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

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80s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Glamatron (Rude van Steenes and Kurt LaPorte)

Timeless music doesn’t fade away. Fueled by the passion of its creators, sometimes it rises from the ashes to feed ears that are tired of listless, formulaic tunes and hungry for solid, genuine, and soul-thumping Music-with-a-capital-M.

Glamatron! was originally formed in 1981 by Canadian musicians Rude van Steenes and Kurt LaPorte.  Together they produced one Glamatron! album called Only the Heart Beats … Inside the Silence. There was one other album to follow that never, unfortunately, saw the light of day: Chrome Horizons. After Glamatron! was dissolved, van Steenes and LaPorte then formed Vis-A-Vis in 1984, which was nominated for two awards and won the 1987 CASBY Award for Best Independent Artist.

Prior to Glamatron!, Rude van Steenes was the front man for Canadian punk band ARSON, formed with guitarist Marcel La Fleur and highly visible in the Canadian and American punk scenes during the late 70s and into the 80s. Fast forward to 2013 when Van Steenes and guitarist Marcel La Fleur resurrected ARSON and released a blistering, well-received album called not always about you.

Now, it’s time for van Steenes and LaPorte to reintroduce Glamatron!. And what makes the reemergence of this album doubly exciting is, well, that it’s a double album. Not only is Only the Heart Beats … Inside the Silence back, the previously unreleased Chrome Horizons is now available as part of the package.  Add to this the influences that its creators point to: Bowie, Roxy Music, Lou Reed, Marc Bolan & T-Rex, as well as early Ultravox, Wire, and Magazine, and you’ve got a collection of music that will absolutely wow fans of early New Wave. DJ David Marsden has been giving solid airplay to various tracks from Glamatron! on his Internet streaming radio station NYTheSpirit.com, and they have been met with keen interest.

Rude has graciously agreed to be interviewed, and I am proud and pleased to re-introduce you to this wildly gifted musician and his music. I have enjoyed…and will continue to enjoy…Glamatron!’s recently reissued Only the Heart Beats and Chrome Horizons. I know New Wave/post punk fans will, too.

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Missparker: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us about Glamatron!. I think an obvious first question is, what inspired you to reissue Only the Heart Beats … Inside the Silence and Chrome Horizons? And, who were your partners in crime (other band members)?

Rude van Steenes: Thank you for the opportunity and for all the great work you’ve done in supporting and bringing new life to one of the most creative eras in music! It truly is a pleasure to see this music thriving so many years later while continuing to garner new interest through the great articles you’ve written on the bands and artists and your ongoing support.

So, the question was, ‘What inspired me to reissue these albums and who else was involved?’ Well, the reissue was something I had been dabbling with in my mind for some time. I always thought the initial recording, Inside The Silence, was a diamond in the rough in that it was recorded on an 8 track reel-to-reel deck in a basement studio with little-to -none of the studio enhancements available today. The songs were roughly fleshed out by Kurt (Laporte) on guitar and myself on synthesizers and drums; then, Rick (Krausminc) came in on additional keyboards.

We worked with several players including Max Hutchison on drums and Marky Haughton on bass. Although Max and Marky played together on the same tracks, both left together before the recording was complete. This led to Kurt playing both guitars and bass, Rick on keyboards, and myself on vocals, synthesizers, and percussion while Max played drums on 3 tracks, Ben Elfassey on one, and I played on 2 tracks for the finished product. I think we recorded it over two weekends, mixed it, and borrowed the money for a pressing of 950 copies and that was it!

The cover was designed by Anne Marie Carlson and the striking woman featured is a portrait of her mother. The layout was bold for the time; most akin to the European releases of that era which had appealed to us.

Although critically acclaimed, North American labels in general were not interested as it lacked, in their opinion, “commercial appeal” and was considered “ahead of its time” for their audiences. Remember, the Canadian industry was tethered to their American parent companies and, at the time of release, the popular markets played Eye of The Tiger by Survivor, Physical by Olivia Newton John and Ebony and Ivory by McCartney and Jackson, as well as artists John Cougar, Chicago, Foreigner, and Toto topping the charts in North America, so no one here could or would do anything for us. Although the European scene was much more in tune with our sound, we lacked the management and resources to market ourselves over there.

And that brings us to Chrome Horizons, the previously unreleased, three-quarters completed, follow-up to Inside The Silence. At this time, Kurt, Rick, and I were working on some ideas and were joined by Scott Matthews on bass and Rob Greenway (a.k.a. Brilliant Fish) on drums. At some point, Kurt dropped out, leaving the project guitar-less. This was, of course, a challenge I wasn’t anticipating, and it took a while to adjust ,too as Kurt, for the most part, was my song-writing partner; however, as I had the bulk of the lyrics and part of the music written, it was then up to all of us to complete the pieces in the studio.

We took on the song Call written by Rob and, after a few runs, it started taking shape. Scott’s fluid bass lines combined with the keyboard melodies and stylized vocals, gave the finished song its character. The rest (Intrigue, Photographs, Death In September, Art of Seduction, And We Who Dare) followed suit; however, this was another self-produced indie project and we were again in a financial crunch unable to continue. In fact, one track didn’t make it on the studio version (And We Who Dare), as it wasn’t ready. It is, however, included on the live version of the CD and Bandcamp download. What was salvaged from those sessions remained on master cassette tapes for better than 30 years before being re-mastered by Scott in his studio this year.

Finally, what brought this all to light this year was a message I received from my friend Jacek who has a label called Artoffact/Storming The Base. He was interested in Glamatron! and asked if he could do a re-issue of the original first record. I then told him about the unreleased 2nd album and live tracks and a deal was struck to put the whole package together. They did a wonderful job, packaged the vinyl in optional pink along with a great poster, and the CD has a beautiful little booklet and bonus live tracks, as does the download. Really impressive—their label also has an incredible roster of artists that I’m proud to be amongst—such great influences and talents. (Please see the links at the bottom of this article for more information).

Missparker: To me, it’s quite a shift from ARSON’s pure punk to Glamatron!’s New Wave. What was the reason for switching genres, and did you find it to be a natural progression?

Rude van Steenes: Well, for starters, I think musician, author, publisher Jaimie Vernon probably nailed it best in his description of ARSON:

“Though ARSON was shuffled into the First Generation Toronto Punk deck of cards, one listen to tunes like “Love On A Leash,” “Art School Fool,” “Social Eyes,” “Not Always About You,” and “Motor City Suicide” and 20/20 hindsight reveals that ARSON were/are actually a true-blue American Rock ‘n Roll band owing nothing to The Ramones and everything to Iggy & The Stooges, The MC5, and The New York Dolls” –  Jaimie Vernon, Musician, author, publisher (Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia Vol 1 & 2, etc.).

So, ARSON was always kind of on the outskirts of the scene. For example, our third show was opening for The Dead Boys at the height of their initial popularity and that pissed off a lot of local bands who had wanted to do that show; however, it was the promoters’ decision, and although it worked out well for us, the resentment from other bands was never completely resolved.

Our shows were also more rock ’n’ roll than punk; being fairly agile performers, we would utilize stage lights, fog machines and experiment with different outfits and even characters. I took on every show as an adventure; however, towards the end of 1979, while playing some dates in New York City including Max’s Kansas City, I began to feel restless—restless to do something more creative, a different trip that would incorporate more diverse influences and, I think, we all saw that coming. Things were becoming strained between all of us, the road had taken its toll, the original scene was dying, and we were still broke and in debt. I needed to move on; ‘transition, transmission’ was my state of mind.

We came back home, recorded The Animals’ We Gotta Get Out Of This Place for the No Pedestrians compilation album, and all went our separate ways. Marcel and I were obligated to play a couple of gigs in 1980, so we picked up a few former players for those shows, and after two years of working closely together, we took a break for some 30 years!

At first, I began experimenting with different ideas under the ARSON banner. I found a guitarist I had known, recruited a bassist from another band, advertised for a keyboard/synth player and a drummer and put it all together. We did some of the old material, but focused on new songs and ideas; and at first, things went well. We played a few shows and started recording some demos. I brought guitarist Kurt Laporte into the band, but tensions began regarding direction and I began to sense potential problems that I didn’t want to deal with. So, I walked away from my creation, Kurt followed, and the remains went on to become Boys Brigade.

Immediately after, I started writing new material with Kurt and I came up with the name GLAMATRON!, which was the complete antithesis of ARSON. We wrote all new material and never once referenced the recent past. We were going to be new and different using our musical influences inspired by the UK and European music scenes. Transformation came quite easily, as I had already introduced characters into the previous band; however, this time everything changed dramatically from the music to the staging to the overall presentation. It was going to be more ‘theatrical,’ if you will, more along the lines of a hybrid Roxy/Bowie/Reed/’77 Ultravox-come-Stranglers affair. I wanted to change back from the stripped-down punky stage setting to creating a more engaging environment that rocked; and, the transition was so complete, that only close friends knew what was happening.

Having always written lyrics and vocals driven by a rhythmic feel from my drumming days and being influenced by a wide variety of jazz, blues, rock, and soul pioneers like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, the Walker Brothers, not forgetting  Bob Dylan, Van Morrison,  Joe Cocker, Jim Morrison & The Doors, Todd Rundgren, Peter Murphy, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, etc., etc., at the time, I felt the limitations of the genre that ARSON had become was somehow preventing me from exploring other areas. As much as I loved doing what I did, I wanted to do more.

Writing was always important to me; it was an outlet to express myself whilst defining the moments of my interactions with life and all of its trappings. I grew up with books; I’m still an avid reader with a couple of books-in-progress left throughout the house. Great writers and poets have always fascinated me, particularly when their stories have the power to hold you as if a spell had been cast and you can’t leave until that spell is broken or the story ends.

Writers such as Thomas Pynchon, Edgar Allen Poe, Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, Harlan Ellison, Anthony Burgess, Christopher Isherwood, Rod Serling, and Martin Amis, amongst others, could transport you right into their scenes with such vivid descriptors that if you closed your eyes, you could almost feel your senses open to the experience you just read about. So many other wonderful writers—each one has its influences while the best ones leave their mark.

When I came into the music scene, the last of the Beat poets were rolling up their influences in the old coffee houses of Montreal. Allen Ginsberg, Tuli Kupferberg and The Fugs, Jack Kerouac, Lou Reed and The Velvets, etc., had all drifted through and left their mark. It was all good and hung over with hints of old-world/Beat romanticism lingering in the air, giving it a sense of creative freedom. Switching genres was not really difficult, but more of a natural progression.

Missparker: You mention some fabulous influences in the release notes. Can you expand a bit on the elements of some of these artists that gave helped life to Glamatron!? Was it appearance, musical style, a bit of both?

Rude van Steenes: Well, I’ve been musically inclined for as long as I’ve known; my first instrument was drums and I was self-taught. Within two years of practicing, I was playing high schools, parties, and special events. Life at home wasn’t great, and in 1967, I left home and went to the west coast, finding myself in San Francisco for part of the summer of love. That experience opened up so many different avenues in music, poetry, art, and film that it easily became the creative extension of the Beat generation.

While many of my then contemporary influences included The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Dylan, and Frank Zappa to Paul Butterfield to John Coltrane, the Velvet Underground to Motown to Miles Davis and on the British side, John Mayall, the Stones, Animals, Who, Troggs, Them, etc., they were now joined by The Doors, Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, Traffic, Small Faces, Moody Blues, Cream, etc., and styles from American garage to psychedelia to glam incorporating Bowie, Bolan, Roxy, Todd Rundgren, et al. All of these influences impacted throughout the seventies and into the eighties, constantly regenerating and further exploiting the boundaries of creativity, which at that point, showed no limits. Rock and Punk had bred New Wave, Goth, Hair Metal, Nu-Metal, Industrial, and Grunge—all variations on a theme!

My personal tastes have always leaned more to the other side of the pond with exceptions, of course; but in general, there appears to be a greater appreciation for music and the varieties and styles seem to co-habit in more of a non-competitive environment in comparison to the North American artists. I’d love to go over there and play some dates—we’ll have to look into that!

So as a direct answer to “was it appearance, musical style, or a bit of both?” The answer would have to be a lot of both!

Missparker: I have to say, when I put the CD in my player, you had me at Passport. I love the marriage of guitar and synths. What made you include an instrumental, and particularly as the opening track? Were you making a statement?

Rude van Steenes: Passport represented a number of things to us as it starts the adventure. First, the sound—a joyous, up-tempo instrumental that signals a new direction. It starts with the synth drone and church bell that opens into a bass sequence before the guitar and drums kick in. The song evolves around Kurt’s guitar lead and builds with momentum as it progresses; timbales kick in, the tempo remains strong, focused as the guitar counter plays against itself until the final stanza when the drums double up to punch out the last notes followed by the synth drone from the opening coming back and leading into Facial Saviour. Second, as the title implies, this is your ‘passport’ to the rest of the record. And, you’ll notice that just as in the beginning of Passport, the pealing bell is repeated at the end of the closing track Porcelain Doll, after the shattering sound of the doll breaking, to signify the end of your adventure.

The record was planned that way in my mind, albeit subconsciously. It emulates the cycle of birth, life, death, and reincarnation while incorporating all the trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows that we encounter on our journey. In the end, we’re reborn; hopefully wiser, stronger, and better individuals as a result of our experiences and encounters. A passport is always a beginning to something, it never ends.

Missparker: Even though “a little birdie” had given me a heads up that Glamatron! was coming to David Marsden’s live stream, I sat straight up in my chair when I first heard Porcelain Doll on his show. My initial reaction was, “Wow—who’s this?” Is this the reaction that you were hoping for from other New Wave fans?

Rude van Steenes: Of course, but it always comes as a surprise that the song still has that kind of impact. Porcelain Doll was a song that was very carefully arranged from the opening strains of the toy piano to the ‘Gregorian-style’ chorus and the off-kilter guitar that drunkenly wanders throughout the song right down to the child’s voice in the song’s midst. The fact that we were able to incorporate all these tracks with multiple bounces and not lose too much clarity on an 8-track reel-to-reel deck was a bit of a miracle onto itself! As it was also the last track we recorded, there were glitches to overcome. For example, we were going to have a drummer for the session, but he cancelled at the last minute. So, I ended up playing drums. Time was also tight, so we had to scramble to lay down all the tracks and, of course, things never go as planned when you’re jammed. We had to level the toy piano samples as they recorded too “hot,” the guitar parts had tracking issues, finding the right “shattering” sound for the ending, etc., etc.; but, in the final hour, it came together. The first time I heard it 35 years ago, it took my breath away and I hoped it would do that for everyone who heard it.

Missparker: Death in September has such wonderful overtones of Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy days. Is that era of his music something that you found valuable to your own work? The reason I ask is because he took a trouncing in the press for his music during that period, but Glamatron! seems to embrace it fearlessly, without regard for critical backlash.

Rude van Steenes: Well, in all honesty, I’ve never written to appease critics and I’ve always admired and respected artistic individuality and integrity as part of the creative process. Lyrics, poetry, prose etc., are an extension of your soul, a diary, if you will, of experiences, encounters, and interpretations that you have witnessed and composed creatively into words. Every artist has their own ‘vision’ and license to explore and interpret in their own way, as to how they perceive the intricacies of life.

David, as we know, was a master of that process not only during the Berlin trilogy but before and long after as well. His poetry and lyrics from early on and throughout his career are, for the most part, shining examples of life experiences woven into a variety of musical fabrics representing every era, so many of which he himself helped create.

The song Death In September was originally titled The Word from the first record and yes, the dark influence was definitely intoned throughout that first album; however, I felt the original version could be improved upon, so we re-recorded it focusing on contrasting the lyrics with a pronounced dance rhythm and a heavier synthesizer track and it pumps so much better now!

Missparker: Personally, I’m drawn to the 80s for the very style that Glamatron! emotes. I think it’s safe to say this collection is very appealing to that generation of listeners. Do you think you have a market with the current generation of music consumers?

Rude van Steenes: I’ve always believed that markets are created and not necessarily by the talent alone, but by a number of factors that include radio airplay, video play, label support, a strong promotional team, and motivated management. With those initiatives in place, I firmly believe that audiences can be created for any genre of music.

Unfortunately, the North American industry has always been “trend” focused in that they would hold back and follow trends rather than set them. Once a trend was established, everything else was put on hold and that’s where the indie labels had some clout. With savvy marketing campaigns, smaller labels could pick up acts, record and distribute them accordingly, and achieve success.

Of course, the majors didn’t like that and started buying out a lot of the smaller labels and either taking them over or gutting them depending on the individual success of each. This totally backfired as the smaller labels had a better understanding of their unique artists and often had chosen talent over profit, something the majors couldn’t understand.

In the early nineties, the industry began suffering major setbacks affecting artists, labels, and consumers and their markets continued to shrink throughout the next two decades. Once upon a time, there was a thriving industry that was able to invest and nurture and grow talent and although it wasn’t perfect, it certainly helped a lot of artists throughout the sixties, seventies, and eighties. Money for investing and promoting, recording and support for musicians was available, and it was, for some, a great community to be a part of.

By the mid-2000s, we saw the decline of the rock star and the rise of the reality TV star, which implies it is basically only about the image. Music took a back seat. When people don’t buy music anymore, the record industry responds by promoting stars with a marketable image. That created image has to then fulfill an objective with commercial potential, thereby stripping out any artistic quality for the sake of sales revenue. In essence, many of today’s songs are not reflective of the artist, but rather carefully written lyrics and hooks assembled by multiple writers with the subject matter designed to appeal to the reality show culture. In other words, today’s pop hits are usually manufactured.

The industry today is almost non-existent, and why bother? With shows like American Idol, hundreds of people can “sing” and they all want to be stars. Why would an industry develop an artist when they have access to clones of today’s stars for nothing?

Do I think that there’s a market for the 80s sound with the current generation of music consumers?  Yes, because good music withstands the test of time and because audiences still seek out good dance music and the 80s had that in droves! We just have to have a solid fan base that can help sustain us in order to continue producing and recording our music.

Missparker: I love, love, love (did I say, “love?”) Call and Art of Seduction from the Chrome Horizons collection. The fretless Mick Karn-ish bass riffs and the Sylvian-esque off-kilter singing absolutely slay me. Was that a nod to the group Japan, or just a coincidental and fabulous collision of incredible sounds?

Rude van Steenes: Well, I would have to say both in this case! We’re all fans of Japan and I would be remiss in denying that there was some influence; however, Call was written by Rob (Greenway) and when we were laying out the track before recording it. Scott (Matthews) was experimenting with his fretless bass while Rob and I experimented with vocal stylings as a progression of the overall “GLAMATRON! sound.” The rest fell into place and we recorded it.

When it came to Art of Seduction, this was a little trickier as the song flowed around the vocal, which had actually started out as a poem I was writing influenced by a series of books I had been reading by Christopher Isherwood called “The Berlin Diaries.” Once we started playing around with some ideas, the lyric developed a flow. Scott again incorporated the fretless bass and the nucleus started taking form. I wanted to keep the background somewhat dark to contrast the bass and vocals and that’s where the notorious Prophet 5 synthesizer came in. I was able to layer several ghostly ‘creeper’ tracks that wove in, out, and between the vocal, bass, and percussion layers. There were other pads that I wanted to add to flesh it out a bit more, but time was a factor.

Missparker: There seems to be a distinct difference in sound between Heart and Chrome. The tracks on Heart are a bit more upbeat, where those on Chrome are a bit darker (and actually appeal to the Goth tendencies in me). What type of evolution had the band gone through to bring about that difference in style? Did that have something to do with not releasing Chrome when it was first made?

Rude van Steenes: Yes, there definitely is a distinct difference in sound between the two which was brought about by a number of mitigating factors. Following the recording and release of Heart, Scott came on board and we did our first live show at a place called The Domino Klub. It was a well promoted showcase; however, nobody, save a few close friends, knew who we were. There were no clues to the past (i.e. ARSON, etc.), and we decided that the less we say, the more intrigue got to play and it worked! The ‘intrigue’ portion played out on national television as a segment of The New Music show where reporters were filmed chasing the band to the dressing room without getting an interview—all in good fun!

It was shortly after that show, when drummer/percussionist Rob came into the picture joining Kurt, Rick, Scott, and I and we started thinking about recording a follow-up record. In addition, we were offered a television taping for a future broadcast. Once the taping was done, it was time to get back to writing.

I think that one of the primary differences in our evolution was that with the first album, Kurt and I wrote the songs and parts and the guitar was always there. Now, with two new fulltime members also contributing, somewhere in the process, Kurt seemed to sense a directional change that he may not have been comfortable with and took a break from the project. As some of the tracks had been written with Kurt’s parts, we had to change those with alternate parts and that was tricky at times. Everything was revamped and all told, Rick, Scott, and Rob did an incredible job breathing new life into the songs.

Other factors include the variety of influences we were affected by in the process of developing the GLAMATRON! sound. As an avid reader and observer, I’m always armed with pens and paper and usually end up with all sorts of scraps of paper with partial lyrics, ideas, etc., in my pockets. At home, I have at least 5 scratch books in different rooms for the same purpose. Scott, Rob and Rick would also gather ideas and throw them on the table; some worked and some didn’t, all parts of the puzzle.

As for not releasing Chrome sooner, there were still tracks to be recorded and mixed, final touches that we weren’t able to finish and like most indie bands, the money is always an issue. Although we were in a slightly better studio with a bit more money, it really wasn’t nearly enough to finish the album. As such, the project was shelved for almost 35 years. What you’re hearing was culled from cassette masters and carefully re-mastered by Scott in his studio.

Of note, one of the incomplete tracks, And We Who Dare was never fully finished although there is a live version on the CD and Bandcamp versions.

Missparker: Only the Heart Beats … Inside the Silence and Chrome Horizons is such a nostalgic trip for me. I just want to put on my dancing shoes, spray my hair up high, and go clubbing. Will there be more—in other words, would you be open to creating more music in the traditional New Wave style?

Rude van Steenes: Well, with the support I’ve been getting from fans, old and new, and of course from David Marsden and his nythespirit.com radio programs, as well as opportunities such as this wonderful interview with you, I’m encouraged and delighted that after all these years, the music and the sounds of that era are still very much alive.

Personally, I’ve never really stopped writing and I do have at least two albums worth of lyrics that easily would fit into that, shall we say, timeless style. Also, let’s not forget, GLAMATRON!’s “successor,” thrice nominated CASBY Award nominees and 1986 winners for Best Independent Artist, Vis-A-Vis!

Vis-A-Vis was actually the continuation of where GLAMATRON!’s founding members, Kurt LaPorte and I, were reunited. Bolstered by our mutual friend and current nythespirit.com host Rob Stuart on synths, along with Gene Burda on keyboards, Gord Baker on drums and Gene D’Onofrio on bass, you had the first version of that band! More on that for another occasion as there may be a CD release in the future.

So, back to your original question, I would have to say yes, there is material there and I’m working on it as well as scripting a video for Porcelain Doll. The hard part is finding like-minded people to collaborate with as many people involved with these projects have moved on and had families, careers, and other projects and pursuits. For example, on my end, I got together with Marcel and some old friends and reignited the band that preceded GLAMATRON!, ARSON. I’ve known these guys since the late 70s and we decided to have some fun and get together, do some shows, and release a CD.

Former GLAMATRON! bassist Scott Matthews works in theatre now in Stratford while former drummer Rob Greenway records under the name Brilliant Fish and plays in various bands. As for Kurt LaPorte, I understand that he gave up playing professionally years ago to focus on career and family. Rob Stuart went on to create EDF following Vis-A-Vis and I was quite honored to be part of his band as a vocalist and percussionist and a contributing writer to tracks on their first CD. Rick Krausminc survived both versions of GLAMATRON! and was a significant contributor to the GLAMATRON! sound. A very talented piano and keyboard player with a great sense of humour, Rick could easily defuse any tense moments. When GLAMATRON! left the room with Elvis, Rick went back to his DJing at clubs and built a successful career.

I should also like to thank Greg Baker, who in the beginning stages of the band, was there and really believed in the project and helped out with all the managing chores and contributed his energy and experience. Also a special thanks to Brian Masters for his contributions to the second album, Chrome Horizons. Playing with all these amazing musicians has been a privilege and something I would love to do again, as so much good has come out of those collaborations, so many creative ideas spilling over and birthing other ideas that flow like paint on blank canvases breathing life into a cascade of colorful notes and leaving something that spurs memories and good times, tears and laughter, love and loss, but always a time that sparks would fly and live dangerously in love with the creative muse.

Be sure to check out Glamatron!’s music and legacy music on the following sites:
https://www.facebook.com/Glamatron/
https://www.facebook.com/VisAVismusic/
http://www.facebook.com/arson.music
https://twitter.com/ARSONBAND
http://www.reverbnation.com/arsonmusic

80s (and Sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ WARD

(All photographs copyright (c) Elk Road)

Once again, it has been my good fortune to be contacted by a musician who is promoting his band’s music. I say “good fortune,” because when I pulled up Christopher Ward’s music to preview, the band had me at the opening bars of “Liars.” These hungry ears were fed a heaping helping of lyrical, melodic nourishment that makes them want to go back for seconds, thirds…heck, how about just plain binge-listening.

Christopher Ward

Everything that I’ve heard so far from the Los Angeles-based band WARD embodies the absolute best of pre-grunge, pre-shoegaze, post-punk power pop 80s. What a combination! It’s a more-than-welcome trip down memory lane, and a testament to the fact that great music genres never die—they just get re-purposed. Some artists are gifted to do that more successfully than others, and WARD is one of the best.

Christopher Ward was gracious enough to be interviewed for this article. Take a few minutes to get to know him and his supremely talented band, and put your support behind them to give them a much-deserved push into the spotlight.

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MissParker:  How long have you been making music in the L.A. area?

Christopher Ward: It’s been a whirlwind. I think it’s been six months, max…yeah, we’ve been a band only since Dec 1 (2016). A short time; we’ve played 14 shows for almost 1000 people.

MissParker:  Who exactly is the band and what brought you together?

Christopher Ward: Up until about a year ago (Summer 2016) I was a corporate vice-president for a global technology company working in the Empire State Building in New York City. I had played in many bands in the long-ago past, but had hung up on my dreams perhaps 10 years ago. For many reasons, I did what many people do, what they think they should, what will be safe, what will be secure. My life was increasingly successful, but also increasingly unsatisfying. One day I plopped down at my desk and flipped on my music player. The Joshua Tree came on Pandora and I just started crying. Bawling. Nostalgia is a greek word meaning, ‘the pain of a homesickness.’ In that moment, I knew surely that I wasn’t home, where I needed to be. I had forgotten for many years, until that moment, how much I wanted to play rock music, was meant to play music, and how much my heart yearned to be back home: writing music, singing, and performing on stage.

I left New York last summer and got a place in Culver City, CA. I wrote most of our songs in a couple of weeks over the summer…they all poured out quite fast. In late fall, I started putting ads out on Craigslist and a few other places. It was tough sifting through the respondents, but I ended up with a great band that has come to be WARD: Darren Edwards on drums, Karim Elghobashi on bass, and Mauricio Munguia playing guitar, along with me signing and playing guitar. WARD played our first show Nov. 30, 2016 and haven’t stopped since.

WARD @ Lexington Bar (Feb 2017)

MissParker:  You mention in your promo that Echo & The Bunnymen, The Smiths, and The Stone Roses are all influences. I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. I actually hear a bit of early U2 and the British band Ride, among others. Who else do you feel has influenced your music?

Christopher Ward: It’s so funny, everyone seems to have a different take on who we sound like; everyone from The Ramones to Ryan Adams. The early 80s (80-85) has been a target for me, simply because that’s where I’m starting and it’s where I have been harkening back to for a more raw, earnest and live rock sound that I feel is missing from L.A. stages. Tom Petty was the first artist I adored, and always will: His defiance of the establishment and the music industry itself. His songwriting, melodies, and chords are very apparent to me in my music, even if the ‘sound’ is quite different. I love the swagger of The Doors and Echo and the Bunnymen. But more than any other band, I will always adore the ambitious hopefulness U2 continues to dare to bring to music. No band is cooler at being uncool; and yes, their sound is certainly a thread through everything I do.

MissParker: I’m really curious as to what makes a contemporary band go “retro.” Not that it’s a bad thing—on the contrary, I love the trip back to what I feel is the world’s best era/genres of music. But you have veteran musicians like the late, great David Bowie who made it a point to keep pushing forward, pointedly avoiding the past. And another favorite of mine, Gary Numan, has been very vocal about his dislike of being funneled into “nostalgia acts,” preferring to evolve instead of looking back. Yet, as a contemporary band, you do it very well. Why?

Christopher Ward: I adore David Bowie. And in fact, he described himself as a “tasteful thief,” and admitted he would steal happily from other genres, artists and histories. Bowie would be the first to tell us we should readily take ideas from other places, as long we create something unique with that material. The live and raw ‘sound’ from early 80s music, the idealism and arena ambition is incredibly inspiring to me right now, amidst a quite polished and subdued indie rock climate, especially in L.A. I aim to create something new from the known. While WARD is starting with these sounds, I know we will end up someplace else. Our best music is yet to come, and I have no idea what that will sound like. I admit that I started this band on a note of nostalgia, and am happy giving overt nods to the bands that started me down this road. That said, I’ll definitely keep borrowing to make it my own.

WARD @ TRIP (DEC 2016)

MissParker: Who writes the lyrics? Do they deal with a central theme, or are they born of a current state of mind?

Christopher Ward: I write all the lyrics. Love, drugs, and sex cover the themes of many of my favorite songs. Right now, I’m more inspired by introspection about our life choices. Many of the songs have a ‘carpe diem’ sentiment: why we so readily choose safety over the love of our souls, why we are lulled into thinking we have time to waste. I suppose in that way my lyrics obtain more to the introspection of 90s grunge: apathy, confinement, and freedom.

MissParker: I always have to ask this, as trite as it sounds; but as a writer, I’m naturally curious: which typically comes first, the lyrics or the music?

Christopher Ward: Music comes first. Always. I work better as a sketcher than a planner. I think the tone of the songs write the lyrics. I have a book of words I am always looking to insert into great melodies. I’m always trying new things, so that may change some day.

WARD @ Silverlake Lounge (Jan 2017)

MissParker: I know traveling is a huge expense, especially when you have to drag equipment along with you. I am of the (possibly mistaken) impression that cross-country bus trips are turning into a thing of the past.  Do you play anywhere outside of the L.A. area, or do you solely rely on the Internet to get your music out worldwide?

Christopher Ward: We have over 30k fans online, who watch videos, purchase music and give us great feedback. But while the Internet is a powerful thing, nothing will replace live show experience. Live videos can work well to reach more people, but still, the reality is that videos are a sad replacement for the real live show. I think that’s because there’s a very real aspect of theater that goes along with live music: what is special is the moment and space shared between artist and audience. This can’t really be replaced with video. We are still quite new, but very hungry for festivals and live tours outside the L.A. area. And I’m very thankful for your interview with me today. Hopefully, press and interviews like this will help us to connect with the right professionals and start playing outside of L.A. very soon.

MissParker: Your site mentions that you’ve recorded an EP and that the full album is coming soon. When do you expect that to happen?

Christopher Ward: Oh, well good news! Since we first chatted, the EP is now live and available! You can download for free or pay any price you want for it here: http://ward.band/ep. Enjoy!

MissParker: I have come to know a lot of musicians who spend every waking moment trying to get their music played and heard by others. It takes a certain amount of bravery to throw all that you have behind your craft, to the exclusion of everything else. What motivates you to do that?

Christopher Ward: After too many years of my life spent trying to do anything else, giving it my all doesn’t really seem like a gamble anymore.

MissParker: I’m sure we haven’t covered nearly enough territory in this brief interview to give a full picture of the creative force behind WARD, and its ongoing journey. What else would you like to add?

Christopher Ward: Simply to say, that the world needs more people to live the life meant for them and to be who they are, instead of the lives others want them to be. I can certainly thank Bowie for that sentiment, and finally, I feel I am doing my best to live that life. Right now, I think all of us in this band are that, more than anything. It was truly a pleasure to connect with you. Thank you.

~Resources~

Website

Get the EP

Facebook

Instagram

Velvet Walls: Official Featured Video

Live Concert Video Footage

Link to more Videos 

80s (and Sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Neurotic Wreck

Anyone who has followed this blog over the years knows that I have a huge soft spot for 80s alternative music, synthesizers, musicians who think outside of the box, and sultry British voices. When Marilyn Roxie (founder/creator of net music label Vulpiano Records) asked me to review Neurotic Wreck’s latest compilation, I must say I hit the lottery on all counts.

Dan Shea (small)

Dan Wreck

Neurotic Wreck is the wildly successful cumulative and solo efforts of musician Dan Wreck. He is a one-man battering ram of musical and lyrical genius. The variety of styles ranging from electric-folk to synthesized electro could be a holy train wreck (pun intended) in the wrong hands—but it works flawlessly on his superb album called “Glow Ghosts.”

This wonderful collection of tracks transported me back to such tremendous musician favorites as Underworld, Jesus & Mary Chain, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, and a short-lived but fantastic group called Ashengrace.  There’s even a covert reference to a well-known Gary Numan song, but I am not going to spoil the experience by disclosing which one. The tracks are relatively short, extremely captivating, and arranged in such a brilliant way that the segue from one to another keeps the listener glued to the playlist. And, the fun part is, the artists I’ve named here are by no means the complete list of influences that the listener will identify.

Marilyn

Marilyn Roxie

The best way to introduce you to the up-and-coming artist Dan Wreck (a.k.a. Neurotic Wreck), along with Marilyn Roxie, the backbone of his label Vulpiano Records, is to share some questions that I asked both of them. As this post goes to press, the intended release date for “Glow Ghosts” is July 14. This is a must-have for any 80s or even contemporary alternative enthusiast, and may be purchased via pay-what-you-want here:
http://neuroticwreck.bandcamp.com/album/glow-ghosts

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Sandy Missparker (SM): I’m going to show my hand up front and admit I was blown away from my first listen. You had me at “The Wakeup Call” which was, indeed, a wake-up call for me. Typically, I’m a bit skeptical when first asked to listen to a new (to me) artist’s work, but that all went out the window pretty quickly, once the playlist got rolling. So, I’m curious: how long has Neurotic Wreck been making music?

DAN WRECK: As Neurotic Wreck, I’ve been doing this since 2011; steadily putting out collections of songs compulsively to a deafening silence, a name known to literally fives of people. I’ve been in bands from an early age, though (as most artists worth anything have been, I know). There’re other projects I’m involved with, but it’s not fair to elaborate on those, (because) if I do that people’ll go “Oh Dan obviously came up with this bit” if they like what I’ve done here, and quite often the things people pick out as me having contributed–I haven’t!

SM: I clearly hear some of my favorite 80s artists influencing your music. I’d love to hear from you specifically who it is that influences the direction of your music, and what attracts you to theirs?

DAN WREurope's Missing SonsECK: Here’s where I get to be tedious and nerdy!

You already picked out the Numan thing, and like recognizes like there: one autistic monomaniac has to recognize another. I first heard Numan as a teenager and went on about how great he was to very disinterested friends. Prince is another big influence on me, another case of like recognizing like; not that I’m as technically gifted as him, but like me he was an androgynous, sexually ambiguous weirdo and artistic control freak. Also from the 80’s there’s New Order, as you’ve likely picked up from the tracks where I’ve shamelessly stolen Peter Hook’s style of playing bass. On the subject of bass, there’s also Barry Adamson: stuff like Speak In My Voice and After The Quiet sort of bear his imprint. As well as having played with many of my favorites at some point, his solo stuff manages to be soul and jazz influenced while still being very North West English; and let’s not forget the North Will Rise Again.

Then outside of all the obvious synth-pop stuff, loads of 60’s girl group records like I Never Dreamed by The Cookies, immortal solid gold pop; the drama and the melody in them is what sticks with me. Scott Walker for similar reasons. Rowland S Howard, undoubtedly, lingers over everything I do, but I could drone on about him forever (and in an article on Dennis Cooper’s excellent blog which Google have in their infinite wisdom taken down for no reason, I do). Coil is another one; I’m not sure it’s apparent from Glow Ghosts, but Jhonn Balance is a similar spectre pacing through things I’ve written. Maybe it’s apparent from Rune Cloud and some of the more esoteric lyrics.

Mixtape

MARILYN ROXIE: Here’s where I have to chime in, because it is Dan’s influences that I shared as favorite artists, both literary and musical, that caused me to pay more attention to his music submission, which was from an email he’d sent to my old music blog A Future in Noise back in December of 2012 with his Leave Tonight – Mixtape Side 2. Not only that, but the way that he is able to integrate it all together with his own personal style instead of the hopelessly derivative way that some artists do–that’s what really impresses me. Our mutual love of Coil and Dennis Cooper were initial conversation topics and I immediately invited him to also release material on my netlabel Vulpiano Records, which I don’t ask everyone. Vulpiano is really my own little curated paradise of independent and unsigned artists who I really love; and now Dan and I are together actually as a couple, as well, so it is very exciting to be able to work together more closely on what is happening musically.

SM: I have a deep fascination for single artist “bands” (and even duo-artist such as Underworld) who create such intricate orchestrated melodies. What does your studio look like and what types of instruments/devices do you use to develop your music?

DAN WRECK: My studio is basically wherever I’ve plugged in my digital 8 track recorder: it’s a Boss BR-600, and basically all I do is record on that, then export the tracks onto an old Window XP desktop with the Reaper Workstation installed on it. There I mix, add effects, and sometimes add software synths into it; but most of the sounds come from an electric guitar with 4 strings, a bass with 3 strings, a Novation synth with a key missing, and an old drum machine. Most of my equipment is at least cosmetically broken. Being able to afford more expensive equipment would be great personally, but wasted on me because I’d just dither around with it trying to make cool sounds rather than writing songs. I have to work within limits.

SM: In order to take your music out on the road, would you be willing to train other musicians to play various parts, or is it something that you could reproduce live as a solo act? Is live performance even something that you would consider doing?

DAN WRECK: Live performance is something I’ve done with other projects and will continue to do so because I love doing it. But as Neurotic Wreck, it’s quite unlikely, frankly, for the time being. Never say never, but for now it’s not on the menu. I don’t see the point of getting other talented people in and then getting them to just play what I ask them to when they may well have better ideas than me. So, if it does happen, then it’ll most likely be me doing it solo. That said, who knows? It’s under the name “Neurotic Wreck” not “Dan Shea:” it could, down the line, become more of a band. It has been, briefly, in the past.

SM: What got you started making music initially? Did you wake up one day and say, “I’m going to be a musician,” or did a specific person or event set you on that path?

DAN WRECK: Well, I’ve been around music from a very early age: my dad is a very talented songwriter, so it’s probably in my blood. I didn’t set out to be a musician or a songwriter; in fact, sometimes, to be quite honest, I wish I wasn’t. I wish I could be one of these people who’s happy just to be a consumer, rather than a producer. Ignorance is bliss, after all, but that’s not the way it worked out. In fact, for quite a long time I thought everyone could do what I do: being autistic, as I’ve mentioned, I just assume everyone can write songs or play an instrument, because if I can do it, it must be easy! Then I’ve spoke to people about it and they’ve looked back at me like a dog being taught a card trick, so it’s only recently sunk in that I may actually be quite good at all this.

SM: How would you classify your music? In other words, does it fit neatly into one genre, or does it span several different types?

coverDAN WRECK: I’ll give you a short and a long answer

Short answer: Just call it post-punk; no one knows what it actually means, but it’s an accepted bit of terminology. And if you say “post-punk,” people just nod and assume you know what you’re talking about.

Long answer: I don’t think it fits neatly into one genre, but I don’t think a lot of music does. There’re so many genres out there and they exist more as a marketing thing than as any remotely helpful guide to what you’re actually getting from the music. I’d say genre is more the domain of the gate-keepers, if you will: journalists (who I like) and publicists (spits over shoulder and crosses self). It spills over a bit but I’d say mood is a more useful way of categorizing music than genre tags. It is for me, anyway. To each their own.

MARILYN ROXIE: Post-punk makes a lot of sense as a descriptor…also, experimental synth, a dash of neo-folk that goes counter to people’s expectations around that genre as it can be overly anti-fascist. I do agree that it isn’t necessary to think of genre when he can do so many different styles with ease.

SM: It’s not unusual for artists to evolve their musical direction over time, but there is an evolution of sorts that happens in the span of the 13 tracks of this one dynamic compilation, a la David Bowie. Was that intentional?

backcover

DAN WRECK: It may have been intentional, but it wasn’t my intention. I got Marilyn to order the tracks because I think if you’re looking at something as an album rather than purely a collection of songs (important distinction even if it is an irrelevant one for many people these days), then the order is incredibly important. You’ve just mentioned Bowie, so a case in point would be 1.Outside: at the end of what is a fairly heavy-going album, especially from a multi-platinum megastar, there’s “Strangers When We Meet,” which is one of his most moving songs and even more effective because of what it’s come after. If it had been in the middle, as an individual song it’d still be wonderful; but the right sequence of tracks, as someone who still believes in the album as a viable format, is utterly crucial.

MARILYN ROXIE: I’m obsessive about playlists so I spent a lot of time working with Dan’s tracks to get the order just right. I always knew that I wanted “The Wakeup Call” to be the first track and “Tell Me What to Swallow” to be last, but finding the right ebb and flow of the softer and punchier songs was a challenge and I’m glad the flow came through in the end. Many of these tracks are from totally different recording periods.

SM: What is the hierarchy of lyrics and music—for example, do you write lyrics and then formulate the music to enhance them, or is it the music that gives birth to the lyrics?

DAN WRECK: It changes from song to song, really. If the song has a definite purpose, then it’s usually the lyrics come first: “One Skin Too Few” is something very personal about my feelings on gender and also the treatment of the mentally ill, and “Speak In My Voice” is about these same themes. They both started from lyrics. “After The Quiet” became something very personal, but that started from the descending melody line after the lyrics are sung in the choruses and expanded outwards.

SM: The label behind the promotion of “Glow Ghosts” is Vulpiano Records. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing its founder, Marilyn Roxie, for about 7 years now, thanks to the magic of the Interwebs. Marilyn, you are an extremely gifted keyboard artist in your own rights, but you seem to get a lot of satisfaction promoting others. Can you give us a little background on what makes Vulpiano Records (and Marilyn Roxie) tick?

Vulpiano RecordsMARILYN ROXIE: Vulpiano started off just as my idea of having a place to host exclusive content from independent and unsigned artists that had submitted to my old music blog (A Future in Noise, now on a bit of a hiatus). It isn’t always easy promoting yourself and throwing your content out there and hoping for the best; in the past few years, a lot of blogs have ceased to exist and only the super-popular remain, so the whole landscape is really different than it was in the late 2000s as well. Creative Commons and places to host free and legal music like Internet Archive and Free Music Archive have persisted, however, and there are a lot of exciting online radio and podcast platforms. I’m always searching for ways to share all of the great music I have gathered up.

Vulpiano is really representative my personal taste and artists I have become friends with that I think are really interesting across genres and want to show to other people, though experimental, electronic, and folk tend to predominate a bit. I do have plans to do another album of my own, which I’ve not put out since 2009 with New Limerent Object, but it’s taken me awhile to really figure out where I want to go with my own music. I am gravitating towards drone and shoegaze a lot lately, but I don’t want to just copy my favorites. I am a little too hard on myself, like many musicians. I enjoy seeking out new and exciting material so much sometimes it is hard to stop and actually go back to doing my own music! I am also involved in video art now and thinking about ways to combine that with my own music. I’ve been making videos for other people, including Dan, so I may want to make an album that has a music video for every song, or something like that. I am really interested in doing something multimedia, at any rate, but I’m not entirely sure of the final form just yet. I hope to do this late this year or early next.

SM: What can we expect in the future from Neurotic Wreck (and please don’t say it was a one-off—that would be SO disappointing!).

Dan Wreck

DAN WRECK: Well, after the huge stream of free releases over the last five years, I’m finally charging for something: Sandalphon, which will be out on Small Bear Records on the 22nd of September, the Autumn Equinox. Sandalphon is something of a genre exercise; two years ago when I recorded the bulk of those songs, I started investigating the genre of neofolk. Again, as I said earlier, this genre tag is just a convenient way of linking things with a similar ethos together; but that influenced Sandalphon an awful lot. Although, not to worry, there’re no banjos on it, the guitars are still plugged in, there’s still lots of synth, and the drums are still as mechanized as God intended. So that’s what’s coming up next. After that, who knows?

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So, there you have it. I can’t emphasize enough the brilliance of this album, “Glow Ghosts,”, and urge you to add it to your music collection. The beauty of creative genius is that it keeps our lives interesting, gives us a positive outlet as listeners, and promises us always something exciting to look forward to.

Further information at Vulpiano Records and alternative stream and download options as Internet Archive, Free Music Archive, and Mediafire are here: http://vulpianorecords.com/post/147400571616

Other relevant links:

Vulpiano Records
http://vulpianorecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/VulpianoRecords
https://twitter.com/vulpianorecords
http://neuroticwreck.bandcamp.com/

Neurotic Wreck – Funeral of Roses
Music video by Marilyn Roxie; premiered at Artists’ Television Access in San Francisco:

Marilyn Roxie and Neurotic Wreck – Obsidian Offerings
Tribute video for Jhonn Balance for CHAOSTROPHY exhibition at LUDWIG in Berlin:

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 Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ Rob Stuart is Back with Electronic Dream Factory (EDF)

Excellent music never dies; sometimes it just goes away for a while. And, like a treasured loved one, its return evokes strong emotions of joy, relief, and a reconnection with the universe. That’s what’s happening here, folks. And, I am delighted to be the bearer of the fantastic news.

Rob Stuart first graced Rave and Roll’s pages exclusively as a featured artist back in November 2009. Earlier that year, I had published an article about his Toronto-based band SLAVE to the SQUAREwave, followed by a review of their then-latest smashing release, The Money Shot. Earlier this year (Feb. 2014, to be exact), I was privileged to announce Slave’s return with a jaw-dropping, in-your-face collection of tunes called Asphalt, Sex & Rock ‘N’ Roll. Now, I am thrilled to deliver the trifecta: Rob Stuart’s long-awaited re-emergence featuring an entire catalog of synthesizer-driven musical goodness from his band, Electronic Dream Factory (E.D.F).

Rob agreed to be interviewed so that I can share with you all a little bit about the beginnings of E.D.F., its evolution, the inspiration for the music, and the reason for the decision to re-release the catalog.

When did E.D.F. make its debut in the world?

EDF studios circa 1983

EDF studios circa 1983

Originally E.D.F was and still is the name of my home recording studio. I stole the name from a small British synthesizer company called Electronic Dream Plant which built a very cool monophonic synthesizer called “The Wasp.” My earliest recollection of my first home studio was back in 1981. I decided very early on in my “music career” that rather than pay other people to record in their studios, that I would just build my own and teach myself how to record, engineer and mix.

I was only sixteen back then and gear was incredibly expensive, so my first studio was nothing fancy. I would work three summer jobs to save up enough money to buy studio gear. I still remember purchasing the first real synth I ever owned, a Korg MS-20 for $595.00 at Steve’s Music Store in Toronto. I was so proud walking home with that synth tucked under my arm that day. It was once I started writing original music when I decided Electronic Dream Factory would also serve as a good band name.

Who were the original band members?

Greg Fraser, Rob Stuart, Rob Tennant (1992)

Greg Fraser, Rob Stuart, Rob Tennant (1992)

There have been many incarnations of the “band”version of E.D.F. Version 1.0 is me alone as a solo artist . Long time friend/musician/ artist, Greg Fraser was the first person to become an official member. Our first full-length self-titled album was just Greg and myself. Version 2.0 included Rob Tennant, who was the live drummer.

We soon added Maxx on guitar. Version 3.0 included Emerich Donath on stick bass and Rude Van Steenes on electronic percussion and vocals. I knew Rude back from the Vis-A-Vis days as I was an original member of that band .

EDF Version 3.0

EDF Version 3.0

Why synthesizers and electronica vs. guitars and…?

I’ve always been a synthesizer nut. Ever since I first heard early synth-based music like Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Pink Floyd, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Throbbing Gristle, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Gary Numan, John Foxx, and early Human League, I knew I wanted to get into synthesizers.

First of all, they looked so cool and they could make sounds that you’d never heard before. That was really the appeal to me. I would spend hours messing around with my MS-20, plugging in cables, twiddling all the knobs, to come up with unique and different sounds. I’ve never been a person who is comfortable jamming in a rehearsal studio or in a band situation, which is why I don’t really consider myself a musician. I still don’t play that well, but writing, recording, and producing came fairly naturally to me. Writing music always was and still is a personal journey for me, so when MIDI came along it allowed me to create all parts of the music by myself, which I thrived on.

Having said that, I’ve always been a guitar fan, so when I couldn’t fake a guitar part by myself or find the right guitar sample I’d have to bring in a guitar player. Of course nothing can replace the thundering sound and look of a live guitar player on stage. That’s where Maxx came in. He was a cool-looking dude with a great head of hair and a killer guitar sound which added to the live element and gave the studio recordings a little extra grit.

Was E.D.F. mainly a studio band, stage band, or both?

I’ve always been a studio guy, but you have no choice but to play live if you want to promote your product seriously. It’s a great feeling playing your own music live with 3 or 4 other people on stage with the lights, smoke, and (hopefully) crowds of people in the audience grooving to your tunes; however, I also derive immense pleasure spending hours in my studio just writing or playing music by myself.

That’s were the “other” side of E.D.F comes from, as I also record and release ambient, chill out, new age music which I never intend to play live. Our finest moment was playing at Pine Knob in Detroit, Michigan in front of 10, 000 people for a big end-of-summer music festival.

What or who inspired the music?

The “who” is endless. See all the bands named earlier. Inspiration can come from anything, really. It could be a unique industrial sample, synth patch, drum and bass groove or simply a nice chord progression. It’s piecing all of those elements together that makes it fun and challenging.

Did E.D.F. originally get the airplay it deserved, and if so, by whom?

The first E.D.F release was actually a cassette-only; but, believe it or not, we used to get airplay on the radio. CFNY 102.1 in Toronto was the first station to play our music. That station was a huge supporter of local independent music, led of course by the one and only David Marsden who still plays my music to this day on his new station http://www.nythespirit.com. With open-minded people like David and the good folk at CFNY, the song “So, What of Tomorrow” ended up being a winner on a CFNY talent search contest and was released on a compilation CD, which to us at the time was unbelievable.

Other places that would play our music would be University radio stations like CIUT (University of Toronto), CKMS-FM in Waterloo, and CKLN (Ryerson University) who were always great supporters of ours. Local DJs like Ronno Box and Craig Beesack would play us at clubs like Catch 22 and local promoter Billy X was also an early supporter of E.D.F

What’s it like to translate a concept in your head into music that you share with the rest of the world?

It’s fun at first, but it can quickly become frustrating when the business aspect kicks in. I won’t even talk about the music business these days as no one has a clue what’s going on; but back in the early 90s there were still labels you could shop your product around to. For our first album we had some interest from TVT Records which had just signed Nine Inch Nails. For the second album, “Drama Dream” we signed a deal with a label in Montreal, which went bad. For the album “Number 3” I had a distribution deal with Toronto’s The Record Peddler. Financially that was probably the most success I had with an EDF album as they managed to get distribution deals in quite a few different territories worldwide.

What made you decide to resurrect EDF?

One word: “Tunecore.”

Tunecore is a great service that distributes your music around the world to digital music stores and streaming stations. It’s really cheap and allows you to keep 100% of the earnings. They really do get the music out all over the world! E.D.F had a pretty strong following in its heyday, especially in Europe.

As I mentioned above, the album “Number 3” was released and distributed internationally by The Record Peddler. I used to get royalty cheques from airplay I received from places like Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Norway and many other countries. Over the past few years I decided to post some old E.D.F videos on YouTube and found that people were actually looking for the old releases. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to re-master and re-release the whole collection in a new package.

Hence “Industrial Catalogue:” All four E.D.F albums in one, 64 songs in total, reasonably priced at $8.99. I did the same with my ambient/chillout/down-tempo E.D.F music, as well. Four albums in one package under the title ˜Noise Control” with 60 Songs in total.

Are there plans for live shows, and if so, where?

At this point, definitely not. SLAVE to the SQUAREwave takes up all of my spare time with live performances and recording. The last time E.D.F played live was at a rave in the middle of a farmer’s field in Oakville, a suburb of Toronto. This was actually where I met Colin Troy from S2TSW, as we were both playing at the rave that night. I was performing my more “techno” E.D.F material while Colin was doing his Smokin’ Jehovah project, which was a mix of middle eastern music and house. Really cool stuff. We chatted through the night about our love for Bowie, Roxy Music, and electronic dance music. We became instant friends and SLAVE to the SQUAREwave was born.

Do you have any examples of E.D.F. music online that people can preview?

Here’s some of my ambient/chill-out music taken from “Noise Control”:

Will the entire catalog be available for purchase? Where?

“Industrial Catalogue” is available via Amazonmp3.

Picture-#-4.-EDF-Industrial

 

 

 

 

 

“Noise Control (Vols 1 to 4)” is available via Amazonmp3.

Picture-#-5.-EDF-Noise-Cont

 

 

 

 

 

Both albums are also on Spotify, Rdio, Shazam, iTunes, Google play, Wimp, Deezer, beats music and many, many more on-line stores.

Can folks buy single tracks?

Yup! Single tracks are the standard 99 cents.

Will this inspire you to go back into the studio and create new E.D.F. tracks?

E.D.F has never really stopped. It’s just come in many different shapes and forms over the past 32 years and will continue to evolve. I’m getting more and more into the chill-out/ambient stuff as I get older, so you can most likely expect some more music in that vein.

What’s next?

I’m considering releasing some music by a duo group I was in back in the mid 80s called “silent GREEN.” It was an ambient project where the music was ad-libbed and recorded live. I played synthesizer while Bruce Bentley played “ambient” guitar. Bruce and I also had a synthpop band called “Ear Candy,” which was another CFNY-supported band. Tragically, Bruce passed away last year, so I’m thinking of releasing it in his memory. Some of that music is pretty magical.

Thanks so much!

Thanks for your support. I love what you do. You don’t know how important things like this are to a band/artist. You’re really doing a great thing here and it is most appreciated. XOXO

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