargument. We still know so little about the brain compared to what’s left to discover. But one thing we do know is that its processes are layered. Which goes not just for autonomic processes, but voluntary processes as well, including and especially thought. While we’re talking about one thing, an under layer of our brain could be prepping the next comment, or thinking about something else entirely. There’s a lot of science that says both brains and computers can’t actually multitask, that what’s going on is really a rapid-fire bouncing between focuses – in some cases so rapid-fire that it gives the illusion of multitasking. To that I say: so what?! There’s a point at which a thing and the illusion of that thing are close enough that the either/or DOES NOT MATTER. In my experience, whenever someone tries to define away the existence of multitasking, the caveats and qualifications add up so quickly that it obscures their original argument beyond significance. ... 
January 20, 2021
THRIFT STORE Gems - Why FOUND SOUND is Always Awesome | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #20
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Back when walking around indoors amongst strangers didn’t cause massive physical anxiety, I used to take every chance I got to pop into a thrift store and see if it had any interesting vinyl. The truth is ANY vinyl you find in a thrift store is interesting. It’s something someone else owned and listened to, that for whatever reason they’re now sharing with someone new. The randomness of thrift store vinyl makes it interesting by default, whether what you find is well-known, a kind of obscure gem, or completely unknown on every level. Which describes this week’s three albums. I found all of these in thrift stores, and bought each of them for different reasons. The Beatles I got because despite having every Beatles song on cassettes & CDs & digital/streaming formats, I’ve never owned an actual Beatles album. I have a 45 of theirs and that’s it. Plus I knew this particular album’s look from my dad having owned originals of all their American albums, and the one I found didn’t look like it. It’s the film soundtrack version. Not obscure by any means, but cool to find and have. Artie Shaw was my first big band love when I was a wee lad, mainly because I’ve always loved the clarinet. And again, I never owned him on vinyl. Finding this big bright package of an album was like the universe saying, “We know.” These days, someone like Artie Shaw is kind of obscure, so this was a nice find. And it’s a damn good collection! Then there’s the famous (?) Eddie Heywood. I’d honestly never heard of him. It was the complete unknown of this album, coupled with the title & Bob Ross–Yacht Rock mashup cover art, that compelled me to get this. I figured I’d never ever run across this album again. It makes me wish there was more blatant cheese in pop music. And it doesn’t disappoint.  It’s that certain kind of swingin’ 1950s late-but-not-too-late in the evening lounge jazz, smothered with super sugary strings, and with just enough quality and flourish to rise above Mantovani, yet not quite enough to match Guaraldi or Esquivel. All the music was composed or cowritten by Heywood, who worked with big names like Benny Carter & Billie Holiday, and he even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Who knew? Just to bring it around to something super mega connected, my brain told me that well-known-kind-of-obscure-unknown is a perfect description of how I like to create music. I almost always take some well-known phrases/chord progressions/rhythms, mix them with kind of obscure words & sounds & arrangements, and throw in some completely unknown elements that are unique to me – manipulated sounds or lyrical phrasings that come straight from the weird way my mind mashes words together. OR I do the opposite of all those things. Either way, what comes out is an amalgam that sounds familiar, feels connected, and is totally its own thing. These two songs are perfect examples. The first combines hooky melodies & rhythms with more obscure lyrics and flat out weird backing vocals. The second combines hooky synths & rhythms with more obscure lyrics and at least three tracks of actual “found sound”: REC - “Make Me Mic My Mouth” (from the album Syzygy for the Weird) REC - “The Power of Repetition (Everlasting)” (from the album Syncopy for the Weird) Do you have any connection with any of these artists? Do you like stumbling across music you never thought you’d find or buy? Don’t you think thrift stores are awesome on like every level? Discuss dammit!
January 19, 2021
The Identity Bubble - Expanding What It Means to be YOU | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #19
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Several years ago, I wrote and recorded a dark folk song called “You Can’t Touch Me”, in which part of the chorus states: “This face you see is not my own, this body not my real home.” Etc etc then it gets kinda depressing. The point of those two lines, though, was to illustrate the idea that a person’s real identity is not what you see. Or hear. The surface is only a snippet of the whole truth. It’s impossible for anyone to reveal their identity in totality. The complete human is way too complex for that to ever happen. Plus none of us even know OURSELVES 100%. That’s all fine. Part of the joy and pain of living is the constant self-discovery, along with the parts of ourselves we choose to let others discover, intentionally or not. The only thing we DON’T want to happen is for some other person or entity to tell us what we can and can’t share, or who we can and can’t be. It should be up to US ALONE to decide all of that. Hell, it’s already hard enough to figure out without the external constraints. Sure, fear can hold us back. But that’s part of who we are too, if we choose to go that way. In essence, while full self-discovery is wonderful (if as ephemeral as true perfection), anything we are by birth or choice - including our flaws and fears - is and should be 100% fine. Which means when we come across someone who has made a conscious choice to actively flesh out as much of their identity as possible, we’re deeply affected. Impressed. Scared. Titillated. Weirded out. Blown away. The feelings are strong in all directions. Think of David Bowie. Prince. Madonna. Lady Gaga. The never-ending search for THEM wasn’t so much about discovering other facets of their identity as it was expanding the bubble of who they could be. Of bringing in more and more to what it means to be them, regardless of convention or social or media or industry or even FAN pressure. Society has taught us to define who we are early and often, and stick to that until we die. And again, if it’s your choice to comply, that’s cool. But EVEN THEN, parts of all of us bristle when we hit that membrane that supposedly separates us from not-us. Here’s the truth: It doesn’t exist. Or if it does it’s because WE PUT IT THERE. We decide every day what’s in our identity bubble and what isn’t. What external definitions we want to fight against and disprove, and which ones we accept. Who we are - whether as people or artists or you name it - is as boundless as we want to make it. It’s not defined by roles or relationships or appearances or labels or genres, except for those which we choose to say yes to, consciously or not. As a musician, a creator, and as a human, I work endlessly to expand my bubble. To define and redefine purely at will. I make music now that couldn’t and wouldn’t have even ten years ago. And ten years ago I made music I couldn’t and wouldn’t have ten years before that. Yes there’s a core consistency in who I am. My lifeline that snakes through everything I am and do. It’s so far inside that I have no idea how to put it into words. It guides me by vibrating every time I choose well, every time I choose connection over division. We all have that lifeline. And the bigger our identity bubbles get, the closer to infinite our lifelines become.
January 19, 2021
Musical JOKES Get Serious - When a Quirky Idea Becomes the NEXT BIG THING | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #18
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Back a few months ago, I did a whole podcast on how music & comedy are interlinked on multiple levels. Timing. Phrasing. Using conventional forms & ideas to do unconventional things. Another dozen commonalities. But the one that applies the most this week is crossing lines – turning one thing into another – busting through a narrow idea of what a work is supposed to be. Jethro Tull is not a band you’d immediately associate with irreverence or bucking convention. That’s because they’re seen as “classic” now, and deliver a certain flavor of prog rock that is often lumped together with other kinds as over-serious. But stop and think for a sec. If you know their music, one main thing probably comes to mind: flute. NOW name another band where the flute player is considered the front person. Up until the amazing Lizzo, I don’t think I could name any other artist. So right there, not only is that upending convention, it’s kinda funny. The musicianship itself is/was incredible and nothing to laugh at, but the concept of a hard rocking band putting flute front and center is silly. And it worked. It worked like crazy. THEN consider “Thick as a Brick”. For some, this was the height of prog rock indulgence: a nearly 45-minute song with movements and variations and self-serious lyrics. Thing is, it was all meant as a joke. Ian Anderson intended it to be a parody of the concept album form. And then a single-length snippet goes and becomes a hit. And other artists embrace long-form composition in more serious ways. This is one example – not even the most quintessential – of how something that starts out as a joke eventually (and often quickly) becomes adopted as a serious change in the music world. Even a sea change. Examples of this run through all of music history. A vocal delivery meant to mimic or mock becomes THE way to sing if you’re doing a certain style. A keyboard part that sounds weird or wonky or flat-out wacky becomes THE sound in most future production of that style. A rhythm or drum part meant to bust up the form of a song becomes THE NEW FORM of those kinds of songs from then on. Why does this happen? And why is this essential for musical development? People are always looking for something new. ALL people – artists, industry biz peeps, fans. And they like to be taken by surprise. When pop music or one particular style becomes too codified – too ossified, it needs breaking up. And though there are artists who understand the flow of musical development enough to consciously inject that change from a well-thought, theoretical position, most of the sea changes come from those artists who want and NEED to bust up what was, what has been. It’s the “middle finger with a smile” approach to change. Like, “I dare you take this seriously.” And almost every time, sooner or later, we do. Jazz. Rock. Punk. Hip-hop. Electronic music. All of these started as toss-offs, as taking a pre-existing style and messing with it. We all know how ALL of those turned out. I pushed forward like this in my own career & musical development MANY TIMES, adding elements to my music I’d never tried before, or completely switching up my production style. You can hear this big time in these two songs, done a year apart: NICK - “Standin’ There” (from the album Standin' There) NICK - “Your Sweetness” (from the album Your EP)
January 19, 2021
In Service of the SONG - Why CHOPS are Often ANTI-MUSIC | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #17
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE We like to keep STUFF in our homes. Stuff we need and stuff we love. Some of it we’re even proud of, and want to show off. Works of art. Family heirlooms. Favorite pieces of furniture. Photos with fond memories. We display that stuff prominently in places that make sense, and give it space to be appreciated. Like the favorite art & photos on the living room wall above the favorite furniture, which has on it some favorite keepsakes. We don’t use grandma’s afghan as a toilet cozy. Or put the couch right in front of a door. We don’t hang photos on top of other photos. Or put 35 ceramic vases in the middle of the kitchen floor. There’s a place for everything, one that supports the value of that thing AND allows it to shine. So, like, what the hell does this have to do with this week’s topic?? Songs and chops relate to this HOW? Here’s how. Musicians create ideas. Words, melodies, harmonies/chords, licks & riffs & solos, etc. They are inspired to bring these out and do something with them. And some they’re even super proud of and want to show off. All of those ideas need a place to live. A piece, composition, backing track, song – a musical framework. One that can provide both strong support and the space to shine. It has to be worthy of containing all that inspiration. Let’s say a framework – a SONG – is only there for support, is kind of slapped together so the musician can get to filling it up with “inspiration”. Or let’s say the underlying song is well-written, but the musician or singer stuffs every second with one big idea after another. There might be some great playing & singing, but so what? It doesn’t hold up. When any one part of a song takes over to the point that it either obscures the song’s purpose, or worse, shatters the song’s structural integrity, it loses the ability to get across the idea it’s trying to convey. It explodes its own shine. And this is where the CHOPS part of this conversation comes in. If you aren’t familiar with this term, it just means being really good at an instrument (including the voice). Some musicians and fans are obsessed with chops. They aren’t just impressed by feats of technical greatness, they INSIST on them. They don’t think music is worthy unless every part of it passes technical muster. To them, it doesn’t matter what context these chops are displayed in, nor how structurally sound the framework is. As long as the chops take the day, then the music must be good music. Ugh. Like, serious gut level ugh. That to me is the height of intellectualism at the expense of heart & spirit. It’s the idea that perfect is better than … well … ANYTHING else. That our flaws need to be sanded away, our kinks worked out, our humanity “corrected” beyond reproach. It smothers, crushes, kills the life spirit. Now, it’s true that for some people, technical proficiency IS heart, IS spirit. They find their life spirit in towering feats of greatness. And in that case they’ve met their soulmate in chops over song. I love that. But this is not that. This is repression, fear of emotional expression or any kind of vulnerability, even a form of self-loathing. I’ve met and worked with a ton of musicians for whom it’s clear that chops are the only thing that matters. UUUUUGH. ...
January 19, 2021
Can We Separate the ART from the ARTIST? - Dissecting the Michael Jackson Elephant | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #16
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Elephants are great. Majestic creatures. Hidden talents. Etc. Etc. They’re not my favorite animal (that would be something in the primate family), but there comes a time when they need to be paid attention to. Hence this week’s topic. I don’t see a strong reason to go over the content of this album. Almost everyone in the world above a certain age knows it at this point, and those who don’t eventually will. Even with the limited time we’ve spent at stores/restaurants this year, I’ve heard songs from this album about a dozen times. So in a sense, this week’s topic is less about actual music and more about that aforementioned elephant. Which is what? It’s the man himself. The notorious legend. The complex history and psychological and emotional labyrinth. Michael Jackson. There is absolutely no disputing that MJ’s music is brilliant. From his time with his bros through the majority of his solo career, milestones and innovations abounded. Not to mention it sounded amazing and is damn fun to listen to. Many many songs have become a part of our lives whether we like it or not. As for the man himself, we’re conflicted. You as an individual may not be. You may have already decided what side of the line you fall on, or that you’re comfortable straddling it. As a society, however, we don’t know what to do with him anymore. We can’t ignore him as we might a lesser known artist or one less relevant to our current times. But we can’t quite embrace him the way we used to. I think it’s great that we’re now at a place where we don’t just sweep things under the rug, shrug our shoulders, and make excuses. It’s something we need to build on and expand to all areas of life – the workplace, personal relationships, etc. When it comes to things like the arts and sports, however, it’s trickier. Can we – should we – separate the art from the artist? Can we say: Hey, this person was flawed, perhaps deeply and disturbingly, yet contributed beauty and genius to the world. Aren’t we the same to some degree? Don’t we hope that, despite our many flaws, we still make a positive difference by existing and doing good? If any of that is true and acceptable, when does a line get crossed past the point of no return? How bad is too bad? Who gets a pass for being a racist, misogynist asshole who hasn’t necessarily done anything flat out wrong, and/or who doesn’t get a pass for being a loving, caring, progressive person who has done some truly heinous things? History is rife with people who were way less than positive forces in the world (Richard Wagner, Ty Cobb), but whose contributions in other ways we still somehow revere. There are no easy answers. As individuals, all our crossed lines are curvy and wiggly. As a society, we do need to have baseline standards of behavior and respect. Even so, there may still be room for us to appreciate the OBJECTS (songs, books, movies, comedy, sports feats, even political and social gains) while calling to accountability the SUBJECTS (MJ, Lovecraft, Gibson, Louis C.K., Woods, Gandhi). I don’t know, and I’m not sure I’ve even answered this for myself. But it’s an important question to keep trying to answer, for all of us. Truth to self as well as power: I’m not perfect either (shocker!). I’ve chronicled this in many of my songs, including the one below. I leave you to figure out what context this came from, and how to judge: NICK - “Your Sister” (from the album The Metrogrande Sessions)
January 19, 2021
The Tyranny of the Many - Majority Rules SUCKS | MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #15
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON WATCH MUSIC is not a GENRE VIDEOS and MORE Common – Gael. The White Stripes – The Hives. Beck – REC. If you’ve heard of any of these artists, chances are it’s the first of each pair. And while there are many varied reasons why that might be the case – from forces both internal & external, subjective & objective – there’s one MAIN reason that all of them share. Commerce, politics, and even social constructs all run by majority rules. The more popular and profitable something is, the more popularity and profit it amasses. The bigger something is, the bigger it gets. There’s very little concession made or attention given to those things and people who control and consume a smaller piece of the various pies. In music, this rule – which I call “the tyranny of the many” – manifests in a couple of ways. The most obvious is that artists who aren’t as popular and don’t have as much money/power to determine their own destinies have always naturally been lesser known, obscure, even completely unknown. The other is that bands whose careers did once skyrocket to fame often end up toiling the rest of their careers in relative obscurity, paid attention to by only the most loyal fans. The result in each case is that attention and resources are distributed so wildly unevenly, that the artists who make money and headlines are awarded more of both, and the artists who don’t have to struggle for every penny and every scrap of recognition. So whose fault is this? EVERYONE’S. We’re all guilty. The music companies. The streaming services & radio stations. The distributors. The advertisers. The media. And yes, the fans. We all discriminate – sometimes deliberately, more often without even knowing it. We’re all lazy and scared. We cling to the safe and comfortable, and assume anything outside of that bubble is in some way worse and in all ways not worth our time, attention, or dollars. And it’s no conspiracy. It’s happening openly and in plain sight. Companies & streaming services & distributors & advertisers deliberately choose to dedicate disproportionate resources to the already successful, or acts who are enough like the already successful to cash in on a trend. Why wouldn’t they? It makes them easy money – though not as much as they could be making if their resources were more evenly distributed. The media choose to cover the hot artists to the almost complete exclusion of anyone else. And why wouldn’t THEY? We the fans get excited by big things, big news, big successes, so we gobble up both the articles & reviews & posts & content all these power players spit out. We rarely complain. There’s no reason for them to change tactics because we all tacitly agree that it’s the way things should be – either by cooperation or silence. Yes, there are exceptions to all of these. There are s