Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What Was Your Worst Handcrafted Cocktail Ever?

December 14, 2015

Made a quick podcast. What was the worst “handcrafted cocktail” you ever attempted to make? Check the piece out here.

“What Had Happened Was…”

December 13, 2015

A recent article on NOLA.com inspired me to create a short podcast episode. It was a very NOLA story in a strange way. Listen to the podcast here.

Something Fishy Going On: The Mainstream Emergance of the Hip Future Mermaid.

December 12, 2015

mermaid

There is an important trend in indie rock/hip culture that needs to be discussed: The emergence of the trippy mermaid from the future. There’s something fishy going on.

It’s like some of these entry level hip chicks go out and buy their mermaid witch starter pack. Boom! You’re a mermaid now. It’s like people are saying, “Please pay attention to me! I’m relevant!”

How does one find a hip future mermaid? This can be a challenge, especially if you live in a landlocked urban hellscape. Cast a net outside of any Urban Outfitters and you might be blessed enough to catch a glimpse of one, shimmering by the ironic ice cube trays. At a local, artisan belt buckle shop, you’ll look into her glistening eyes, “Are you from the future? Your scales are so luscious. Can we grab a chai tea?” Some folks these days look like a discount version of Grimes. Once you notice the mainstreaming of mermaids, you’ll see it all the time.

American Eagle Outfitters Celebrates The Budweiser Made In America Music Festival - Philadelphia, PA - Day 2

Grimes. (Photo credit: Stereogum)

Granted, the visual impact can be stunning. The mermaids can really hook you in, but it means nothing without substance. I feel like the Internet helps to cheapen ideas that start off as something unique and original. It’s like making a photocopy of a copy, the quality goes down.

If you’re an organic, handcrafted mermaid, nothing fishy there. If something is real, it should be a natural extension of yourself. You don’t need to join in with the corporate indie mermaid culture, just be true to who you are.

Past Interview Subjects Nominated for 2016 Grammy Awards.

December 8, 2015

The 2016 Grammy nominations were announced today. Several of my past interview subjects received nominations this year. I choose most of my interview subjects. If I interview an artist, it is because I greatly respect their work. It is always a great honor to interview so many diverse, talented people.

Guitarist John Scofield is nominated for Best Improvised Jazz Solo (for “Past Present”) and Best Jazz Instrumental Album.

Trumpeter Terence Blanchard is nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album.

The Punch Brothers are nominated for Best American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song for their song “Julep.” They are also nominated for Best Americana Album.

Jason Isbell is nominated for Best American Roots Song for “24 Frames.”  He is also nominated for Best Americana Album.

Pianist John Cleary is nominated for Best Regional Roots Music Album.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is nominated for Best World Music Album.

The Grateful Dead are nominated for Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package.

DJ/Producer Kaskade is nominated for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical for his remix of the Galantis track “Runaway (U & I).”

 

Laying the Smackdown: Rekindling My Love of Live Pro Wrestling.

December 1, 2015

I went to the WWE matches in Kansas City on Saturday night (11/28/15).

Growing up, attending wrestling matches was one of my favorite hobbies. Before I started going to concerts, it was the big thing to do for me. The energy of being at a live event is unlike anything you would ever imagine from watching wrestling on TV. It is a very unique, surreal experience.

My first match was the pay-per-view Over the Edge, in 1999. Tragically, wrestler Owen Hart fell to his death from the rafters of Kemper Arena after his harness malfunctioned. The crowds also used to be a lot rougher back in the day. There was almost more fighting in the stands than in the ring. Back in 1999, people behind me got arrested for fighting about Stone Cold versus the Undertaker. You went to jail for your love of the Undertaker? I wonder how they feel now? Most likely still proud and still in jail.

While crowds are calmer and more family friendly these days, the furious anger of the fans was still palpable. On Saturday, the most heat from the crowd was directed towards the heel Bo Dallas. His “motivational speaking” on the mic really got the crowd riled up. Bo skillfully antagonized the crowd, “If you’re in need of a hero, raise your hand in the air. If your hand isn’t in the air, you are a liar!” He even took time out during the match to take a victory lap around the ring even though he was being beaten. Bo’s unwavering positive attitude mixed with the crowd’s seething hate was a sight to behold.

In-person, the matches have a completely different feel than the over-the-top bombast you hear from the commentary on TV. The crowds never know what matches or wrestlers are coming up next, so the excitement is genuine and infectious. There is no commentary piped into the crowd during matches. A lot of the crowd stands up for the entrances and then sits down for the matches. The crowd intensely watches the matches, awaiting the next move. It makes for an oddly calming experience.

It’s the subtle things about live events that make the most impact sometimes. The most vocal man in the crowd was the older black man in his 70s, seated next to me. When a wrestler would hit a big move, he would yell, “Dummy! You should have expected that! You should have seen it coming!” When Alberto Del Rio slammed Neville into the steel stairs, the man exclaimed, “Those stairs don’t budge an inch!” I could also hear the ref talking to the wrestlers. When Bo Dallas dragged Zack Ryder out of the ring, the ref pleaded with Bo, “Bring it back inside the ring, Bo! Are you not hearing these things?”

I took a 15 year break from seeing matches live and then got back into it in November of last year. Attending wrestling matches is one of the ultimate nostalgia trips for me. If you were ever into it, you go to a match and you know what to look for and what you would like to see. Kane’s side slam and chokeslam Saturday night were so old school, they should have been sponsored by Surge, Gushers and LA Gear.

However, something isn’t purely nostalgic when it’s right there in front of you, live, laying the smackdown in front of your face. Pro wrestling is staged and fake, but it is all about real athleticism. If I tried any of those moves, I would surely bleed sadness and failure all over the sqaured circle. Wrestling matches can be a glorious trashy, joyous thing.

One thing I learned from watching so much wrestling back in the day is that it’s not so bad to outsize yourself. Why not bring some overblown energy and joy into someone’s day? As you plod through your boring modern hellscape of a day, why not amp it up a little bit? Beast it hardcore! Like the Macho Man once said, “I’m 1000 percent, that’s way better than 100 percent.”

 

Why I Love Dance Music.

November 26, 2015

McClain and Electronic Music: A Short History.

I am an old raver!!! Get off of my lawn!!!!! Dance music is all about joy.

Moby was my first electronica show/rave. I went with my mom back in July of 2002. It was at City Market. Trance master Paul Oakenfold opened. I had just had my hip rotated, so I had a walker. Ravin’ with a walker. Kids these days don’t know nuthin’ about nuthin’!!!

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Moby crowd. City Market, Kansas City. 7/12/2002.

This was Moby’s first big hit, back in 1990, “Go.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxIxmMcAFLQ

Here is a long, classic goa trance (inspired by India trance) mix from Oakenfold recorded back in 1994:

Going to France for the first time (2001) also really got me into dance music. That summer, everyone was still bumping Daft Punk “Discovery.” Clubbing til sunrise or on the beach to the cheesy French disco ish jams. It is epic for sure. It was wafting out of every window. Here’s the (kinda cheesy/very French) classy “Digital Love.”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxzBvqY5PP0 Also, every year summer anthems come out in France. I call it “Beach music.”

This was also a big time for chillout and acid jazz. St. Germain was one of my favorites. Here’s the excellent “So Flute.”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7YZqD7dZcQ The soloists improvised solos over the beats, which was/is really cool for electronica.

In terms of chillout, Etienne de Crecy was big in 2001 too (Very French sounding): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve1kCq8Pma4

Zero 7 were also massive on the chill scene too. Here’s the 2001 classic “Destiny.”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INn1C6ImJKg

Photek was big on the drum & bass tip then too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykALcAUWM-E

I used to listen to the BBC every week. House/new tune champion Pete Tong, the “Queen of Breaks” Annie Nightingale (She is also the longest running DJ on the BBC. She debuted in 1970), pop-dance-trance DJ Dave Pearce. Annie was one of my favorite interviews ever: https://mcclainjohnson.com/annienightingale/

Dave Pearce gave a nice perspective on dance music as well: https://mcclainjohnson.com/davepearce/

He would play trance and pop dance classics like this one from 1991: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xk8mm1Qmt-Y

My big first DJ interview was Florida breaks king DJ Icey: https://mcclainjohnson.com/dj-icey-interview/ Here’s an Icey track to give you an idea of what he does. Pop vocals on this one, rolling beats: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwanTSuXNCM Breaks was/is really big in New Orleans and I used to club hard in NOLA to breaks and drum and bass until the early morning.

The Plump Djs were big too: http://www.lunarmagazine.com/features/plumpdjs.php Here’s an older one from the Plump’s off of their terribly named/excellently named album Eargasm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oah_pKcA4MQ

Underworld are my favorite band ever. They really have their own sound. This is one of my favorite songs of theirs, the joyful “Two Months Off.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyKeE3fBEsM

Old school vibes:
I have interviewed DJ Alfredo, who helped to get the Balearic/Ibiza sound going. Alfreo first came to Ibiza in 1976. https://mcclainjohnson.com/djalfredo/

I interviewed Danny Rampling, who helped launch the modern UK dance club scene around 1987. He helped make acid house popular. https://mcclainjohnson.com/dannyrampling/ “Success is measured by one’s daily actions. You achieve it by playing full out with passion, motivation, commitment. Once experienced, one likes to repeat the experience and build upon success. Success seldom comes without struggle, challenge, which makes it so enjoyable when it happens.”

My biggest DJ interview happened back in 2004, when I interviewed Oakenfold: http://www.lunarmagazine.com/features/oakenfold2004.php

I finally saw Kraftwerk live this year. It was their first KC performance in 45 years. It was my first sit down, 3D rave for old people. They were the first robots that were people. They were writing songs about computers in 1981. It was some of the first electronic music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ybQWD6N6Zo

Grace Askew Interview.

October 8, 2015

Grace

Grace Askew is a Memphis-based singer-songwriter. She is a soulful artist and an outstanding live performer. I first met Grace when we were attending Loyola University New Orleans. Grace recently discussed her favorite songwriters, being a contestant on The Voice and her lyrical inspiration. For more info on Grace Askew, check out her website http://www.graceaskew.com/

Did you come from a musical family? Were your parents musical?
I grew up with very artistic, encouraging (non-musician) parents and an older sister who was very active in the theater and opera world.

What was your first musical memory?
I remember spending hours upon hours locked in my room dancing and lip synching to whatever cassette’s I could get my hands on, but I was particularly fond of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”

What was the first album you bought?
Elvis Presley

Who are some of your favorite songwriters and why?
I favor Tom Waits and Lucinda Williams type of Southern Gothic, dark writing styles because I’ve always been attracted to what lies beneath the surface…the unseen, between-the-cracks depths of life. Their perspectives on the outside world have greatly impacted the confidence I have in my own strange, unique way of looking at things. They make it OK to not make sense sometimes, but to also be completely 100% raw with the truth — YES!

How old were you when you wrote your first song?
Hard to say, because I was writing poems and little stories long before I picked up a guitar at 13…but I suppose 13.

What’s your creative approach when songwriting?
My “creative approach” is never the same…when it hits me, I just try to seize the moment and immediately write it down or record a voice memo..otherwise, it pretty easily slips through your fingers.

How often do you find yourself writing a song?
Every night before I fall asleep, or right when I wake up, I’ll be hit with an idea. It can be quite frustrating at times. My subconscious likes those hours best, because I’m half asleep and still fuzzy-headed in dreams. It’s like my subconscious senses a green light to slink to the surface and make it’s presence known in a more comfortably vulnerable and open environment.

What inspires you lyrically?
Whatever makes me most alive inspires me…after all, that’s what we ALL should be sharing with each other. The world needs more people who are alive and ignited in their passions.

Your latest album is Scaredy Cat. What was the first song written for Scaredy Cat?
“Cinnamon” was a song I had gone back to and re-hashed time and time again for over 6 years, until one day I set it to slide guitar and I just knew the song had finally found its rightful home.

How did the song “Bad Habit” come together?
It’s pretty straight forward…I kept going back to a certain relationship over and over again, even though I knew that he was just a drug to me, so to speak..he was just a “Bad Habit”.

You are an very soulful vocalist. How do you approach covers to make them your own?
I don’t listen to the songs I end up covering very many times beforehand, so it doesn’t effect my approach. I simply like to learn the basic structure, and then I take it back to the drawing board – my guitar – and begin feeling through it myself to find my voice within the song.

You tour a ton. What have been some of your strangest moments on the road?
Deeeeeep, deep, South West Texas. So weird. It by far has been my favorite touring stops to date. Specifically: Marfa, Terlingua, Alpine.

What did you enjoy most about your time in NOLA?
Re-discovering my love for Memphis. Frenchman Street late-nights. Long walks in Audubon Park.

You put on an amazing live show. How do you create your set lists?
I like to make sure there is a good balance of up and down tempo songs, dispersed in proper measurements throughout the show. I want to take my audience on a roller coaster of the entire spectrum of emotion.

What do you feel are the biggest things you learned from being on The Voice?
Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. The Voice was an incredible lesson on courage and confidence and a part of my journey that I will never deny. I had all of the power within me already to be a truly unique, great talent and The Voice pulled that out of me and put it right in my face…on a national level.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Questioning my art and my uniqueness is a struggle every artist deals with I think. Yes, everything has already been done…but never with MY voice..or with YOUR voice. The money isn’t always great either, but I’ve recently made a promise to myself to not allow my music and financial state to be mutually exclusive. That is how creativity gets murdered.

Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?
A belief that I hold really dear to my spirit is that I am warrior, already completely equipped and empowered with everything I need to battle any dark forces that come my way. We are ALL warriors.

What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?
Give it your best, even on your worst day because the world NEEDS to experience the gifts that only you can offer.

Wilco Review Featured on Jambase.com

July 22, 2015

My review of the recent Wilco show in Kansas City, Missouri was featured on Jambase.com.

Interview with Zigaboo from the Meters/Meter Men Featured on Jambands.com

April 25, 2015

My interview with Joseph Zigaboo Modeliste from the Meters/Meter Men has been featured on Jambands.com. Click here to read the piece. This is one of my favorite interviews I have ever done.

Derek Trucks Interview Featured in Gambit Weekly.

April 23, 2015

My interview with guitarist Derek Trucks from the Tedeschi Trucks Band/Allman Brothers Band was featured in Gambit Weekly’s Jazz Fest 2015 coverage. Read the interview here.


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