80s (and sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Beverley Beirne

This is the epitome of stepping out of a comfort zone to do an interview about a genre of music of which I have nearly zero knowledge. But it is so worth it, I found, as I was sucked into a maze of woven sounds that seemed familiar, yet not quite….

(c) Stephanie De Leng

An interesting comment on my “About” page brought me to a website where I could listen to snippets of jazz-infused covers of 80s New Wave tunes. At once astounded by the prospect, as I thought about it further, I realized that there are very few “pure” music genres. Everything that we know to be a specific music style, e.g. Rock&Roll, New Wave, R&B, Hip Hop, Funk, Punk, Post-Punk, Industrial, Grunge, etc., has been built upon a foundation of musical DNA that has existed since the first cave man banged some rocks and sticks together.

There are many, many extraordinary artists out there who successfully infuse different sounds into their craft and the outcome is outstanding. Beverley Beirne is one who has taken quite a unique route by capturing a nearly pure jazz inflection and melding it flawlessly with styles inherent to the 80s, a very eclectic period to begin with.

Beverley has graciously indulged my wide-eyed interview questions about her style and her forthcoming collection titled “Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun” (or “JJWTHF” for short), scheduled for release on June 15. Please read on for an in-depth glimpse into a ground-shaking, axis-tilting artist’s craft.

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MissParker: What initially piqued your interest in Jazz?
Beverley Beirne: I was brought up with jazz in the house as my Dad was a huge jazz fan.  So it wasn’t unusual to hear Erroll Garner, Sarah Vaughn,or Ella Fitzgerald.  But my Mum was into Abba and 80s music, so I guess that explains this album a little!

MissParker: Who can you cite as your influences?
Beverley Beirne: All the beautiful singers I have ever heard I’m inspired by.  Coming from a classical background, I really appreciate the stamina of classical singers.  But, having said that, listening to Sarah Vaughn you hear that but with so much expression.  There are also so many amazing pop voices–Kate Bush, Kirsty McColl, Eddie Reader–these ladies have beautiful voices, but tell a real story too.

MissParker: Are you professionally trained, or does this beautiful gift come naturally?

(c) Stephanie De Leng


Beverley Beirne:  Yes, I trained classically when I was in my late teens and I did really love it.  It’s something I’ll always be grateful for this early time in my singing career, as I learned so much technically about the voice.  My only issue, for me personally, is that it’s really hard to be individual within the classical constraints, which is, in the end, what drew me into jazz and being able to really express my own individuality. Over the years, I’d say my voice has become more authentically me.

MissParker: You mentioned your mum was into 80s music. Is this why the 80s have a special meaning for you?
Beverley Beirne: This was the era when I was listening to Top of The Pops and heading into town to party at the clubs.  Definitely my party era! They were a lot of fun, these songs.  But you know when you really listen to them, there’s some great melodies and a lot of the lyrics are really fantastic. And, the singers back then–they were really great.

MissParker: What does your core audience look like?
Beverley Beirne: It’s mixed, depending on the venue.  Jazz does tend to attract an older audience, but saying that I get a lot of the younger generation turning up and this album especially is attracting a younger crowd.  It’s been a real education to me that kids in their teens and early 20s are really into this music–they actually know all these tracks really well!

MissParker: Who are your backing musicians?
Beverley Beirne: I’m incredibly fortunate to work with some fantastic musicians.  On this album, I have some of London’s leading dynamic young musicians; we have the hugely talented Sam Watts who is also my co-arranger on this project, Flo Moore on double bass, Ben Brown on drums and percussion, and Rob Hughes on sax, bari, and flute–all of whom I have the greatest respect for.

(c) Goat Noise Photography

MissParker: Are the interpretations collaborative with your musicians, or does someone take the lead and the rest follow?
Beverley Beirne: This album was in the making two years before I went to the studio.  I had a lot of fun choosing the tracks and trying to make them work. I then created lead sheets for them and figured out how I wanted to do them–I then went to London to work on the arrangements with pianist and co-arranger Sam Watts.  We both really felt we had something special after the first morning.  Sam then worked on the final parts/harmonies.  But saying that, even when we went into rehearsal prior to recording, we’re not a dictatorship, so we were both really open to what the band had to throw into the mix.

MissParker: Do you do original material, as well?
Beverley Beirne: This is something I do for my own pleasure, at the moment.  I’m working on developing my piano playing, which I’m really enjoying and this really helps with this.  I have a project I’m tinkering with and enjoying, but it won’t be out there for some time yet.

MissParker: How would you say that Jazz has influenced contemporary music (rock, new wave, post-punk, industrial, etc.)?
Beverley Beirne: Well, the blues influenced everything, especially jazz which started from the blues.  But it is really interesting to look at the flow of this into rock and pop and R&B. Contemporary jazz now is often a fusion of a variety of different styles, all informing each other, so it’s always great listening to the new vibes in London and in the North of England.  We’re really fortunate with so many creative jazz folks creating beautiful original music.

MissParker: Do you ever get any feedback from the original artists about your interpretation?
Beverley Beirne: I’ve been really lucky to have some feedback from Noddy Holder, Limahl, and Robin Scott from M, all of whom have been really supportive of the project. Noddy and Limahl have given me a couple of fantastic quotes to use, and Robin was really interested in how we managed to create his track, which is a real hip track on the album.  You have to remember that I’m a real fan of these guys–this is why I chose their songs, so to have their approval means the absolute world to me.

(c) Goat Noise Photography

MissParker: Do you have a favorite track on the forthcoming collection? What makes it so?
Beverley Beirne: This is like choosing your favourite child! I love Prince Charming ( I love the vibe with the hand claps); Bette Davis Eyes and the 5/4 vibe which is really great to sing against; Cruel Summer is a fantastic track and has always been a favourite; Waiting for a Man Like You, as I sing in a more gospel style voice I don’t always use; and I have to say Come On Feel The Noize, as this was the first interpretation that I did and had been singing at a Christmas Gig for four years. Because of the huge audience response to it, it was the seed that started me down creating a whole album of these pop interpretations.

There you have it—Beverley’s gift/my challenge to you: new musical territory to explore. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Visit: JJWTHF/Beverley Beirne website

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Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun – Teaser

Beverley Beirne – Cruel Summer

Beverley Beirne – Too Shy

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Happy Birthday Starman – 2018

(c) Mick Rock

I tend to measure my life in milestones–when Dan passed away, the subsequent annual memorial, and his birthday–and since that awful day in January two years ago, I’ve added David Bowie’s birthday and the day of his passing. Today marks what would have been David Bowie’s 71st birthday. Wednesday will mark the second anniversary of his death.

Today is a celebration. Wednesday will be a day of deep mourning and reflection. David Bowie did, after all, save my life. To many people, that’s a source of irritation–how can you mourn someone that you never knew? But Bowie’s fans did indeed know him. He was whatever we needed him to be–a mentor, a trail-blazer, a validator–he fit many, many roles for many, many people. That was the appeal that made him seem to be our own personal friend, family member, and yes, even lifesaver. He easily infiltrated our lives and we gladly accepted him, because he gave our wretched existences value.

Bowie fans understand. They do not judge. They accept every other fan’s reasons for loving a man that formed an important and necessary part of our lives. We don’t ask–we just nod with sage wisdom when another fan shares a Bowie story. It is the special brotherhood that bonds us. And we are blessed to be a part of this massive network.

(c) Sukita

Because we do not celebrate, mourn, or reminisce alone. We are a community that supports one another. This is an enormously important part of David Bowie’s legacy. Something that would have probably made him scratch his head in wonder, but something he would absolutely embrace and endorse, because he loved and respected us all. It was that unconditional flow of love back and forth that kept him in his creative game and kept us putting one foot in front of the other, even when we thought we wouldn’t make it through another day. He felt the strength and love that we freely gave back to him and it allowed him to complete two massive projects–a musical and an award-winning album–just weeks/days before his death. The “Lazarus” musical and “Blackstar” album were his parting gifts to us–the strength and love we collectively channeled to him was our gift back to him.

Happy birthday, Starman. There are no words to describe the love and loss, but please know that the love will be all-enduring even if the loss is nearly suffocating. One very important lesson we’ve learned from your own journey is that we can survive whatever life throws at us–even if it means living in a world that you no longer inhabit. And, we are comforted by the images and music that you left behind–until we meet again beyond the stars.

80s (and sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Robert Swipe

I’ve had the pleasure of “meeting” Robert Swipe on Facebook. I’m not sure what I did to merit the honor of an invitation to be friends, but I’m very glad he took a chance on me. He has a cutting sense of humor and a way of drawing in his followers to discussion threads by asking some very cool and offbeat questions.

Robert is a very gifted musician who encompasses many different styles throughout his music. His latest offering, an album of songs titled “The Most Beautiful Man In The World,” crosses many genres and brings me to the obvious question, “Who are your influences?”

I managed to ask a few more questions beyond the typical (and obvious) “influential” ones. Robert has graciously provided us with some very candid and insightful answers. Take a few moments to get to know this artist and treat yourself to his latest compilation of deftly woven and music-driven tales.

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Missparker: Mania has a decidedly 80s vibe/feel to it, with a bit of Beatles change-up thrown in for good measure. Can you share your influences for this song?

Robert Swipe: It’s an absolute pleasure to be here Sandy, and thank you for that wonderful build up. This one just came to me while I was doing the washing up and thinking about what a contemporary version of Beatlemania might be like–as you do! The tune for the chorus and the words came to me pretty much as one–which is a very pleasant rarity–so any influence is probably buried very deep in the psyche. But yes, I wanted it to be quite “Beatley” and I’d started listening a lot to T-Rex and realized how much of a Beatles influence there had been on Marc. I used my incredibly cheap (and bad) Rickenbacker copy on this one, hoping it would sound like George on A Hard Day’s Night but, as usual, I got more of a Paul Weller/Jam sound from it. So there’s an odd mix of 60s, 70s and 8os in the guitars. The verses I wanted to sound like sort of 80s post-punk/Rockabilly, so I’m pleased you picked up on that! This was one of the first songs written for the album, so I hadn’t that clear an idea of how the whole album would sound. But initially I’d wanted a sort of grungey, glammy, garage band sound…anything beginning with G, basically, would be an influence.

Lyrically, I was thinking of poor Amy Winehouse, who I guess was a victim of a very modern form of mania. I think her haunted figure was captured quite well on this. I think the Beatles were under a massive amount of pressure during the height of their “mania,” and they coped with it in very similar ways to Amy. But, I guess, crucially they had one another, whereas she was on her own. So for me, it was an interesting idea to look at how someone similarly talented as the Beatles could undergo a similar experience that was the context for such joyful and upbeat music in the 60s, but that ended so sourly and sadly for Amy. Where they were able to channel all that weird energy that surrounded them, she was ultimately destroyed by it. So I guess I wanted to examine how things have changed and how people similarly driven to be creative and make beautiful things could be treated so differently by such similar forces. And to do so in an upbeat, “Beatley” tune, gave it quite an effective dark irony, hopefully.

Missparker: Love the jangly guitars and overall feel on Deborah. Is that someone special?

Robert Swipe: Thank you! Yes, it’s very specifically about Deborah Harry. It’s probably the most autobiographical song I’ve written, actually. Many moons ago, when I was a teenager, Ms. Harry was not only the current but arguably *the* ultimate pop pin up. So this song is a fairly subtle account of that most intimate of relationships between idol and worshipper! I had propped my mattress up on a wardrobe or something, aping a friend of mine who had a mezzanine bed–hence the “elevated bed.” So, about 4 or 5 inches above my head was a massive poster of Deborah with which I had a brief but torrid teenage affair! There’s also a gentle foreshadowing of the theme of the ephemeral nature, not just of pop stardom but of existence itself that’s elaborated upon a bit more seriously in the next song–I like the idea of the poster aging in the same way we do, so she’s “all torn and creased” in poster and human form.

A strange footnote: the song ends with some “Frere Jacques” style singing in the round and the phrase “see her falling down” popped into my head as I was, I thought, just roughing out the end section. “I’ll do that properly with the real words later…” I thought. But it slowly dawned on me that I’d seen Deborah performing in London in the 90s. She was wearing the most colossal high-heeled shoes and at one point she evidently lost her balance and toppled over! So obviously my subconscious mind is a far better songwriter than I am! I had to keep it in after that, but what a great illustration of the way the creative part of us is often buried very deep inside us, and who on earth knows how and why it bubbles to the surface as it does?

Missparker: The track from the album title, The Most Beautiful Man in the World is a stunning, heartfelt tune. It begins as an ambient song and morphs slowly and deliberately into a beautifully orchestrated song.  Can you give us some insight on the origins of this tune?

Robert Swipe: Thank you, Sandy. My producer Doug Chay and I are very proud of this one. I think it’s the key song, really, which is why we decided to make it the title track. This is another one that I was very lucky with, really. I’d been thinking a lot about Marc Bolan and he’d been featuring very prominently in a lot of the Facebook posts I was seeing at the time; and, one or more of these might even have described him as “the most beautiful man in the world.” So I’d had that title in mind as something I could use, and the idea of Marc having survived the crash and living into old age just popped into my head one day when I was walking across the village green. It was, happily for me, accompanied by the tune once more.

So, it wasn’t so much written, as it fell out of the sky and into my grateful lap. Those are the nicest songs. Keith Richards describes that moment when they arrive as “incoming…” I think that describes it perfectly. This one really owes a huge debt to Douglas who somehow managed to carve a beautifully elegant likeness of Marc from the tangled mess of tracks I sent him. We were both also thinking a lot about Tony Visconti and his early work with both Marc and David Bowie, and I think this song is the fullest example of that. With masters like that, the apprentices can’t really go wrong.

Missparker: Speaking of Marc Bolan, Revolution brings me back in time (in a great way) to T.Rex…so, they have been a major influence in your music?

Robert Swipe: It’s really strange but before this project I would have called myself a T-Rex fan, and yet I realize now that I thought of them as being pretty much a singles band. It’s only really as part of this project that I’ve more fully explored Marc Bolan and his work. Even now, I think I only really managed to get up to about 1974, so incredibly prolific were they back in the 1960s–they were weighing in with a couple of albums a year, each with 13 or so tracks, barely any filler…astonishing to us now, in an era when people can spend several years producing…not much! So, to answer your question, no, probably not until now! This song is, as most fans of Marc will tell you, heavily indebted to a song called Beltane Walk. In fact, it’s a direct steal! But I figured, Marc was cool enough about his own songs to steal the lick from The Walk by Jimmy McCracklin for his song, so I can keep that fine tradition going a little longer and give it another spin on the karmic wheel.

With the very early T-Rex music, much as I love it, I must say that culturally it feels very far removed from my own musical roots. I got seriously into music at the tail end of the punk era and that was a very different scene! I have an aunt who used to go to watch the early Tyrannosaurus Rex and I have visions of a lot of people like her sitting cross-legged on the floor nodding into their Afghan coats. So, the key for my understanding the early, underground T-Rex music was really how much it owed to the music Marc grew up listening to which was, by the sounds of it, very early American rock ‘n’ roll, with which I myself was also more comfortable and familiar with. So, my fascination, I guess, is how Marc made something so ethereal, strangely beautiful and, I would say, very English out of such earthy US sounds. So Hot Rod Mama, the first track on the first LP, sounds in places like it was recorded at Sun Studios,but it’s a cosmos away from all that, too.

Missparker: Having lived in Georgia for a time around the turn of the 21st century, I have to say I’m amused/intrigued by the title of Georgia Peach. Have you ever been there and what prompted the title to the song?

Robert Swipe: (Laughs) Sadly not. I have some wonderful Facebook friends from Georgia, though and they’re always telling me how lovely it is. One day, hopefully, I’ll get to find out for myself. No, I was actually thinking about Little Richard, who I believe was referred to as the Georgia Peach. This song started out as an outright Bay City Rollers number that was going to be called ‘ILUVULUVMELUV’ (or similarly archaic spellings!), but Doug initially felt it was a little *too* Rollersesque, even though he’s a massive fan. So, I tried slowing it down and doing it more like Brian Wilson did California Girls, but it still wasn’t really right, so we left it on the shelf for a bit. At some point, bizarrely, I think I was doing the washing up again (you can see where the ley lines are in our house….near the kitchen sink), and I started thinking about the Ronettes and, at about the same time, Little Richard. I may even have been wondering if he was still alive! And for whatever unfathomable reason, I started singing ‘ILUVULUVMELUV’ the way Ronnie Spector would have, only I had to change the tune a bit to make it sound right for her. Then, I thought, “I have to get a tribute to Little Richard in here too, he’s brilliant,” and so, the Georgia Peach image came to me and that was the song complete.

I suppose what I was grasping for was to convey in musical style just how central an artist Little Richard was to a whole strand of theatrical and transgressive pop. He wore makeup, looked like he could be a drag artist, but could bawl like the furies and was, along with another favorite of mine, Jerry Lee Lewis, just the real deal as an artist and a person. I suppose if you think about it, you can’t imagine artists like Bowie and Prince doing what they did without Little Richard Penniman having broken the hard ground up a bit for them first. And I guess it’s my celebration of him still being here and guiding our way when so many others who’ve lit the path for us have now gone.

Missparker: Again, we have a song with a woman’s name as a title. Nancy is a heartfelt track about promises made and (presumably) love lost. Is this from personal experience? Where do you find the inspiration to write such deeply meaningful and personal songs?

Robert Swipe: Again, this is another vignette of the downside of fame and I had in mind Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. It sort of rounds off a suite of songs that look somewhat askance at the whole business of fame and celebrity. We’ve had songs about Amy, Deborah, Marc, and Little Richard, so it felt right to string them together when we were sequencing them. The only way I felt I could write about two ultimately quite tragic figures was through the kind of style that Bryan Ferry perfected around the time of Avalon. I felt that sort of clash between the quite stylized performance and the quite gritty subject matter might be interesting and I’m really pleased that you felt some real emotion came through it all. I think I’m quite detached as a writer, but I sing and play with quite a lot of emotion, so I’m never sure which aspect comes through most fully. I’m pleased it’s the emotion in this case. They were a sad pair, I think. Both in their own ways lived to be famous–at least, that’s the impression I got. And having got it, it killed them. Very sad.

Missparker: I love the 90s shoegaze feel of Twenty5. The bass is pronounced and a wonderful foundation for this song. Do you feel that the shoegaze era was a particularly influential era to some of your music?

Robert Swipe: I kind of missed out on the shoegaze thing, really. I can hear stuff from that period now and it sounds a lot better than I remember it being at the time. Are you thinking of bands like Ride and Lush?

Missparker: Yes, and Catherine Wheel, and so on…

Robert Swipe: I feel more akin as a writer to bands like Blur, who began probably on the fringes of shoegaze and I felt gave themselves a bit more room to spread out artistically, rather than being part of a short-lived movement. I’m not trying to do down the bands in that era, but I personally was zoning out a bit on contemporary music at that time, just a time of life thing where you start exploring earlier music a bit more as you have a bit of a “seen that, done that” feeling about contemporary music. What you start realizing is that it’s always cyclical and that everything always comes around again. So I might start telling people “there’s always been a shoegaze element to my music…” very soon!

I think I had Led Zep more in mind on this one. I had a drum loop that sounded like the kind of thing John Bonham might have played and just started riffing around that. The lyric concerns an imaginary South American girl who sits in her room getting drunk and stoned imagining she’ll set the world on fire then die before she’s twenty-five. There are worse ways to live, I guess. I’m sure she wouldn’t be the first person to take the lyrics to All the Young Dudes a tad too literally. But that’s been a real discovery–South America. Some very cool and lovely people down there who really know their rock and pop and what’s more they know how to treat a female impersonator (that last bit’s from Monty Python, if anyone else is old enough to remember them).

Missparker:  I do (laughs)! I love the orchestration of The World Will End. That brings me to the question…do you work with other musicians, or are the tracks solely laid down by you alone? If it’s a sole venture, I’m very curious to find out how you would take your music out on the road, if given the opportunity?

Robert Swipe: Sadly, I’m completely solo in terms of the playing, at the moment. Working with Doug, though was a big change and a completely beneficial one, so hopefully I can keep expanding and maybe one day end up with a real band…who knows? This one really was radically reshaped by Doug and showed me why it is so great to have a producer. It started out very much aping the song Five Years musically, as well as lyrically. But, Doug stripped it down completely to just the weird vibe part and a drum loop, and after scratching my head for a bit, I suddenly saw a new way of doing it.

My inspiration for the remake was very much Strawberry Fields Forever, with maybe a bit of Blue Jay Way in there, too. Again, there’s a clash between the subject matter and the style that hopefully opens things up in an interesting way. Again, I threw tons of parts at Doug, but he did a really great job as surrogate George Martin on this one, just letting each idea have its moment in the sun and making it a much richer and structured piece than it would have been if I’d been left to my own devices. But yes, I’d really love to put together a band and a show. I think between this album and Glam! there’s the makings of a really good rock show. Anyone out there play the bass….?

Missparker:  Hot Gossip and Beautiful Lie seem to give us intimate glimpses into your soul. Does songwriting provide a sort of catharsis for any major events that may be occurring in your life?

Robert Swipe: It’s odd, I do see myself as a very detached writer–a novelist, rather than a diarist, to use literary equivalents. There are a few autobiographical things in there, but they tend to just be used as accurate detail, the way a novelist might consult a notebook if they wanted to convey something vividly. But ultimately, I see my songs as imaginative explorations, rather than soul-baring autobiography. So, with Hot Gossip, the bit about the glockenspiel is something we did in a music lesson at school, performing a very ramshackle version of Revolution #9–quite! The black walls belonged to a friend of mine. I don’t, sadly, own a swastika garter myself, but there’s always time I suppose! There are oblique parallels with Pandora in the song, and the way I’ve chosen to present the music in a very glam and gender-bending style, I guess.

It probably is tough for people who know me to see all that as the charade I know it is, so I suppose they might be represented by the outraged parents in the song. I’m an orphan now, so a lot of my musings about my relationships with my parents probably comes out in these narratives, but it’s not something I consciously try to write about. I guess it’s the same in terms of the lyrics. You aim to paint a convincing portrait of the person or ideas that you’re trying to give voice to in the song–so I guess one should take it as a high compliment when people mistake what you’re doing for autobiography. But, to say all that makes it sound rather cold and calculating and I certainly don’t feel that way about my work; I am completely transported when I play and sing–well, when it is going well–and I put so much passion and emotion into the music and the writing. But, I think I express my inner being through the whole piece rather than just lyrically, if that makes sense?

Missparker: It does. I have to admit that I thought Glitterball (by its name) would be a disco-based track. Thankfully, it’s not. What does the glitter ball stand for metaphorically in this song?

Robert Swipe: (Laughs) What’s wrong with disco? But seriously, this is very much a composite song that started out in different form quite a few years ago, so it’s quite hard to pin down exact meanings. I guess with the glitter ball I was just thinking of that very late 70s, Debbie Harry singing Heart of Glass at Studio 54 sort of pop glamour. It’s something that has always been very alluring to me, I suppose, in part because it’s gone and is out of my reach now. Nothing is more alluring than what you can’t have. So, it’s the idea of someone being absolutely themselves in one brief glorious transcendent moment.

That’s contrasted with the quite desperate figure that’s painted in the verses; someone who’s very lost spiritually in a very dark and unforgiving world. That seemed to make a lot of emotional sense to me, and I hoped it would speak to other people’s feelings about the way the world is right now. I had in mind a very beautiful North African woman cast into a very dark and gothic Europe. But strangely, when I listen now, I have somewhere like Los Angeles in mind when I picture it all. Go figure. I also liked the way Marc Bolan would take very materialistic or rock ‘n’ roll imagery, and couple them with spiritual or esoteric concepts like Metal Guru, Cosmic Dancer. I figured it might be fun to explore that a bit more bluntly. So, the character in this song is looking for God in back street sex, etc. As you can see, I’m no Marc Bolan!

Missparker: The Spirit of Rock and Roll is a moody song. It also clocks in as the longest on this album. And, I love that you end the song with several declarations of love. What was the inspiration for this song? What do you mean by having the spirit of rock and roll?

Robert Swipe: Well, I think the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll is something I’ve noticed a lot across our Facebook groups and friends. People–some of my age group, some older, some younger–who were pretty much knocked for six when David Bowie died. I guess a lot of us have found out quite graphically, through the loss, how much someone like him and what he did when he was alive meant to us. So, I started wondering if that would be a good platform to try and build up a small community of people who’d all been inspired by that brave, questing, experimental music and visual style and to try and force myself to live up as much as I could to what I thought people who liked such music might expect from new music nowadays. As I was recording, I kept wondering whether it was still possible to use that style of music to do “big things” like bring people together and change the world. So, I suppose this album is my attempt to test the promises that 60s and 70s music made to me–and so many of us–and to see if new songs could ever achieve some of the cultural power pop songs once had.

One of the most exciting things for me from the Facebook groups was that there were a lot of young people who had sought that very music out and were experiencing it with the same force it once had for us. So, I guess this song is the most explicit example of that experiment–to see if you could write something as anthemic and generation-defining as, say, All the Young Dudes and whether it could have anything like the same meaning such a song might once have had for its audience. I can imagine precisely how ridiculous and over-reaching that sounds to everyone reading this, but I was genuinely curious! And, following on from that, I did definitely want to send out a message of love directly to the people I describe above–to say thank you for being there as an audience for me. It’s the first time I’ve been even remotely aware that I had one–and to suggest that, even if it’s only for the duration of this song, we can live out some of those old glories. And, of course, it had to be slightly tongue-in-cheek, otherwise everyone out there would think I really meant it!

Thank you, Sandy, for asking such interesting and thought-provoking questions. I hope I haven’t bored you too horribly with my rambling responses!

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It was absolutely my pleasure, and not boring, at all.

To experience Robert Swipe’s music for yourself, check out his music on the following sites:

Robert Swipe’s YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/user/bobswipe/

To purchase his music:
https://www.robertswipe.com/

 

80s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ SLAVE to the SQUAREwave (interview with Colin Troy McPhail)

About 10 years ago, I was a novice listener of David Marsden’s live broadcast over the internet from a station out of Oshawa, ON Canada. His style and selection of music (mostly alternative 80s and current off-the-beaten-track tunes) had grabbed me from the first show I tuned into (thanks to a recommendation from fellow music blogger RalphD). One night, I distinctly remember being stopped dead in my tracks when a song came up that I had never heard before. I quickly shot off an email to Ralph asking, “WHO is that?” Ralph’s answer came back with an oddly-named group—SLAVE to the SQUAREwave—and a brief history of who, what, when…

The song at the time was “Sinners of Saint Avenue,” and from that moment on, I became a die-hard “Squarehead.” The melody, the lyrics, the singing…up until that point I had firmly believed that there wasn’t a singer out there that even came close to my longtime idol David Bowie. Well, holy cow, was I wrong! Here was Colin Troy McPhail, backed by the incredible musical talent of Rob Stuart, delivering the range, the pitch, the drop-dead gorgeous passion of Bowie, but with his own distinctive and personal flair. Thank goodness for me that RalphD was himself a huge “Squarehead” and happily pointed me in the direction of finding out more about S2TSW.

Since then, I’ve had the pleasure and good fortune to feature SLAVE to the SQUAREwave (Colin and Rob Stuart) several times here on Rave and Roll blog. Rob even interviewed me last March for his “The Mixtape Show” DJ slot on NYTheSpirit.com. This, however, is my first opportunity to interview Colin, the angelic and passionate vocal genius of S2TSW. If you’ve never had the privilege of listening to SLAVE, please give yourself that treat. They release their new album Jigsaw on November 10, 2017. It will be available worldwide on all streaming and music websites with an album release party in the works.

Maybe, just maybe, you’ll fall under their indomitable spell and become a Squarehead, too.

(NOTE: At the end of this interview, Colin and Rob have provided a free download of the ambient remix of “Starrs,” a beautiful and moving track. This particular mix is not available on the album Jigsaw that releases on November 10, 2017).

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Missparker: SLAVE to the SQUAREwave’s core musicians are you and Rob Stuart. How did you guys meet up and how long have you been making music together?

Colin: Rob and I met nearly 20 years ago at a rave in Oakville Ontario. He was playing his EDF (Electronic Dream Factory) music, and I was performing a project called Smokin Jehovah. We got talking and discovered that we lived close by to one another. We met up and jammed out some of our own music ideas and began a lifelong friendship through music.

Missparker: As someone who can’t hold a tune in a bucket (me), but is blessed with good ears, I am in awe of your tremendous gift of singing. I’ve mentioned to anyone who’ll listen that you remind me so much of David Bowie in style, range, and expression. Do you consider him an influence? Is there anyone else who has inspired you vocally?

Colin: Of course, Bowie is God (laughs). He is by far the greatest artist that has lived. But musically I’ve been influenced by what I call the Davids—Bowie, Byrne, Gahan, Sylvian, and Lee Roth—all my Davids have been musical influences lyrically, musically, and of course, showmanship.

Missparker: I have to say, after viewing a number of SLAVE videos on YouTube, I feel like I’ve missed out big time on your live performances. You seem to morph into all kinds of different and interesting personas. Are they inner characters that you allow to escape onstage? Do they have names?

Colin: (laughs) HAHA, good question…hmmm…The Characters are mostly influenced by the songs themselves. So performing live, the characters just add to the ability to make the songs visual, as well as lyrical. Live, it’s so much fun—hmmm…I’ve never thought of names—maybe I should (laughs)!

Missparker: I have to say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my preview of Jigsaw. I’m full of questions, but I’ll try to contain myself and keep it to a bearable number! First, where did the name Jigsaw come from? And the delightfully fun intro “Debauchery”—does it have a particular significance?

Colin: This past year and a half has been a personal nightmare—from losing a job and getting transferred to a different job, which has been frustrating—to having my car stolen—to losing a great relationship (at least I thought was)—to losing my dear sister to cancer this past summer. Jigsaw is about the pieces I’ve lost and trying to put some kind of puzzle back in order.

Debauchery is an ode to musical theatre like Cabaret or Chicago. Just a fun sexy, sassy little number to introduce your ears with.

Missparker: No pun intended, but “The Coldest Night of the Year,” along with “Starrs,” absolutely give me chills. They are gorgeous: instrumentally, lyrically, and stylistically thanks in large part to your poignant delivery. What can you share about the source of the emotion behind the lyrics?

Colin: “The Coldest Night” was written around New Year’s Eve of this past year.  I was in a long distance relationship and because of the lack of physical intimacy, I just was overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness. Eventually we ended it a few months later.

“Starrs” is about my dear sister who died of cancer in August. Her middle name was Starr. We knew she was beginning to fade and her time was coming soon. Rob came up with this beautiful track—I was floored by its musicality—probably the toughest song lyrics to write. We finished the song before she passed away. It’s about seeing her again beyond death’s door. I never played it to her. She never got to hear that song. It was too painful for me to have her hear what I wrote—because it was about the inevitable.

Missparker: I’m so sorry for your loss. The pain that you went through is so evident in the music and lyrics. David Marsden has been playing “Starrs” as a teaser of sorts over the past few weeks. I remember thinking, “If the rest of the album is half as good as this, it’s going to be brilliant.” Well…it’s MUCH more than half as good, so “brilliant” is an understatement. Do you have a favorite track, and what makes it that?

Colin:  “Here Comes My Man.” It’s a hilarious true story of a grindr hookup gone bad.

Missparker: “Honest” has an earnest rhythm driving it from behind, almost reminiscent of island music. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this influence in S2TSW’s music. Is there a specific source that it comes from?

Colin: I love drop beats. Both Rob and I love ska music. Rob had a much more musical influence on that track. I had the acoustic melodies and rhythm, but he brought in the drop beats. It’s his genius not mine (laughs).

Missparker:  My ears perked up at the opening seconds of “Something That I Said.” Did I catch a sample of the sample (twice removed) from Eno and Byrne’s “Mea Culpa?” What’s the story behind this song?

Colin: I think you did. My God, good set of ears, my dear! The song is about offending and being offended by people’s stupidity (laughs). It’s such a simple Talking Heads-like rhythm. Gonna be so much fun to perform live!

Missparker:  And speaking of funk, “Something I Said” is one of several funk-laden songs on this (“Fink Fank Fonk,” “White Kids on Funkk,” etc.) that sound like you and Rob had a blast composing. Are there any musicians/bands that you can point to as funk-influential?

Colin: To me FUNK is the best music. It always lifts me up, and great to dance to. I think Nile Rogers is an absolute genius.  It’s about James Brown, George Clinton, Prince…I don’t know where to start. Funk is the biggest musical influence of my life.

Missparker: “Ascension” is a powerful song. It hints at a deep hurt and a request for a prayer that is both haunting and scary…almost as if you’re asking for help to avoid doing something you’ll regret. It’s well-known that music is a creative way to tame the demons plaguing one’s inner self. Personally, writing and photography are my avenues of sorting out what I can’t adequately express. David Bowie once said that his music was his way of avoiding madness. Do you find a similar comfort writing and singing lyrics—a catharsis of sorts?

Colin: Oh wow. You hit the nail on the head. It’s about knowing you’re about to do something wrong, but do it anyway—kind of masochistic.  If you listen specifically to one lyric it’s very, very masochistic. Music has been and always will be my therapist. I think every writer has demons and the best way to deal with is through writing about it.

Missparker: “Get Out Of My House” is a fun, beat-driven, chair-dancing tune. It’s another teaser that David Marsden has been sticking in our ears over the past few months. I love the whimsical video Rob put together for it. The story goes that you guys created this song from opposite ends of Canada, which is phenomenal. How important a part does technology play in music-making these days, and how has it changed the landscape of creating and producing music over the years?

Colin: Actually, 3 or 4 songs were written while I was in Vancouver with a now ex-partner. Rob and I bounced a whack of musical ideas from Toronto to Vancouver at the time. We share the same software, so I would record and send him the track. He would make his adjustments and inputs and return them to me. Back and forth.

Technology is amazing these days. It allows a lot of freedom, if you use it properly (laughs). It has totally changed music production, both in a good way and a bad way. Good in the sense that it doesn’t have to cost a mortgage to record anymore. Bad in the sense that today’s music sounds thin to me, at times. There is a lack of warmth in today’s sound because of over compression. But, that may be because my ears are getting old!

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As a special gift to all listeners, Rob and Colin have provided a free download of the full ambient mix version of “Starrs.” This version is not available on the album that will release on November 10. Press the graphic below to download your copy. 

Many thanks to Colin for his candid and heartfelt answers. To learn more about SLAVE to the SQUAREwave and listen to the fabulous music described here, be sure to check out the following sites:

Get Out Of My House (Video edit)–SLAVE to the SQUAREwave

David Marsden/NYTheSpirit.com Interview with Colin and Rob

Big Change (extended mix 2017)–SLAVE to the SQUAREwave

Sinners of Saint Avenue–SLAVE to the SQUAREwave

Hopeless Believers–SLAVE to the SQUAREwave

London Baby–SLAVE to the SQUAREwave

How a Starman (David Bowie) and a Hero (DanBH) Validated My Life

David-Bowie-1974Nearly four months on, and I am still trying to grasp the concept of a world without the physically comforting cosmic genius of David Bowie. But, that’s nothing new for me. It has been 3 years, 8 1/2 months since my late husband Dan passed, and I’ve not really moved on from that. Sure, I’ve changed jobs (and subsequently returned to my original company), moved residence, resumed most of my creative interests…but the grieving process seems to be stuck. It must be the stuff I’m made of.

One thing I’m usually very good at is blocking the bits of my past life that are dark, desolate, and decidedly depressing. David Bowie’s death dredged that stinking muck back up and forced me to confront it head on. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, because now I’ve been able to let go of a lot of repressed anxiety born of stuffing ungodly visions deep down the memory hole. But, it was a thousand times more painful than satisfying.

Thirty-five+ years ago (a lifetime for many), the lifelong feelings of being a misfit in an un-accepting world reached a head. I found an artificial way to cope, which involved ingesting large amounts of illicit substances. The chemical cocktails made me perceive the world to be a place where I actually fit in, felt productive, and gave me a sense of purpose. Little did I know (or want to believe) that the sense of purpose would end up being a daily visceral drive to find new heights of chemically-induced bliss. The miracle in all of this is that I lived through it. That’s where Mr. Bowie comes in.

With no Internet at my disposal back then, I received music news in bits and pieces from magazines and Bowie_smile_3television (MTV was in its infancy stages). I “discovered” David Bowie late-70s and just prior to sinking to my lowest point. I remember reading a story about how he had been in a similar mess, but had the stones to walk away from it and clean up his life. Not only was he creating and delivering superior music, he was having a ball finding himself, a quest that would end up being a lifelong journey. I so admired his strength and his ability to slip seemingly effortlessly through the world; not as a knock-off wanna-be clone, but as himself. Decidedly misfit, but happy in his own skin.

I started sleeping in front of the stereo, Bowie vinyl platters piled high, listening through huge headphones, lulled to sleep by endless stories of struggle, (at times) defeat, and redemption. His poetic verses described cold, unfriendly worlds, damning events, uncaring accomplices, herculean trials–but they always had a glimmer of hope, a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, and a sense of purpose in a chaotic world unsympathetic to those who refuse to walk lockstep to the boringly predictable drumbeat.

Bowie_Serious_1Eventually, I, too found the stones to walk away from certain self-destruction, and into the light of the satisfaction of knowing that yes, I’m “different,” but it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of me, as long as I somehow make the world a better place for others. That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

I had a setback a decade later, following a divorce and entering into an abusive relationship. Bowie’s music was forbidden in the new household, lauded as “fag crap,” and only the Rolling Stones (I wonder if Mr. Sensitive knew that Mick and David had had a dalliance) and ZZ Top were allowed. Thank God I had the presence of mind to hide away and hang onto my Bowie vinyl. I remained in that nightmare of a relationship for 5 very long years (queue up Bowie’s “Five Years” here) until I met the second hero of this maudlin story, my late husband Dan. But sadly, I had lost touch with Bowie’s world. I knew he had gotten married, and was still making music, but not much more beyond that. I had been too busy trying to survive by not poking the hornet’s nest.

Dan_Christmas_1999With Dan, another of life’s misfits and a kindred spirit, came a sense of renewal. Not only had I been given a second chance, but now a third, and I was not going to muck it up. He was truly my soul mate, the one that my bad choices put me on the right path to meet. He, too, was a Bowie fan, but we both were bogged down with work and trying to stay afloat financially. We moved from FL to GA and then back to FL, all in the span of 6 years. Life was busy, and something was wrong with Dan’s health, so it became challenging and a balancing act that consumed most of our free time. David Bowie suffered a heart attack in 2004, and Dan had his in 2005. Along with Dan’s attack came the grim news that he also had a rare and incurable vasculitis disease called Churg Strauss Syndrome. The two heroes in my life were forced to make life-altering decisions at almost the same time.

I made it my quest to ensure the remainder of Dan’s life had a note of quality and dignity. He died August 21, 2012 after a courageous struggle. Part of me died with him, but I am convinced his spirit walks with me, overseeing many of my decisions and helping me through the rough spots. David Bowie started releasing music a year later (2013) after a long hiatus to be with his beloved family. The floodgates opened for him and remained open until January 10 of this year, right up to the end. He and Dan shared something very special. They refused to accept death as a possibility, and especially not an end,  and for that reason both of their spirits shine brightly among the stars, still very much a part of this life and those who loved them.

Shortly after Bowie’s death, which was incredibly and personally devastating, I started replacing my vinyl, and ripping the CDs to my computer (which has a decent speaker system). I also filled in a few of the missing pieces and put together one helluva playlist. I have been sleeping to it every night (and playing it every day while working) for the past 3 months, and that has been what keeps the decades-old demons at bay.

During those moments when I can see clearly through the haze of grief, I consider myself very lucky, indeed, to have 2 such incredibly gifted and “different” angels watching over me for whatever time I have left on this world. After that, I will make it my eternal mission to follow them both to the ends of the universe.

80s Music (and sometimes 10s) Rules—Slave To The SQUAREwave Returns!

ASRR---CARAfter a long hiatus full of whispered rumors hinting at disbanding, retirement, everything Slave to the SQUAREwave fans absolutely did NOT want to hear, something very exciting has happened—a new album release and a hot party at the Hard Rock in Toronto on February 28, 2014 hosted by David Marsden. That sound you hear is the collective thud of gob-smacked jaws hitting the floor—hallelujah and praise the music gods!

The album—Asphalt, Sex and Rock ‘n’Roll—where to start? These Slave-starved ears were ecstatic with the long-awaited product of a flawless, long-standing, and highly successful collaboration between Rob Stuart and Colin Troy. If ever a duo were destined to create beautiful music together, this is it, folks. The result of long hours in the studio is a perfect, fun-filled collection of music that will both kick your ass and caress your soul.

What should you expect? Here’s my humble attempt to describe the pleasure trip this album delivers to its listeners. Strap yourself in, slide your headset on, and prepare to rumble—this is way better than the best road trip you’ve ever had in the mightiest muscle car.

If asked to describe the opening track Middle Finger in one word, “funkalicious” is the closest adjective that does it any justice.  It’s a combination of Max Headroom (without the stutter) meets the Funkateers that is the perfect warm-up for what’s in store along this welcome journey. Alive and Electric (Dedicated to Jodi) presents swelling synths and superb harmonies; it’s a truly pleasing blend of keys and strings that picks up speed and takes on a life of its own.S2TSW-Poster-01

Next up is Texan Thugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll, a play on words rife with fast cars, a thrumming beat, and tough-guy lyrics. Who could ask for anything more? Then, wafting through the headset is a slightly off-kilter intro to The Big South that lures the listener into a poetic bop-fest of beat-driven goodness.

Not for the faint of heart, Zombie charges off the starting line in a sheer frenzy. Anyone who can sit still while listening to the exceptional synths and snarling vocals of this party-in-your-ear track needs to check for a pulse because they just may well be a zombie. Then, when you think you have a handle on what’s feeding into your brain, the Dr. Who-esque intro of Poor Man’s Fight draws you smack-dab into the middle of the fray, while trippy, fun lyrics bind you up and hold you captive.

Who wouldn’t wish for a Seven Day Saturday Night? Here it is handed to you on a silver platter—the penultimate weekend escape, complete with kick-ass strings that transport you straight into the party-hearty environment that you crave. From there, the bass-heavy opening of Bump promises—and delivers—heart-stopping percussive goodness.

Early Stone Roses anyone? Montreal is another foray into trippy melodies, sexy organ, and seductive piano. After the shameless seduction has left you breathless, you are thrown in front of a revving engine like a beast out of control. Amazing Grace threatens to spin out wildly; miraculously, traction holds you firmly to the road and catapults you along the autobahn of life and love.

SLAVE-to-the-SQUAREwaveThe next track begs for Peace of Mind, but the direct and driven message is that it’s truly an elusive goal. To emphasize that point, Time is Running Out presents a frantic and breathless illustration that time for us is, indeed, running out. Perhaps we should stop and smell the roses?

Casino is a perfectly crafted analogy of love won and lost the hard way. Better luck the next time, baby. You see, everybody gets a little lucky sometimes. Destined to be a favorite, Alive and Electric (Rob’s Analog Electromix) would be ideally at home on any Ultravox collection. The vocals form a faultless partnership with synths that reach down into the soul and infuse a shot of divine life-sustaining energy.

Zombie (Sonix Mix) is a less-frenetic reprise of the un-dead anthem; a different spin on a great, rollicking song. Likewise, Texan Thugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll (Mad Flowers Mix) gives one last and different listen to what makes this collection a no-holds-barred masterpiece.

Slave to the SQUAREwave delivers raw, unbridled musical joy with each and every collaborative piece that they create. Don’t miss out on a chance to experience truly artistic genius at its very best, while Rob and Colin still have the passion to make it happen. And, if you are lucky enough to be in the greater Toronto area whenever the sun, moon and stars align in perfect combination, be sure to see the dynamic duo Rob Stuart and Colin Troy, along with supporting band members Doug Lea and Craig Moffitt, for a live performance.  It’s definitely on my bucket list.ASRR---Reel-to-Reel

A very limited supply of 200 Asphalt, Sex and Rock ‘n’Roll CDs will be available at the release gig at the Hard Rock Café (279 Yonge St, Toronto ON) gig on Feb 28, 2014. After that, an “Expanded Edition” will be added, which includes these outstanding bonus tracks: “India”, “Stereo Orthophonic High Fidelity Victrolis (SOHFV),” and “Alive & Electric (Kernel Chiptune Mix).” Also, for the first time, S2TSW are making The Money Shot (another absolute personal fave) available with all bonus tracks. Both albums are for sale starting Feb. 28, 2014 at the locations shown below.

Tunecore-Release-Availabili

80s (and sometimes 00s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Ricky Humphrey and Nature Kills

Rick_HumphreyEvery now and again, I have the great fortune to bump into a contemporary musician or band who embodies the very essence of the 80s music I love. Recently, I was privileged to meet Ricky Humphrey online, currently recording as Nature Kills. The music I have heard him create has blown me away.

As Ricky, himself describes this phenomenon: “Nature Kills”—melody-driven, bass-thumping, guitar-wailing, synth-swirling music.

“Nature Kills” was born out of an idea in October 2010. The band “Rise” had ceased to exist and I was in a musical wasteland. I became driven obsessively to create music that I wanted to hear. I missed the music from the 80s and craved the textures and melodies that were created during this time. I needed a vehicle for this and that became “Nature Kills.” I want my music to sound fresh and new, but also have that contemporary feel; one foot in the 80s if you like.

Ricky Humphrey was kind enough to grant an interview to Rave and Roll. Read on to learn more about this super-talented man and his music.

What is your first musical memory?
Nazareth—Bad Bad Boy

What instruments do you play? RH3
Bass, guitar, and synth.

Which one do you favor and why?
Bass—it’s where I feel most at home and am most proficient.

Did you take lessons or are you self-taught?
Bass—self-taught, though I did have a few lessons with Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo/Ellis,Beggs & Howard, and now touring with Steven Wilson), as I wanted to develop my slap/funk style. Guitar and synth—self-taught.

Who were your favorite musicians growing up?
Mick Karn (Japan)—he was my introduction to bass. I was just blown away by his unique style. Gary Numan for being so inspirational; a true awakening took place for me at this time. Talk Talk—just awesome!RH1a

Who are your current favorites?
Peter Murphy—he has such an amazing voice and I just love his lyrics. Depeche Mode—I was not a fan of their material when Vince Clarke was involved, but have grown to like them more and more with each passing album. Gary Numan still does it for me and he is still evolving, which is cool. Trent Reznor, NineInchNails, and How to Destroy Angels—again very inspirational in all that he does.

Have you ever played in a band?
Yes, my first band was Sirahn, then The Open Hand, followed by Rise.

Do you prefer recording alone or with other supporting band members?
Both have their advantages. I have more control over my current projects as I am working alone. In a band situation, there’s a lot of diplomacy and at times tension, which can be good but it can also hinder.

Rick_Humphrey3When you write, which comes first—melody or lyrics?
This one is difficult, I write lyrics as and when I’m inspired but generally don’t have a melody in mind; however, when I have an instrument at hand I create melody, rhythm etc., then seek out a lyric that feels suitable. I don’t have a vocal melody sorted until I have a musical backdrop to work with, and then try to enhance it with a vocal line.

Who or what has influenced your style of music?
Japan, Gary Numan, Peter Murphy, Depeche Mode, Trent Reznor, and Talk Talk.

Do you see a particular direction that your music is taking, and if so, where is it going?
I feel it becoming somewhat darker with a few hints of lightness here and there just to keep the balance. I like to move more toward the Dark Wave/Goth genre but for now I’ll stick with Alternative until I make the leap.

Nature Kills music is available live and online, with a CD available soon. Experience it for yourself:
soundcloud.com/naturekills
www.reverbnation.com/naturekills
www.myspace.com/naturekills
www.facebook.com/pages/NatureKills